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My Wildlife Year: A Look Back At 2018

From finding a rare white stoat in my garden, to filming an eagle owl in north Yorkshire, I’ve had an eventful wildlife year. In this post I look back at all the action I’ve witnessed, both at home and on trips abroad.

My Wildlife Year
January 2018

The year kicked off to a tremendous start when a stoat living in my garden turned white. It is extremely rare to see stoats in ermine here on the Yorkshire Wolds and so to have one in my own front garden was very exciting. In fact it was so unusual my stoat became an online sensation and featured on BBC1 Look North as well as in all the local papers. I named her Bandita, after a mask-like colouring around her eyes. Click on the image below to watch the video of her as she explored my garden. And click here to read the full story of Bandita.

Meanwhile my garden surveillance cameras also picked up a pair of kestrels mating. It was a bit early in the season for their courtship, but the interaction only served to ensure a strong bond for the coming breeding season. Follow this link to read my Kestrel Cam blog post where I recorded the season in full. Click on the image below to watch the video clip.

Further afield in Yorkshire, I joined a throng of bird watchers at The Yorkshire Arboretum to see more than 100 hawfinches. Registered on the RSPB’s red list, hawfinches are seldom spotted here in the UK and so this influx was very exciting. The birds were said to have flown here after a crop failure in Europe’s Eastern Bloc. With permission from the Yorkshire Arboretum, I put up a hide so that I could study the birds closely for a new painting, below.  Here’s 4 things I learned about these fascinating birds. 

my wildlife year

an artist's wildlife year
Hawfinch, by artist Robert E Fuller
My Wildlife Year
February 2018

It was bitterly cold here on Yorkshire Wolds and the extra pressure for shelter led to dramatic battles between the birds of prey in my garden. Click on the picture below to watch a film clip of a tawny owl chasing a barn owl into a nest box – only to discover there was another barn owl already inside! The film kicked off the action on my Barn Owl Nest Cam blog post where I went on to record the story of these owls throughout the breeding season.

As the month drew to a close, the reason behind the influx of hawfinches and a white stoat in January became clear: the country was hit by a savage weather front from Eastern Europe, nicknamed ‘The Beast from the East’.

My Wildlife Year
March 2018

The Beast from the East hit my home and gallery on the Yorkshire Wolds with particular ferocity. Winds of up to  30 mph blew snow drifts across the roads leading in and out of the site; blocking us off completely. The windchill brought the temperature outside down to a bitter -13. A TV crew from BBC1 The One Show asked me to guide them on a snow safari to find out how wildlife copes in freezing conditions. The film finally aired on TV in December. Click here to read more about the experience and click on the image below to watch a video of hares courting despite the cold.

 

My Wildlife Year
April 2018

My family and I enjoyed a break in the French Alps and I made time to search for the region’s elusive wildlife. It was tough going and I had to be very careful to avoid avalanches, but I managed to find ibex, chamois and a magnificent bearded vulture. Click here to read about this incredible experience and see more photographs.

an artist's wildlife year
Curved horns of the Ibex
an artist's wildlife year
A bearded vulture soaring above the Alps

Meanwhile at home in Thixendale my nest cameras picked up the  moment the female kestrel laid its first egg. Click on the image below to see the her stand up to reveal a perfectly formed egg! Click here to watch more highlights from the kestrel year as recorded on my Kestrel Cam blog post.

My Wildlife Year
May 2018

As spring took hold here in Yorkshire I learned of an eagle owl at a secret location north of the county. These mighty birds are the source of some controversy here in the UK, with some conservationists reluctant to adopt them as native birds due to their aggressive nature. But I jumped at the chance to see one. Click here to read my full blog post on the eagle owl in Yorkshire.

my wildlife year

 

Meanwhile back at home in Thixendale the female barn owl laid her first egg. Click on the image below to see the first shiny white egg. She went on to lay another two eggs at roughly two-day intervals. The first egg hatched at the end of the month, click on the image to see the video of it as it opens. Read the full story of the barn owl’s breeding season at Fotherdale Farm on my Barn Owl Cam.

Meanwhile the kestrels had five eggs in the nest and were taking turns to incubate. Click on the image below to watch a clip of the male as he relieves the female inside the nest box. For the action in more detail read my Kestrel Cam blog.

 

Other important news in May was the announcement that my gallery was listed at the top of a TripAdvisor list of the best art galleries in Yorkshire! It even topped giants such as the Yorkshire Sculpture Park. Click here to read more. 

