Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Cracking Christmas Offers - Order Before Christmas to Get Great Deals

With just a few shopping days left before Christmas, I've put together a fantastic range of special offers to help you with those last essential gifts.

My Christmas cards are all half price if you use the offer code: 'RUDOLF' when ordering. Click here to order. 

My 2015 calendars are going like hotcakes. Get one half price if you quote XMASELF when you order. But hurry there are only a handful left. Click here to order.

And for a fantastic money-off deal on my wildlife art prints quote the offer code MINCEPIE to get £10 off when you buy any print or quote SNOW to get £20 off any two prints. Click here to order.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Leave Your Apples for the Fieldfares

I planted 1200 trees to create a woodland on what was a bare hillside behind my gallery in 2006. This wildlife haven is really coming into its own now. It has attracted so many new bird species to feed from the berries and insects there and to nest in the branches. 

Among the trees I planted were some apple trees. I tend to leave the windfall apples on the ground for the birds but recently I've also begun to put a few out in my front garden for the fieldfares. 

These colourful members of the thrush family are mainly seasonal visitors and their arrival from Scandinavia is an indicator of the onset of winter.They eat worms and berries such as hawthorns, but during very cold frosts they will venture into gardens where they are partial to fruit.

I like the touch of colour and cheerful chattering noise they bring to the garden at this time of year and painted the above picture after watching a flock feeding on apples I left out for them.

The woodland is also planted with cotoneaster bushes which tend to berry later in the season, providing another supply of food for the fieldfares.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Exhibition Success

My Winter Art Exhibition is now over and this week I've been wrapping up the original paintings that have been sold ready to go to their new owners. These include the above painting which I named 'Mallards and Lady' and  the more summery image of hares in harebells below.

Of course it's nice to sell a painting, but I always feel a bit of a pang when they go.

These puffins and the seagull below are particular favourites.

Each picture brings back a memory. The swallows that nested in the storm lantern I hung in my back porch (see below). They nested very late in the season - I wonder if the chicks made it back to Africa safely?

I also sold my picture of blue-footed boobies which I painted after my return from the Galapagos Islands in May.

This painting won't go to it's new owner until January, as it is currently on exhibit at The Deep in Hull. The exhibition is to support the popular aquarium's efforts to raise funds for the Galapagos penguin, one of the rarest penguin species in the world.

My painting of these adorable penguins, pictured above, is the focus of the exhibit and featured on ITV's Calendar News this week.

It's been a very full year and the exhibitions have kept me busy, but now that the pressure is off I am beginning to look forward to some new wildlife watching projects during the run up to Christmas and beyond.

My first plan is to re-focus on the stoats that visit the garden. In the Autumn, one of the male stoats became territorial and chased his siblings away. He visited regularly and I was seeing him two or three times a day. But unfortunately he was run over on the road outside my gallery. I didn't see any stoats for two weeks after that, but I kept putting food out just in case. But then, one of the female siblings returned to the feeding station. She has now become a regular, and of course a female is better news for me. If she stays until next summer she may have stoat kitts in the garden. Watch this space....

Monday, December 1, 2014

Painting Peregrines in the City

I've been putting the finishing touches to this acrylic study of a peregrine falcon this week.

I was inspired to pick up my paintbrushes after watching a pair of peregrines hunting from the medieval pinnacles of York Minster a week ago. This a painting of the female.

I've also painted the male (above) and am planning to perch him on a gargoyle in the final picture. These cathedral carvings are so impressive. I think they really complement this magnificent hunter.

I first spotted this pair during a tour of York's city centre to promote my latest exhibition, which is all about the wonderful wildlife that we have living amongst us here in Yorkshire.

I had been challenged to find wildlife in the centre of a city and had been surprised at how much there was to see. I watched a pied wagtail roost and spotted long tailed tits and goldcrests in the city gardens.

And since my visit I've heard of a grey wagtail roost near the City Screen cinema on the riverbank.

