Rpbert E Fuller Wildlife Artist Blog
Return to the Blog Home Page

Painting the wildlife on my doorstep: an artist on the Yorkshire Wolds

This year I celebrate 20 years of painting the wildlife on my doorstep. I’ve been looking back at some of my favourite wild visitors and the paintings they inspired. See more at my winter exhibition at my gallery in Thixendale, North Yorkshire, from Nov 10th – Dec 2nd.


July 1998

Only 2 tree sparrows at Fotherdale

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep
art exhibition 20 years of painting wildlife on the yorkshire wolds
New original painting, tree sparrows in acrylic by Robert E fuller

When I moved to Fotherdale Farm in 1998 the only bird life here was one pair of tree sparrows. Now, after planting native trees and shrubs,  digging a water course, and putting out food daily, I have 35 breeding pairs here. This is particularly satisfying because tree sparrows feature on the RSPB red list. The painting above features 19 tree sparrows jostling for space on a branch and was taken from a photograph of this bounty right here in the garden.

Click here to read more about the history of the garden and see how it has matured. wildlife on my doorstep

 


Winter 1998-9

A wren is the first bird to winter at Fotherdale

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

first winter

The first bird to settle in my garden was a male wren. He appeared in the autumn, roosting in my first ‘harvest’ of onions proudly displayed in the porch. As the first winter frosts set in, I noticed him nestled in the shallots. Occasionally he even had a female friend to stay over. The painting below right shows how I was inspired to paint this wren after photographing it perched on a hook I use to chain my garden gate.

Click here to read how this cheeky bird won my heart and earned itself a home for life at Fotherdale Farm. 


Spring 2000

A robin inspires a project to put nest boxes up throughout the garden

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep
wildlife on the doorstep
Inspiration for a painting

I soon began to engage the avian visitors to my vegetable patch as art models. I noticed a robin liked to pose on an old kettle I used to keep plant labels in. The painting I developed from this observation turned out to be one of my most popular: see it below. Watching the robin gave me the idea of using the kettle as a nest box. I turned it on its side and nailed it to the fence. This was among the first of many nest boxes to go up throughout the garden.

Click here to read about the funniest places the robins of Fotherdale have nested in!

Robin on teapot, art print. Buy Now

 


January 2006

The first bird of prey settles at Fotherdale

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

 

wildlife on the doorstep

This kestrel was the first bird of prey to settle in my garden and my success in persuading him to nest here gave me the encouragement I needed to persuade other birds of prey move to Fotherdale. Mr Kes has been here for 11 years now and in that time he’s provided some interesting insight into the behaviour of kestrels.

Click here to read Kes’ full story including my account of his infidelities!

wildlife on my doorstep
Kestrel portrait, by artist Robert E Fuller

December 2008

Turning nest boxes into props

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

During a cold winter walk I came across an enormous fallen elm. There was a section of it that had a worn entrance hole that was full of character. Inspired by the gnarled shapes in the bark, I decided the hollow trunk would make a good prop for a bird to perch on in a painting. To persuade a wild bird to pose on it, I hit on the idea of turning it into a giant nest box. This was the first of many props fashioned from fallen trees that now at populate the garden at Fotherdale.

Click here to read the full story of how I make my natural nest boxes as props for my artwork

Barn owl in elm, art print by Robert E Fuller.

February 2009

I put up a permanent badger hide at an ancient sett

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

the wildlife on the doorstep badgers

I had been watching badgers at an ancient badger sett close to Fotherdale on a nightly basis, but this year I got permission from a local landowner to build a permanent hide there. Work began in February 2009 to place the hide 500 metres into the fork of a tree. The idea was that I would be able to watch the badger clan without disturbing their routines. It has been a fantastic investment that has resulted in many a painting.

Click on this link to read more about the badgers of Thixendale.

Below are a selection of the many paintings my sightings have inspired over the years.


Spring 2009

A woodpecker hides from a sparrowhawk

Painting the wildlife on my doorstep

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

As I was painting in my studio one day, I heard the birds calling in alarm. I looked up just in time to see a sparrowhawk pin a woodpecker to the ground. Before I knew it I’d leapt off my seat to chase this sparrowhawk away. The woodpecker was relatively unscathed and flew to a nearby post to recover. Then to my horror, the sparrowhawk came back. But the woodpecker remained perfectly still and managed to avoid detection. My photograph of the event featured in the national newspapers and on BBC Radio 2.

Click here to read the full story of this dramatic moment. 

painting the wildlife on the doorstep
Sparrowhawk and woodpecker, painting by Robert E Fuller

Winter, November 2009

A bellowing of bullfinches at Fotherdale

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

 

wildlife on the doorstep bullfinches

wildlife on the doorstep bullfinches

This was the year we really began to reap the rewards of our hard work at Fotherdale. It is difficult to get bullfinches to visit your garden, but over the winter of 2009 I had a the biggest bellowing I’ve ever seen. They gorged on a bumper crop of berries. I noticed that after they had finished the berries they switched to dock leaf seed heads in the field below . I gathered up several bundles of docks and stood them in a long plank of wood with holes drilled in. I positioned this plank outside my kitchen window and each year the plank has attracted more bullfinches.

