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Welcome to The Wildlife Art Society International 2017 Visits

Saturday 16th December 2017

As usual, the TWASI Christmas Get-Together at Slimbridge was very popular, and a good-sized party of us met up to chat, swap news, and watch the birds, in a festive mood.

It was mostly sunny, but pretty chilly, with some thin ice on the pond edges, which didn’t seem to upset the birds. We had a morning in the sunshine, watching flocks up by the Severn estuary, the otters, or birds in the ponds nearer the Centre. Despite the fact that it was only mid-December, some of the Eider ducks were already paired up, showing mating colours and making their cooing calls.
After a convivial lunch in the restaurant, more watching birds, though some of us “chickened out” of the chilly wind, and spent their time in the shop, or admiring the artwork in the Gallery.

John Horton set us a great example by sketching all afternoon in the hide, and made some lovely colour studies.
By 4pm we were all crowded into the heated hide to watch the floodlit wild bird feed, a spectacular event, before wishing each other Happy Christmas.
As we left in the dusk after sunset, the rooks were making their loud evening roosting chorus, a very evocative end to an enjoyable day.

Twasi Visit to Slimbridge December 2017

Sarais Crawshaw



Visit to Bradgate Park - November 2017

I have been a member of TWASI since last summer, but this is the first time I have been to one of the organised visits. I have never been to Bradgate Park before and must admit I was not even aware of its existence. We arrived at 7am, fortunately just as the car park gates were being opened, somewhat earlier than expected. Car parking inside the park is £4 per day, very reasonable I think with the proceeds going towards the park upkeep.

Twasi Visit to Bradgate Park Deers

Bradgate Park does not disappoint, the access is good with a with a tarmac road running through the middle, is, there were abundant sightings of Red and Fallow deer, with the animals freely roaming, there is no need to stay on the road as you are free to wander across the park’s extensive 830 acres. There is an area which encloses the deer sanctuary and is off limits, it is bounded by a lovely water course (I think the river Lin), the deer did tend to return to the sanctuary as the morning wore on, but there are still ample opportunities to observe them.Twasi Members Visit to Bradgate Deer Park

In summary the park is a beautiful place, with good facilities and a couple of nice tea rooms, just what’s needed on a cold November day. Viewing opportunities of the deer, which are numerous, are very good; I would heartily recommend a visit.

David Skidmore




Visit to Twycross Zoo - 3rd September 2017

Twasi Visit to Twycross 2017


Newent Birds of Prey Twasi Visit Flying DisplayNever having visited the Centre, this was a good opportunity to meet up with fellow TWASI members to experience the impressive flying displays conducted by Jemima Parry-Jones and her friendly and knowledgeable staff.Newent Birds of Prey Visit

The Centre is set in 12 acres of beautifully maintained gardens and visitors were free to roam the grounds in between displays. Before the first display at 11.30am, some of the young staff brought out several birds for a “close encounter” and answered questions from visitors. A particular favourite was a three month old Great Grey Owl – magnificent in all his fluff!

Jemima’s demonstrations included a Lanner Falcon “in training”, which provided a real insight into the process. This was followed by a display by a fully trained falcon so that we were able to appreciate the final result.

We enjoyed a good lunch in the cafe in between displays. Some impressive home made cakes on offer, with Jemima’s famous black Labradors patrolling up and down in the hope of some treats! Newent Birds of Prey Twasi Visit

The first of the afternoon displays included a beautiful Ashy-faced Owl (found in the Dominican Republic) and a very entertaining Birds of Prey Twasi Visitand comic “turn” by a Burrowing Owl, which disappeared in and out of a man-made “mound” of tunnels on command. As a finale, three young staff each brought out a Yellow-billed Kite. The birds seemed to enjoy swooping very low over the heads of the crowd, whilst catching their “prey” in the air. Spectacular stuff!

Chris Saunderson, meanwhile, having been pretty annoyed that his camera batteries gave up very shortly after our arrival, took to his sketchbook and produced some marvellous drawings. As the saying goes “every cloud........”
An enjoyable visit in, thankfully, perfect weather.

