Thursday, 30 October 2008

From the end to the beginning

The final morning's trip around the familiar paths is always bitter sweet. I don't have the same luxury of time as the rest of the week as we have to leave before 10 a.m. and all the packing needs to be done.

In the semi light of a fresh pre-dawn the pipistrelles were again over the pond and garden so I spent five minutes or so watching their erratic flight. I had to move on before I was ready but I wanted to check on the kingfishers one last time. Away off in the top field a young fox was intently scrabbling away at the earth, perhaps digging out a vole or mouse cowering at the end of a burrow, or perhaps he'd seen a large beetle or some other crunchy delight. Whatever he was after he was certainly hard at work and must have been determined that his digging would end in a reward. I left him to his labour with a silent farewell and continued on to the little owl tree. Sure enough he was there, high in the elder bush which has grown as a youthful companion to the venerable oak, helping to screen the little owl's nest site. I sketched him for what I knew would be the last time until he turned his back on me and dived down onto the ground at the far side of the tree. An appropriate last view that reminded me that I was the visitor here and the owl would continue on with his daily life regardless of whether I was watching to record him in my sketchbook or not.

One of the juvenile kingfishers was on the 'dragon log' and I was able to sketch him one last time. He dived and caught small fish which he bashed on the log a few times before swallowing it head first. 'Good for you' I thought, fish of your own and instinct enough to deal with it the proper way. The fledgling king flew off shortly after when the young heron flew overhead.

All then was quiet and calm until the rooks rose from the rookery in a great clamorous cloud against the sunrise. But even this had a certain sense of correctness and, perhaps, a peacefulness about it. With a last backward glance I made my way slowly back to the cottage as one or two swallows began to appear in the sky overhead. I wondered if they would be following me South or if they would enjoy a few more days at the farm. The little owl called from his tree, I answered a goodbye and resigned myself to the fact that this was the end of my holiday.

The homeward journey was uneventful and dull, after a couple of hours in the car it felt good to get home, but I couldn't help wondering what I was missing on the farm. I had my sketchbooks, photos, paintings and memories though. I knew that there were paintings in my head waiting to be made and I could barely wait to start. So far I have completed three paintings inspired by my time on the farm this year and these are a beginning. I'm already working on a fourth and I'm sure there will be many more over the coming months.


Jo said...

As usual, beautifully written, beautiful pictures. Its always sad to leave one's vacation, wherever it is. Possibly more so for you as you connect so well with your surroundings.

Mike Woodcock said...

Thanks Jo, we will hopefully get back to the farm next year, I'm in the process of booking it now. Meanwhile, when the weather lets up a bit I have Elmley marshes to keep me occupied.

gynie said...

that is funny your kingfisher is called 'martin pecheur' in France.
it's a king in your words and a poor peasant in my langage ^^

I like your pictures, but i thought this kingfisher has a longer beak? or is it because the bird has his neck in his feather ? i've never met one in a other place than on a screen , i am quite ignorant about their way. Are they so blue ? like a blue of parrot ? as we often see some blue,green, turquoise color on the pictures. As for example the crows are always pictured in a china ink, but they have some few incredible green and bleu, and black in their feather.

how can you manage to be so close from the birds ? as i can't seem to do that with magpies or many other birds, i'm not sure but i think they are suspecting my camera lens of something, or maybe my way to watch them as a cat, even though i'm not a hunter ^^

Mike Woodcock said...

I think I prefer to think of them as kingly birds Gynie! Young kingfishers have shorter beaks than the adults and also show a white tip. The blue colour is not a pigment but a refraction of light so it varies considerably. Dependant on the light kingfishers range from dark turquoise through to jade greens and deep or some startling blues.

As for getting close, patience is the key (and some good camouflage clothing). If you stay still and quiet birds will often come to you.

I agree that there is no such thing as a 'black' bird. I tried to show just how colourful 'black' birds can be with my starling painting 'ordinary, extraordinary'.

Jo said...

Mike, there was a bird in NC called the Indigo Bunting. It too had colour which was light refracted, it was a solid, perfectly beautiful blue. I could never figure this out. This one never looked anything but blue but it was a gorgeous little bird.

gynie said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
gynie said...

i love indigo, i love all colors i suppose ^^

^^ of course, i'm aware that there is no such a thing as an 'inside color', and that is worthy for any things, espacially about animals as they are alive and they change with the time. Even the pigment has something to do with our eyes and the light refraction. That is quite fascinating to remind this by the way ^^

i will try the patience trick, as soon as i will be able to stay quiet ^^