Category: Field guide friday

Bees – Field guide Friday

bee sketches by shantele iannaAustralia has over 1500 species of native bees. The honeybee is not native, it was introduced from Europe 193 years ago. Native bees have pretty cool names too, the teddy bear bee, the blue banded bee. Most of our native bees are solitary bees just doing their own thing and laying eggs on their own not in traditional hives.

The honeybee, which has been commercialised suffers stress just like humans do. From the food they eat, including chemicals, pesticides, extreme weather events and working too hard and getting burnt out. The current epidemic resulting in whole hives disappearing is called colony collapse disorder. Most scientists can’t agree on the cause but it seems to be a combination of factors. bee sketches 4 by shantele ianna

Bees are amazing creatures. They communicate in many different ways, one of which is a booty shake. Yep, they wiggle their butt’s, to let other bees know how far away pollen is from the hive. A more elaborate dance symbolises pollen that is further away. Pretty cool.
bee sketches 3 by shantele ianna

Did you know that bees are put in trucks now and moved to different areas sometimes over thousands of kilometres away to pollinate crops and make honey. And the workers bees, that collect all the pollen, are females. So many things I didn’t even think about when I open a jar of honey. In Australia, we are lucky that we are largely unaffected by colony collapse disorder. But our bees are still stressed.

And bee pollen, the latest superfood, I always picture the big yellow clumps of pollen on the bees hind legs and wonder if the pollen collectors put tiny little brushes and tiny little jars under the brushes to sweep it off their legs as they enter the hive?! No, probably not….bee sketches 2 by shantele ianna

So next time you got to swat or kill a bee, you could be hitting a poor, overworked, unappreciated, woman who has been unsuspectingly poisoned and forced to move to a new town, whereas, she just wants to be out in nature, live her life’s purpose and dance……..

Giant devils Fig weed {field guide Friday}

This is a series on my blog this year where I will be sharing a sketch from my nature journal every Friday in an effort to keep myself drawing (at least weekly) and to hopefully inspire someone else while I’m at it. Hope you enjoy it! Giant devils fig by shantele ianna

The Giant devils fig is a noxious weed on the north coast. It originates from central America and is spreading rapidly throughout the region. We are also noticing that it is widespread along the sides of roads in the area. It is easily recognised from the deeply lobed leaves which are covered in spines along the leaf veins and the stems which have large thick spines.

Giant devils fig fruit by shantele ianna

The weeds flower in autumn and spring, and have green fruit which turn yellow when mature. The seeds are spread by birds and bats. We have also noticed that the cows have been eating the leaves. When a large plant is mowed with the slasher, the remaining parts will grow new roots and turn into new plants. This makes the removal very difficult unless sprays are used. They really need to be removed as soon as they are spotted and before flowering because they can rapidly spread and choke the waterways and compete with native species.

Rescue chickens {Field guide Friday}

This is a series on my blog this year where I will be sharing a sketch from my nature journal every Friday in an effort to keep myself drawing (at least weekly) and to hopefully inspire someone else while I’m at it. Hope you enjoy it!

rescue chicken sketch by Shantele ianna

About 6 months ago now I found out that there were some chicken’s available on a farm for free. We went out there with the intention to take 15 or so, between me and my husband’s family. When I got there and saw that the chickens had had their beaks de-tipped (this happens before the small chicks come to the farm and is usually done because the birds are kept in huge numbers and can peck and attack one another).  There were also hundreds of birds that were going to loose their lives. I ended up taking 50, we have 15 and we have re-homed the rest to friends and family.

The farmer explained that after the chickens reach 12 months of age their eggs get bigger and the shells get thinner and the restaurants don’t want them. So every 12 months the whole flock is replaced. The 12 months and older chickens are killed and new younger ones are bought in to replace them.

I had heard of factory farms before, where chickens are kept cooped up in cages inside barns and never see light of day, but I had no idea that this is how some free range hens are kept. These chickens got let out to roam the farm every day, are fed well, kept locked up at night, but are only allowed to live for 12 months and are kept with huge numbers of other birds.  Generally the farmer doesn’t want to operate in this manner either, but the market dictates it.

