Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Weather and Autumn Colors

The South Carolina Audubon Center at Francis Beidler Forest has a great blog. Changing Seasons is a recent post that tells how weather can affect autumn color.

The fall colors, in my part of Beaufort County, have inspired me this year. I'd say peak color was 2 weeks ago but, there are still some pockets of color that stir my memories of New England autumn days. The ferns have been especially colorful. Almost a burnt orange! I have many pages to journal........ But first, work for hire must be finished :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November's workshop news to come

I have been very blessed with commission work. Keeping my blog current suffers, though. Please check back as I have lots to tell you about my last workshop and other goodies :)

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Wow! Great Free Press :)

Bluffton Today's education writer, Sara Wright, thrilled me with some free press. Thank you, Sara!

Just click the Bluffton Today link above. To check out the front page (yes, I made it there too!), just move the blue button, to the left of the main article, up to the top.

WoooHooo, star for a day :)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Nemours Plantation Field Trip

I held my inaugural nature journaling field trip, for past workshop participants, at Nemours Plantation on October 30th. Nemours, a private plantation, is located in northern Beaufort County and extends for 8 miles along the southern bank of the Combahee River. It lies within the ACE Basin - a low country treasure that includes approxamately 170,000 protected acres within the Ashepoo, Combahee, and Edisto River Basins.

Eugene duPont III began assembling Nemours in the early 1960's by purchasing several smaller plantations. It now includes 9,800 acres and contains a rich diversity of habitats including remnant rice fields, fresh and brackish water marshes, upland pine and hardwood forests, bottomland hardwoods, and cypress/tupelo swamps.

Most of the wetlands associated with the Combahee River were diked in the 1700's and converted to fields for growing rice. Rice farming in SC disappeared by the 1920's but the dikes and water control structures (rice trunks) have been maintained and are used today to create habitats for wetland dependent wildlife.

Mr. duPont had the vision to protect this plantation forever and upon his passing in 1995 the Nemours Wildlife Foundation was established. In 1999, the Foundation hired Dr. Ernie Wiggers as its first Executive Director. In Dr. Wiggers words, "Our vision for the Foundation is to continue the legacy of Eugene duPont, III and his family through excellence in land stewardship, education, and science."

Back in March, after the Master Naturalist field trip to Nemours, I proposed my nature journaling field trip idea to Ernie. One of my ongoing goals is to keep workshop participants actively journaling and what better way to accomplish this than to plan special educational trips? Thank you, Ernie, for helping me achieve this goal!

I sent out 26 invitations and received a lot of interest from workshop alumni. However, between some folks still being out of town for the summer and some cancelations due to unexpected circumstances, the RSVP list dwindled down to 3. We were a small group but had lots of heart! Ernie met us inside the Nemours' educational building and while the crisp fall air warmed, he shared information about the plantation and the Foundation's mission and goals. Ernie was very generous with his time and luckily by the time we headed out to discover nature's wonders, the only thing we needed to do was find shelter from the north wind. We found some reeds along the rice impoundment dike in front of the main house. We settled in and as we became quiet, nature came alive around us.

Sharon found a Common Buckeye butterfly. It was very cooperative about being photographed! My guide book states they love to alight on bare soil or gravel (that's where it was) but, that it's extremely wary and difficult to approach. They do not withstand freezing temperatures and will migrate to the gulf coast, so perhaps the 40 degree morning temps made it sluggish.

While Sharon, Lynda and Kate sketched, I handed out guide sheets on waterbirds and discussed how to ID birds by their silhouette and field marks versus color. We didn't see any migrating birds but, we had a good look at a Bald Eagle, 18 soaring White Pelicans, Great Egrets, a Snowy Egret, a couple of Great Blue Herons, a Cormorant, a few Common Terns, Turkey Vultures and 4 Jet Fighters from the Marine base!