On Friday BBC Look North joined me on a tour of the city to see what else we could find. It was great to watch the reaction of passers by when we told them we were filming a peregrine falcon!

People who visit my gallery here in Thixendale, North Yorkshire, are always telling me that I'm so lucky to live here on the Yorkshire Wolds where the wildlife is so abundant.

Of course I am lucky, but wildlife is everywhere and I think if you look hard enough, even in the most unexpected of places, you can enjoy some incredible spectacles.

If you can watch the fastest bird in the world on the Minster in York, you can enjoy wildlife anywhere!

Monday, November 24, 2014


I always have mixed feelings when I see sparrowhawks in my garden.

I can't help but admire their speed and agility, but they come in to my garden to hunt precious garden birds.

Over the years I have developed a technique to feed them an alternative menu. But it's not been easy. Sparrowhawks are true hunters and only hunt live prey, using movement to locate their prey.

I painted the above after watching a woodpecker escape detection by keeping absolutely still, even though it was so close!

But this means it is difficult to get them to feed from a particular spot in order to photograph them. Having said that, sparrowhawks don't always finish their meal in one go and often leave a kill half eaten to come back to.

So I have found that if I find a carcass from a new kill, I can replace it with something else without the hawk noticing. I have a freezer that I keep stocked with road kill. Mainly it is stocked with pigeon and rabbits.

When the sparrowhawk returns to finish its meal it often looks a bit surprised to find what is often a different species to what it had left, but it tends not to pass up on this offer of a free meal.

I can move this new carcass a few metres every day until it is in a convenient place for me to photograph.

By using this technique I managed to get a female sparrowhawk to feed in the garden for six months and I got some great photographs of its daily dramas - especially when a young female turned up and fought it over the feeding station! (below) It was so dramatic  watching these supreme predators vying for position!

The older bird eventually won this battle, even though the younger bird was much more aggressive.

Unfortunately the older female left the garden this April. I expect she went away to nest. There is a new hawk here now,. When I first saw it flit past the window in late June, I thought it was the same one back, but this is a new female.

I have some good shots of her and also of another young female that has been visiting (pictured below), but I'm yet to be able to persuade her to feed here despite trying.

I hope I can get her to because I'm working on a new composition for a new painting of a sparrowhawk and I would like to have a painting model I can rely on!

This will be my new challenge over the next month.

Monday, November 17, 2014

City Wildlife

I am currently exhibiting a new collection of paintings of wildlife in Yorkshire and after claiming that this county is teaming with incredible species I was challenged by Radio York to see what could be found in York city centre.

Before I took the radio interviewer on a wildlife tour of the city, I decided to go out on a 'reccy' and was delighted when one of the first things I spotted was a peregrine perched on  a gargoyle on York Minster.

There turned out to be a pair there and I got this shot of the male and female perched on either side of the north window of the main tower .

I spotted a pigeon skeleton draped over a gargoyle (pictured on the right hand gargoyle, above) and realised that the pinnacles of this impressive medieval cathedral are the urban equivalent to a precipitous cliff and represent a great vantage point from which to hunt pigeons.

I watched the male as he eyed a flock of pigeons that had just landed underneath him. Then he started to flap his wings deliberately to frighten the pigeons. As they set off the peregrine lurched off the gargoyle into a spectacular stoop.

As the pigeons plummeted to the ground, tumbling and twisting through the air and swapping positions to confuse the peregrine, it dropped behind them with its wings pointed like a fighter pilot.

I could hear the wind rushing through the pigeons' wings as they pulled up over a small tree above my head and then I caught the sound of wind shooting through the peregrine's wings as it pulled out of its stoop .

He had missed but no doubt he would be back again.

The experience was so exciting I decided to return later to see if I could get more shots to paint from. I have painted a peregrine before, see above, but I am now considering a new painting with the Minster ramparts as a backdrop!

