Thursday, 27 August 2015


I am a naturalist. My passion is the study, and appreciation of Nature.

    In my garden I have a trellis on which I’ve trained Morning Glories to grow. Every morning in late summer the trellis is covered with new blooms. It’s quite beautiful. The blooms are visited by Ruby-throated Hummingbirds searching, no doubt, for small insects. It’s all very idyllic, calm and peaceful until that is, the dominant male appears and violently chases the females and immature hummingbirds away. 
It strikes me that the natural world is not the peaceful idyllic place that we think that it is. Instead, it is a place of constant struggle for survival, a place where there can be no peace, where selflessness is completely unknown, and I think to myself that it’s much like the world that we humans occupy, a world visited by war, and never ending conflict fuelled by a belief in the supernatural in the guise of religion. Are we humans really that pitiful that we can’t see the beauty in this place that we call earth? Are we are really so pitiful that we're unable to appreciate the miracle that we call life? There is so much that we could do were we to work together to make this planet a paradise. But, I suppose that this is not to be our destiny. Many of us have have been taught to believe that there is a better place, and in the rush to ascend to this better world we’re hell bent upon destroying this world for a chance to live in what might be described as a mythical world. I'm sorry, but this strikes me as being somewhat insane. Just how could there be a better world? Were we to give this world, our home, the appreciation and attention that it deserves it could easily become the paradise that we so eagerly seek.
There exists countless natural places in our world where peace and solitude can be enjoyed. One of these places is Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario, Canada. Over the years I've escaped the hustle and bustle of my day to day reality with visits to this park, and when I visit I always try to do a bit of sketching to remind me of my visit. We recently managed to get away to Algonquin for a few days, and despite not exactly perfect weather I managed a few sketches: -

Saturday, 8 August 2015


Sometime ago, many years ago actually, while visiting with friends they regaled us with an account of their honeymoon travels. Seems that they didn’t have a lot of money, so rather than motel it they slept in various parks, and if there was no park nearby they’d simply spread their sleeping bags in farmers fields. This one evening while travelling through the southern states, Alabama, or Georgia, I’ve long since forgotten which state, they spread their sleeping bags in a cotton field. The night was uneventful, but in the morning the wife found that she had multiple insect bites in and about her groin area, as well as around her waist. The bites were both painful and itchy at the same time. In a nearby town they spoke with a druggist who identified the bites as having been caused by Chiggers. Chiggers are the larval, or juvenile form of a type of mite (Trombiculidae). They were told that chiggers burrow into and remain under the skin, and that the only way to get rid of them was to paint iodine on each bite. The iodine would block air getting to the chigger, and eventually it would die. They purchased a large bottle of iodine, and the wife religiously applied the stinging iodine daily to each bite for the duration of their honeymoon. Eventually, the redness and itch went away, but the experience apparently interfered with their honeymoon experience. I remember that we all laughed hysterically at the wife’s misfortune.


The electric hum of the cicada lets us know that it’s August. August into September, and sometimes into October was a time, still is actually, to get in the car and explore. Sometimes we’d lash the canoe to the top of the car and head up to one of Ontario’s parks, and other times we’d drive across western Canada, or head south into the American Southwest.

This one time, actually our first trip down to the American Southwest, we drove and drove, stopping off in St. Louis, then turned west crossing the Mississippi  eventually ending up Madeira Canyon in the northwestern face of the Santa Rita Mountains, twenty-five miles southeast of Tucson, Arizona. We were there to research hummingbirds in particular, but of course all bird species were fair game to we avid birders. We observed several species of hummingbirds, Magnificent, Rufous, Broad-tailed, Calliope, Broad-billed, White-eared, etc, and many bird species including Greater Roadruuners.

This one very hot day we went off in search of Painted Buntings, and Cactus Wrens. We eventually spotted them, but not before I’d crawled on hands and knees under bushes to get better views. Successful we headed back to our lodgings in the park to wait out the searing heat of the afternoon. I was sitting in the shade having a beer when I began to feel a discomfort in my groin area as if someone was pricking me with needles, much like a heat rash. I endured the discomfort, but later when showering I discovered dozens of red marks that were not only painful, but uncomfortably itchy. The next day, on our way up to Bryces Canyon we stopped off at a drug store where we were informed that my bites were caused by Chiggers….and I was sold a bottle of iodine.

Years later with the help of the internet I learned that Chiggers do not burrow under the skin, and that the discomfort is caused by an enzyme that is injected under the skin when the Chigger bites. The enzyme decomposes tissue upon which the Chigger feeds. Painting each bite with iodine serves no purpose except to sterilize the area, and create further discomfort.