The marsh grass was begining to turn golden. We were discussing a few plants that were flowering and I had the perfect opportunity to explain whay scientific names are so important to record in journals. Case in point 'Sea Myrtle.' Lynda said she knew this shrub by the name Groundsel-tree. Also correct! Another common name for it is Consumption Weed. By including the scientific name in your notes there will be no question as to the plants identity.

Scientific names of plants are a universally accepted, standardized system governed by the International Code of Botanical Nomenclature (ICBN). According to my Wildflowers of SC guide book by R.D. Porcher and D.A. Rayner, the scientific name always consists of two Latin or latinized words: a genus or generic name and a specific epithet for the species. The specific epithet is followed by the name of the person(s) who first described the plant. This subject, alone, could fill many blog posts so I'll end it here :)

After lunch we moved back up to the lawn. The tide must have turned as the north wind picked up again. We kept having to move so we'd stay in the sunshine!

Kate added memory drawings and a poem, on the bottom of her journal page, from her recent trip to Washington state. That's what I love about journaling. You can do anything you want :)

We had a great time. Renewed friendships and as Lynda so nicely put it - we were with kindred spirits in beautiful surroundings. Thank you, Lynda, Kate and Sharon for making this inaugural workshop great!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fall Bird Observations

Joy of joys, I just heard two Barred Owls talking to each other in the woods behind our home. I've been hooting back to one for weeks. I'm happy it finally found the real thing :)

I've seen Fish Crows in very large flocks lately. One flock decided to roost at my friends home near the May River. Lucky for them the crows moved on. It could have been a noisy winter.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What's New?

Traditionally, October is my busiest month and this year it was no exception: workshops, art shows, learning more photoshop techniques so I can make note cards, a board meeting at the Society of Bluffton Artists Gallery where I'm recording secretary, SOBA Gallery sitting duty (you hang a painting, you work a shift). The list goes on and on :) Thank goodness Rob loves to cook!!

Here are samples of the note cards that are now available. Enjoy! Please contact me ( if your interested in purchasing sets. They make great hostess gifts :)

This Thursday, I've planned a special field trip for my past workshop participants to Nemours Plantation. I think it's important to keep the 'nature journaling juices' alive so I plan field trips that only my alumni can attend.

Nemours Plantation is located in northern Beaufort County and extends for 8 miles along the southern bank of the Combahee River. It lies within the ACE River Basin -"listed as one of the last great places on Earth" by The Nature Conservancy.

I was introduced to Nemours when enrolled in the SC Master Naturalist Program. My class spent a day, at this private plantation, learning about the ACE Basin and how the Nemours Wildlife Foundation was established, as well as its missions. We viewed flocks of shorebirds, white pelicans, a few wood storks, herons & egrets, and learned first hand about rice trunks as we walked along rice field embankments.

I hope to post our journal pages by the weekend. Please check back!

Friday, October 17, 2008

National Wildlife Refuge Week - Pickney Island

In celebration of National Wildlife Refuge Week, Water-Dog Outfitters has partnered with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to offer tours of Pinckney Island. Rob and I chose to take the hayride tour. We enjoy Pickney Island but, to date, had not been past Ibis Pond. Here was a chance to scope it out and see if our thin-tired bicycles would handle the trails (not!).

We took the 3 p.m. tour. The weather was Carolina perfect. But, being that time of day, we didn't see a whole lot of wildlife. Rob saw an armadillo off in the woods and we all saw a small flock of White Ibis roosting in a tree near one of the ponds. There were Gulf Fritillary butterflies everywhere. I've decided, after studying these butterflies in flight, that they look like the TIE Fighter ships in Star Wars. The speed of their wing beats is such that my eyes see the shape of these fighters. I see a lot of natures shapes in science fiction movies. Have you noticed this too?

Pickney is beautiful!! The main trail has some large stones that really require a bike with large tires. But, there are also wide grass paths that shoot off of the main trail that are just lovely. We stopped for a break along the NNW shore with a view of Mackay Creek. I always pronounced it Ma ka' (long 'a' in ka) but, our guide pronounced it Mac' key. I need to get a hold of a local and get the scoop on how to pronounce the name.

