Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography


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Dead Crawfish on Greenbrier Vines 1842

Surrealism was an early-20th-century literary and artistic movement that promoted the juxtaposition of incongruous things. I think you’ll agree with me that surrealistic is a good way to describe this little scene that I found near Tejas Camp in Williamson County on January 23. How a dead crawfish came to be lying upside down on a bunch of greenbrier vines (Smilax bona-nox) I don’t know. This spot was several hundred feet from, and considerably higher than, the nearest water, which was the north fork of the San Gabriel River, so I doubt a crawfish would have managed to walk here, much less climb up on these vines. In fact I doubt crawfish climb vines at all, but some knowledgeable reader may want to disabuse me of that idea. So what’s left? Did someone who was hiking near the river find a dead crawfish, carry it around for a while, then decide that was a strange thing to be doing and dump the crawfish on top of these vines? Could a bird have caught and killed the crawfish, started flying away with it, and then accidentally dropped it? Your suggestions are welcome.

© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 25, 2016 at 5:11 AM

37 Responses

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  1. I think I would go with the bird dropping it idea. Made for quite an unusual photo!


    January 25, 2016 at 5:34 AM

    • The three people after you so far have also opted for the bird idea. Whatever the reason, I was grateful for the chance to take such a surreal photo.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 25, 2016 at 8:25 AM

  2. Good suppositions. I’d guess a bird, too. I have likewise been trapped in green briars.
    Poor critter couldn’t have freed itself. I am sure there is a variety of native vines in
    Texas. I particularly like wild grapes.


    January 25, 2016 at 7:15 AM

    • I’ve often enough gotten caught on greenbrier vines too. The sharp thorns all too easily snag my shoelaces or the legs of my pants when I walk incautiously in the woods. The most common wild grape here is the mustang grape, which thankfully doesn’t have thorns. We also have a native species of blackberry that does have thorns and is easy to get snagged on.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 25, 2016 at 8:32 AM

  3. I vote for bird. You have crows? I was swinging my son under a pine tree by our driveway when he was 2. A bratwurst fell from several limbs up and almost hit him. A crow flew away sounding as though it was laughing.

    Jim Ruebush

    January 25, 2016 at 7:25 AM

    • We do have some crows here, but I’ve never seen one with a bratwurst in its beak and I doubt anyone else here has either. Talk about a surreal occurrence: I can understand why you’d think you heard laughter. Thanks for that anecdote.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 25, 2016 at 8:36 AM

  4. I vote for a bird, too. That’s just the sort of place a yellow or black-crowned night heron might dine. Many other birds eat crawfish, including some that wouldn’t be considered water birds. I don’t see so many crawfish shells around here, but I often arrive at work and find crab shells and claws, the remnants of shrimp, and assorted fish parts lying around. The herons are especially culpable. They’ll eat a fish where they catch it, but if there’s shell-cracking to be done, they seem to prefer fiberglass to concrete.

    Recently, I’ve had to keep cleaning up after an osprey who thinks it’s great fun to eat his fish atop the mast of the boat where I’m working. If I were given to casting entrails, I’d be well supplied.


    January 25, 2016 at 8:13 AM

  5. Love this! The bird it is! Over here by the ocean I see everyday how the crows, seagulls dropping this creatures and let the shell crack before devouring the meat, but that does not explains how that craw-fish ended up on that high elevation and far from water, except if the intention was to be delivered for some baby birds. Anyhow it makes up for a great “surrealistic” shot!
    Love surrealism, Salvador Dali is one of my favorite artist.


    January 25, 2016 at 8:26 AM

    • When I spent a good part of the summer of 1985 in Catalunya I made sure to visit the Salvador Dalí Museum in Figueres. In fact the first time I ever heard anyone speaking Catalan was as a college student in New York. One day in a museum (I think it was the Museum of Modern Art, which has Dalí paintings in its collection) I was walking behind two guys who were speaking a language I didn’t recognize but that I could understand bits and pieces of. I asked them what it was and they told me it was Catalan.

