Archives for posts with tag: nature

Eel_lorez_ashleyhalseyI recently painted the American Eel as a contribution to a the Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center 2016 calendar with the theme of field and stream. A few years ago I read a fascinating book on these mysterious and mythical creatures called Eels: An Exploration, from New Zealand to the Sargasso, of the World’s Most Mysterious Fish. While reading this book I learned all sorts of facts about these bizarre and unusual fish.

” The freshwater eel, of the genus Anguilla, evolved more than fifty million years ago, giving rise to fifteen separate species. . . The freshwater eel is one of the few fishes that does the opposite, spawning in the sea and spending is adulthood in lakes, rivers, and estuaries. . .” —James Prosek, Eels.

The American eel is found along the Atlantic coast including Chesapeake Bay and the Hudson River and as far north as the St. Lawrence River region. Is also present in the river systems of the eastern Gulf of Mexico and in some areas further south.

 

 

NewEnglandCottonTail_ahalsey_loThe New England Cottontail (Sylvilagus transitionalis), can easily be mistaken for the Eastern Cottontail (Sylvilagus floridanus). Both species are found throughout New England and New York, but the New England Cottontail’s range has dwindled in the last 50 years or so. The Eastern Cottontail was originally not found in New England, but migrated there and now competes with the New England Cottontails. The habitat favored by the New England Cottontail is young forest, which includes brush, shrubs and densely growing young trees.

It is nearly impossible to tell these two species apart. The New England Cottontail is distinguishable only by its slightly smaller eyes and body. They also often have a black spot between their ears, they always lack a white spot on the forehead and they have a black line on the front edge of the ear 95% of the time.

More information about the New England Cottontail and its conservation can be found at newenglandcottontail.org

Limited edition prints, as well as the original of this painting are available on my Etsy shop.

© 2014 Ashley P. Halsey

AshleyHalsey_BFF_2013

The Black-footed Ferret (Mustela nigripes) was considered extinct until it was rediscovered in 1981 in Meeteetse, Wyoming. Shortly after that a captive breeding program was started, and in 1991 captive-bred ferrets were released into the wild. They are still classified as an endangered species today, and breeding and conservation programs continue.

Because the Black-footed Ferret relies primarily on prairie dogs as its food source, it lives in and around prairie dog communities. Originally, the prairie dog ecosystem occupied 20 percent of the entire western rangeland, allowing ferrets to cover a large geographic area. Today that area is limited and Black-footed Ferrets are found only at reintroduction sites. Much more information, photos and video are available on the Black-footed Ferret Recovery Program website.

Limited edition prints, as well as the original of this painting are available on my Etsy shop.

© 2013 Ashley P. Halsey

The Karner blue butterfly (Lycaeides melissa samuelis) is a small butterfly with a wing span of approximately one inch. On the upper surface of the male all four wings are a deep violet-blue fringed with white. On the female the upper surface is a dusky brownish blue with orange spots on the edge. The butterfly’s annual life cycle is inextricably tied to that of the wild blue lupine (Lupinus perennis). Adult Karner blues feed on the nectar of flowering plants, but the caterpillars of the Karner blue feed only on the leaves of the wild lupine.

The Karner blue butterfly was Federally listed as an endangered species in 1992. It is experiencing a decline primarily due to human activities such as agriculture, urbanization and fire suppression, which degrade the habitat of the wild lupin. Federal recovery plans for the Karner blue butterfly include protection and management of wild lupine habitat.

Limited edition prints, as well as the original of this painting are available on my Etsy shop.

© 2012 Ashley P. Halsey

Sitting next to the water’s edge is the California Red-legged Frog (Rana draytonii). This species of frog is native to California and is classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List.(1)  The frog gets its name from the red color that can be seen on the underside of the hind legs. The overall coloring of the frog ranges from brown to red, the red becoming more prominent as the frog ages.

The California Red-Legged Frogs were among the most abundant amphibians in California until the late 19th century when the arrival of California gold miners caused them to be almost eaten into extinction. About 80,000 frogs per year were consumed by the booming human population.(2) Today the frog population has declined seriously. However, in March 2010, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced 1,600,000 acres of protected land for the species throughout California.(3) Check out the frog in this short video.

Limited edition prints, as well as the original of this painting are available on my Etsy shop.

