Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for January 2018

Other looks at the grackles

with 37 comments

As you heard last time, grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) had returned en masse to the intersection of US 183 and Braker Lane in my part of Austin near dusk on January 28th. Here are a few more pictures of them.

The golden (actually yellow) arches of McDonald’s were not exempt.

One bird I saw early-on was so much more reddish-brown than the others that I felt compelled to photograph it. The almost-full moon came in handy.

The heavy traffic on US 183 doesn’t faze the grackles.

Not only doesn’t the traffic bother them, but they even settle into (non-native) trees that touch the expressway overpass. That’s where they spend the night.

By the time I took the last two pictures shown here, it had gotten so dark I had no choice but to use flash.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 31, 2018 at 4:55 AM

A welcome return

with 46 comments

A bit before 5:30 on January 28th, on the way back home from a concert, as we passed through the intersection of US 183 and Braker Lane I noticed that grackles (Quiscalus mexicanus) were gathering in good numbers on the power lines there.

Five minutes later we were home. I got my camera equipment and headed back out for a welcome chance to play with the birds, photographically speaking. As dusk gradually came on, I found myself in the best congregation of grackles I’d witnessed in a long time—in fact, with one brief exception in 2016, it had been years since I saw any large group there. Why they showed up again two days ago, I have no idea, just as I never knew why they’d almost completely stopped coming to this intersection after 2012.

One difference from before was that this time some of the birds landed in groups on the road, and drivers were honking to try to get the grackles to fly out of the way and let the cars pass. At one point a guy who’d been begging for money at the intersection walked past me and said he was leaving because everybody was paying attention to the birds and not to him. No nature lover he.

The second photograph shows a phenomenon I saw repeated many times: lots of grackles would settle on one section of the power lines, then something would trigger them to suddenly take off en masse.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 30, 2018 at 4:47 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

Monday mountains 5

with 24 comments

Today is the last of the five Mondays in this Mondayful January. Continuing with the month’s mountain sequence, here’s a look at Pyramid Mountain, which looms large outside the Jasper townsite in Jasper National Park, Alberta. The date was September 5, 2017.

When I looked in the opposite direction, I saw what amounted to one big set of antlers on an elk.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 29, 2018 at 4:50 AM

Sunday sunset 4

with 32 comments

On each of the four Sundays in January you’ve seen sunset pictures from the state whose license plates proclaim it the Land of Enchantment. Now that today’s post concludes the series, you’re welcome to look back at the other photographs that have appeared here from June 10, 2017, at Camel Rock, 11 miles north of downtown Santa Fe.

Because the first Sunday sunset picture this month appeared on January 7, and because there are 7 days in a week, all of the January pictures in this sequence came on dates divisible by 7:  7, 14, 21, 28. Speaking of divisibility, if you divide 1 by 7, and then 2 by 7, etc., to convert the fractions to decimals, you’ll find that the sevenths give the following infinitely repeating six-digit cycles:

Do you see the cyclical nature of those decimal expansions, with each one consisting of the same digits in the same order, only starting at a different place in the cycle?

But wait! The columns want some attention, too. Notice that reading down the first column of decimal digits is the same as reading up the fourth column? Likewise for the second and fifth columns, and also for the third and sixth columns.

There’s more that could be said, but for now I’ll let the sun set on these mathematical pleasures and not take you further into seventh heaven.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 28, 2018 at 4:58 AM

The squirrels are at it again

with 50 comments

What the fox squirrels (Sciurus niger) are at again is eating some of the little red fruits from the yaupon trees (Ilex vomitoria) in Austin. Here’s a piece of the action right outside my computer room window on January 19th. Notice that while this squirrel held on to the trunk of an Ashe juniper (Juniperus ashei) with its right paw it used its left paw to pull a cluster of yaupon fruits against its mouth so it could bite one off.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 27, 2018 at 4:46 AM

Two countries joined by a common smoke

with 17 comments

The morning of August 30, 2017, found us at the Prince of Wales Hotel in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, Canada. You can tell by the first photograph, taken on our balcony, that smoke from forest fires was still with us.

After having breakfast and checking out of the hotel, we drove south toward Glacier National Park, Montana. Along the way I stopped here and there when something caught my photographic fancy. One such stop yielded the second picture, with its pleasant combination of western mountain ash, Sorbus scopulina, and quaking aspens, Populus tremuloides. An advantage of photographing close subjects was the absence of haze.

The last picture, taken 12 minutes later, returns to smoke and offers a distant view of Chief Mountain in Montana.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 26, 2018 at 4:37 AM

Sometimes a negative is positive

with 44 comments

On August 29, 2017, we visited Cameron Lake in Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta. Adjacent to the parking lot I noticed the curiously curved remains of a slender tree trunk that I felt compelled to take several pictures of.

While processing the photograph shown here, I accidentally hit a key combination that inverted the colors. I found the negative image pleasing, unreal though it was. Can you guess what it looks like? Try to imagine it, then click the blank frame below to see the fantasy forest.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 25, 2018 at 4:56 AM

What I didn’t know about fireweed

with 23 comments

To tell the truth, before the trip to the Rocky Mountains in Montana, Alberta, and British Columbia, I knew almost nothing about fireweed (Chamaenerion angustifolium). In nature shows on television I’d occasionally caught a glimpse of the plants flowering, and that was about it.

In addition to yesterday’s strictly “vegetarian” post, three previous photographs showed you fireweed flowers and animals. In one case it was with a bumblebee, in another with a ground squirrel, and the third with a caterpillar. What impressed me about the plant in its own right was its seeds. The reddish seed pods are long and narrow, and when they open, which surprisingly often happens from the proximal rather than the distal end, they release seeds attached to silky strands, much like milkweed seeds. At the moment when I took the photograph above in Waterton Lakes National Park on August 29th, the newly freed seeds still partly preserved the alignment they’d had just a short while earlier when compressed inside their slender pods. That same temporary clinging to the past is visible in the photograph below, which is from near the shore of Emerald Lake in British Columbia’s Yoho National Park on September 7th.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 24, 2018 at 4:52 AM

Fireweed at the edge of Emerald Lake

with 27 comments

 

On September 7th, Yoho National Park‘s Emerald Lake served as a pastel backdrop for these buds and flowers of fireweed, Chamaenerion angustifolium.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 23, 2018 at 4:48 AM

Monday mountains 4

with 6 comments

The many Mondays this month let you marvel at mountains. This time it’s the grand sweep of Cirrus Mountain in the northern part of Banff National Park, Alberta, recorded on September 4, 2017. Thanks to the good folks at Travel Alberta for the identification.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 22, 2018 at 4:49 AM

%d bloggers like this: