Here’s a post I wrote from July, never too late to enjoy a bit of sun I guess!?
July 16, 2015
Did I tell you how much I LOVE living here in Northumberland? I did? Well I won’t get tired of saying it or doing my sketches out in the field.
Taking a rest, enjoying the day, in my barn boots of course!
I went up in the field near Edlingham Castle, I had it all to myself, no sheep or cows about. It was just that kind of day that I sat on the ground to think, listen to the birds and enjoy just living. Then I just lay back and put my straw hat over my eyes and let time slip by, and it was ok.
Trying to take a selfie with a 35mm isn’t easy!
Laying down amongst the clovers, it made me feel like a kid again. Isn’t that funny? I should go lay in the grass more often! Maybe we could start a national “Lay in the Grass Day”! haha.
Below is a picture of what it looked like, my view from the grasses, the clouds were so beautiful.
My view from the grass, my mouse eye view.
And below, this is what I saw near me, a Ringlet butterfly, a very common sight in the fields here in summer. I’m really enjoying learning the new butterflies and bugs here in the UK.
A Ringlet butterfly on a clover head.
Well I didn’t just lay around all day, after a little while I went down the field, found a spot to stand and did a small painting. Below is a picture of Edlingham Castle, this was what I drew. You can see by the photo, the lighting never stays the same when you’re painting outside. My painting ended with nice blue skies and sunshine!
Edlingham Castle view from field.
Below is the ink drawing I did first. Sometimes I do an ink drawing then paint with my watercolors, especially if I don’t think I’ll have time to paint it. The other way is to do a light pencil sketch and then paint, drawing with ink a little for details on the pencil before or after painting.
Ink drawing of Edlingham castle, over the gate.
Below is my finished watercolor painting, only 4.5″ x 6″. You can see how bright the colors are, the day really was so bright, unlike the photo! The ink drawing makes it look more like an illustration than a painting to me. Kind of like all details are picked out at once, but that’s ok.
Edlingham Castle, Northumberland. Watercolor and Ink 4.5″ x 6″
I hope you enjoyed a little look back into summer! If you don’t want to miss any of my posts, just put your email in the box at the top right column. It’ll send you an email notice and you just respond then you’ll get my posts right in your inbox. Remember though, it’s best to click to come here and read the post, it lays out better on the page (and you can leave comments here).
Hello there! Yes I know it’s now October November, but I’m super busy getting ready for my big move to England so I haven’t had much time for posting! During the summer I did get my sketchbook out and go adventuring into my wild fields but most of what I observed just so happened to be right in my backyard. I have a really big yard and lots of wild stuff just dying to burst through the fence all around! I love it!
(Please click on pictures to view larger)
The back fence barely holds back all the wild plants and flowers in the field!
I took a break and sat in a lawn chair on a very nice day to do this little watercolor sketch. It’s only a couple inches in diameter but I got to play a bit with the watercolors and that was so relaxing.
A collection of wild plants and flowers.
I like studying the little plants and flowers that grow in my grass, above is an old sketch I did when I started to notice them.
I’ve been noticing this tiny purple wild flowering plant (below) for years, but just realized that there are two plants! So now I need help identifying them.
This plant grows very short when in the mowed lawn and still flowers!
Bees just love these tiny flowers.
Look how beautiful these little clusters are!
The three photos above are all the same kind of plant. Notice the leaves are oval/lance shaped and smooth margins? Also the flowers always grow from one spiked cluster at the top of the plant. What gets confusing is where the plant is found in my trimmed lawn, sometimes the spike is cut off and looks very different when flowering. Each individual bloom is really quite beautiful (if you get down on your hands and knees and take a ‘mouse eye view’!)
Below are photos of the second purple wildflower.
Study of purple wildflower #2 I did years ago.
I ‘think’ this might be called “Gill Over the Ground”?? I did this study years ago. I love how the tiny leaves look like round geranium leaves and have wavy margins. When the new leaves are forming they make the nicest little clusters that are really fun to draw! I really need to do more studies of this one.
Here’s a photo of the same plant.
This photo doesn’t show many flowers, but they grow more than this example. Their flowers can grow from sections along the stem and not so much from a spike like the other flowers.
