Category Archives: Birds

Mayday

Today in Western Australia we are having a storm.  My camera and I head out to see what’s happening.  First stop is my local beach – South Beach.  Usually this is a big wide beach where dogs and people frolic but today the surf is right up to the dunes – in fact – eroding them before my eyes.

Where we usually sit having coffee is, on this May day, a maelstrom of spray!

Some time last night the waves had ripped off the top of the sea wall.  The sandstone blocks sprawl on the lawn like fallen soldiers.

In Fremantle the tide surges right up to the buildings at Bathers Beach.

I drive a few minutes further up the coast to Cottlesloe.  Have a look at the disappearing man.  Now you see him – now you don’t.

….and from another viewpoint.  It looks like he is taking photos.  (I presume he is a he.  A woman wouldn’t be that daft.)

Each time I get out of my car I can hardly stand up straight due to the force of the westerly winds.   I dodge squally showers to watch Cottlesloe Beach being consumed by the tide.  (Historic Indiana Teahouse on the left will presently be swallowed up too – disappearing into a modern awful-looking redevelopment.)

From Cottlesloe one gets a wide southern view back to the port of Fremantle.  All down the coast the storm-driven tide is battering and eroding land.

I drive back through East Fremantle following Swan River to Point Walter.  As you can see by the jetty, the river is experiencing ‘acqua alta’.

The enormous sand spit which is the main feature of Point Walter is thoroughly submerged.   For most of the year you can walk across the sand spit as far as the little island on the left of the photo below.  (Not that you should walk right to the end – because birds nest there.)   A curtain of rain sweeps across the river.

In East Fremantle the local black swans are busy scrutinizing the water.

They come over in case I have a treat for them.  (I don’t.)

One of them has a big stretch.

What is normally parkland is, at this moment, river.

Finally I drive homewards, stopping at East Street jetty to visit wing-aerating cormorant and darter.  The darter yawns as I photograph him.

The Bureau of Meteorology says this is an unusual and wide-reaching storm.  Not a typical May day.

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Postscript:  Aftermath – photos of our beach the next day.

 

Quiet Time

“Quiet Time” is a drawing in coloured pencils and Neocolor II wax pastels. 33.5 x 53.3 cm. April 2020.

In the Covid-19 time in which we are living, local cafés and restaurants are shut – except for takeaways.  In Fremantle (Western Australia) Matthew and I line up to buy coffees then take them to some isolated spot or other overlooking the port.

As we sit on canvas chairs facing sky and sea, we may speak our thoughts, or, just listen to water lapping, breezes and bird calls.  More often than not a seagull comes to check on whether we have some food to share.

I am describing a daily ritual during March/April 2020.  However my latest drawing is from when we visited Lido in March 2019.  What were we doing on Lido? … quietly regarding Venice from across the lagoon while being checked on by a seagull!

I’ve spent the last four weeks working on “Quiet Time“.  I could have responded to the ‘new normal’ by drawing something dark and ominous – suiting my pessimistic mood.  But I decided on an uplifting subject from which I could perhaps find comfort.  What could be more self-nurturing than sky, laguna, hazy Venice and seagull?

At first, working on this piece I felt disconnected and unable to concentrate, just as I felt disconnected (in shock) to the dystopian daily news. I forced myself on.  (How does one get one’s head around a pandemic?)  In the end, the serenity of the subject reached out to me.  The drawing and I eventually connected.

Even though the composition was sourced from 12 months ago in Northern Italy, it feels entirely relevant to a part of bubble life now, especially to that hour each day when, sitting before local waters with coffees, Matthew and I share our isolation quiet time.

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“An Italian Dream”  (from nearly the same position) was drawn in October 2019.

 

 

 

Morsels of Happiness

On my morning walk today I saw six black cockatoos in a tree quite close up.  I didn’t have a camera so you’ll have to take my word for it.  I watched them for about five minutes and do you know, seeing them made me happy.

Can a day be without any happy moments?  Even in these anxious times there are gentle interludes: – look at that cloud formation;  the neighbour’s cat has popped over to be stroked; outside our local cafe Rupert the dog is waiting for his pat;  wow – a cormorant is spreading its wings in front of a rainbow!

Happy moments spontaneously pop up.

I find that if I mentally register these morsels of happiness, they nourish me throughout the day.  Later on I see the news and feel all the things that you are feeling.  But it helps to remember those sweet tastes of positivity.  I remind myself that even if I’m feeling anxiety now, I felt joy earlier – and that helps me not to be overwhelmed.

When I experience a moment of peace, something that provokes a smile, registering it might be the most important thing I do all day.  It is an inoculation against misery.

Two mornings ago I took myself down to the waterfront to visit the birds.  Their presence uplifted me.

What lifts your spirits?

 

 

Look Out

“Look Out” – a drawing in Neocolor 2 and coloured pencils. December 2019.

I don’t fall in love with Rome until there is a thunderstorm.

