Scientific Illustration: Birds along the River Wye - November 26th 2013

Story posted: Friday, 29. November 2013 by Lizzie Harper

Over the years I've done natural history illustrations, ornithological illustrations, scientific illustrations; call them what you will, but I've painted loads of British bird species.

It's always a joy to see the birds I've depicted in the flesh (in the feather), and this often happens by the river Wye.

I go for a swift jog every Wednesday morning, and my route takes me to a lovely stretch of open land called the warren, which abuts the shingled beach of the Wye.  It's common to see birds there; this week I saw a dipper balancing in the rapids, searching for tiny crustaceans amongst the pebbles.

Lizzie Harper ornithological illustration of a dipper

Overhead, the plaintive mew of the buzzard is a common sound, although I've never seen one perched near the river.

Lizzie Harper scientific illustration of a Buzzard

I saw a pair of tiny wrens recently, flitting amongst the dead bracken.  They're sosmall that I was momentarily confused, and thought maybe they could have been some enormous insect; but when I paused to spy on them there was no mistaking the secretive little birds.

Lizzie Harper ornithological illustration of a wren

The path winds up past some beech trees, and there's an area of still muddy water; there are always mallards hanging about, and making a terrific fuss as I pass; squawking and flying off up river.

Lizzie Harper ornithological illustration of a mallard ducks

I've seen busy grey wagtails further upstream, where the water runs fast and shallow over wide flat rocks, but never down by the warren; I have no reason to think they don't pop by to pick amongst the stones, their tails bobbing in that distinctive manner.

Lizzie Harper scientific illustration of a Grey wagtail


Grey heron are frequent visitors all along the Wye.  In the summer, as I was swimming alone, one flew so close overhead that I could have reached up and touched it.  They look almost robotic in flight, all heavy and angular.  Further down the river, near the canoe landing stage, there's often a heron either fishing in the shallows or, somehow incongruously perched in a tree.

Lizzie Harper natural history illustration of a heron

Back in town, as I jog down the hill, I pass a rookery.  Late spring and it's overwhelmingly loud, squabbling birds flapping and shuffling about; but this late in the year it's far more subdued.  The shapes of the ragged nests are stark amongst the bare branches.

Lizzie Harper natural history illustration of rooks

There's a much larger range of my bird illustrations available on my website; and a youtube video of some of my favourite pieces online.


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