Monday, February 17, 2014

Sketching Buzzards

I sketched these buzzards some years ago. They make such nice subjects to paint.

But recently I've been fascinated by a pair circling in the valley below my studio and decided it was time to start a new composition. It took me a long time to get up close to them. I set up a feeding station in a valley close to my home and gallery in Thixendale, North Yorkshire, last autumn, and I am only just starting to get the shots I need.

It took me a while to get them feeding regularly but thankfully the process has had other benefits. It helped me out with a problem I have living in a rural setting: rats. All winter-long I battle with these unpleasant invaders. They come off the fields after harvest and head for the house and outbuildings - even trying to dig down under the bricks to tunnel their way in. I am against using poison because of the impact it would have on the rest of the wildlife that thrives here and so my only option is to trap them. It’s a nasty job, especially when it comes to disposing of the carcasses.

Then I thought I could turn the rats into buzzard-bait. Most birds of prey, except buzzards and red kites, find rats too tough and even a fox will turn its nose up at one. But thankfully buzzards are partial to them.

I fed the buzzards every day for two months before I dared put up a hide without disturbing them. Even then my first attempt scared them off. It took me another 10 days to re-acclimatise them. Finally after three months, and 85 rats, I’d done it and they were feeding there regularly.

After a full morning of sitting in my hide watching, I managed to get these shots of the female posturing to make herself look large when her mate flew in to join her.

I think this photograph could make a suitable pose for a new painting. What do you think?