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Easter Sunday Wanderings / Frogs + Mayapples

A post sharing my notes and photos from a cold, wet walk on Easter Sunday. I was still able to find interesting life, wait till you see the video clip with Tadpole eggs! Please click images to see them larger or be taken to see them as cards you can zoom in on, use the BACK button to return.

Easter Sunday 2011

Below is a picture of what it looked like when I was sitting on a pile of dead logs, my rubber boots deep in water, and trying not to drop anything! My hands were cold, as you could guess from my trusty wool flip back mittens. This is just a small, quick sketch done with watercolor crayons.

Watercolor crayons, brush and journal on my lap above the water.

Then I video taped the little tadpoles floating in the water here in front of the pond, have a look!

By the time I got to Oak Lane, where the wild Mayapples grow, I was tired and cold.

A sea of green umbrellas, like little people waiting in the woods!

I was excited to see the Mayapples though, they always surprise me as they don’t grow anywhere else on my land. They look like a sea of green umbrellas held by miniature people standing in the woods, maybe they’re fairies?

Mayapples unfurl like soft umbrellas

Mayapples softly unfolding.

Mayapple unopened yet, such a tender green with hints of reddish tints.

Below just a few small sketches done while standing and looking down at them. I had to give up soon though, my back was seizing up saying enough!

Mayapples + Green Frogs

I was excited to find a Green Frog in the pasture on my way back, he was moving slow because it was so cold. I was actually able to snatch him up after he dove under water! heehee…I felt like a little kid!

Meet my new friend, Mr. Green Frog

Always gentle with creatures I touch, I was careful how I held him, and with experienced deftness (;-) ) whipped out my tiny camera and got some close up shots of him.

Mr. Green Frog poses for his 3/4 profile shot!

Don’t worry, I didn’t entertain thoughts of kissing him! I already found my prince! But I do think Mr. Green Frog was trying to look handsome.

Green Frog in the grass

Then he was gently returned to the grass and as many frogs will do, just sat there while I continued to snap pictures and also do the small watercolor sketch. They believe themselves to be invisible while not moving. Here’s a tip from me, when photographing a frog, or any critter, take some shots right away in case they jump away. Then after you have a few, try moving your position a bit or as I sometimes do, move some grasses that might be in the way. With this green guy, I was actually able to gently remove grasses in front of his face, then from his body as he sat frozen, watching me. It was a cold day so maybe he was extra sluggish. Then he jumped away into the water and I took more shots.

I really do like frogs and feel a bit guilty for not doing a nice little painting for you to see, BUT I was really cold and wet by the time I met Mr. Green Frog and couldn’t wait to get home for a hot bath. I’d like to do some drawings from my photos though, when I do you’ll be first to know!

I hope you enjoyed coming on my walk with me, it was kind of lonely until I met the tadpoles and then the frog. I guess you’re always surrounded by friends if you stop to meet them!

Here’s some links to fun things in my shop with “Mr. Green Frog” on them:

Green Frog postcard postcard
Green Frog postcard by MaryMcandrew
Shop for another postcard design from Zazzle

“A Glorious Spring Morning” 4-23-10

Come walk with me on my Spring morning hike at Long Lane Farm!

Song Sparrow

Song Sparrow

Below is the first page in my small field sketchbook from today, I’ll type what it says below in case my handwriting is hard to read! (Click the photos for larger view, drawings are already enlarged.)

"A Glorious Morning!" 4-23-2010 pg 1

"A Glorious Morning!" 4-23-2010 pg 1

“A glorious morning! Frost on the ground and now at 9am it’s just wet in the sun, sparkles on the grass everywhere. The House Sparrows are chattering at the barn and a Song Sparrow has staked his claim to the back corner of the yard. Ginger waits in Fox Lane for me. Tree Swallows diving at each other near the nest box, constant twittering, bubbling, chatter. “

Tree Swallow

Tree Swallow

I saw some great birds today, the Tree Swallows are a joy to watch!  They swoop and turn and I’ve watched them play a game by snatching up chicken feathers from the ground while in flight, then carrying it up high they drop it and another bird will catch it out of the air! I can’t get over the glossy green blue of their feathers.

me sketching

me sketching

Here’s a picture of me sketching in the lane, wearing my tall mud boots (Wellies), winter coat, bag for sketch supplies and my camera with the long lens. I like to cross the strap diagonally from my shoulder as it takes pressure off my neck and back better.

"Budding Tree" 4-23-2010 pg 2

"Budding Tree" 4-23-2010 pg 2

“Song Sparrow over and over, cardinal in the treeline and a crow, gurgling of the Red Winged Blackbird and Tree Sparrows. Such a sound! Now a Yellow Shafted Flicker…off up the field somewhere. I hear a Field Sparrow now at the maze.”

The trees are just starting to bud, looking up at them in the sunlight they looked like little gems glittering on the tips of branches.



I was so happy to see a pair of Bluebirds have chosen one of the houses in the field, the Tree Sparrows have claimed the other one.

"Secret Circle Lane" 4-23-2010 pg 3

"Secret Circle Lane" 4-23-2010 pg 3

I had fun discovering tadpoles, snails and a tiny red mite on “Secret Circle Lane”, all in the freezing cold water flooding the lane.

