Monday, December 29, 2014

On 16 December 2014, Fred wrote to botanists and the NatureList, and posted on the Ottawa Field Naturalists and Ontario Field Botanists facebook pages:

“Botanists! After a field season spent exploring streams and pipelines from Saint John, New Brunswick, to Fort McMurray, Alberta, we've accumulated a 60 cm stack of plant specimens which seemed interesting to us at the time, some of which are are identified with stunning accuracy ("Pinus strobus L.") and others of which are denominated more laxly ("<mystery herb>"). So we've wondered if, over the holiday season, we could assemble a group of botanical identifiers to work through the stack. It would be nice to get a fair-sized group together in a party-like atmosphere, but it will be hard to synchronize schedules... I will print out labels for all the database entries labelled as plant specimens, and as the stack is worked through I'll crouch over the computer and sluice the identification and identifiers into the database. Authoritative identifications will improve the quality of our survey of the Energy East pipeline route.”

Owen Clarkin, Lis Allison, Clayton Shearer, Eleanor Thomson, Mathieu BĂ©lisle, and Bettina Henkelman replied affirmatively, and the date was set for Saturday, 27 December. 

Mathieu wasn't able to come, Bettina had the flu, but four would make a lively enough party so we set up tables in the

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Winter's Work

Fred and I after our interview at CBC in Thunder Bay on 27 October 2014
After three months on the road, chasing Energy East from Fort McMurray to the Bay of Fundy for 14,632 kilometres, we wonder if any Transcanada personnel now have our experience of the entire pipeline route from Hardisty to Saint John...

When we think of how much we've seen and experienced through all this, it nearly makes us dizzy. There comes a time when you've

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Aidie Creek Winter Coming (oil on canvas 12 x 16) Sold

31 October 2014 found me watching rhythms in the rushing water of Aidie Creek at Highway 11, 9.5 km north north-west of Englehart. The air was calm and new snow clung to branches, whitening the leaf litter and melting on the rocks.

In May of 2002 Fred and I stopped briefly here, taking note of the lovely rapids, but since we were hurrying up to cover our Cochrane area study site for the James Bay Expedition it was a short visit, with a shelly drift sample and photos of the low stepped falls. This time again our stop was brief, as we were headed south along Highway 11 to a meeting of the Ontario Rivers Alliance in North Bay.

We pulled into the entrance to the picnic area just upstream of the Highway 11 bridge, and toured the extensive network of laneways among the rocks and trees, to find a spot to park near the river. We

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Fragile Crossings 2015 calendar is out!

Here is the essay we wrote to "illustrate" the 13th month of the calendar:

Fragile Crossings – our Energy East Project

On 18 Sept 2013, Sustainable North Grenville held a meeting about the proposed Energy East Pipeline, which would

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Winnipeg River and Tunnel Island (oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.)

23 October 2014 finds me at a boat launch on the Winnipeg River, at the end of the Miller Rapids Road, north of Kenora, Ontario, looking upstream toward "Tunnel Island" and admiring the contrasting colour bands of the late afternoon sky to the west. Fred and Teika Newton are inspecting the shore of the bay on my left, picking up handsfulls of rich snail drift and observing Deer, Beaver, Raccoon, and

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pipestone Creek Marsh (oil on canvas 8 x 8 in.)

16 October 2014 found me astonished at the broad swath of cattail marsh that is Pipestone Creek, hemmed in by its forested valley wall, southwest of Broadview, Saskatchewan. The high sharp line of the flat prairie outside of this valley world is visible on the horizon though a gap in the trees. We are a little over a kilometre upstream of where the Transcanada pipeline crosses the Pipestone. We are past the places where we have the pipeline route mapped - so today we navigated by dead reckoning and were pleased to find

Monday, October 13, 2014

South Saskatchewan Bluffs (oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.)

8 October 2014 finds me gazing at the castellate bluffs of eroded loess along the South Saskatchewan River upstream of Alberta Hwy 41, west of Burstall Saskatchewan. We could see that there were interesting bluffs as we gradually descended along the highway toward the bridge, but here at river level, they are much more impressive - and the river itself is clear and green, ruffled by the wind into wavelets that weave green and blue into a new intensity of colour that even in a narrow strip, balances the strange bold shapes and stark contrasts of the wind-carved bluffs. We drove from the bridge to a kilometre-long area of campsites to a broad rutted area at the river that serves as a boat-launch.

