Friday, June 28, 2019

VMN Nature Journal - Pine Grove Nature Preserve

VMN nature Journal by Meera Rao 

The field trip in April to Pine Grove Nature Preserve maintainted by the Nature Conservancy filled four pages of my journal. Endangered Red Cockaded Woodpecker Picoides borealis and the long leaf pine are their main focus and efforts to restore both the species are in full swing. I took a lot of photos and notes and worked on the journal at home. 

I was fascinated by the Bluets Houstenia caerulca - the beautiful tiny blooms littered the forest floor. Until the field trip, I was ignorant of the jelly like Spotted Salamander eggmass in the vernal pools.  One of the cohorts caught a Spring Peeper frog and we saw the little guy upclose :)   

Spotted Salamander Eggmass photo by Meera Rao

VMN nature Journal by Meera Rao

The Cockaded Woodpeckers in the nature preserve are one of the last breeding population in Virginia and the restoration efforts are bearing results.  The male has a small red speck on each side of his head/cap.  These birds nest exclusively in live pine trees! 

VMN nature Journal by Meera Rao
We saw the different kinds of pines and saw and felt the differences in the varieties of pinecones.  The controlled burning of the forests are a necessary part in the growth of Long leaf pines and in turn the cockaded woodpeckers.  

VMN nature Journal by Meera Rao

We learned to identify coyote foot prints and scats.  We also heard many different birds but saw a few Brown headed Nuthatches Sitta pusilla which love pine trees! It has a high pitched 'kit-kit-kit' vocals. It was also the first time I noticed a colony of British Soldier Lichen' Cladoria cristatella  - since then I have seen them in a few places around here ! 

Thursday, June 20, 2019

VMN Nature Journal Eco Art

Endangered Bog Turtle colorpencil and graphite by Meera Rao 

One of the options for our nature journal during the week we studied Ecology in The Virginia Master Naturalist Course was to create Eco-Art.  I researched endangered species in our area and discovered that the Bog Turtle Clemmys muhlenbergii,  at 4"in size -N. America's smallest turtle, was placed on Federal Endangered Threatened Species list on Oct 1, 1987.  It lives in the spring fed wetlands, including herbaceous sedge meadows and fens bordered by wooded areas. Sunny open areas of wetlands provide the warmth needed to regulate its body temperature and to incubate its eggs.  The soft Muddy areas allow the turtles to escape from predators and extreme temperatures. The sketch of the turtle in the journal is same as its real life size -4" :) 

Endangered Bog Turtle acrylic on NYC Metro Card By Meera Rao 

The Bog Turtles had been placed on the endangered species as they were being collected illegally for pet trading, and also because of loss of habitat due to draining of wetlands, urban development and encroachment of invasive plant species. To highlight its precarious situation, I also painted the turtle on an expired NYC Metro card - the green one with the human finger on the circular target. Let us all work to make sure the Bog Turtle thrives in its natural habitat. 

Friday, June 14, 2019

Nature Journaling and Virginia Master Naturalist

Backyard Birds (1-8) graphite and color pencils by Meera Rao 

The past few months, every Wednesday and a couple of weekends each month were taken up with classes or field trips. Three days ago-Tuesday was graduation and now I am a member of Virginia Master Naturalist - Pennisula Chapter :) I loved every minute of the course learning about Virginia's rich and varied natural wealth. 

One of the requirements was to keep a nature journal.  After a class on local birds, when I decided casually for that week's entry in the journal, to sketch the birds I see in my backyard, I was in for a big eye-opener.  I thought there would a dozen or so birds that visit or live in my backyard as I had never really kept count until then. But as I started watching more closely, and listing them, I was pleasantly surprised! I pulled out the binoculars and my bird book and was excited to see the variety as I identified them one by one.  It took me a more than a couple of weeks to do these quick sketches.  

Backyard Birds (9-12) graphite and color pencils by Meera Rao 

I stared to see the difference between different finches and warblers; sparrows and Carolina wrens; Barn swallows and Purple Martins; the many different gulls, Vultures and even crows!  So many 'black' birds - starlings, Ravens, crows, blackbirds, Purple martins, cowbirds,  orioles, even an Eastern King Bird! 

Backyard Birds (13-18) graphite and color pencils by Meera Rao 

I am beginning to recognize the different bird calls - but that is proving to be harder than I thought! It has been great fun to discover the wealth of information available on line to help with that.  

Backyard Birds (19-24) graphite and color pencils by Meera Rao

I used color pencils and graphite to sketch these as the paper in the journal was too thin for watercolors.  I had decided to use the journals we were given at the start of the class - I had to spray the drawing with  a coating of Krylon clear varnish to fix the graphite and color pencils to keep the sketches from smudging and paper from curling.

Backyard Birds (25-30) graphite and color pencils by Meera Rao 

There are a few other varieties of ducks other than mallards that visit the river but those will have to wait! I saw on the iBird page for our area that there are about a hundred more varieties/species that have been seen and identified.  I am excited to watch and learn more about all these birds :)

Backyard Birds (31-36) graphite and color pencils by Meera Rao 

There is always so much drama that is going on with the backyard birds. And now the butterflies and dragonflies are out flitting around :) 

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