Monday, 9 September 2013

Habitat / Kingfisher Sculpture

The first inspiration for a habitat sculpture was at Sharpham on the banks of the river Dart where we were building boardwalks with their own larch trees. 

The low price they were offered for a coupe of trees was shocking as was the pleasure cruise commentary we could hear as the boats navigated down the windy river from Totnes to the sea. I designed a sculpture made in the woods connected to a mythical story to be told on the boats timed to reach a crash-end-oh when the boat reached a point where three trees on the hill lined up to present the form of a rising egret. 

This has yet to be made and indeed on a recent visit I notice the trees first envisaged have been felled. However we did get the opportunity to try the idea on a smaller scale during our work on the Life and Cycle Trail. We wanted to highlight some habitat improvement work on Coney Gut, a small stream which had been straightened and was being managed in an un sustainable way.

Keith Thomas, a blacksmith with an artistic eye for birds in motion formed the three elements by squashing pipe and Ben Short helped with the installation.

The habitat improvement involved getting agreement from the Environment Agency to manage the stream in a better way clearing weed by hand with trainee rangers instead of scraping it into a clean ditch with a digger on a regular basis. We also used a granite block to dam it creating a larger pool better for small fish and the kingfisher that fishes this stretch.

A granit block off cut salvaged from a Scottish stone masons yard. The swooping curve having been cut with a huge abrasive band machine.

Coir rolls incorporating seeds being installed to quickly establish natural vegetation along the banks which could be vulnerable during flood events.

A stretch of deeper water which adds diversity and provides a fishing point for the Kingfishers.

I was delighted to be able to watch it fish in the pool shortly after construction successfully catching and eating fish from the sculpture itself. The cycle path we were improving  passes within 3m of the pool and is popular with local bird watchers as well as many using the path to get to work and school.

Three things falling into alignment at a given spot seems to focus attention and if the objects are curious and abstract alone it just seems to add to the effect. I would now like to build on this by using sound triggered at this focus point and making it a point to access interactive digital media for smart phones. This could then be featured off site attracting a wider range of visitors to a natural feature of distinctive habitat to highlight a species or conservation cause.

The three elements line up as you reach the kingfishers spot and the sculpture appears.

Other Kingfisher interpretation sculptures already worked up include an underwater light 'flash'. A sensor fires a series of LED lights starting with orange then blue punctuated with the Beep Beep roadrunner call often made by the kingfisher as it streaks by.

Incorporating sculpture into handrail helps make the separate elements even more abstract when not lining up.

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