A beautiful Hawkmoth hovers over the flowers as it feeds.
I know it’s a bit hard to see, but there’s a Hawkmoth hovering over the tiny flowers! Below I cropped the photo so you could see it better.
A fascinating Hawkmoth, can you see it’s clear wings?
See how important all these little flowers are in your grass?
With tiny flowers you get tiny butterflies and bugs.
Above is a photo of that same plant in my grass…and what is that tiny little blue flutter I saw?
A gorgeous Spring Azure Butterfly!
Yes, for tiny flowers you have tiny butterflies, tiny bugs and bees. This butterfly was a dainty flitting little thing, until I identified it I was calling it a “Fairy Blue Butterfly”! I kind of like my name better! So it looks pale blue now, but when it opens it’s wings (extremely hard to catch a photo) it’s very blue. So when it flies you see the white and blue of under and upper wings combine to make a light blue! Just like one of those flat paper toys you spin on a string and it makes a new picture or color.
An old style illustration using the wild plants in my yard.
Above is a study I did in my field sketchbook years ago using the tiny plants in my yard. I really like it and will do more studies like this in the future! Do you see the little purple wildflower #2 in this?
A watercolor study of Knapweed (as far as I can tell).
I ventured out on my land here at Long Lane Farm, towards the end of summer. Out in what we call “The Maze” there’s this beautiful wildflower growing; I think it’s Knapweed. I tried very hard to find photos like it online and since all my wildflower books are packed away I didn’t really figure it out definitively.
This is another study of Knapweed, done in bright sunlight.
Yes, this is the same type of plant, just different lighting when I painted it. I worked in full sunlight and tried to paint the colors I saw. I tried to take more note of the leaves so someday I can get help with identifying it. Though I love it I have a feeling it might be one of those dreaded invasive weeds?
Skipper butterfly on sweet white clover.
Above is white clover with a Skipper butterfly on it. All summer I enjoyed the multitude of clovers and Moneywort growing in my grass…weed killer?? God help us, NEVER! I have all kinds of beautiful tiny plants and flowers in my lawn…their leaves are green, they add to the ‘greeness’ of my lawn and also beautiful tiny flowers.
White clover blooming in the warm grass of summer.
And when that clover is blooming I’ve never smelled anything sweeter! You just have to stop and breath in, and realize that subtle sweet smell is the clover talking to you. It’s saying, “Don’t spray me with weed killer!” Seriously though, when I look across the yard and it’s blooming, it’s so beautiful, especially with the sunny yellow Dandelions.
Tiny study of Dandelions in the grass.
Below you see the Skipper on a bending Dandelion head, can you remember the smell of that pretty little flower? And how soft it is when it tickles your nose?
A tiny Skipper butterfly on a soft dandelion head.
A small study I did years ago of Moneywort, not in bloom.
The Moneywort loves it here because it’s damp and when that blooms it’s stems are absolutely covered with bright yellow flowers. It actually gives the grass a yellow hue when you look at it with a ‘painters eye’. I remember when I did this study all the plants were under freezing cold spring melt-water.
White Asters grow in profusion around my fences.
The bees are allover, gathering nectar from the wild flowers and pollinating to their hearts content…do bees have hearts? I’m sure they do! Above is a study I quite like of White Asters. They grow in tiny but profuse branched clusters that form little bushes of white dainty flowers. As the flower grows ‘old’ the center turns from a bright yellow to a dark orange-ish to red-ish looking color. I really love these little dainties and even wrote a story about one little aster, someday to share.
Tiny mushrooms growing in the grass. Watercolor + ink.
One of my favorite things is to discover little mushroom clusters in the grass. I’m terrible at identifying mushrooms and someday I think I’ll concentrate on learning a bit more, but for now I’m content to just sketch and be inspired. When I see mushrooms in the grass and get right down at eye level (or mouse level as I call it!) I think about how they look like little houses for wee folk or critters.
Studies of tiny mushrooms
So we’ll end it here, Fall is almost over now and there are NO flowers in my yard! I have collected lots of photos to use for reference when I do my illustrations in the future. Oh that reminds me! I have one more picture that you’ve seen before but would be fitting here.
