Tag Archives: Barry Van Dusen

Hotspot

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

 

Joppa Flats Education Center and Wildlife Sanctuary, Newburyport on September 20, 2015

Shorebirds at the Boatramp, Joppa - at 72 dpi
If you’ve been following this blog, you may remember that I made a brief post about Joppa Flats back in Mid-May, but I knew I wanted to spend more time at this exciting location. Most Massachusetts birders would agree that Plum Island, in Newburyport, is the No. 1 birding destination in the Commonwealth.  Joppa Flats Education Center on Newburyport Harbor is nearly unique among Mass Audubon properties in having NO trail system. Instead, Joppa serves as an education center and visitor support facility for this premier birding location. All visitors to Parker River National Wildlife Refuge and other hotspots on Plum Island pass right by, (and usually make a stop) at the Joppa center. For the purposes of my residency, therefore, I am considering any work I do on Plum Island and Newburyport Harbor, a part of my visit to Joppa.

Shorebird Studies at the Boatramp, Newburyport - at 72 dpi

Shorebird Studies at the Boatramp, sketchbook page, 9″ x 12″

If you hit the tides right, the boatramp just down the shore from Joppa can be a good spot to watch shorebirds. The exposed flats in the harbor can teem with birds, and many come in close to forage along the edge of the marsh grass.

Dowitcher Flock - at 72 dpi

Dowitcher Flock, pencil and watercolor on Canson drawing paper, 8.5″ x 8.25″

Greater yellowlegs are abundant during my visit, as are short-billed dowitchers. Lesser yellowlegs are mixed in, along with some smaller peeps and plovers.   As the tide floods, the yellowlegs and dowitchers wade belly-deep in the strong current, leaving wakes behind them.

Greater Yellowlegs - at 72 dpi

Greater Yellowlegs, watercolor on Arches rough, 16.25″ x 12.25″

Perhaps the long stretch of warm, dry weather had something to do with the scarcity of birds out on the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, today. Passerines were few and far between, although rarities like western tanager and Connecticut warbler were reportedly being seen by some lucky individuals. I DID encountered one modest wave of birds along the Marsh Loop Trial at Hellcat – two yellow warblers, a redstart and a magnolia warbler – duly noted in my sketchbook…

Fall Warblers at PRNWR - at 72 dpi

Fall Warblers at PRNWR, sketchbook page, 12″ x 8.25″

The Great, GREAT Marsh

Rough Meadows, Rowley on September 19, 2015

Back in August, I visited the Barnstable Great Marsh – the largest salt marsh on Cape Cod. At 3,000 acres, it’s an impressive wetland. But the largest contiguous salt marsh north of Long Island lies along the North Shore of Massachusetts. At 25,000 acres, this system, also known as “the Great Marsh”, sprawls from Gloucester thru Essex, Ipswich, Rowley, Newbury, and Newburyport before ending in Salisbury on the New Hampshire line. It’s a massive complex of marshes, barrier beaches, tidal rivers, estuaries and mudflats – much of it protected land owned by the Parker River National Wildlife Refuge, the Trustees of Reservations, the Essex County Greenbelt and Mass Audubon.

Haying on Rough Meadows - at 72 dpi
Heading down Rte 1A from Newburyport this morning, I pass a haying operation on the upper reaches of the Great Marsh in Rowley. Men and tractors are piling bales into picturesque heaps, as the gathering dawn light creeps across the landscape.
I have nearly arrived at my destination: Rough Meadows Wildlife Sanctuary in Rowley. When I asked Bill Gette, the director at Joppa Flats, about the “rough meadows” name, he explained that the early settlers called this area “rough meadow” to distinguish it from inland meadows with finer, softer grasses. The predominant grasses at Rough Meadows are the two spartinas – saltmarsh cordgrass and saltmarsh hay, growing in various parts of the marsh. These spartinas are much coarser than the grasses in inland meadows. The settlers DID use the spartinas for hay, however, and it is still prized by gardeners for mulch, since the seeds in the saltmarsh grasses will not germinate in garden situations. Thus, the haying operation in progress…

NEW ENGLAND ASTER - Tower Hill - Sept 2013 - at 72 dpi

New England Aster painted at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA, 2013

As I arrive at the parking area for Rough Meadows, a fresh Black Swallowtail butterfly drifts past, and I later see it nectaring on New England Aster. Indeed, mid-September is “aster season” in Massachusetts, and the trails at Rough Meadows are lined with a variety of species, ranging from the large, colorful New England aster to the tiny, delicate calico aster.

