Wonderful first week at Acadia National Park!

I’ve spent most of every day in the past week hiking, birding, climbing on rocks, sketching, and painting. I’ve identified two new birds for my life list– a Merlin and a Red Crossbill. I’ve walked an average of over 16,000 steps per day and I’ve filled about 50 pages in my sketchbook. I’ve watched and attempted to paint sunsets (not too many, because it’s often been cloudy and sometimes drizzly) and one sunrise (this morning at 4:50– the sun rises much earlier here than at home, thanks to latitude and longitude), and I’ve watched and attempted to sketch the otters here twice so far (they were a highlight of my last time here, and I love watching them swim and dive and cavort in the water). I’ve only pulled my computer out of its case a few times and even then have only been online briefly. I’ve spent hours in silence and days with few words spoken aloud, giving me much time to ponder, to pray, to simply be.

And that’s enough words for now, so I’ll just add photos of some of my sketches and some photos  I’ve taken of this amazing place (will wait till I’m home to post my paintings). (These are just quick photos, because I’m not going to take the time to scan and crop them until I’m back home.) I am so very, very thankful to be able to spend time here immersed in nature and art. Thank you so much to the Schoodic Institute and Acadia National Park for giving me this opportunity, and a huge thank you to Stephen for holding down the fort at home and letting me have this time away.

Herring Gull 052617 Little Moose Island 052917 Northern Parula 052617 Otters 053117 Schoodic Point in ink 052917 Sunrise 060317 Yellow rumped & Black throated Green 052717

DSCN8042Light and Shadow Ravens NestDSCN8271DSCN8095

Acadia Artist Retreat 2016- Great week of sketching!

I’m just home from a fabulous week of sketching and painting at Acadia National Park, mostly on the Schoodic Peninsula. Schoodic is beautiful no matter what the weather is doing, which is good, since the weather changes quickly and rarely seems to do as predicted. I love the softened atmosphere of foggy and rainy days just as much, as the brilliant colors and contrasts of sunny days.

There were three wonderful instructors who each gave us an hour and a half of instruction and tips the first three days, and the rest of the time was unscheduled time for painting– a wonderful way to structure the week. Meal times were great for sharing adventures and thoughts about art and nature, and a couple of times we had sessions where we shared and discussed the art we had been doing there. I loved seeing what everyone was doing, all very diverse styles and mediums, and I learned a lot from observing and from hearing how the other artists thought about their work.

During the week I got the wonderful news that our new granddaughter, Elizabeth, had just been born, which made me walk around the rest of the week with a smile on my face and joy in my heart. I’ll be heading to San Francisco to meet Elizabeth in two days, and have much to do in the meantime, so this post will mostly be photos of my work. I did very few actual paintings, focusing instead on filling two sketchbooks with landscapes and with field sketches of wildlife.

Click on images to see them larger

Meander journal of meandering through Schoodic -side 1
Meander journal of meandering through Schoodic- Side 2
Sketching at Schoodic Point while Elizabeth was being born
Masked Shrew (found dead on the road)
Schoodic rock study (on Little Moose Island)
Raven’s Nest
Field sketches of Black-throated Green Warbler and Eastern Wood-Pewee
Ranger Kate leading us on a geology walk
One evening’s activity- figure drawing!
Peregrine Falcon field sketches
Peregrine Falcon field sketches
Little Moose Island from Blueberry Hill

 

Beaver!

Castor canadensis
Beaver Field Sketches

On Saturday Stephen and I went for our usual evening birding walk down the rail trail. We usually walk in along the north side of the lake, where we can get a good look at Double-crested Cormorants, Great Blue Herons, and sometimes a variety of duck species, as well as warblers in the shrubs and woods. This time, though, we walked down the rail trail and cut in beside the south side of the lake and then around behind it, where I hadn’t been before.

We heard a call that was familiar but couldn’t place it at first, then saw our first Osprey of the season flying over the lake- such a beautiful bird. Then we saw a ripple in the water moving in our direction. A beaver! We do occasionally see beavers swimming across the lake, but usually from a greater distance, and not swimming in our general direction. We stopped and stood still, Stephen with camera in hand, me with pencil poised over the sketchbook in which I had just been sketching the view and jotting down bird species as we saw or heard them.

