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Burble Art Studios - January Update

The Nature Sketchbook - January Notes



January 2024 and I have revisited a sketchbook/nature journal from 2020/21 to research what the month ahead in nature may hold.


On the ground we can expect to see snowdrops. Such cheery early flowers, holders of hope that the colder weather and the darker nights will end soon, whisperers of spring.

Whilst familiar sights across the UK, snowdrops though plentiful, are not native and hail from the continent of Europe. It is not so surprising that they have thrived as they enjoy damp soil! They can be found in broadleaf woodlands, meadows, along riverbanks and under my neighbour’s hedge.


Snowdrops have flowers but not petals. Flower sepals are usually green and enclose a developing bud. Petals are usually coloured and are modified leaves which together form the corolla of a flower. Where these two structures are fused into one indistinguishable part these are know as tepals and snowdrops flowers are formed of tepals.


Overhead, as leaf cover is sparse, we may see more birds of prey. In January 2021, I witnessed a kestrel hovering at the side of the road in Berkshire.


The Kestrel is one of our smaller birds of prey, distributed widely around the UK. It can be seen hovering over open grassland in search of prey. It is found in highest numbers around arable farmland.


Kestrel’s lifespan is typically just 4 years although the oldest ringed bird was recorded at 15 years! Sadly, the common the Kestrel has experienced population decline and sits in the amber category of “UK Birds of Conservation Concern”. Declining bird numbers are a natural consequence of biodiversity loss in the UK. According to “The State of Nature” report from last year, losses of UK biodiversity are significant and much of the decline in farmland birds’ populations has resulted from “intensive farming practices, particularly an increase in pesticides and fertiliser”.


At least with awareness comes progress. For example, Earth Trust are custodians of Wittenham Clumps and 500 hectares of mixed farmland near Abingdon. They aim to farm “in a climate-friendly way, working with the environment to enhance biodiversity, minimise carbon emissions and maximise soil carbon sequestration, whilst producing quality food”. They also function as a hub for shared learning.


Back to 2021, I also recorded our smallest UK bird at a local park, a tiny goldcrest. It weighs just 6g, or 11% of an average mince pie if you have any still hiding in the cupboard!

Goldcrests are tree birds found in coniferous woodlands, feeding on small insect food and with beaks like cocktail sticks, ideally suited to picking them out from between pine needles. This bird provided a golden headed pop of colour in an otherwise a dreary de-saturated landscape of winter. I hope to see another this year.


Studio & Other Notes


Exhibitions:

I am preparing for my next exhibitions

  • May 2024 - Open Studios at West Berkshire Museum

  • May 2024 - Oxfordshire Artweeks at Earth Trust nr Abingdon


Illustrations:

The next illustrated letter will feature an adventure to Stonehenge. The postcards will include an illustration of a goldcrest bird. These Letters of Discovery will land in my shop here and on Etsy in the next few days.


Teaching/Courses:

Art for wellbeing starts in February at West Berkshire Museum.


Enquiries/Studio Visits

You can contact me here for studio visits, collaboration or any other enquiry.




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