Click here to read about how I attracted bullfinches to Fotherdale

wildlife on the doorstep bullfinch
Bullfinch on apple blossom, print by Robert E Fuller. Buy now

 


January 2010

Watching hares boxing in heavy snow

Painting the wildlife on my doorstep
wildlife on my doorstep

 

In 2010 the country was gripped by a bitterly cold winter. But as the winds blew and the snow fell, I spotted a group of 51 hares courting in a snow field close to Fotherdale. I spent 10 long days trudging through deep snow and enduring bitter winds to photograph them as they boxed in these extreme conditions. The experience inspired a series of new paintings and went on to prompt a TV crew to film wildlife in winter on the Yorkshire Wolds during March 2018’s severe cold spell, known as the Beast from the East.

Click here to read about what I learned about hares boxing in snow

Click here to read about my experience of filming wildlife during the Beast from the East for TV

painting the wildlife on my doorstep hares
Hare stretch, art print by Robert E Fuller. Buy now.

 


January 2011

A devastating winter for barn owls at Thixendale

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

wildlife on the doorstep barn owlsI began helping out barn owls living on farmland near Fotherdale in 1998, when a farmer contacted me to ask what to do about three barn owl chicks he found on the floor of his barn. I built a nest box for this barn owl family and so began a project that led to me putting up more than 150 barn owl boxes on farmland across the region. But in 2011 a bitterly cold winter almost wiped out my local barn owl population.

Click here to read more about this terrible winter 

Click here to read about how I continue to protect barn owls in Thixendale

Click here to read about how I have persuaded the barn owls at Fotherdale to foster foundling chicks

wildlife painting of the week barn owl painting

 


 

Summer 2013

My bird table at Fotherdale is now established

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

 

After my success with kestrels at Fotherdale, I decided to try to persuade owls to settle here. I began by feeding the owls I could hear in the valley below me. My garden bird table became a very unusual feeding station. By day it served seed eating birds, but at night it catered for owls. This was the begining of a very unusual feeding regime at Fotherdale and before long I was feeding kestrels alongside the daytime garden bird visitors.

Click here to read the full story of how I created my ‘bird table with a difference’

wildlife on my doorstep


 

October 2012

Adopting hedgehogs at Fotherdale

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

wildlife on the doorstep

This was the winter my heart was melted by two adorable hoglets. I had never painted a hedgehog before – having considered the prickly creatures a little ‘twee’ for a portrait, but when I accidentally trapped one in the garden and nursed it back to health in the utility room at Fotherdale, I was won over. Before long I was taking in more orphaned hedgehogs and nursing them through the winter. unsurprisingly: the experience inspired a painting!

painting the wildlife on the doorstep
Hedgehog in Autumn Leaves, art print. Buy Now

 

Spring 2014 

Fostering wild tawny owls at Fotherdale

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

 

painting the wildlife on the doorstep

A new project to foster ‘foundling’ owls takes shape after I am handed young tawny owlets by Ryedale Rehabilitation Centre. I successfully persuade the wild tawnys at Fotherdale to ‘adopt’ the foundling chicks.

Click here to read more about tawny owl fostering at Fotherdale.

Click here to read about how I go on to persuade a family of tawny owls to raise six extra chicks. 

painting the wildlife on the doorstep tawny owls
Three Tawny Owl, art print. Buy Now

July 2014

Stoats settle at Fotherdale

Painting the wildlife on the  doorstep

wildlife on the doorstep stoats

As I was lowering myself into a hot bath, my wife called up to me to say she could see a stoat in the garden. I shot downstairs wearing only a towel just in time to see a family of stoats playing in the long grass outside my living room window. This was the beginning of a new project to watch stoats at Fotherdale and led to my developing a special area in the garden for stoats to live in.

Click here to learn more about the stoats at Fotherdale

painting the wildlife on the doorstep stoat
Sitting pretty, art print. Buy Now

 

Summer 2015

Nest cams at Fotherdale

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

I decided to install surveillance cameras inside nest boxes at Fotherdale so that I could watch what happened when the wildlife disappears from view. The project began in the nest boxes of kestrels, barn owls and tawny owls and involved laying underground cables leading to each nest.  This was the beginning of what has turned out to be an extensive project to watch all wildlife at Fotherdale – there are now more than 50 cameras hidden inside animal nests throughout the site and visitors can enjoy the action on live screens.