I don’t know if this is common practice for free range egg farms, but it got me thinking about food labelling and that it can sometimes not tell the whole story behind a product. I grew up with backyard chickens, and have been lucky enough to either know someone who can give me eggs, and now, have our own. Growing up on a farm I saw chickens behave like chickens, I have rarely been exposed to chickens having their beaks cut, but have been exposed to animals dying of disease and predators and natural causes. While rescue chickens take a bit more care I am happy to have these girls as a part of our farm.

I realise that keeping any “pet” chickens is not exactly natural for the birds, which would historically be living in trees and only laying eggs to reproduce. But if you are going to eat eggs (which I do), I am happy knowing how my chickens live their lives.

Toadstools and mushroom sketches {Field guide Friday}

This is a series on my blog this year where I will be sharing a sketch from my nature journal every Friday in an effort to keep myself drawing (at least weekly) and to hopefully inspire someone else while I’m at it. Hope you enjoy it!

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I remember when I was a kid, going foraging for mushrooms after heavy rain with my dad. We both love mushrooms and would sometimes end up with bags full of them….We always stuck to the safe field mushroom, and never got adventurous sampling other different varieties.

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I am pretty sure that the mushrooms in the sketches are inedible ones. I have been trying to identify them but they are really hard to ID. I have a field guide but am still clueless. I know that the big one is a toadstool, but I didn’t realise how many different toadstool varieties there are. I will just have to stick to drawing them for now. And look into a mushroom foraging workshop in the future….

Tiger moth {field guide Friday}

This is a series on my blog this year where I will be sharing a sketch from my nature journal every Friday in an effort to keep myself drawing (at least weekly) and to hopefully inspire someone else while I’m at it. Hope you enjoy it! Tiger moth watercolor sketch by shantele ianna

Tiger Moths are common throughout coastal northern New South Wales. They have distinctive orange and black bands on their bodies and orange spots on their wings. They are pretty small at about 4cm and are normally seen flying around during the day.

This is the second moth I have drawn for field guide Friday and it got me thinking what is the difference between a moth and a butterfly. Well there are some general rules (and exceptions to the rules of course) that separate the two groups.Tiger moth watercolor sketch 3 by shantele ianna

Tiger moth watercolor sketch 2 by shantele ianna

  • Moths generally have feathery antennae, whereas butterfly antennae have a club on the end and are thinner;
  • Moths are generally duller coloured than butterflies;
  • Moths wings are linked together whereas butterflies are not;
  • Moths hold their wings flat when resting but butterflies hold their wings upright (making it very hard for photos);
  • Moths have larger forelegs;
  • Moth pupae spin a cocoon whereas butterfly pupae is not in a cocoon; and
  • Moths fly at night whereas butterflies are seen flying during the day.

The tiger moth seems to be an exception to a lot of those rules, being bright coloured, thinnish antennae and seen during the day.

Emperor Gum Moth {Field guide Friday}

This is a series on my blog this year where I will be sharing a sketch from my nature journal every Friday in an effort to keep myself drawing (at least weekly) and to hopefully inspire someone else while I’m at it. Hope you enjoy it!

Emperor Gum Moth watercolor sketch by shantele ianna 1I am always happy to find Emperor Gum Moth’s hanging around the garden, they are beautiful creatures. The Emperor Gum Moth is a large moths with a 120-150mm wing span and is easy to identify from the four colourful “eyes” on their wings. This guy is probably a male because they are said to have hairier antennae than females.

Emperor Gum Moth watercolor sketch by shantele ianna 2Apparently they adults don’t feed, they only live for a couple of weeks after hatching from their cocoon and their only goal in life is to mate and lay eggs. They are also native to Australia, so keep your eyes peeled.

Happy weekend everyone and happy insect hunting….