“Mouse Family in the Leaves”
It’s great to use the real plants I see in my own backyard when I do my illustrations. I hope to show you more in the future!
Do you have tiny wildflowers growing in your grass? I love reading comments, please add yours below!
This walk was on April 13, 2012, all around on my land checking on how things were doing now that spring is well underway. (please click pictures to see larger)
"Lane with Arched Branches" watercolor and ink
I did this watercolor study while standing in the lane, looking ahead through the natural arch formed by this one bush or small tree. Over the years as I would walk under it, I’d trim off branches hanging down right where you walk, so it formed a natural arch. The branches on top reach straight up like suckers do. I actually did most of it on one day then another time I was out I added the ink.
The first snail I met this year!
Now you can meet some of the critters I met on my walk. The first was a snail sliding along on this piece of dead grass floating in the water. I noticed this before on snails like this, his body color is blueish! Cool.
The second snail I met was this flat shaped coiled one.
Here’s a totally different kind, this one’s shell makes a coil but flat. Can you see the paler band of color at about 9 o’clock? Everything from there to the lip is new growth just from this year!
I took him home and he decided to come out to explore
Well, yes, I did tuck him into a little baggie I had with some of the water from where I found him! I stuck him in my pocket and brought him home to look at closer. I thought I’d have time to sketch him but when I realized I wouldn’t I released him right away.
Looking up to the spreading grandeur of this old oak!
Now here we are in “Oak Lane”, so named because of the very old, very huge oak trees growing there. They were probably planted some 200 years ago by the original owners of this farm as a land boundary. I love looking up at them as they tower over me, and marvel at how many years they’ve been looking down at people before me even. There are so many critters living in, on and under them!
Way up high this squirrel's tail was hanging out of it's hole.
When you’re out walking, if you keep your eyes open and maybe more importantly, stop sometimes and just stand still to listen and look, you may be surprised at what you see. As I was admiring my oaks and listening to birds I caught sight of something way, way up high, moving. It was just a stirring but it caught my eye; turns out it was a Grey Squirrels tail left hanging outside his/her hole! How funny it was, just blowing around in the wind like a flag put out on a porch. I think it was sleeping!
This is the first butterfly of the year for me, the Mourning Cloak
Then all of a sudden in a flutter, a Mourning Cloak butterfly appeared and landed not far from me. It was sticking to the open lane where the sun was. Everytime I got too close it flew off but I was patient and followed it along, and the last shots I got were the best because I think, it was tired and didn’t want to fly as much. After that I left it alone, thank goodness for digital zoom!
I hope you enjoyed this little walk and my watercolor study. Stay tuned because I have some more posts in the works! And as always please share my blog with friends and visit my Shop at Zazzle where you’ll find TONS of my nature photos and artwork on all kinds of products.
I headed out to the back fields today, before the day got too hot. As I picked up my straw hat and plopped it on my head Ginger got all excited, her eyes riveted to my every move. Her whole body tensed and ready to run out the door, as she knows this means we’re going out. Now…when I have my sketch bag in hand and pick up my camera and sling it over my shoulder she knows we’re in for it! The ‘Big Walk’ hahaha…well it means we’re leaving the yard and going out to the ‘wilds’ of the fields and lanes. Yes, if I was a dog I’d be acting just like her!
Ginger waits expectantly!
As I walked I was VERY mindful of watching out for the huge yellow garden spiders that I discovered in my overgrown field, I didn’t want to walk through one of their webs! I’ll show you pictures in another post! Every step I took about three grasshoppers or more would fly up and over the grass for a short bit then land again. As I studied them I laughed to see when they landed, many times they did a sort of “moonwalk” backwards down the stalk they were clinging to.
Red Legged Grasshopper I think
If you stop to study them close, using the zoom lens on a camera is a great way, you’ll notice how many different varieties there are. I am guessing some of the many types may just be different ages of the same grasshopper, or males and females, all were really interesting.
Fat Yellow Grasshopper
Most had some kind of interesting pattern and colors that I’d like to do some studies of someday. First I need to start identifying them better, my field guide to insects is woefully lacking in species of many insects, grasshoppers included.
