🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Gentle Giant

“Keep five yards from a carriage, ten yards from a horse, and a hundred yards from an elephant; but the distance one should keep from a wicked man cannot be measured.”
- Indian Proverb

"African Elephant" - Acrylic on Canvas - Maree©

With a height of just over 3 - 4m (measured at the shoulder), a length of between 6 to 7.5m (that's the length of an average motor car garage!) and weighing in at 6 tonnes, these mostly gentle giants of the African bush are highly intelligent with a strong sense of family and herd, and a complex social structure.

Elephants are incredibly social animals: they form strong, long-lasting bonds within their herd. They adopt orphaned calves, help injured elephants and work together. They have surprisingly complicated behavioural patterns and interactions. An injured member may be helped to its feet and supported by other herd members: if it is badly wounded, it may be vigorously defended by the herd, with even the calves taking part. Although elephants are normally peaceful individuals, they can be aggressive and extremely dangerous, especially if they are sick or injured. Females in groups with young are particularly unpredictable, as are males in musth.

Here in Africa they are native to a wide variety of habitats including semi-desert scrub, open savannas and dense forest regions. Besides its greater size, it differs from the Asian elephant in having larger ears and tusks, a sloping forehead, and two “fingers” at the tip of its trunk, compared to only one in the Asian species.

For this sketch, I looked at many different photographs from a great many angles, and developed this stance from all the 'information' I had gathered in my mind.

Acrylic on Acrylic Gesso primed un-stretched acrylic canvas sheet 12" x 8"

If you would like to buy a print of this painting, go to RedBubble or e-mail me if you are interested in the original.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Jacky Hangman

My morning prayer :
“Bless the flowers and the weeds, my birds and the bees.”

This is a page from one of my Nature Journals - Watercolour in Moleskine 200gsm Watercolour Sketch-book - 12" x 8" - Maree©

The Fiscal Shrike has been a busy little lady, filling up her larder in one of my Celtis trees - this morning I found a Finch fledgling spiked through one of the thorns on the tree and Jackie was sitting close-by, keeping a watchful eye on me.

I love my Shrikes living in my garden and they know when I approach the feeding tables that it's snack-time. I have a special feeder just for them, where I fill a pine cone with mince and suet, their favourites.

They provide me with hours of pleasure, watching and sketching them as they either sit in the top of an old dead tree or swoop down suddenly, landing on target of some tasty morsel. They are cheeky and precocious, harassing other birds no end, making sure their territory is clear of competition for food. They are also not past raiding nests, often taking newly hatched nestlings, much to my consternation as I helplessly watch.

The Fiscal Shrike is also named 'Jacky Hangman' due to its habit of impaling its prey on Acacia thorns to store the food for later consumption. In my garden they also use the White Karee, which has thorns all along it's trunk when it is young. My Fiscals often spike grasshoppers, small lizards and even mice on these large thorns and they also use the barbed wire and the spikes on top of the palisade fencing.

One of the Shrike's larders in the Celtis africana

Camera: Kodak C195 Digital


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