Brassils Creek

oil on canvas 6 x 12 in.                             Sold               
26 December 2015 finds me perched on my painting caddy, precariously balanced with my easel on a little island of sticks and grass which is the front porch of a large Beaver lodge, on the east side of Brassils Creek, north of Burritts Rapids, Ontario. The sinking sun burns through a loose fleece above the heavier cloud bank, reflecting itself just peeking past the darkly reflected Cedars - an interesting challenge to paint quickly. Daylight succumbs to dusk early these days. A high flying flock of Canada Geese honk unseen as I finish my burnt sienna underpainting. The only other sound is the persistent trickling of the creek as it flows beneath or around something upstream - perhaps partly submerged branches from Beaver cutting.

Fred is mandated to collect some of the invasive Orconectes rusticus Crayfish for the Royal Ontario Museum, but now he finds that the water level is too high to lift any stones for crayfish, and there are none in the open to be netted. He has an alternate place in mind on the North Branch of the South Nation River, so he picks shriveled Highbush Cranberry Viburnum fruit from bushes along the bridge for his night-time beverage and then retires to the truck to write his notes as I get as much painting done as I can. The dark cloud bank has already engulfed the sun, but I have an Ash tree, and Elm, and some ripples yet to paint.

We first visited this place in 1996 when hundreds of very small Leopard Frogs were moving across the road into a flowing ditch. Then we discovered the invasive Rusty Crayfish in the creek at the bridge in 2001, and returned in 18 July 2008 to find a high concentration of this species, and no native crayfish. A month later we sampled this population with the help of a youth group, the "Stewardship Rangers" and celebrated by feasting on the 100 largest ones.

We expected to be able to fill our order for five adult "Rusties" here today, but you never know what you're going to find - or not find. Fred picked up a single scrap of turtle egg shell on the shoulder of the road - it will be the basis of a nesting record from here this year, once it's been identified to species.

After packing up my paints and folding my easel I stiffly rise from my awkward seat and step carefully back to the bank on the network of Beaver sticks - the footing hadn't seemed this treacherous in my search for a spot! Between the creek-bank Beaver lodge and the roadside ditch, I pass back through a narrow strip of deciduous woods, and notice this time, three oval, water-filled Beaver holes flush with the mossy root webbed forest floor, that if it were darker I might have stepped into (I hadn't noticed these on my way in either).


  1. Since 2006 we haven't paid enough attention to the Crayfish situation in Brassil's Creek - there's the relatively unhybridized O. rusticus here, with (as we found in 2008) native O. virilis surviving upstream, and Rideau-style hybridized Orconectes rusticus x propinquus coming up from the Rideau River north of Burritts Rapids (as of 2007)- replacing native O. virilis and O. propinquus.

  2. Beautiful job on the reflections in the water, and the ripples also, Aleta! And that they were done from life, while the light and these reflections were changing, is pretty impressive!


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