Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Pearl milkweed pod

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Pearl Milkweed Pod Split Open 2371

While walking along Bull Creek parallel to the east side of Loop 360 on August 8th I noticed a pearl milkweed vine (Matelea reticulata) with several pods, all of which had split open and were coming apart to about the same degree as this one.

In a recent post showing a feather we talked about iridescence: notice in today’s picture how some of the milkweed silk iridesces as it loosens its way out into the sunlight. Yes, the verb iridesce exists, even if it’s not common. There’s a time for the uncommon as well as for the commonplace. That said, milkweed pods releasing their contents always strike me as out of the ordinary.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 29, 2014 at 5:57 AM

Small blue damselfly

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Small Blue Damselfly 9607

On July 24th, while exploring near the waterfall adjacent to Harrogate Dr. that I mentioned in yesterday’s deer post, I photographed a damselfly and its prominent shadow. This obliging insect, which wasn’t much more than an inch long (maybe 3 cm), appears to be one of the “dancers” that comprise the genus Argia. From a look at John C. Abbott’s Dragonflies and Damselflies of Texas…., I’d say this is an Aztec dancer, Argia nahuana (Nahua is the Aztec word for ‘Aztec’).

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 28, 2014 at 5:53 AM

Wary deer

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Deer Staring 9521

The scattered canyons and woods in my hilly northwestern part of Austin are home to many white-tailed deer, Odocoileus virginianus. On July 24th, when I drove over to park on Harrogate Dr. to visit an adjacent waterfall, I spotted this deer, which also spotted me and kept staring warily. I was too busy trying to get a decent picture to notice at the time that some sunlight came through the deer’s upraised ears and created a reddish cast in them that the shaded tree trunks in the background further enhanced.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 27, 2014 at 4:20 AM

Galls on leaves on top of mustang grapes

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Galls on Leaves on Mustang Grapes 9871

When I wandered through part of Northeast Metro Park in Pflugerville on July 28th I photographed these two leaves with galls in them. Beneath the leaves you see mustang grapes, Vitis mustangensis, that had fallen on the ground from a nearby vine and were in various stages of decay and the concomitant shapes and colors.

You probably remember seeing some mustang grape tendrils recently, but a couple of years ago I showed the opposite end of the scale, namely a venerable mustang grape vine that had become as thick as a tree. And then there was another thick one with a yellow-crowned night heron perched on it.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 26, 2014 at 5:56 AM

A blast from the past

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Male Horace's Duskywing Butterfly on Mexican Buckeye 5527

Click for better clarity, if not larger size.

Here, from way back on March 25th at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, is what appears to my uninitiated eyes to be a faded male Horace’s duskywing butterfly, Erynnis horatius; the colors beyond it are definitely from the flowers of a Mexican buckeye tree, Ungnadia speciosa. Why show this picture now, five months later? Why not?

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UPDATE: Based on two comments, it seems this may well be a funereal duskywing, Erynnis funeralis, rather than a Horace’s duskywing. So much for my uninitiated eyes.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 25, 2014 at 5:14 AM

Turk’s cap flower

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Turk's Cap Flower 7938

Here’s a flower of Malvaviscus arboreus, known as Turk’s cap and Texas mallow, that I photographed in Great Hills Park on July 18th. The plant was in a heavily shaded place in the woods—its familiar habitat—so I had to use flash. Don’t the clumps of pollen remind you of caviar?

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UPDATE: If you check out yesterday’s post showing a feather, at the end of it you’ll see I’ve added suggestions about the identity of the bird that shed the feather.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 24, 2014 at 6:00 AM

Feather

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Feather 6722

Also on my July 9th visit to the southern part of Great Hills Park I found and photographed this feather. If anyone knows what kind of bird it’s from, please speak up. Although the photograph above might make it seem that pastel shades of brown and blue are the only colors in the feather, the enlargement that you can get to by clicking the thumbnail below shows that there are flecks of many other colors as well. I suspect those colors aren’t intrinsically there but are created by iridescence or other optical phenomena, as they are on butterflies’ wings, but I don’t know for sure.

Feather 6722 Detail

 

By the way, even if it looks like I used flash to take this picture, I didn’t.

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UPDATE: I sent out a request to people in the know about birds to see if any of them could identify this feather. I got the following detailed (and initially humorous) reply from Chuck Sexton:

That’s a bit of a tough photo quiz.  I’m not used to looking at feathers this close up.  Please take the feather, walk 50 yards away, and I’ll stare at it through binocs!  ;-)

The shape of the feather suggests it is a body contour feather like a breast or belly feather.  The narrow brown or reddish barring suggests one of two species, both of which nest in Great Hills park:  Red-shouldered Hawk and Cooper’s Hawk. These birds both have rufous-barred underparts.

http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/red-shouldered_hawk/id

http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coopers_hawk_adult_01.JPG

I’m not sure I’ve heard Cooper’s in the park this summer although they’ve nested upstream near my yard about 2 out of 3 years in the past.  Red-shouldered on the other hand has been a regular noisy resident and that’s what I’d bet on.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2014 at 5:55 AM

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