Newent Birds of Prey Twasi Visit



Pat Kitching


Members visit to Cat Survival Trust 9th July 2017

A beautiful sunny day for our visit to the Cat Survival Trust in Codicote, Hertfordshire, which didn't disappoint. There was a good turnout of members who came from as far afield as Bristol, Grantham and Rugby.Twasi Visit to Cat Survival Trust

Following a briefing by Dr Terry Moore in their very well equipped Conference Room we made our way to the enclosures. In spite of the heat most of the cats were outside and willing to be photographed or even sketched. There are currently 14 species on site as well as 3 delightful Ring Tailed Lemurs, 9 Racoon Dogs from Asian including pups who were extremely inquisitive. Then to my surprise there were 2 Eagle Owls and I think the other 2 were Spotted Eagle Owls, but perhaps I should check. There was a beautiful bed of poppies, cornflowers, lavender and what I think was Downy Woundwort with lots of bumble bees and a few honey bees, as well as a few butterflies.

Twasi Members Visit to the Cat Survival TrustThe Caracals, Servals, Fishing Cat and one I have never come across before Jaguarundi, a very deep ginger small cat and on the move around his enclosure. The Pumas were no where to be seen, nor were the Amur Leopards, while the Snow Leopards were busy snoozing in the shade of their enclosure. The Jaguar was up for being photographed though. In two enclosures on one of the lawns were a very vocal Harris Hawk and next to him a shy European Wildcat lazing on a branch in the shade.Twasi Members Visit to The Cat Survival Trust

During our lunch break Dr Terry Moore told us about the work of The Cat Survival Trust over the last 40yrs and how important their role is in the conservation of these species and their habitat in the wild. His talk included details of what is loosely called climate change and how the earth is reacting to its changing poles. I mentioned to Dr Moore that I had noticed that sunrise and sunset positions had moved which he confirmed was due to the earth axis having moved with north now heading towards Russia. They take an active role in providing scientific information as the survival of the species within their care is severely affected.

It was a little cooler after lunch and we discovered the Pumas were out in their enclosure giving us a great opportunity to photograph them. The Amur Leopards were also visible too. The Snow Leopards - mother and cub, although lying close together towards the back of their enclosure provided us with a wonderful moment as they groomed each other. While a couple of the young Pumas, or Mountain Lions were getting over amorous in the next enclosure and the others either looked on or kept out of the way.

A great visit and a big thank you to our Chairman, Sarais Crawshaw for organising this and to Cat Survival Trust for their excellent knowledge and hospitality.

TWASI visit to Wicken Fen, Cambridgeshire - Sunday June 11th 2017

It was a warm sunny day and six of us met up at Wicken Fen for the visit. It began, as all good visits do, with coffee, before we looked at the map to decide where to go.
Wicken Fen Visit June 17We started by walking along a boardwalk alongside one of the ‘Lodes’, these are waterways within the fen. There were an enormous number of dragonflies and damselflies of various types, including ‘hawkers’, which fly to and fro in search of prey and ‘darters’ which prefer to sit on a perch, dart out when prey approaches and return to the perch to feed.Wicken Fen Twasi Visit June 17

We sat for a while in a hide and watched a moorhen with her chicks and a little grebe on the water. A collared dove settled on a tree by the hide and posed for photographs.
We headed for the butterfly trail but although there were a few butterflies they are not easy to photograph! However a bumble bee obliged by staying still for long enough!

We returned to the visitor centre and booked for a boat trip, before going to the picnic area by the carpark, to eat our picnic lunches.

After lunch, we joined the boatman and walked to the boat - ‘The Mayfly’ - for our trip.Wicken Fen Twasi Visit June 17 Members We set off down the Wicken Lode and were joined by a family of swans.Wicken Fen Visit June 17 Swans As we passed a bird hide, which was covered in holes, we were informed that this had been done by the resident woodpecker!
The trip took about an hour and was most enjoyable, though we didn’t see very much wildlife.
It was a very pleasant warm day and we all came away with plenty of photographs to remember our trip.


