Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for July 2013

Purple martins

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Purple Martins Flocking to Live Oak Tree 9126

You’ve got a lot of birds here: click for larger size and more detail.

Near the beginning of July the Austin daily newspaper ran an article about the large flock of purple martins gathering noisily each evening near sundown above and then in some trees at the northern end of the Highland Mall shopping center parking lot. On July 6th I went to see the spectacle, and of course to photograph it. This made up for the lack of grackles in my neighborhood last fall.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, you’ll find that points 6 and 15 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 31, 2013 at 6:19 AM

Spider on skeleton plant flower head

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Crab Spider on Sketleton Plant Flower 7550

Click for greater clarity and size.

While walking along the Smith Memorial Trail in northwest Austin on June 28th, I knelt to photograph the flower head of a Texas skeleton plant, Lygodesmia texana, and there I spied a spider. It shied away and tried to hide between two rays but then hied to a better side for me, as you see. It’s curious how the spider’s abdomen and a few of the creature’s smaller features picked up some of the purple from the floral rays ablaze with light.

It’s been almost two years since I showed any pictures of this species of wildflower, so if you aren’t familiar with it you’re welcome to look back at abstract views showing the base of a flower head and a close-up from above of a flower head’s center; that second image will show you the structures that cast the shadows visible at the bottom of today’s photograph.

Those of you interested in photography as a craft will find that points 1, 3, 6, and especially 12 in About My Techniques are relevant to this photograph.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 30, 2013 at 6:19 AM

Back to a bud

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Bluebell Bud 9699

To end this cycle of pictures of bluebells, Eustoma exaltatum, let me go back to an early stage and give you your closest look yet at a bud, or more specifically the distal half of one. In the cycle’s first post I used the word sinuous, and now I’ll use it again to describe the edges of the tightly wound petals. Also in that first post you saw that a bud starts out white; now you see how it gradually turns violet as it prepares to unroll.

I made this picture on July 8 on the west side of US 183 south of TX 45 in the southern tip of Travis County.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 29, 2013 at 6:18 AM

A bluebell colony

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Bluebell Colony 9771

Click for greater clarity and much larger size.

I photographed this colony of bluebells, Eustoma exaltatum, along Old Lockhart Rd. in far southeast Austin on July 8. Notice that not only aren’t bluebells blue—they’re purple or violet-colored—but some of them can be very pale and even white.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 28, 2013 at 6:20 AM

A bluebell abstraction

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Bluebell Bud by Flower Abstraction 8704

Click for greater size and clarity.

The previous picture of a bud and tightly rolled flower of a bluebell, Eustoma exaltatum, was fairly straightforward. In today’s photograph I went for something more abstract by limiting my focus to the tip of a bluebell bud (and only upon seeing the photograph later did I notice that a panel of petal in the lower right corner coincidentally came into focus as well).

Like yesterday’s image, this one is from a July 6th visit to a piece of the Blackland Prairie on the east side of Interstate 35 north of Howard Lane.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 27, 2013 at 6:10 AM

It’s that time of year again

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Bluebell Bud and Tightly Rolled Flower 8526

It recently became the time of year again in central Texas for bluebells, Eustoma exaltatum. I photographed this sinuous configuration of a bud and a still-constricted flower on a piece of the Blackland Prairie adjacent to Interstate 35 north of Howard Lane. I must have spent an hour of that July 6th morning sitting among the bluebells, and I came away with plenty of photographs but also a couple of dozen chigger bites for my trouble.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 26, 2013 at 6:17 AM

A baby bird

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Baby Mockingbird 8413

Click for greater clarity.

On the morning of July 4th—yay America, yay me—I drove to the River Place nature trail in the hills west of Austin. I hadn’t really even started down the trail when I noticed something gray in the grass off to my right. It turned out to be a baby bird, apparently a mockingbird, and although I slowly walked closer and closer, the chick sat there, even to the point of letting me get within inches. Occasionally it chirped and made small movements or even hopped a little, but clearly it was too young to fly.

A man who came up from the trail said he thought the bird had fallen out of a nest; concerned that a dog or cat would get the chick, he tried tried putting it onto a branch of a tree, but the bird fluttered back to the ground. I saw several adult mockingbirds flying around near by, and perhaps one of them eventually rescued the baby bird. Or perhaps not.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 25, 2013 at 6:18 AM

A closer view of cynanchum

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Three Cynanchum Flowers 8205

Click for greater clarity and size.

As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, here’s a close look at three Cynanchum barbigerum flowers, each of which is only about 1/8 of an inch (3mm) long. Can you see the little white “beards”—clicking the image helps—implied by the species name barbigerum and the colloquial name bearded swallow-wort? Note the strongly recurved corolla lobes that seem more like mustaches than beards; you can count five on each flower because milkweeds do things in fives.

This picture once again comes from a July 3rd jaunt through the Bull Creek Nature Preserve, and in fact these flowers were on the same vine that you saw in the last photograph. Obviously this time I didn’t aim upward into the blue sky but sideways toward something dark, probably a group of shaded Ashe juniper trees.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 24, 2013 at 6:21 AM


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Cynanchum Vine Flowering with Pod and Crab Spider 8129

Click for greater clarity and larger size.

On the way back from my discovery of meadow parasol on July 3rd, I discovered that on the outward-bound portion of my hike through the Bull Creek Nature Preserve I’d walked right past a plant that I have seen before, but only a couple of times. It’s Cynanchum barbigerum, a delicate vine (some call it thicket threadvine) in the milkweed family, and this one had plenty of small flowers on it.

I’ll add that the vine has a rather unpleasant smell that might be described as rubbery or fishy, much like the odor of the pearl milkweed vine that’s a lot more common in central Texas. Notice the mature pod, quite svelte, which I estimate was about an inch and a quarter to an inch and a half long. Note also the pale spider in what seems to be a defensive position near the lower right corner of the photograph; I didn’t even see it at the time I took the picture.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 23, 2013 at 6:14 AM

Meadow parasol

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Daucosma laciniata Flowering 8070

Click for greater clarity.

The best of the botanical field guides intended for the general public in my area is Marshall Enquist’s Wildflowers of the Texas Hill Country, whose pages I’ve turned through hundreds of times since 1999. I’ve still never seen some of the species shown there, so I’m happy on those one or two occasions each year when I add another “conquest.” That was the case on July 3rd when I hiked pretty far into the Bull Creek Nature Preserve and finally came across a few flowering groups of Daucosma laciniata (or laciniatum), which sources say is known as meadow daucosma or the more fanciful meadow parasol. I think you can see what prompted that second name.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 22, 2013 at 6:10 AM

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