Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Archive for March 2021

First fox

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Over the 44 years I’ve lived in Austin I’ve only rarely seen a fox, and in those cases I couldn’t get any pictures because the foxes quickly ran off. My luck changed on March 4th at Pedernales Falls State Park. After hiking all the way back up from the river to the parking lot, I noticed a young couple sitting in camp chairs nearby. Then, behind the woman, I saw a fox sitting patiently. I learned that the couple had earlier thrown bits of food toward the fox, and it obligingly had come forward to grab them. That’s why it was still sitting there hoping for more. When the couple saw I’d started taking pictures, they resumed throwing bits of food, and the fox kept coming forward to retrieve them, then retreating a bit. It looks fiercer in the top picture than it really was as it went toward a bit of food. The second photograph shows how it looked when sitting and waiting. From what I’ve seen online, this appears to have been a grey fox, Urocyon cinereoargenteus.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 21, 2021 at 7:32 AM

Spiderwort flowers in the shade

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Heavy shade behind the entrance building at McKinney Falls State Park on March 15th
led to this soft portrait of spiderwort flowers (Tradescantia sp.).

The vernal equinox for 2021 occurs today, so happy official beginning of spring to you. That English name for the season is the same word as the spring that means ‘jump up,’ because this new season is the time when plants spring up from the ground as the cold of winter fades. (That may sound like folk etymology, which is to say false etymology, but in this case it’s true.) English had earlier called the season lencten, the time when the days lengthen; the modern form of that word, Lent, became specialized as the name of the time in the spring that leads up to the Christian holiday of Easter. Spanish, Portuguese, Catalan, and Italian call the spring primavera, and Romanian primăvară, literally ‘first spring,’ which is to say ‘early spring,’ from the Latin name of the season, vēr, and that’s why today is the vernal equinox. French calls spring printemps, literally ‘first time,’ and it is indeed a prime time for wildflowers. The Polish ophthalmologist L.L. Zamenhof, in creating the artificial language Esperanto, borrowed the French word in the form printempo. German calls spring Frühling, based on the früh that means ‘early.’ The Scandinavian languages call the season vår, a native cognate of Latin vēr. Now that you know all these words, there’s no excuse for not having some spring in your step today.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 20, 2021 at 4:39 AM

A farewell to icicles

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Over the past month you’ve seen plenty of pictures here showing snow, ice, and especially icicles, courtesy of the frigid weather that descended on Austin and stayed with us for a week in mid-February. But now it’s fully spring, so a farewell to winter is in order. Here are two last pictures from the part of Great Hills Park known as Potter’s Place, which I visited on February 16th. Above, you see how numerous the icicles in that little cove along the main creek were, and the flash I used allowed the clarity of the water to come through. The picture below, taken by natural light, emphasizes the icicles’ reflections in water that now seems dark.

 

 

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 19, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Fringed puccoon flowers

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On March 11th, in hopes of finding some fringed puccoon (Lithospermum incisum) in bloom, we headed to the Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt Trail, where I’d photographed some of those flowers around this time in past years—and find some I did. Given the low light and my not wanting to introduce the harshness of flash, in these pictures I went for a limited-focus approach (f/3.5 and f/3.2, respectively.) Do you agree that crinkled puccoon would be a better name for these wildflowers than fringed puccoon?

And here’s an unrelated thought for today: “Rien n’imprime si vivement quelque chose à notre souvenance que le désir de l’oublier.” “Nothing imprints a thing as vividly in our memory as the desire to forget it.” — Michel de Montaigne.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 18, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Greater earless lizard

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As we began leaving the sandy area by the river in Pedernales Falls State Park on March 4th for the climb back uphill to the parking lot, Eve called my attention to a lizard alongside the path. I stopped, swapped out the 24–105mm lens that was on the camera for my 100–400mm telephoto, and used it at its maximum zoom to begin photographing the lizard (see above). In my experience most lizards quickly scamper away from people who move; this one, however, showed no inclination to budge as I gradually worked my way forward, taking pictures as I did so. Soon I reached the lens’s close-focusing limit, so I slowly backed up to my camera bag, put on a 100mm macro lens, worked my way back to the complacent lizard, and eventually got so close that the far end of the lens was within inches of it (see below). Only then did it finally move away. My herpetologically inclined friend Ed Acuña tells me it’s a greater earless lizard, Cophosaurus texanus. He says it’s more common in west Texas than in our area, which explains why I don’t remember seeing one before. Oops: memory is fallible, and I see now that I did show one of these lizards in 2015.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 17, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Nice ice thrice

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I took the first two pictures in our yard on February 19th. The icicles in the
second one picked up a lot more of the sky’s blue than those in the first.

And from Great Hills Park on February 12th, the first day I went out
after the initial ice storm, here’s an oak gall with a small icicle on it:

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 16, 2021 at 4:42 AM

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Pedernales Falls State Park

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On March 4th we visited Pedernales Falls State Park, which lies about an hour west of Austin.

Did you know that the Spanish word pedernal (with plural pedernales) means ‘flint’?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 15, 2021 at 4:39 AM

Ice and Ashe junipers

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Of all the kinds of trees in Austin, Ashe junipers (Juniperus ashei) seem to have been the hardest hit by the February ice storm, with the weight of the accumulated ice causing many large limbs to break. That was the fate of several in our yard. What else could a photographer do but look for opportunities in the wreckage? An Ashe juniper on our front lawn yielded these three pictures (and more) on February 19th.

The second view looks straight upward. The last strikes me as a bent ice nail.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 14, 2021 at 4:36 AM

More from the San Marcos Springs

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On February 23rd we went to Spring Lake in San Marcos, fed by the San Marcos Springs, which as you’ve heard “is one of the oldest continuously inhabited places in North America. Artifacts discovered in digs conducted from 1979 to 1982 date back 12,000 years.” The folks at the Meadows Center have created a boardwalk that lets visitors walk through a wetland adjacent to the main part of the lake, and there a dense colony of dry cattails caught my attention.

Facing in the opposite direction, I’d photographed heaps of turtles sunning themselves on logs in the water.

Click to enlarge.

And here’s an important thought for our own times from a speech by Frederick Douglass in Boston in 1860:

Liberty is meaningless where the right to utter one’s thoughts and opinions has ceased to exist. That, of all rights, is the dread of tyrants. It is the right which they first of all strike down. They know its power…. There can be no right of speech where any man, however lifted up, or however humble, however young, or however old, is overawed by force, and compelled to suppress his honest sentiments. Equally clear is the right to hear. To suppress free speech is a double wrong. It violates the rights of the hearer as well as those of the speaker.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 13, 2021 at 4:44 AM

First wildflower for this spring

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On March 8th along Balcones Woods Dr. I took my first spring wildflower pictures. The subjects in all of them were ten-petal anemones, Anemone berlandieri. That’s hardly surprising, given that we occasionally observe the species blooming here as soon as late January, with February being more common—but then our sustained sub-freezing weather in mid-February delayed the flowering not only of the anemones but also of other early native wildflowers we might expect to see by the end of February. But a delay is still only a delay, and on a nature walk yesterday I found four other native wildflower species budding and blooming. In Austin now there’s no doubt that spring has sprung.

And here’s a related quotation by Wendell Berry from Sabbaths, 1987:

I dream of a quiet man
who explains nothing and defends
nothing, but only knows
where the rarest wildflowers
are blooming, and who goes,
and finds that he is smiling
not by his own will.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 12, 2021 at 4:38 AM

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