Thursday, October 31, 2013

Killarney Chair

It may look like a single Muskoka chair on the granite but this was Killarney. It had to be a Killarney chair. The empty chair is either a happy invitation to come and sit awhile on the edge of Killarney Channel – to slow down and enjoy the fall colours. For those who view the glass as half empty, it can be a lonely chair vacated by those who left with the summer heat. Either way, I had fun capturing the moment in oil with a rather large brush.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Turtle Hatch 2013

The eggs are much slower to hatch this year - way slower than they were supposed to according to the literature. We have only given a handful of turtles a free ride to the water's edge. This is a northern map turtle. Some of the stink pot eggs may have hatched but I have yet to see any of the 3/4 inch sized babies. Maybe I should wear my glasses all of the time.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Singleton Lake Loons 2013

Singleton parent and chick -July
Two loon chicks hatched out from the nest on the edge of one of our rocky islands. They ignored the cedar floating raft this year but were still surprisingly successful. A pair of bald eagles grabbed one of the chicks in June. The surviving chick was still on the lake as of Thanksgiving - the parents having abandoned it for southern skies in September. 
Here is some extra in formation that I found interesting...

Loons prefer clear lakes because they can more easily see their prey through the water. The loon stabs or grasp their prey with their pointy bills. They eat the prey headfirst  and swallow the prey whole. Loons swallow small pebbles, similar to grit eaten by chickens, to assist the loon's gizzard in crushing the hard parts of the prey. Loons may inadvertently ingest lead pellets, released by anglers and hunters, that contribute to lead poisoning and the loon's eventual death.
Despite the roughly equal participation of the sexes in nest building and incubation, analysis has clearly shown that males select the nest location. Thus male loons and not the females, establish their territories. This explains why the resident males fight so hard to defend their territories.
Contrary to popular belief, pairs seldom mate for life. A typical adult loon is likely to have several mates during its lifetime because of territorial takeover. Each breeding pair must frequently defend its territory against "floaters" (territory-less adults) trying to evict at least one owner and seize the breeding site. Territories that have produced chicks in the past year are especially prone to takeovers, because nonbreeding loons use chicks as cues to indicate high-quality territories. One-third of all territorial evictions among males result in the death of the owner; in contrast, female loons usually survive. Birds that are displaced from a territory but survive usually try to remate and (re)claim a breeding territory later in life.
Most clutches consist of two eggs, which are laid in May or June. Loon chicks are able to swim and dive right away, but will often ride on their parents' back during their first 2 weeks to rest, conserve heat, and avoid predators.
Chicks are fed mainly by their parents for about six weeks but gradually begin to feed themselves over time. By 3 months, chicks gather almost all of their own food and have begun to fly.  Typically only one chick survives.
Singleton chick Thanksgiving weekend

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Gliding Squirrels

The Northern flying squirrel is one of two species of the genus Glaucomys, the only flying squirrels found in North America (the other is the somewhat smaller Southern flying squirrel which is moving northward with climate change). Flying squirrels are strictly nocturnal. From the picture you can see that they have large eyes and a flat tail. They also have long whiskers, common to nocturnal mammals. They prefer mushrooms and lichens as well as other typical squirrel food like nuts and eggs.
Flying Squirrels actually just glide.  Once in the air, they form an "X" with their limbs, causing their skin to stretch into a square-like shape and glide down at angles of 30 to 40 degrees. They maneuver well in the air, making 90 degree turns around obstacles if needed. Just before reaching a tree, they raise their flattened tails which abruptly changes their trajectory upwards, and point all of their limbs forward to create a parachute effect with the membrane in order to reduce the shock of landing. The limbs absorb the remainder of the impact, and the squirrels immediately run to the other side of the trunk or to the top of the tree in order to avoid any potential predators.
 Although graceful in flight, they are very clumsy walkers and if they happen to be on the ground in the presence of danger, they will prefer to hide rather than attempt an escape. That is likely how the cat hunted this one. Luckily I managed to extract it from the jaws of death – leaving it only with a salivated back.
Flying squirrels are generally under some form of protection... especially from me.

