Loch Leven NNR Artist in Residence Blog

This site follows the research and work of artist in residence, Alison Buckle, at Loch Leven NNR, during the 'Year of Natural Scotland, 2013'.


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Phantom Limb

The job of an artist in residence is to try to identify and then interpret and communicate what it is about a place that is special, interesting or unique and it’s a great experience to spend time exploring a place, soaking up the atmosphere, meeting people and looking at the way things work.

After some time and lots of research, ideas and themes start to crystallise and bubble up from the subconscious and the work evolves out of this – unique to that place.  Well, one of the things that I keep coming back to when I look around Loch Leven and see the various animal and plant populations and the work that the reserve officers do, is balance.  Everything is in such delicate balance.  I’ll come back to this in a future post because it is this balance and interconnectedness that informs the main work I’m planning.

Leaning branch in winter before painting.

Leaning branch in winter before painting.

At the beginning of the residency I started noticing visual metaphors for balance around the reserve and became interested in leaning branches – those branches that break off, fall down and become caught in the tree somehow.  They are interesting because they are a chance, freak happening.  They are precarious, often rather lovely and they make the branch look very different (always good to look at things in a different way).  They are also a vital part of the ecosystem in their role as dead wood.  I found a good one and decided to paint it  so that it would stand out, revealing it’s shape and structure in a way that is often missed when it blends into the rest of the woods.

Balance1

The results were interesting – when I identified the branch it was still winter and there was little greenery (see first photo).  When I painted the branch the ferns had started growing – I hadn’t anticipated the ferns would grow around the branch adding their texture and colour.  One of the most exciting things about art is that at some point the work takes on a life of it’s own and if you are lucky becomes more than what you anticipated.

Balance 3

Balance6

Balance5

Well, sadly, the branch did not last long and these photos are all that’s left of it.  With that in mind, I think I’ll call this work ‘Phantom Limb’!!

Balance4

My research so far has generated lots of interesting photographs and I’m hoping to put on a small exhibition – will post dates soon.  I’ve also been out and about in different parts of Scotland, exploring other nature reserves and national parks and I’ll be blogging about these experiences over the next few weeks.


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Blog Block!

Well, after a week’s holiday (and 2 weeks to recover from the holiday) I’ve developed blog block, like writer’s block but with more procrastination and inertia, and less actual writing skill!!  So, to get things rolling again, I’m going to float a few pics.

 

Twigerpillar

Twigerpillar

And first up is a twigerpillar, cunningly disguised as a er.. twig.  Found at Portmoak Moss

 

British Soldier Lichen

British Soldier Lichen

Spectacular British Soldier Lichen, also found at Portmoak Moss – a strange and beautiful place that I hope to explore much more over the summer.

Portmoak Moss

Portmoak Moss

Large Red Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

Large Red Damselfly

 

 


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Good Hair Day!

Friday was definitely  a good day for Green Hair Streak butterflies.  These beautiful little butterflies are minty green with splashes of iridescent lime on the undersides of their wings, which they show off when sitting.  They perfectly blend with the blaeberry leaves they like to sit on and we saw lots of them at Portmoak Moss during a warm and sunny insect survey.

Green Hairstreak

Green Hairstreak

However, it’s not until you zoom in on the them that you notice their fabulous stripy football socks and antennae!

Mint green with black and white stripy socks!

Mint green with black and white stripy socks!

Stripy socks up close and personal.

Stripy socks up close and personal.

These wee guys were happy to pose for the paparazzi (sorry George, don’t worry, no one will know it’s you)!

The Paparazzi.

The Paparazzi.

And just one more Green Hairstreak…….

Green Hairstreak on a log.

Green Hairstreak on a log.


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Sunny side up!

It was a glorious sunny day on Friday for the egg count.  A cheerful bunch of volunteers, along with reserve officers Craig Nisbet and Stephen Longster, made the journey across the loch to St. Serf’s Island in the sheep boat.  Loch Leven was as flat as glass and an Osprey flew slowly by, giving us a good close up look (forgot to get the camera out, however!).

Priory

Priory 

Yellow Lichen on the Priory walls.

Yellow Lichen on the Priory walls.

Our task was to count gull eggs and as we hiked over the island towards the gull colony, the sky filled with noisy gulls.

Walking from the Priory to the Gull Colony.

Walking from the Priory to the Gull Colony.

Gulls

Gulls

It was an intense experience being surrounded by so many gulls and amazing to see so many nests between the tussocks as we walked along.

'1 with 3'

‘1 with 3’

More Gull Eggs

More Gull Eggs

We saw nests every where and this wee guy busting out!

Hatching Chick

Hatching Chick

Gull Chick

Gull Chick

These two were waiting for lunch!  And we were very fortunate to see this beautiful, huge (sorry, no scale, take my word for it) swan nest filled with impressively big eggs.

Swan Nest with 6 Eggs

Swan Nest with 6 Eggs

The oystercatcher eggs were very pretty.  Surrounded by so many eggs and aware of their importance, it’s not hard to see why the egg shape is such an important symbol in so many cultures and in art throughout the ages.

Oystercatcher Eggs

Oystercatcher Eggs

I’m looking forward to insect surveying tomorrow at Portmoak Moss – it should be very exciting, and if the weather holds, I’ll be painting branches before the weekend, fingers crossed.


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Walkabout

Levenmouth Woods

Levenmouth Woods

On Wednesday, my husband Gerald (as well as our two dogs) and I caught the 204 bus from Kinross High Street, opposite the old town hall, and got off at Vane Farm NR, to start our walk around Loch Leven.  The rain cleared up almost immediately and we had sun for most of the day.  The birch woods around Levenmouth were coming alive with queen Buff-tailed Bumblebees and a variety of small birds, including the cutest long-tailed tits.  There were lots of amazing tree shapes around and I think the birch woods have an almost ‘enchanted forest’ feel.

Hollow Tree Detail

Hollow Tree Detail

Moss

Moss

After a leisurely lunch at Loch Leven’s Larder at Channel Farm on the North side of the loch, we hit the road (well path) again, North West towards Burleigh Sands and Kirkgate.  I saw a couple of Goldfinches along the way and spent some time inspecting the beautiful branching structure of the Willow trees.

kinnesswood2

View to Bishop hill

We finally got back to our car which we’d left at The Pier – two tired people and two tired dogs.

Next week I’ll be collecting a few fallen branches to work with and continuing some research into the ecosystems of fallen logs & snags (dead upright trees).  I’m also starting to pick out patterns of moth and butterfly wings, so there should soon be some art work research to post.


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Phragmites and more Equisetum

Kinnesswood1

Tuesday was a glorious day at Loch Leven NNR.  I spent another research day exploring the woods between Kirkgate and Burleigh Sands.The view across the Loch to Kinnesswood was beautiful and the changing light picked out the Common Reeds (Phragmites) which cast amazing shadow patterns in the water.

Phragmites2

I found some more ancient Equisetum in the ponds and I love looking closely at the patterns and structure of these amazing plants.  They look like futuristic skyscrapers!

Horsetails2