Bad Hair Day Blue Tit

Tuesday, 17th May 2005

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I like writing in the garden, away from the distractions of the studio; the only trouble is there's another set of distractions out here. I can't help doodling away at the edge of my page . . .

Transitory Titmice

birds headscoal titA blue tit (far left) is bobbing in and out of the nest box on next door's kitchen wall, most likely working flat out to keep its family fed and occasionally stopping to feed itself at the sunflower feeder. It's squeezed through the nest hole so many times that the feathers on the top of its head look as if they've been almost worn away. Its plumage in general is looking faded, as if it's had too much sun.

coal titThe coal tit, (right) normally the duller bird, is looking rather neater. The resident blue tit, on top of its normal chores, keeps chasing it away from the feeder.


Sunbathing Sparrows

sparrowsparrowOne female house sparrow has a more relaxed attitude: she's crouching down in a hollow in the lawn (probably where a squirrel has been digging up a cached peanut). Other sparrows hang around the ground feeder, like office staff around the water cooler (if offices still have water coolers?).

All Pheasant and Correct

pheasantAs ever, the pheasants stroll up to the feeder too. It feels different to sketch them when I'm sitting out here with them than it does to sketch them, when they're equally close, through the patio window. That pane of double-glazing puts a barrier between us. Out here I feel more as if I'm a part of their world.

What I like about all these birds is that they're such characters; they're such a pleasure to draw. With their expressive shapes and soap opera character behaviour they make themselves so tempting to draw. They're so amusing, so full of life, that sometimes I think they have a richer, more incident-packed life than I do; just by going about their lives and being whatever it is they are: dotty pheasant, busy blue tit or streetwise sparrow.

The Land of the Happy Blue-Bottle-Flies

flyAnd it's not just the birds; the bluebottle that lands on the table also has a character all it's own - yes, really, it does, if you stop and look at it: it's not an identikit field guide specimen; it seems to have a life and character all it's own.

The way my quick sketch of it turns out reminds me of Edward Lear (1812 - 1888). Although best known for his Limericks and nonsense, Lear's day job was as a natural history illustrator and landscape painter. In his Nonsense Songs, Stories, Botany and Alphabets (1871), he tells The Story of the Four Little Children who went Round the World who, on their fantastic voyage, come to 'a country where there were no houses, but only an incredibly innumerable number of large bottles without corks, and of a dazzling and sweetly susceptible blue colour . . . ' in which the Blue-Bottle-Flies live in 'the most copious and rural harmony':

Edward Lear,

'At this time, an elderly Fly said it was the hour for the Evening-song to be sung; and on a signal being given all the Blue-Bottle-Flies began to buzz at once in a sumptuous and sonorous manner, the melodious and mucilaginous sounds echoing all over the waters, and resounding across the tumultuous tops of the transitory Titmice upon the intervening and verdant mountains, with a serene and sickly suavity only known to the truly virtuous.'

I read Lear in the 1970s for my college thesis and that ' serene and sickly suavity only known to the truly virtuous' is a phrase that's stuck with me.

Birds at the Bulls Head

collared doveswiftThis collared dove flying out of a conifer and swift flying in the open sky above, I drew yesterday evening as I waited for Barbara in the car park of the Bulls Head, Horbury. I try never to miss a chance to draw, and natural history appeals to me at the moment. Next Page

Richard Bell,

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