A kingfisher perched on a frosted branch, hares warming in the weak winter sun and geese taking flight over a frozen pond: just some of the winter wildlife scenes which will be on show in artist Robert E Fuller's latest exhibition at his gallery in Thixendale from Saturday (November 4).

The wildlife artist's work is designed to celebrate the stark beauty of the countryside in winter. Robert, whose research into animal behaviour is so thorough he often features on television to talk about his findings, spent hours trudging through deep snow drifts in icy blasts to watch animals and birds for this new collection.

“I wanted to celebrate the way winter allows you to see the best of nature," he says. "Although this season is tough for birds and animals, it’s a good time to go out and spot them in the wild since they are more focused on finding food and keeping warm than hiding from you. I get some of my best sightings when the weather is cold.

"On frosty days, the lighting is beautifully soft. As soon as it snows I grab a camera and go out to see what I can find. Over the years, I’ve learned some interesting things about how animals behave in harsh conditions, and each time my observations have inspired new paintings."

One of the most fascinating things he saw was when he followed a group of more than 50 hares across a field of snow and saw them boxing. "I knew that hares box all year round, and not just in spring, but this was the first time I had seen so many," he says. "This experience was so thrilling it inspired a whole collection of paintings of hares in snow."

York Press:

Hares stretching: painting by Robert Fuller

Foxes, with their orange coats, are easier to spot in a winter white-out, Robert says. "Although getting up close is difficult because their hearing is so acute they can pick up the crunch of your footsteps from quite a distance. But they are fascinating to watch. I once spotted a fox hunting on a canal bank thickly encrusted with snow. It crept forward slowly, listening intently with its ears erect. Then, once it had pinpointed its prey under the crust of snow, it leaped high into the air and pounced."

Sure enough, among the pictures on show in Robert's new exhibition is one of a fox poised to pounce into a glittering snow drift. There's also a painting of red squirrel perched on a frosted branch, its russet-red fur glowing against the sparkle of ice - and many more.

York Press:

A fox mousing: painting by Robert Fuller

The exhibition includes video screens relaying live images from cameras hidden in the artist’s garden so that visitors can see animals and birds as they take refuge from the worst of the weather. There will also be video clips from the artist’s research into how animals cope in harsh weather.

  • Wildlife in Winter: An Artist’s Perspective runs at the Robert Fuller Gallery, Fotherdale Farm, Thixendale, from November 4th-26th.

Robert will be holding a talk and slideshow at the gallery at 7.30pm on November 18 about how his wildlife observations inform his paintings. Throughout the exhibition there will also be guided birdwatching walks, including trips to see red kites at a winter roost, and falconry events.

For more information visit robertefuller.com


There are five species of owl living in mainland Britain, says Robert Fuller. "But at this time of year you could be forgiven for thinking there is only one. Tawny owls make more noise than the other four species put together during October and November."

So why is that? There's a very simple reason, Robert says. "All this extra shrieking, hooting and ‘kee-wick’- ing is down to one thing: territory. Young birds are reaching maturity and looking for new homes while older birds are fighting to hold on to their patch."

York Press:

Tawny owls, photographed by Robert Fuller

Ordinarily, adult tawny owls are devoted parents. They spend much of the summer months rearing, feeding and nurturing. This care even continues for weeks after the young have fledged, Robert says. "But the devotion turns to aggression and the adult birds round on their once-beloved young with sudden malice. They shriek at them, fly at them and chase them out of their territory. I have seen one juvenile so badly battered he had cuts from his face to his feet.

"And, as if this isn’t enough, the young owls are then pushed from one owl’s domain to another during their search for a place to set up home. Even when these young male owls hoot to try and attract a mate, they end up alerting adult owls to their presence and get short shrift for daring to encroach on established territory."

So active are tawny owls at this time of year that for Robert it is a real marker of the changing seasons. "I like to think it's the hoot of a tawny owl that kicks off my winter wildlife season," he says.