Nat. Wildlife Fed. Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America
Though it’s not a bad all round guide to start with, I find now I need much more species to choose from.
Long Lane Farm in August - watercolor
Well as I got out into the field a ways, I paused and looked back and this is what I saw. The Purple Loosestrife was blooming, clouds billowing, wildflowers dotting the field. I did this small watercolor using one waterbrush and my pan of colors, while standing in some very hot sun. It was really hard to find any shade and it made me a little ‘snow blind’ looking at my page.
A tiny Eastern Tailed-Blue butterfly
After that Ginger and I made for the lane for a bit more shade. I’ve been noticing this tiny butterfly now sometimes when I walk on the lane. It first caught my attention flitting around the grasses and I thought it was one of those tiny white moths I always see. (It’s only as big as the end of my thumb!) There was something about it though, it seemed to have a bluish look too. So I followed it with my eyes to see where it landed then zoomed in with my camera and there you go! Ahha! A butterfly. Just one of my little discoveries this summer.
He shows a peek of blue wing
They don’t give up much, this tiny, tiny butterfly hardly ever opens it’s wings to show off it’s gorgeous blue!
Hummingbird Moth feeding on Teasel
I couldn’t resist slipping this picture in to share. I have a great big area behind my barn that’s overgrown now with Teasel. I found the Monarch and Viceroy butterflies, and to my delight Hummingbird moths, loved feeding on them. I would encourage everyone to grow some for them to feed on and for their beauty of form.
Teasel drawn with permanent pen
I love drawing Teasel and long into winter you can enjoy their elegant forms. This is a drawing I did years ago in the fall, (sorry I don’t have it scanned large enough to enlarge much) can you see how much fun you could have looking at it’s bristly but graceful form?
I hope you enjoyed our little walk on Long Lane Farm. I always see or find something new when I stop and look for awhile. I want to point out that I have been adding great links for identifying things on my “Nature Links” page, please have a look. I use these links often when I need to identify bugs or blooms. I’m adding links all the time so everyone can use it, please let me know if you have a favorite you want to share!
Below are a few note cards I created in my shop from my sketches or photos, I hope you enjoy them!
(I wrote this at the very end of May and wanted to share it with you before it gets too late!)
I took a walk out through the fields today to “Aspen Hall”, just for a bit of exercise and to enjoy the sun. Along the way I discovered some beautiful butterflies, though it’s tiny, the “Pearl Crescent” was so pretty when you look at it on zoom!
A beautiful little butterfly called the Pearl Crescent
When we got to Aspen Hall, I did a very quick sketch using my watercolors and waterbrush. I say quick because the mosquitoes were finding us fast! The picture below shows how I held my palette as I worked.
This is how I held my palette while I stood and painted.
You can see the last post I did on Carpenter Bees there to the left. I also always make a little pen holder with clear tape on my sketch book.
This is the water brush I used to do the whole painting, a big flat.
Here’s a picture showing the big flat waterbrush I used to do the entire painting. The flat was great for making the marks on the trees and I used the corner when I wanted to make small marks. (If you click this pic you’ll see a really cool note card I created where you can put your own text on the palette!)
Painting and notes done while standing in "Aspen Hall", watercolor.
This is the page I created with my notes and watercolor sketch. Click it to read my notes, the black flies were terrible, biting me and being pests! It was hard to paint, but I’m happy with the little watercolor sketch. Standing still is great for seeing and hearing birds, they were all around me.
Ginger gives me a toothy smile and says, "Hurry up already!"
And there’s Ginger, my faithful Aussie! She’s just looking at me saying, “Are you done yet?” 🙂
A footprint in the mud from ?
Here’s a cool footprint I spotted in the mud in “The Maze”, another area on my land. I have to look it up, but I’m thinking Opossum? Skunk?
Another Leopard Frog friend!
Could I take a walk on Long Lane Farm and NOT see a frog? I don’t think so! This is one of the most popular kinds here, the Leopard Frog. Isn’t he handsome? (oh it could be a female…can a frog be pretty?) I just love the spring greens, olive greens and bronze of their skin; in the sun it really is metallic!
A female Baltimore Oriole looking for food in the bushes.
A great capture, photos of a female Baltimore Oriole searching for seeds on this wild bush in my field.
