Coquetdale Wildlife Group

The Coquetdale Wildlife Group were treated to a wonderful illustrated talk by John Steele.

John’s been holidaying in Scotland once or twice annually for the last 30 years and he has used working sketch books to capture special moments, animals and creature of interest that he would like to remember and possibly revisit in the form of a finished painting.

These sketches are often spread over two pages and on another page there may be different images, which can be totally unrelated to one another.

He always takes his sketchbooks and watercolour paints with him wherever he travels. He prefers the coast to the mountains and has travelled much of the west coast of Scotland and visited most of the Islands including Colonsay and Mull.

John’s talk was filled with amazing insight into the places he frequents.

In Mull, the sea eagle breeding programme has been very successful which has led to a large influx of interested tourists.

John really enjoys revisiting the Shetlands and Orkneys. One of the group’s favourite sketches was of a sheep on Shetland with its coat being blown by gusts of wind.

However, John touched on the poignant fact that the wildlife is being adversely affected by changes to the ecosystem of the Islands. For example, the kittiwakes, guillemots and puffins’ numbers are decreasing due to the fact that the sea temperature has risen by one to two degrees, which is killing off the plankton on which they feed.

John was keen to convey to his audience how close to home some of the remarkable sights and animals that he had sketched are. In particular, he recommended visiting St Abbs to see the breeding seals in November and the many islands in the Firth of Forth, such as Bass Rock.

As always, John proved a very animated, interesting and knowledgeable speaker. His beautiful and intricate sketches offered a rare insight into his perception of the natural world.