Sunny Bank

Richard Bell's Wild West Yorkshire nature diary, Thursday 2 September 2010fly

bindweedON THE GRASSY bank by the health centre car park, the trumpets of the greater bindweed are attracting hoverflies which occasionally buzz each other in tussles over access to one the flowers. A wasp investigates the grasses below the brambles, then investigates me with equal care and attention.wasp

brambleMy mum tells me that she saw another familiar creature foraging on this same sunny bank on Monday; my brother, blackberrying as he waited for her to emerge from her previous appointment at the surgery.

Today it's my turn to wait but although she's with the doctor for longer than expected, I didn't get much drawing done as I got chatting to a Wakefield Express photographer, now retired, who I've known for years. There have been a lot of changes on the paper, notably a few years ago when the printing finally moved away from Wakefield. Throughout my lifetime the paper was always printed at the Express offices on Southgate, just 200 yards due south of the spire of the cathedral. After I'd left art college I once called and begged the end of a roll of newsprint which I used for large posters and as lining paper for scene painting for the local pantomime.

Lindsay Anderson (1923-1994) made a half hour documentary about the newspaper in 1952 and, my photographer friend tells me, another film was made of the paper in the 1970s. I must try and get to see them; they'd bring back some memories I'm sure. The Express was ground-breaking in its day as one of the first newspapers to print using a web offset machine. I still remember the dramatic improvement in the quality of the photographs which were crisper and more contrasty than those in the national dailies of that time.

The Scarborough Spa Express

My photographer friend has moved with the times too; he always carries a small holster on his belt containing a small digital camera. This is capable of taking high definition movies of events such as the Scarborough Spa Express arriving at Wakefield Kirkgate (left, unless it has since been withdrawn from YOUtube).

Several YouTube photographers recorded the visit and my friend was up the line at Wakefield Westgate, filming the engine against a leafy backdrop (right).

kestrelKestrel Preening

I drew this kestrel a week ago on a five-minutes-per-animal tour of the Ponderosa zoo, which rounded off the first day of our animation course. Its preening routine fascinated me but I felt that it was too much to try and capture in my animation the next day.

chamaeleonTo start off my day's drawing on the Friday I headed straight for the tapir enclosure; its an animal with a prehistoric look and it always reminds me of the opening sequence of Stanley Kubrick's 2001; A Space Odyessy. Unfortunately it was confined to its indoor quarters as the keeper was filling up its pool; it has a habit of chewing the hose-pipe, so instead I headed for the reptile house and drew the equally prehistoric-looking chamaeleon.

primatesApart from swivelling his cone-shaped eye and moving his back leg almost imperceptably, he remained motionless (and didn't even change colour). In contrast these lemur-like primates in the monkey house hardly kept still as they chased each other along the branches in their cage and tussled on the floor.