Monday, 8 December 2008

Moonlight, wisteria and watercolours

Out by the light of the moon went I this evening armed with a pair of secateures. My mission was to prune my wisteria back to four buds per stem. However, neither the outside lighting nor the moon shining above my plant offered enough light to do the job properly. As I looked up at the moon I thought I’d attempt a photo. I was thrilled to be able to see details of craters on the surface! I was also thrilled to finally be able to upload photos on to my PC again.


Looking at a few stems of my wisteria in the photo below you can see some young growth (green stems) from this year. I intend cutting them completely out. These have been the long ‘whippy’ growth that should be cut back during mid/late summer. Flowers won’t grow from the buds trying to form on them. This pruning is already overdue so this really must be a job for tomorrow.


Walking around the garden in the dark is a whole different experience. How quiet it was. Walking past the hanging peanut feeder that the Long-tailed tits discovered a week ago I remembered the noisy starlings of this morning! Yes, they were at the peanuts too but it was the half log that I had nailed to my pergola post that they were making all the noise at. What could possible interest them there? Peanut butter was spread into the hole I had cut into it and boy was it popular!

Peanut butter was what I had hoped to lure the Long-tailed tits back to my garden with. I haven’t seen them go near it so far and now there is none left anyway except in the dish of another caged hanging feeder for live foods. This dish the starlings cannot get at! I had seen peanut butter used at the Nature Reserve I had seen the Pine Martens at. They put some in the knot of a tree and woodpeckers and other birds enjoyed it there too. I was told that it was better to buy peanut butter from health food shops as the salt content would be lower. I bought a tub sold at the Reserve.


Fat balls are definitely popular with the Long-tailed tits and they have been using the square caged feeder that only the smaller birds can get in. Tehy are also enjoying the peanuts. Yes, I am delighted to say that we have spotted more visits! Yesterday I saw a flock of six visit. They are so quick though, in and out of the garden in less than five minutes. I tend to position feeders with a spot for the birds to jump down from. You can see branches in the montage above that are used by the birds. You can also see one of the holes in my hedge where the birds pop out and in from.


No new photos of the Long-tailed tits that are visiting at the moment. I would love to catch them with my camera yet. The photo on the left above was taken back in March. The fuzzier image on the right is a screen grab taken from video footage taken last Friday at midday. Yes… I am thrilled to say I managed to catch them on film. I have slowed the speed down a little so you can see them a little clearer. Once again, I am so grateful to be able to view and upload them on my PC again.




My OH has been an absolute star with all the hours he has put in to get our PC working again. I will not go into all the tech stuff but in the end he had to rebuild it completely from scratch again – we didn’t even have an operating system. It is tricky now remembering settings I used for specific programs so things are taking longer to do for the moment.

Going from the seriously technical stuff to the pre photos era I found myself picking up a pencil and trying to draw the character of our newest visitors. For ID’s of birds I do feel photos are much better than illustrations but unless you are a gifted photographer they capture only an image of that moment.


It has been quite a long time since I have done any drawing. I was keeping my OH Company and thought I would just potter away. I so wish I had never lost ‘my hand’. I had chosen to work with graphics and at that time there became less time for simple sketches and drawings. I didn’t do colour much either – I liked to work in black and white with toned washes. I used a watercolour pad for my drawing so I could add any washes if I got that far.

Time passed and my OH still struggled on. I looked out a box of watercolours that I had never used. I pottered some more. I really did not expect anything finished out of my pottering. I had images from my books in front of me but was thinking about the character that I liked about this bird. Time passed, I added more colour. I began to overwork it – always a tricky balance. It was late, we were both tired. I left the pad out on a table to dry.

My drawing had turned into a coloured image which was quite unexpected for me. I have never painted a bird before either. I then considered that I could share it on my blog to show that we can still capture images of moments in the garden without the use of technology. My image is far from perfect but that really doesn’t matter as it is my image of this bird as I have been seeing it in my garden. I do believe that everyone can produce ‘something’ on paper and I hope that by showing my effort I might encourage others to give it a try. I might try it again too.

All photos with the exception of the Long-tailed tit were taken in my garden on December 8th 2008. The video shown above was taken in my garden on December 5th 2008.

14 comments:

Sylvia (England) said...