Calico Aster at Rough Meadows - at 72 dpi

Calico Aster

In central Massachusetts, where I live, mosquito season has passed, and days outdoors are thankfully bug-free by this time of year. NOT SO in the North Shore marshes! Whenever I stopped along the trails, I was plagued by the small dark saltmarsh mosquitos. I concluded that they must be attracted to movement, however, because once I settled down to paint in one spot, the mosquitos left me alone!

Set-up at Rough Meadows - at 72 dpi

painting in progress at Rough Meadows (rubber ducky mascot courtesy of Woodson Museum, Wausau, WI!)

Professor Chandler’s Long Walk traverses several wooded hills that rise like islands out of the surrounding marsh, and at various overlooks you can take in the sweep of the marsh and admire the variety of colors and textures. Patches of glasswort create bold swatches of crimson, and seaside goldenrod adds touches of buttery yellow.

Marsh Pickles or Glasswort - at 72 dpi

Glasswort or Marsh Pickles

Out at the end of Appy’s Way, I set-up my painting outfit and start a landscape looking back towards Rte 1A. My finished painting does indeed look like a “rough meadow”, don’t you think?

Rough Meadows, Rowley - at 72 dpi

Rough Meadows, watercolor on Arches rough, 9″ x 12.25″

Back at the parking area, I notice an interesting view of the marsh – looking down between the trees along the Kestrel Trail. In the foreground is a thick patch of Queen Anne’s lace, now gone to seed and forming those ball-like clusters atop each stalk. I make a quick pencil sketch to record the scene.

Rough Meadows from Patmos Road - at 72 dpi

Illustrated Lecture with Artist Barry Van Dusen on 10/24

Shoreline-at-Long-Pasture-2-at-72-dpi

Barry Van Dusen’s Shoreline at Long Pasture

On Saturday, October 24th at 3pm at the Museum of American Bird Art in Canton, Barry Van Dusen will give an illustrated lecture on his latest and most ambitious Artist-in-Residency project yet: during a 22-month period, Barry will visit at least 45 Mass Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries, producing drawings and paintings at each location.

Barry is currently about halfway through the project, having visited 23 properties and produced over 50 watercolors, traveling more than 1,000 miles around the state from the foothills of the Berkshires to the Upper Cape.

In this one-hour illustrated talk, Barry will share stories and paintings from his previous residencies, and describe his Artist-in-Residency project at Mass Audubon.

You’ll hear about his adventures exploring Mass Audubon properties all around the state, and learn more about the approach Barry uses to meet the demands and challenges of working on location.  A selection of the original watercolors he has produced for the project will be on temporary display.  Learn more about the lecture

Barry has a long association with Mass Audubon as an illustrator for our publications for nearly 30 years.  Beyond his remarkable illustration work, he has established himself as an internationally recognized fine artist focusing on the natural world and most often birds.

Barry brings this rich experience to the task of capturing compelling natural history moments at Mass Audubon’s treasured sanctuaries.  Fellow artist James Coe says, “Barry Van Dusen’s paintings are among the most original works being created today. Every perfect
gesture; each lively glint in a bird’s eye is there because Barry observed that in nature.”

