Sunday, February 19, 2012

Limerick Birches in Winter (oil on canvas 12 x 16 in) Sold

January 26 finds me hunting for a picturesque Paper Birch in Limerick Forest, Grenville County, Ontario. Just before the road dips down into crunchy ice and snow, sloping into a tight curve that may not be navigable without 4-wheel-drive,  we stop at a clump of young Birches, their rich salmon coloured underbark glowing through a thin chalky skin. I paint them looking down from the passenger window of the van. Their emergence from the snow is enlivened by a swirl of grey twigs to the front and set off by the parallel lines and arches of darker stems among and behind them. In a setting of pearlescent snow, melted and re-frozen to reflect the various colours of the early evening sky, I see a symphony of Birches.

This is the swampy/brushy second growth across from one of Limerick Forest's many Red Pine plantations. The Red Pines have popmpoms rather than properly robust crowns - none of the bold strong branches of a Temagami Red Pine here, just a thin-armed bottle brush of minimal foliage.
Among them stand a few 5-8cm diameter Sugar Maples, members of the forest regeneration, with an understorey of Shining Buckthorn.

Across the road it's harder to say how much of the brush is Buckthorn, though all those reaching around the painted Birch are this species. Many trees in these brushy woods are still conspicuously broken from the 1998 ice storm, and the whole stand has a pinched look, as if growth is cramped from lack of nutrients.

Ahead, to the west, there's bigger Birches diagrammed against the Pines and Maples, with a growth of jointed line segments that seems to indicate stunted growth, and wide patches of branch-stub black bark. Pieter Trip says that in eastern Ontario we get used to stunted growth in our nutrient-deprived forests.

The change from red-brown to white bark occurs at a different diameter in Paper Birches in different parts of the continent, but this clump, with pink bark on 10cm-thick trunks is exceptional here. After the painting was started as a red-brown underpainting in the hue of the pink of the Birch bark, we hear the "flicker" call of a Pileated Woodpecker, added to the repeated leopard-frog drumming of a Hairy, and Fred sets off down the road to see if I can spot the Pileated. One thing we miss hearing today are Red Squirrels. The road's icy surface is sprinkled with fallen cones under all the White Spruces, suggesting a low Squirrel population has left them unharvested.

The hard melted-down icy snow of the road has Human, Fox, and Dog or Coyote tracks frozen into it, all the way down to the Ducks Unlimited wetland (16h37).  Fred went out onto the ice there, past an old Beaver lodge near the outlet, and then farther out to an active lodge with piled Red Maple branches frozen into the ice, and a thinly frozen-over hole nearby.

As I paint, Fred walks across the wetland, on dimpled ice, partly solid faceted grey or yellow, and partly doilies of rough snow melted down into the surface. At 16h42 Robins were calling from the far shore, showing that they're overwintering just about everywhere this year, and a little later I saw (and heard) a Hairy Woodpecker on the top of a tree.

At the east end of this wetland (which he's never crossed before), the first few ranks of pilings are newly installed for a new boardwalk out from the north branch of the Nature Trail, and Beavers had been cutting Red Maples along this shore in the fall. 

I painted until the approaching evening made me nervous about being able to back out safely to a turning spot. I'll have to finish this from my photos. Fred walks back behind me as I back the van out. Here in other winters we've seen a lot of Deer tracks, but today the fading light Fred notes only the tracks of Canis - Dog or Coyote.

2 comments:

  1. here's the original form of the notes from this visit, in the form of an e-mail to the daughter:

    Subject: Re: Sorry I did not call
    Date: Wed, 25 Jan 2012 19:57:07 -0500
    From: Frederick W. Schueler
    To: Jennifer...

    ...We went out to paint some exciting Birches that your mother imagined she remembered along the road north of the Chalet. Unfortunately, there's not much of a painting in a single pale cylinder sticking up from the ground, and that's what most of the Birches were like. Even the ones that were picturesque from a distance were just vertical cylinders from ground level, where they'd be painted, and some that had picturesque frills or sheets of bark or darkness were just cylinders with picturesque frills or sheets of bark or darkness.

    Finally, just west of the loop intersection, at 15h57, waypoint #188, we found three pinkish trunks poking up in a clump and enwrapped with enough Shining Buckthorn to make a composition, and we parked beside it to do the painting. Part of the incentive was that if we'd gone any further we'd have had to go around a curve in the marginally driveable track through the crunchy melted-down snow.

    This was swampy/brushy second growth across from a Red Pine plantation. The snow is snow melted down to crunchiness from the warmth of the past few days, and under the Pines it's littered with a nearly contiguous scattering of needles, with scraps and bark flakes and twigs, but there was very little of this on the brushy side of the road, showing how little wind has accompanied our recent snow and rain.

    The Red Pines have pompoms rather than properly robust crowns - none of the bold strong branches of a Temagami Red Pine here, just a thin-armed bottle brush of minimal foliage. Among them a few 5-8cm DBH Sugar Maples are the evident regeneration, with an understorey of Shining Buckthorn.

    Across the road it's harder to say how much of the brush is Buckthorn, though all those reaching around the painted Birch are this species. Many trees in these brushy woods are still conspicuously broken from the 1998 ice storm, and the whole stand has a pinched look, as if growth is cramped from lack of nutrients.

    Ahead, to the west, there's bigger Birches diagrammed against the Pines and Maples, with a growth of jointed line segments that seems to indicate stunted growth, and wide patches of branch-stub black bark. Pieter Trip says that in eastern Ontario we get used to stunted growth in our nutrient-deprived forests.

    The change from red-brown to white bark occurs at a different diameter in Paper Birches in different parts of the continent, but this clump, with pink bark on 10cm-thick trunks is exceptional here.

    ...to be continued.

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  2. field notes from here, concluded:

    ...After the painting was started as a red-brown underpainting in the hue of the pink of the Birch bark, we heard the flicker call of a Pileated Woodpecker, added to the repeated leopard-frog drumming of a Hairy, and I set off down the road to see if I could see the Pileated. One thing we hadn't and didn't hear was Red Squirrels, and as I went down the road the icy surface was sprinkled with cones under all the White Spruces, suggesting a low Squirrel population had left them unharvested.

    The hard melted-down icy snow of the road had Human, Fox, and Dog or Coyote tracks frozen into it, all the way down to the Ducks Unlimited wetland (16h37). I went out onto the ice there, past an inactive Beaver lodge near the outlet, and out to another lodge with piled Red Maple branches frozen into the ice, with a hole nearby with only a cm of black ice closing it.

    Then I continued across the wetland, on dimpled ice, partly solid faceted grey or yellow, and partly doilies of rough snow melted down into the surface. At 16h42 Robins were calling from the far shore, showing that they're overwintering just about everywhere this year, and a little later I saw (and heard) a Hairy Woodpecker on the top of a tree.

    At the east end of this wetland (which I've never crossed before), the first few ranks of pilings are newly installed for a new boardwalk out from the north branch of the Nature Trail, and Beavers had been cutting Red Maples along this shore in the fall.

    At 16h55 I was back to the van, and found the painting sketched out, and the whiteness of the birchbark beginning to be laid down. After a bit, I walked back to the intersection, through the stand where in other winters we've seen a lot of Deer tracks, but today the fading light revealed only the tracks of Canis - Dog or Coyote, though one set of huge tracks was certainly a big Dog. At 17h19 the van backed out of the road, and we headed home.

    f.

    ReplyDelete

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