Tuesday, 31 March 2015

March 31st Waterloo Park, Norwich

I went for a quick walk around my local park this morning to see the colours of blossom on the trees. It was pretty blustery today and I was amazed that there was any blossom at all, as I thought the strong winds have blown them completely off the trees. I think the majority of the trees here are cherry of one kind or another. The whites and pinks of the blossom petals swirl in the wind, often merging with each other if the trees are next to one another. I was disappointed, however, as there is an avenue of pink cherry trees at the main entrance to the park, but none of them are in bloom yet. They are quite a sight when they do.

There was more than just blossom that caught my eye. There was a small number of birds braving the windy conditions. A big carrion crow was feeding on something it found on a small tree and two mistle thrushes were on a playing field worming between the football goals. It was interesting watching them peer down on the ground with one eye looking for worms to emerge from the ground, brought up by the bird's movements. They seemed to be coping even if the wind threatened to sweep them away.
Carrion Crow
Mistle Thrush

On the wall of the stairwell leading to my flat, I notice a moth and a woodlouse safely sheltered from the blasts of strong wind. There's a couple of lights by the door of my apartment and it is no surprise that it attracts moths. The moth turns out to be an Early Grey.
Early Grey Moth

Monday, 30 March 2015

March 30th Cley

Cley's visitor centre and new education centre (left)
At the beginning of March, the visitor centre at Cley was closed and reduced to a portacabin. Today, not only has the visitor centre reopened, so has the other buildings surrounding it too. This includes the new Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre that has a great room with projections of the conservation work and wildlife in Norfolk. The visitor centre has a lot of improvements done too it as well, which includes a new information and admissions desk area, interactive screens and new furniture for the cafe with new information panels by the windows. The toilets are now located to the Eduction Centre and outside, a brand new view point and picnic area was still having a few finishing touches, but is also more or less complete. There are so many improvements but at least the cakes are the same as before.
Mum at the new view point area
The new Simon Aspinall Wildlife Education Centre
The new Harrier Wall on the back of the visitor centre

Out on the reserve, Mum and I made our way to the three central hides. On the way, we saw a flock of meadow pipits struggling in a strong wind as they made their way to a field next to us one by one. At the hides, avocets and godwits were a plenty on the pools, but there were wigeon, shoveler, dunlin, shelduck and lapwing amongst them too. Some of the godwits have turned red, their breeding plumage and they stand out from the crowd. Brent geese flew over in large flocks, though the numbers compared to last time is much less, as most will have already begun the great journey back to their breeding grounds to the Arctic Russian Tundra. A kestrel was also seen hovering in the distance, before eventually flying past the hide we were in, chased by lapwings.

Black-tailed Godwits, Avocets and a Shoveler
Black-tailed Godwits
Godwits and Avocets
While in our first hide of the afternoon, I noticed a moving shape in the long grass at the back of one of the pools. Two long ears poked out of the tufts of grass like a pair of antenna masts, occasionally with a head and body. It was a hare, the third I have seen today (one on the way to Cley and another in a field behind the new education centre). Such a magnificent creature to look at. Well suited to a life in the countryside, melting away in the grass, only betrayed by it's movements as it made a series of short dashes and pauses along the far bank between pools heading from left to right. Our biggest highlight of the day by far.

Marsh Harrier
After visiting the three main hides, we decided to make a visit to Bishop's Hide, too. We had seen a marsh harrier carry a branch to a spot infront of a bush in the reeds. This was a sign that there was a nest in progress here. We wanted to see if one of the harriers showed up close to the hide for us. Inside, we waited. There was a few ruff, a few redshank (one even yodelled it's call for my camera, they don't call them 'Wardens of the Marsh' for nothing!) and more avocets and godwits preening, roosting and feeding. No harriers. We left the hide and gotten a few feet away from it, when I heard the distinctive yelpping sounds of a male marsh harrier. I looked back and there it was and it was joined by a kestrel, appearing small in comparison.

Redshank yodelling

Saturday, 28 March 2015

How To Draw: Spring Flowers

Drawing flowers can be as challenging as drawing birds. In birds, there is a lot of detail to consider with things like feathers and plumage patterns. In flowers, it is about colour. Using a pen can distract the colours, so in this How To Draw, I will only limit the use of a pen for the outlines and use the most of my colouring pencils to make the detail stand out. I have three species to draw for you today and each shows you a different way to draw flowers.

Stage One
My first flower to draw today is the primrose. You will find them in many woodlands and gardens at this time of year. They form clusters with many flower heads and the best way to create this is  to draw an uneven blob and draw smaller circles within it. When it comes to drawing plants that grow in this way, it is best to concentrate on the flowers first before the leaves to reduce confusion of which is which when your drawing.

Stage Two
Draw a small circle in the centre of each flower and draw five petals around it which have a notch on the top of each one. When it comes to drawing flowers with more than five petals, count your subjects petals and find a way to fit each one around the centre. In some flowers, the petals have space between each one and may have a bend in them. Just keep these things in mind when you are drawing your flower.

Stage Three

 Next, re-draw the outline of the flowers in pen. Don't connect the petals to the centre though. Make sure you remember to rub out the pencil marks.

Stage Four

Colour in your primrose with a light yellow first and then orange for the centres. You can use other colours if you wish.

Now I focus my attention to the leaves. Primrose leaves are easy to draw. All you need to do is create triangular shapes that overlap one another, getting smaller towards the middle. Then re-draw in pen, adding a line down the middle of each leaf and branch more lines coming off it. Finally colour it in.
Stage Five

Stage Six
Thanks to having few petals, primroses are simple enough to do, but what if your subject's flower head is covered in petals? Dandelions for example, have about 200 florets (tiny petals). How do you draw all of them? Well, the best way is to draw a three zoned target (a circle within a circle within a circle).