And if the peregrine sighting wasn't good enough I then toured the rest of the city and watched a sparrowhawk hunting a pied wagtail right above the heads of shoppers along Parliament Street!

I also saw a pair of goldcrests and a flock of long-tailed tits in Museum Gardens. It's incredible how much wildlife there was to be found in the centre of the city and how few people seemed aware of the lives of the species all around them.

Friday, November 7, 2014


My exhibition on Yorkshire wildlife opens tomorrow and I've got lots to share about the wonderful variety of wildlife to be enjoyed here in Yorkshire.

I'm planning to make a real 'Yorkshire fest' of the occasion and have today been captioning all my new paintings in Yorkshire dialect. The picture below of my new painting of puffins - which you can see at Bempton Cliffs on the Yorkshire coast - for instance has been annotated: 'Don't yer get shirty with me"!

Alongside lots of new paintings, I've organised some fantastic events to encourage people to go out and see wild birds and animals themselves.

In keeping with the Yorkshire theme I've got a culinary food trail of the Yorkshire countryside and a popular York author coming in to the gallery to talk all about what a great county this is.
For details of all that's going on take a look at my website

It's been a busy day hanging the new pictures, but I think they look good don't you?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Fotherdale's Fantastic Breeding Season

I'm just getting ready for my new exhibition all about the wealth of wildlife to be found in Yorkshire and I've been looking back at the remarkable breeding season we've had here in Thixendale -particularly in my garden at Fotherdale. 

I've watched tawny owls, kestrels and swallows, from the moment they first searched for a nesting site to the first flights of their fledglings.

And I've been able to photograph them throughout, so that many of the birds now appear in my latest paintings.

Among my favourite was this pair of swallows raising their chicks in a storm lantern hanging on my back porch! My painting of the event will highlight my new exhibition which opens on Saturday. 

This kestrel painting is also a new one and is the result of hours of watching and photographing the kestrel from the moment he won the annual tussle for the best nest box in Fotherdale. 

My new nest box cameras have revealed new secrets, including the fact that battles for next year's nesting sites have already begun.

Two weeks ago I reported how jackdaws, kestrels and tawny owls were all vying for one particular box and the battle is still not over. This week I captured the tawny owl digging a nest scrape in it.

It seems that at the moment the kestrel has possession of it during the day and at night the tawny owl has it!

But of all the season's great breeding stories, I'm proudest of the barn owls.

This pair live about a mile from my gallery and I have a particular interest in them after helping them through the previous winter with a daily supply of food.

They had become so accustomed to my daily offerings that if I stood very still the male would take food off the top of my hat!

Barn owls had a disastrous breeding season in 2013 and the restoration of barn owl populations in Thixendale depended on their performance this year.

And they didn’t disappoint. By Valentine’s Day this pair was loved up and already roosting in a nest box that I had put up for them. I had positioned the box opposite a tree-top hide so that I could watch the action at eye level.

It was so exciting to be able to watch, via my new CCTV, what happened once they disappeared into the entrance hole to the nest box.

I became privy to their entire courtship process! It was endearing to hear the soft, chittering calls of the male as it appeared in the box to offer the female gifts of food and see the quiver of her wings as she replied. Whenever he entered the box she would physically tremble with submission.

The first egg was laid on April 1st and six eggs followed at three day intervals, with the last laid on Good Friday. For me these were precious Easter eggs because they represented real hope.

Only six of the seven fledged, but this was still a healthy proportion and I was delighted when not long after they had left the nest I saw the male mating the female again and she went on to lay five more eggs!

Again it's been great having new painting models about, but I'm so very pleased for the future of barn owls here on the Wolds.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Wild About Yorkshire

I'm busy finishing a new collection of paintings of Yorkshire wildlife for my latest exhibition, which opens on November 8th. 

The event, which I've titled 'My Yorkshire', will be a celebration of all the wonderful wildlife that can be found here.

