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Mockingbird on a foggy morning

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Because February 27th came up foggy, I set out for the Riata Trace Pond, where my hopes of getting some good fog pictures were realized. At one point while walking the path around the pond I spotted this bird, which Shannon Westveer has confirmed was a northern mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos. Normally I’d have slowly moved closer, but a guy walking a dog was coming up behind me so I had to grab a few quick shots from where I was before the bird retreated into the bushes, which it soon did. In the end this framing pleased me with the extra details the branches afforded and the subject’s somewhat off-center placement.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 6, 2021 at 4:44 AM

Posted in nature photography

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What the mockingbird knew

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Tawny Emperor Butterfly Faded and Ailing 1598

At one point when I was walking near Shoal Creek in central Austin on August 20th I noticed a mockingbird on the ground that kept coming toward me. It got closer than I expected it to and I wondered why, when suddenly I saw it peck at what looked like a little dry leaf on the ground not too far away from me. Then I saw the “leaf” make a slight fluttering movement, so I walked forward to investigate and the mockingbird finally retreated. What it had seen and pursued but I had not was a tattered, faded, and ailing tawny emperor butterfly, Asterocampa clyton, that was near the end of its days. Whether that chomp out of the deposed emperor’s wing had been taken by the mockingbird, it knew but I didn’t, nor do I know whether it came back after I took my photographs and left, leaving the butterfly on the ground and to its fate.

© 2015 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 23, 2015 at 5:36 AM

Mini-meadow Monday

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I’d call this little space covered with mixed wildflowers a mini-meadow. Photographed on May 21st just off Yaupon Dr. on the far side of my neighborhood, it offered up the white of a rain-lily, Zephyranthes drummondii; the red at the center of some firewheels, Gaillardia pulchella; yellow galore in a slew of four-nerve daisies, Tetraneuris linearifolia; and last but not least, as well as least in size while greatest in numbers, a starry sprinkling of least daisies, Chaetopappa bellidifolia.

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And here’s an unrelated quotation for today from Izabella Tabarovsky, who came to America from the Soviet Union at age 20:

Over the past year, as I have watched instances of American censorship multiply, and extend to speech, books, movies, opinions and plain facts, memories from those early years of my American life, when I first began to grapple with the consequences of living under censorship, have resurfaced. I have been flabbergasted to watch the staff of publishing houses become enraged over the publication of authors they disagree with, designate those works as harmful and demand that they be “cancelled.” I have been utterly perplexed to discover that some California schools have banned venerable classics such as Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, John Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men and Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, because of concerns about their use of racial slurs and stereotypes. Of course, we don’t want children to read racist literature. But believing that these particular works propagate racial hatred requires the same mental contortions that Soviet censors exercised when they laboured so hard to imagine all the ways a work of art might lead citizens astray.

You’re welcome to read the full essay, which is entitled
What My Soviet Life Has Taught Me About Censorship and Why It Makes Us Dumb.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 31, 2021 at 4:10 AM

Can you see it?

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On November 15th north of Spring Heath Rd. in Pflugerville I photographed a possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) with bright red fruit on it. Hidden in the tree was something else: take a look and see if you can pick it out. If you’re not sure, click the excerpt below for a closer look.

If you still aren’t sure, click the final thumbnail for a view of the mystery subject when it was in the open.

(If the subject’s identification eluded you in the URL for that last image, here it is more directly.)

And following up on this post’s title, “Can you see it?”, can you figure out what all the following English words have in common beyond the fact that in each one a vowel letter and a consonant letter alternate?


© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2020 at 4:35 AM

Posted in nature photography

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What a 400mm focal length is good for

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Even at 400mm I had to crop the resulting picture quite a bit to close in on this northern mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, that I spotted atop a bare poverty weed bush, Baccharis neglecta, in Cedar Park on December 1, 2017.

If you’re interested in the craft of photography, points 3 and 18 in About My Techniques are relevant to today’s picture.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 1, 2018 at 4:10 AM

Posted in nature photography

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I got more than gasoline that morning

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Mockingbird on Yaupon with Fruit 0686

Click for greater clarity.

Another advantage in having a Costco close to home is that I can get gas at a good price. On the morning of November 14th I stopped there to do that, and as I was standing outside my car waiting for the tank to fill up I noticed a bird in one of the fruit-laden yaupon trees, Ilex vomitoria, planted nearby along the edge of the property. I happened to have my camera bag with me, so as soon as the tank was full I drove out of the gas station area, parked in a regular parking space, put on my longest lens, and walked back to get close to where the bird had obligingly stayed put. My (uninformed) impression is that this is a mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, but its lower bill seems unusually short and curved. If any bird bard in the audience can straighten this out—the situation, not the beak—please do so.

© 2014 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 5, 2014 at 5:58 AM

And a bird

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Mockingbird on Dead Branch 1095

Surveying my activities for a while as I wandered the field at the corner of Metric Blvd. and Howard Ln. on the morning of October 9th was a mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos. A telephoto lens mocked reality and made the bird seem closer than it was.

© 2013 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 13, 2013 at 6:02 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

Lightning strikes twice

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So there I was on March 2 heading home after a couple of hours photographing. I was driving on Bluegrass Dr., just as I’d done after a session on January 17, when my eye was caught once again by the bright red fruits of the possumhaw, Ilex decidua, planted on the lawn of a house in a cul-de-sac to my right. As before, I slowed to a stop, then backed up into the cul-de-sac. What appealed to me this time was that, like all the other possumhaws I’d been seeing around town, and even more than the one I showed on February 25, this one was already well on its way to full foliage.

And now for the lighting-strikes-twice part: sitting on a branch of the possumhaw, just like last time, was a mockingbird, Mimus polyglottos, and for all I know it was the same one I photographed on January 17. Repeating what I did last time, I switched to my longest lens and took pictures of the mockingbird, which didn’t mind my presence at all, nor, I think, would it mind your vicarious presence now.

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 12, 2012 at 5:26 AM

Orwell that ends well

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Click for greater clarity.

“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”

No, Eric Blair took that one a long time ago. Try again.

“It was a partly cloudy morning in February, and the thermometer was registering sixty-ten.”

Yes, that’s a much better way to describe the end of my photo foray along the west side of Mopac on the first day of this month. (If thirteen is a quaint way for a clock to chime one in the afternoon, sixty-ten is the curious way that the French say seventy, which was indeed the temperature when I returned to my car around 10:30. That afternoon the high was four-twenties-two, another charming French expression for the record-setting 82°.)

The last thing I photographed as I walked back to my car that morning was the first one I noticed after I’d parked: a yaupon with lots of fruit on it. This type of shrub or small tree, which has the great scientific name Ilex vomitoria, is close kin to the possumhaw, Ilex decidua, that you saw most recently playing host to a mockingbird. While the possumhaw loses its leaves in the winter, the yaupon retains them; the tiny red fruits of the two look the same, though it can be harder to see them on the yaupon because the tree’s leaves block parts of the view.

For more information about yaupons, and to see the many places in the Southeast where they grow, you can visit the USDA website.

© 2012 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 10, 2012 at 5:44 AM

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