Barbara Saunderson

Whisby Nature Reserve - 21st May 2017

Whisby is a well hidden jewel owned by Lincolnshire Wildlife Trust and located at Thorpe-on-the-Hill near Lincoln, LN6 9BW. The reserve consists of 6 landscaped trails and bird hides with good laid down paths for walking. The park was created from sand and gravel pits and provides a home for insects and birds in a variety of landscapes.Wisby Nature Reserve Visit 2017 Areas of the park are split into grazing marsh, woodland and lakes and the bird hides enable the visitor to enjoy the local wildlife.

A small group of us Sarais, Pauline, Neil and myself met up at the visitor centre and went in search of the Nightingales. The Visitor Centre is a busy area for families but as you venture into the park it becomes noticeably quieter.Whisby Nature Reserve Visit 2017

We stopped off at the various bird hides but also enjoyed watching, photographing and trying to identify the various plant and insect life around the park. The warm sunshine had brought out the beautiful damselflies and butterflies but we noticed a small black butterfly that none of us could name. We later looked it up and discovered it was a Chimney Sweep.

We had seen the odd Orchid around the reserve and stopped to take a photograph but were all surprised to find a carpet of Orchids on the far side of the reserve that we just had to stop and enjoy. We had not visited Whisby before but felt the reserve offered a wealth of plant and wildlife and felt sure we would return.

The day ended with a cup of tea and cake in the cafe, and a visit to the Photography exhibition which was in the visitor centre.

Joy Roberts


Visit to Secret World Animal Rescue Centre - April 2017

On a bright sunny Sunday in April, several members of TWASI made our way to Secret World wildlife refuge in Highbridge, Somerset. As the first to arrive I had a chance to take a short stroll outside the site and noted the healthy population of songbirds in the area – notably blackcaps singing their short, sweet song.

Twasi Secret World VisitHaving signed the visitor’s book and entered the site, we were shown into the Bluebell Barn, which is the education facility, and were able to indulge in a refreshing cup of tea. Here we were introduced to two of the site’s owls, a tawny and a barn owl, both very handsome and well used to being admired and photographed, being expertly handled by two of the many dedicated volunteer staff members. We duly took the opportunity to take some useful up-close references, and some of us did a little field sketching.

We were then shown around the rest of the site which is situated in the grounds of a beautiful old farm. Twasi Visit to the Secret World Harvest MouseThe rescue centre is the vision of Pauline and Derek Kidner who originally started taking in injured wildlife as a way of diversifying their farm income and Pauline was kind enough to show us into her farmhouse kitchen where she has a little collection of harvest mice which charmed us all. We were also able to meet one of the hedgehog inmates, due for release after treatment, and the beautiful (and very tame) red deer hind in one of the large outdoor enclosures.Twasi Secret World Visit Hedgehog We could not unfortunately see the rescued wildfowl, as they were being kept inside due to the continuation of the official ‘lockdown’ of wild and domestic poultry owing to the recent bird ‘flu outbreak, but we could view badger cubs in their special viewing sett, keeping very quiet in order not to disturb them (not very easy for me at the best of times), and we also visited the fox enclosure where could see the foxes asleep in their den, and we noted that distinctive foxy smell! A volunteer ‘gloved up’ and was able to persuade one of a pair of stunning eagle owls to do a little flying and posing for us.
Twasi Visit to the Secret World Members
After a short break for refreshments, the ever-helpful volunteer ladies brought back the tawny and barn owls. These birds are not able to be released to the wild, and so they act as ambassadors for the refuge, making appearances at events across the country (as indeed they will be at our annual exhibition). We were then able to resume sketching and photographing these patient supermodels.

At the end of a very interesting visit we all made donations (some in the form of tins of animal food), and we left some of our TWASI literature to advertise the exhibition. I am very much looking forward to seeing the owls (and their handlers) at our event!

Tracey-Anne Sitch

Twasi Visit to Chester Zoo May 2017Twasi visit to Chester Zoo May 2017

TWASI Day trip: Kingfisher Hide - April 26th

You all missed a real treat! I was the only member to sign up for the Kingfisher trip and it certainly didn't disappoint.Kingfisher Twasi Visit 2017
I had recently been asked to paint a kingfisher on a feather. I always like to paint from my own reference photos, and in this case I bought some images from an artist reference photographer as my only personal experience of seeing a kingfisher in the wild was a glimpse of a blue flash as it darted up a river!

