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Illustrating Birds on the River Wye

Grey heron Ardea cinerea natural history illustration by Lizzie Harper
Bird illustrations

Over the years I’ve done bird paintings, 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 among the pebbles

Dipper natural history illustration by Lizzie Harper
Dipper eating aquatic invertebrate



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

Buzzard natural history illustration by Lizzie Harper
Buzzard Buteo buteo at rest on a branch



I saw a pair of tiny wrens recently, flitting amongst the dead bracken.  They’re so small 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.

Wren Troglodytes troglodytes natural history illustration by Lizzie Harper
Wren Troglodytes troglodytes by its round nest 



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.

Mallard duck Anas platyrhynchos natural history illustration by Lizzie Harper
Mallard duck Anas platyrhynchos pair
Grey Wagtail

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.

Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea natural history illustration by Lizzie Harper
Grey wagtail Motacilla cinerea breeding male stood on a mossy stone in a stream



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.  These birds 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.

Grey heron Ardea cinerea natural history illustration by Lizzie Harper
Grey heron Ardea cinerea wading ankle deep in the Wye with reeds behind



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.

Rooks Corvus frugilegus natural history illustration by Lizzie Harper
Rooks Corvus frugilegus 

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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Lizzie Harper