Incidentally, when I tell this story everyone, except me, laughs hysterically as they picture me painting my groin with iodine, and walking like a cowboy. Perhaps, this is one of the reasons that cowboys wear long jeans, eh?


Black-capped Chickadee  Pencil Study

Black-capped Chickadee in Flight    Pencil Study

The Chase - Ruby-throated Hummingbirds   Pencil and Watercolour

Red-breasted Nuthatch   Pencil Study

White-breasted Nuthatch   Pencil Drawing

Hen Wood Duck   Life Size Pencil Study

Drake Wood Ducks   Watercolour and Pencil Study

Wood Duck Profiles  Pencils and Watercolour

Saturday, 1 August 2015


Sometime ago I was leafing through a magazine and came across a photograph of a small waterfall flowing into a pond creating a ripple effect. I began to think about the ripple in the water and how, when it reached the bank at the other side of the pond it would transfer its energy to the bank, and that energy, albeit not large, would travel through the ground and perhaps disturb the soil, causing the slightest shift in the earth, which compounded by the energy from previous ripples, would cause the earth to move slightly loosening the roots of a tree and cause the tree to fall years later displacing a volume of air that ultimately would be responsible for creating a storm thousands of miles from the pond, which by this time had dried up and become overgrown with plant life.

Impossible you say, well tell that to Isaac Newton whose Third Law tells us that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”.  Actually, I find Newton’s Third Law quite amazing, and mention to anyone who feels that they’ve accomplished very little in life that the mere fact that they’ve brushed up against someone in passing, or even said hello with a smile, has joined in something akin to perpetual motion, perhaps even been responsible for changing our world’s history.

By the way of an example I want to tell you about Anne. It was long ago, so long ago in fact that I’ve forgotten her surname. All that I can remember is that she was a spinster I believe, with a love of nature, and in particular songbirds, birds of every kind for that matter. Anne was a member of the local naturalist group.

I was at a low point in my business career having become a bit of a workaholic, and spending little time enjoying the good things in life. Sandra, my wife, read about a naturalist outing and suggested that I put aside my files for a bit, at least long enough to join the group in a birdwatching outing. I reluctantly agreed to go. Come the day of the outing it was your typical early spring day, cold, windy, and threatening rain.  We travelled into town and caught up with the group. A somewhat strange man, a Christian minister apparently ministering to a small country church with an equally small number of parishioners located some where to the south of town, was declared the group’s leader. We were all to follow caravan style to various birding sites off in the country. We set out following the minister who drove in an erratic manner, speeding up and slowing down every time he saw a bird of some interest. From time to time he’d slam on his brakes and stop dead in the middle of the road, then jump out of his car leaving the door open waving his arms madly at something across the field, or in a ditch. Everyone following did the same. That there was no traffic accident was a miracle. Of course, there were a few horns honked and a few not so kind words hurled from passing cars that weren’t a part of the caravan. Bird identified everyone returned to their vehicles, and we head off once again, only to repeat the exercise a few minutes later.

At one of the stops I held back, and lit up a cigarette. Yes, I smoked back then. A disgusting habit, I know. So anyway, going on with my story. It was cold, and I hadn’t dressed properly, and I was becoming bored. Besides, I didn’t have a pair of binoculars and couldn’t properly observe the birds that everyone was pointing at. To me they were just specks off in the distance. And then, this elderly lady came up to me and offered me her binoculars pointing to a small bird a short distance away in the ditch. I thanked her and looked through the binoculars, and focused upon the bird of interest. I was blown away. Now, I’ve always had an interest in nature having grown up in Midland near to Georgian Bay with its wind shaped pines and thousands of islands, but I’d never really taken interest in the various bird species other than the ones that were hunted for the pot. The bird, I was told was a White-throated Sparrow, and the brown speck as it appeared from a distance suddenly took on colour, and a personality that would win me over and turn me into an avid bird watcher, and an artist-naturalist.

The elderly lady was, of course Anne. I’d see her often at naturalist meetings, and the one day she was gone, and I went on to encourage others to preserve and protect our natural heritage. So you see, Anne’s seemingly insignificant action resulted in, we might say, an opposite reaction affecting the lives of many persons, a chain reaction that may continue for a long, long, time. At least that’s what I hope.

White-throated Sparrow   Pencil & Watercolour Study

Drake Wood Duck  Monochromatic Watercolour Study for Etching

Black-capped Chickadee on Pine  Pencil & Watercolour Study

Red-breasted Nuthatch     Pencil Drawing

Barn Swallow   Pencil Study