      That’s off the topic of the crawfish and birds, but no Surrealist would object to my going off on a tangent.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 25, 2016 at 8:59 AM

      • Thanks for sharing your experience over this subject, was for sure a wonderful thing to see Dali’s work first hand. I do follow actually the Salvador Dali Museum over Facebook, I just never can get tired looking at his works. 🙂


        January 25, 2016 at 6:19 PM

        • I didn’t know the Salvador Dalí Museum has a presence on Facebook. I wonder what Dalí would have done with the Internet.

          Steve Schwartzman

          January 25, 2016 at 10:04 PM

          • Well, you could probably take a look at the Facebook page, if I would know how to insert a link I certainly would do it, but I’m very clumsy with such technical challenges. The site title is Salvador Dali Museum. On January 11, 2016 they marked the fifth year anniversary of the Dali’s awe-inspiring building! I’m pretty positive we would be much entertained by what he would have done to the Internet, he was quite a character and yes he did indeed used a lobster to make a phone out of it and it really looks surreal! 🙂


            January 26, 2016 at 12:33 AM

            • Thanks for reminding me of the lobster telephone, which I knew about but somehow didn’t make a connection to—at least not consciously—when I mentioned Surrealism in my post. I found the Facebook page for the Dalí Museum at


              Steve Schwartzman

              January 26, 2016 at 6:24 AM

              • That is exactly the site I follow, however you manage to insert a link I wish I could do it too! 🙂
                Have a wonderful day Steve!


                January 26, 2016 at 3:33 PM

                • You can do it too. When you’re at the Facebook page for the museum, the address bar at the top of your browser will show:


                  Just drag through that address to select it, then copy it (Control-C in Windows, Command-C on a Macintosh), and paste it (Control-V, Command-V) wherever you’d like, including in a comment. If you’re accessing the Internet on a phone you can still do the same thing, but it’s more cumbersome.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 26, 2016 at 4:04 PM

                • Thanks Steve, I really appreciate your help, I’m a bit embarrassed that I have no clue what so ever, but hey I can design shoes 🙂


                  January 26, 2016 at 6:18 PM

                • We all have our talents.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  January 26, 2016 at 11:09 PM

  6. I would think Raccoon, but I would think it would have eaten more, this is one of their favorite foods, Maybe it got snared in the smilax when the Raccoon got scared off by some other large mammal.

    Sue M

    January 25, 2016 at 1:13 PM

    • Your idea of a raccoon is the first non-bird hypothesis. I didn’t know that crawfish are a favorite food of raccoons. One thing I didn’t mention and that’s not obvious from the picture might work against that conjecture, though: the fact that the crawfish on the greenbrier was 2–3 feet off the ground.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 25, 2016 at 1:28 PM

  7. I would say your image definitely qualifies as surrealism; I think I even see the influence of Salvador Dali in your work.

    Charlie@Seattle Trekker

    January 25, 2016 at 1:34 PM

  8. A suggestion would ruin the incongruity of the image! I know what my bet would be, but the sheer happenstance of it falling in just such a position is fantastic 🙂

    • I was fortunate not to walk right past it, which I could easily have done if I’d been looking at the other side of the trail. It’s also fortunate that these vines are sturdy, or else the crawfish might have fallen all the way to the ground and not been visible.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 25, 2016 at 10:07 PM

  9. How about someone was hiking near the river, caught a crawfish, thought it would make a tasty meal, put it in a pocket, it bit the someone along the route, the someone yelled and yanked the crawfish out of the pocket and threw it as far away as possible. Actually I like the bird theory better.


    January 26, 2016 at 7:28 AM

    • If you’ve rejected your own hypothesis, then far be it from me to say anything other than that it was an imaginative, detail-filled conjecture. Fantasy lives.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2016 at 8:37 AM

  10. Hmm, I like this image indeed .. Truth is we may never know how it ventured there ..


    January 26, 2016 at 12:45 PM

  11. Well, a bird does seem the most plausible, but I’m with Ann as a second plot. Only I think the crawfish just grabbed an interloper and hitched for a while before getting tired.

    Steve Gingold

    January 26, 2016 at 6:17 PM

    • One thing I can vouch for is that the crawfish didn’t interlope on me, though I did run across it.

      Steve Schwartzman

      January 26, 2016 at 9:01 PM

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