This kestrel was sitting close to the road at Jæren on a spring day a few years back. I am looking forward to a time when I get to travel to those parts of Norway on a more regular basis. The southwest offers the best birdwatching in the country, by far. And I'm not biased, of course.
We've held a painting course at work again, this time I tried to paint myself in the mirror. I think I've managed to capture my evil side rather well. Not used to acrylics at all, after three attempts, but fun to work with. The main frustration is that the colours dry too fast, but I guess you can mix them with some kind of retarder? One day, when I have more space at home, I'll make place for a canvas every now and then....
Now is the time when birdwatchers gather on the islands in the west and north of Norway. The Yellow-browed Warblers are gradually increasing in numbers, but they are looking for the really hard stuff, like the Blackpoll Warbler below. This species has only been found twice in Norway, and surely it's about time again that this one or one of the other new world warblers appear here.
Nothing much like autumn up north for the time being, but in spite of temperatures of around 30 degrees in most of the country, the adult waders have started migrating. I spent a few days at Mølen last week, and saw Knots, Curlew Sandpiper, Bar-tailed Godwits, Wood Sandpiper, Golden Plovers and Whimbrels. I managed a short sketch of the latter. The Red-crested Pochard is a request from a friend, and the first-year Grey Plover is commissioned work.
Good things are worth waiting for. Yesterday, a 40 year old dream came through, when I finally got to see a wild Great Grey Owl in Norwegian nature. The opportunity came with the sudden growth of a population in Hedmark, just two hours north of Oslo. Just a decade ago, this huge owl was considered a regular, though extremely rare resident only in the far north of Norway, in Finnmark. Things have changed, and rumours have it that more than 40 pairs are now breeding in Hedmark.
Even though we weren't too close to the nest, and the birds seemed very comfortable with us there, we didn't want to stay for to long, and I only had time for a few short sketches.
A few more birds from the Eilat sketchbook. The abundance of Yellow Wagtails (gulerle) around the Yotvata sewage ponds held us there for a long time on our first visit to the place. There were several subspecies present, but feldegg was by far the most common. Two Citrine Wagtails (sitronerle) were also present, a male and a female, and I had a chance to sketch the male. The bird is impossibly yellow! I sat there trying to mix the right colour, all the time thinking "surely, it can't be this bright?" As it turned out, I didn't get it bright enough.
Shrikes, on the other hand, were not abundant, although both Woodchat (rødhodevarsler) and Masked Shrikes (hvitpannevarsler) were fairly common. Shrikes are among the cooperative birds for a field sketcher, and the female below sat in more or less the same pose for as long as it took to draw it. I haven't done much investigation into sub-species of Woodchat Shrike, but as far as I can understand, the bird in the sketch is probably an Eastern WS (Lanius senator niloticus), the most striking features being the complete lack of black on the forehead (apparently quite frequent in niloticus) and the large patch of white at the base of the primaries. By the way, it was surrounded by 3-4 Isabelline Wheatears (isabellasteinskvett). A nice place to spend a little time!
The Yotvata circular fields was one of the places we returned to quite often during our stay, not at least because of the good chances of studying migrating and hunting harriers. At one time, we had female Hen, Pallid and Montagu's hunting around us at the same time - what better way to learn a thing or two about harrier ID? Also present on the fields were a few Collared Pratincoles (brakksvale), not at all scared of Norwegians. They were heavily photographed by people with camouflage dresses and very, very long lenses. One guy spent most of his time lying flat on the ground, shoving his enormous equipment in front of him. After a while, he stopped moving for a long time, and we became worried that he had perished from a heart attack under the sheer excitement, but eventually he stood up and walked away. Maybe he just fell asleep there for a while.
Flycatchers are certainly among my favourite birds, and during our stay in Eilat I finally found the most handsome of them all - the male Collared Flycatcher. The bird fittingly spent the morning hunting insects around the main entrance of the birdwatching centre in Eilat. It was stunning bird, at least in its third calendar year, with no juvenile feathers in the wing. Later on, Kjell found a semicollared flycatcher outside our room at Kibbutz Lotan, a bird we had to work with for a while before we could identify it. It was a 2nd cy bird, with the same amount of white on the forehead and in the primaries that you would expect in a Pied, but the final give-away was the white tips to the median coverts. Eventually, we also saw a couple of Collared F's in and around the kibbutz, but we never found a singel female of any of the black-and-white species. A shame, as they would have been very interesting to compare to each other.
The only field-sketching quality of the painting in this post, is the fact that I did it sitting in the sun - not while watching the bird, I'm afraid.
I have been watching birds for as long as I can remember. I used to draw a lot as a child, but hardly touched a pencil for 15 years, until 2005, when I gradually became more interested in nature art again. I started to experiment with colours a few years ago, and I find this increasingly rewarding.