Another shot of her as she searched for food.
It’s interesting to observe ‘garden’ birds further afield than your backyard. Seeing her feeding on native bushes, bugs, seeds….whatever she was eating she was very busy doing it.
A collection of leaves I picked while sitting in one spot.
After painting I sat for a few moments in Aspen Hall, I looked around me at all the green plants. It didn’t look like anything interesting to paint or draw, but, if I had students with me I’d challenge them to find as many different leaf shapes as they could to draw. I picked one of each just within my own reach and look how many I found! It would be nice to do as a lesson, ignoring color and talking about shape, and some botanical terminology.
I hope you enjoyed this (short) walk today! Wait till you see the next post, a new moth discovery for me!
BTW here’s a new page I created called “My Photography Equipment” to show what cameras I use when I go out walking and exploring, I love ’em!
I was creating note cards from my butterfly photos and noticed this one, though beautiful, has a torn wing. I thought about how so many of us have some kind of physical difficulty, or imperfection, but just go on with our lives. It inspired me to write a small poem that appears on the inside of this inspirational card.
Please click on the title above to see the glossy note card in my shop. If you click on my name it’ll take you to my Zazzle Shop where I have many note cards for sale featuring my photographs and paintings of nature and landscapes. The poem is below.
We Are None of Us Perfect
We are none of us perfect,
From the outside perhaps,
Torn and tattered.
Parts not working.
But on the inside
Who knows us better
Or those who love us?
We are all bright shining
Lights of love and beauty!
(c) Mary McAndrew 2-15-2010
(The butterfly is a Red Admiral, I took it while in a garden in England.)
Have you ever gone for a walk on a beautiful day, listening to all the wonderful birds singing around you, and there’s one that seems to be singing right in front of you, but won’t show itself? Sigh. That’s what happened today at the midpoint of my hike, standing quietly listening intently, trying to ‘see’ this mystery bird. So, I think I found a new species, we’ll call it “Invisible Warbler” , perhaps with a Latin name of Invisibulus? Haha, anyone else seen signs of this bird? Well enjoy reading my pages below and the added photos, I’ll add a few notes here and there to explain.
This page from my sketchbook shows a quick watercolor sketch where I was standing. It’s a very wet area filled with these swamp type grasses or sedges and surprisingly I wasn’t bothered by mosquitoes here! As I stood painting, Ginger flushed two Woodcocks at separate times, I guess they like wet areas as they use their long beaks to probe the soil (mud) for worms. My dad said that’s why Woodcocks don’t taste good and I can attest to that! When he used to hunt we had some for dinner…very strong tasting meat. I remember he said they were also very challenging to hunt as they are a hard target; when I see one explode from the brush I can’t imagine how you could actually shoot one! ( I never would anyways!!)
Yellow Throat (2)
Now here’s one of my favorite warblers, a Yellow Throat. I still remember the first time I saw one down in Pennsylvania at Lake Sheridan.
He was so difficult to see in the brush, I’m just happy I got these two pictures though they are blurry! I really need to paint this warbler.
Did you know, the guy who invented “Velcro” got the idea from this little plant? Next time you see some prickly headed Burrs, take a closer look at it. You’ll notice the prickles have little hooked ends on them, not so nice when you go hiking and they stick all over your socks!
Hairy Woodpecker ?
I saw him on “Memory Lane”, heard his tapping before I saw him.
I’m not very good at identifying Flycatchers, though I got a lot of great photos of this one if anyone wants to help me. Is it just a Phoebe? I found him by my pond.
I’m so excited about finding TWO new butterflies, for me that is! The first is this “Eyed Brown Butterfly”, a very simple and plain looking creature. Sometimes it’s looking closer at the ‘plain janes’ that you can appreciate their subtle colors and patterns. I like the combination of light brown with the dark brown spots and the rings with dots. If I was teaching children to notice this, it’d be fun to draw these dots and rings. Also notice the repeated lines of the veins on the wings, a nice pattern.
