Friday, June 27, 2008

Loblolly Bay

When visiting Honey Horn Plantation last week, I noticed a pretty flowering tree. It was labeled Loblolly Bay Gordonia lasianthus. The name stuck with me as I only associated the name 'Loblolly' with pine trees. It's a native tree. One, I decided, that would be great to find in the wild.

As I entered my neighborhood the other day, I glanced to the left in time to see a large specimen in bloom! I turned around and parked off to the side. The branches were low enough to the ground that I could cut a small sample to paint from.

I've noticed this tree from time to time. It suffered damage during construction of our neighborhood gate. The trunk had been compromised about 15' up from the ground and the top of the tree bends unnaturally over. And now, despite mans carelessness, it blooms in full glory. This tree has won my heart forever!

I only stepped off the curbing for a minute to get the cutting.  I stood on pine straw between some landscape grass plantings and by the time I made it home (only a mile away), I could tell that the chiggers had attacked! 3 bites! I put a diluted bleach mixture on each bite (always mixed and on hand). I was 66% successful but, the bite on my Achillies tendon is a mess! I hate these little bugs!!!

Please click the image to able to read my notes.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Summer Solstice

We had the opportunity to spend a few hours of the summer solstice under a magnificent Live Oak tree (Quercus virginiana) on the Fiddler Crab Cove Boardwalk at the Coastal Discovery Museum's Honey Horn Plantation.

I couldn't resist trying to capture the massive trunk and lower limbs. You can just picture children draped on the the branches as they while away the long, hot summer days.

Two squirrels chattered away, chasing each other up and down the limbs. Several Tufted Titmice and Carolina Chickadees paid a visit. I was faced away from the marsh as I created this painting so I probably missed many a wading bird. Sigh.........

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Close Encounter

I saw my first Swallow-tailed Kite two summers ago. It was way up in the sky and of course, flying away from me. The tail was unmistakable, though. The S-t Kite's wings are long and slender, making it's job in nature (snatching large insects from the air and small lizards from trees) effortless.

But finally, a close encounter! This bird is amazing to watch. It swoops, banks and dives pretty much without a beat of its wings. The tail however, is quite busy! What a joy to finally get a good look at one. We pulled the golf cart over to watch the show. Even the dogs followed it's flight! I understand that they drink by skimming the surface of the water - I'd love to see that! (click on image for larger view)

I had no idea it was so big. When comparing it's size with other raptors, I discovered it's larger than a Red-tailed hawk by a couple of inches in both length and wingspan! L 22", WS 51", Weight 15 oz. But, the Red-tailed Hawk weighs 2.4 lbs.!

Good thing the R-t Hawk's job is different as it's weight and bulky wings would make for starvation and probably some crashes if it had to swoop, bank and dive in the air to catch it's prey. That's why we see them perched on telephone poles and trees, scanning the ground for meaty critters. Hmmmmmm, meaty critters - definitely why it weighs more than the Swallow-tailed Kite! Not many calories in insects and small lizards :)

I love form and function in nature..... for everything there is a reason.

Sunday, June 15, 2008


One of the great joys of noticing low country vegetation is Beauty-berry Callicarpa americana L.

This time of year it may be overlooked as there is so much 'green' everywhere. It loves to grow in partial to full shade in maritime forests, fencerows, woodland borders, pine-mixed hardwood and oak-hickory forests, and sandy or rocky woodlands.

I have seen different wildflower books call it American beautyberry, Beautybush and French-mulberry. My resource is 'A Guide to the Wildflowers of SC' by R.D. Porcher and D.S. Rayner. Here in the low country, those in the know feel that Beauty-berry is the best name.

All I know is, come fall, the berries will knock your eyes out. I couldn't wait to paint them. And, did! But, that was before the above mentioned book made it into my library and I entitled it French -mulberry! Oh well, can't use white-out on a watercolor painting :)

There are Beauty-berry shrubs all over Honey Horn Plantation on HHI. My good friend has one growing in her Bluffton yard. They make a great ornamental.

