AFC Conservation Artist of the Month for March, 2016
Russ Heselden is an artist, naturalist and teacher. He lives in Norfolk, UK, and has been a birder for many years. His first birding journal dates back to when he was seven. "I have kept up the journal habit ever since then, though my sketchbooks and diaries now also feature all manner of wildlife as well as people and places. My paintings are very much rooted in field observation; where possible I like to complete as much of a painting as I can while the subject is still in view, usually starting with a pencil sketch directly onto gessoed board and then working rapidly with acrylics or oils. Often the work will be finished off with oils on the same day at home. Although I mainly paint birds, I am increasing drawn to large mammals seen on foreign trips and butterflies and dragonflies encountered on my local patch. As well as being a signatory member of AFC I am a friend of the Society of Wildlife Artists (SWLA) and have exhibited with them at the Mall Galleries in London. I am represented by the BIRDscapes Gallery near Holt in Norfolk."
As a birder Russ is an active member of the British Trust for Ornithology. As well as gathering data for their Breeding Bird Survey every spring for the last 20 years he has carried out additional surveys for wintering plovers, woodcock, nightingales, tawny owls, peregrine falcons, woodland birds and beached seabirds. He has also spent a lot of time over the years helping with species counts at various bird observatories in the UK and Ireland, as well as a spell as a volunteer warden at Titchwell bird reserve in Norfolk. He is a member of Norfolk Wildlife Trust, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and Butterfly Conservation.
As a teacher he organises major conservation-based expeditions every two years. Destinations so far have included Iceland (three expeditions), the French Alps, Morocco, the Peruvian Amazon. South Africa and Sulawesi (Indonesia). He is currently planning an expedition to Madagascar. Many of these trips have been in collaboration with Operation Wallacea, and the 30-40 girls he takes each time gather data which is used directly for habitat conservation and species preservation. During several years spent in Ireland he was the editor of the annual Cork Bird Report, and some of his more recent activities have included making and erecting nest boxes in a local woodland (specifically for Spotted Flycatchers, a red-listed species in the UK), creating a wildflower meadow for bees and butterflies in his home town and running wildlife-sketching workshops to raise money for the Norfolk Wildlife Trust.