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Sunday, 2 September 2018

Spending Some Holiday Time Painting

After having neglected my latest painting for a couple months, I got back to it with some time off this weekend. Have made some progress, still a ways to go. I spent some time blocking in the background further, working on some of the highlights that hit the wall and ground, and some little spots on the curb and here and there in the legs and face.

One thing I love to rely on, but can never fully plan for, as a working technique is ending up with a really useful colour that works successfully on an area it was not intentionally mixed for. Then, recognizing that I have such a colour on my brush, and that before I'm out of the mix, to know when and where to use it in another area.

An example of just such an instance is if I mix a really nice warm green ochre grey neutral, say for a soft highlight on a wall or object, but then realize hey, this is a perfect neutral for some of the shadows in the legs and arms, or to blend hard edges in the face, etc. The trick though is to realize I have such a colour on my brush, and that I am done with it where I mixed it for, and then to not go nuts with it in other areas but to lightly dry brush it in where it is effective in accomplishing something in another area. It is a technique, although a bit of a spontaneous yet controlled one, that I've just built up over time and practice, and I always get so excited when it rears its head while I'm painting :-)

Next weekend, I should be able to get a few more hours in on this piece. It is a painting of my son from when he was about 9 or 10, with his skateboard, in Ajax, Ontario.

Lots of Monarch Caterpillars

It's the Labour Day long weekend, hard to believe that summer zipped by that fast yet again. There are still nice temperatures out there, and lots to see. It's raptor migration season beginning, and the Monarch butterflies are on their 4th stage of their life cycle, this 4th generation that will be born soon, will be the one that heads to Mexico.

We saw Monarch butterflies mating a couple weeks ago, and on our recent walk at Tommy Thompson this weekend, we saw quite a lot of the little results munching milkweed leaves, the Monarch caterpillars. There were other types of caterpillars there, one we saw a lot of, the Milkweed Tussock Moth's caterpillar, which are quite the sight, with their spiky orange black and white hairy selves. Lucky I did Not give in to my impulse to touch its hairy spiky fur as apparently it has an irritant or poison that can burn and sting lol! There was a Tiger Moth orange fuzzy caterpillar, and a Hickory Tussock Moth, another poisonous caterpillar.

The Monarch caterpillars were plentiful, we did not spot any chrysalis' but we saw at least 25 Monarch caterpillars, all over milkweed. Some were small, some were huge. We also saw one Polyphemus Moth caterpillar, which looked to be beginning to build it's cocoon, but hard to know for sure. They are huge green caterpillars.

The gold finches were going nuts on the thistle seeds, there was a juvenile cormorant swimming near the bridge, a kingfisher hovering over the marsh area, and 2 families of Trumpeter swans with juvenile swans with them. A couple egrets flew by and we spotted one in the marsh. Terns are still around.

Tommy Thompson is great for a good long walk with very little incline changes. Our main intention to go there for our weekend nature hike/walk was for the possible Monarch chrysalis sightings, and maybe a bald eagle fly by high above and way far away. We did not hold out much hope of the odds being in our favour, but we were pleasantly thrilled and surprised both those hopeful sightings were Almost met!

We didn't see a chrysalis, but we Did see plenty of Monarchs, their caterpillars, and lots of other interesting caterpillars. Yes, we did get to see a bald eagle, but not a far away fly by, we saw a juvenile perched in a tree. John spotted his tail and back from a bit away. As we rounded the trees he was in, there he was, a bald eagle, looking around, sitting shaded in the leaves of the tree. At one point he looked over towards me and seemed to stare into my eyes. We stood and looked at him for a bit, then we continued on. We felt very very lucky to get to see him and hope he is fine, as he'll most likely be on his way by now, to where he was headed.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

The Mighty Monarch Butterfly Mating

Every year, I recall the season when we are most likely to see a lot of butterflies. Generally it's end of Aug, very early Sept. For the Monarchs, it is the beginning of their migration time. If you ever get a chance to, it's very interesting to read about the life cycle of the Monarch Butterfly, it's just amazing and interesting! These seemingly delicate creatures, the 4th generation being the one that makes the trip to Mexico.