I'm hoping the new paintings will inspire people to go out and enjoy the wildlife for themselves and
I've organised bird watching walks and photography courses to accompany the exhibition.

I've also compiled a list of my top five places to spot wildlife during the winter to share with you.

Here they are:

1. Barn Owls at Sunk Island
Sunk Island by the river Humber is a birder's paradise with a high population of barn owls that hunt along the ditches. They are particularly visible from mid-afternoon onwards and are usually most active after bad weather.

2. Red Kites at Nunburnholme
This village on the Yorkshire Wolds is host to an established red kite roost. You can see up to 60 red kites from the roadside as you drive towards Warter. Red kites are unusually sociable and like to group together on winter nights, but just before they settle down they swoop and swirl through the air showing off some incredibly acrobatic movements.

3. Otters at Tophill Low Reserve, Driffield
The Sourthern Marsh hides at this reserve are good spots from which to spot otters. Look out for their wake in open water or a row of bubbles which often gives the game away. Listen too for their high-picthed birdlike calls.

4. Kingfishers at Howsham, nr Malton
Lookout for them along the footpath between Howsham Bridge and Kirkham Abbey. Listen for their high-pitched calls. Now is a good time to see them as there are less leaves on the trees and you get better views of the river.

5. Red Stag Rut, Studley Royal
This is the time when the stags tussle over hinds. My painting above is taken from studies I made of the rut here. The rut is exciting, dramatic and set in beautiful parkland graced with ancient sweet chestnut, beech and oak trees.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Trail Cam Photography

I'm often asked how I get to know the subjects in my paintings so well and the answer is that I spend a lot of time watching them. To help me with this, a few years ago I began using a Bushnell trail camera and I've found it a really useful research tool.

At the moment I have one trained on a buzzard feeding station that I set up here in Thixendale. I find it particularly useful for recording the times that the buzzards fly in to feed so that I can learn their routines when I am not there and then I can be ready to photograph them at the times I know it is likely that they are going to come. Most wild creatures are habitual and tend to feed at the same times every day, so knowing this information can save me hours I would have otherwise spent in a hide waiting for a creature to arrive. The above picture was taken with a  Canon 1D Mark 4 using a 500 F4 lens from my hide.

I've also captured some hilarious moments on my Bushnell trail cam that I might have otherwise missed, like this group of partridges rubbernecking the buzzard as it tore open its prey.

And I once discovered a wonderful 'wildlife bridge' over a stream after leaving my Bushnell trail cam on for a few days.

I had trained the Bushnell onto the log because I had been watching a badger sett nearby and wondered if the badgers used the log to cross the stream. But it turned out that the bridge was a busy thoroughfare for all the local wildlife and I also captured a fox, pheasant and even a woodmouse using it too!

With the information from my Bushnell I could be fairly certain what time a badger was likely to cross. Having said that, I didn't take the above picture from my hide, but instead used an SLR camera that I adapted to take pictures remotely by attaching a domestic security sensor to it.

I fixed a Puma wire-free movement sensor, designed to trigger security lights outside people's homes, to a Canon 7D 17-14mm lens and then taped insulation across part of the sensor to limit the field of view to capture the above shot of a badger crossing remotely.

There are infrared remote triggers on the market that let your subject fire the shutter in this way, but I have found that most of these involve lining up a transmitter and a receiver with perfect precision - something that is very difficult out in the field where you are dealing with uneven ground.
Often too, even when I do get the infrared beam to work, it appears in the final shot alongside my wildlife subject.

So I find that my personal rig up using a combination of a Bushnell and a Puma sensor works better!

Now that I am using these remote capture devices more and more for my research work, I was excited when this week Bushnell got in touch with me to let me know that they are holding a competition for the best UK captures on a trail cam.

Up for grabs are prizes totalling £2,400 so it's well worth entering!!

Entries need to go to before December 31st.