Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Crystal Beach Rosebush (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) Sold

24 November finds me sheltering from the wind between a low sand dune and a cement retaining wall at Crystal Beach, Lake Erie, Ontario. The wind is blowing half a gale out along the beach. This Rose bush was glorious with yellow leaves only the day before yesterday but the wind that began last night has blown them almost all away. The rose hips are still here though, glowing like rubies in the autumn sun.

The little sand coloured Toads who share this beach with the citizens of Crystal Beach are all burrowed down for the winter. No one knows exactly where they have gone, but I imagine that a number of Fowlers Toads may be sleeping in the damp sand directly below me as I sit leaning against this wall to paint the Rose bush. A wooden stairway leads up from the beach beside a vacant snack bar to a lawn, public washrooms, and a fenced parking lot. Beyond the stairway lie the sand-filled concrete ruins of the foundations of another beachside building, and that may be an even better hibernation site for Toads. We are
told that Fowlers Toads have found this abandoned complex of beach services and are using it, but no one knows much about their movements - like where they emerge from in the spring, where they go to breed, or how widely those who summer here range east and west along the beach below the close-packed cottages.

The sun shines, the wind blows sand grains along the beach, sometimes swirling it against the wall. I have propped the lid to my palette up to shield it from the blowing sand and I make sure to keep my canvas in the shelter of my body.  Fred comes by to see how the painting is coming, and reports finding only a blanket of newly churned up Chara, mixed up with chunks of other aquatic plants along the upper wave line, but the wind, blowing dry sand along the beach, has covered up any any interesting shells that might have been washed up by yesterday's waves. His sample includes a few old Unionid shells from the lower beach, many with the grey colour of reducing burial, and one old Campeloma decisum (Brown Mystery Snail), but of course the vast majority of the shells are Dreissena Zebra and Quagga mussels.

The residents call the place "Bay Beach". One of them, Hans Schonewille, took these photos of me working. In the second one, you can see how I propped the lid of my palette up to protect the wet paint from blowing sand. It was a cold day, but warm against the sunny wall, and not as windy as out on the beach.

Dear patrons and supporters,

This painting, in my current series, "Lake Erie" is for sale to support our work on Lake Erie's Fowler's Toads.   The price is $250.   Please send enquiries to Aleta - karstad("at" symbol)pinicola.ca


11 May 2013

On the night of 6 May this spring I photographed a Fowler's Toad climbing into the crack at the top of the lower row of stone blocks, just to the left of the large Rose bush on the retaining wall that you can see in my painting. I have tracked and observed Fowler's Toads most nights over the course of the past two weeks, photographing them in both still and video, and assisting my Biologist husband Frederick W. Schueler, PhD, in monitoring their calls from the eastern end of the shore of Lake Erie on the Canadian side, to the beaches on the west side of Point Abino. We have paid special attention to the vulnerable Fowlers Toads of Bay Beach, where a condominium is planned to be built, having its back side and parking garage within the area used by the Fowler's Toads for burrowing.

Look at this mess now! At least 20 cm depth of sand has been removed all along the foot of the stone retaining wall, and at least a metre in depth removed from within the westernmost of the two old foundations, as well as much ploughing and raking of sand all over the upper part of the beach. I presume it was done by the Municipality of Fort Erie, as Do the authorities know that it is illegal to disturb the habitat or harm individuals of  an Endangered Species? What recourse do we have in defense of Lake Erie Fowler's Toads and their habitat in the face of such wanton and illegal destruction?

We are told that in previous years the municipality groomed Bay Beach in April, before the Fowler's Toads emerged from hibernation. What happened this year, and why?

Yesterday I finished the first of a series of Fowler's Toad paintings, from a photograph that I took of a calling individual at a breeding pond less than two kilometres to the west of Bay Beach. It is unknown how many of the Fowler's Toads that breed Point Abino hibernate at Bay Beach, or how many of them may have been disturbed or killed in yesterday's bulldozing.

Municipalities must not be allowed to get away with destruction of critical habitat for Species At Risk!!!  For more information about the battle to save this endangered species at Bay Beach, Fort Erie, see http://www.savethefrogs.com/actions/lake-erie-toads/index.html  (Note that the photo on the website is of a US Fowler's Toad, not a Canadian one. Ours are smaller, and grayer.)  Also, the website has not been updated since this spring's bulldozing.

The Town of Fort Erie has expressed hostility to concern about the Fowlers Toad population which uses this public beach as critical habitat. Please send letters to the Minister of Natural Resources requesting urgent attention to this flagrant violation of government protection for Species At Risk!


  1. Beautiful painting, Aleta. I, like you, often wonder where the toads are buried at that particular moment when I visit the beach!

  2. There's not a single site for the Fowler's Toad situation here - local account - municipal account - 'Save the Frogs account - give elements of the story.

  3. http://org2.democracyinaction.org/o/6000/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=13150

    Please help save the Fowler's Toads and their beautiful public beach, Crystal Beach, by sending and sharing!

    Thanks, Marie

    p.s. Aleta, I'll be having a Bert Miller Nature Club meeting at my place in Point Abino on June 8 and will certainly show off the painting you did for us and show everyone this one as well!


What do you think of this painting, and what do you know about the subject that I have painted?