Doris McCarthy Trail, in Scarborough (now the City of Toronto), is one of our favourite places to go. It has the combination of varying terrain of a light forest and treed area as well as the lake shore, some inclines for exercise, it's not super long, it has ideal conditions for birds and butterflies, there are the bluffs, it's never super crowded with people like Bluffers Park yet has the same landmarks and aspects. It's definitely worth checking out, especially in Spring and late Summer. Spring, it attracts a lot of migratory birds, it has humming birds pretty much the whole season into Fall, and it has raptors and cliff swallows, as well as Cedar Waxwings. The wild flowers are always abundant, especially in the meadow like area at the west end when you reach the end of the terrain and hit the breaker wall of rock and an inlet of Lake Ontario. Lots of butterflies fuel up there and can be seen in the hundreds in late Aug. Lots of Swallow Tails and Monarchs. We even got the pleasure of seeing a Cedar Waxwing in a nest, in mid July.

Yesterday, as soon as we came off the trail down, at the lake shore area, we spotted pairs of coupled Monarchs floating through the sky and landing on trees and plants. We must have timed our trek right, to hit the mating for the 4th generation of the life cycle, the one that is then born and makes the journey to Mexico.

The landscape is so gorgeous and wild, so full of living creatures and beautiful plant life, but death too sometimes. A couple weeks ago, we ran into the pretty much disintegrated carcass of a white tailed deer. Patches of hair everywhere, ribs and bones scattered around. This trip down, there was little sign of it left, just a patch or 2 of its course hair and a couple small bones.

Sunday, 22 July 2018

Happy Valley Again This Summer!

Since we loved it there last year, we decided to head up to Happy Valley again for a hiking and walking day. It's nice to go to a bit father nature area than the usual ones near our place in Scarborough/Toronto. Happy Valley is in the Township of King which is a bit north west of Wonderland, up the 400 and then west.

This is a hot summer, so far, but the temps were fine for hiking, especially since about 3/4 of it is in forested paths. The one really nice thing about the Happy Valley trails, with are part of the Oak Ridges Moraine area as well as the Grey Bruce trail system, is that there is a nice variety of forest and open meadow like areas as well as a bit of wet areas. The means that you have a variety of terrain, plants, birds, and creatures that you may see.

There were not many deer flies or mosquitoes, as there have been in the past at certain times of the year (like last year). However, as I soon discovered by walking face first into one, there were quite a few little orb weaver spiders suspended just at or above head level throughout the trails lol! I should have realized as early on, I spotted on really cool one that looked like a living CD, highlighted by the sunlight, suspended between trees.

Lots of mushrooms too! We don't tend to see as many of those in the forested areas near us in the GTA, not that many.

One other creature we don't see often here is toads, nor frogs, and there are quite a few different types of butterflies we only tend to see if we go a bit further north, or into different types of terrain and forested areas than in the GTA. There are quite a few fritillary butterflies and northern pearly eye butterflies up there too that we rarely see down here in our parks.

We did see quite a few yellow finches and a few different warblers. Wrens were everywhere to be heard, but we did not get lucky enough to see one. We also got to see a Mom and baby Wood Ducks in the marsh, as we headed back along the roadway at one point. Too bad they were so far away, but it was still such a cute sight to see! Lots of dragonflies were around too, mainly orange and green ones, but a few red ones, and those black and white winged kind.

Not sure if we ended up in an area that was private property, as there were tons of signs saying so but on every side, on swallow houses, along the path, very hard to figure out if we were or weren't and if we Were then how the hell did we end up in one lol! In any event, we ran across a little bee farm area. I've never seen one before and it was quite fascinating! A bit creepy too though.

This is an area that is really worth checking out. It is a lovely and unique area, part of it was bequeathed to the township by a couple, who wanted the area to be preserved and enjoyed for generations to come. So, treat the land, as all land, with respect, pick up after yourself and leave no sign that you were there :-)