You have hidden talents Shirl, I do like your painting of the long tailed tit - one of my favourite birds. I hope you find the time for more of your drawings/paintings this one is charming, shows something that photos don't. Well done

Best wishes Sylvia (England)

Frances said...

Hi Shirl, your painting has me smiling broadly and giving you a hug for this delightful rendering. I do think you have captured the spirit of what you have seen. We do want more of this!
Frances

Lisa at Greenbow said...

Shirl, your pottering is gorgeous. You certainly should do more of it.

Those long-tailed tits are quite the inspiraiton.

Susan Tomlinson said...

Oh my, there were so many things I loved about this post. The best part, though, was the little water color sketch at the end. Well done!

easygardener said...

What a beautiful water colour. Looks like it's about to zip off at high speed!
I do like long tailed tits and I've got one flying around with a gang of blue and great tits that come visiting. Also in with the gang is a coal tit - the first one I've ever seen in the 25 years I've been here.

Liz said...

Lovely pottering of a lovely little bird!

I used to draw birds when I was young - in the early days of my obsession haha!

Robin's Nesting Place said...

You did such a beautiful work of art! Definitely a talent there! Glad you have you computer fixed!

shirl said...

Hi there Sylvia, Frances, Lisa, Susan, Denise, Liz & Robin :-)

Gosh… I am most surprised that the sketch/painting I added to this post (more as an after thought) has had so much response! Quite unexpected :-o

Sylvia – Thank-you, Had it not been for my PC probs the truth is I probably wouldn’t have picked up the pad on my bookshelf. It is a charming bird and I do agree that illustrations can express character more than the average photo. I didn’t expect that others would see what I was seeing in my painted sketch – I am thrilled :-D

Frances – Oh… that image will now remain with me now :-D This was my first sketch in many years, my first that I have added colour in this way and my first ever bird drawing! Thank-you, I really was only pottering to see if I could capture anything. Ah… I don’t know if I can… it was as much about that moment as anything :-D

Lisa – Thank-you, it really was just a bit of pottering – I am thrilled you liked it. Yes, the Long-tailed tits were the inspiration especially when it is doubtful that I will get any photos as their visits are so fleeting. One day they will all be gone again! In all honesty I don’t know if I could do this again – I’ll give it go when something else captures me in the same way :-D

Susan – Thank-you, this posting evolved completely out of what was current and it was fun to do! I still cannot believe I was able get an image of the moon from my garden that shows craters – I will be trying that again! Ah… once again I am thrilled that you enjoyed my watercolour sketch. I really enjoyed doing it especially as I was keeping my OH company through his PC probs :-D

Denise – Gosh… thank-you, I really am most surprised at the reaction I have had to this. I love the idea of your LTT being part of a visiting gang. The blue tits in my garden chase them when there is only one. The flocks seem to fair better. Ah… wonderful that you have a coal tit now especially after so long! I have a theory that their numbers have perhaps increased as the blue tit numbers must be decreasing based on the failed broods due to lack of caterpillars (due to wetter summers). I have noticed the coal tits search more thoroughly for insects in places that blue tits don’t look. We have had them visiting since I began this garden watch which only started with my blog – two years now. I have been thrilled to see three coal tits visiting this year – although we seem to be down to two now. Do keep an eye out on the behaviour of your coal tit. A lot of people have been noticing that they are burying food (sunflower hearts) in the ground, borders, lawn or wherever. It is very entertaining to watch :-D

Liz – Thank-you, I really my pottering that night. Quite relaxing too. Ah… I can see why it became an obsession then :-D I enjoyed drawing in my teens and it was trees that were my favourites and my passion for plants was probably starting then. Driftwood etc, anything with texture in it. At college I focused more on pen and ink drawings but my course was a design based one. I continued drawing a little after but then design took over in my job and the illustrations and drawings were left behind. Ah… but wait a minute I have drawn (pen) a bird before. It must have been from a photograph – it was an owl. I must look for it the next time I am in my attic :-D

Robin – Thank-you, oh… you are too kind - I don’t know if I would class it as art though. It was fun to do and to be honest I didn’t expect to complete it. I’m so glad I did now and as for my computer I am so, so glad to have it back again! Thank-you :-D

ShySongbird said...

Hi Shirl,

What a talented lady you are! I would love to be able to draw and paint half as well as you do, it is years since I tried and gave up disillusioned, but now I am wondering again... Glad you are still being visited by the Long-Tailed Tits. I have seen a male and female Blackcap in the last few days, last winter we only had a female. Keep up all the good work and I hope your daughter is still improving.

