Friday 10 October 2008

End of Summer

Our annual holiday is always timed carefully.
Sally usually combines it with collecting something from 'South' (which could mean anywhere from John O'Groats to Adelaide) and so this year Sal and I took the kids to Yorkshire to see their 'other' granny - my mum, Hazel.
I never do bird lists, but I thought I'd mention a few of the raptors; from the 1st two hours of the drive (northern Scotland) were; Sparrowhawk (with prey - starling), common buzzards, goshawk, osprey (x2), kestrel. I didn't get any of the usual 'Orkney' raptors (Short-eared owl, merlin, peregrine or the harriers) as I got the morning boat from Stromness harbour - a drive of approx. 2 minutes from the house, straight through the town.We spent two days in South Yorkshire then travelled across to Manchester where we were collecting our new Ebay purchase, (curtesy of darling wife's internet habit) the trailer tent! Fortunately it was in better than perfect condition and we merrily slooshed up the M6 back towards Scotland. We camped in Ayr where there just happened to be a Race meeting on (lost all my hard-earned, but had a great day), then a further two in Glen Nevis - stunning. Cadjoled the whole family to walk up part of Ben Nevis but as soon as the pub was spotted, we all agreed the midges were too much and made a hasty detour. Amazingly, however, following light refreshments they decided to continue skywards, which we did for another hour or so. Great walk and an extremely steep descent brought us back along the riverside walk to the campsite and 'home'.
Had 2 red kites on the last leg, north of Inverness and also picked up a road-kill common buzzard which was the day's piece on the board.

Back from holiday!
And to find a rather pleasant surprise on the doormat. A letter from Wildscape Magazine informing me that my painting
“Red-throated Divers Nest-Prospecting” has WON AN AWARD! I am thoroughly chuffed.
I am very lucky having an, er, 'understanding' family regarding these unfortunates which end up on the slab, but actuallythe kids are really gruesome and love to see the dead stuff up close. They even spot bundles of feathers and fur from the car - beats I-Spy anyday!

And here is a slightly re-worked painting of the original that won the award.

This is an unfortunate fulmar which I collected from near the Standing Stones of Stenness. I kept it overnight but it had sadly died by the morning. I made a study of the bird both as an artistic statement and for reference at a later date.

Incidentally, here are a few notes on handling dead birds for artistic study purposes:
If they look manky - leave them alone. Most of what I pick up are road kills meaning they were (probably) in fairly good health up until the point that they, er, weren't. They will have (depending on species and individual) a number of mites, lice and other hangers-on which will remain with the host until they find another one. These are pretty specific critters requiring very specialised habitat, so don't worry about them - unless you happen to be dressing up in your best Fulmar-feather outfit - most are very slow-moving and can be cracked with the blunt end of a pencil or brush as they hit the white backing paper (which I like to use as it helps me see the contours and tones better than 'neutral' backgrounds. Reverse side of old wallpaper is good. One type of parasite which lives on rooks is a broad winged flea-type of thing and they are truly gruesome. They appear fom out of the plumage, do a quick once-over round the corpse and disappear back into the feathers - uuuuurrgh! I don't do corvids in the house - they stay outer-doors.One final thing. When using dining table - make sure it's not you sitting where aforementioned specimen was lying previous to setting table - or you could disinfect the table, if you're being especially fussy!regarding catching 'stuff' from dead birds - I suppose the main thing is - don't eat them or suck them. You should be ok then.