Eyed Brown (2)
Rose Breasted Grosbeak (fem. or juvenile)
This was a great capture! I was standing quietly on “Oak Lane” and saw him up on a branch at the edge of the woods adjoining a field. It looks like a gigantic sparrow if you were to compare it to something familiar, but notice the heavy beak. This is either a young Rose Breasted Grosbeak or a female, I’m not sure. I’d guess a young one because it looks so ruffled.
Rufus Sided Towhee (m)
Another favorite of mine, the Rufus Sided Towhee. I still remember the first time I saw one of these too, also at Lake Sheridan in Pa. So many great birding memories from Pennsylvania when I was a teenager! My family is originally from the Scranton area…I spent lots of time at Lake Wallenpaupak too…anyone familiar with these lakes?
Rufus Sided Towhee 2 (m)
To get this picture, I was a lot farther away then it may seem! I used the zoom on my tiny Olympus camera to capture this one, I just love the pose…looks very elegant actually!
Common Wood Nymph (mating pair)
This is the second new butterfly discovery of the day for me, the “Wood Nymph”. This is a pair mating, I don’t know if the male of female is the larger one, but one was definitely larger and more pronounced markings. On closer look (in real life) the wings looking rather plain here were actually slightly irridescent and rather pretty.
Common Wood Nymph (mating pair) 2
Well I did not find that invisible warbler, let me know if you ever find one, maybe I can figure out a way to get a picture of him?? haha….
Please leave me your comments and if you may know any of the things I asked about…lets hear your thoughts!
Today I went for another walk on Long Lane Farm with my 4 legged companion Ginger. Below I have a page from my sketchbook journal where I show a fun technique of using a frame as a design element. If you keep a few ‘frame’ templates in your field kit you can have some fun tracing them. Some template ideas could be a post it note, an index card, maybe the lens cap from your camera (I thought of this one while sitting and drawing today) and what I used here was a simple refrigerator magnet that has the center that pops out. I think if you take more time to play with this you can really do some nice designs!
Clockwise from the top left you can see a Daisey in the grass, then the male Oriole popping his head through the oak leaves at the top of a VERY high old oak. Above that a yellow wildflower that I think is ‘King Devil’ a type of Hawkweed, then ‘Fleabane’, the little pink flower underneath the Oriole. The bottom right is a very pretty wildflower that I found in the Maze..anyone help me with this one? (I have photos of these wildflowers coming up.) In the frame are ‘Common’ or ‘Tall Buttercups’ and around the frame I listed the names of birds I saw or heard today.
On the second page I just used the micron permanent pen and drew some grasses. On the right are ‘Soft Rushes’, their pliable stems are what would be used to weave mats or baskets and next to it some type of sedge. The rushes are more closely related to lilies than grasses, my field guide says and I know the stem is round. It’s neat to follow the stem to the top with your fingers and feel how absolutely perfect a point it comes to. The sketch next to it is of some type of sedge, honestly I can’t find it in my guide. They had a most interesting design in their growth, three leaves jutting out from the top in different directions and the clustered seed pods looking like spikey critters! It had a triangular stem which reminds me of the saying…”Sedges have edges”.
I snapped this shot as I was leaving the yard, just after his mom or dad had visited the hole. What a face! haha!
And here’s the pretty pink ‘Daisy Fleabane’, people used to hang it in their houses to keep away the fleas…not sure if it worked! I have a big clump of these sprouted up in my front flower bed and they are really pretty. Many people would have yanked it thinking ‘weed’, but well, it has lots of company with all the other weeds!
This is the mystery flower, can anyone help me identify it? I love the fine fuzz on it, as I look at a close up picture, it catches the sun. They were growing together in a patch in the middle of the Maze.
I think this is called King Devil a type of Hawkweed; I found it growing at ‘Aspen Hall’ a shady area along the lane just before the Maze. It has fine bristly hairs all over it and the flowers were all confined to just the top of one long stem. I had to move grasses to find the leaves, which were tucked low at ground level.
This white moth was interesting to study. I spotted him when Ginger and I were returning along ‘Oak Lane’, it was flitting eratically along the path, as butterflies do. I kept following it to try and get a picture and I’m sure it knew it was being followed. I thought about how strange it is for a WHITE butterfly to be amonst so much green! It stands out like a sore thumb, well I have a feeling this photo will teach you something. When it landed instead of staying on top of the leaf and closing it’s wings, it very quickly flipped under the leaf and laid it’s wings out. Now you’d think oh I’ll still see the white, but no, the green leaf reflected on it’s wings and it now looked green! How cool is that? If you ask questions as you stand and watch the bugs and critters around you, you’ll start to notice details you never thought of before.
