Tag Archives: High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary

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!!!!

On the Waterthrush Trail (High Ledges, part 2)

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

High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary, Shelburne on May 21, 2015

After tearing myself away from the yellow lady’s slippers, I head down off the ledges to explore the Waterthrush Trail. This short section of trail skirts around what is intriguingly named the “Orchid Swamp” on my trail map. As I enter the cool, damp woods along the edge of the swamp, I hear the stuttering notes of a Canada Warbler coming from the understory of hobblebush, striped maple and witch-hazel. It has been several years since I’ve seen a Canada, so I approached quietly, hoping for a good look. The bird sings repeatedly, making it easier for me to pinpoint its location, and I finally spy it in the arching branches of a witch-hazel. I put my sketchbooks to work…

Canada Warbler studies, High Ledges - at 72 dpi

Sketchbook page, 9″ x 12″

Canada Warbler in Witch-hazel, High Ledges - at 72 dpi

Canada Warbler in Witch-hazel, watercolor in Stillman and Birn Beta sketchbook, 9″ x 12″

Poking around the swamp while trying to keep my feet dry, I find marsh marigolds and foam flower in bloom, and on my way back to the Sanctuary Road, I stop to admire some painted trilliums and columbine.

Foamflower at High Ledges


Columbine at High Ledges










I decide to do a drawing of the trillium (which I used later in the studio to do a finished watercolor). High Ledges is indeed a treasure trove of wildflowers!

Painted Trillium, High Ledges - at 72 dpi

Painted Trillium at High Ledges, watercolor on Lana hot-press, 8″ x11″


Warbler Wave

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

Mid-May, 2015
By the middle of May in Massachusetts, large numbers of migrant wood warblers are streaming through the state on their way to breeding grounds here or further north.  It all happens so quickly, and I experience a manic urge to try and get it all down while it lasts. So many birds, so little time!  Instead of trying to do a finished watercolor with a full background of each of the species I encounter, I take a different approach.

Stillman and Birn Sketchbooks

I purchase several 9”x12” sketchbooks loaded with heavy watercolor paper made by Stillman and Birn.  My logic is that I can use these in field or studio to do quicker bird portraits with minimal background elements or no background at all. The heavy, archival stock will give me the option to remove and frame some of the pages later. Here is a selection from the Mass Audubon properties I visited through May.

Nashville Warbler, Wachusett Meadow - at 72 dpi

Nashville Warbler, Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, 9″ x 12″

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Wachusett Meadow - at 72 dpi

Chestnut-sided Warbler, Wachusett Meadow Wildlife Sanctuary, 9″ x 12″

Blackburnian Warbler study, High Ledges - large at 72 dpi

Blackburnian Warbler, High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary, 5.5″ x 8″

Yellow-rump Study, Wampanoag - at 72 dpi

Myrtle Warbler, Lake Wampanoag Wildlife Sanctuary, 8.5″ x 12″

Canada Warbler in Witch-hazel, High Ledges - at 72 dpi

Canada Warbler, High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary, 9″ x12″

Black-throated Blue in Birch, Eagle Lake - at 72 dpi

Black-throated Blue Warbler, Eagle Lake Wildlife Sanctuary, 9″ x 12″




Slippers in the Forest

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

High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary, Shelburne on May 21, 2015

Ron Wolanin calls me on May 20 from High Ledges Wildlife Sanctuary in Shelburne. The yellow lady’s slippers are in full bloom, and Ron warns me not to wait too long if I want to work with them. I decide to make the trip out to Shelburne the next day, and arrive at High Ledges by 9 a.m.
Patten Road is bucolic and scenic, with pastures and farms tucked between the leafy woodlots. With Ron’s directions jotted on a scrap of paper tucked in my pocket, I head up to the ledges to find the flowers. At the ledges and the old Barnard homesite (i.e. “the chimney”), I can look down on Shelburne Falls and the Deerfield River. Overhead a blackburnian warbler sings from one of the red pines.
Proceeding down the trail, I locate the flowers, right where Ron said they would be. Eight blossoms are scattered across a small area of the forest floor, in little groups of two or three plants.

High Ledge painting set-up - 72 dpi

Although I have seen these flowers in botanic and private gardens, this is the first time I’ve seen them in the wild, and they take my breath away! To see them in their native forest haunts brings out their true character. First, I get right to work on a straight-forward depiction of a pair of plants. I decide to paint the plants without a background –more like a botanical illustration.

Yellow Lady's Slipper at High Ledges - at 72 dpi

Yellow Lady’s Slippers at High Ledges, watercolor on Arches hot-press, 10″ x 14″

The only change I decide to make is to show the two blossoms facing each other, and I do this by substituting a blossom from a nearby plant for the left-hand blossom in my picture.  While I work a raven croaks overhead and I’m serenaded by a hermit thrush and a yellow-throated vireo.

This is truly a special place for wildflowers – growing nearby are miterwort, hepatica, pink lady’s slipper, azaleas, columbine, star flower and others.  As I near completion of my watercolor, I decide to start another focusing on just the blossoms. I start a drawing from a different cluster of plants, showing one blossom from the back and one from the front.

Yellow Lady's Slipper at High Ledges 2 - at 72 dpi

“Slipper Talk”, watercolor on Arches hot-press, 9″ x12″

The structure of the blossoms is intricate, and the drawing must be done with great care to capture the right shapes and proportions. I put this drawing in my pack to finish in the studio, since I want time to explore more of the sanctuary.  (Later, after I’d finished this watercolor, my wife Lisa said it looks like two ladies having a conversation, so I name it “Slipper Talk”).

stay tuned for High Ledges part 2…