…is a charismatic and enigmatic bird. I was lucky enough to have recently been loaned a dead nightjar by a birdwatcher here on Bornholm, who had found it dead (struck by a car I think?). The breast was quite damaged, one wing was broken and many tail feathers were missing, but it was still amazing to get so close to a bird that I had only ever heard ‘churring’, or seen very fleetingly before.
When you get the chance to really look at a bird like this, you get the opportunity to witness all of the incredible adaptations and peculiarities that each bird has. The hard feather-bristles around the beak, the strange serrated comb on its claw, the long and graceful hawk-like wings. And its beak! It actually looked quite small and sweet (or so thought my daughter) until you open its mouth, and then you can see the incredible gape. With its huge mouth and bristles it resembles nothing but a minature airborne baleen whale – so said my daughter, and she was quite right.
And then the markings! Incredibly detailed and intricate. A (young?) female. Out in the field I’m always telling myself not to get too bogged down in the details, but here, in the luxury of the studio, with a immobile subject, I relish the opportuinty to really lose myself in the details. I tend to get into an almost zen-like state, for hours on end my eye caresses each feather, and I start to see the rhythms within the patterns of the plumage. Each bird has this – the way that the colours and/or markings alter and metamorphse as you work your way ‘through’ the feathers – there is a pattern there to be discovered, and there was so much to discover with this bird.
After four days, however, it was time to put it back in the freezer. Despite painting with the window open and the heating off, it all got a bit ‘much’ at the end. Next up, a common partridge I found just before Christmas…