Distant Shores

By late morning the sun had taken the chill off the air and the fog was gone. I turned my easel toward the distant cliffs of the southwest shore of George Lake. That's my lunch in the brown bag... See the deformation zone on the western horizon? There is a low pressure area approaching. 

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sunrise at George Lake

Cool air was draining down the valleys into George Lake. Arctic sea smoke and the long shadows of early morning created a serene atmosphere as viewed from the beach. The lighting and fog was changing rapidly and I had to work fast to capture the moment. This was my "put in" point when I had my canoe with me.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Singleton Otters

Otters are elusive creatures to photograph. This one was playing and preening on the vacant swimming raft until I kayaked by. Sorry! We see them most during the winter - otters are active year-round but are mainly nocturnal except in winter. They may emigrate as a result of food shortages or environmental conditions, but they do not migrate annually.
The river otter is a member of the weasel family and establishes a burrow close to the water's edge. The den typically has many tunnel openings, one of which generally allows the otter to enter and exit via the water. A den is also called a holt or couch. Female otters give birth in these underground burrows, producing litters of one to six young.
The newborn pup is cared for by the mother, father and older offspring. Female otters reach sexual maturity at approximately two years of age and males at approximately three years. After one month, the pup can leave the holt and after two months, it is able to swim. The pup lives with its family for approximately one year. Otters live up to 16 years.
Fish is a favoured food among the otters, but they also dine on amphibians, turtles, and crayfish. The northern river otter can weigh between 5.0 and 14 kg (11.0 and 31 lb) and is protected and insulated by a thick, water-repellent coat of fur.
River otters are very susceptible to environmental pollution, which is a factor in the continued decline of their numbers.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

The Cliffs of George Lake

This is another view of George Lake from lucky Camp Site 77 looking more westerly towards the cliffs of George Lake. The granite was still wet and very slippery. The ravens were having quite a conversation and keeping us entertained. The deformation zone cirrus indicated that a synoptic scale storm was approaching - slowly.
Kids were jumping off the cliffs and swimming in the somewhat chilly water. 

George Lake

I have painted from this precise location before. Campsite 77 at Killarney Provincial Park offers the best view of George Lake from atop a huge granite cliff. The clear night had allowed the granite to cool and it was now “sweating” in the warmer and more moist air mass the accompanied the southerly breezes. The slippery rock surface made it quite treacherous to get too close to the edge. A curious and sure-footed red fox checked us out as we painted. I expect that others might have fed the handsome fellow.
There is so much in this vista that one has to pick and choose just what to include. Every time one attempts to “plein air” this scene should produce a different result. I think this is my fourth attempt to do the scene justice.
I have gotten to know the “Friends of ‘Killarney” over the years. They continue to keep the area as one of the brightest jewels of Ontario. I have donated paintings to their worthy cause.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Walking Sticks... Who knew?

Walking Sticks... I didn’t know much about them so I had to do some research. Stick insects are part of the Phasmida order (3000 different species), the name of which is derived from a Greek word meaning “apparition.” Their average life span in the wild is up to 3 years. They have apparently become a favourite pet. Imagine taking your “walking stick” out for a walk...
The stick insect resembles the twigs among which it lives making it super camouflaged until they stray on to another surface. Females are normally larger than males. Many stick insects feign death to thwart predators, and some will shed the occasional limb to escape an enemy’s grasp. Others swipe at predators with their spine-covered legs, while one North American species emits a putrid-smelling fluid.
This is the common Northern Walkingstick. They feed on the leaves of many deciduous trees as well as clover (my lawn). Adult walkingsticks mate in the fall. Females drop eggs, one at a time, from the treetops. Eggs overwinter in leaf litter, and nymphs hatch the following spring. Walkingstick nymphs look like tiny adults and are only a few millimeters long when they are born. The nymphs wait until nightfall, then crawl up onto small plants. They continue to eat and grow, staying amongst leaves and twigs where they are well hidden. As they get bigger, they climb higher, until they are in the tops of tall trees.
Who knew?

