Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Back to Bastrop

with 58 comments

June 6th this year was both D-Day and B-Day. No, not a birthday, but a trip back to Bastrop after not having visited the state park there for several years. Go around as we would, in no place were we not reminded of the devastating 2011 fire that burned for weeks and destroyed 90% of the pine trees.

Still, there was plenty of life. Look at all the greenery around that strangely burned tree trunk.
And look at this little orb-weaver spider in the genus Argiope:

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 15, 2019 at 4:50 PM

58 Responses

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  1. I find great beauty in these shots, Steve. I like them very much, especially the dead tree still reaching out into the sky.

    Peter Klopp

    June 15, 2019 at 6:33 PM

    • Oh, so many of those dead trees are left reaching into the sky from what used to be the Bastrop forest. I photographed half a dozen but decided to show just one.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 15, 2019 at 7:10 PM

  2. The spider web almost makes me dizzy LOL, it’s awesome!

    Ms. Liz

    June 15, 2019 at 7:06 PM

    • There sure is a lot of Zigging and Zagging, isn’t there? All those Zs may have suggested diZZiness.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 15, 2019 at 7:12 PM

      • Yes!! Hahaha 🙂

        Ms. Liz

        June 15, 2019 at 7:14 PM

        • At least they didn’t suggest that you go to Zanzibar (in Tanzania) or Zagazig (in Egypt).

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 15, 2019 at 7:18 PM

          • Zagazig? That’s hilarious!!! I’m doing ok right here in New ZEEland 🙂

            Ms. Liz

            June 15, 2019 at 7:19 PM

            • And with each post you show new zeal and zest for your native New Zealand.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 15, 2019 at 7:25 PM

              • Oh well done Steve, especially on the “new zeal”, hahaha.. big smile from me! I suddenly realised, just now, that you and I both have ‘z’ in our names 🙂 And if I count my full name ‘Elizabeth’, we both can claim ‘a’ as well. So we’ve got it all covered “a-z” !!

                Ms. Liz

                June 15, 2019 at 7:58 PM

                • I can’t deny the truth of what you’ve said
                  But if you do not want to be misled,
                  Recall that here we call it zee, not zed.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 15, 2019 at 8:49 PM

                • Yes I did recall that Steve.. nice rhyme 🙂

                  Ms. Liz

                  June 15, 2019 at 9:13 PM

                • New Zealanders may be more aware of Americans’ ways than Americans are of New Zealanders’ ways.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 15, 2019 at 10:01 PM

                • For sure.. the way it works when you live in a small country way down the bottom of the globe!

                  Ms. Liz

                  June 15, 2019 at 10:06 PM

                • I knew about this one from French, which also says zed.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 15, 2019 at 10:15 PM

                • I had no idea.. interesting, thank you

                  Ms. Liz

                  June 15, 2019 at 10:54 PM

                • English acquired zed from Old French, where it developed from Latin zeta, which the Romans had borrowed from Greek.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 15, 2019 at 10:57 PM

      • That was some zig-zagginess at the body! I’d done some blogs w/pix with related-type spiders (Argiope), and the spiders were much more economical about their “signatures”.
        “Argiope Aurantia Spider–Part 1, Friday 13th Visitor” (https://whilldtkwriter.blogspot.com/2017/10/argiope-aurantia-spider-part-1-friday.html), “Argiope Aurantia Spider–Part 2, Post-Friday 13th Observations” (https://whilldtkwriter.blogspot.com/2017/10/argiope-aurantia-spider-part-2-post.html), “Argiope Trifasciata Spider–Final Bug Spotting of 2017” (https://whilldtkwriter.blogspot.com/2018/01/argiope-trifasciata-spider-final-bug.html)


        June 16, 2019 at 9:41 AM

        • Like you, I normally see Argiope aurantia. I don’t know if the small orb-weaver I photographed in Bastrop is an immature stage of that or if it’s a different species. With Argiope aurantia I’m used to seeing a zigzag that forms a vertical strip, as you show in your photographs. The fact that the zigzag in this picture is so much wider and rounder could be evidence that this is indeed a different species.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 16, 2019 at 10:47 AM

          • Another Argiope aurantia, at https://app.box.com/s/2dlvvu6bz50ikokmzxe5w12lx39cgqia, also a single zigzagger. Your spider looked like it wanted the zigzag pattern to fill a roundish area (with corners at bottom), thus, multiple patterns at the sides also.


