Monday, 29 June 2015

How To Draw: Seals

After that fantastic day out on the boat to see those seals yesterday, there is nothing better than to recapture the encounter with some drawings. Seals appear to us as playful marine creatures, but the truth was they were very lazy during our boat ride, lazily lounging on the sand. You could easily spend hours drawing them and they would happily oblige to pose for you.

Stage One
I will show you how to draw a lounging common seal first. The basic shape for a seal is a circle (or oval if you are drawing a grey seal) for the head, a large, elongated oval for the body and a smaller oval for the hind flippers. If you want to draw a seal with it's hind flippers raised into the classic seal pose, draw a banana-shape for the body and put the smaller oval on the end, pointing up.

Stage Two
Using the shapes you have just drawn, connect them together to create the main outline of your seal. Add in the flippers. Draw a line down the centre of the head and cross it with three lines which helps measure the positions of the facial features. Then draw the teddy bear-like nose and under that, draw a curved line for the mouth and then create a circle for the muzzle around the two features. Using the line that is remaining, draw in the eyes.

Stage Three
Redraw in pen and rub out the pencil lines. Using the pen, lightly shade the seal in. Add the spots in over the shaded areas. Think about which sections of the seal's body is densely packed with spots and which are lightly spotty. You might need to combine a bit of slightly heavier shading on top of the densely packed, spotty regions.

Stage Four

Colour in your seal. A common seal sandy brown to lightly grey. I have mixed in a light brown with light grey over the top of it. I have also used a bit of yellow to help highlight some lighter areas show up better.

Stage One

Seals are more playful and curious when in the water. A classic bit of seal behaviour is to poke their heads up above the waves. My next drawing will be of a grey seal doing just that. I start by drawing an oval for the head and two lines on either side of it with a scribble connecting them to represent the sea.

Stage Two

The snout of a grey seal is longer and similar to that of a dog. It can be tricky to draw. What I do is to create rough shapes like a circle for the muzzle and a sort of pear-shape for the length of the snout. Then it is a matter of adding a mouth, two nostrels, the whisker pores and the eyes, as well as the rest of the outline for the seal's head and body.

Stage Three
Once you have drawn over the outline in pen, begin shading the seal in as well as the water around it. Each seal is different in appearance, so shade in however you like. The head of my seal is black with a lighter grey body covered in spots. I suggest starting around the muzzle first and working around the eyes as these areas can easily be muddled with by a stray scribbled line and need a bit of concentration while working on them. When you have finished, draw lines for whiskers around the muzzle.

Stage Four
Finally, colour your seal in. Grey seals come in a variaty of shades of greys, browns and blacks.

 Seals are fun to draw and if you find one that is willing to pose for you, you should take up on it's offer and draw away. It is a great way to spend some time by the seaside, as long as the wind does not blow your pages from you.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

June 28th Blakeney Point

Boat to Blakeney Point
Blakeney Point is a natural spit of land jutting out from the North Norfolk coast into the North Sea. It is a popular destination for wildlife watchers of all kinds. There are two ways of getting to this National Trust site. You could either take the long way by walking for several miles from Cley, taking in the landscape and the odd rare bird that turns up or you could take the easy route and take a boat trip from Morston. I have taken the boat option today with my brother, Frazer and his fiancée, Laura. This option gives us a chance to see some of Blakeney's best loved residents, the seals.

The three of us ready to go
Off we go!!
The boat tour also included a stop off at the old lifeboat buildings on Blakeney Point itself, but unfortunately, this wasn't to be as the tide and wind was against us to make a landing. It didn't bother us much though, as eveyone was more interested in seeing the seals than spending an hour on the beach.
The old lifeboat buildings at Blakeney Point

Before we set off for the seals, there was wildlife to be had at the quay area as oystercatchers were busy feeding and bathing in the salty water of the channel that our boat uses to travel on. Skylarks sang their delightful song from all around us and a small murmuration of starlings danced in the background in waves above the salt marsh.

The boat was finally ready to go, packed with tourists. After a short ride, dodging anchored boats, it wasn't long until we started seeing the seals lounging on the sand bars which was shrinking in the rising tide. Some of them were in the water with their heads poking out to investigate curiously of what these strange vessels circling around them are.

Laura watches the seals
There are two species of seal here mingling on and around the sand bars. The common (or harbour) seal is the smallest of the two and has a short snout and teddy bear-like face. The grey seal are the ones with longer snouts and despite their cousin's name, it is actually the grey seal that is the UK's commonest seal.

Grey Seals
Common Seals
At this time of year, common seals are arriving to Blakeney to give birth. We could see a couple of pups amongst the other seals lazing it out on the sand. Unlike the grey seal pups (which are born in the winter), common seal pups can swim and are not white and fluffy. The pup will suckle milk from it's mother for three to four weeks before it is left to fend for itself.
Common Seals with pup

As we circled the seals several times, I notice sandwich terns flying across to another sand bar adjacent to the one the seals were on. These are large terns with a black, shaggy crest and a black bill with a yellow tip. A large group of them were lining up on the sand for a rest. Then our boat leaves the seals to take us to part of Blakeney Point where a colony of little, sandwich, Arctic and common terns were. The little terns are the rarest of the tern species here. They are small with yellow bills and were diving for fish close to the shore and our boat. It was a great way to end the trip, despite not landing on the Point itself and getting a bit wet.
Sandwich Terns
Little Terns
Little Terns and Common Terns
Little Terns

Saturday, 27 June 2015

June 27th Catton Park

Catton Park
I have not been to Catton Park since January and a lot has changed since then. On my last visit, the grass was short, the ground was muddy and the trees were bare. Now it is late June and the leaves have long since grown back on the ancient oak trees which now tower over a glorious hay meadow in the warm, summer sunshine. It is quite a transformation.

The pond at the picnic area

I had a spot of lunch in the dog-free picnic area before setting off for a walk. There is a pond here and it was full of tadpoles. Taking a closer look, you can see that most of them have developed hind legs. In the next few weeks, they will grow front legs and the tail will shrink, eventually becoming tiny froglets and leave the pond.

The hay meadow at grass level
On my walk, I can't help but admire the beauty of the hay meadow. The sight and sound of the tall grass swaying in the light summer breeze is something quite poetic about it. I am not a botanist, but there must be several species of grass here. The 'flowers' of each grass species are varied. Some are big and tufty, while others form small clusters on the same stem. Poking out of the grass are patches of yellow of the bird's-foot trefoil and white of the ox-eyed daisies as well as a few other plant species like thistles. This splash of colour attracts the insects, especially butterflies. Meadow browns and common blues flutter over the meadow.

Ox-eyed Dasies
Bird's-foot Trefoil
A Plantain
Ox-eyed Daisy with a small Longhorn beetle on it
Greater Knapweed
Meadow Brown
Meadow Brown
Common Blue
Female Common Blue
Swifts were circling above me, feeding on small airbourne insects. I find swifts fascinating. For the first two years of their lives, they feed, sleep and mate in the air without touching the ground once! It is incredible! They can turn half their brain off to sleep, while the other half stays awake before switching over. Strange but true! After two years in the sky, they finally touch ground as they are forced to build a nest.


Scorpion Fly
The hedgerows around the park was also buzzing with life. The brambles are in flower and has attracted the attention of bees and butterflies such as large skippers, small tortoiseshells and a comma. I also spot a scorpion fly. This is a female. Males have a 'stinger' at the end of its abdomen which looks like a stinger of a scorpion, except it is for show and is harmless.

Honey Bee

Snail on a Bramble flower
Small Tortoiseshell

Rosebay Willowherb

Large Skipper
Pineapple Weed