Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Fern in training

I've got a pet owl called Fern. He's been in flying training the last few weeks & is doing great. He loves to fly about over the Wolds. (Especially when it's not too windy or rainy). Of course it's great for me too so I can get lots of good owl flying shots...

Monday, August 24, 2009

WWF rocks!

I've put together a calendar of my paintings with the excellent charity WWF this year. I'm really pleased with the way that the calendar has turned out & I was delighted to see they had used this picture of the calendar on their website promoting their Christmas range of eco-goodies. If you fancy a bit of Christmas shopping I would thoroughly recommend taking a look at their range (& my calendar too of course) . See They've got some really nice stuff and all the companies they stock have to stick to strict environmental guidelines. I used to think that WWF was more for kids for some reason, but they've got some great campaigns running and so I for one am a big fan. See details of what they do at

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Up, up and away

Kermit the Kestrel returned to Fotherdale after a month to be released in the wild. Jean Thorpe has been looking after him and has done a great job keeping him 'wild'. It was great to release him up on the Wolds.

Jean showed him his new area..

then he was up, up and away

Instinct kicked in & he flew off like a pro & hopefully he'll find himself a territory of his own very soon. Thanks Jean for all your hard work.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Well I never!

I've had a few unusual sighting this week. First I spotted a common lizard running across the road just down the road from my house - I've never seen a lizard before on the Wolds.
Then a customer came into the gallery and said they had spotted a roe deer running around in circles with it's head to the ground sniffing the ground. (Surely this behaviour of the male scenting a female should be over by now?)
And then, while watching the badgers from my hide I heard a nightjar calling. A nightjar on the Wolds - that's exciting. Click here to read all about nightjars on the RSPB's website & to hear the strange 'frog-like' call.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Birds eating strange things!

I have been watching wrens in my porch this summer. I kept seeing them bringing in a large grub-like insect that I did not recognise.

Then the wren disappeared into a bush and flew out with an orange underwing moth. The wren grabbed the moth banging it against the gravel. She managed to take a wing off, disabling the moth and then proceeded to remove the remaining three wings. A final blow just to finish it off and she had a ready prepared high protein meal for the chicks!

I could not help but to wonder if it was worth the effort. But this was not a one off. She caught a further six moths in front of me that afternoon. All were ‘de-winged’ in a similar fashion. No wonder I didn’t recognise these large food parcels as they were being brought in.

I wrote about it & the breeding habits of the wren in my article for the Yorkshire Post. Click here to read more.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Hare Weaning

Recently a customer of mine sent me a photograph of leverets suckling when they were almost the same size as the doe. Usually leverets are weaned after about four weeks. It is very rare to spot this intimacy between a hare and her leveret since they tend to visit their young once a day, usually after dusk. Click here to read more of my story in the Malton Gazette & Herald this month.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A fresh start!

My bees are heading to the North Yorkshire Moors next weekend to (hopefully) make me some heather honey. So this weekend I have been getting ready for their departure. They've brought in loads of honey.

The frames are totally full of oil seed rape, sycamore and clover honey which they've gathered around Fotherdale and so I need to empty these frames of honey and fill the hive with new frames so that I get pure heather honey and not a big mixture!

First off I've got to decap the frames with a hot knife. This takes off the wax top layer 'capping' which the bees have put on. This allows the honey to ooze out.

I mash up the contents of each frame into a stainless steel bucket and put the bucket in a tea urn containing boiling water. This melts the honey and the wax that is in the comb into a liquid. I then pour the entire contents into a honey bucket which has got a tap at the bottom of the bucket. As the liquid cools the wax rises to the top and the honey to the bottom. All I have to do is open the tap to pour the honey into my jam jars. The tricky bit is deciding when the honey is coming to an end and you're going into the waxy section. I call this wax+honey section my grade B honey. I put 'red tops' on my grade A honey and blue tops on my grade B honey.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Lily the artist?

My daughter Lily was one last week. So this week Lily and my wife, Victoria, have been painting the thank you cards. I advised Lily that she was best doing one colour at once, then letting the paint dry before doing the next colour the following day to avoid durgy colours. This is often the case with oil paints and sometimes I have to stop what I'm doing because everything is just getting too wet and you feel like you're just pushing paint around the board. So Lily painted blue the first day and then did yellow the following day. She certainly enjoyed dipping her hands and fingers into the paint, but Victoria and I are still recovering from the shock of paint EVERYWHERE!!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Dust Off!

As I was watching a partridge dusting in a shallow bowl it had dug for itself in the garden this morning, a group of sparrows suddently flew in and began to do the same next to it.
Dust baths are important for birds as the dust helps to keep their feathers in good condition. It was fun to see them set up a communal bathing spot.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Midas Touch

Apparently my paintbrushes are charmed!
I gave a set of them to a visitor to one of my exhibitions two years ago after she expressed an interest in what type of brush I use. Last year her daughter popped in to tell me that whenever her mother used my brushes she could 'feel the inspiration flow'.
I took this as a hint for some more and so I handed over another, used, handful for her to give to her mother, 81-year-old Jean Home. Then this year she sent me this image of the picture that Jean went on to paint with them.
Isn't it fantastic?

Then, as if word had got round, last month I was approached by a 10-year-old boy who lives locally. Louis Minion wanted some of my used paintbrushes to use as prizes for an art competition he was organising amongst his school friends. The contest was to raise money for an RSPB project Louis had read about.
Louis asked his friends to paint a picture of local wildlife and then asked me to judge the entries. He raised £23 for the RSPB scheme to rescue endangered wildlife in Sumatra - click here to find out more about the project. Not bad for a 10-year-old boy and some one-month-old paintbrushes!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Basic Instincts

Our natural instincts tend to be utterly reliable. But every so often they can drive us to do astonishing things.
Take the kestrel I watched feed its greatest rival the other day. Driven by its competitor's urgent, chick-like calls, it popped a morsel of food into its enemy's beak.
You may remember these two kestrels from my June blogs. The tension had been mounting between them as they fed at the bird table outside my kitchen - and then one of them, in spite of itself, did this!
To read more about this unusual story see my latest Yorkshire Post column