Natural History Illustrator out and about: Canoeing the Wye August 15th 2014

Story posted: Friday, 15. August 2014 by Lizzie Harper

I'm a botanical illustrator, scientific illustrator; and also a mum.  Sometimes, life is sweet and I can combine these roles AND have a wonderful day out.  Recently, this happened as the family canoed from Glasbury to Hay-on-Wye (where we live).

Family Canoe on Wye between Glasbury and Hay

Sunny day with a canoe and the kids on the river Wye

The first thing we noticed in profusion were the Beautiful demoiselles (for more on damselflies see my recent blog).  They were out in force, like flying emeralds glittering across the river.

Lizzie Harper scientific illustration of Beautiful demoiselle

Beautiful demoiselle

The next spot was a little dipper, one of my favourite birds.  Stout and solid, they peck at insects as they perch on rocks in the fast moving parts of the river.

Lizzie Harper ornithological illustration of a dipper

Dipper

I spent some time looking down into the river, spying on fish.  We saw some trout (smaller than these ones I painted some time ago); which explains why the Wye is so popular with anglers.

Lizzie Harper ariel view of trout

Trout swimming

Then we floated over a group of what I took to be five large eels; although I was confused as to their mottled backs, and the way they seemed to be anchored to the stones.

Lizzie Harper natural history illustration of an eel

Eel

Having looked online, I realise they weren't eel at all, but large lamprey.  Although these are common in UK rivers, it was my first spot of them, and it was a priviledge to see such amazing animals looking so large and healthy.  As there were five of them, perhaps it was one female mating with a succession of males?  I know they migrate from the sea to mate in rivers.  If anyone knows more about lamprey in the river Wye, do fill me in, I'd love to know more.

www.arkive.org photo of the British Sea lamprey

Lamprey by Breck Kent for ARKive

My son spotted a bright yellow bird on the shingle shoreline, and was outraged to hear it was a Grey wagtail.  "But mum, it's bright yellow!", he complained.  It was only when we got home and I showed the chldren the illustrations of a grey vs a yellow wagtail in our trusty Bird book by Peterson that he accepted it.

Lizzie Harper grey wagtail scientific illustration

Grey wagtail

We saw a blackbird right on the shoreline, pecking among the stones, which I thought unusual.  There's no reason why they shouldn't exploit such a rich habitat, but I'd not seen one at the water's edge before.

Lizzie Harper blackbird natural science illustration

Blackbird

Inevitably, we passed swans.  Most of their cygnets are pretty full-grown by now, and all the birds we passed were individuals rather than family groups.

Mute swan ornithological illustration by Lizzie Harper

Mute swan

A cluster of six Canada geese were on the bank; from the feathers and bird droppings nearby they spend plenty of time down on the beach as well.

Canada goose natural history illustration by Lizzie Harper

Canada Goose

As we came into the natural harbour formed by the warren; the sun still streaming down, I spotted some banded demoiselle; similar in colour to the metallic Beautiful demoiselle but with clear wings, banded with dark blue.

Banded demoiselle natural science illustration by Lizzie Harper copyright Jersey Post 2013

Banded demoiselle (copyright Jersey Post 2013)

It was a perfect day; glorious waether, good company (the children were on good form...), and plenty of wonderful animals to spy on from our canoe.  I am indeed iuncredibly lucky to live in a place as wonderful as Hay on Wye.

Life jackets for canoeing the Wye

Staying safe in the canoe; my daughter sports a lifejacket and floral crocs.

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