Water Mite

Water Mite

As I wrote in my sketchbook, I was finally able to scoop up a ‘red dot’ floating in the water. Later I was able to study the tiny red dot from the photos I took and found out it’s a Water Mite. Before it got any ideas of how tasty my finger would be I released it back into the water!  I’d like to know what they do live on or how they live.

Here’s a short video clip I shot while standing over the flooded lane (now promise you won’t laugh at me!) :

"The Wet Woods" 4-23-2010

"The Wet Woods" 4-23-2010

I walked into the wet woods and standing in 4″ of water I did this tiny watercolor sketch of the dead tree. What fascinated me the most was how the shadows and sunlight dappled on the ground and tree branches

"Snail Study" 4-23-2010

"Snail Study" 4-23-2010

Once home I looked at my photos on the computer screen and did this little watercolor study of a snail and two tadpoles. I haven’t identified the snail yet, but it was amazing to see when it was floating in the water it wriggled until it looked like it was out of it’s shell. It was a queer blue color, I never saw one like it.

Go here to find note cards and gifts of this Snail and Tadpoles painting.

"Water Mite + Snail Study" 4-23-2010

"Water Mite + Snail Study" 4-23-2010

The shell of the snail was not flashy or patterned boldly but I think it was beautiful in it’s own subtle way. It looked almost of a gunmetal grey with a cream background.

“Swallow Hollow” Iroqouis Wildlife Refuge 8-12-08

What a day I had at the Swallow Hollow nature trail, part of the Iroqouis Wildlife Preserve. The above photo was just one of the many beautiful scenes I saw that day; the trail follows the water in a nice loop, sometimes going through woods, mostly near the marsh or some natural looking water canals. Much of the trail is a boardwalk to keep you up from the very wet ground, especially after such a rainy summer!

This is a picture of my new sketchbook cover, it’s a sketchbook that I designed and made myself with a long format. I thought it’d be fun to put some pictures of my paintings on the cover, to show people I meet some of my work. I can add or take pages from the sketchbook as I want to.

This is the first page of my sketchbook from my day out. I stopped at a nice area in the Tonawanda Wildlife Management area, Elizabeth Hilldurger Estate project. I was so happy to see two Great Egrets (or in my old Peterson guide American Egret) flying around. The one roosted in a tree far away, I tried to do some little sketches by looking through my binoculars.
The watercolor of the water scene I did using my little watercolor ‘altoids’ field kit and just a water-brush. It’s pretty simple looking but I did it quickly while standing up.

This is me pausing to sketch along the boardwalk. You can see I have my art kit bag on my waist and a backpack with other supplies on my back. Almost all of what I draw, I draw while I’m standing and looking at things.
Along the way on my walks I usually meet some nice people who are curious about what I’m doing. I met a couple walking their dogs, Papillions…Pudgie is the puppy furiously digging the hole in the back…Max is the one gazing up at his owner. Maybe this is the kind of dog I should get to keep me company in the house? I’ve seen them before and thought about it. Their owner told me Papillion means butterfly in french….well at least it’s their names meaning, I guess because of how they look with their ears perked.

Next is another page from my sketchbook, click it to see it closer. I met a little Leopard frog along the way and did quick little sketches of him, then painted it at home using metallic watercolor paints. He really had a metallic look to his skin, so beautiful! At the end of this post you’ll see a little video clip of him!

I saw many Harvestman spiders in the woods and did a sketch of one on a dying milkweed leaf. I also took photos so when I got home I was able to paint it with watercolors. I took step by step photos of the painting, perhaps I’ll get to post it separately later.
I did some reading about Harvestmen Spiders, which are only distantly related to spiders, they are not venomous, lack fangs and do not bite. They use their legs to walk, breath, smell and capture prey! There are 5,000 species, about 235 known in North America, most are drab brown or grey, but a few are rusty red, mottled spots or have a stripe down their back. Now that I know that, I know I was lucky to see a rusty red one, and the one I painted had a mottled kind of dark stripe on it. One more interesting detail to keep my eyes open for while hiking! I hope you take a closer look next time you meet one.

This next page shows a light pencil sketch I did of the path, I also took some photos so later I could color it in. I haven’t gotten that far yet! The mushrooms at the bottom of the page I went specifically to Swallow Hollow to try to find again and paint, I saw them there just a week before. I could use some help indentifying them if anyone has expertise in this area?? I have become fascinated with mushrooms and fungi…when you walk in the woods, just take a close look at the ground or on trees or dead logs, you’ll be surprised at what you might discover! I’ve seen gorgeous yellow or orange mushrooms that I didn’t expect. The picture of the orange mushroom I could use help identifying too.

I set up my stool in the woods and I painted this study from life. It was difficult because the lighting kept changing, first direct, raking light, then very dark shadows. As I painted a Harvestmen Spider crawled across my sketchbook, pausing over my painting to ‘taste’ the wet paint! Before I could get my camera, he crawled off down my leg….he being a spider that he was I helped him hurry off me! I don’t mind them too much, but don’t want them lingering. At least I can say, knowing they are harmless helps me not to react like Little Miss Muffet! Remember her story?

