Friday, September 7, 2018

Sneaking Past!!!


 Band-winged Meadowhawk
in morning dew at Prairie Hill Farm
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

Time is sneaking past me!!!  I hope I'm not the only one that notices...it should "NOT" be September already!!!!

I'm afraid I'm a victim of technology...my work/business computer was "blue screening" me nearly every day this summer and I finally broke down and bought a new one.  Well - I found how difficult it is replacing 10 years worth of software and passwords!!!  The software thing was a the major "time eater" and is still my nemesis - Auuugggghhhhhh!!!!!  Its been 4 weeks and I still have some hurdles to get over...I liked Windows 7 better!!!!  (Sorry for complaining so much.)

I found a couple days ago I couldn't even interact with my blogs.  2 days later (with no help from google!) I finally got control back and can no longer procrastinate and am trying to get back to blogging once more.  (Oops, complaining again!)

We are right in the middle of the Bird and Monarch migrations now.  We had our first Monarch Roost on August 30th and are just now hatching out Monarchs in the pasture too...we'll see one more roost and they'll likely all be on their way to Mexico!  I do have a few caterpillars and chrysalises here inside the studio...these are from eggs I found here on the acreage and I brought them inside to "finish out" so as to give them a better chance at reaching adulthood.  (I've read that survival can be as low as 5% in the wild for eggs and caterpillars - adopting and keeping a watch can increase that a lot - so far I'm getting 100% survival).

 
 Monarch Roost at Prairie Hill Farm - 8-30-2018
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison 

It's kind of a bittersweet thing when this time of the year comes along, and all your "friends" start leaving.  This morning we only have one Baltimore Oriole left; we still have 2-3 Hummers around the feeders and the Catbirds, Barn Swallows and Red-headed Woodpeckers are still around.  But it won't be long.  At least that will bring our northern fall migrants through and then our winter residents, so there's a bright side to every thing that comes about.

If you haven't been out there, you might want to do so - Summer is sneaking past...don't miss it!

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Mid Summer and Gorgeous!

 Prairie Hill Farm
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

The heat has just abated a little and the Black Flies (having undergone a second hatch) have finally calmed down a bit...now its the skeeters - but hey, the dragonflies, bats and swallows need to eat too!  The prairie pastures have continued to wow me...the insects, birds, grasses and forbs are giving cause to pause and watch.  Get out if you can...I know that life tends to get in the way, but a quiet walk is in order!

(Click on any image for a larger view)
 

 
 Monarch Butterfly (male) feeding on Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata) 
in the pasture here at Prairie Hill Farm
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Mass of Cup Plants (Silphium perfoliatum) in bloom in the pasture
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Big Bluestem (Andropogon gerardi) 
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta) 
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Culver's Root (Veronicastrum virginicum)  
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Fairy Napkin! OK...just a dew covered spider web! 
The "little fairy" can be seen peeking out from it lair in the upper hole in the web 
(should have zoomed in on him)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Gray-headed Coneflower (Ratibida pinnata) 
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium) 
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 My favorites in the low areas of the pasture and ditches - 
Swamp Milkweed! (Asclepias incarnata)  
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Mass of Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata) - delicate little plants, balanced in the left foreground by spikes of Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula) 
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Mass of Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

 Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa) 
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
The prairie keeps changing - hopefully I can keep up and record it...if you get a chance - get out and enjoy it.

Hope to see you on the Tallgrass!!!

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

One Last Stab at Winter!



"Winter at Broken Kettle Grasslands"  
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)

3 weeks till Spring!  Can you tell I'm counting the days?!  Ha!  Well I really do not want to wish my days away so I'm not being quite that crazy - just looking forward to what the season change will bring.

But in the meantime I thought I'd work on a winter landscape that had been on my back-burner for several years; I don't do winter paintings or drawing that often and I thought what better time to get one done then before winter ends outside the studio.