The Transcanada Pipeline crosses the South Saskatchewan River 8.2 km upstream of here. I settle on a view of castle-like formations directly across the river and perch my folding chair on a low

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Distant Bluffs on the Red Deer (oil on canvas 6 x 12 in.)

7 October 2014 finds me sitting behind the guard rail in a camp chair, at the bridge over the Red Deer River, 3 kilometres northwest of where the Transcanada pipeline crosses it at Bindloss, Alberta.  We came here past the village of Bindloss, which is a compact island of treed buildings in an oceanic expanse of prairie. There at the top of the bluffs, the prairie appears vast and slightly rolling, hiding its creeks and rivers in the creases of the landscape. Coming to the bridge we find the Red Deer River again, and I'm taken by the way the evening sun guilds the edges of the distant bluffs that wall this valley. 

Monday, October 6, 2014

Red Deer River Sandbars (oil on canvas 8 x 16 in.)

4 October 2014 finds me on a long, wood-plank bridge over the Red Deer River, 16.3 kilometres upstream of the Transcanada Pipeline crossing. The bridge is just north of a tiny place named Buffalo, near a smallish oil drilling operation, a couple of hours north of Medicine Hat, Alberta.  I am, again, enjoying sandbars, looking downriver with the prairie wind and the afternoon sun both

Friday, October 3, 2014

Athabasca Evening (oil on canvas 12 x 24 in.)

20 September 2014 finds me looking over the Athabasca River from the "highload bypass" of the Thickwood exit from Highway 63 in Fort McMurray, Alberta.  We checked this site out yesterday evening at dusk, our first day in Fort McMurray, and found a good parking spot for me to paint from against the guardrail on the broad plateau of the ramp that curves high above the Sandbar Willows which line the river.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Shadow of the Bridge to Nowhere

21 September 2014 finds me sitting against a towering cement pier, beneath what's been called the "the bridge to nowhere" south of Fort MacKay, Alberta, painting the long dark shadow of the bridge over the river flats. Just beyond the horizon, north, south, east, and west, are big tar sands operations. As each

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Across the Country!

Our scheme for this project was to parallel the pipeline route to the New Brunswick Museum's August bioblitz in Gagetown and then to the Canadian Herpetological Society's September meetings in Calgary. 

After a winter of planning, with one winter painting of the crossing at Hoople Creek, and a number of other projects that

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Coles Island (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) Sold

21 August 2014 finds me perched on the trunk of one of a number of leaning Red Maples that overhang the south shore of Coles Island, on the north side of the south channel of the Caanan River, in south central New Brunswick. 

Yesterday we were shown around this special part of the country and told its history. My parents' friend Hazen Hughes

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Muskrat's Island (oil on canvas, 7 x 9) Sold

9 September 2014 finds me in the bow of Scott Haig's canoe, exploring the perimeter of a small island in the Mattawa River, east of North Bay, Ontario. Scott has brought us through the eastern tip of the deep, spring-fed Trout Lake, to the Trans Canada Pipeline crossing at "The Narrows" of the Mattawa, where it flows into Turtle Lake.  

The island is pictureque - a pyramid of rock and trees, backlit by the afternoon sun. Paddling over to visit it, we find Leatherleaf and Sweetgale, leaning out to their reflections from lichen patterned rocks. Golden green mosses flow down over the shoulders of the granite rocks at the feet of tall slim White Pines and Cedars. As we paddle along the shaded north east side of the island, I notice open mussel shells glimmering submerged among the

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

St Lawrence Boulders (oil on canvas 8 x 8 in.) Sold

1 September 2014 finds me perched among licheny boulders looking over the marshy shore of the St Lawrence River, 17 kilometres southwest of Quebec City.  At the end of Rue Moisan, west of Saint-Augustin-de-Desmaures, Quebec, there is a path that goes down to the right of the fire hydrant and through an Ash and Maple woods with scattered Butternuts, and along the edge of a field beside a wall of tree-grown stones and crowded with invasive Goutweed and Comfrey - to the end of the wall where there is a little green and white sign nailed to a tree, saying something in French about hunting. There the St Lawrence River is revealed through a low opening in the trees.  We sogg over wet scirpus stem drift and clamber over boulders to the edge of the marsh. There beside us is the most inviting pile of companionable boulders that I have ever seen! Softened by patterns of rain-moistened lichens, the pile seems to be viewing the broad aspect of marsh and river and I climb up on one to view it too.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Wild Rice and Sweet Rush (oil on canvas, 6 x 12 in.) Sold

21 August 2014 finds us at dusk looking across a marsh on Long Creek just above its confluence with the Canaan River, 13 km northeast of Cambridge Narrows, New Brunswick.  I have found my scene for a Fragile Crossings painting, just before the road enters the covered, wooden "Starkey's Bridge". We are looking out over soft green flats of what is apparently Wild Rice.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Salmon River Cloudscape (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.)