We are exploring Palatine Hill, the two of us huddled under one umbrella.  As we reach a magnificent lookout, the deluge ceases.  Rome, freshly washed, is before us under a dramatic thunder-sky.  As usual I am exclaiming loudly in my excitement.

A yellow legged gull swoops up from below and places himself right there.  (Some people are scared by these enormous gulls – LOOK OUT!)  But I think they are beautiful.

As we regard one another while he poses this way and that, a plan for a drawing is hatched.

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A technical note:

Neocolor 2 colour mapped onto the paper, ready to be layered over with coloured pencils.

A light Neocolor 2 underlay makes a welcome base for coloured pencil work, adding soft richness to the drawing.  Only the sharply focused seagull is 100% pencil without Neocolor undercoat.

Fixpencil 0012 by Caran d’Ache fits Neocolor and coloured pencils.

 

An Italian Dream

“An Italian Dream” is drawn with Neocolor 1 and coloured pencils. 39.5 x 32 cm.  November 2019.

On a hazy Sunday morning in the northern spring of 2019 we sit on a park bench on Lido and look out over the lagoon.  A young seagull allows himself to be photographed and even gives me a minute  to studiously compose before flying away.  In perfect tune with the universe (compositionally-speaking) a vaporetto  appears.  In the watery distance San Giorgio Maggiore Benedictine church and campanile hover mirage-like.

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One hundred and seventy five years ago (in 1844) Charles Dickens took some time out from novel writing.  He and his family moved to Italy for a few months.  From this sojourn came “Pictures from Italy” (first published in 1846), an illuminating and witty account of his Italian adventures.  Charles Dickens was so hypnotized by Venice that he reminisces as if he had dreamed it all.   The Venetian chapter of the book is called “An Italian Dream“.  I trust CD doesn’t mind if I borrow his romantic title for my drawing.

I quote three paragraphs from “An Italian Dream“…

“The glory of the day that broke upon me in this Dream; its freshness, motion, buoyancy; its sparkles of the sun in water; its clear blue sky and rustling air; no waking words can tell.  But, from my window, I looked down on boats and barks; on masts, sails, cordage, flags; on groups of busy sailors, working at the cargoes of these vessels; on wide quays, strewn with bales, casks, merchandise of many kinds; on great ships, lying near at hand in stately indolence; on islands, crowned with gorgeous domes and turrets: and where golden crosses glittered in the light, atop of wondrous churches, springing from the sea!”

…and…

“In the luxurious wonder of so rare a dream, I took but little heed of time, and had but little understanding of its flight.  But there were days and nights in it; and when the sun was high, and when the rays of lamps were crooked in the running water, I was still afloat, I thought: plashing the slippery walls and houses with the cleavings of the tide, as my black boat, borne upon it, skimmed along the streets.”

One hundred and seventy five years ago we weren’t talking about climate change or rising sea levels, yet Dickens concludes his chapter thus…

“But close about the quays and churches, palaces and prisons: sucking at their walls, and welling up into the secret places of the town: crept the water always.  Noiseless and watchful: coiled round and round it, in its many folds, like an old serpent: waiting for the time, I thought, when people should look down into its depths for any stone of the old city that had claimed to be its mistress”

“I have, many and many a time, thought since, of this strange Dream upon the water: half-wondering if it lie there yet, and if its name be VENICE.”

 

Bay Watch

On the South Island coast I’m on the alert for local fauna.  My first sighting is a sea lion flinging an octopus about in Blueskin Bay.  That dark shape in the water is the sea lion’s head, octopus dangling from mouth.  (If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you can make it out.)

Next morning I see the sea lion again.  This time breakfast is flounder (so I’m told).

…down the hatch it goes…

On the Otago coastline between Oamaru and Dunedin is an outcrop of rocks called Shag Point.  There, all year round, you can see a colony of New Zealand fur seals.  On this day it is pouring with rain and blowing a gale.  I can’t step out of the car without getting soaked so I take these photos from my car window.

At the turn off to Shag Point is a cottage.  Wow!  What an outlook.  Location Location!!

The next day we return to Shag Point as the rain has stopped.  I take a five minute walk from the car park and look down over the cliff.  Can you make out the seals on the rocks?  (It can be hard to tell a seal from a rock.)

This must be the nursery.

…and this is surely Father.  “Wake Up Father“.

After a few days in Otago we find ourselves back in Canterbury.  We stay in this heavenly homestead near Little River (not far from Christchurch).  The house was built in 1900.  We feel we are in a Katherine Mansfield short story.

I am always drawn back to Birdlings Flat, a beach entirely made up of stones.  A group of South Island pied oystercatchers make their way along the beach.

A black-backed gull ruffles his feathers.

Red-billed gulls rest and think about what to do next.  (My aim is to photograph without disturbing the birds, which I succeed in doing.)

The surf continuously pounds this southern-facing coastline.  I lie in the stones and watch the white-fronted terns as they preen themselves…

…call to one another…

…fly in…

…and fly out.

In the lagoon behind the beach a solitary white heron sounds an alarm.  Is it me he is worried about?  There is quite a body of water between us.