Sunday, October 20, 2013


This group of trees was very near Red Rock Point. Another artist from our group was inspired by them so I thought that I would give them a try as well. The sun was still warming my back. It was a beautiful October day to be painting in Killarney. There was so much inspiration and colour in the scene that I had to be prudent on just how much was included in the plein air work. The painting wasn't yet finished when I snapped this photo but you get the idea. Do you like my Kitty Litter paint supply carrier?

Red Rock Point

This view toward the northeast is simply on the north side across the road leading to Killarney Light. That is why the artist and the chicken crossed the road. Painting conditions were still ideal and the warm sun felt great on my back. Turtles basking on the logs of Lighthouse Lake kept me company. If there had been a hammock nearby I would have joined them. Killarney Pond was to my right.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Baby Eastern Rat Snake

We have tried for five years to provide two nesting sites for the Black Rat Snake as it was known then. I see lots of baby rat snakes but they are doing well not because of my nesting boxes - at least not yet. The adult snakes I see are using their own nesting sites and that is apparently working well for them. The Eastern Rat Snake as it is now known, is safe on our property at Singleton Lake. I often see them weaving their way along the edge of the buildings. I showed this one to the grand kids. The snakes calm down after they realize I mean them no harm... plus they are quite harmless. 

Friday, October 18, 2013

Red Rocks and Pooled Water

This was the fourth demo of the 2013 Killarney Adventure and the first of Day Two. We headed to Red Rock Bay and the Killarney Light for inspiration. One does not have to go too far. The vistas are classic for the northern shore of Georgian Bay. Rocks, water and wind flagged trees characterize the landscape.
This view is looking southerly toward Killarney Channel. I liked the darker reflections of the pools of water trapped on the red granite. The hang back rain had exited well to the east leaving sunny skies for the rest of the week. The rugged terrain protected us from most of the chilly northerly winds.

Killarney Channel

The “hang back”, comma head precipitation arrived. The timing was perfect as we were just finishing up our morning session at 11:58 am. The light changes at noon and it meant that we had time to enjoy a terrific lunch at the Killarney Mountain Lodge.
 In anticipation I had arranged with the Lodge to paint from the Carousel Room. Imagine a large circular room encased in glass with a friendly fire crackling away from the fireplace in the middle of the carousel. The winds had shifted to the northwest behind the “hang back”. Rain showers occasionally pelted the glass. We painted looking outside but basking in the warmth of the fire.
Here is what I came up with looking to the northeast shore of Killarney Channel. I liked the colours and contours of the granite interplayed with the few leaves clinging on and trying not to fall in the stiff and wet northwest wind. It was fun but does it qualify for plein air? You be the judge.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Cloudy Killarney Sunrise

The Southampton Art School’s Class “Killarney - the Annual Adventure” happens every October just as the autumn colours are peaking. It is an inspirational place. Plein air vistas are everywhere. We just need to slow down and really see and appreciate the colours and forms.
I do a quick demo at the start of each session. The goal is to illustrate laying the foundation, design and composition for the final work without taking up too much of the participant’s painting time. I then cruise the easels offering assistance, advice and encouragement without messing with their own “voice” or style.
This was the first demo of the 2013 Killarney Adventure. As you can see I am virtually standing in the water at 9 am on Monday morning. I decided on a skyscape looking southeasterly. The participants wanted to see a meteorologist paint real clouds. In this case there was not enough sun to blind your eyes. The cold front had passed through the previous evening. Chilly westerly winds were not cold enough for me to have on more than my signature white painting shirt. I love painting skies…
We needed to paint quickly before the “hang back”, comma head precipitation arrived around midday. I keep mentioning that you really should take a meteorologist with you on all of your vacations...

