Tag Archives: Salvelinus fontinalis

Phantom Fontinalis

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

Graves Farm Wildlife Sanctuary, Williamsburg on June 27, 2015
I was intrigued to read on the Graves Farm Wildlife Sanctuary trail map that the coldwater streams on the property support wild brook trout (Salvelinus fontinalis), and I decided that my first task would be to check out Nonnie Day Brook and see if I could spy any of these elusive and beautiful fish. The water was unseasonably low when I arrived at the brook (a result of a very dry month of May), but the habitat looked entirely suitable to native trout, so I walked up and down the banks, scanning the pools and riffles with my binoculars at close focus.

Nonnie Day Brook, Graves Farm

I observed a number of black-nosed dace (Rhinichthys atratulus), but no brookies. The cool, clear waters flowed around moss-covered rocks and over areas of golden gravel and sand, and my mind wandered back to other places where I’d seen wild brook trout. Along a roadside ditch in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I once watched adult brook trout less than 3 inches long in water less than 4 inches deep!  And, in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia I once watched schools of brookies in bright spawning colors gathering in the pools of a tumbling mountain stream.
In low-water or warm water conditions, these fish seek out deeper pools or underwater springs that provide the temperature and oxygen levels they need, so I was not surprised to find them absent from the brook under the current conditions.  Dissapointing… but then I reconsidered – I’m an artist, and I can paint my own vision of a Nonnie Day brook trout, whether I had seen one or not! I made some notes on the streambed habitat and took some photos. Back in my studio, I gathered up brook trout references I’d gathered in the past and painted my own vision of a Nonnie Day Brook Trout!

Brook Trout, Graves Farm - at 72 dpi

Wild Brook Trout, watercolor on Arches cold-press, 9″ x 12.25″

There are some VERY impressive trees in the forest around Nonnie Day Brook. One huge old white pine was particularly awe-inspiring. I spent some time walking around the massive trunk and gazing up at its vast height. Photographs just don’t convey the scale of this behemoth, but here’s one anyway…

Big White Pine at Graves Farm (small)

Later, I wandered across Adams Road into the big hayfield – not yet mowed. It was filled with red-winged blackbirds and tree swallows, who perched cooperatively on orange-painted wooden stakes while I drew them.

Tree Swallow studies, Graves Farm - at 72 dpi

Tree swallows, sketchbook study, pencil, 5″ x 10″

Further west, where Joe Wright Brook passes under the road, a Green Heron also posed for me while I made more sketches…

Green Heron study, Graves Farm - at 72 dpi

Green Heron, sketchbook study, 6″ x 9″