This is the last page from my outing…while I was in the field I sketched the tiny mushrooms in pencil…kneeling in the pine needles to gain a closer look. They’re done at life size. Then while walking later I went over the lines with a sepia colored Micron Permanent ink pen. Later at home I printed out the photos I took of them and added the watercolor. I have found that when I do something in graphite pencil in the field, I get disappointed at how it will smear or fade with all the use the sketchbook gets, so I like to use my micron pens a lot to draw.

The while fungus is fascinating…they are hard to notice…you might just step right past them, but you have to be aware of everything and look everywhere when you walk. These are also drawn at life size, aproximately 2″ tall and coming up like delicate white filaments from the forest floor. A mystery to me, if anyone can tell us please do.

The butterfly was a type I saw all day, following me it seemed, to see what I was doing in their woods? I sketched it in the field on a leaf, but later painted it from a photo. Can anyone help me with identifying it?

I added a short video clip of my meeting with the Leopard Frog along a sunny path, check it out!

“Common Toad” 7-8-08

While walking in the woods at Stiglmeier Park in Cheektowaga, NY, I happened upon a toad…almost stepped on the little guy (girl?) because it blended in so well with the dead leaves on the woodland floor. I took pictures, usually very hard to capture a frog or toad because the just don’t sit still while you focus etc….they have other ideas! Above is a little tiny sketch I did after I caught a few pictures, noting the light stripe and other markings which helped me identify him later. There are so many toads and frogs for me to learn!
Later I sat late at night and drew this sketch above, from a photo with a micron permanent ink pen. You can see, I didn’t start with pencil drawing, I just drew in a sketchy manner to block in his shape. Sometimes I like the looseness of that look, some pen lines showing at the end of the drawing. You can also hide unwanted lines by adding the dark lines for background.
Here I added a light wash in watercolor of yellow ochre + sepia, just a touch. I was careful to leave the light stripe and light areas of his body, and add more wash layers to the darker areas.
Here you can see, I added green by mixing olive green + a touch of sepia to dull it. The brown spots are sepia and permanent rose. The background is prussian blue + ultramarine blue + black. To make his bumps or warts stand out a bit, I tried to use the tip of a very small pointed brush to outline them a little with the brown. Then some spots were just painted with the watercolor, which made a softer looking wart than one that was drawn with ink. When I was finished I felt I should have made his mouth or nose, stick a out just a little more, it looks a bit short…but it’s done.
These are pictures I took of the little guy…um…girl? in the woods. Hope you enjoyed looking at my little sketch and the pictures. More on that walk later….

“Allegany Nature Pilgrimage” (frogs, salamanders, and snakes) 5-31-08

A quick post here, to show you some more pictures from my Allegany weekend. Actually all these pictures are from the all day hike I went on led by Tim Baird, it’s his hands holding the slimy salamander and the snake. We were walking right along and this little guy almost got stepped on in the dirt road, so well he blended in with the leaves and dirt! It’s a Wood Frog, I had to really move quick to catch some pictures of him! What I love is his ‘robbers’ mask and the way the stripes on his legs line up when he’s crouched, it breaks up his body form so he blends into the ground better. It sure works! I’ll definitely be doing a painting or drawing of him.

I’m pretty sure this is an Eastern Newt, the adult stage of a Red Eft, the common little red salamander you see in the moist woods. They are a very important part of the food chain in the forest and I think protected, at least in some states. I think everyone should be aware of them and try to keep them from harm to help keep their numbers up.
Here Tim is holding a tiny Ring Necked Snake, it looked like a bit of wire laying on the road, he’s got good eyes! The belly of this snake was a pale yellow. I looked it up in my “Audubon’s Familiar Reptiles + Amphibians of North America”, it says that it grows 10-30″ long and can have a yellow, cream or orange neck ring and a yellow to red belly. I’d love to see a full grown one. It’s a docile snake that will curl and show it’s belly when frightened, also emitting a foul musk.
Well, only one more entry to go about my Allegany weekend, until then I hope you’re enjoying the pictures! I did a few little paintings yesterday and today and will put them up soon.

“Pet Shop Visit” March 3, 2008

Today I found myself at the mall, not usually where I find myself but I needed a haircut. So I decied to visit the pet shop because the last time I was there one of the employees had a gorgeous green boa snake wrapped around himself. I would love to paint it, but I learned he’s no longer there, along with the snake! I’ll have to go searching it seems for snakes. I remember when I was a zookeeper sometimes I’d get to walk around with a huge but tame boa constrictor wrapped around my waist. This was so people could touch it and I would talk to them about the boa. It was really cool.
So while I was there I pulled out my sketchpad and did some small drawings. Even with a nagging headache it gave me the idea that this would be fun on a day when I’m more in the mood! I thought it would be good to share with you all, it’s a great place to see lots of animals up close for free. The goldfish were a kick, their eyes are soooo weird, like blobs or half deflated balloons. The frog I drew at life size, it was so tiny! I did the sketches in pencil then at home I used a simple writing pen that when it is wet, will run. So I was able to make it like a wash.