            June 16, 2019 at 11:30 AM

            • Yes, and I don’t recall previously seeing the work of one of these spiders that “wanted the zigzag pattern to fill a roundish area.”

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 16, 2019 at 11:38 AM

              • Shoreacres mentions “stabilimenta”, which is the term for the zigzag structure. Found a Bugguide link that shows and explains a lot, I think, and shows critters and stabilimenta similar to your image (https://bugguide.net/node/view/520264/bgimage). Scientific hierarchy: Arthropods (Arthropoda) » Chelicerates (Chelicerata) » Arachnids (Arachnida) » Spiders (Araneae) … » Orb Weavers (Araneidae) » Argiope » Black-and-Yellow Argiope (Argiope aurantia) » juveniles (Argiope aurantia juveniles).


                June 18, 2019 at 9:08 AM

                • Thanks for your link. The photographs there sure make it seem like the spider I photographed in Bastrop is a juvenile Argiope aurantia. That would explain why it was small.

                  Steve Schwartzman

                  June 18, 2019 at 1:14 PM

  3. Death and life together, that is the way of it. The spider web reminds me of the visual migraines I sometimes get – beautifully devastating in those jaggy patterns.


    June 15, 2019 at 8:27 PM

  4. Gran por las fotos, especialmente, por la imagen de la araña Argiope y su tela; te felicito por la toma.
    Feliz domingo!

    Isabel F. Bernaldo de Quirós

    June 16, 2019 at 2:26 AM

  5. When we drove through the area last year, I was amazed how it had recovered.


    June 16, 2019 at 8:57 AM

  6. Hopefully that fire was from natural causes…Nature recycling the occupants of the land. It is amazing how quickly plants rebound from such catastrophes. The contrast between death and life works well here.
    Quite the Arachnid architect that Argiope.

    Steve Gingold

    June 16, 2019 at 6:33 PM

    • Ah, so you joined AAA: “Arachnid architect… Argiope.”

      As for the origin of the 2011 fire, here’s what the Wikipedia article says: “On the afternoon of September 4, two fires started near Bastrop State Park: one in the community of Circle D-KC Estates and the other four miles north. Fire officials later stated that the likely cause of the blaze was sparks from electric power lines – 30-mile-per-hour gusts of wind on September 4 apparently toppled trees which tumbled into electrical lines at the two initial locations, creating sparks that fell onto and ignited the dry grass and leaf litter below.” That happened after a summer of unusually high temperatures and record drought.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 16, 2019 at 7:00 PM

      • So not the fault of human malice or carelessness, but not natural either.

        Steve Gingold

        June 17, 2019 at 2:17 AM

        • Unless you consider natural the human brains that evolved to be able to build power lines.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 17, 2019 at 6:31 AM

          • I’m no Ted Kaczynski, bit I’m not always certain that our evolution is always for the good…not that I will be giving up electricity any time soon.

            Steve Gingold

            June 17, 2019 at 7:10 AM

  7. […] first two photos show varied shades of it along the path we trod in the state park on June […]

  8. It was an awful fire, I remember. I also remember that the endangered Houston toad very nearly croaked as well (Bastrop was the last stronghold for species recovery). I’ll have to check and see how or if they are recovering their numbers ..

    Beautiful and apparently artistic argiope. This time of year, the golden orb weavers are everywhere at Brazos Bend SP. Those with a fear should steer clear.


    June 17, 2019 at 7:17 AM

    • Yes, it was an awful fire. I didn’t mention in my text that it also destroyed nearly 1700 homes.

      The photographer in me is always glad to find an Argiope spider doing its thing. From what you say, I’d be happy at Brazos Bend at this time of year. Did you know the technical name for the zigzag part of the web is stabilimentum?

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 17, 2019 at 7:31 AM

  9. So much of the wildlands here are deprived of the fire they need for renovation. They are so overgrown and more combustible than they have ever been, and burn catastrophically once ignited. It is a real concern, because so many of us live here. We can not let the forest burn, or manage all that space, but when they burn anyway, entire towns get destroyed, like Paradise and the towns nearby. Fires get so hot and get so much momentum that they can move into urban areas like Santa Rosa.


