The anticipation is building! On the 22nd March when the first egg was laid, I looked forward, flicking through diary pages in my head….maybe a chick on the 30th April to coincide with the Cathedral’s celebratory 800 year digital service? Or maybe a Mayday chick? We’ll see. Any day now, but some day this week we can be confident.
I am reminded that it was at this stage six years ago in 2014 that my partner, Ruth, an artist, was busy in her studio – beautiful images appearing from her pallet. Today, it’s a real pleasure to have a ‘guest’ blog from Ruth on her reflections of drawing our peregrines, here it is:
What a fantastic opportunity!…..My partner, Phil, had been determined to see the peregrines back at the Cathedral after 61 years of absence and now it was actually happening! As an artist, I’d had an idea to produce a set of greetings cards to mark the occasion and now was the chance to do it. I work locally using my skills as an illustrator, producing artwork and printing cards and posters. We are both passionate about nature and I often use wildlife as a subject.
No modern digital artwork for me, I am a traditional watercolourist. I use my ‘old fashioned’ dip pen and black ink to create an image often redrawn many times, and then stretch the watercolour paper onto my drawing board (to prevent it from wrinkling) before adding the colour. The only problem is that there are no second chances using this technique, one slip of the pen, a splodge or splatter of ink or paint and the whole image is ruined!
Back to 2014….the clock was ticking! The peregrines were incubating three eggs and I wanted to produce my cards to coincide with the chicks hatching. So I worked hard on the drawings, the more I watched the peregrines the more fascinated I was by them, and not just their behaviour. Their incredible features and markings pose an artistic challenge, a wonderfully vicious beak and outrageous talons made them a fabulous subject to draw. I enjoyed using artistic licence to portray the characters of Mr and Mrs Peregrine gazing into each others eyes somewhere high up on the Cathedral tower and the three chicks as they balance precariously on a stone cross whilst not much more than balls of fluff. In the third image I needed to increase the prominence of the birds in flight against the otherwise dwarfing size of the Cathedral, so again used licence to exaggerate their size in relation to the iconic spire.
It was great when the Cathedral liked the images and asked me to print them for the shop, and also because they’ve proved very popular over the years.
About Phil Sheldrake
Phil Sheldrake is the Cathedral’s Nature Conservation Adviser. He describes himself as a social conservationist, focused on bringing people and the natural world closer together. Phil began life as a teacher, but 25 years ago a lifelong love of wildlife signaled a career change and he swapped the classroom for the great outdoors. Starting his RSPB career as a reserves warden in Wales, he went on to manage the Wessex Stone-curlew Recovery Project and most recently covered Wiltshire & Gloucestershire d as Conservation Officer. He is a founder member of the (Eurasian) Curlew Forum, a national network for curlew conservation groups across England. Phil first approached the Cathedral in 2011 with the idea to provide a nest box for the peregrines he had seen roosting on the Tower over winter. In 2014 his efforts were rewarded with peregrines returning to nest successfully after an absence of 61 years. Since then Phil has continued to support the Cathedral in development of the peregrine project including the provision of the webcam to give us a window into the life of this charismatic bird. Phil works closely with another peregrine expert, Granville Pictor of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society and Cathedral Clerk of Works, Gary Price. He also co-ordinates the peregrine ringing, with the help of naturalist Ed Drewitt of the British Trust for Ornithology.