Our view, at the stop, looked toward Little Harry and Corn Islands. The tide was low enough to see oyster beds across the creek. Thank God for Oysters! They keep our waterways clean. How? Oysters pump 7 gallons an hour through their mucus covered gills! Yes, 7 gallons an hour!!! They can filter water in an estuary system within weeks. This doesn't mean mankind can get lazy about potential pollution though. Town planners and developers need to remember this!

I've linked the title of this blog to the Pickney Island Wildlife Refuge page. Have a peek :)

Saturday, October 4, 2008

One More Wildflower

One last wildflower for the season :) Actually, I've had the image done for quite a while but, I wanted just the right calligraphic font for it's title. I played on and off with different styles, most were too static. I think I have the best one now. What do you think?

The Climbing Butterfly Pea is a pretty little trailing or twining perennial herb. The cutting I took was quite interesting to watch. The flowers would last a day. Luckily, there were quite a few buds! It's found along roadsides, fields, fence lines and other disturbed sites (Atlantic Coastal Plain Wildflowers/Gil Nelson).

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Meandering on the May

October 1st was nature journaling day on the May River. My good friend, Kate, called and said we must take advantage of the extra high tides and journey up the May to its headwaters. OK! I'm there!

We pushed off just after 10 a.m., camera in hand. Not to far into our travels, Kate stopped the boat. "What's going on?" I asked.
"Dolphins." she replied. I didn't see a thing, but my river rat (endearing term) friend saw the ripples on the water and knew we were in for a treat. About 20 feet from the boat they came up for air. Two adults and a calf. We watched them for a while. They too were taking advantage of the tide.

Onward we traveled. The channel through the spartina (cord grass) was getting more and more narrow. We were able to make it within 200 feet of the Palmetto Bluff bridge where the river begins! Love those extra high tides :)

We saw egrets galore - Great and Snowy, Little Blue Herons, a few Great Blues, juvi Black-crowned Night Heron, Kingfishers, Osprey, terns and gulls. And, a special fly over by 12 Wood Storks. I was in heaven :)

On the way back we anchored the skiff along the shady side of the river. We sketched and painted, had a picnic lunch and watched the tide as it changed. The extra high tides seem to get extra low real quick! We headed for the sandbar. It was just becoming visible when we approached. We set out the anchor once again but, between the winds and the tide moving out so quickly, the skiff kept floating back toward the bar. Couldn't take advantage of the sandbar, not without the boat becoming beached. Oh well, how much 'perfect' can you have in one day? :) Please click on the image for a better view of the 2 journal pages I created.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Nature Journaling Expanded Workshop

I had three students for my inaugural Nature Journaling Expanded Workshop at the Society of Bluffton Artist's Gallery (SOBA).
What fun we had!

We began by creating custom journals that included covering two boards, cutting down full sheets of watercolor paper and punching holes so we could assemble our books. Learning page design elements was next, then we moved onto the basic techniques of calligraphy. They practiced italics with #2 and #4 brushes and with tape nibs using gouache paint. Then Kate, Sharon and Marilyn learned how to build type fonts by hand and adding color as needed. I use this technique a lot when I create my own journal pages.

We continued calligraphy practice on day two. Then it was time to put new ideas to work. Assignment: create a journal page around specimen insects that I handed out: dragon fly, moth & butterfly. Identify the insects by using a guide book, design the journal page, create a calligraphic title , add informational body copy about the insect, then sign and date the page.

I can't get enough of teaching nature journaling! I love introducing techniques and then watching each person create their interpretations. Here are their journal pages. They worked real hard, I'm so proud of the results! (some said their eyes had a hard time focusing on their food at dinner time..... Oh no! Teacher overloaded students!) Make sure you click on this image to get a better view :)

Despite their tired eyes, come day three, we were all anxious to go out in-the-field and create another journal page. Luckily we didn't have to travel real far. About 10 steps away from SOBA's back door was a lovely Beauty-berry loaded with wonderful magenta berries - my favorite!