When the TWASI Kingfisher trip was advertised, I signed up straight away.
As the day came nearer, I found myself feeling nervous, wondering if I would actually see a kingfisher ‘in real life’.

The day came and I drove up to Worcester to meet Vic Sharratt who had organised the day. We met just off the M5 and Vic led the way to the farm. We parked up and walked across some fields - the view was stunning and the sun was shining.

Kingfisher Hide Twasi Visit 2017Vic showed me the way into a purpose built hide which to my surprise had comfy chairs inside! More importantly, a fantastic view of a perch where local Kingfishers came to feed. I met 2 photographers inside who had been watching all morning (I’d booked an afternoon session 1-5pm) - they told me the kingfisher had been coming to the perch regularly every hour...so it was a case of setting up my camera and waiting patiently in the hope the kingfisher would continue to visit.Kingfisher Visit Twasi 2017

I think I waited the best part of an hour, all the time hoping to see some ‘blue’. The more time went by, the more convinced I was that he’d filled up on fish in the morning and wasn’t hungry any more...until he suddenly appeared!

Clicking cameras didn’t phaze him - he sat on the perch studying the fish below and when he was ready he dived down. I think he ‘missed’ a couple of times, so we saw several dives. Eventually, he caught a fish and we watched the ‘bash, flip, swallow’ routine that I’ve only ever seen on the TV. Then, in a flash of blue, he was gone. This colourful little bird returned to the perch and dived for fish about half a dozen times during the afternoon - it was such a privilege to see for myself.

During the afternoon, the 2 photographers from the morning left the hide and another photographer came in with an enormous camera/lens combination. His photos were amazing and I had a serious case of ‘lens-envy’! I have a decent SLR camera but I only have a 300mm lens which although adequate for photos for me to use as reference for my paintings, I would definitely recommend using a 500mm + lens if possible to get the best quality images.

Owl Hide Kingfisher Twasi Visit 2017As the afternoon turned to evening, it was time to head back to the cars and on the way, we decided to check out the ‘little owl hide’. We sat and waited for quite a while and only saw crows!

A fox appeared in the field and was mobbed by crows and rooks. That was exciting to watch but was too distant for my lens to capture well. An unexpected treat as we sat waiting was hearing a Cuckoo! At this point, the other chap was contemplating leaving but I was determined to make the most of my visit and decided to wait a bit longer...Bingo! A little owl appeared on the post in front of us!!!!! I was so excited (those who know me know how much I love my owls/birds of prey).

This little owl sat and looked towards us (we were hidden behind camouflage material but I know he knew we were there.) Little Owl Kingfisher Twasi Visit 2017We both snapped away to capture as many pics as we could while he stood his ground against the Jackdaws and crows and after a couple of minutes he flew back into his tree.
That made our day - well worth the wait!

If you’re interested, contact Vic Sharratt or look up ‘Nature Photography Hides’ on Facebook.

By Mandi Baykaa-Murray


On a lovely sunny spring-like day in March, a small group of us visited Coombe Country Park near Coventry.Twasi Coombe Country Park Visit
As it was also Mother’s Day, we shared the park with many other visitors, but luckily, most of them did not venture out to the wilder areas where we were going.

The sunshine had brought out the early flowers such as celandines, and also several Brimstone butterflies, and we heard the chiff-chaff up in the trees celebrating its return to Britain.Twasi Visit to Coombe Country Park Heron

We walked through the woods and around the lake to the remote heronry, and were pleased to see some herons coming and going to their nests up in the trees. Presumably they were already feeding youngsters, though they weren’t visible.

Surprisingly, many of the usual nests in the well-established heronry had been taken over by cormorants, so there were fewer herons to see than usual.

Twasi Visit to Coombe Country Park HOn the way round the lake, we saw several mute swans, two pairs having divided the space up between themselves.
Two of the males (cobs) were doing a territorial display, circling around and rushing through the water with their heads held low back over their bodies, but neither got very close to their rival.
Further on we saw one of the females (pen), which had built a large nest, and was probably incubating eggs.
There were a number of other water birds, including grebe, coot, moorhen and greylag geese.
It was a lovely walk round in the sunshine, and a pleasant start to the TWASI year’s programme.

Sarais Crawshaw