But still he flies away.  (Perhaps he always meant to fly away and it is nothing to do with me.  I hope so.)

Driving over the hills of Banks Peninsula we encounter a flock of sheep.  The farmer looks like Jed Clampett.

The view from the top of the hill is outstanding.  That must be Akaroa on the far side.

I suggest to Matthew he might like to check out some Barry’s Bay cheese.  While he is sampling the famous cheeses I hop across the road to photograph the birds.

A paradise shelduck forages during low tide.

On a small island in the bay birds not of a feather stick together.

Toi toi.

A pukeko takes me and my camera in her stride.

…and the next day we fly back to Australia.

 

 

A box of birds

“A box of birds” means happiness.

One morning two weeks ago my sister-in-law Clare, Matthew and I sit outside at Blueskin Nurseries Café in Waitati.  Clare suggests taking us to Orokonui Ecosanctuary just up the hill as we all love birds.  The sparrows watching us think this is a good idea.

Orokonui Ecosanctuary is an ecological island wildlife reserve developed by the Otago Natural History Trust in the Orokonui Valley, 20 km north of Dunedin.  The 307 ha nature reserve was surrounded by a predator fence in 2007.  The forest is being restored to its former glory by keeping pests out, revegetating and bringing back species that were locally extinct. 

The first birds we see are takahe.  These flightless birds were for a long time thought to be extinct.  What a joy to see a species of bird for the first time ever.  Here is the chick!

The following three photos show one of the parents feeding this chick.  Look how they use their legs, scooping up grass.

New Zealand forests are too often eerily quiet as populations of songbirds have been decimated by introduced predators over the decades.  But the forest at Orokonui is an absolute symphony of song.  No words of mine can describe what it is like to hear this orchestra of birdsong.   Here are some of the musicians.   First – the tui whose loud song is interspersed with clicks and rattles…

The melodious bellbird or korimako…who is belting out a tune while I photograph.

I have written a post about a New Zealand parrot called the kea, but here is a parrot I had never seen before called the kaka.  These gregarious birds are extremely entertaining to watch as they get up to their various antics.  I want to capture the red under-carriage during flight but they are too fast for me.

The brave little robin likes to come very close to us because she is after the insects we disturb as we walk along.

A bird who evades my camera most of the time because he is so quick is the fantail.  This bird flits and teases as he pursues flying insects.  Only when he ever-so-briefly perches do I have any hope of a photo.

How I love the tomtit – a tiny bird with enormous presence.

Even when we can’t see any birds at any particular moment, we can always listen to their music.

…and enjoy the scenery…

When our excursion is over we descend back down the hill to Waitati.

A pony walks over to be patted.

A spoonbill flies across Blueskin Bay.

The day is a box of birds.

Happiness.

 

 

 

 

 

City Slicker

“City Slicker”
A glossy raven at Jaures.
240 x 260 mm. November 2017

“City Slicker” – noun – informal, derogatory: a person with the sophistication and values generally associated with urban dwellers.

The opportunistic raven is nobody’s fool.  He is sleek, healthy, clever, and manages just fine thank you very much in the heart of the city.  Not unlike Fagin from “Oliver“, he is “reviewing the situation” when I observe him.   Our encounter is in Jaures – a less salubrious area of Paris than a tourist might want to visit.  However not being a tourist, but a flaneuse (a female who saunters around observing society) I find myself there.

It is business as usual for this feathered city slicker – while I make a hasty retreat back down the more genteel (and safe) path beside Canal St. Martin.

 

Treading the Boards

“Treading the Boards”
Coloured pencils and Sennelier oil pastels.
225 x 275 mm.
August 2017

In a theatrical setting; the port of Fremantle lit by morning sunshine, a seagull steps along a wooden plank with the studied deliberation of an actor treading the boards.

This drawing will be one of 21 Julie Podstolski drawings exhibited at Kidogo Arthouse, Bathers Beach, Fremantle, from 7th September 2017 (for two weeks) – with ceramics by Stewart Scambler.   

On the Rocks

“On the Rocks 1”

“On the Rocks 2”

The latest additions to my drawing series headed for Kidogo Arthouse in September 2017 are “On the Rocks 1” and “On the Rocks 2”.    These drawings will be the smallest in the exhibition at 195 x 200 mm each.

In the past three weeks I have been to New Zealand and back twice.  Each time I flew, one of the drawings went with me so that I could work while away.  These well-traveled crested terns were worked on in airport transit lounges, my sister’s house in Wellington and in the hospice where my brother was being cared for in Christchurch.  It was calming to scratch away with pencils in the unusual circumstances in which my drawings and I found ourselves.   They were both completed back home in my studio.

When holding an exhibition it is good to have a range of art sizes.  Not everyone has huge wall spaces (or wallets) for one’s major works.  A small sized drawing (or two) may be just the ticket for an intimate space.

“Entranced” opens on 7th September at Kidogo Arthouse on Bathers Beach, Fremantle.