I did a watercolor pencil demo, then let Marilyn, Sharon & Kate get to work. Bruiser, a hound/shepherd mix came by for a visit. He's so cute and loving. Luckily he didn't have the 'wet dog' odor he was sporting the other day!

After lunch we covered how to paint clouds, practiced techniques for painting marsh grass, palmetto trees and spanish moss.
Whew! A full three days :)

Well, here it is, the graduation photo :) Thank you, Sharon, Kate & Marilyn! I so enjoyed our time together. Keep journaling!

Friday, September 26, 2008

Fall Equinox

I decided to enter a painting into the SC State Fair. I've not done this before but, all that was involved was a trip to Columbia. Gas prices being what they are, my friend, Kate, thought it would be nice to augment the 2+ hour drive (each way) with some fun. Bless you, Kate, for suggesting Congaree National Park! My Master Naturalist class had an overnight field trip to the Congaree that I wasn't able to attend. I had no idea that the park was so close to the fair grounds :) I jumped at the chance to visit, even if for a short time!

We decided to take the self guided tour of the 2.5 mile boardwalk trail. The weather was perfect. The morning had been cool and cloudy but the afternoon on the boardwalk was lovely. We actually had to shed our sweaters! I'm in big trouble if we ever have to move back up north - cool to me now is low 70's.........

The skeeters were active so we had to move right along, though I did manage to get a quick sketch of a tupelo tree. Today, I found a tree poem and added it onto my journal page. What a lovely place to spend the first day of fall :) You can click the image for a larger view.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

A 'Carolina' Perfect Day

If a sensory dictionary existed and you could look up and feel a perfect Carolina day....... today would be there :)

We finally had a break from the unusually high heat and humidity that's been with us for most of September. Yesterday was actually cloudy and in the mid 70's. That was a shock! And today... well, it's why soooo many people choose to live in the Carolinas :)

For me, it was nature journaling day, and off to Oldfield we went, arriving at the Duck Pond just before 10 a.m. I was in heaven. Almost every kind of wading bird was along the far shore: Woodstorks, White Ibis, Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Tri-colored Herons, juvi Little Blue Herons, a juvi Black-crowned Night Heron. Not to mention Anhingas, an Osprey and a Great Blue Heron nearby along the banks of the Okatie River.

What to draw first? A Great Egret caught my attention. It appeared to have just caught a fish and was having a bit of a time getting it down the hatch. The bird would arch its neck then pick a foot up and scratch its throat. I watched the egret for a long time through my bins. Sure wished I had brought my scope. I like viewing my subject through the scope and sketching it at the same time. I managed to do it with the bins but 'twas a bit awkward. Two hours pasted but, it felt like 5 minutes. Luckily I was able to take lots of photographs.

Love Bugs were everywhere! Rob and I noticed a few on Monday when we golfed, but yesterday and today there were thousands. Oh goodie. Extra work now washing the dead ones off of our cars. Their body chemistry corrodes auto paint! Not to mention if you sit on them you can not get the stain out of your clothing..... I'm on my third try at getting their stain out of my golf shorts.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The time of the long shadows...

The romance of late summer evenings has arrived in the low country. Even though our day time highs are in the 90's, the early evenings cool right down. No haze remains from the heat and the warm yellow light of the setting sun is absolutely beautiful. It's the time of the long shadows.

This was my parents favorite time of evening. After the cows were milked and chores finished, we'd sometimes take a country road ride to the Dresser Hill Dairy Farm. It was a good size farm who's owners decided it would be a great spot to have a homemade ice cream stand. Folks from Dudley, Charlton, Southbridge, and other nearby rural areas would flock in. The ice cream was top shelf and the lines were long.