My Wildlife Year
June 2018

My summer art exhibition opened at my gallery on June 16th. The focus was on woodland wildlife and my paintings of badgers, foxes, deer, red squirrels and owls were the highlight. Click here to read more about the event and see some of the paintings on show. 

my wildlife year
Squirrel of Aviemore, fine art print. Buy Now

 

Visitors to the exhibition were able to watch the kestrels and barn owl babies on my live cameras. Among the highlights were the clips, below, of the barn owl chicks learning how to swallow prey whole and – my favourite – a cheeky kestrel chick pulling its mother’s tail feathers! Click on the images to play:

At the end of each busy day in the gallery, I headed into the valley below the house to relax at a badger sett. I have been watching badgers here for many years and have my own hide from where I can photograph them. The badger are so used to me they eat from my hand. Click here to read the full story of how I became accepted by this badger clan.  Click on the image below to play the video:

My Wildlife Year
July 2018

My exhibition continued into July and was a great success. The theme was Wild Woods. To illustrate the importance of woodland for wildlife I displayed the story of the development of my own wood here at Fotherdale. You can read the story of my ‘Fotherdale Forest’ here. 

But the real stars of the show were these owls cooling off in broad daylight in my garden pond. They were spotted on live screens in the gallery by a visitor to the exhibition and were so endearing that they featured as the top video on BBC Online. Click here to read the full story.  Click on the image below to watch the video:

Also on the nest cams, the barn owl and kestrel chicks continued to develop fast. When the barn owls were five weeks old, I was handed four foundling chicks to rehabilitate. I put them into the nest to get the barn owl pair to raise them in the wild. See my Barn Owl Cam for the full story and watch how they were received by the adult birds. Click on the images to watch the videos:

At the end of the month, the kestrel chicks had fledged. Watch this clip to see the first one fly.

 

 

My Wildlife Year
August 2018

In August my family and I took a well-earned break to Scotland. As always, I spent much of the holiday searching out wildlife and was rewarded by an intimate viewing of an otter feeding its cub. Click here to read about the experience in full.  Click on the image below to watch the video:

Back at home the last barn owl fledged the nest. The chicks remained close to the nest site for some time and at night the skies were full of owls! Click on the image to see the moment it fledges:

My Wildlife Year
September 2018

A project to watch peregrines on an industrial plant in Hull featured on BBC1’s Inside Out in Yorkshire and Lincolnshire. The film showed how watching these magnificent birds at Saltend on the River Humber had inspired a new painting. Click on the image below to watch the story unfold and click here to read my blog post about filming the peregrines of Salt End.

My Wildlife Year
October 2018

After a busy day in my studio painting for my winter exhibition, I switched on the news to see that three Scottish wildcats had been filmed in the Cairngorms. These creatures are so rare I couldn’t resist the opportunity to see one for myself and so by morning I had packed my bags and set off to see if I could find them. Click here to read about my incredible experience.

my wildlife year

 

my wildlife year

My Wildlife Year
November 2018

My winter art exhibition opened on November 10th. The event was a celebration of my gallery’s 20th anniversary and included new paintings as well as a retrospective of fine art prints featuring wildlife I have watched on my doorstep since moving here in 1998. Click here to read about the event and see some of the paintings on show.

It was interesting looking back at how my home and gallery have changed over the years and how my wife Victoria and I have made a successful art business in such a remote location. Click here to read the story of the gallery. Over the years I have transformed my garden to encourage my wild painting models to pose here for me. Click here to read the full story of how I planted a wildlife garden. 

my wildlife yearmy wildlife yearThe exhibition was a great success. The most popular painting on show was one that featured 19 tree sparrows balancing on one branch. The painting illustrated my 20 year project to boost populations of these rare birds here. Painting it was a labour of love: I counted 38 eyes and 114 toes! But that was nothing compared to the time it took me to establish such a healthy colony. Click here to read the full story. 

my wildlife year
When the bough breaks, by artist Robert E Fuller

 

My Wildlife Year
December 2018

At last, with exhibition out of the way, I had some time in my studio to devote to painting the wildlife I had seen during my spectacular visit to Scotland in October. I had seen so much wildlife there and was felt so inspired my fingers had been itching to pick up my paintbrushes again. What do you think of the new paintings?

my wildlife year
Mountain Hare, acrylic painting by Robert E Fuller
my wildlife year
Red Stag sketch, Robert E Fuller
my wildlife year
Whooper Swans, acrylic painting by Robert E Fuller

 

I hope you have enjoyed looking back at 2018. I now can’t wait to see what 2019 will bring. 

 

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