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

More Posts to Come

Sorry but I have been kind of busy. I have a lot of posts to come over the next few weeks. The "50 Years of Our Flag" Painting is now hanging in Home Hardware in Brockville - you can't miss it! I have made many friends from Home Hardware during the construction process of our home and now they see a different side of me. I have big hopes for the continued success of this project - stand by :>)

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Paddle the Arch Tour - Charleston Lake – Saturday October 5th, 2013 - Update

With just 78 hours to go, the weather forecast still looks OK for Saturday! It looks as though we will be in the warm sector of a large low centered over Minnesota. Light southerly winds and cloudy skies can be expected. Any precipitation should be further to the north along the Ottawa Valley. Temperatures will be above seasonable near 25 Celsius. There will be lots to talk about and to enjoy.
It is highly likely that there will be showers Friday night but the patented rain dance should move those east of Charleston Lake by dawn.


50 Years of Our Flag - Update

Thirteen is our lucky number! So far the initiatives and accomplishments of the 50 Years of Our Flag Committee tallies to lucky thirteen in 2013. There is much more to come including an educational program and maybe a stamp. The Committee has entered the Aviva Community Fund to hopefully gets some funds for the "Fly More Flags" program. Vote early and often at

1. The 50 Years of Our Flag Project began Aug 2011 with meetings between John Ross Matheson and the future Chair of the 50 Years of Our Flag Committee.
2. Our committee was formed in September of 2012 with a mandate to raise awareness of the history and upcoming 50th anniversary of our Canadian Flag. I was there from the very start.
3. The successful renaming of John Ross Matheson Way, the street in front of the County Courthouse in Brockville.
4. The commissioning and completion of the Commemorative painting with the detailed assistance of John Ross Matheson.
5. The 160 foot Flag pole, 35x70 foot Flag, Monument and Plaque installation and celebration on Canada Day 2013.
6. The introduction of Bill 57 by Steve Clark MPP - Brockville as the Birthplace of the Canadian Flag.
7. The installation by the City of Brockville of the new Gateway Signs stating Brockville as the Birthplace of the Canadian Flag.
8. Downtown Business Improvement Area agrees to fly Canadian Flags on light poles in the downtown core starting in 2014.
9. Development of the Pledge To the Maple Leaf Flag of Canada.
10. Campaign to bring awareness to the history and upcoming 50th Flag Anniversary through website, social media, radio and newspapers.
11. Mural to be painted by local school students and placed in the Centre Court of the 1000 Islands Mall  being planned.
12. The "Fly More Flags" initiative is ongoing and will be developed with a prominent national Canadian Corporation and is ongoing. This is both a Brockville and National initiative.
13. To create a National Celebration to be held in Brockville Ontario “Birthplace of Canada’s Flag”  on February 15th 2015.

Better Farming

After 15 years of writing about weather related topics for Better Farming magazine my friend and co-worker Henry Hengeveld filed his last column in August.  David Phillips, Environment Canada chief climatologist, long-time associate of Henry's and another very dear friend, suggested the Editors contact me to see if I would consider trying to "phil" Henry's shoes. I was at first very, very reluctant to follow such a talented and dedicated researcher and climatologist as Henry. However, life is an adventure and after some chats with Robert Irwin who is also an avid canoeist, I decided to give the Weather column a try and get my feet wet.

Better Farming's circulation is about 38,000. and they focus on the business (not the lifestyle) of farming in Ontario. Those who work the land are on the front line of unprecedented changes to the environment and the climate. I thought that maybe I could bring some explanations as to why these changes are occurring and just maybe assist in the farmers, the foundation of our society, adapt to and survive these challenges. To quote my colourful, favourite modern philosopher, "We are all in this together".

The first column explaining the impacts of climate change on the jet stream appeared in October.