K is for… Kentish Plovers, Kittiwakes and Kilnsey Crag, Wharfedale
Sketches of Kentish plovers doing what these elegant little birds like to do best and John’s favourite gull, the Kittiwake, “riding the air current at a sea cliff effortlessly, making subtle changes to body and wing shapes and keeping their centre of gravity in balance with each change in the turbulent air.” Looking at Birds p.55
Kilnsey Crag, a rock climber’s challenge, is an important landmark in upper Wharfedale in John’s beloved Yorkshire. This picture is a watercolour version of the illustration in Land Marks and Sea Wings p.13 where John writes of his childhood, “I loved to explore and follow streams to their sources, to cycle the twisting roads of Wharfedale which were empty of traffic in wartime, to be curious and learn about nature, and to draw. These are the landscapes I still carry in my mind’s eye, even though I have lived in Scotland most of my life.”
see also Avocets to Egrets (A,B,C,D,E) Fairy Terns to Jackass Penguins (F,G,H,I,J) Pochard to Tigers (P,Q,R,S,T) and the tailenders (U,V,W,XYZ)
L is for… Lesser black-backed Gull, Lichen and the Lammermuir Hills above Haddington
Better watch out, this is a gull with attitude, and he’s got his eye on you! In contrast the lichen boulder and gently waving vegetation are a serene scene common in many upland areas, this one probably an illustration from the Scottish highlands. Patterns in landscape continue with this drawing of the Lammermuir Hills from 1987 where the folds of land and the shades of heath and forestry can still be seen today – albeit with wind turbines on top!
M is for… a little mouse, Merlin and Mute Swans
What could be cuter than this little mouse and its beady eyes? I’m not sure it is a particularly ‘sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie’ though, it appears to be enjoying the attention.
The female merlin sketch is marked ‘at Carol Scott’s’ who was well known for running a rehabilitation centre for raptors in Glasgow. “In high season, a dozen infant kestrels shared the kitchen with growing tawny owlets. Merlins – our smallest falcon and at that time in rapid decline – occupied a breeding aviary in the garden, while a white-tailed seaeagle spent three months convalescing from a broken leg” She was a founder member of the British Wildlife Rehabilitation Council and rehabilitation officer for the Hawk and Owl Trust, and her advice was sought internationally. see Obit in The Herald, Scotland. 15th June 2006.
The Mute swans could be on a duck pond near you, all pristine white feathers and effortless gliding over the water. I find them terribly bad-tempered, but then I usually have the dog with me.
N is for… Nightjar, New Forest ponies and Northern Carmine Bee-eaters
A summer visitor to the UK, this nightjar was drawn for the definitive book on Birds in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan where it is noted as a ‘scarce but probably under-recorded spring migrant’. Still what a possibility on a balmy evening to put on a light and see if the nightjars come to you!
New Forest ponies usually scarper when approached, but members of the Society of Wildlife Artists will remember the project with the Forestry Commission to record their impressions of the New Forest in 1999/2000. Worth hunting down a copy of the resulting book Drawn to the Forest publ 2001 . see also our New Forest gallery
The Northern Carmine Bee-eaters are an illustration from The Bee-eaters, by C H Fry, one of the monographs from Poyser with ‘more than 100 drawings by John Busby, capturing the essence of these birds with a rare deftness and vitality’. There you go!
O is for… Osprey, Otters and Oakwoods by Loch Lomond
We just had to have an osprey, particularly one at the point of catching a fish. From being a very rare visitor to Scotland it has now established breeding pairs in many parts of upland UK although it still migrates to Africa for the winter (don’t blame it!).
John spent many weeks on Shetland looking for and drawing otters with the film maker Hugh Miles. “Thanks to Hugh’s skill in field craft we managed to keep close to a female otter and her two kittens for several days, and they were great to watch and draw as they learnt first to depend on the mother for food and protection, be taught to fish through the year and gradually reach maturity and independence.” Lines from Nature p.148
The view of Loch Lomond through a stately oak tree at the waters edge is an illustration from Scotland’s Nature in Trust, commissioned by the National Trust for Scotland. It brings to mind later work on the native Atlantic oakwood at Sunart on the west coast of Scotland with the Society of Wildlife Artists. The resulting book of that project is Aig an Oir – At the Edge