Thursday, March 31, 2016

Wild Grape Vine, Eyed Click Beetle, Sixth Graders

This entry was drawn yesterday during my class with two sixth grade boys.  They are such fun, and both seem eager to draw... except on beautiful sunny day just before spring break!  They were hilariously hyper yesterday, but still I taught them a few important things, such as how to identify our Official State Wildflower, Carolina Jessamine, and how to identify a Tiger Swallowtail butterfly (we saw them everywhere!) and their main host plant, Tulip Poplars.  We also found an Eyed Click Beetle, which look scary because of their huge false eyes. We all held him to feel his CLICK!

After a lot of playing around, we sat at the edge of the woods to draw a wild grape vine and any other little thing we might see nearby.  Rufous-sided Towhees and Cardinals and Crows made appearances while we drew.

Here are a few sketches from the boys.

 Wild Grape Vine

 Close up of DNA of a gnat. Ha!

Wild Grapevine

Daisy helping to carry home one of our sitting rugs. For the record, I didn't realize how completely miserable she was until I looked closely at this photo. Poor old girl. She carried it pretty far (for her). I won't let it happen again. 

Heading back

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Mysteries of Migration

The article above can be found in this month's issue of Wildlife in North Carolina magazine.  Every month the magazine includes a four-page section called "Wild Notebook" which is written for families with children, and for teachers to print and hand out in their classrooms.  I've been writing and illustrating for Wild Notebook for many years, and continue to feel thankful for the opportunity to share with children my love for and fascination with all aspects of our natural world.

The Hummingbird paper sculpture project is by Anne Runyon, one of the most creative and brilliant artists I know! She designs a new project for each article.



Friday, March 11, 2016

Riverbank: Dog Hobble, Dwarf-Flowered Heartleaf, Asian Clams

The dogs and I spent a couple hours by the river this morning, me drawing, Daisy and Duke playing in the water for a while, then napping. By noon it was 78 degrees, warm for mid-March, and sitting beside a rushing river is a wonderful way to enjoy it.

We wandered around a bit first and found a pile of small clam shells near the water where, a while back, raccoons had eaten a feast.  There were tracks nearby that were new, (the shells were not) but they are not raccoon.  I'll look them up in my tracks field guide.

I discovered a natural chair at a spot where an old wild grapevine rests on the ground. (see photo below) Sand had washed down and filled in behind the vine to make a soft, flat seat, and from there I could see the long arching stems of Dog Hobble (Leucothoe axillaris) as well as the small leaves of the Dwarf-flowered Heartleaf (Hexastylis naniflora), two typical north-facing riverbank species. Daisy found a spot just below where I sat, while Duke climbed and settled above me on the steep bank.  The rushing water kept us all company.

Another thing I'll look up tonight are the cute, tomato-red bugs that were out in force on that sandy bank.  Everywhere I looked I saw one running around.  It occurred to me that I should be careful since the bugs were RED, and supposedly announcing that they are poisonous, or at least would make me itch. But then again, they may just be faking it.  I was not particularly careful, but I never got a bite! Because of this I assume they are harmless... If I'm wrong (and just lucky not to get bitten), I'll update! 


Bug and Tracks UPDATE: Sunday, March 13

Clover Mites (Bryobia praetiosa) are bright red when young.  Perhaps the ones I saw had just hatched out.  Older ones are reddish brown, and probably difficult to see.  

This is one of several field guides to animal tracks. The tracks I saw were not clear enough to identify, and I can't remember exactly how big they were. I remember thinking they were too big to be a squirrel. I will probably go back later today to see if I see any new ones.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Daffodils, Violets & Clematis vine

We are enjoying a taste of Spring weather this week, with temps in the mid-70's yesterday and today, and it looks to be nice all the way until Saturday. Spring surprises are popping out every day. It's time for the ephemerals (wildflowers that bloom before the trees leaf out), and while hiking with my sons Sunday I found both Rue Anemone and Round-lobed Hepatica just beginning to bloom.

I planted the little miniature daffodils (above) in a big green pot a few years ago, along with the clematis. The violets in there are wild and self-sowed all around, in and out of the pot. While drawing I noticed that down near the bottom, the pot has cracked completely around. Ah, well. Nothing to do about that. Instead I closed my eyes to listen to the birds and smell the warming earth.  It was heavenly. A bird fluttered just behind my head, and I assume it was the Tufted Titmouse that had been singing just seconds before.  A female Cardinal chip chip chipped to her mate from the Forsythia, which is just beginning to open. A Question Mark butterfly flittered above the warm gravel in the driveway.  I'm so glad Spring is on its way!

Yesterday's drawing spot

Rue Anemone