15 August 2014 found me perched on a log at the waters edge below the steep forested bank of the Salmon River, 7 km southwest of Chipman, New Brunswick.

I was enchanted by the sky reflection, and tried to capture it quickly on a small canvas, but the clouds moved rapidly, changing the complexion of the scene

Friday, August 22, 2014

Eastern Terminus

After a day in the natural history collections of the New Brunswick Museum, finishing a painting and providing data for our donated plant collections, Fred and I set off, with dusk coming on, to scout the eastern terminus of the proposed Energy East Pipeline. We drove along the harbour through downtown Saint John, westward to a lively scene of ships and tanks and pipes at the Irving East Terminal, with the hills of west Saint John on the horizon, and then followed the GPS

Friday, August 8, 2014

Tobique River and Cooper Mountain (oil on canvas 5 x 7 in.) Sold

7 August finds me painting from the back deck of a house overlooking the lovely Tobique River on "Reeds Island" near Plaster Rock, New Brunswick. I glance down to see our friend Lee's little red SUV push its way down through the long meadow grass below the house on a riverbank expedition with Fred to look for clams. They are following the presently invisible road to where

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Rigaud River Willows (oil on canvas 7 x 9 in.)

4 August 2014 finds me looking out at the Rigaud River, from between two big old Willows at least 70 cm in diameter, with heavily ridged corky bark and moss-streaked bases. They are rooted in a jumble of granite rocks strewn with sticks and bark drifted there in spring floods. The left one has a felt of tiny rootlets over rock that it uses for feeding when the water is high.The right one elbows out near its base, leaning

Friday, August 1, 2014

Trent River Oak and Willows (oil on canvas 6 x 8 in.) Sold

10 May 2014 found me admiring spreading willows and a magnificent old Burr Oak on the bank of the Trent River at a Conservation Area near Glen Miller, Ontario. We'd come for spring drifted mollusc shells, and we only noticed the "Line 9" pipeline river-crossing signs just as we were leaving. Our colleagues Amanda Bennett and Matt Keevil evidently hadn't noticed the pipeline crossing either, during years of launching their boat here as they studied the turtles in this stretch of the river. Our formal description of this “limestone savannah rare habitat” is “lawnpark bank of rapid canal-river, in residential area.”

After a day of collecting spring-drifted shells from creeks and rivers in Toronto we zoomed alog the 401 to the parking lot here and slept in the seats of the van until dawn. While I made breakfast, Fred sprinted for our traditional drift sample up near the

Monday, July 28, 2014

Jock River Sunset (oil on canvas 9 x 12 in.) Sold

26 July 2014 finds me sitting on my painting caddy on the low grassy bank of the Jock River at the Trans Canada Pipeline crossing, south of the town of Richmond, Ontario. The setting sun glows through the boughs of an Ash tree across the river from me, and as I paint, the sky which this afternoon has been bright and cloudless but more white than blue, becomes more and more interesting now, with a few lavender clouds rising up from the west and drifting like scarves across the sun. Yesterday in Ottawa I first noticed the heavy haze smelling faintly of woodsmoke which must be from forest fires far to the west and the south.

On our hike in from Dobson Lane we heard a Gray Tree Frog call, and saw two adult Leopard Frogs along the grassy ATV-rutted track. Now at the river as I settle down to paint we hear the voices of three kinds of Ranid frogs calling from where

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Madawaska River Crossing (oil on canvas 10 x 10 in.)

3 June 2014 found us just downstream of where the Trans Canada Pipeline crosses the Madawaska River, starting a painting of the steep north shore with its rocky outcrops and White Pines tossing their branches against the sky. The buried pipeline goes steeply down into the river from the far shore just to the left of this scene and then comes up through the meadow-like rightofway beside me.