© 2012 Ashley P. Halsey

Pyne’s Ground Plum (Astragalus bibullatus) is a beautiful species of flowering plant[1]  which is endemic to the cedar glades of Middle Tennessee, near the rapidly growing city of Murfreesboro. These glades occur on rocky limestone outcrops with exposed bedrock or very shallow soil, where trees are largely unable to grow. Pyne’s ground plum grows along the deeper soiled glade margins or in partially-shaded areas (2). The flowers turn to reddish orange fruit (that resembles a plum) in late May through early June. Classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Plants 1997 (3) and listed as Endangered on the U.S. Endangered Species Act 1967 (4), the plant is most definitely at risk. Primary threats to this wildflower are generally residential or commercial development, as well as livestock grazing and more competitive vegetation(5). Attempts have been made to establish a new population at Stones River National Battlefield, TN, and there are high hopes that the new population will be self-sustaining (6).

Limited edition prints, as well as the original of this painting are available on my Etsy shop.

© 2012 Ashley P. Halsey

The Eastern Screech Owl (Megascops asio) is on the smaller side, as far as owls go—reaching about 10″ in height at adulthood; but it still maintains that stately owl dignity. Like all owl species, the Screech Owl can not turn its eyes within its sockets, but instead will rotate its head as much as three-quarters of the way around its body to get a better look. And like other owls, they are stealthy hunters, using their keen hearing and eyesight to locate prey in the still of the night. Their specialized feathers with fringes of varying softness, as well as their broad wings and light bodies make them nearly silent in flight. Screech owls mate for life after an elaborate courtship ritual takes place.[1] The pair will generally produce only a single brood per year.

A rather intriguing symbiotic relationship has been observed in Screech Owls in Texas. In a number of cases researchers have observed the owls bringing live Texas blind snakes to their nest cavities where the snakes will then live and eat parasites, larvae and other insects afflicting the chicks in the nest. The snake will leave the nest once the chicks take flight.[2]

The original work is available for purchase on Etsy.

© 2011 Ashley P. Halsey

Have you ever tried to catch a grasshopper? It’s pretty hard; and there are a couple of reasons why. For one thing, most can jump 20 times their length – and some species more than that. The other reason is that grasshoppers have five, yes five, eyes!

I believe this brightly colored little guy is a Differential grasshopper (Melanoplus differentialis). I found him in action eating his lunch in a friend’s garden. There are 548 species of North American grasshoppers, so it can be hard to keep track of which one is which. Most grasshoppers are considered pests because they can destroy crops, however, they have a wide range of natural predators and also can be beneficial when they eat weeds. Instead of lungs, grasshoppers have tiny holes, called spiracles, in their thoraxes and abdomens. Next time you see a grasshopper, look at it closely. You can see the abdomen move in and out as it breaths.

The original work is available for purchase on Etsy.

© 2011 Ashley P. Halsey

Moon snails are pretty awesome. I accidentally stumbled on one when I was a kid and I thought it was some kind of monster coming out of the sand. The snail was at least three times the size of any snail I had ever seen, and the memory has stuck with me ever since. Moon snails are carnivorous snails that feed on bivalves by boring holes in the shells of their prey. So if you see a shell with a perfectly drilled hole in it, there’s a good chance it was a moon snail victim.

I’ve depicted the snail pulled into its shell here, because I wanted to highlight the colors in the shell. When the snail comes out the foot (the part of the snail outside the shell) is so large that it covers a large part of their shell. It helps them move through the sand in search of prey. Moon snails lay their eggs in a curved ribbon, or egg collar, made of sand and mucus. The structure is smooth,  curved and very durable – a rather unusual structure to put eggs in, I think. See the snail in action here.

The original work is available for purchase on Etsy.

© 2011 Ashley P. Halsey

This Eastern Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina) is a little shy. Unlike other land turtles, box turtles have the unique ability to close their shells completely because of a hinged shell. They have a wide range from the northeast through the mid-west and south. Box turtles are extremely long lived – often living over 50 years. As a result, they are slow to mature and reproduce. Habitat destruction and fragmentation threatens the box turtle today. They can be found in any number of habitats, but generally they stick with moist forest floors and open pastures.

Prints of this work are available for purchase on Etsy.

© 2011 Ashley P. Halsey

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