High Street Windows

cat in a windowTHAT’S JUST what you need; a cat wondering around your gallery, knocking the paintings over. The lady who exhibits in the window of her house on Horbury High Street tells me that the cat insisted that she leave a space for him to sit in the windowsill so she had to remove one of the paintings.

Nuzzling the edges of the paintings as he wove its way through the exhibits, the cat succeeded in knocking over the watercolour of badgers. Other subjects in this unique little cottage window gallery include sketches of the characters who can often be seen sitting on the benches opposite.

Mackay and PeasonAcross the road, Mackay and Pearson, jewellery makers, have installed a suitably summery seaside window based on a 1970s public information film about HM Coastguards. This film was shown so often on television that I can almost remember the dialogue:

‘Ooh look Doris! That man in the dinge-y is waving to us!’

Wood Chip Paths

WE WERE busy over the bank holiday weekend. Going through the process of shovelling and sieving again and again I thought that it would be good practice for me to make a little step by step YouTube video.

It took about ten goes for me to record a commentary that sounded reasonably coherent!

Sparrowhawk by the Pond

FujiFilm FinePix S6800

I HAD AN OPPORTUNITY to try the zoom on my new camera, the FujiFilm FinePix S6800, the day that I bought it (14 August) when a Sparrowhawk made a kill in the back garden.

At full zoom, 30x, I struggled to keep the camera still but as the Sparrowhawk seemed so intent on picking up every scrap of its kill I had time to get a tripod set up and I took about 20 minutes of film.

I missed the kill itself and missed filming the moment when the hawk finally flew off, perching briefly in next door’s sumac. It left only a few feathers, not enough for me to guess what its prey had been.

Hoof Fungus

Hoof fungus or Tinder Bracket,  Fomes fomentarius

HOOF FUNGUS, Fomes fomentarius, is also known as Tinder Bracket because strips were used for starting fires. ‘Ötzi’ the ice man carried four pieces of this fungus with him 5,300 years ago.

Here it is growing near the ground on a Silver Birch at Newmillerdam.

Batley Baths

Batley baths

THIS SKETCHBOOK drawing was made from the life drawing studio in Batley School of Art, probably in the winter months of 1968, looking down on Batley swimming baths. I came across it this morning when I was looking through some of my teenage holiday journals in the attic.

The box on the windowsill is one that we were set to design and make in the college workshop. In it I can identify a pen knife, pen holder, compass and ruling pen, the tools of my trade as a foundation student, and beside it are bottles of blue, yellow and green Indian ink.

The yellow box on the left contains children’s wax crayons; ‘Noddy’ crayons, branded with the name of the Enid Blyton character.

Batley bathsRubbing these crayons on my sketchbook page laid the foundations for a kind of poor man’s scraperboard which I then, with difficulty, painted over with India ink which I could then scrape through to produce highlights such as mouldings, mortar and leaded windows.

This is a long and laborious way to produce a drawing but it’s evident that I enjoyed building up the textures.

It’s successful in bringing back to me the drabness of Batley at that time when smokeless zones were a recent innovation. I love the dour stonework and the glowering skylights which you can’t imagine would ever allow fresh air and sunlight filter down into the changing rooms below.

I never swam in these baths.


Waterbirds and Fungi

greylag goose

I LOVE the 30x zoom on my new camera. There’s an element of luck in what the autofocus chooses to latch on to but you can take several shots and hopefully one will catch something. The 4600 pixel wide images give plenty of scope for cropping in to find some suitable composition, like this Greylag keeping a wary eye on me.


tufted duckblack-headed gull divingI knew the Canada Geese would head for the water if I got too near. Having the zoom on maximum flattened the perspective and emphasised the pattern of black and white, like musical notes on a stave.

If I can get such close ups as this in a few minutes just ambling along the lakeside path imagine what I might be able to do if I spent a morning in one of the hides at a wetland reserve.

black-headed gull diving

crow in willowIt would be interesting to try a catch bird behaviour on film – like this juvenile Black-headed Gull diving into the lake, possibly to catch fish or perhaps even small freshwater mussels. A series of images might provide some clues. The camera has a continuous mode for capturing movement.