Over 40 species of songbirds eat the berries. They are a favorite of Cardinals, Robins, Mockingbirds, Brown Thrashers, Purple Finches and Eastern Towhees. White-tailed Deer will browse the leaves in spring/summer and will eat the fruit in late November after leaf fall. Northern Bobwhite, Raccoon, Opossums and Nine-banded Armadillo also enjoy the fruit.
(Forest Plants of the SE and their Wildlife Uses by James Miller & Karl Miller - another favorite book in my library)

Next time you're in one of the above mentioned habitats, look around and see if you can spot this shrub. The birds may lead you to them come fall. The best watercolor pencil for the berry color is Derwent's Magenta #22 :)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Golf & Nature Journaling!

One doesn't have to stick to nature walks to gather journaling material! Keep in mind, journaling is therapeutic. If you know you're going to be in a situation that can raise stress levels (for me, it's my golf game), bring along your journal!

I have been trying to play golf for over 25 years. Every now and then, I flirt with shooting 100 but, for the most part, I'm sorry to say, my score varies between 110 to 120............. That means I see a lot of each course we play......... And, my rule for sand traps is 2 tries and then I pull out the always reliable 'hand wedge.'

However, over the last 2 years, I've improved. I attribute it to three things. 1. I finally remembered to buy a small 5"x5" journal and keep it and a pencil case full of my journaling supplies in my golf bag, 2. Last year, my love purchased me a mini pair of folding binoculars that are also kept in my bag, and 3. This year, I finally found a driver I can hit (Ping - Lady Rhapsody).

I started my golf journal in January of 2007. Each time we play a course, I find something of interest that captures our time spent there. I draw while Rob and other men, we are usually teamed up with, are teeing off. I've learned how to observe and draw very quickly! Once the image is down, I'll spend the next few holes adding color and other notes of interest. It takes my mind off recent bad shots and soothes my soul :)

Thursday, June 5, 2008

A Day on the May

Last Saturday we spent the day with good friends, Don & Kate. They shared their little piece of heaven with us.... The May River.

For those who are not real familiar with Bluffton, SC, the May River is the town's pride and joy. It is a salt water finger extending inland. Most of it's flow is from the ocean in the form of tides rather than from upland run off. There was an extra low tide this day, we almost didn't make it out of the creek..... click on the journal page!

It was such fun to have the opportunity to explore a sandbar that's only exposed during low tides. We stayed for a good 4 hours, roaming the bar in search of shark teeth and critters, then off into the water to cool off. A tough way to spend a Saturday :)

Let me introduce....

I keep mentioning my husband, Rob, and the dogs....  Thought it would be nice to introduce y'all :)  The four of us love to hit the trails as often as possible.  Our dogs, Dudley (L) and Grizz (R) are Basenjis.  Sweet as can be but, like I tell everyone, they are not really dogs. They're reincarnated humans with a definite idea on how life should be lived.  Basically, Rob and I are owned and very well trained humans.

Their idea of a walk through the woods is if the trail is manicured.  Concrete, tar, mulch and wood boardwalks work real well.  They're not fond of stones, though.  Even our daily walks around our neighborhood must never follow the same direction.  Luckily we have 4 versions to choose from when we leave the house.  They pick the direction as soon as we leave the driveway :)

They are nine.  Grizz went blind last fall.  Sudden Acute Retinal Failure (SARDS).  We were crushed as her favorite thing to do is watch everything.  We call her the "amazin' raisin" because she does things that you wouldn't think a blind dog could do.  She heard a squirrel in the woods the other day and bolted after it!!!!!  Luckily she's always on a leash.  Grizz has no fear.  You can't tell she's blind when we are outside.  Inside, she'll still run into a few things but, usually if there's food involved.  She gets too excited to concentrate!

Our Dudley is my little boy, always checking on me and has separation anxiety when I leave the house for any length of time.  Well, I could go on and on but, I really just wanted you to have a visual.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Boardwalk Surprise!

For this post, I thought I'd let my journal page do the talking :)
(click image to enlarge)