Sax, the Little Sparrowhawk, Naivasha
The little sparrowhawk (Accipiter minullus)
Sax at the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust.
Sax is a male, with striking russet plumage around his throat and along his flanks, with beautiful barring under his wings and belly. From Shiv Kapila, co-founder of Kenya Bird of Prey Trust, in Naivasha:
"Saxx was found at Elsamere on the ground as a very young chick. She had been blown out of a nest during a storm. I raised her then trained her for a couple of months. She then went up to Simon for further training and hunting. He released her after about 3 or 4 months."
Little Sparrowhawks, while not endangered are not very common in Kenya, and can be hard to spot, preferring lightly wooded areas where their barred markings make for good camouflage.
I was inspired to paint a little sparrowhawk after seeing their larger cousin, the African goshawk at Kenya Bird of Prey Trust and then seeing its close relative and near-lookalike, the shrika on the website of KBOPT’s earlier incarnation, the Naivasha Owl Centre. I fell in love with the smoky grey head, soft gradation from grey to russet bars to white belly, and the doll-like facial features of this fierce little bird.
I trawled the web and came up with an exquisite photo by Luciano Piazza, who kindly granted me permission to use it as reference: https://www.instagram.com/piazza.luciano/
I ultimately used the wrong reference photo for the head (of "Hero" a shrika, from teh Naivasha Owl Centre) and only corrected it mid painting, upon advice from Simon Thompsett, co-founder of the Kenya Bird of Prey Trust. Simon was kind enough to send me photos of Sax, as a juvenile and as an adult.
I loved the pose of Sax in flight and tried (not totally successfully) to capture that motion as if the bird had just alighted on a mossy forest tree limb.
I used the same techniques and approach that I had begun employing in my earlier bird and wildlife paintings, using a bloomed wet on wet background panel, bleeding color gradations wet into wet and using dry brush for extra texture. There is some gouache over-painting, which I typically am religious about avoiding it but this particular painting seemed to need it.