Saturday, December 4, 2010

A Restaurant and an Endangered Blue Butterfly--Vickie Henderson

This doesn't look much like a nature sketch, but it was my intro to a fun nature adventure that began here in this little coffee house.  
It was my son's day off and instead of resting, he asked me, "where do you want to go"?  We were in his home town, Los Angeles, CA, in early November.  Naturally I searched the internet for a local birding hot spot and found Rockweiler Beach where Snowy Plovers had been sighted.  So I asked if he knew where it was located.  His response, "It's under the LAX runway,"  (Los Angeles International Airport)   
This gave me pause.  Besides wondering what that meant, it didn't sound very appealing.  

Later as we were leaving, he said we were headed for El Segundo.  I thought that meant the beach idea had been nixed, and frankly, with the noisy, concrete, no-sky image that popped into my head, I was relieved.  It was while in the community of El Segundo, which happens to be adjacent to LAX (!) and in the coffee shop that I first heard the story of the endangered El Segundo Blue butterfly--a butterfly on the brink of extinction in the early 70's.    
This inch-size butterfly lives only on the El Segundo dunes along the Santa Monica Bay and feeds solely on one native plant, the Seacliff Buckwheat.  And when I say, "only", that literally means that in every stage of the butterfly's life cycle, it depends on this plant.  The butterfly nectars on the buckwheat flower, lays its eggs on the flower; the larvae eat the flower, and the pupae are formed at the base of the plant, where they emerge in the spring as butterflies.  An amazing life-cycle that is perfectly timed with the blooming of its host species.    

The butterfly itself emerges in June and July and has a life-span of only two months before it morphs into the pupae stage of its life cycle.  There are many more fascinating bits of information about this species and what was driving its extinction in my post, A Story of Survival at Vickie Henderson Art.  Also you will find cool videos that show what scientists learned about this butterfly and what it took to bring it back from the brink.    

And to finish my story about Rockweiler Beach, it IS positioned below the runways of LAX, lying in the direct path of departing and arriving flights as they fly over the Pacific Ocean.  In fact, my son observed that my in-coming flight had crossed this beach.  However, the only thing real about my imaginary sky-less beach was the noise of low flying planes--BIG low-flying planes.  
The birds on the beach don't care, however, and I discovered a life bird foraging in the surf--the Marbled Godwit--found above and in the second sketch above.  

A footnote about the moleskin sketchbook that I mentioned in my previous post, the Long-billed Curlew at El Matador Beach.  The above sketches were also created in the same Moleskin sketchbook with pencil, ink and watercolor.  The paper in this sketchbook is designated for all-media but does not work well with watercolor because of its delicate nature and a surface that frequently causes beading.  Even though the visual result can be satisfactory, the process of working on the paper is not enjoyable for me.  The fun of watercolor is its movement and fun is one of my requirements for painting and sketching!  However, the book has a smooth surface that works well with ink, graphite, color pencils, etc. and of course journaling.  Moleskin does have a sketchbook that contains paper meant for watercolor sketching, however, the only choice available is a smaller landscape arrangement.  I have one, but I've never used it.  That tells you something!  

What would make a great edition to the collection of Moleskin brand notebooks--a portrait sketchbook like the one linked above filled with hot press 75-90# watercolor paper!


  1. What UTTERLY fascinating reading Vicki! And what an exciting outing! You must've been surprised at the outcome! Lovely sketches and great post!

  2. Thank you, Marie! I was definitely surprised and delighted with the whole morning. From the coffee shop, to the wet sand under my feet, to sketching and researching this butterfly, a journey of enrichment!


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