Now I too, hold this time of year and time of day close to my heart. Rob and I will take the dogs for their golf cart ride in a little bit. I will smile as I gaze upon the long shadows and will continue down my memory lane's journey :) Good evening!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Boardwalk Sights

Great night on the boardwalk. It's been so quite of late, barely a song bird! But, tonight... actually around 7:30 p.m, we made our way along the boardwalk and saw a doe with her fawn! The fawn had remnants of it's white spots and the light hair around it's eyes, just like Mom. A green heron flew to a nearby tree while the deer and I were conversing. I'm still smiling :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Learning Html • Beauty Berry

This is a test to see if I might have figured out how to place images wherever I want them. Yeeha! Can the girl do it?? I need to peak at Preview now and see......

Not enough body copy yet, all the type is still above the image. So, I'm adding more body copy below the Html code to see where it will go - perhaps it will be to the side of the image where I want it, but when I peak at Preview will it be below the image? Let's see.....

Woohoo!!!!!!!!!!!!! Success :) This is one happy camper!

Oh, by the by - Beauty Berry berries are starting to appear :)
Don't you just love their color?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Ode to a Wildflower

At long last, I've finished my journal page devoted to the Passion Flower, aka Maypops!  I wish everyone could view this flower in real time.  I've never seen such an, for a lack of a better term..... architectural wonder!

When we moved here, I purchased a SC wildflower guide book. I perused through to see what goodies I might find in my neck of the low country.  Maypops made the top of my list to see.

 If not for a brief glance to my right as I was leaving my favorite Oldfield trail, I may have surely missed it!  

There I was, out of time to frolic, and my 'quest flower' is right beside me. God!  So, in good 'Johnson' fashion (my family is noted for having their own time clock) I threw my schedule to the wind, grabbed onto the serendipitous moment and took as many photographs as I could :)

The flowers only last for three days!  Two days later, I took Rob over to show him this gem of the wildflower world..........  Not a bloom in sight!  Three times I tried to have him see them.  Oh well, I did get one more view.  I slipped in a quick visit to the trail and lucked out :)  This time I saw green fruit, which was large and round.  My wildflower book by Richard D. Porcher and Douglas A Rayner says that the fruit is edible raw but, even better when made into jelly.  Yum!

The flowers will bloom May through September (thus the Maypops name?) and the fruit will yellow when ripe (June through October).  The common name; passion-flower comes from the resemblance of the floral parts to the story of Christ's Passion.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Recent Low Country Observations

Well, life's been a tad crazy, busy lately!  September starts the fall season for my nature journaling workshops and local outdoor art festivals.  I've paintings to create, workshops to promote, teaching materials to gather and commission jobs to finish.  This leaves little time to draw in my journal, scan journal pages and post to the blog.  Usually, I will have one sleepless night every now and then and I get tons of work done.  Why hasn't this happened lately?? 

Time for nature observations has been narrowed down catching all I can while walking the dogs. Thank goodness we have dogs!!  There's no ignoring the great outdoors when you have them - no matter the weather!  Just one more reason to love them :)

The neighborhood Red-shouldered hawks have started to call again.  Haven't seen them yet, though.  The trees in the my neighborhood's wetland are starting to change color - seems early for the south.  Mocking birds are back to singing.  We have one that loves to sit on our neighbors roof and rattle off every birdsong melody known.  Then it will fly straight up about 10 feet, then back down and continue on with it's song.  I do love them.

The other day there was a family of crows harassing something.  I'm thinking hawk or owl. What a racket!  I was grilling dinner and the sound was tremendous.  There had to be at least twenty crows.  Then I saw a man walking down the sidewalk between my house and the woods where the crows were whooping it up.  Surely he would look in their direction........  Not! 
That always amazes me.  People have such blinders on.  Wake up!  Look around!  Amazing things are happening!  Sigh......

 A friend sent me a link to Planet Earth the Secret. Have a look.  I wish all peoples could see this.  Enjoy!  Peace to you and yours!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Common Nighthawks

For a few weeks before we left for NY, we had four Nighthawks entertain us during our evening dog walks. Best of all, we didn't have to leave our neighborhood to see them.  

