Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘animal

Crab spider on germander

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As I wandered around on July 10th in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 I saw some germander plants (Geum canadense) still flowering. In the one shown above, the yellowing older flowers provided good camouflage for a crab spider, which I hadn’t even noticed till I got in close to photograph the flowers. Poking around with my macro lens caused the spider to move lower on the plant, where I made the following portrait.

For both photographs I used flash, which let me stop down to f/16 for good depth of field.


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I recently listened to a good conversation between Andrew Sullivan and Amy Chua, both of whom deplore and are working against illiberalism in our country.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 24, 2021 at 4:42 AM

Walking the walk, stalking the stalk

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My nature walk in the northeast quadrant of Mopac and US 183 on July 10th had me stalking sunflowers (Helianthus annuus), not just their buds and flower heads but also their rough stalks that present so many opportunities for photographic abstractions. For this portrait I aimed down at a horizontal portion of a thick stalk. Note the two small ants on it. Note also that the stalk meaning ‘a stem’ and the stalk meaning ‘to pursue’ are unrelated. It’s not unusual for two words in a language to start out different and then coincidentally evolve in ways that lead them to end up the same.


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One morning two or three decades ago I was watching a Sunday television talk show. At one point the moderator interviewed a partisan who came on the show to oppose a bill that was pending in Congress. The partisan said that passage of the bill would cause X to happen, where X was some dire consequence that I no longer remember. The moderator, however, had done his homework; he pulled out a copy of the pending bill and read aloud the section relevant to the partisan’s claim that X would happen. It was clear to everyone listening that the provision in the bill would not cause X to happen. The partisan was now exposed as being at best incorrect, or at worst a liar. Nevertheless, twice more during the interview the partisan claimed that if the bill passed X would happen. What do you make of people who persist in repeating a verifiably false claim?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 21, 2021 at 6:45 AM

Tiny bees in a white prickly poppy flower

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I don’t know about the species of these tiny bees, but the flower they’re reveling in is Argemone albiflora, the white prickly poppy. This picture comes from June 14th along the Capital of Texas Highway.


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The other day I watched a roughly one-hour-long talk given by economics professor Glenn Loury. Toward the end he became impassioned at times about the need to better educate African-American students so they can fairly compete intellectually. If you’d like to hear the last part of his talk, you can begin listening at around 54:10 and continue to 1:03:00 in the video.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 5, 2021 at 5:46 AM

Make my day

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I haven’t shown a photograph of a dayflower (Commelina erecta) here since 2012. Today’s picture is from Allen Park on May 15th. You could say figuratively that the two tiny flies on the dayflower made my day flower.


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What doesn’t make my day flower is the craziness that descended upon many American colleges and universities in recent years. You may or may not have heard about something called micro-aggressions. Those are innocuous or even traditionally aspirational statements that now upset the permanently distraught inmates who run academia. Here are examples of statements now considered so terrible that if you utter them you’ll be branded a bigot and get reported to a “bias response team“:

America is a land of opportunity.

People are likely to succeed if they work hard.

When there’s a job opening, the most qualified person should get the job.

Where are you from?

There’s only one race, the human race.

All lives matter.

That last sentiment has recently gotten person after person after person after person fired from or forced out of their jobs. Purges like those show how microaggressions have led to megasuppressions that have metastasized out of academia and into many other institutions.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 27, 2021 at 4:42 AM

Red admiral on basket-flower

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From May 7th on the Blackland Prairie in southern Round Rock, here’s a red admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) on a basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus). According to a Wikipedia article, Johan Christian Fabricius gave the name Vanessa to this genus of butterflies in 1807. The name itself has an interesting origin: “It was invented by the Anglo-Irish writer Jonathan Swift for Esther Vanhomrigh, whom Swift had met in 1708 and whom he tutored. The name was created by taking ‘Van’ from Vanhomrigh’s last name and adding ‘Essa’, a pet form of Esther.” Speaking of the author best known for writing Gulliver’s Travels, I’ll add that the English adjective swift meant ‘moving quickly’ before it got applied to and became the name of a bird that moves quickly. And because I moved so quickly from nature to words, let me come back to our basket-flower and point out that the genus name Plectocephalus (which recently got changed from Centaurea) is made up of Greek elements meaning ‘plait’ and ‘head,’ because the flower heads of this species remind people of little woven baskets.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 10, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Blue lightning strikes again

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You may remember that at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area on April 12th I saw my first-ever common collared lizard, Crotaphytus collaris. On May 6th at Inks Lake State Park I saw a second one, shown above. Then, not quite an hour later, I found yet another, which soon scurried into the crack between rocks that you see below.

And here’s a thought that’s as relevant today as when it was put forth in 1941: “In times of change and danger, when there is a quicksand of fear under one’s reasoning, a sense of continuity with generations gone before can stretch like a lifeline across the scary present.” — John Dos Passos.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 6, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Euphoria

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I often see Euphoria beetles in prickly pear cactus flowers (Opuntia engelmannii). On May 21st I noticed this pair apparently living up to their genus name. For a closer look, click the excerpt below.

For the origin and meanings of euphoria, the word, here’s a brief account.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 27, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Eupithecia miserulata

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The scientific name in this post’s title is a mouthful, and the common name “common eupithecia” is hardly common outside of lepidopteran groups and entomological websites. The good folks at bugguide.net identified this moth larva for me. At least I knew that the flower head it was on at the entrance to Great Hills Park on May 18th was a firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, also called Indian blanket and blanketflower. For a closer look at the little green eating machine, click the thumbnail below to zoom in.

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Here’s an item for the Fiction Rivals Reality department. On March 30, 1981, when recently inaugurated President Ronald Reagan was shot in an assassination attempt, he seemed initially unharmed. Secret Service agent Jerry Parr then noticed a little foamy blood on Reagan’s mouth, realized he’d been hit after all, and saw to it that he was rushed to a hospital. According to an editorial in the Wall Street Journal that refers to the book Zero Fail, by reporter Carol Leonnig: “When Parr was a kid he saw a 1939 movie, ‘Code of the Secret Service,’ which made him want to be an agent. The central character, fearless agent Brass Bancroft, was played by Ronald Reagan, whose life Parr saved some four decades later. Life is full of strange, unseen circularities.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 25, 2021 at 4:38 AM

Little white snail on an opening firewheel

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Where 2020 proved an out-and-out snailfest on the prairie, the prolonged freeze in February of 2021 may explain the dearth of snails I’ve seen this spring. On May 9th I did finally see one on the Blackland Prairie in Pflugerville. That little white snail had found its way onto the developing flower head of a firewheel, Gaillardia pulchella, which insisted on opening despite its extra load.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “La plus perdue de toutes les journées est celle où l’on n’a pas ri.” “The most wasted of all our days is the one when we haven’t laughed.” — Sébastien-Roch Nicolas de Chamfort (1741–1794). Plenty of Internet sites attribute the wording “The most wasted of all days is one without laughter” to e.e. cummings, who liked to write his name in lower case and who wasn’t even born till a hundred years after Chamfort died. Perhaps cummings quoted Chamfort and somebody then mistakenly believed the saying was cummings’s own. Or else someone attributed it to cummings for no good reason at all, and others then copied that without verifying it. Cummings is worth quoting—as long as it’s done correctly. For example, take this assertion: “So far as I am concerned, poetry and every other art was, is, and forever will be strictly and distinctly a question of individuality.” No groupthink for him.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 19, 2021 at 4:31 AM

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

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