BBY021 :: Falco columbarius

Merlins. This pair of small birds of prey sat in a dead tree where I saw them. The tree has since fallen.

At first I wondered if these birds were juvenile Peregrine falcons. I’m not sure if there’s a chance that two juveniles would be hanging out together – maybe a birder could weigh in on this.

Art by Nelson Spies, February 26 2023. Acrylic on canvas panel (colours warmed from original). Specimens recorded July 24, 2020, 19:12 at to the path junction next to the Burnaby wildlife rescue.


BBY020 :: Impatiens glandulifera

Known by many names: policeman’s helmet, bobby tops, copper tops, gnome’s hatstand, Himalayan or Indian balsam, poor man’s orchid.

Impatiens glandulifera is a very voracious invasive plant, taking over areas in fields and wetlands. There are programs around Burnaby Lake Park and in Metro Vancouver which enlist volunteers to help eliminate some of these plants. Check out these links to learn more about the local invasive species and the action these groups are taking:

Although it’s such a pest, these plants produce lovely flowers which are enjoyed by so many bees. It has juicy red stems and pink or white flowers on each separate stalk. Later in the season the plants release seeds by explosive dispersal.

Art by Nelson Spies, October 10, 2022. Acrylic on canvas panel. Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 19:09 about 30 metres east of Deer Lake Brook.

BBY019 :: Rubus laciniatus

Cutleaf or evergreen blackberry.

I started this drawing in June and finished it in September. During that time the berries had ripened and fallen or been eaten. I chose to cover this variety of blackberry before the more prominent Himalayan blackberry (R. armeniacus) just because it’s more interesting and unique, and fun to draw the leaves! Although the cutleaf type is more rare, I managed to find the two varieties growing side by side to perform a taste comparison. The R. laciniatus I sampled boasted a darker, richer, almost cherry-like note.

Art by Nelson Spies, September 26, 2022. Coloured pencils on Strathmore 6×8 400 series coloured pencil paper.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:59 near the bridge that goes over Deer Lake Brook.

BBY018 :: Ilex aquifolium

English holly.

I was inspired by a recent botanical illustration tutorial from the Invasive Species Council of Metro Vancouver (ISCMV) to draw something quickly and simply. I still don’t have watercolours, but I tried to use watercolour pencils for the pigment here.

Holly is an introduced species from Europe. The spiky leaves may be mistaken for our native Oregon grape, Mahonia aquifolium, but while both are present around Burnaby Lake, the fruits will differentiate them. Bright red holly berries are synonymous with Christmas decorations, while Oregon grapes are much more like small sour blueberries.

The species name “aquifolium” refers to the sharp, hooked or pointed shape of the leaves. This feature and name is shared by the Oregon grape. The inspiration may be from an eagle’s talons or beak, and presumably related to “quills” as well.

Art by Nelson Spies, June 25, 2021. Watercolour pencils/pigment on 100 lb weight coloured pencil paper.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:57 just south of the Pavilion parking lot.

BBY017 :: Lysimachia terrestris

Swamp candles.

This was just a fun art piece on an inspired evening. I tried to complete it all in one night, but had to finish some details the next day. Although I haven’t done any art since then, it was nice to pump out a piece all at once. I feel that the scene and style consistency also benefitted from the dense effort.

Swamp candles are native to the east coast and have been introduced to the west. These are part of the family Myrsinaceae/Myrsinoideae which was merged with Primulaceae.

Art by Nelson Spies, May 26, 2021. Acrylic on canvas. I sent the original to a friend in another province.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:50 from the Pavilion dock.

BBY016 :: Nymphaea alba

White waterlily.

Moving into the water now, here is a common plant that frogs love to sit on. White or European waterlilies are invasive in North America, being found originally in Africa, Europe and Asia. The large lilypads can be seen from space, framing in the very rectangular dredged shape of Burnaby Lake in satellite images while the more organic glacial shape is seen in maps and in the winter.

This painting is a watercolour painting by Michelle Wiebe (@seachelle_paints).

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:49 from the Pavilion dock.

Here is a picture from when I observed these.

BBY015 :: Humulus lupulus


This entry was bound to be a big botany learning experience for me. As with most of the entries I’m currently working on, this one was hastily observed and forgotten until later. Looking at the pictures, I thought it must be a grape vine. I could see tiny flowers which I assumed would turn into grapes later in the summer. The leaves looked about right and there were vines. I thought there was a possibility it was a Canadian moonseed, a poisonous lookalike to grapes that must be identified, unsurprisingly, by a crescent-shaped seed before accidently eating.

I was surprised when the flowers matured in mid-September. This was another proof that a budding botanist must closely observe things throughout the whole year before coming to a conclusion! These were unmistakably hops, although I had not knowingly seen the plants up close before. There may have been a farm that grew hops nearby back in the day, or since the vines are spreading and invasive, the plants could have travelled! Hops are listed as an invasive plant in the 2005 Weedbusters volunteer manual along the Southshore Trail at Burnaby Lake, where I have observed them still.

Hops are in the hemp family, Cannabaceae.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:44 at the northbound trailhead from the Pavilion parking lot.

Art by Nelson Spies, May 12, 2021. Pencil crayon on medium texture coloured pencil paper.

BBY014 :: tree

I hope this painting refracts the lights I saw sparkling off these glossy leaves! For now, I have to draw what I don’t know, but soon I will find out what all of these species are. For technical accuracy, this project would have included a full year of botanical research supported by observing through all seasons, but I’m glad for the artistic freedom I’m using to push out these pictures before fully understanding them!

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:41.

Art by Nelson Spies, March 1, 2021. Acrylic on thick canvas-textured paper from a 2019 Europe calendar.

BBY013 :: tree

This is an unknown tree with bright green leaves and light bark. It might be an aspen or a relative; I was unable to find an exact match from several sources I looked in. I still have a great chance of learning many of these unknown species, since I now know where the specimens are and I walk by them frequently! I will have to visit and take more notes in spring, summer, and fall to identify some of these.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:37.

Art by Nelson Spies, February 4, 2021. Acrylic on black textured plastic planner divider.

BBY012 :: Malus fusca

Pacific crabapple.

Check out these little pomes! I wish I had captured these a bit later in the season with ripe fruit to add some extra colour.

This is my first digital art piece in this project. Although I was able to more or less trace my reference photo, I added some of my own texture and shading. I’d like to stick more to traditional media, but I will definitely keep exploring the digital painting world.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:34 about 190 m down the trail from BBY001.

Art by Nelson Spies, January 28, 2021. Digital painting with Krita and Wacom Intuos pen tablet.