The Holocene and Monarch Butterflies

4

February 26, 2014


I have been working on several pieces for an exhibit on extinction. The exhibit is one of many that will be happening throughout this year to mark the 100 year anniversary of the death of the very last Passenger Pigeon. "Martha" died in captivity in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914. It's difficult to imagine that a species that once numbered in the millions was reduced to a single bird over the course of a couple of centuries, and yet, here we are...Some scientists are proposing that we are living in the age of the Sixth Extinction or the Holocene. And unlike previous waves of mass extinctions on earth, this one is driven by humans. Heavy stuff for a Wednesday, I know, or any day for that matter.  

Monarch Butterfly numbers have been plummeting in recent years due to loss of habitat. I have recently become a member over at Monarch Watch and have registered our yard as Monarch Waystation Habitat. We have monarchs come to our yard every year, but yes, last year I noticed the low numbers. So I made the painting above trying to address some of the feelings associated with a biological loss of this sort. If you live in the Midwestern US or Canada, I urge you to plant some native flowers in your backyard. I'm not very optimistic these days about where this is all headed, but still choose to be hopeful that even little actions like this can help and that it is worth it. 

* 4/1/2014 update: This is now available as a print HERE

The Herald Moth: Scoliopteryx libatrix

2

February 19, 2014



Roughly 4 months ago, when the days were getting shorter and autumn was settling in, I was going through the side entrance on our house. There is a little eave overhanging that door, and in summer, especially late summer, I habitually look up as that eave is often a favorite lair for large, brown, orb weaving garden spiders. I try to peacefully coexist with our arachnid friends, and part of this is taking care not to walk face first in to one of their webs (it's happened).

This evening when I peered up, there was a beautiful, delicate looking moth tucked up in a corner of the eave. It looked dead, and given that the eave was in use as a spiders' bug larder, that was my assumption. I nudged it slightly with my pinky finger, and it tipped in to my hand, motionless. 

Wanting to identify it, I brought it in to the house, took a photo and posted to Instagram. Some smarty pants on IG immediately identified it as Scoliopteryx libatrix, common name The Herald Moth. When I finished staring at my IG feed, I looked back to the piece of paper that I had placed the moth on and...it was gone. I looked around on the floor, my lap, the table, and then looked up and found the little Lazarus fluttering around the ceiling light. I quickly set it free outside.

I learned later that Herald Moths will seek out cool, dark structures (i.e. my side door eave) to hibernate in through the winter, and take wing again in spring. So...I had awoken this one from its peaceful torpor, but it had me duped! I'll know better next time not to disturb, and hope this one found another suitable spot to winter. Ice and snow are finally thawing around here. I'm keeping my eye out for Heralds.

*painting here

Northern Cardinal - Cardinalis cardinalis

4

February 10, 2014


Northern Cardinals are a permanent, year round fixture of the bird-scape where I live. So ubiquitous that it is easy to take their striking appearance and song for granted. In winter, and especially this winter, their scarlet red plumage is a welcome shock of color. The bright red of the males is beautiful, of course, but I love the female plumage just as much: brown with the tail, crest, and wing tips dipped in crimson. 

For the last several years I have been trying to mentally mark the first day in late winter that I hear a cardinal sing their melodic, dipping hymn. Weeks, and months of seeming silence as fall darkens towards winter solstice, and then the days begin their slow creep towards longer hours of light. Supposedly both male and female Northern Cardinals sing all year. Around here, however, in the darkest winter days I never hear their songs; often a sharp string of "chips", but not the swooping melodies of spring and summer.

Today, was the first day of 2014 I heard that song return. I was leaving my local cafe, coffee in hand, rushing across a dingy snowed covered street when I paused to listen. Springtime, in this part of the world at least, is still a ways off, but that cardinal let me know there is hope in the air.

Tree of Life

2

February 07, 2014

I wasn't able to post this week because of big illustration deadlines. Hopefully next week I can get some time in to paint subject matter that interests me rather than having to meet the weird requests of art editors. 

This is a painting I made back in October. October and autumn feels like it was eons ago. What a winter we are having! I love do love snow and winter, but I am starting to feel that itch for green. I have been fantasizing about my garden a lot and pouring over seed catalogues. 

Anyway "Tree of Life" is available as a print now. Hope you have a lovely weekend and that you are warm and safe, wherever you live. 

Tiny Aviary All rights reserved © Blog Milk - Powered by Blogger