Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘animal

A foggy morning

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The morning of February 27th came up unusually foggy, so in quest of portraits in the fog I headed over to the Riata Trace Pond, where I’d been able to get pictures of that kind two years earlier. The bird in the top image is a white egret (Ardea alba). The tan plants reflected in the pond in the second photograph are dry cattails, Typha domingensis, some of them battered down by the ice and snow two weeks earlier. (Speaking of which, more wintry pictures are forthcoming; let today’s post serve as a little diversion from the cold.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 4, 2021 at 4:39 AM

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Pūkeko standing on one leg

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On February 4th I photographed this pūkeko,* Porphyrio melanotus. Okay, so it wasn’t the February 4th that we had two days ago, but the one in 2015 when I happily took my first-ever photographs in New Zealand. I found this pūkeko in Shakespear** Regional Park at the eastern tip of the Whangaparaoa*** Peninsula north of Auckland.

* A bar (technically called a macron) over a vowel indicates that the vowel is to be pronounced for a longer time than regular vowels. Many languages (but not English) make a distinction between long vowels and regular vowels, so that  would be a different word from pa and have a different meaning.

** That’s not a typo: there’s no e at the end of Shakespear. The name that’s now most commonly spelled Shakespeare was historically spelled in various ways.

*** In words of Māori origin, wh is pronounced f.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 6, 2021 at 4:32 AM

White egret standing on a grape vine

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Herodias alba; Lakewood Park in Leander; January 12.

And here’s an unrelated quotation for today: “There’s more mendacity in the way educated people in America talk to each other now than I have ever seen in my 54 years.” — John McWhorter in a recent interview.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 1, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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Yummy yaupon

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You may remember the gorgeously fruitful possumhaws (Ilex decidua) that appeared in these pages three weeks ago. After I posted the second of those pictures to Facebook’s Texas Flora group on January 1st, a member commented that cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) had already stripped her possumhaws and yaupons (Ilex vomitoria) of all their little red fruits (berries in common parlance, drupes scientifically). That Texas Flora comment must have gotten picked up and broadcast on radio station KACW* (Kalling All Cedar Waxwings), because within a couple of hours a gang of those birds showed up at our house and gobbled down more than half the fruit on the yaupon tree outside my window. In today’s picture, which was a good photographic way to inaugurate the new year, you’re looking at one of the avian thieves caught in flagrante delicto. The waxwings came back on January 6th and mostly finished the job, so that now I see only a dozen or so spots of red outside my window, where in December hundreds had been.

* After I made up radio station KACW, I discovered that a real one with those call letters exists in South Bend, Washington. It has a greater range than its operators realize.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 9, 2021 at 4:32 AM

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Strangely somnolent squirrel

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During a walk in the already large and still expanding Sunfield subdivision in Buda on December 12th, the Lady Eve caught sight of a squirrel on a tree branch just a few feet above us and called my attention to it. Despite the barking of a nearby dog and my taking a bunch of pictures over a span of 11 minutes, said squirrel never budged from its perch. In fact its eyes closed for a few seconds at a time before reopening, as if sleep were calling in the middle of the day. If only all my live subjects were so docile or so in need of a nap.

I take this to have been a fox squirrel, Sciurus niger, which is common in central Texas (including right outside my window at home). The tree seems to have been a sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua, which grows abundantly in east Texas and can occasionally be found in the wild as close as one county to the east of mine, but which some people plant in the Austin area.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 26, 2020 at 4:36 AM

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Texas has many things inimical to human skin

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On November 20th I worked my way into the median on E. Howard Lane to photograph some fruit-bearing possumhaws and yaupons (Ilex decidua and vomitoria, respectively). On a couple of the trees I noticed several furry little tan or grey bundles that I later learned aren’t bundles of joy, at least not where human skin is concerned. Fortunately I didn’t touch any of the critters, which bugguide.net has identified as Megalopyge opercularis, known as the southern flannel moth caterpillar, puss caterpillar, asp, and perrito (Spanish for ‘puppy’). The Bugguide entry for this species includes a cautionary note: “Occasionally, in outbreak years, puss caterpillars are sufficiently numerous to defoliate some trees…. However, their main importance is medical. In Texas, they have been so numerous in some years that schools in San Antonio in 1923 and Galveston in 1951 were closed temporarily because of stings to children….” You’re welcome to read a more recent account of envenomations.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 23, 2020 at 4:18 AM

Ambushed bushy bluestem

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On November 15th, while wandering through the field in Manor adorned with myriad fluffy seed heads of bushy bluestem (Andropogon glomeratus) and goldenrod (Solidago sp.) that you saw in a post last month, I spied something that looked unusual and that I couldn’t initially identify. After I got closer I could tell that a plant had gotten wrapped up, presumably by a spider, but in a way I hadn’t seen before. Then I noticed the green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) that must have done the deed. Eventually I realized that what the spider had wrapped up into a nest was a bushy bluestem seed head. Notice the spiderlings, of which there were plenty more than shown in this picture. You get a closer view of the green lynx in the following picture:

As relevant quotations for today, you can listen to Rudy Francisco reading his poem “Mercy,
which he indicates is after Nikki Giovanni’s “Allowables.”

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 22, 2020 at 4:22 AM

A green not seen

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There have been several times when I’ve walked close to a snake I didn’t see, including a rattlesnake in Palo Duro Canyon a couple of decades ago. The latest walk-by occurred on December 7th in Roy G. Guerrero Colorado River Metro Park. The Lady Eve, walking behind me on the path, caught sight of a slender green snake maybe a foot long that I’d passed, and she called my attention to it. That’s why you’re getting to look at this portrait of what seems to have been a rough green snake, Opheodrys aestivus.

Our word serpent goes back to the Latin verb serpere, which meant ‘to creep, to crawl.’ Similarly, reptile traces back to the Latin verb repere, which meant the same thing. In contrast, our word snake is native English, with the modern form having developed from Anglo-Saxon snaca. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, the figurative sense of snake as ‘a treacherous person’ was first recorded in the 1580s. Treacherous people have been around for a whole lot longer than that.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 12, 2020 at 4:36 AM

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The golden hour

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Nature photographers use the term “the golden hour” to refer to the first hour after sunrise and the last before sunset, in both of which the low sun casts a warm light. It was in the latter of those golden hours on November 16th that I rounded a curve on Rain Creek Parkway and noticed a great egret (Ardea alba) in the creek that flows through the golf course there. I pulled over, put on a long lens, and got off just a couple of shots before the egret took flight. Not having time to focus properly, I took four more pictures in quick succession. The one shown here was the best of the lot because it kept the center of the bird in focus from its tail to its head.

And how about the light in that golden hour? The phrase reminds me now of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Children’s Hour”:

Between the dark and the daylight,
      When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
      That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
      The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
      And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
      Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
      And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
      Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
      To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
      A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
      They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
      O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
      They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
      Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
      In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
      Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
      Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
      And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
      In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
      Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
      And moulder in dust away!

(Alice, Allegra, and Edith were the actual names of Longfellow’s daughters.)

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2020 at 4:33 AM

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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?

HIS, SORE, AMEN, PAN, AWE, EMIT, SON, TOWER, HAS, LAX, TOMATO, FAT, SOME, DONOR.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 27, 2020 at 4:35 AM

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