Saturday, April 28, 2012

For the love of barnacles

On the recent trip to North Stradbroke Island, I was delighted to spend a couple of days working around the rockpools formed in large shelves that reach from sand to ocean water at Point Lookout. The rockpools are like little treasure chests waiting to be explored and with the changing tides, constantly being refreshed. I sat for a couple of hours watching tiny fish, sea urchins, crabs and various seaweed, sponges and molluscs moving about in their clear aquatic miniature worlds. Various 'tide lines' were evident in the pools with algae and vegetative growth establishing distinct horizontal zones in areas. I had to laugh at one small fish in particular and admire the quirky nature of life forms, the Blennie, possibly a Peacock Rockskipper, had what looked like miniature reindeer antlers (or fir trees) growing from the top of it's head and a wide docile smile. I wouldn't have imagined antlers on a fish. I made some funny drawings of it as it darted in and out of the seaweeds, eyeballing me at times! When I get to making some artworks from this experience, I'm sure I'll have fun.

In keeping with the theme of rockpools, I've just finished reading Rebecca Stott's book Darwin and the Barnacle, which I found totally fascinating. Stott has woven much history and interesting family life of Charles Darwin into the story of his life and eight years work to classify species of barnacle from throughout the world, which included a couple from Moreton Bay. It gives a great insight to that time and period of naturalist work.

Out of the studio

There has been so much happening this month, I've not been sure where to begin with posts. So I'll start with this recent and regular visitor at home, a Brahminy Kite, (I think). Most days for the past three weeks I've enjoyed watching this bird gracefully soar on air currents with what appears like little effort. Slight movements in the angle of it's tail feathers resulted in smooth loops over the native scrub around the house. On occasions the resident magpies would try to assert their territorial space, a bit of a David and Goliath situation as far as scale was concerned. We've had a lot of large grasshoppers (locust) in the garden this year and this is what I think the Kite caught as it swooped feet outstretched against the outer branches and tree tops outside my studio.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Biological diversity on our doorstep

Low tide at Amity Point, Moreton Bay.

When I began working on my Greenbelt project in 2008, I was alarmed at the rate of native bushland being cleared in local areas to make way for new suburbia. I asked myself the question - How do we balance competition between conservation and development to maintain natural heritage values? Ongoing research lead me to look at the work of community volunteers in bushcare groups, waterways testing and wildlife care. This year I am looking at a larger picture, with various activities and legislation impacting on the ecology of Moreton Bay, one of Australia's high diversity bioregions.

 Figure 6 Species richness in Australia's bioregions.
Source: Australian National Heritage Assessment Tool (2011) via the Draft National Wildlife Corridors Plan, March 2012.

On the recent trip to North Stradbroke Island I took along the latest edition of Queensland Museum's book, Wild Guide to Moreton Bay. It provided a wonderful resource for identifying many species in Moreton Bay as well as overviews of the region. On the subject of Biological Diversity it states "Moreton Bay lies at the heart of a major biogeographical overlap zone, where the southern and northern biotas meet, forming unusual communities of both temperate and tropical species."
Moreton Bay has also been listed under the United Nations Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, Ramsar Convention, and provides important sites for thousands of migratory shore birds. Bird variety was one of the highlights on our trip, along with many marine species I'd never seen before, or could even have imagined. I feel very fortunate to be able to experience these wonderful places.

Monday, April 2, 2012

On Art Camp

I spent last week at North Stradbroke Island with a group of fellow artist, for an immersive week of 'art camp'. It was an inspiring time with beautiful locations, lots of creating and good company...making for interesting conversations at the end of each day.
The images above of rock, sea and plant, give only a tiny hint to the diverse range of environments and life forms found on the island and within the surrounding waters. It was very much a case of visual overload on some days, with challenges to focus or pare back to a selected interest. We visited Brown Lake, Amity Point with it's expansive sand bars at low tide; Point Lookout gorges with fabulous pandanas, the rock pools at the end of Deadmans Beach, Flinders Beach, Dunwich and Myora mangroves, to mention a few locations.
The week of working plein air, observing and recording forms part of my Redlands project - With or without - this year. Continuing on from my previous Redlands Plant-Life project, I have set my focus on Moreton Bay and Bay Island environments, with an emphasis on conservation and waste management; What do we choose to live with or without? (More on this shortly).
In the mean time I am back home in the studio sorting through the sketches, drawings, paintings, imprints and frottage work, collected rubbish, photos, diary entries and memories. There's plenty of work to be made, deciding on the stories I would like to tell is where I'll begin.