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Worth the Arctic conditions

Braving the ice and bitter wind for this excursion offered up more than just a rewarding painting as our largest bird of prey sought its breakfast metres in front of me.

It isn't everyday that we go much below zero degrees in the south, but the high pressure system for this day offered up a pleasant -6°C. Eager to visit a spot earmarked on Pulborough Brooks in West Sussex, I hoped the conditions would be emphasised in this exposed site with opportunities for frozen grasses and riverbanks coated in ice and frost.

Icy views across the waterways of the Brooks and River Arun before sun rise

Working my way across frozen land and dramatic ice formations over the many conduits of the marshy area, I set up my easel by the banks of the River Arun to capture the remarkable rural scene.

The chosen spot over the River Arun

At this point my fingers were feeling the bite of the conditions despite my glove and mitt combo, but the quiet beauty of the idyllic scene kept me glued to the canvas. It was just as I was beginning to block in colour that the ducks around the corner of the reeds on the right hand side began to quack worriedly. Keeping still just in case they had suddenly become unsettled by my presence, and not wishing to see them leave the wonderful spot they had, I caught sight of a large dark shape to the right.

Swooping down over the ducks in a graceful movement, a magnificent bird of prey snatched a fish out of the water just in front of the left hand tree. Quickly donning my binoculars I could see the fish dangling from the huge talons of this bird, and, the unmistakeable white tale of the White-tailed Eagle. Also known as the sea eagle or fish eagle (aptly named in this case), this incredible bird is the largest bird of prey in the United Kingdom and around only 150 breeding pairs are present. I met a twitcher en route to the car who also had the good fortune of sighting the eagle and noted the rarity of spotting this magnificent bird outside of Scotland, a truly special experience.

The White-tailed Eagle, Britains largest bird of prey, soars above me after catching a fish

Soon after the catch it was time to wrap up and complete the painting back at home where I could once again feel my fingers and enjoy a warm brew. The final in situ shot is shown below with the finished painting, complete with the raft of ducks who alerted me to the eagle's spectacular hunt.

Time to pack up, warm up and add the finishing touches at home


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