The beaver swam along the shore, pausing several times to look in our direction. I don’t know if he saw us, since their eyesight isn’t great, but perhaps he smelled us. To our astonishment, he swam to a muddy spot on the shore about six yards from where we were standing and climbed out onto land. He came a few feet closer, till he was about 10-12 feet from us, then stopped and looked at us briefly, before turning and going back into the water to resume his swim along the shore.

I’ve always loved rodents and have been fascinated with beavers, since they are the second largest rodents in the world (after the capybara of South America). North American beavers are typically 40-60 pounds but can occasionally reach 100 pounds. The beaver we saw seemed on the large size to me. I am not experienced with estimating beaver weight, having never before seen one up close on land, but I am pretty good at estimating dog weight, and I’d estimate this fellow’s weight at over 50 pounds, possibly even over 60.

We left the beaver swimming in peace and, as it was rapidly getting darker, we headed back. Once on the rail trail, I looked back and saw our beaver friend silhouetted in the dim light as he crouched on a fallen tree in the lake, eating his dinner. A wonder-filled walk by Lake Walton.

A few facts about beavers:

  • mate for life and give birth to 1-6 kits in May or June
  • young stay with their parents until they are 1.5 or 2 years old
  • one of the few species (including humans) that modifies their environment
  • eat leaves, bark, twigs, and aquatic plants
  • can remain underwater for 15 minutes
  • have special transparent eyelids to cover their eyes underwater
  • can close flaps behind their long incisors to keep water out when carrying sticks or gnawing wood underwater
  • can live 20-30 years
Beaver swimming
Beaver on land

Shawangunk Grasslands

This past Saturday I went with the Waterman Bird Club to the Shawangunk Grasslands National Wildlife Refuge to look for Short-eared Owls. We got there at 3:30 in the afternoon, and it was already cold and windy. It got colder and windier as time went on, and I was really chilled by the time we left just after sunset. Apparently the owls are sometimes out early, but on Saturday none showed up until well after sunset when it was already getting almost too dark to see. We could see there long, white wings against the distant trees, but that was about it. However, until shortly after sunset, there were numerous Northern Harriers hunting low over the grass or flying high in the sky.

Sunday was warm, sunny, and only slightly breezy, so Stephen and I went back in the afternoon. I wanted to show him what a beautiful spot it is, nestled beneath the Gunks and spread out over 565 acres of beautiful grassland. We wandered around some of the trails and watched Harriers hunting and some perched calmly on posts or branches. The owls came out a bit earlier, though still not early enough for me to do any sketching. It was light enough, though, for me to see their large, floppy-looking wingbeats and the black markings on the wings. We also saw them hunting, flying low over the grasses like the harriers, repeatedly rising and dipping.

Squirrel Sketches

Winter is finally here, with its crisp, clear sunshine; blustery wind; and twittering birds flocking to the feeders to fill their bellies and keep warm. And with the always entertaining squirrels chasing one another in trees and scouring the deck for seeds the birds drop. I’ve had a fairly full schedule recently, so when I’m home, I savor the quiet minutes I carve out to sit, usually with either Petra or Acadia warming my lap, watching the lively world of our deck, and sipping hot green tea (I have a new favorite– Dragon’s Well green tea– yumm! It has a mild chestnut-like flavor, and I love chestnuts.)
As always, I sit with sketchbook in hand (actually balanced on Petra or Acadia, who are remarkably obliging), doing many partial sketches, as my subjects are rarely still for more than a moment. I sometimes spend a few seconds here and there over a couple of days on each sketch, coming back to them as the bird or squirrel is again briefly in that same pose. 
I’m getting to know the three squirrels who regularly visit our deck- a large male, a large female, and a smaller female, who I’m guessing is a late summer baby from last year. The male is here the most, and when the female isn’t here, he spends all his time eating. When the female is here, he spends almost all his time following her around. The youngster is a bit more reddish than her elders, and I’m wondering if that is a factor of her age or if she’s just more reddish by nature. She isn’t here as often as the adults, and she moves away if they approach here. I’ll be watching her over the coming months to see whether she becomes more gray. 

Here I am at about 15 or 16 with Roy, a squirrel with a broken leg that my veterinarian asked me to care for