Learn more

Of Time and the River

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

Laughing Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Hampden on August 28, 2015

Thirty years ago, I had my first solo show of nature art at a wildlife sanctuary near Springfield, Massachusetts called Laughing Brook. Back then, Laughing Brook was a fully staffed sanctuary, with a large visitor center and a “zoo” of native animals.
So, it’s understandable that when I pulled into the parking lot this morning, a flood of memories accompanied me, although very little was as I remembered it. The visitor center was gone; as were the animal enclosures, and even the trails and parking area seemed strangely out of place.
Laughing Brook’s history is one of floods and fires that I don’t need to recount here, but in short, the “zoo” was closed down in the 1990s and the visitor center demolished after a fire in 2004, converting the location to an unstaffed property. As recently as 2005, another major flood washed away trails and much of the parking lot. No wonder I didn’t recognize the place!

East Brook at Laughing Brook
But as much as things have changed, some things remain the same. East Brook, that so inspired the writings of Thornton Burgess, still tumbles clear over golden gravel bars and threads in and out of mysterious tangled roots along the banks. Kingfishers still flash along the stream corridor and dragonflies still dance in the shafts of light sifting down through the forest canopy. It’s a reminder that buildings, trails, parking lots, meadows and ponds may come and go, but rivers are as old as the mountains.

At the pond off the Mort and Helen Bates Trail, I tried to approach some blooming arrowhead along the shore. Most of the arrowhead plants were past blooming, and I never did find a blossoming specimen close enough to paint, but in the process I flushed a bird from the undergrowth that flew up into the lower branches of a weeping willow.

Northern Waterthrush Studies - at 72 dpi

Sketchbook study of Northern Waterthrush, pencil, 10″ x 6″

It was a handsome northern waterthrush, and with my binoculars I got good enough looks to make some quick sketches in my sketchbook. Later in my studio, I used these sketches to develop this watercolor.

Northern Waterthrush in Willow - at 72 dpi

Northern Waterthrush in Willow, watercolor on Arches rough, 14.25″ x 10.25″

There are many spots along the East Brook Trail where one can take little spur paths down to the edge of the brook, and in these low-water conditions, it was even possible to walk right into the streambed (and still keep your feet dry) by picking along the gravel bars or hopping from rock to rock. I settled down in one such location and made an exploration of the gentle pools and riffles.
Blacknose dace are abundant in the stream, ranging in size from 5/8” to 2” long, and water striders patrol the water’s surface, casting those strange geometric shadows on the streambed. I make studies of both in my sketchbooks, and combined the two species later in this studio watercolor.

Water Striders and Dace - at 72 dpi

Water Striders and Dace, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 10.25″ x 14.25″

Caddisflies of various species are also in abundance. The soft-bodied larvae of caddisflies construct little shelters or “cases” that they live in, and each species makes a distinctive type of case using sand, pebbles or twigs. Some of the smaller species build cases that look like little clusters of pebbles attached to the underwater rocks – and these could be easily overlooked. Other species build elaborate twigs cases up to 2 inches long that are easy to spot in the stream bed. Held in the hand, the larvae will sometimes emerge from one end and wave their legs around.

Caddisfly Larvae, etc - at 72 dpi Grayscale

Sketchbook studies at East Brook, pencil, 9″ x 6″

A big glacial erratic called “Split Rock” is worth a quick detour off the upper stretches of the East Brook Trail. From one angle the boulder looks just like a sperm whale, with open mouth, rising up out of the deep!

Split Rock at Laughing Brrok - at 72 dpi
Heading back to the car, I stop once more at the pond and notice a young heron perched in the big dead tree on the far shore. With a scope, it’s an excellent view of the bird, and I can’t help but try making some studies. It looks like the bird will stay put for a while, and indeed it does – giving me time to make some detailed studies of the birds expressive face and head.

