You can tell that I took this photograph in an area popular with walkers because the coots have incorporated a walking pole into their nesting platform, here by the dam head at Newmillerdam Country Park.
The juvenile coot in the foreground hasn’t yet developed the bulging forehead of its parents, nor has the colour in its legs begun to show.
But its flanged feet match the adults in size; ideal for trotting over mud and floating vegetation and almost as useful for swimming.
Lime trees, particularly a variety of the Common Lime, Tilia X europaea, with a columnar shape, were a favourites with the Victorians and were planted in the grounds of a now-vanished villa, here in the Dearne Valley between Barnsley and Rotherham. The century-old trees were given preservation orders when new houses were built in the old walled garden.
Unfortunately, even with preservation orders, trees do eventually start to die back and one of trees here needed major surgery to keep it alive.
The nursery colony of pipistrelle bats which were resident in its cavities each year during the summer months moved to snug new quarters the following summer, in the apex of the house next door.
On Saturday evening, around 9 p.m., we watched them emerging and lost count of home many there were. I’d say well over a hundred. There would be a pause and then several would shoot out one after the other.
Some of them headed straight for the tree that had been their nursery roost, others hawked about overhead, appearing and disappearing at lightning speed in the gathering gloom above us.
We’re on coal measures here. This sandstone boulder serves as a garden feature at the foot of a still-thriving lime.
At the weekend, we were invited to a family birthday party and I was pleased to see a set of six well-worn blue-and-white china cups and saucers set out on one of the tables in the garden.
When Barbara’s mum, Betty, died we’d got them all ready to send off to the Hospice Charity shop when our niece Joanne spotted them and asked if she could take them. It’s great to see them still in use for family occasions.
I suspect that they might date back before Betty’s time. Her mum ran a boarding house in Blackpool between the wars, so perhaps they date back as far as that. There’s no maker’s name stamped on them, so they’re not anything special, like Crown Derby.
At this time of year there are juvenile teal around, which look rather like the females but the drakes are in eclipse plumage so they too look very similar. It won’t be until the autumn that they moult into their winter plumage.
It’s warm this afternoon, 24°C, 77°F, and, typically for the summer, there’s not a lot going on. At the Reedbed Hide a family of swans swim by; there are coot dotted about on the lagoon and moorhen probing the vegetation alongside the reedbed.
As they peck at the mud, the young moorhen are currently in dull brown plumage with lighter streaks. They remind me of waders, but without the long, probing bills.
On the Mere, along with the teal, there’s the odd lapwing and a little egret.
It’s a quiet time for the birds but dragonflies are busy, hawking over the paths around and egg-laying in the lagoons.
If you’re trying to track down one of my books, this bookshop on Horbury High Street is a good place to start. In addition to my local booklets, walks guides and sketchbooks, bookseller Richard Knowles often has copies of my long out-of-print titles such as my first, A Sketchbook of the Natural History of the Country Round Wakefield; I spotted two copies of the paperback version on his shelves recently.
This is the first time that I’ve tried the Adobe Illustrator trace option on a colour photograph. The results remind me of the British Library’s reprints of vintage detective fiction, which often have a period travel poster or similar artwork on the cover, hence my book cover design (all I’ve got to do now is write the mystery novel to go with it).
I could learn something from Illustrator when it comes to being bold and confident in the use of colour. In comparison with this posterised effect, my watercolour is soft and tentative. Not always a bad thing but bold and confident would be good from time to time.
I love the printmaking effect that I can get by converting one of my sketches into a vector graphic in Adobe Illustrator CC 2018. I’ve reproduced this image at almost its full screen size (the original sketch is much smaller) because I didn’t want to soften it by reducing it too much.
I’ve downloaded the program this morning as part of my year’s subscription to Adobe’s Creative Cloud and I’ve been going through the beginner’s tutorials as it’s so many years since I last used Illustrator.
I’d never come across the option to automatically trace a scan or a photograph of a drawing and turn it into crisp black and white vector artwork. I immediately started thinking of how I might use that in my work.
For instance, I’m currently working on a historical article for the Dalesman magazine and I feel that vector graphics could give the effect of a woodcut. Even after a lot of practice, I’m more used to drawing with a pen than an Apple Pencil, so this might be an effective way of combining the freedom of drawing with the graphics effects available on the computer.
In both of the examples above I went for the ‘Shades of Grey’ preset in the Trace Image dialogue.
We haven’t caught up with our friend Diana for a while, which gives me more time than I usually allow myself to sit and draw and, for once, PC the black cat is in a cooperative mood and doesn’t decide that the sitting is over after ten or twenty minutes as he usually does.
The A6 sketchbook that I’ve just finished was so handy for slipping into a pocket or into my smallest art bag but the A5 format that I’ve just switched to gives me the opportunity to keep starting again when PC moves, building up a page of different poses.
In this larger art bag I’ve got room for crayons as well as my usual watercolours, so I’ve used them for a change. Obviously black is the colour that I’ve used most but I could see that PC was picking up a bit of reflected light on his glossy coat from the carpet, although this looked orangey to me rather than the pinkish red of the carpet.
Later PC’s friend, a long-haired Siamese, strode in through the conservatory. He didn’t pause to return PC’s greeting but carried straight on to the food bowl in the corner of the kitchen. He knows his way around.
I’m learning to use Photoshop CC 2018 so I’ve been trying out a tutorial to redesign the Cover Photo for my Facebook page, so that the Profile Picture is integrated into the design. The photograph of me looking windswept at Sandal Castle was so bright compared with my sketchbook pages that I toned it down with a sepia wash, another Photoshop technique I needed to practice.
I’ve set up a Wild Yorkshire Facebook Page, so if you’d like to see updates about this blog:
On our journey to Leeds via Morley Tunnel, the bracken by the trackside is turning autumnal and the rosebay willowherb has mainly gone to seed. Birch, ash and sycamore foliage is tinted with ochre but buddleia and Himalayan balsam add a splash of purple on waste ground by Morley station.
I’m returning to an A5 portrait sketchbook after a few months using smaller travel sketchbooks but none of my quick sketches of a cupola and a Dutch-style gable, drawn from the M&S cafe on Trinity Street and the White Stuff on Vicar Lane even begins to fill the page.
Room for one last little landscape sketch in my postcard-sized Seawhite Watercolour Travel Journal: a stubble field at Field House Farm, Overton, seen from the Seed Room Cafe at the Horticentre. The houses of Thornhill Edge sit amongst the trees on the ridge in the background, on the far side of the Smithy Brook Valley.
The original sketch is 9 cm, just over 3 inches, across.