Here is the gloriously beautiful male Baltimore Oriole! I love seeing them, such an intense orange and yellow breast set off by deep black like velvet! He’s way up in an oak tree looking down at me, can you tell? I love this picture of him. This was along Oak Lane and I ended up standing still here for quite a long time. I kept hearing several different birds give their warning chirp like they had babies near.
I’m glad I stood as long as I did, I caught sight of what I guessed was a female Oriole and studied where she disappeared to. Aha! They have a nest way up in the oak tree, hanging out over the path! It’s amazing that birds can actually weave a basket nest like this in the tree and it supports the eggs and adult, later all growing into heavier fledglings. If you look close you can just see the female through the leaves, leaning down into the nest to feed the babies.
I think this little green guy who came to visit me while I was eating and painting was really neat! I haven’t found him yet in my field guide, I think I need another bug guide to cross reference.
And last we have a very black, very shiney beetle…no I don’t think it’s this beetle but I’d love to hear some suggestions? Closest I’ve come is either a ‘Ground Beetle’, or ‘Red Legged Ham Beetle’ or a ‘Blue Milkweed Beetle’.
I hope you enjoyed the walk with me today, so much was seen and discovered in what looks just like an ordinary field and woodland edge. Take time to stand or sit still and just watch what the creatures around you do. And you’ll see so much more if you look a bit closer at the ground, grasses or flowers as there is always something living there.
Please post a comment if you like and if you may know what my bugs or flowers are, please lets have a stab at it!
Here’s the books I referenced after my hike today:
Reader's Digest Wildflowers Guide
Nat.Wildlife Fed. Field Guide to Insects and Spiders of N. America
The day was gorgeous, it was flying by too quickly while I worked inside, longing looks out over my field. Finally I grabbed my cameras, sun hat and rubber mud boots and said “That’s it! Let’s go for a walk Ginger!” Ginger goes nuts of course at the word ‘walk’; I feel relief already and a whole new energy coming in as we leave the yard behind. Sometimes it’s good to not plan, I’m an over planner. Having a field sketching kit ready to grab at a moments notice or your camera and extra battery ready is all you need.
Here I have my new favorite camera slung across my body, I find if you let the strap out all the way carrying it this way is less stress on your neck. I usually walk with the lens cover off, tucked into my back pocket. It’s ready to slip on if I go through brush or kneel down to investigate something where tall ‘stuff’ can scratch the lens. The camera is a Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ28; I have an adapter on it so I can use that big Teleconversion Lens. Everything I shoot is hand-held so when I get clear shots I’m so happy, I just can’t set up a tripod while birding, bugging etc. but all the years of birdwatching comes in handy as I find it easy to spot and zoom on just the right area. The other little camera you see on my belt loop I find to be such a help and compliment to using the big lens, it’s an olympus FE 230 and I love it to peices! It’s great at taking super up close pictures and little movie clips. The movie clips on this blog are all mostly taken with it. (If you want to see all posts with clips, go to my Catagories list and click “Video Clips”) I took this pic by balancing the Olympus camera on a fence and used the timer…it’s a blast to take pics of yourself while out hiking. You are there in your element, why shouldn’t you remember that great big smile on your face?
Song Sparrow Male Watching Me
The first exciting thing was spotting this male Song Sparrow, he was constantly perched about the tops of these small bushes in the middle of my field, around 40 feet away. I took snap after snap of one of my favorite little sparrows, I can’t wait to do a painting of him.
Male Song Sparrow-warning call
I point out here, he was not singing but constantly giving that little “CHIP” call they do when disturbed. Being that I was nowhere near him, I thought maybe he had a nest over there. BUT…..