Young Heron at Laughing Brook - at 72 dpi

Young Heron head studies, pencil and watercolor on Canson drawing paper, 8.5″ x 9.5″

 

Summer’s Bounty

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary, Barnstable on August 17, 2015
Today is predicted to be one of the warmest days of the summer so far, so I get an early start and arrive at Long Pasture Wildlife Sanctuary by 7 am. Conditions are just right as I set up my scope at the end of the Marsh Boardwalk. The tide is low, and there are many birds spread out and feeding on the mudflats in front of me. Most are semi-palmated plovers, but there are several yellowlegs, semi-palmated sandpipers, and a few ruddy turnstones mixed in. I really enjoy drawing birds at the shore! The wide open spaces and unobstructed views are a welcome change to woodland environments, and a spotting scope really comes into its own. Working quietly from one spot, the birds soon forget my presence and some of them approach quite closely.  I work with the semi-palmated plovers first. Gigi Hopkins (a guest curator at the Museum of American Bird Art), calls them “semi-sweet plovers” – an apt name! Their gentle expression and compact shape are very appealing.

Semi-palmated Plover at Long Pasture - at 72 dpi

Semi-palmated Plover at Long Pasture, watercolor on Winsor & Newton cold-press, 9″ x 10.5″

Next, I concentrate on the turnstones. There are larger rocks scattered here and there around the flats, and the turnstones run from rock to rock, picking around the base of the stones. They are quite territorial and if another individual comes too close to their rock, it is summarily warned off.

Turnstone 4 - at 72 dpi

Turnstone at Long Pasture, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 8″ x 13″

A family group (of people!) arrives, removes their shoes and socks, and heads out on the flats to explore. This puts an end to my drawing as the birds quickly move away, but I’ve had a good session, and am happy to see the kids getting excited over the crabs, snails and worms that they find.  Before I leave the flats, however, I focus on a herring gull standing on a section of cribwork installed on the flats by shell fishermen. The bird’s gleaming white breast is reflected at intervals on the gentle ripples of the incoming tide, and I do a quick watercolor study. The cribwork is anchored to the bottom, so as the tide floods, the water rises up the bird’s legs, then to its belly, and it finally floats off!

Herring Gull at Long Pasture - at 72 dpi

Herring Gull at Long Pasture, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 9″ x 6″

The sun is getting hot now, so I retreat into the shade at the base of the bluff, where I have a nice view up along the eastern shore.  The water is smooth as glass, and the morning haze lends a softness that brings out the late summer colors.  A few people out on the beach add a sense of scale.  I break out my watercolors again…

Shoreline at Long Pasture 2 - at 72 dpi

Back at the parking area my car’s thermometer reads 96 degrees, so I seek out a shady spot for lunch in the orchard. Ripe fruit is everywhere! Limbs of the surrounding trees hang low with their burdens of apples, peaches and pears, and the crowns of the wild cherry trees across the meadow are flush with color from the masses of ripe fruit.

Ripe Apples at Long Pasture (small)
A hike out along the Holly and Long Pasture Trails is a lesson in tree identification. All the familiar New England trees are here (and well labeled), but along with them are big specimens of less common species – mimosa, Chinese chestnut, European larch, white poplar, pignut hickory, black walnut and others.

Scarlet Oak at Long Pasture (small)

A big scarlet oak at Long Pasture

Most of these specimens were planted by the previous owner of the property, Sherman Parker, and they’ve now grown to impressive sizes.  A special delight among the trees is the tupelo (black gum) grove on the Long Pasture Trail. I had read that the dark blue fruits were attractive to birds, but none of them were ripe yet, and I later read in Sibley’s tree guide that the fruits ripen late – from November to January!

Tupelo Fruits - at 72 dpi

Tupelo Fruits , sketchbook study, pencil and watercolor, 5.5″ x 6″

 

The Great Marsh

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary, Barnstable on August 16, 2015

I had hoped to get down to Cape Cod last week, but car troubles put my Toyota in the garage for a few days, and by the time I finally get underway a heat wave has settled over New England, with high humidity and temperatures in the 90s. To try and beat the heat, I get an early start and arrive at Barnstable Great Marsh Wildlife Sanctuary by 7:30 am.
A short hike through a forest of oak, cedar, cherries and pines brings me to a small clearing next to an abandoned cabin. A break in the foliage here supplies an elevated view of the marsh, with a backdrop of Sandy Neck in the distance. The Barnstable Great Marsh is the largest salt marsh on Cape Cod, covering more than 3,000 acres.
The clearing is a nice shady spot at this time of the morning, so I set up my scope and pack chair. I spot an osprey, egrets, herons, laughing gulls and shorebirds out on the marsh, but they’re too distant to draw or paint, so I decide to do a landscape. With my 25x scope I can “project myself” out onto the marsh, bringing the dunes of Sandy Neck much closer, and this makes for an appealing composition.

