Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘animal

Pale green crab spider

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On May 1st, about half an hour before I encountered the fawn you recently saw here, I stopped to photograph a rain-lily flower (Zephyranthes drummondii) that was turning pink as it shriveled away at the end of its inevitably brief life. Once I got close to the flower I found a pale green crab spider on it. A somewhat orange prickly pear cactus flower (Opuntia engelmannii) provided a great backdrop. I don’t recall ever previously photographing this combination of colors.

If you’re interested in the art and craft of photography, points 1, 5, 6 and 7 in About My Techniques apply to this picture.

And here’s a quotation for today: “I find that sometimes when I go into a community that’s not my own, or a community that has a lot of issues attached to it, I have to resist wanting to say something about how I think they could be better, or how I think the government has wronged them.” — Chloé Zhao, 2021 Academy Award winner for best director.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 14, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Visiting nerve-ray

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On the first day of May this Tetragonotheca texana (known by the strange name nerve-ray) had two simultaneous morning visitors. Whether the non-me visitor was a non-bee. i.e. a bee-fly, I’m not sure. Nerve-ray is one of the few yellow daisy-type flowers that’s fragrant. Where the conventional wisdom is to stop and smell the roses, I always stop and bend down to enjoy the subtle fragrance of nerve-ray flowers.

Another colloquial name for nerve-ray is square-bud daisy. The starkly lit portrait below explains that name.

I’ll grant you that this bud looks a bit off from being exactly square—hey, nature’s not perfect. For that matter, neither is language. As nice and succinct as square is, English doesn’t have a simple word to designate ‘any four-sided closed figure in a plane.’ English has occasionally used Greek-derived tetragon, following the same pattern in the familiar pentagon and hexagon. Nowadays, though, English is pretty much stuck with the unwieldy five-syllable Latin-derived quadrilateral. If only we could follow the model of German, a related language, which has Viereck, literally ‘four-edge(s),’ and call a quadrilateral a fouredge or a fourside.

Speaking of quadrilaterals, here’s something interesting you may not know, or if you did learn it in high school geometry have probably forgotten. Take any quadrilateral you like, whether convex, concave, or even with two of its sides crossing each other. Connect the midpoints of the four sides (going in order from each side to the next) with straight line segments and you’re guaranteed to end up with a parallelogram. That’s just how the universe is. As a picture is often worth a lot of words—some say a thousand, others a myriad—you’re welcome to look at an example with a convex quadrilateral.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 11, 2021 at 4:32 AM

What startled me when I raised my glance

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So there I was on May 1st on a path coming off Yaupon Dr. on the far side of my neighborhood. I walked slowly, gazing down at either side of the path in search of native wildflowers, when something at the top of my field of vision brought me to a standstill: not far in front of me, lying right in the middle of the trail, was a fawn. I remembered reading that a fawn instinctively stays put and doesn’t move when its mother leaves it alone, and that was the case with this fawn. During the several minutes that I took a few pictures, it never budged an inch. Had I been a coyote or an off-leash dog, the fawn’s immobility would have been useless.

A few minutes earlier, before advancing this far, I’d looked ahead and spotted an adult deer that stared at me for five or ten seconds from farther down the trail, then moved away. That must have been the fawn’s mother.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 8, 2021 at 4:00 AM

Posted in nature photography

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It and I* caused a crowd to gather

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After we’d hiked most of the way back down from the main dome at Enchanted Rock on April 12th, Eve called my attention to a brightly colored lizard the likes of which I don’t recall ever seeing before. I put the 100–400mm lens on my camera, zoomed all the way out, and began to take pictures, gradually moving closer, never knowing when the lizard would dart away. This was along the main trail, so quite a few people passed by, and as they did, more and more of them stopped to see what I was photographing. Once they spotted my subject they were taken, as I of course was, with the lizard’s saturated blue. In all, probably between one and two dozen people had gathered round.

Back home later I searched for an identification and found that this seems to have been a male common collared lizard, Crotaphytus collaris.

* The phrases he and I, she and I, and you and I are common. They and I occurs less often, generally replaced by we. The it and I in this post’s title, though perfectly grammatical, seems strange, probably because of the clash between it, which usually refers to non-human and mostly inanimate things, and I, which is the most personal of personal pronouns. It and you, it and we, it and he, it and she, and it and they also sound somewhat strange, don’t you think?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 6, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Green and red will knock you dead

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Okay, so I don’t really expect today’s picture to kill you, but look at the bold contrast between this katydid nymph (I think) and the saturated red of the cedar sage flowers (Salvia roemeriana) it was on. This picture comes from April 25th in my neighborhood.