Song Sparrow Fledgling
Look what I saw as I turned to go…just down in the bushes right near me was a fledgling song sparrow! He was hot out of the nest I presume and sitting still as a statue. NOW I knew why the male Song Sparrow was calling. I carefully took slow steps all around the baby and took pictures, I had to move back a few steps in fact because of that long zoom lens I had. I also whipped out my little Olympus and took some snaps then after I was sure I had captured his mug for posterity from all angles, (picture me creeping around him step by step through heavy brush) I shot a short video clip of him (find it at the end of this post!).
Red Winged Black Bird Male
Moving on. A male Red Winged Blackbird was scolding from way up high in a seed laden tree as Ginger wandered beneath him, not noticing. Then I turned my attention to what was below in the grasses and shrubs. I didn’t need to go far today to find a myriad of wonders. When you go into a field next, just stand still and start to count the number of things you notice; bend down and move some grasses and see what bugs you surprise.
12 Spotted Skimmer Dragonfly
I love Dragonflies, did you know they’ve been around since the time of the dinosaurs? This is a female 12 Spotted Skimmer, each of it’s four wings has three spots, do the math and you get twelve! That’d be great for a math lesson…3×4=12. The female has yellow lines on her sides and black spots on the wings, the male has black and white spots and a pale blue abdomen. If I hadn’t caught a photo of her, I’d never have identified what it kind it was later. It was difficult to catch her though, she flew, landed and disappeared each time; I had to point at where I ‘thought’ she went and zoom in hoping to find her…well you can see I did.
Butterfly on a Daisey
I still need to identify this butterfly I think it’s a ….. What a perfect shot to show how the butterflies coloring and pattern help to protect it. He’s poised on a daisey to feed, notice the color of his back wings (‘hind wings’) match the color of the flower center. Then in his forwings you see little marks of white that make a stripey pattern, just like the petals! If you start to question why something behaves the way it does, or looks the way it does, you’ll find nature around you to be immensely more interesting! And if your and artist, studying these details even if you don’t paint them, helps in understanding your subject.
Here’s a what’s either a Yellow-collared Scape Moth or a Grapeleaf Skeletonizer. I’ve seen these around the yard over the years and never paid much attention to them. Now I look closer at everything since I’ve started Nature Sketching. I would never have known this was a moth, as I went back to study him further I found two species that look similar. Time to call in reinforcements on this ID!
Next we have the unromantic Spittlebug! I have to further investigate further to see if it’s a ‘Two Lined’ or a ‘Meadow’ Spittlebug. I learned this one when I was in girl scouts, away back when. Funny thing is, in England I found out they call it “Cukoo Spit” because it appears around the time the Cukoos come back in Spring! At the center of this mass of ‘spit’ bubbles is a larvae that surrounds itself like this while feeding. The adult feeds on the sap of grains and grasses.
I never would have seen this little guy if I wasn’t poking around in the grasses looking at Spittlebugs! For a grasshopper he’s handsome and trim..haha..if one can describe a grasshopper that way. If anyone knows what kind it is I’d love to know, I am not versed in grasshopper! I had a good look through my “Feild Guide to Insects and Spiders of North America” (National Wildlife Fed.) and couldn’t find one just like it. Notice the leaf next to him to the right, it’s dying off and looks as though there may be eggs laid underneath? Interesting to note the color, it changed to a Cadmium Yellow to a rosy pink (Alizarin Crimson would work nice here). There is new fresh life and at the same time decay supporting more life all around us. It’s just nature’s natural cycle.
Birdsfoot Trefoil - from above
Birdsfoot Trefoil - underside
I now turn my attention to the beautiful wildflowers in the grasses. This is Bird’s Foot Trefoil, leaves in threes (‘tre’) and named Bird’s Foot because the flowers form a cluster of five at the top, when they turn to seed pods it looks like a birds toes.
This is Daisy Fleabane, my “Readers Digest Guide to Wildflowers” says that it was once hung in houses to help rid them of fleas! Most people would look at these popping up in thier gardens as weeds, but there are really pretty. They grow with the blossoms in clusters at the top of a delicate stem. As I took this photo I was returning from my hike with Ginger down “Pasture Lane”, the grass is very long and it’s shady and right next to a ditch of water, a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes! They came up in clouds around me but I still nabbed this photo with my tiny Olympus camera…taking some bites on my arms! OUCH! One insect I don’t enjoy studying!
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!
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