Work in Progress at Barnstable Great Marsh (small)

…the first washes set out to dry in the sun

As I start to lay down the first washes of color I realize that the very high humidity is going to have an effect on my painting. High humidity can be both a blessing and a curse to the watercolorist. The washes of color dry very slowly, so there’s more time to develop the wet passages. I can take my time developing smooth color gradations and soft edges – things which I usually have to hurry with before the paper dries. At some point, however, I need those first washes to dry, so I can paint additional layers over them (what watercolorists refer to as glazing.) Today, it’s taking FOREVER for those first washes to dry! I lay my half-finished painting on a bush in the sun, and wander down the path to the edge of the marsh.  By the time I return to the clearing the washes have finally dried and I can get on with my work. As I’m painting with the scope, small birds zip back and forth through my field of view – swallows – and as a final touch, I add them to my painting.

Swallows Over Barnstable Great Marsh 2 - at 72 dpi

Swallows Over Barnstable Great Marsh, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 9″ x 12.25″

Next, I move down to the edge of the marsh to do some studies of some of the plants I’d noticed there. Growing out on the marsh is an attractive flowering plant that I later identify as saltmarsh fleabane.

Salt-marsh Fleabane at Barnstable Gr Marsh (small)

I’m also intrigued by the bulrushes growing where the woods give way to the marsh grasses. These are robust, 4-foot tall grasses with long curving blades and heavy clusters of cone-shaped seed heads.

Softstem Bulrush - at 72 dpi

Softstem Bulrush, watercolor on Lanaquarelle hot-press, 11.25″ x 9″

It’s getting pretty hot, now, especially in the sun, so I do some exploring along the the shady trails of the sanctuary. I flush a green heron at Otter Pond, and then find a superb stand of cardinal flowers at the outflow of spring-fed Cooper Pond. I had not expected to find cardinal flowers growing wild on Cape Cod, since I most often encounter them far from the coast along cool, tumbling streams in upland forests. But they seem quite happy here, with a second handsome cluster of plants growing further west along the shore. Unfortunately the flower stalks are surrounded on all sides by a thick growth of poison ivy, so I content myself to do some drawing from a distance thru my telescope, and complete this watercolor later in my studio.

Cardinal Flower at Barnstable Gr Marsh 4 - at 72 dpi

Cardinal Flower, watercolor on Arches hot-press, 14″ x 10″

On my way back to the car, I stop to marvel at a wildly contorted cherry tree growing along the trail. In one place the limbs of the tree seem to have tied themselves into a big knot! It deserves, and gets, a study in my sketchbook.

Contorted Cherry Tree at Barnstable Gr Marsh - at 72 dpi

Cherry Tree at Barnstable Great Marsh, pencil study, 8.5″ x8.5″

Summer Break

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary, Hopkinton on August 2, 2015

POND at Waseeka (small)

There are distinct rhythms to the natural year – times when everything is happening at once and other times when nature seems to slow down and take a breather. By August, most birds have raised a brood (or several broods). Young birds have left the nest and are learning to make their way in the world.

Young Phoebe at Waseeka - at 72 dpi

Young Phoebe at Waseeka, watercolor on Strathmore Aquarius cold-press, 15″ x 11″

At Waseeka Wildlife Sanctuary, the most common birds at the pond today were eastern phoebes and a good percentage of these were young birds. You could tell them from the adults by a soft lemony wash on the undersides and more clearly defined wing bars. I wondered if phoebe adults customarily bring their broods to places like this after leaving the nest – spots where there’s lots of food (i.e. insects) and many open perches from which to hunt. Or perhaps these are simply wandering youngsters that find these places on their own.

