Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

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?


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?


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


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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.


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.



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

Not a tuft of hair

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Daddy Longlegs Clump Under Limestone Overhang 6801

On July 9th I checked out a large limestone overhang in the little-frequented southern part of Great Hills Park. On the underside of the overhang I noticed what appeared to be a large tuft of hair, though I knew it couldn’t be that. It turned out to be a bunch of daddy longlegs that had clustered in the way they seem fond of doing. Another name for daddy longlegs is harvestmen but another name for them isn’t spiders, because these creatures are in a different group of animals that you can read about in an article from Clemson University.

It’s rare that I aim my camera straight up, but this was one of those times. I do occasionally use flash, and I had to for this photograph because it’s always pretty dark under that limestone overhang. The wall of the overhang, by the way, was (and still is) the site of mud dauber wasp tubes that appeared in these pages two summers ago.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 22, 2014 at 5:45 AM

Beaucoup bouquet bokeh

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Sinuous Firewheel Flower Stalk by Flower Head 4262

English doesn’t have a lot of words that originated in Japanese*, but as far as I’ve been able to tell, the recent addition bokeh appears to be one. The word means literally ‘blur’ or haze’ in Japanese, and photographers worldwide have begun using the term to designate the out-of-focus parts of a picture. While the firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella) flower head in the background of today’s photograph isn’t really a bouquet, it certainly appears as a colorful bokeh. Add the sharply rendered details of the sinuous firewheel flower stem that runs diagonally across the foreground, and you’ve got a welcome contrast. For more on bokeh, you can check out this article.

I recorded this abstract view in Great Hills Park on June 16th. That was two months ago, and although the great colonies of firewheels have gone to seed and dried out, I’m still seeing an occasional lone flower head of this species asserting itself as I wander about Austin.


* Most of the words that have entered English from Japanese were originally Chinese, including tofu, geisha, soy, tycoon, honcho, and bonsai.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 21, 2014 at 5:53 AM

Fern leaf detail

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Fern Leaf Detail 6471

On July 7th I went walking along Bull Creek and found this fern. Backlighting and translucence were there too.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman


Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 20, 2014 at 5:36 AM

One good turn deserves another

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Mustang Grape Tendril by Pond 0845

What the adage says about turns could be said of tendrils too. Here from July 30th with the Riata Trace Pond in the background is another and more abstract view showing the kind of tendril you saw last time, that of a mustang grape vine, Vitis mustangensis. In yesterday’s photograph there was a stalk for the vine to wind around, but even without anything to grab on to here, the tendril couldn’t keep itself from looping. That’s what a tendril of this kind knows to do, and that’s what this one did. You can see that the branch of the tendril going off to the upper left is beginning to curl at its tip in a similar way.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 19, 2014 at 6:48 AM


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