Sunday, 4 July 2010

More insects

At this time of year I spend as much time as possible outside, gathering the material that will sustain me in the studio through the winter. I find myself more and more interested in all the insects that must have been here every year, but I just didn't notice before.
The great thing about insects is that you can find them everywhere. You don't have to make a special trip to a nature reserve. They're in the garden, in the house, on the way to the shops... In a foreign country you don't even have to leave the airport before you see something new. Their stories are not as well-known as those of the larger animals, but are every bit as interesting.

We visited the morning opening of a moth trap at our local nature reserve, where I made this hurried sketch of a Poplar Hawkmoth. The names of the moths are lovely. Even the boring brown ones have beautiful names. We found Clouded Drab, Watered Carpet, Scalloped Hazel and Marbled Coronet.

The ditches in Taynish have been full of Four-spotted Chasers this past month. Recently though, with the emergence of the more aggressive Golden-ringed Dragonflies, they've had to keep a lower profile.

This year I finally managed to track down these Beautiful Demoiselle damselflies. They are only half a mile from my house, and it's extraordinary how such an iridescent insect could be so unobtrusive.

I'd seen a similar damselfly in France last year. It doesn't seem to occur in Britain and I can only find a latin name - Agrion haemorrhoidalis. This, presumably, for its pink bottom.

Lastly, in celebration of last-year's migration of Painted Lady Butterflies I made this painting. They reached us by the end of May, and carried on north over the horizon. If I want to follow them I'll have to buy a new road atlas now.

Upwardly mobile

My parents live in West Sussex, where my Dad checks 250 Barn Owl nest boxes every summer. The children and I did a marathon day with him, lifting the ladder on and off the roof-rack to check 16 boxes. Some were empty, some had roosting adult owls, some had Stock Doves, and some had Barn Owl chicks in a variety of sizes. The smaller birds were covered in white fluff, while another box had fully feathered chicks, almost ready to fledge.

It was great to show the children an ecosystem so neatly laid out in front of them - the growing owls, the pellets on the floor full of Vole and Shrew skulls, and the flower-meadow outside where the food-supply came from. We took some of the pellets home to open up. The skulls, jaws and leg-bones had beautiful organic shapes - revealed by the owls.