Waseeka Pond 2 - at 72 dpi

Osprey Nest at Waseeka, watercolor on Winsor & Newton cold-press, 8″ x 11″

The big nest out in the middle of the pond is vacant, too, but I had read that it has been used by a pair of ospreys for a number of years, so I was keeping an ear and an eye out for them. Around 1 pm, I hear some high pitched, chirping notes and observed a large bird land in a big dead pine on the far shore of the pond. Putting my scope on the tree, I noticed not one but TWO adult ospreys – one of them actively devouring a fish!  Even in my scope the birds are tiny, and abit too far off for serious drawing.

POND SHORE at Waseeka (small)
The shorelines at Waseeka are rich and varied. Beaver activity flooded these shores some years ago and drowned many trees, opening up the canopy and encouraging lush undergrowth. When the pond levels were restored, these open shorelines quickly regenerated with a striking variety of plants. Sweet pepperbush and pickerel weed are in full bloom along the shore today.

Many nest boxes have been mounted in the pond, attached to standing dead trees, and I presume some of these are used by breeding wood ducks and hooded mergansers. The boxes create interesting rhythms among the vertical trunks. I do a simple line drawing and add a wash of ivory black to establish the light.

Nest Boxes, Waseeka - at 72 dpi

Nest Boxes, Waseeka, pencil and wash on 80 lb drawing paper, 8″ x 12″

On my way back down the dike, I stop to admire some royal fern growing along the trail, mixed with fronds of sensitive fern – a neat contrast of fern shapes and colors. It’s a quiet, shady spot, so I sit and start a watercolor…

Royal Fern and Sensitive Fern, Waseeka - at 72 dpi

Royal Fern and Sensitive Fern, watercolor on Arches hot-press, 9″ x 11.25″

Striking a Pose or Turtle Yoga

July 24, 2015

Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary, Norfolk
Although the swamp azalea is past flowering, sweet pepperbush is just starting to come into bloom along the trails and boardwalks at Stony Brook Wildlife Sanctuary. Soon the air will be filled with its thick, sweet aroma!

Sweet Pepperbush at Waseeka

The boardwalks and viewing platforms afford excellent views of several ponds and marshes, with room enough to set-up my scope and do some drawing. Great for turtle watching!
On a warm, sunny morning like this, the painted turtles are vying for basking space atop the stumps rising out of the lily pads and waterlilies. I’m intrigued by the way the turtles often pose with their legs stretched out straight, resting on their plastrons.

Turtle Yoga drawing - at 72 dpi

Sketchbook Study of Painted Turtle, pencil, 6″ x 7″

Sometimes they tuck in the front legs, with only the rear legs extended, other times all four legs are stretched out at once. It’s very similar to a pose we do in my yoga class. Am I watching Turtle Yoga? I ask some naturalists about this later, and one conjectures that this behavior may expose soft parts around the turtles legs to the sun and air, thereby deterring leeches. Another theory is that extending the legs in this way exposes more of the skin to the sun, and enhances the basking effect.

Painted Turtle, Stony Brook - at 72 dpi

TURTLE YOGA – Painted Turtle at Stony Brook, watercolor on Arches cold press, 8.5″ x 12.25″

And there are other turtles, too. I watch the eerie slow-mo movements of a big snapping turtle from the observation platform at Teal Marsh.

Snapping Turtle at Stony Brook (small)

Heading back to the visitor center, I hear the distinctive notes of a purple martin. Upon my arrival at the sanctuary earlier, I had noticed the martin house in the big field next to the parking area, but seen only house sparrows perched there. Now, I focused my scope on the house and found a single martin perched on the top mast. Later, I asked sanctuary director Doug Williams about the birds and was pleased to hear that the martins were in their third year of using the box and that this year three nests had produced a total of 10 young birds! I saw no more martins this day, but was happy to know that the colony is on the increase!

