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Watercolour Landscape

Tuesday 2nd January 2001, West Yorkshire
towpath A DULL RAINY afternoon, but a golden glow along the southern skyline throws the hilltop farm into peat brown silhouette.

The canal is brown too; muddied by meltwater. The valley bottom fields still thoroughly waterlogged.

Two Carrion Crows perch in the top of a Sycamore near what looks like the beginnings - or remnants - of a nest. One gives a full-throated 'karr!'

The crow's call is deeper than the 'caw!' of the Rook.

magpiemagpie Six Magpies explode from a thorn bush, skittering off like mischievous revellers.

A Kestrel perches, hunched up, facing into the wind and rain, then swoops down across the dark ploughland.

A pair of small duck flies off rapidly along the canal. Even on such a dull day their white wing stripes identify them as Teal.

yellowhammer As we walk up along the Balk, there are 20 Redwing in the field on our right and, on our left, perched at the end of a hawthorn hedge, there's a Yellowhammer, an unlikely splash of colour and a reminder of summer, when we often hear one singing in this small patch of trees and bushes.

causey stone path The thaw means a change in tone, apparent tone anyway, for the sheep. They appeared as dark blobs on the hillside during the recent snow. Now they're light again, against the green of the pasture.

The end of a rainbow - the right hand end, the colours are in reverse order - stands like a pillar of Technicolor flame across the valley near Sandal Castle.

January Woods

oyster fungusIn the wood, on a fallen log in the stream, Oyster Fungus, a bracket fungus with pale creamy mushroom-type gills, was covered in snow the other day. Now it looks none the worse for it.

Ear Fungus grows on Elder branches, while the black marshmallows of King Alfred's Cakes grow on fallen Ash logs.

By the stream, the wet bark of a Hazel, which is marked by horizontal scars, appears bronzy in this afternoon's low sun, filtered through cloud. The soft, low, bronzy light casts no shadows and seems to bring out every detail. For me there's a calmness about this kind of light. I feel that I'm seeing every detail in its true colours, but the bronze tint gives a sense of harmony. It's as if you're seeing countryside through a thin film of single malt whisky. Perhaps the subtle sepia toning gives a hint of nostalgia to familiar woods and hedges.

Light like this afternoon's makes me want to paint larger canvases again.

great tit Near the edge of the wood we hear the Great Tit's song for the first time this year. The repeated two-note phrase is sometimes described as 'tee-cher, tee-cher, tee-cher,' but I always think of it as a squeaky bicycle pump.

The ditch alongside the footpath known as Gypsy Lane has become a rivulet in its own right. It's too deep for me to stride across it, as I usually do, at the point where it enters the stream. next page

Richard Bell
Richard Bell,
wildlife illustrator

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