The first evening was too dark to make a positive ID, and they were flying quite high.  Their flight was swift. Tern?

The second night, they were low enough to see their brown coloring and detect the white bar on their wings. That's no tern!  Then, there was the frog like sound, but it was coming from the sky! Wow, could it be that we're finally seeing a bird from the Goatsucker family?

Yes..... It's a Nighthawk!  Noting the white wing bar was a great field mark.  All these years of hearing and never seeing Whip-poor-wills and Chuck-will's-widows (say that 5 times fast) we, at last, got to see a relative!  I was thrilled :)  

I've only seen one Nighthawk, one time, since we've been back. They are one of the first to migrate.  I'm wondering if these birds were taking a mini break from their voyage south to bulk up on Bluffton's insects.   I say, "Thank you for spending time with us, for your entertaining dog fight flight, and for keeping our insect population in check! Safe travels!"

Saturday, August 30, 2008

NY Clouds & Colors

Wow! What a difference in weather from SC to NY!  No humidity and very cool to us... Daytimes in the high 60's with a lake breeze, nights in the low 50's. Needless to say, come bedtime, we slept with the windows open and the comforter on :)  And, much to my delight, groups of Canada geese would fly over and land on the lake. There's nothing finer than being lulled to sleep by the sounds of geese :)

On Sunday, August 10th, I had the opportunity to do some cloud studies, in my journal, as we sat on the pontoon boat. One of our favorite things to do is watch the day go by while we lounge on the boat - even if it's docked!  My sketches sometimes suffer from the rocking of the boat but, to me, it's all part of the charm :)

There were times, our first week there, that I was wishing I had packed my turtlenecks.  We'd get wild lake winds during the day and thunderstorms every evening.

Our second week was much more temperate and no rain to speak of. One warm day, the locals were complaining about the humidity. Rob and I just smiled.  For humidity, it was really bush league!

I loved being back among the rolling hills and farmland that surround Conesus Lake.  The landscape colors were outstanding. Trees in the wetlands were already sporting red leaves and the fields of corn were a wonderful shade of yellow ochre. The August clouds and scenery colors had October written all over them.  I truly love the SC low country but, I think my heart will always belong to the rolling hills of the northeast.

We managed to play one round of golf with our lake friends. The Island Oaks course at Lima Country Club can be challenging. Lots of hills, trees and water. I was more interested in enjoying the views. Yup, not a good day on the links for me.....  Didn't even get to see any wildlife!  Sigh....

All in all, a good visit to NY. Enjoyed Rob's side of the family and our dear friends.  Grizz and Dudley enjoyed time on the boat. I'd carry Grizz down the dock, then let her have her freedom once on the pontoon boat. Even blind, she stills loves to be on the boat.  That did our hearts good! 

Friday, August 8, 2008

Escaping August Heat

Finger Lakes here we come!  August is the perfect time to head north as it's been a tad toasty in the low country lately.

We're heading back to our old stomping grounds on Conesus Lake.  It's the very last Finger Lake, located about 45 minutes south of Rochester, NY.  Rob's folks have a summer place there. 

The weather has not been real great in western NY this year.  When my in-laws complain, you know it's bad.  They are die-hard Rochesterians
and will never admit to any foul weather.  However, anyone who has spent any time in that part of NY knows that foul weather and gray skies occur more times than not.

One of the many things I like about nature journaling is capturing the same location over and over.  Here are some of the many faces of the same view.

The dogs will be happy to sit on the pontoon boat once again.  Things will be very different for Grizz though, now that she's blind. It will surely be a gut ache for Rob and me as she loved to stand on the dock and look into the water to watch the fish or lay on the boat and just gaze out over the lake.  

We've remembered to pack long pants and sweats.  I'm being real optimistic by not including a turtleneck :)

I'll be posting again in a couple of weeks.  I hope to be able to finish up my July wildflower finds while enjoying the view from the pontoon boat.  Ahhhhhh, vacations.  Got to love them :)