Siblings, Young Canada Geese - Stony Brook - at 72 dpi

SIBLINGS – Young Canada Geese at Stony Brook, watercolor on Winsor & Newton cold-press, 9″ x 10.5″

Heading out again to do the Pond Loop Trail, I notice a pair of young Canada geese loafing on a rock in Stony Brook Pond. They’re about 2/3 the size of their parents, who stand guard nearby. In a scruffy adolescent stage, they are still downy on the neck and head, and their colors are soft and muted compared with the adults.
At the bridge between Kingfisher Pond and Stony Brook Pond, I notice several large dragonflies on the concrete bridge abutments. I’ve been watching dragonflies all day – many pondhawks and slaty skimmers, a few widow skimmers and some tiny amberwings – but this one I can’t identify. Occasionally one takes a handstand-like pose with its abdomen pointing straight up. Actually this is a common behavior among odonates called the obelisk posture (there’s that YOGA thing again!), and it is thought to help with thermoregulation on warm days.

Blk-shouldered Spinyleg - Stony Brook - at 72 dpi

Black-shouldered Spinylegs, watercolor on Arches hot-press, 9″ x 12″

As luck would have it Robert Buchsbaum arrived on the scene, toting a dragonfly net and, more importantly, a dragonfly field guide (he was helping some volunteers with an odonate survey). Between studying my drawings and digital photos, we tentatively identified this insect as a black-shouldered spinyleg. Later I was convinced of our I.D. by noting the spines on the rear legs in my digital photos and also by a phrase which I read in the Mass Audubon pocket laminated guide A Guide to NE Dragonflies and Damselflies – in the brief description of this species written by Chris Leahy, he concludes with “Often perches on bridge abutments.” BINGO!

Wet Feet in Bear Country, Part 2

This is from a series of posts by MABA resident artist Barry Van Dusen

West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary, Plainfield on July 19, 2015

After finishing up with the orchids, I head back to the car and dry out my feet as best I can before heading over to the West Mountain Wildlife Sanctuary trail head on Prospect Street. As I’m assembling my gear to hike the trails, I hear a commotion in the woods across the street, and a young bear pokes its head out of the thick roadside vegetation and looks straight at me! I must look threatening because the animal makes a hasty retreat back into the woods, only to circle around and do the same routine again! The bear clearly wants to cross the road, but after its second retreat it must have decided to cross elsewhere. The bear was not a cub, but about the size of a German shepherd, and I paused to consider whether its mother might still be attending it. The fact that it made so much noise in the woods was re-assuring, since it would be unlikely to take me by surprise if I encounter it again.
Hiking the East Slope Loop Trail I notice that many of the beech trees are suffering from beech bark disease, and I later read on the orientation panel that this disease is contributing to the decline of beeches in the area.

Beech Bark Disease - West Mountain (small)

Attractive lady ferns line the trail, and in some places the forest floor is covered with a thick growth of hobblebush shoots. I stop to make a watercolor study of the hobblebush, since I love the soft orangey-tan buds, which rise like candle flames from the tip of each twig.  I’m also intrigued by the way the color of the new wood is distinctly different from the old.

Hobblebush, West Mountain - at 72 dpi

Hobblebush Study, watercolor on Lanaquarelle hot-press, 9″ x 11.25″

The trail follows alongside two lovely, tumbling brooks and through a hemlock forest – where I’m serenaded by black-throated green warblers and hermit thrushes.

Mountain Brook at West Mountain (small)

BTG Warbler study - at 72 dpi

sketchbook study, pencil and watercolor, 4″ x 5″

 

A map of Barry’s trips to all the Mass Audubon Wildlife Sanctuaries where he has created art

We are really excited for this post. I’ve recently created a map of all of the Wildlife Sanctuaries that Barry has visited. When you click on each indigo bunting icon, the name of the sanctuary, date of his visit, and link to the blog post will appear. Click on the link for each post to follow Barry as he sketches and paints at different Mass Audubon Sanctuaries in the state. ENJOY!!!!