The Overwintering Project

It was rather exciting to see that $13,000 had been raised by The Overwintering Project and given to the Australasian Wader Studies Group today. The art project is run by Kate Gorringe-Smith and I would have to admit that I really don’t know just how the money is raised, but I do know that it is going towards a satellite tracking project to tag some of the Oriental Practicoles (aka grasshopper birds or the swallow-plovers) that migrate between Western Australia and Asia. Their sojourn in Australia is rather short – they arrive in December and leave around February.

The other thing that I do know is that the artists in The Overwintering Project submit two original prints of overwintering birds – one for exhibition and the other for sale.

I’d been promising Kate a print for a couple of years – and due to other things, general slackness and a propensity to put things off I didn’t get around to it. But – this year I did. I live up in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, so no migratory birds in my backyard, so John and I drove to Noosa (about 45 mins away) to see what could be seen.

If there is a thorn in Noosa’s side it is too many tourists, but the tourists aren’t the only ones who flock to beach and estuary – the migratory birds do too. It was a hot, blustery December Sunday so amidst the hustle and bustle of Noosa there were two types of flyers – the birds and the kite surfers. I was hoping to see a Bar-tailed Godwit. I’d forgotten my bird book and binoculars, so the council bird identification board and my 83 times camera zoom would suffice. The kite surfers were spectacular – it was very windy and there were plenty of them. All eyes were on the sky until one man had a hard landing in the shallows and was taken away by ambulance. I can only hope he was fine. You could have heard a pin drop on the beach.

Eventually I found my bird – too far out on the sand banks to get a decent photo – but close enough to identify a few Bar-tailed Godwits amongst the seagulls. These valiant birds fly over 10,000 kms non-stop from Alaska to New Zealand, before setting off for Australia. I was intrigued that they shared their habitat with the watersports – and the seagulls – so the theme for my work was set.

First thought – linocut. Second thought – etching. Feathers would be finicky either way! I enjoyed drawing up my work and transferring it to an aluminium plate which was etched with copper sulphate and salt. But I was not happy with the result. It was all my own fault – I’d used a paddle pop stick to remove some of the etch residue instead of my usual feather – and right at the last moment. Scratches everywhere. Now, in some places (like the sand) this was fine – but all those ones in the sky weren’t. For the first time ever I completely remade my plate.

In the end – all worked out fine.

Bar-tailed Godwit, 2020, 30cm x 30cm, etching on Garza Engraving paper.

Well, at least all went well until it was time to send my prints. While cutting some matt board to protect my prints I cut a fair lump out of my index finger with a Stanley knife. It healed a lot better than I expected. COVID-19 had also just appeared in Australia. I’d certainly missed the deadline for the current Overwintering exhibition – but nervously went to the post office and sent my prints to Kate anyway. Who knows when or where the next exhibition will be, but if you are in the vicinity I hope you will go to see ‘my bird’.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. narellerj says:

    What a terrific tale Jennifer. I love your word imagery and your etching. I still have the scar from a Stanley knife cut on my first finger, made more than 40 years ago. …shudder.


  2. jeneurell says:

    Wendy has one too – she reckons her finger jumps out of the way even at the thought of a Stanley knife! It must be an occupational hazard. I was surprised how well mine healed – I don’t even have a scar even though a bit the size of a small fingernail (but not the nail) was cut off. It is a bit tender though. Thanks for the comment.

    Liked by 1 person

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