Week 20, 8th – 14th May
While P is at college, I often enjoy a walk along part of the Lancaster canal. I start at the end of Dimples Lane and walk for about three or four kilometres. I love seeing the subtle changes in the plants, wildlife and even the boats along the way. It would be easy to keep a nature journal based on that stretch of canal.
About a month ago, I saw the first ducklings. They are growing so quickly. The little chap I painted this week, was one of four. Further down the canal, I saw one duck with a brood of thirteen.
The Yellow Iris or ‘Flags’ have just started to flower. In the coming weeks there will be many more, lining the edge of the water in the canal. They make a great show.
The verges of the motorways on the way to college are full of colour at the moment as well. Red Campion, buttercups, cow parsley and even stray rape seed plants. A profusion of yellow, white and pink flowers. One of my favourites is the big, bold Ox-eye daisy. They are such happy flowers.
I have invested in a ‘how to nature journal’ book. It’s called The Laws Guide to Nature Drawing and Journaling By John Muir Laws. It has a wealth of ideas and information. After painting the orange ladybird a couple of weeks ago, I decided to follow the step by step instructions on painting a red ladybird, from the book.
This actually set me off on a tangent…that of investigating paper quality.
I did my first attempt in a small Leuchtturm 1917 sketchbook. The paper is very white and smooth. It sucked the watercolour in like a sponge. After several layers, my ladybird still looked very pale.
I traced my bug and copied it onto some of the same paper from my nature journal. It’s off-white cartridge paper. This was easier to work on, but I was curious to compare it to good quality watercolour paper.
Here are my three ladybirds. As you can see, there is quite a big difference between them.
The question now is, do I carry on in the sketchbook I have started, or change to one with better quality paper? After after all, I have invested in the best quality paints, shouldn’t the paper be as good?
two or three days later…
It felt wrong to leave this sketchbook after so few weeks. I will complete this year in this sketchbook. I have bought 2 new sketchbooks. Both have 270gsm watercolour paper. One is smooth, one textured. I’m going to use these as testers. Whichever paper suits me best will be used for my next nature journal. I think I’ve caught the nature journal ‘bug’!
I really am spoilt for choice with my journal. Everything is growing so vigorously at the moment. Everywhere I look there is a potential painting.
We have an invasion of tiny alpine strawberry plants all over the yard. They self seed and send out runners hither and thither. The cheery little white flowers will become the most flavoursome, but tiny strawberries. A very tasty kind of weed.
The startling acid yellow of a Brimstone butterfly caught my eye, as I walked along the canal tow path. There was no mistaking it, unlike the many little, brown, speckled butterflies that flit across the path.
Towards the end of the week, at dusk, we thought that we saw some bats again. They were silhouettes of speedy darting flight near to the cottages. As our eyes adjusted to the low light levels we realised that they were Swifts. They were feeding on the last airborne insects of the day.
Week 17, 24th – 30th April
Serveral years ago, a neighbour told us that he had seen roe deer in the woods near our cottage. We were very surprised. A couple of years later we found deer tracks in the snow, just down the lane. Back in December, as we drove to college, we got a good view of two adult deer running across the meadow at Seven Acres, less than a mile from home. Then, as we were out for a morning stroll, in almost the exact place we found the tracks, a roe deer doe crossed the footpath in front of us. Less than 10 metres away. It was thrilling. Some dog walkers told us that she had two fawns, last year’s and a new one. I hope I get to glimpse them all some time.
Back in September, we started our rose garden. Many of the plants were bare rooted with no foliage at all. They are all growing well and this week I spotted the first rose bud. The rose is called ‘Rose des Cistertians’. I’m eager to see it open.
The Orange Tip butterfly whizzed passed me as I walked along the canal. I saw several small white butterflies on the same walk.
Here is a closer look at the Roe Deer
Week 16, 17th April – 23rd
As much as I am loving keeping this journal, sometimes life gets in the way. I’m determined to keep going though, even if that means a bit of catching up. I even painted whilst listening to a story in the car. Parked up at the back of college, with the crows and horses for company.
We often hear jays in the woodland near the cottage. Their raucous calls are very distinctive. Most of the time all we see of them is a flash of their colourful feathers. This week, we were treated to a pair landing on the arch into the front garden. I had not realised how big they are.
In the flowerbed next to our bird feeder, we have scarlet tulips. They come up each year and glow in the sunshine. This year they have multiplied and the red petals were luminous.