The landscape is of a Nature Conservancy Preserve about and hour or so south and west of us - the Broken Kettle Preserve...an amazing place to visit if you have never been there!  This 3000 acre tallgrass prairie preserve has many native species that are usually only found west of the Missouri - extremely rare or unusual finds in Iowa.  It is the home to the largest 100% pure blood American Bison herds in Iowa as well as possibly the last place in the state with a breeding population of Prairie Rattlesnakes.  A really cool place!  Thank you to the Nature Conservancy for preserving and maintaining such a treasure!!!

Many years ago I did a quick painting of this preserve, more in an alla prima style (wet into wet) and I'll post that painting below.

"Broken Kettle Winter"  
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view)  
 
Winter is noticeably waning now with the increased length of daylight and the snow melt that we're experiencing.  I'd say this really reminded me of winters back in the 50's and 60's when I was a kid...we had some January and February thaws and many snow events...also some pretty frigid temps off and on.  But now we're hearing rumblings of early migrations building 2-3 hours south of us and did actually have a small flock of geese pass by this morning!  Oh I love this time of the year with changes taking place and something new every day!
 
"Male Red-bellied Woodpecker"  
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
(click on image for a larger view) 
 
The only drawback to all this is I am too easily distracted and have trouble staying on task inside at the easel!  A couple days ago was no exception with the bird traffic outside the window.  This nice Red-bellied Woodpecker thankfully sat still long enough for me to get a picture!  Looking forward to more distractions in the yard in coming weeks!
 
Enjoying the warmup, hope to see you on the Tallgrass!

Monday, September 11, 2017

More Movement for the Monarch Migration Here

The big push has now gone through - for the fall Monarch Butterfly migration...they're still trickling through but not in the high numbers of a week back.  We had over a hundred at our highest one evening and morning.  This was nothing like 15 years ago when that number was over a thousand and more, but it is a slight improvement over just a couple years ago when a dozen was not attainable.
 
 
 Monarchs in the prairie pasture goldenrod here
Photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Monarch in the prairie pasture New England Aster here
Photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Monarchs resting on the Gray-headed Coneflower seed heads
in the prairie pasture here
Photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Monarchs roosting in the grove here
Photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Monarchs roosting in the grove here
Photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
Now its up to the rest of their journey and the winter ahead in Mexico...I wish them the best of luck!

Monday, August 28, 2017

Monarch on Joe Pye
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison) 
click on image for a larger view
Late yesterday afternoon I was taking a photograph of this female Monarch butterfly on the Joe Pye weed next to the studio deck...somewhere in the back of my mind was the question - "When will the migration begin?  I believe it must be getting close."

"Valley Shadows and Clouds"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison) 
click on image for a larger view
A bit later I noticed the clouds moving in with an intermittent breeze.  It felt like a front moving through.  I was distracted and spent some time looking skyward and photographing the landscape out front.  On my way back into the studio I noticed several Monarchs in the yard acting as if they were "gathering"; was a roost in the making?!!!

"The Roost Begins!"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison) 
click on image for a larger view 
 
We actually had a roost in the yard - it wasn't a record breaker, like back in 2005 but it was a good first roost especially looking back the past 5 years here.
 
"A Small Roost"
(photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison) 
click on image for a larger view 

I could count 46 individuals; there were a few moving around so there certainly could have been more...tough counting these guys when they aren't totally settled in.
 
It's begun!  Lets hope for a good year for Monarchs in North America - and a safe winter ahead!
 
 

Monday, August 7, 2017

July Was Good...On To August!

 Butterfly Milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison

I've been pressed to keep up with the progression of plants in the prairie pasture.  I know I've missed things, life gets in the way, but here are a few things from July.

 Common Milkweed (Asclepias syriaca)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Culver's Root  (Veronicastrum virginicum)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Rattlesnake Master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Showy tick-trefoil (Desmodium canadense)  
photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Swamp Milkweed (Asclepias incarnata
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Wild Bergamot (Monarda fistulosa
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Big Bluestem in Morning Dew
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Canada Milk Vetch (Astragalus canadensis)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 False Gromwell (Onosmodium molle)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 
 Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 
 Compass Plant (Silphium laciniatum)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 

 Narrow-leafed Purple Coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 False Sunflower (Heliopsis helianthoides)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
 Hoary Vervain (Verbena stricta)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison
 

Whorled Milkweed (Asclepias verticillata)
 photograph - © Bruce A. Morrison 
 

There is change in the prairie here...nothing new, its just that we're seeing the end seasons approaching...the mid summer prairie plants, though still offering pollen to many interested bees and butterflies, are passing their peak "glory" and most are now forming seed heads.  

