BBY011 :: Melospiza lincolnii

Lincoln’s Sparrow. When I saw this bird along the trail ahead of me, I excitedly snapped a couple blurry shots before getting one clear-ish one. This is the first animal in my series, a step forward in showcasing the diversity of this park!

The one clear picture I took lacked a lot of detail in the shadows, so I wasn’t able to see the true colours of this sparrow. Looking in my bird guides, the most similar species was Lincoln’s sparrow, although I couldn’t see some of the colours and patterns in my picture. I still think this is the most probable identification, although it could be a variety of fox sparrow!

This guy was sitting in an alder tree, so this painting shows off another version of BBY004! I had a lot of fun painting every part of this scene, the pastel blue summer sky, blurred light green splotches, the mossy alder branch, and of course the bird. I’m very happy with the result, although leaving the subject to last made me nervous.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:29 about 140 m down the trail from BBY001.

Art by Nelson Spies, December 30, 2020. Acrylics on primed canvas sheet.


BBY010 :: Sorghum halepense (?)

This is grass; I know that much! It is possibly johnsongrass, which I learned this week is an invasive introduced species that is not officially listed as present here in BC. However, if johnsongrass has popped across the US border, I wouldn’t be surprised. The plants I observed grow mainly in the marshy areas to the south of Burnaby Lake. In fact, the greenery in the background of 009 is probably this grass!

I think from now on, I have to take the backburner in terms of positively identifying these plants, and instead focus on just presenting the art. This artwork was one of my favourite ones to draw – there are nice simple shapes, but also details that come out really nicely with ink. The flowers/seeds on the actual plant should taper more towards the tip; I just got carried away and ran out of room at the top of the page.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:26 about 130 m down the trail from BBY001. Some stands of grass got really tall, up to about 7 feet (2.1 m).

Art by Nelson Spies, December 17, 2020. Prismacolor Premier 01 fine line marker on dot matrix printer paper. I just have a lot of that really old paper.

BBY009 :: Lythrum salicaria

Purple loosestrife. This distinctive flower popped up in a few places along the Burnaby Lake trail. It was easy to identify; although similar to the native fireweed, purple loosestrife’s petals are more pointy. L. salicaria was introduced to North America and has taken over from East to West. More interesting information can be read here.

This artwork is the first collaboration piece, painted by my friend Rébécca Gourde! Liquitex Basics Acrylic on 8×10” Quality Canvas Panel using “a lot of different paintbrushes.”

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:23 about 110 m down the trail east of BBY001. About 2 – 3’ (0.7 – 1 m) tall, a single stalk by itself. Others were later observed in larger groupings at the south side of the lake.

BBY008 :: Fagus grandifolia or sylvatica

American or European beech. I need to see the flowers and the fruit to know for sure which species this is. Being a relatively small tree, it might be too young to show fruit. It may not be a beech since there are no native beeches on the West coast. Another species whose leaves these resemble is American hornbeam (Carpinus caroliniana), which is in the birch family (Betulaceae) along with the paper birch and red alder a few weeks back. All of these options are native to Eastern North America.

This tree caught my eye since it had these brightly coloured leaves even in July when I wrote it on my list. I have seen other trees around the lake that look the same while having pure green leaves. This tree was quite small and the leaves were very sparse, stemming from several trunks. The bark is smooth and resembles that of the alder, having the same lichen growth patches.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:20 about 100 m down the trail from BBY001. About 15’ (4.6 m) tall, with three main trunks.

Art by Nelson Spies, December 2, 2020. Acrylic on primed canvas sheet.

BBY007 :: Lonicera involucrata

I have recently identified this species since drawing it. This is twinberry honeysuckle. Unfortunately only one berry is visible here!

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:14 across the trail from the willow tree (006).

Art by Nelson Spies, November 25, 2020. Pencil crayon on medium texture coloured pencil paper.

BBY006 :: Salix lucida ssp. lasiandra

Pacific willow, shining willow, whiplash willow. My first attempt at guessing the species of this tree was black willow. Native to eastern North America, I thought it was unlikely to be that exact species, although I know a lot a migration of introduced species has happened. Looking at “Native Trees of Canada,” a 1956 handbook passed down to me, I discovered the most likely native willow species: the pacific willow. It loves to grow in marshy ground as do a lot of willows. I have seen these trees all around the lake, with different shapes and sizes but with the same leaves, which twist slightly to one side at the tips. The bark is rough and dark, and some trees have young shoots starting from the ground or low on the trunk. I want to revisit these trees in the spring when the young leaves and flowers come out!

This is my first acrylic/canvas artwork in this project, and I think it worked well for the subject! I’m looking forward to painting more of these plants and animals.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:11 across the trail from the alder tree (004).

Art by Nelson Spies, November 11, 2020. Acrylic on primed canvas sheet.

BBY005 :: Athyrium filix-femina

Lady fern. Ferns are so beautiful and complex, but the simplicity of my art reflects my knowledge of these plants. I had no idea where to start in identifying this one. I still don’t understand exactly what “pinnatifid” means but it’s a start! The leaf structure is bipinnate-pinnatifid if anyone was wondering. Another clue was hidden under the leaf. The sori, or spore structures used to reproduce, are intricately shaped and sometimes protected by a tiny tissue. The sori of this lady fern (pictured here in mid-September) are kidney shaped.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:09 under the alder tree from last week.

Art by Nelson Spies, September 24, 2020. Acrylic and ink on 65 lb green cardstock.

BBY004 :: Alnus rubra

Called red alder, Oregon alder, or western alder, A. rubra is part of the Betulaceae family (the birches). The tree grows female cones and male catkins on the same branch. The bark is often marked by small to large white patches of lichen that thrive on certain trees.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:04 at the all-weather field trailhead. About 20 – 30’ (6 – 9 m) tall.

Art by Nelson Spies, November 4, 2020. Pencil on medium surface paper.

BBY003 :: Betula papyrifera var. commutata

Paper birch, western white birch. As we will see in next week’s post and still more to come, the first day’s expedition to track the species at Burnaby Lake was a bit naïve and ambitious. I correctly distinguished that entries 003 and 004 were different trees while out in the field; however, after reviewing my photos the next day, for a long while I could see no difference. Clueless about how to identify plants (and I’m still novice), I didn’t have clear pictures showing leaf or flower structures. Returning to the location multiple times, I gradually became familiar with at least two trees around here! This is a birch, and next week (004) will be an Alder.

B. papyrifera (left) compared to Alnus rubra (right)

The base model (B. papyrifera / var papyrifera) grows widely elsewhere in Canada.

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 18:00 at the all-weather field trailhead. About 20 – 30’ (6 – 9 m) tall.

Art by Nelson Spies, October 26, 2020. Pencil on medium surface paper.

BBY002 :: Spiræa douglasii

Rose spirea, hardhack, Douglas spirea, steeplebush. Another member of the rose family (see 001 last week), this native bush produces beautiful fuzzy flowers all around the lake for much of the summer. I’ve seen red-winged blackbirds sitting in the dried upper branches eating the seeds.

Juvenile male red-winged blackbird eating rose spirea seeds

While native, bountiful, and beautiful in North America, this species is considered invasive in Europe!

Specimen recorded July 24, 2020, 17:55 at the all-weather field trailhead. About 9’ (2.7 m) tall.

Art by Nelson Spies, September 17, 2020. Coloured pencil on medium surface paper.