Crow with Sweet Chestnut

crow with sweet chestnut

fungi on stump
Fungi on stump.

Perching on the iron fence by the Lower Lake at Nostell, a carrion crow is struggling to extract the sweet chestnut nuts from their spiky green casings. Two of the spiny husks have become firmly Velcroed together.


Fungus by woodland path.

The experts at nut gathering are the grey squirrels. They are so intent on burying their cache that you can walk past within a few feet of them and they won’t even bother to look up.

They’ll poke their heads down amongst the leaf litter in several spots in succession. One suggestion is that they’ll dig several ‘fake’ holes which they’ll leave nothing in, to confuse any rival squirrel that might be watching them.

The Pleasure Grounds by the Lower Lake are the most popular with squirrels, not just because of the sweet chestnuts but also because no dogs are allowed. Up by the Obelisk Lodge we’d seen a dog walker we know chasing her dog along the cycles-only path.

“She’d seen a squirrel,” she explained, “They’ll stand there, deliberately teasing the dog!”

We think that we saw the squirrel that the dog had chased. It dashed at a frantic pace across the driveway beyond the Obelisk Lodge and shot into the bushes, which resulted in a startled cock pheasant bursting out, grockling in alarm.

Some squirrels do seem to egg on the dogs. In the park, one spaniel was barking in frustration and straining on its lead but the squirrel it had spotted was on the other side of the electric fence (and probably knew that it could scamper about with impunity).

Cirrus and con trails

There’s a windy swirl of low pressure, the remnants of ex-Hurricane Oscar, approaching across the Atlantic. Over to the west we can see a distant bank of cloud but here it’s sunny and still with wisps of cirrus and streaks of con trails against the blue sky.

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  1. So funny, Richard. I am sure squirrels love to tease the dogs. When we were starting our new farm– years ago– we all took a nap in the pickup and the dogs flopped outside, near the hole where a ground squirrel lived. Everyone was out cold and the ground squirrel stuck its head out
    and said “chi chi chi !!” to the dogs until they woke up and staggered over, half asleep. Whereupon the ground squirrel screamed, “Eeeek it’s dogs here!!” and popped down his hole.

  2. Hi Richard,
    Lovely sketch of the crow with sweet chestnut. I thoroughly enjoy your sketches.

    I’ve been studying my copy of ‘Drawing on Reserves’ that I bought from you. Do you think observation and lots of time sketching will help improve my sketches? In your opinion is a lack of formal training a drawback when it comes to technique and use of watercolour?

    1. We were walking around quite briskly so those sketches were made from photographs, much enlarged on my desktop computer, then I tried to draw as I would if the actual bird or squirrel was there in front of me.
      Drawing on Reserves really sums up my approach. I enjoy as much time as I can manage observing and sketching, but does it improve my drawing? It probably does because surely after so much practice, I’d become less self-conscious and more adept but I remember doing a weekly life drawing class for years and years and I looked back through my drawings and thought that I hadn’t really improved during all that time, some of my early drawings I liked better that my later ones.
      Fifty years ago I was at my first art college doing a foundation course, a bit of everything – textiles, lithography, life drawing, art history, copy writing, exhibition design, photography – at least two days a week, I worked 9 or 9.30 in the morning until 9 at night, so it was as intensive as it could possibly be. Of course I absolutely loved it!
      But after all that training, my watercolour technique, as described in Drawing on Reserve, is very basic. I think that I tend to use colour to add information to an observational sketch, rather than to use it to evoke mood, so I’m not at the creative end of the spectrum when it comes to watercolour.
      I feel as if I’m doing anything rather than giving you a straight answer your question. I’d have made a good politician!

  3. Thanks Richard, To my eye your sketches of birds capture a lot with not too many lines. That, I think shows the great quality of the sketches. I have done a few I liked but I often resort to sort of going over my lines a few times until I am reasonably happy with the sketch. 🙁 Thank you for the informative reply.

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