We had seen bluebells earlier in the month when further south, but I wanted to wait until the first ones bloomed down our lane. I absolutely adore the hazy blue carpets they form in our local woodland.
Week 15, 10th April – 16th
Whilst walking to a local shop, a flicker of white caught my eye. It was a tiny day moth, just over 1cm in wingspan. It landed on the dark damp wall, not far from me. I marvelled at it’s delicate feathery wings. They looked too fragile to survive our weather. I took a reference photo with my phone. Back at home I discovered that it was a Small White Wave. A day moth not usually seen until May. Our mild weather must have woken this one a little early.
We had bright sunshine for a few days. It was so warm that it felt like summer. We set to work tidying up the yard and getting the table and chairs ready. There’s nothing quite like dinning in the garden and we do it as often as we can.
Hiding in a nook under the table was an orange ladybird. It was so vibrant in colour. We have already seen a few of the more common red ladybirds, but this fellow was the first ever of it’s kind.
Two days later we saw a fox slinking along the bottom of our garden. It was at about 9am. She was unhurried and moved from our garden to a neighbour’s, then over the fence towards the huge gardens of our neighbour, Sam. He has a meadow and beyond that is woodland and parkland. We were pleased to see this one. More often we hear the foxes rather than see them making that eerie screeching noise as they call to each other.
Week 14, April 3rd-9th
I got my first idea for my journal right at the beginning of the week. We watched a crow mobbing a buzzard above our garden. It was amazing. The buzzard wasn’t overly bothered and kept circling with ease on the warm air. Only after the crow had actually made contact a couple of times, did the buzzard move off. Not in a hurry either. The crow cawed triumphantly as it flew around a little longer.
A day later a bright little male Gold Finch was perch on a branch of the Camellia. The flashes of red and yellow catching our eye.
On a walk down the lane, Perran spotted a Common Dog Violet. We are going to transplant it, as it growing in a spot that will soon be covered in nettles.
Week 13, March 27th – 2nd April
The clocks have gone forward and the evenings are lighter. It’s still very mild too.
We stood in the back lane chatting to a neighbour as the sun was setting and we saw the first bats of the year. Tiny Pipistrelle bats flitting along the edge of the trees and across our gardens.
The next day the first butterfly whizzed passed us. It was hard to identify as it was so quick. We decided that it was a Skipper. Whether a Large or a Small we couldn’t be certain.
The melodious croaking of frogs from our pond made me very happy. Many of our friends already had spawn in their ponds. I had wondered if we would miss out this year. They were just waiting for an extra sunny couple of days.
I’m really enjoying the diversity of keeping this journal. I am painting things that I would never usually consider. I am being challenged each week with new shapes, colours and textures.
Week 12, 20th – 26th March
What to paint first! I had so many things on my list of possibilities for this week. Blackthorn, Magnolia, Forsythia, Cherry Blossom, several colours of Pulmonaria. I opted for Flowering Currant, sort of.
We had some glorious, breezy, sunny days. Perfect for drying the washing. When I brought the laundry in, I found a weary Bumblebee clinging to a pillow slip. I took it out and coaxed it on to the wall. 15 minutes later, it hadn’t moved, so I placed a small blob of honey near it’s head. I have never done this before and was curious to know if it would revive the bee. I went to get my camera and was distracted for a little while. When I went back to photograph the Bumblebee, she was gone. Whilst looking for reference photos on line, I found a lovely picture of a bumblebee feeding on a Flowering Currant spray.
The wee mouse didn’t have such a happy ending. I painted him to honour the poor bedraggled corpse we found in the yard. One of the cats had caught it during the night and left it by the back door in the rain.
Week 11, 13th – 20th March
As we drove through dense mist up onto the moor, ghostly white shapes flitted passed us. The black headed gulls were back. They looked amazing in the mist. They have returned to nest on the island in the middle of the reservoir above Belmont. They have done this for the last 40 years. It is a glorious sight to see the huge flock wheeling above the little island. They make quite a din too.
P spotted a green finch at the peanuts in the front garden. It was very exciting as that is the first one we have seen. I chuckled as I looked for reference photos. The darker feathers around their eyes make them look quite grumpy.
In between painting the black headed gull and the Green finch I watched a fascinating video by John Muir Laws all about painting birds. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgzhaGKKzxY I wish I’d seen it before painting the gull. Maybe I’ll do another.
The camellias are out everywhere. The shrub in our garden was a gift from my mum. Sadly the vibrant fleshy flowers don’t last long.