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I’d like to point you to a draft version of an important article entitled “The Empowering of the American Mind,” by Greg Lukianoff, co-author of the book The Coddling of the American Mind. This draft puts forth 10 principles, the first of which is that there must be no compelled speech, thought, or belief. The article includes quotations from various court decisions, including the following three from West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, United States Supreme Court, 1943.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

[F]reedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard.

And from Greg Lukianoff comes this: “Any ideology that cannot be questioned is indistinguishable from fundamentalist religion.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 4, 2021 at 4:43 AM

Yellow on yellow

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Probably the wildflower I’ve seen the most in Austin over the past few weeks is Thelesperma filifolium, known as greenthread because of its thread-like leaves. Unless you get up close, though, what you’re most likely to notice is the yellow of the flowers. On April 20th I set out to photograph a nice little greenthread colony I’d spotted a day earlier that had sprung up at a road construction site. For some of my portraits I used a wide aperture and exposed for the dark center of a flower head, knowing that the flower heads in the background would come out with little detail and probably overexposed. It’s an aesthetic that questions whether there can ever be too much bright yellow.

On one flower head I found a cucumber beetle, Diabrotica undecimpunctata*, at the tip of a ray, giving a second sense to this post’s title of “Yellow on yellow.”

* Latin undecim means literally ‘one-ten,’ i.e. ‘one plus ten,’ or eleven. This species of beetle has 11 spots.

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Did you know that Austin has recently been the fastest growing metropolitan statistical area in the United States? The second fastest is Raleigh (North Carolina), where my oldest friend in the world now lives; I think we met when we were two or three years old. We grew up in Nassau County (New York), which during some of our years there I seem to remember was the fastest growing county in the country. And I’ll hasten to add that fast is one of those strange English words that can mean opposite things. If you run fast you move quickly, but if you stand fast you don’t move at all. Can you think of any other self-contradictory words?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 28, 2021 at 4:33 AM

Huisache daisy colony

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Botanist Bill Carr says that husiache daisies, Amblyolepis setigera, are a western species that reaches the eastern edge of its range in Travis County (which includes Austin), and that they’re uncommon here. I don’t think I’ve ever seen any huisache daisies within an hour or two of home. On April 9th I came across a pretty colony of them flowering in what was either far eastern Burnet County or far western Travis County. The few violet-colored flowers mixed in were prairie verbenas, Glandularia bipinnatifida. Speaking of which, in my neighborhood the previous morning I’d found one of those with spittlebug froth on it.

Did you know that the United States Congress has designated April 2021 “National Native Plant Month”? Here’s a letter about that from the Native Plant Society of Texas.

April 14, 2021

Senator Rob Portman
448 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Senator Mazie Hirono
109 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Re: April 2021 National Native Plant Month

Dear Senator Portman and Senator Hirono:

On behalf of the Native Plant Society of Texas and its 35 local chapters, I am writing to express our thanks for your joint resolution S. 109 designating April 2021 as National Native Plant Month. We are pleased to join all the other conservation organizations, including other state native plant societies, that supported your resolution that was approved unanimously by the Senate on March 26, 2021.

Your resolution stated that there are more than 17,000 native plant species in the United States which are beneficial and part of our natural heritage. Texas, which has over 5000 species of native plants and 11 different ecoregions, is one of the most biologically diverse states because of its size and geography. However, as your resolution clearly stated, there are challenges ahead due to habitat loss, degradation, and invasive species.

Our mission statement responds to the challenges with these words: “To promote research, conservation and utilization of native plants and plant habitats through education, outreach and example”. Through these efforts, we strive to protect the native plant heritage of Texas and preserve it for future generations. We are a non-profit organization, run by volunteers and funded by membership dues, individual and corporate contributions, and foundation grants.

Thank you for your authorship of the resolution designating April 2021 as “National Native Plant Month”. Our Executive Board will definitely inform all of our local chapters of your successful resolution and encourage them to incorporate your observations in their programs in April.

Respectfully submitted,

Clarence E. Reed
VP-Advocacy & Affiliations
Native Plant Society of Texas

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 19, 2021 at 4:43 AM

Great purple hairstreak butterfly and Mexican plum blossoms

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On March 15th at McKinney Falls State Park many flying insects were drawn to the heady blossoms of a Mexican plum tree (Prunus mexicana). Among those insects was a great purple hairstreak butterfly (Atlides halesus). You can see that despite its common name, it doesn’t look purple. You can also see in the second picture the dense multitude of blossoms that adorned the tree.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 23, 2021 at 4:29 AM

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

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

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