Swamp Milkweed on Thatch Island (oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.) Sold

12 August finds me on Thatch Island in the Grand Lake Protected Natural Area along the north shore of the Saint John River near Gagetown, New Brunswick. The meadows and marshes are glowing in the sun against the shady rows of trees that line the channels, and Kim Stubbs, the other Bio-blitz artist and I are setting up to paint riverine scenes. The sun is hot on Goldenrod, Evening Primrose, Angelica, and mints among the grasses around the cove where our boat is moored. The shade cast by the Silver Maples along the north shore's narrow channel is inviting as I try to find an exciting angle on the peaceful scene. Kim has her first painting half finished before I find the excitement I want - combining a distant scene with a botanical study.

Bumblebees and Honeybees visit the bright flowers of the small compact panicles of Swamp Loosestrife bloom, at head height for me as I sit beneath my sunshade. An Osprey
cries peevishly from its perch on a tree across the cove, and entomologists walk back and forth checking the pitfall traps they've set for ants along a flagged transect of the island.

We decided to stay longer here in stead of visiting a second site, which pleases me as I'm able to finish my painting entirely in the field - well, I may do a bit of crisping here and there of leaf bases and stem nodes once I get back to the Bio-blitz headquarters, but it looks well balanced as a painting when it's time to pack up and return to the boats.

On the next day Fred walked the north side of the 4-lane Highway 2 between the Jemseg River bridge and the Saint John River bridge, as a road ecology contribution to the Bio-blitz. The Museum wanted a specimen of Swamp Milkweed from within the PNA, and I hadn't collected the one I painted. Walking along the upper embankment Fred was looking for the bright pink flowers, but found none. Only after he was out of the PNA and wandering around waiting for me to pick him up, did he notice a Swamp Milkweed in pod with the flowers past. He'd probably walked past quite a number of these while looking for the blooms in the edge of the marshes along the highway. On Thatch Island where I painted this one, they must bloom later than elsewhere. At home in eastern Ontario, we seem to see more Monarch Butterfly caterpillars on Swamp Milkweed than on the more widespread Common Milkweed.

The original oil painting, "Swamp Milkweed on Thatch Island" has been purchased by the New Brunswick Museum as one of this year's Bio-blitz paintings from the Grand Lake PNA. 



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