    June 17, 2019 at 11:58 AM

    • Yes, California recently had it much worse than Texas did in the 2011 fire. Both were bad for similar reasons, as you point out. I didn’t mention in the text of this post that almost 1700 homes were lost in the Bastrop fire.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 17, 2019 at 3:39 PM

      • Oh, that is horrible! That is what makes the fires so tragic. Most of us know they are natural here, but we can not get our homes out of the way when they happen.


        June 17, 2019 at 7:24 PM

        • Someone I know on the opposite side of Austin lost her house in another fire at around the same time as the Bastrop one in that summer of severe drought.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 17, 2019 at 8:49 PM

          • Fires are getting seriously scary. The longer some regions go without burning, the more combustible they get.


            June 17, 2019 at 10:51 PM

            • True. Before the fire, the ground in the Bastrop forest was carpeted with a thick layer of dry pine needles that acted as kindling.

              Steve Schwartzman

              June 18, 2019 at 5:34 AM

  10. I found at least a dozen similar spiders last weekend, all with those fancy stabilimenta. The ones I found were black and white, but they had the same rounded form to the web ‘decoration’ — maybe that’s what’s in style this year. The few spiders I’ve seen with the long, vertical zig-zag strip going through their web have been much larger. I wonder if the spider’s age determines the amount of silk available to spiff up the web.

    I did find one round stabilimentum, too. It was an inch or less across, with the spider lurking underneath. Very cool.

    I recently read an article about urban fires, and another factor that was mentioned that I’d not come across was the distance between houses. In Oakland, in Paradise, and in other places. It seems the tendency to keep reducing that distance plays into rapid fire spread and difficulties in containing fire.

    Shawn Benedict, the manager at Sandyland Sanctuary, came to our NPSoT meeting last week and talked about the site’s history, the nature of the longleaf pine, and the fire management techniques used at the sanctuary. The week before, during the North American Prairie Conference, I heard comments about the Bastrop fire. A lack of prescribed burning was mentioned as a contributing factor, since the fuel load had been allowed to increase. I was curious about that, so when I got home I did a little reading, and articles like this one certainly confirm the point. Fire suppression certainly has its downside.


    June 18, 2019 at 8:22 AM

  11. Then we’ll expect to see some spider pictures from you in the weeks ahead. I imagine specialists in spiders know the answers to some of your questions about stabilimenta. I was content to show the picture and for once didn’t pursue the science.

    When we picked our current house, one plus was the relatively large distance, for an urban area, from the two neighbors. We’ve noticed that in many recent subdivisions the houses are closer together.

    Ah yes, the fuel load. I remember how thick the layer of dry pine needles was in many parts of the Bastrop forest. Combine that with the drought of 2011 and it would’ve been strange if a fire didn’t happen.

    In the article you linked to, the name Greg Creacy seemed familiar. I check and found that he spoke at an Austin NPSoT meeting in 2014.

    Steve Schwartzman

    June 18, 2019 at 1:00 PM

  12. […] convenient for a photographer: growing right at the edge of the path we walked on in Bastrop State Park on June 6th were some flowers whose structure yelled out […]

  13. I don’t usually like to look at photos of spiders, Steve, but this little arachnid and its ornate web are things of beauty.


    June 19, 2019 at 2:39 PM

    • They are. And so much the better if they ease your aversion to looking at arachnid pictures.

      Steve Schwartzman

      June 19, 2019 at 2:53 PM

      • I agree. I have been desensitizing myself little by little, but I still do not do well with big and furry specimens…


        June 19, 2019 at 3:05 PM

        • Arachnophobia ranks high in the list of human fears, presumably because some spiders are venomous enough to kill a person. May your desensitizing continue apace.

          Steve Schwartzman

          June 19, 2019 at 3:29 PM

          • Thank you, Steve. Arachnophobia aside, when a spider finds its way inside the house, I catch it with a glass and paper and carry it outside…


            June 19, 2019 at 3:58 PM

  14. Well done, Steve. As you know, out here fire-ravaged landscapes are common. In just three excellent images, you drew a picture of one.


    July 3, 2019 at 7:17 PM

    • Yes, you guys have had much more experience, especially lately, with ravaging fires out there than we’ve had in Texas. The 2011 wildfires were an exception here, due in large part to the severe drought that year.

      Steve Schwartzman

      July 3, 2019 at 10:11 PM

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