Last month´s sketches

Something completely different. Bread. The very first I ever baked, and it means so much to me! You have no idea. I took a huge risk given the visitor I expected. Simple recipe: whole grain flour, yeast, water and the simplest oven you can imagine. And it worked! It’s like magic.

Lovely to see the first ones of the year. In the backyard here in Hollandsche Rading, the winter jasmine is abundantly flowering.

Seeing this I realised I desperately need more yellow and summer colours. So this one is of a summer that feels so long ago.

Last one is of a visit to the Museum Voorlinden in Wassenaar. There are a few items on permanent display that bring out the inner child in everyone – at least, they definitely did in me. Like Leandro Erlich’s swimming pool, Ron Mueck’s Couple under an Umbrella, the Open Ended maze of Richard Serra and the tiny elevators of Maurizio Cattelan. 

At the moment there is an exhibition of the Italian artist Guiseppe Penone, who works with natural materials like trees and marble and leather, using the objects as a kind of memory or footprint of what has been. If you allow your mind to wander in his world, thoughts of interconnectedness of all visible and physical objects come up, of memories in the physical world and how we give meaning to what we experience with our senses. 

This picture below is of Tiger, tiger, tiger; the hidden tigers at the bottom of porcelain of the Ming Dynasty of Ai Weiwei.

Scorching heat

Another heatwave this year. You would think we would get accustomed to them, but no. The land dries out. Great times however to enjoy a beach sunset.

I did a little streetphotography – the beach variety. Two passers-by were willing to pose against the setting sun.

Tropical paradise in the Atlantic climate.

It’s worth to wait until after sunset for the ‘blue hour’. So beautiful!

Oh yes, my phone complained as well that it was really hot this weekend!

And there’s nature back home

A little more nature here, but now from Netherlands. These pictures are taken during a work-visit to a nature reserve in the dunes. First the the tree frog – boomkikker above. Genetic research proved that this population originated somewhere in the Mediterranean. Probably deliberately released, which could lead to a loss of genetic diversity.

Azure bluet – azuurwaterjuffer. Common in this part of Europe.

Lots of marsh helleborine – moeraswespenorchis here. Quite rare in the Netherlands, but if the water quality is okay it can pop up with a lot of enthusiasm.

Grasshopper – but what species? I’m afraid I don’t know, so feel free to leave your guess.

Another grasshopper, the great green bush-cricket – grote groene sabelsprinkhaan.

Parnassia, one of my favorites. Used to be quite rare, but thanks to the efforts of nature conservation organizations they have returned. Every day, one stamen rises until all five of them are standing up.

Last one: the common midwife toad. Also alien to this area, so probably also deliberately released. This was a young one. It still has it’s tadpole tail.

Still too much…

Previous post I said: Thousands of pictures. Too much nature. I´ll keep it brief this time.

First of all, that blue dragonfly above. I’m not sure of the species, it might indeed just be ´Blue dragonfly´. Feel free to mention the name if you know it. Same for the yellow one below. If you know the species, let me know! Both of them were resting in a small nature reserve between Savannah and Beaufort.

What´s next? An encounter with a snake near Chattahoochee river. Common garter, friendly and not poisonous. So no worries.

Sand martin. Whole families were learning their offspring to fly and hunt for insects above the river.

Another bird, a killdeer (why that name?). Common kind of plover. Picture taken while canoeing – it’s really great to jump in a canoe on a sunny day!

This one was taken in the city of Atlanta, Memorial Park, a few months ago. Some kind of mushroom – tried to capture the lightness and luminousity of it.

Last one to close this series: the bamboo forest at the banks of the river.

Too much nature!

Every time in the USA I am overwhelmed by the abundance of nature. There is so much to see! I come home with thousands of pictures. Let me show a few of them here.

I woke up with birds singing, and they kept on singing all day long. You don’t need to go out to do birding, you can just sit on your veranda and they come to you. The intense red of the Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) – just can’t stop taking pictures! I have them hunting for insects in the grass, singing and hiding in the bushes, but this one I like most: sunbathing in the scorching sun.

Then the eastern bluebird (Sialia sialis). Such beautiful colours! Funny, the nuthatch in the Netherlands has almost the same colours, but is a little paler.

“Look at those cute squirrels!”
I was immediately corrected. “They are not cute. They are rats with a tail. They climb through the rain gutter, come into the house. They gnaw and make a huge mess!”
“They won’t be that bad will they?” I thought. But indeed. They’re everywhere. Really everywhere, in huge numbers, in and around the houses.
In Europe, the grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) is considered an invasive alien species. They eradicated the indigenous red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) in most of the United Kingdom, as they are bigger, stronger and resistant to squirrel diseases they carry.

“What about those chipmunks? Those ‘ground squirrels’, as we call them?”
“Less bad than the grey squirrels. But I still don’t need them in the garden. They dig holes everywhere.”
I have to t confess: last week in my garden back home I saw mouse holes. Shrews probably, there are a lot of them here. And my first thought was: How do I get those bloody mice out of my garden?
Anyhow, the Eastern chipmunks (Tamias striatus) is not considered an invasive species in Europe. But it’s nephew, the Siberian chipmunk (Tamias sibiricus) is.

Another unwelcome animal. That is: In Europe again. Many red eared sliders (Trachemys scripta) have been imported as pets. So cute, these tiny baby-sliders with their flip-flop-feet! But baby sliders grow big, too big for small aquariums, and the entire house starts to smell. Eventually all these imported pet sliders are dumped in nature. No one wants to kill his pet, and the animal shelters are full. The pet industry doesn’t care – when a European ban on import and trade was imminent, thousands of extra baby sliders were rapidly imported and ‘put in storage’. To be able to continue selling them for some time after the ban. Anyhow, the one on the picture is enjoying his natural habitat. In the USA.

– To be continued –

Chasing waterfalls

‘Don’t go chasing waterfalls,’ TLC sings. The expression puzzles me, for I can’t combine the beautiful image of waterfalls with bad or self-destructive behaviour, what the song is about. I love waterfalls. Probably because I live in the Netherlands, a country devoid of any. So when I’m abroad, I don’t miss a chance to visit one. If you would come to my house, you’d find one printed as wallpaper. I sleep under my own waterfall, every night. ‘Don’t go jumping waterfalls,’ Paul McCartney sings. Now that I do understand. Jumping them would be very unwise indeed.

Here’s a few waterfalls from the last USA trips. Amicalola, Cloudland canyon and Big canoe. The names alone are enough to make me dream away into different worlds.

Savannah (en Beaufort)

Wat een prachtig stadje! Nu begrijp ik waarom iedereen aanraadde om eens te kijken in Savannah. Oude huizen in koloniale stijl wekken een Zuideuropese of Latijnsamerikaanse sfeer op. In tegenstelling tot veel andere plekken in de VS kun je uitstekend wandelen in de historische binnenstad. Talloze parkjes – bijna elk tweede blok is park –  nodigen uit tot aangenaam verpozen.

Het verleden van de slavenhandel druk een zwaar stempel op de stad. Dit was één van de belangrijkste havens waar schepen met slaven uit Afrika aanlegden. “Als ik de kelders zie, dan moet ik altijd denken aan de mensen die daar misschien opgesloten hebben gezeten,” zei iemand.

Kenmerkend voor deze kuststrook zijn de lang slierten korstmossen die van de bomen hangen, het Spanish moss. En ook dat draagt bij aan die enge sfeer: als ’s nachts de slierten in de wind wuiven, lijken het wel geesten die komen spoken.

“Overdag vind ik de stad mooi, maar ’s nachts vind ik het eng,” zei iemand. Als geen ander weten de Amerikanen ook daarvan een business te maken, want het aanbod van Ghost tours en spookverhalen is enorm.

Eén foto is gemaakt in Beaufort, en stadje op zo’n 30 mijl afstand. Ook prachtig, ook historisch en met een minder beladen verleden. Ik hoop snel nog eens terug te komen, en dan ook Charleston te bezoeken.

Favoriete bosbewoner

Dit is vermoedelijk mijn favoriete bosbewoner: de boommarter. Echte, wilde natuur, zomaar in ons eigen Nederland. Het is alweer twee jaar geleden dat ik er voor het laatst een zag. Vorig jaar vond ik wel een bewoonde boom, maar nét te laat. Het gezin had de boom waarschijnlijk de week ervoor verlaten, te oordelen aan de latrine. Nu zit het moertje er nog. Vandaag tenminste – het zal niet de eerste keer zijn dat een gezinnetje van de ene op de andere dag verdwijnt…

Vandaag een groot deel van de dag gepost bij het nest, om te kijken hoe het staat met de gezinsuitbreiding. Het moertje kwam één maal buiten kijken, en hield het daarna voor gezien. Niet zo spectaculair, maar in het nest waren de jongen te horen. Ik gok dat ze over één of twee weken zo ver zullen zijn dat ze het nest verlaten. Het is te hopen dat iedereen dan de hond aan de lijn houdt.

Zo´n lange dag in het bos geeft altijd nieuwe ervaringen. Bijvoorbeeld de koolmezen en boomklevers, die geregeld langs komen om de latrine te inspecteren. Ik vermoed dat daar wel wat insecten te vinden zijn.

Ook leuk zijn de toevallige ontmoetingen met andere bosbewoners. Zoals deze rode eekhoorn, die even stil hield om te kijken. Verrek, zit daar nou een mens? Ja zeg, het is echt een mens! Nou ja, rustig doorlopen maar, en doen alsof ik hem niet heb gezien…

Dichtbij en ver weg

Soms vind je vlak bij huis de meest exotische locaties. Vorige week was ik in het Belgische Oostende, dat me verwende met een paar prachtige zonsondergangen. Met het on-Nederlandse licht leek het ver, heel ver weg. Dichtbij of ver weg, uiteindelijk zit het allebei in jezelf…