{Field guide Friday} Dolphin Fish

This is a series on my blog this year where I will be sharing a sketch from my nature journal every Friday in an effort to keep myself drawing (at least weekly) and to hopefully inspire someone else while I’m at it. Hope you enjoy it!

IMG_0277ccThis weeks sketch is of Doreen the Dolphin Fish. Most people would recognise this one as from the header image on my website. Fish are my favourite subject to draw, and particularly ones with bright dazzling colours.

dolphin fish watercolor sketch  print head close upDolphin fish are a large species that are found in the deep open ocean preferring warmer subtropical waters. The origin of the name Dolphin fish is quite contentious with many speculation on its origins that I’m not going to go into here. They are also known as the Mahi Mahi (meaning very strong in Hawaiian) and Dorado (meaning gold in Spanish). Either way they are a stunning fish with golden yellow bodies and different shades of blues on their fins, lips or as spots.

dolphin fish watercolor sketch print tail close upThey are a very sought after recreational fish on fishing charters, but are not targeted commercially in Australia. They are relatively fast growing and reach sexual maturity with 4 months of age. Their conservation status seems to vary throughout different guides, but they are generally listed as not of concern. I have never eaten one, or caught one but would love to see one in real life.

Prints of the original watercolour drawing are available in my shop. Head over there if you would like more information.

dolphin fish watercolor sketch print body

Happy fishing and diving everyone.

{Field Guide Friday} Wanderer or Monarch butterfly

This is a series on my blog this year where I will be sharing a sketch from my nature journal every Friday in an effort to keep myself drawing (at least weekly) and to hopefully inspire someone else while I’m at it. Hope you enjoy it!

Wanderer butterfly and larvae watercolor sketch by shantele iannaMost people including myself can instantly recognise a Monarch butterfly (or the wanderer). They have distinctive orange colours on black wings with a band of white spots on the outer edge. The larvae are easily identified too by their white, black and yellow stripes. Wanderer butterfly adult close up by shantele ianna

Wanderer butterfly larvae sketch by shantele iannaThey have two sets of black tentacle’s at either end of their body, which often make it difficult to determine which end is the head, but the longer set are located at the head end.Wanderer butterfly larvae close up by shantele iannaThe wanderer are very common throughout Northern NSW, but are not native and were introduced to Australia in 1871. They have a short life span of only 6 weeks but breed throughout the year in this area. The eggs are laid on the leaves of plants in the milkweed family, where the larvae feed on the leaves and flowers.milkweed

In this area they are commonly seen on the narrow leafed cottonbush, and the red head cottonbush which are both weeds and are toxic to cattle. The caterpillars and adult butterflies are toxic to birds due to the toxic milky sap in the plants they eat.

{Flield guide Friday} Bull ants

This is a series on my blog this year where I will be sharing a sketch from my nature journal every Friday in an effort to keep myself drawing (at least weekly) and to hopefully inspire someone else while I’m at it. Hope you enjoy it!

bull ant watercolour sketch by shantele iannaOur property seems to be full of large biting ants, particularly the Bull (or bull dog) ant. They are large ants with big eyes and long mandibles and can grow up to 4cm. You know when a nest has been discovered because they come out in swarms in an aggressive attack mode. We seem to have lots of nests along our boundary fence line and generally have to be careful of attacks when we are repairing fences. They inflict a painful sting from their venomous stinger located in their abdomen, by holding their prey between their large mandibles, and it hurts!.

bull ant close up watercolour sketch by shantele iannaThere are approximately 90 species of bull ants and all are found only in Australia. Despite their fierce reputation they mainly feed on sugar in the nectar from flowering plants. The colonies consist of a fertile queen (for laying eggs) and infertile female worker ants to do all the other chores for the colony. We often see solitary winged bull ants around the farm, apparently these are fertile males or females which have left the nest to start a new colony. So if you see any while your bushwalking keep a safe distance.

This sketch was done from a photo with Windsor and newton watercolours and a uniball micro deluxe waterproof pen. Check out this post for more information on my sketching kit.