Joe said...

Hi Shirl,

Great drawing of the Long-tailed Tit. I wish I could do that.

We have Long-tailed tits visiting our garden too. Apparently it has been a good breeding year for them. They tend to fly around with the Blue Tits and Great Tits.

Well done!
Joe

shirl said...

Hi again ShySongbird & Joe :-)

ShySongbird – Thank-you, you have me blushing now! It has been years since I have been drawing – this was new territory for me too. I am so thrilled that perhaps you will have go again yourself – that really makes me smile! I would sooo encourage you to do so! Unfortunately at this busy time of year there is not enough time/daylight hours to watch birds. I haven’t noticed the LTT’s in the last couple of days – a little luck is required to spot them pass through. Ah… great to hear you are seeing the Blackcaps. I have been watching for them too and strangely enough last year we only had two females. They are more sociable with other birds don't you think ;-) Thank-you, my daughter is improving now but I doubt she is getting enough rest at Uni!!

Joe – Thank-you, I would encourage you to have a go when you have any time. The only tip I would give is not to try too hard with it. As I said a few times already – I really was only pottering. I enjoyed doing it and I think that can show through in a drawing/sketch. We are having Sparrowhawk visits at the moment and I doubt I would get a photo of them so I suppose I could try the same technique with them. But there lies the problem – I don’t know if I could repeat this. It really was as much about the moment as anything. I had no expectations when I opened my pad. Ah… I haven’t been reading up about the LTT so thanks for that. Once again, I am surprised to hear that your LTT’s join in with the Blue and Great’s. My Blue tits chase them off!! Thank-you, and well done to you too for keeping away from blogging during your exam time :-D

Thanks For 2 Day said...

Hi Shirl, You have so many things to comment on in your post...I don't know where to start! I'm glad you can upload to your computer again; I have enjoyed your videos and photos, long before I even knew about Blotanical. I found you somehow last year and came over to visit because your stories and nest-box video's are so wonderful. Painting/sketching is definitely something you need to do more of:) Jan/ThanksFor2Day

A wildlife gardener said...

Great to be back visiting you once again, dear Shirl :)

I have missed those charming little videos, and will try to catch up (in 2009)with all those I have missed.

Meanwhile, I was not disappointed, for there in today's post, is another...this time of the long-tailed tit.

But, surprise, surprise... A beautiful watercolour too! I love it Shirl! You must nurture this talent of yours. It may be the first bird you have done, but it certainly won't be the last, I hope :)

I loved all the photos, as always, and found your moon pic fascinating. Who could have imagined you would capture so much detail?

I do not have wisteria, but I love their blossom. So, I was interested to read about the intricacies of when to prune them.

We rarely have long-tailed tits, but, when we do, they come in little groups. We do have an abundance of bluetits, coal tits and great tits..and this morning I counted eleven bluetits on one feeder.

We are off for a little break now, to Paris till 2009. Before we go and pack, let me wish you Happy Holidays and Good Health in 2009 :)

shirl said...

Hi again Jan and welcome back Wildlife Gardener :-)

Jan – Thank-you! I suppose you don’t know how much you rely on something until you don’t have it. I have now bought an address book as I couldn’t get to them. I am thrilled it was my nestbox stories that brought you visiting as I so enjoy writing them in particular. Thank-you I have also wanted to get back to sketching for some time but then there is the old problem of enough time. I will would love to potter again :-D

Wildlife Gardener – I have been thinking of you these last few months. I am glad my present posting was up when you visited but if you do manage time to catch up please head back to July and see what I was smiling about then! Perhaps… Yes, I must admit I don’t think this will be the last bird I sketch but posting them well… Yes, I loved the moon shot and and hearing the BBC News yesterday it appears that it was getting a bit bigger this week as it was getting closer to us! Last night we didn’t see it as we had heavy rain but it would have appeared 14% larger than usual if we had – wow! Yes, I remember you saying wisteria's don’t grow with you – pity. Wow… eleven blue tits! I have never seen that many. We only very occasionally see the LTT but that makes their visits so much more special. Wonderful to hear you are off now – so glad we all heard from you before you went. I was worried. Have a great trip and wishing you and all your family Happy Holidays too and definitely Good Health for 2009 :-D