Stage One
Then create a jagged edge for two of the circles (not the central one) and make lines radiating around these rings. It is easier to draw them like this than to count each floret.
Stage Two

Re-draw in pen. It is now that you can create the individual florets that range in sizes and with spaces seperating some of them. Keep in mind to not press too hard when your drawing in pen, otherwise it will stand out as a slight mess.

Stage Three


Colour the flower in. Create a base layer first of light yellow, then orange in the middle two circles (brighter orange in the centre) and then use a heavy layer of yellow for the outer florets.
Stage Four
The leaves of a dandelion are long and thin with a jagged edge. I create stretched rounded shape first as a guideline. Within these guideline shapes, I make a line down the middle and then create the jagged edging. After that, I re-draw around the jagged shapes, rub the pencil markings out and coloured them in with a bit of light pen squibble to add a bit of texture. The stalk is simply two lines connecting the flower to the leaves and coloured in also.
Stage Five

Stage Six

Stage One
My last flower for today is the daffodil. Daffodils are tall stemmed plants with that iconic trumpet part. I'm going to draw the whole thing this time. The leaves are simple very long and thin pointed tipped triangles that can be straight or bent downwards. The flower head is a large circle with a smaller one lower down inside it. If you are doing a daffodil facing to the side, draw a vertical oval with a horrizantal oval sticking out from the middle.

Stage Two
I now draw a smaller circle in the centre of the trumpet with a small shape at the top of it (the stigma). I create a ruffed fringe around the outside of my trumpet which is similarly a series of bumps with a slightly jagged edge. There are six petals (though one is hidden by the trumpet and you can only see the tip of it at the bottom). Start with the top middle petal first then the others. Only this top petal is drawn differently like a tall semi-circle, the others are like drawing slices of melon sticking out of the large circle you are using as a rough guideline.
Stage Three

Now re-draw in pen and rub out the pencil lines. Remember, I am only using the pen for the outlines and not for the detail. By the way, when you are drawing a daffodil from the side, the trumpet needs a fringed end and you need three to four petals ranging in size smaller to the ones I'm drawing from the front, as the distance and shape of each one has changed as you look at it from it's side.

Stage Four
 When it comes to colouring in, as before, use a light layer of yellow for the flower and green for the leaves and stalk. To create the detail that shows the depth of the grooves and ridges and the shadow inside of the trumpet, I use a light layering of orange and brown in lines. Inside the trumpet, layer these two colours in a rounded motion and in a slightly heavier manor, only leaving it a bit light towards the middle. I then layer on the yellow, much thicker on the trumpet fringe than on the petals. I also add a bit of grey to the leaves and stem, completing my daffodil.


I hope you have enjoyed drawing flowers as much as I have? They can be as complex as drawing birds and anything else. Keep practicing and you will get the hang of it like everything we've drawn so far. I might do an Easter themed How To Draw next week. Until then, good luck with the drawings!

Friday, 27 March 2015

March 27th Blickling Hall

Blickling Hall and the lake
Blickling Hall is celebrating it's 75th years with the National Trust and I thought it would be a good place for a walk with my parents. We began at the car park on the far side of a lake. The plan is to follow the lake to the hall and walk around the outside of it and reuniting with the lake which takes us back to the car park. A reasonable lengthed loop of a walk with scenic surroundings.

There's a wood alongside the lake at our starting point and I could hear chiffchaffs, long-tailed tits, nuthatches, mistle thrushes and jackdaws singing or calling from the oaks and beeches as we made our journey to Blickling Hall. The trees (mainly the beech trees) had graffiti carved into them. Initials and love hearts were all over the barks of some of these giants. Some of the carvings were dated mostly from the 1990's but one was dated as far back as the 1960's. The trees will heal these forced scarings eventually into swellings like a scab on human skin, but it does spoil the National Trust's image a little.

Common Toads
The lake had surprisingly little bird life on it. A few mallards, the odd moorhen, Egyptian goose and black-headed gull and that was it. But there was life in this lake. We came across a jetty when I heard something. A lot of something. A familiar sound reminiscent of Vinegar Pond back at Mousehold Heath last week. A loud croaking chorus was coming from the edge of the lake. I stepped onto the jetty and saw not frogs but toads. They saw me on the jetty and the sound died down to near silence. They were more nervous of me being there than the frogs at Mousehold, but a few did stay up on the surface for a good look at them. Their warty skinned heads and slitted red eyes poked out from the water staring at me. Males were much smaller than the females but what they lacked in size they gained in eagerness to mate. Unlike frogs, toadspawn are formed in strings not clumps and are out of sight underwater against the aquatic vegetation.

We eventually came to the end of the lake and walk past the large decorative grounds of  Blickling Hall with the building itself looming behind them. We can only look at them from our side of the fence. On our side, the woods have opened up to clearings and fields scattered with ancient oaks and supporting a large flock of jackdaws. A great spotted woodpecker flew past into the wood we've left behind. We turned a corner, following the grounds round and found an embankment behind the fence on the Hall's side covered in daffodils. It was almost a feeling of being 'as lonely as a cloud' if it wasn't for the imprisonment of the fence keeping me from them. It was still quite a sight. The embankment was almost yellow all over with hundreds of trumpeted heads looking my direction like Norwich fans at Carrow Road. It may not be an endless field but it was still a good highlight of my day.

The loud series of notes of a song thrush and the sight of a treecreeper spiraling up a tree greeted us as we reached the 17th centuary building of the hall. After a short rest, the three of us concluded our walk by walking along the other half of the lake. More treecreepers, chiffchaffs, mistle thrushes and nuthatches were heard as well as a few goldcrests.
Blickling Hall