Click here to read about the first surveillance cameras at Fotherdale

Click here to view my nest cams

Click here to view the best of my footage on my YouTube Channel 

watching the wildlife on the doorstep

 


 

March 2015

The first weasel is spotted at Fotherdale

Painting the wildlife on my doorstep

wildlife in the garden

I spotted the first wild weasel slinking through the shrubbery in my garden and immediately began a project to persuade her to settle in the garden so that I could watch these elusive mammals up close. This turned out to be one of my most rewarding wildlife projects. The weasel decided to adopt a nest box that I make especially for her and gave birth to seven kits in the garden at Fotherdale. The painting below is of one of the males born here.

Click here to read the full story of how I studied weasels up close 

And click here to read part two of this fantastic story

painting the wildlife on the doorstep weasel
Weasel wall, art print. Buy now

August 2015

Recognition in British Wildlife Photography Awards

Painting the wildlife in the garden

 

wildlife in the garden sparrowhawsksYears of trials to persuade sparrowhawks to feed in my garden – and not ON my garden birds – is eventually a success. So much so that I get two sparrowhawks fighting over the food I have left out for them! This dramatic photograph of the action was commended in the British Wildlife Photography Awards and goes on to inspire the painting below.

Click here to read about how I persuaded sparrowhawks to feed in the garden

wildlife in the garden sparrowhawks
Sparring sparrowhawks, painted by Robert E Fuller

 

June 2016

Fotherdale’s new pet is a tiny weasel kit

Painting the wildlife in the garden
wildlife in the garden

 

After my experience watching wild weasels in the garden I am handed a four-week old weasel kit to look after. This tiny creature soon worms its way into my heart – and into the heart of the nation after he becomes a TV sensation and appears on The One Show.

Click here to read about how Fidget became a TV star

wildlife in the garden

 


 

2016

A new hide at Fotherdale, accessed by an underground tunnel

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

watching the wildlife on the doorstep

I’ve always had wildlife hides in the garden at Fotherdale but since I began developing wildlife areas within the garden I needed a permanent hide. In here I have screens linked to my wildlife surveillance so that when I’m photographing wildlife I don’t miss a thing. To make sure I don’t disturb the wildlife getting to and from my new hide, I also built an underground tunnel leading from the house! Watch me make my way along the Fotherdale tunnel below.

Click here to see my wildlife hides and learn which ones work best for which animal

 


 

April 2017 

Watching kingfishers in the nest

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

 

wildlife on the doorstep, kingfishers

 

One of my most ambitious wildlife projects to date was to watch kingfishers inside their nest. I began by building an artificial bank with a nest hidden inside and was delighted when a pair of kingfishers used it two months later! I dedicated this spring to watching and filming the kingfisher chicks as they hatched and followed their story up until the moment they fledged.

Click here to read the full story and see the kingfisher footage

wildlife on the doorstep kingfishers
Colourful kingfisher, art print, Buy Now

 


January 2018

Photographing a rare influx of hawfinches 

Painting the wildlife in the garden

 

wildlife on the doorstep hawfinches

Hawfinches are one of the most difficult birds to watch, so when I heard that 100s of these birds had flown in from Europe and were feeding on hornbeam trees at the nearby Yorkshire Arboretum, I was keen to find out more. I was given permission to put up a hide so that I could photograph and film these characterful finches. The experience inspired a new painting.

Click here to read the full story of watching an invasion of hawfinches in Yorkshire

 


February 2018

A white stoat at Fotherdale

Painting the wildlife in the garden

 

wildlife in the garden white stoat

To see a stoat in ermine is a very rare sight in Yorkshire – and yet I had one here at Fotherdale. The appearance of ‘Bandita’ as I nicknamed the female stoat, caused a stir in the media and she featured on BBC news channels countrywide. Thanks to my network of surveillance cameras I was able to film this very secretive animal as she explored the garden at Fotherdale.

Click here to read the full story of Bandita, Fotherdale’s white stoat

 


Spring 2018

Peregrines on a power plant

Painting the wildlife on the doorstep

 

This was one of my most unusual projects to date since it involved filming peregrines on a vast industrial chemical plant in Hull. It was an utterly alien environment for me and I was captivated as I watched the world’s fastest bird soaring past huge industrial chimneys and raising chicks high on the edge of a power plant.

Click here for the full story of the Peregines of Salt End 

wildlife on the doorstep peregrines
Peregrine of Salt End, art print, Buy now.

 


I hope you’ve enjoyed this retrospective of the wildlife I’ve watched and painted from my doorstep in 20 years here on the Yorkshire Wolds. As you can see my techniques for watching wildlife have developed over the years and I now use surveillance cameras hidden throughout the garden to ensure I don’t miss a thing.

Click here to read about my exhibition celebrating my 20th anniversary here at Fotherdale

The short film below gives you a glimpse of some of the best of the behaviour I have witnessed over the years. Please use the comment box below to tell me about your favourite wild characters here at Fotherdale.

 

Author:

1 comment on Painting the wildlife on my doorstep: an artist on the Yorkshire Wolds

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Lion spacer GCA spacer YP spacer Yorkshire