Water birds are good subjects to experiment with as they’re large and usually not hidden by foliage so when we saw a Carrion Crow in a waterside willow I tried photographing it.

Grey Heron

grey herongrey heronI was struggling to keep the camera steady when I tried to photograph the Grey Heron preening itself in a willow at the other side of the lake. The image is rather blocky but it would be useful if I was gathering reference for an illustration.

It’s good to see a heron engaged in some kind of activity rather than standing at rest.


agaricagaricNot surprisingly after the warm humid weather that we’ve been having there were one or two fungi about. The toadstool with the scaly cap is a relative of the Fly Agaric while the purplish, smooth capped  and much eaten into toadstool (below, right) looks to me like one of the Russulas.

russulaBut today I’m content to get to know my camera. I’m looking forward to using it to get to know the names of a few more fungi in the autumn.

Publish 2013 Online

Publish 2013 Online


On Friday I’m looking forward to taking part in Publish 2013;

‘This online conference is for inspiring and equipping both children and adults to discover how writing works in the real world. See how your life experiences, passions, and creativity can become a springboard for becoming a published author or artist!’

My session will be on nature journalling. For more information and to book tickets or to sample the three free preview sessions please follow the link above.

Tree Wasp

Macro photograph taken with my new Fujifilm FinePix S6800 bridge camera.

My sketch from the photograph
My sketch from the photograph

I LET a couple of wasps out of the studio window this afternoon but inevitably the odd one will get trapped indoors and I found this one lying dead on the windowsill in the spare bedroom, giving me a chance to take a closer look at it.

The photograph was taken with my new Fujifilm FinePix S6800 bridge camera. I always like to draw from the photograph before turning to the field guide but comparing photograph and sketch I’m surprised how out of proportion I drew the central part of its face. The little sketch (right) drawn directly from the wasp itself is more confident and proportionate than the one drawn from the computer screen. But the macro photograph brings out details that are barely visible to the naked eye.

The tree wasp has two small yellow spots on the rear of its thorax.
The tree wasp has two small yellow spots on the rear of its thorax. 14 mm.

As its name suggests the Tree Wasp, Dolichovespula sylvestris, often builds its nest in trees and shrubs but at the weekend we found one nesting on the ground on the grass verge by the path at Walton nature park. It has also been recorded as nesting in barns, empty bee-hives and nestboxes.

In the 3 second film clip below you can see a wasp flying out. I didn’t block the flight path for longer than necessary.

Tree Wasp nest

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing moth, Noctua janthe
Underside of moth, 10x.

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing moth, Noctua jantheI found a dead Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, Noctua janthe, lying on the path in the greenhouse this morning and, as I’d plugged in my USB microscope to take a closer look at the fungus I decided to take a few shots of the moth too.

wing scales


The saffron yellow underwings are a striking contrast to the drab upperwings. The border looks as if it has been painted with Impressionist brushstrokes when viewed at 60x.

I suspect that the light blue scales are reflecting daylight from the window.

moth scales, taken at 200x magnification

Zooming in to 200x reveals comb-like ends to the scales.

Coloured scales camouflage the moth when at rest and reveal distracting colours when it is disturbed and it opens its wings. It’s also possible that the coating of scales and the furry edges of the wings help muffle the sound of the moths wingbeats, helping it escape from any bat that hunts by sound alone.


Ringlet butterfly, Aphantopos hyperantusRinglet, Aphantopus hyperantus

Ringlet butterfly, Aphantopus hyperantusThis Ringlet butterfly was a roadside casualty that Barbara spotted when we were in Dalby Forest, North Yorks Moors, last month.

Wing scales taken at 200x.
Wing scales photographed at 200x.

Eye-spots, Ringlet butterflyEye-spot, Ringlet butterflyI put it under the microscope to focus on the eye-spots. Each has a bright fleck in the middle, even the smallest of them, which must help give the impression of a gleaming snakelike eye, distracting any attacker either by surprising it or fooling it into pecking the butterfly’s wing instead of its body.