We'd come in from Stewartville Road along the south shore of the river, and upstream of

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Official Project Launch and Fundraiser!

On 20 July 2014 you will find us at The Branch Restaurant in Kemptville, Ontario, enjoying Chef Bruce Enloe's good food and music, in the company of friends and supporters of our Vulnerable Watersheds survey of summer/fall 2014.

The Branch is donating 50% of proceeds from their delicious menu, from 2:00 to 8:00 pm on Sunday, 20 July, at 15 Clothier St, just north of Prescott Street, in Kemptville.

Being Sunday, the special Gumboot Buffet will be on ($14.99, people under 12 pay their age) as well as The Branch's full menu which includes delicious vegetarian and gluten-free entrees.

We will have a few of my recent paintings on hand, and a copy of our "Landscape" book. There will be live music too!

From 3:00 - 6:00 Chef/Musician Bruce Enloe will host the weekly Sunday "open-mike". He's promised to sing a few of our own ecology songs. We'll be singing too - and passing the lyrics around!

Hope to see you there!
Aleta & Fred

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mapping Every Crossing - Steve Courtney

In May, Caryn Colman introduced us to Steve Courtney, who is making inventory of the geographic coordinates of the Energy East pipeline crossings of rivers, streams and lakes. Steve sent us the coordinates he's worked out for where the pipeline crosses rivers, streams, and lake shorelines. He's working up all of these in a Geographic Information System (GIS), along with the wetlands and the watersheds along the route and the terrain it would traverse. His information is based on the most recent data release from NRCAN NTS 1:50,000 maps, and he sent us this map of the crossings he'd catalogued.

Steve is using the pipeline route from New Liskeard to North Bay and Mattawa as his prototype, to define what data need to be used to evaluate

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Summer Calm South Nation (oil on canvas 8 x 8 in.)

19 June 2014 finds me three kilometres northwest of Winchester Springs, Ontario, painting a view across the South Nation River from a steep grassy bank on its north shore. Tall grasses screen the river's edge. I have flattened some of the Bromus and Reed Canary Grass into a nest for sitting in the combined shades of a licheny sprawling Manitoba Maple and a stocky low-spreading Ash tree.

The elegantly up curved twigs of the Ash frame the right-hand part of my

Monday, May 12, 2014

Vulnerable Natives

Aleta's watercolour of the rare Hickorynut mussel, Obovaria olivaria
In May 2013 we found ourselves rushing back from Lake Erie to address the St Lawrence Institute's 20th Annual Symposium on the Great Lakes / St. Lawrence River Ecosystem, on the subject of "St Lawrence tributaries in Ontario as refuges for Unionid Mussels." Several of these tributaries are crossed by the Enbridge/Transcanada pipelines, and consideration of their refuges must be part of planning for any changes to the pipelines.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Hoople Creek in Winter "Icebound Treasure"

19 March 2014 found us on County Road 14, 2.3 km NNW Ingleside, Ontario, looking across a snowy field where Hoople Creek winds toward the bridge on Highway 401. An intermittent stream of long trucks flowed from east to west and from west to east, while the creek itself appeared motionless, its stream running beneath ice and snow. Its path where water had melted and re-frozen, showed pale sea-green and amber. We were 700 metres east-south-east of where the Transcanada and Enbridge pipelines cross Hoople Creek. This was the first of our visits to stream crossings along the route of the pipelines that are proposed to carry the Energy East bitumen to New Brunswick. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Launching an independant assessment of the Energy East pipeline route

This is a painting that I did at our long term amphibian monitoring site near the Trans Canada pipeline crossing of the Wicklow River, south of Cochrane in 2010. The young Spruces here are growing under Aspens and Poplars on claybelt soil that was an open field when Fred and Jim Rising first caught Wood Frogs here in 1972. We've learned that the highway was re-routed in 1960, about the time of construction of the Trans Canada Pipeline, and it may well be that these two events were coordinated.

Landscape Art and Science is what we do - the partnership of a biologist and an artist for exploring and documenting Canada's landscapes in the face of environmental change. In 2014 we are launching an independent assessment to find out what the characteristics of the rivers and streams are that the Energy East Pipeline would cross. Our field work will focus on Ontario through spring and early summer, and in the late summer and fall, we'll explore the route from New Brunswick to Alberta and back.