Last night I found the very first Dotted Liatris, Prairie Onion and False Boneset blooms of this new season; things will be progressing more quickly than I'd like now - the prairie bloom periods never last long enough for me!

I found a resting Monarch settling in for the night on some field goldenrod and a skipper feeding on some common milkweed; several small Bumble Bees still taking advantage of the Wild Bergamot's remaining blooms and a male Western Meadowhawk Dragonfly cruising the upper story of grasses and forbs.  I have yet to watch a Robber Fly, a Katydid or an Argiope this summer, and the Argiope spiders have been very scarce for two or three years now...a concern.

This is a bittersweet season, for when it comes and the flaming magenta and riotous yellows wow the senses - it seems to finish as quickly as it started.  Ah, but isn't that the way of things!?  One can never take something so special for granted.

Still...looking forward to what August has to offer - hope to see you on the Tallgrass!


Thursday, July 20, 2017

Definitely Dog (and Frog?) Days...

 Adult Cope's Gray Tree Frog and tadpoles
in both of the rain barrels.

Mid summer and the heat is on...Dog Days of Summer comes to mind, but frogs have a mind of their own!  We had been having a lot of evening "music" in the yard here and in the valley below...love hearing the frogs sing at night!  Apparently some Cope's Gray Tree Frogs took a real liking to our side rain barrels and laid eggs there, which then gave us a bumper crop of tree frog tadpoles.  Only real drawback has been not being able to use water out of the barrels...it hasn't rained here in 16 days and the heat is oppressive in the yard and gardens.
 
 Rain Barrel Hotels
Little Cope's Gray Tree Frog still with a bit of it's
tadpole tail - with a dime for size comparison!
 A drink glass with just a few tadpoles.
 A Little goofing around (I hope!).

The tree frogs have been a fun diversion to the acreage...kind of takes me back to being a kid again!  My Mother would let me keep frogs, toads and turtles in the basement..."Free Range"!  We really were pretty bug free for a few years until I grew out of the menageries!

I actually became pretty good at raising frogs and toads - there were gallon honey jars everywhere (no honey in them of course!) filled with water and vegetation and tadpoles; it was a real blast watching the transformation.  Now-a-days it's just fine sharing a garden path with toads and frogs on occasion as well as enjoying the night music!

Aside from Herps I've been busy with a few Artisan Road Trip exhibits and a small solo showing....A.R.T has had 2 exhibits simultaneously in Minnesota and Iowa one at the Nobles County Art Center in Worthington, Minnesota and one at the Pearson Lakes Art Center in Okoboji, Iowa.  on August 1st we'll also have an exhibit at the Red Rock Art Center in Fairmont, Minnesota too.  On top of all that I have a small exhibit that'll run all summer (though August) at the Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center at Lost Island Lake in Palo Alto County.


"Spring Bobolink"
oil painting - © Bruce A. Morrison
 
On top of all that I have a small exhibit that'll run all summer (through August) at the Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center at Lost Island Lake in Palo Alto County, north of Ruthven, Iowa.
 
"Dickcissel"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

The natural wetland areas around Lost Island are a particular favorite of mine; commingling the wetlands and the tallgrass prairie "is the best of both worlds"!

"Big Bluestem in Bloom"
color pencil drawing - © Bruce A. Morrison

The Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center gives the public an appreciation and basic understanding of the wetlands and offers opportunities to enjoy the beauty of these natural treasures.  One of the goals of the Lost Island Prairie Wetland Nature Center is to give to give visitors the information and skills needed to make wise decisions regarding our natural resources, to become better stewards of the land and to make an impression that will last a lifetime.

Its been a busy summer so far! Catch the showing of select artwork on display July through the end of August - and take in the beauty of our wetlands and prairies while you're at it!  A win -win!
 
Hope to see you on the Tallgrass - tay cool out there!