I rarely see the heron chicks in the spring but come the autumn, the juveniles are present in abundance. As the population remains stable, I guess many must migrate to new areas.
With only an hour to spare, there is a tension between observing and drawing such that interesting behaviour never makes it on the page. I watched for many minutes as one hunted through the reedy margins, striking at tiny fish. It also snapped at and caught a large flying insect. I think herons’ eyes are angled downwards but these young birds were fascinated by the passing trains and the aeroplanes ascending overhead. Their necks curled and their heads tilted sideways so they could get a view.
I focussed my sketches on preening. Here too is a little egret, aptly called compared to the much larger heron on the same bank.
On our last day in Mallorca I took a full day out, hiring a car to drive further afield. I had seen booted eagles and buzzards hunting over the Albufereta Nature Reserve but I wanted to see and draw black vultures. I drove to the Cuber reservoir in the northern mountain range. This is a wide valley between steep heights. The slopes were patrolled by what I am sure were common kestrels but their colouring seemed much lighter than I see at home, their wings almost transparent in the sunshine. High up, out of sight except with a telescope, an osprey watched.
These sketches were drawn in ink with water to catch the tones.
There is no detail for the talons because I could not see them.
There were no vultures to be seen. I drove back along the high plateau. Late in the afternoon, near a vineyard and winery at Mortitz, I found a path winding off into the mountains, and from the map, I could see it would eventually reach a spectacular view of the sea. Posters advertised this was a conservation area for the Bonelli’s eagle and I had picked up intelligence that vultures were encouraged to congregate there. But it was too late. I had abandoned my family all day and I could not stay.
This sketch was done in minutes and wholly fails to capture the appearance and mood of the place. It was like a film setting for a magical tale, perhaps one might see Oberon and Titania laughing at Bottom there. The bare karst rocks were broken by aromatic greenery and twisted trunks against the backdrop of the limestone heights.
The topmost corner of Mallorca is a promontory projecting about 11km out to sea. It is made of high limestone ridges that cut diagonally across the line of land. The single road zig zags up steeply from sea level to around 270 metres, a high point with dramatic views of the north coastal bays. It then winds down on the other side to reach a beach on the southern side. From there, it is a long shallow climb through pine forest, again crossing the line of the land, before reaching the last ridge that carries it to the tip, where sits the lighthouse. In hot weather, this was a hard cycle ride for me.
This first pencil sketch was done 2 years ago, looking from the first ridge along the pine forest to the distant heights.
In the second, done a couple of weeks ago, I looked back over this same forest and at the deep blue bay beneath me. As orientation, that near peak to the left in the painting is the distant height centre in the pencil sketch. I have wholly changed my approach to drawing, no longer using pencil and instead committing myself to indelible pen lines to create a framework for colour.
The last drawing looks forward, along the line of the cliffs to the Cap and lighthouse. This was done in water-soluble ink, liberated with a wash of clear water to create tones.
I remembered this spot from cycling here 2 years ago. A wind pump sits amid fields. Then, the fields in front were freshly mowed and the hay baled in huge cylinders that glowed in the morning sun. This time, it was evening and the light came from behind the pump house, putting it in shadow but back lighting the long grasses in the foreground.
This was a quick sketch as I cycled home, with the colours added later from memory.
I found this pencil sketch of the same wind pump, viewed from the neighbouring field, made a couple of years ago. These were notes for a watercolour painting I never got round to doing. I thought I would add it to this post to remind myself of how my approach has changed.