Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘animal

Here’s looking at you, kid[neywood flowers]

with 6 comments

How ’bout this face-on view of a small fly getting nectar from the flowers of a kidneywood tree (Eysenhardtia texana) in my neighborhood on December 16, 2021? That tree kept putting out flowers through the end of the year, even if only a tiny fraction of what it had produced at the end of October.

(This post’s title is an allusion to a line from the movie “Casablanca.”)

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Three months ago in these pages I wrote a commentary pointing out that inflation is a hidden tax that most affects the people least able to afford it, including the poor, of course, and the elderly on fixed incomes. People who have dutifully saved money for their later years look on helplessly as their retirement savings dwindle in value.

Yesterday the United States government announced that from December 2020 to December 2021, the Consumer Price Index had risen 7%, which was the highest jump in 40 years. A big factor in the increase is that both the last administration and the current one each spent trillions of dollars that we don’t have. Borrowing and printing money so extravagantly contributed heavily to the high inflation we’re now experiencing. And still the current administration is desperate to borrow, print, and spend trillions of dollars more in a Congressional bill that I can’t help but call Bilk Back Better. It’s madness.

UPDATE: A Quinnipiac poll whose results were released yesterday found that only 34% of the respondents approve the current president’s handling of the economy, with 57% disapproving. (The margin of error was 2.7 percentage points.)

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If you have the time, you can watch a two-hour conversation
among Steven Pinker, Jonthan Haidt, and Jordan Peterson.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 13, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Same long lens, same creek, different subjects

with 22 comments

Along Onion Creek in McKinney Falls State Park on December 20, 2021, I took two rather different pictures with my longest lens. First came the drifting yellowed leaf of a sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis) that’s shown below. About nine minutes later I panned with the camera to catch a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) in flight over the creek. In 2016 I’d portrayed the same kind of bird at a waterfall a few hundred feet away.

As this post includes a picture of a bird, you can respond in kind
by taking flight to look at 20 recent award-winning avian pictures.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 2, 2022 at 4:34 AM

Unhinged

with 47 comments

Unhinged is the word that anhinga always reminds me of. If you’re not an avian aficionado, as I’m not, you may never have heard of this bird, whose scientific name is the echoic Anhinga anhinga.* And what could suit that doubled name more than today’s first portrait, in which you see the anhinga’s image reflected in the surface of Brushy Creek Lake on the morning of December 14th? Fog visually muffled most details on the surface of the lake; processing brightened the rest out of existence.

The second portrait reveals the same anhinga apparently now more wary of my presence after I’d slowly worked my way closer to it. Not long afterwards the bird flew off in the direction it was facing here and landed in a tree far enough away to foreclose more pictures.

Shannon Westveer, who identified the anhinga for me, added a couple of observations: “When they soar above, they are also pretty distinctive against vultures or cormorants. When swimming, their head sits just above the water as their bodies are submerged, coining ‘snakebird’ as its nickname… It’s fun to watch them work a fish off their bill (which they use to impale underwater) then toss it up in the air and swallow head first.”

* The term for a scientific name like Anhinga anhinga in which the genus and species are identical is a tautonym, or tautonymous name. According to an article about that, tautonymous names are rejected in botany but allowed in zoology, including people. Zoology even allows triplets like Gorilla gorilla gorilla and Bison bison bison, where the third epithet designates a subspecies.

Speaking of unhinged, as I did at the beginning of this post, 2021 has seen its share of crazy things. I’ve reported plenty of them in my commentaries this year. An article from U.N. Watch adds 10 unhinged things that the United Nations has done this year, like electing the totalitarian regime of Belarus to the U.N. Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. What’s more, “Starting on January 1, 2022, a staggering 68.1% of the UN Human Rights Council will be dictators and other serial human rights abusers. Despite UN Watch’s detailed report on their gross abuses, Qatar, Cameroon, Eritrea, Kazakhstan and Somalia were all elected in October to the UN’s top human rights body, joining China, Cuba, Russia, Libya, Pakistan and Venezuela.” And “in an April 2021 secret ballot, the UN’s Economic and Social Council elected Iran’s gender apartheid regime to a 4-year term on its Commission on the Status of Women, the ‘principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to the promotion of gender equality and the empowerment of women.’” You can read the article to find out what the other 7 abuses were.

But to end 2021 on a positive note, have a look at the victories for freedom that FIRE, the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, has won in 2021.

You’d also do well to check out the latest stories on the Good News Network. Let’s hope 2022 brings us many more of those.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 31, 2021 at 4:32 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , ,

Avian remains two days apart

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At Brushy Creek Lake Park on December 14th I found a small white feather covered with dewdrops. Two days later while walking a trail in my neighborhood I somehow noticed a small dead bird on the ground. Shannon Westveer has identified it as a chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina). It didn’t seem to have been dead for long but already ants had found it. Because you might not care to see that scene, I’ve not included a photograph in today’s post but only a link to it that you can click if you wish. And this sparrow, seen or unseen, may remind you of a New Testament passage: “Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? Yet not one of them will fall to the ground outside your Father’s care. And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are worth more than many sparrows.”

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As someone who has taught math and statistics, and of course as a citizen, I find it disturbing when a governmental agency cites a flawed study to support an agenda, then refuses to disavow the study even after the many problems with it, including persistent lack of transparency, are pointed out. You can read about that in David Zweig’s article “The CDC’s Flawed Case for Wearing Masks in School” in the December 2021 issue of The Atlantic, which by no stretch of the imagination qualifies as a right-wing publication. In fact David Zweig has written for plenty of left-leaning organizations; among them are The New Yorker, The New York Times, CNN, Salon, Slate, The New Republic, and New York Magazine.

You can also get a much more detailed and animated account in a December 17th Megyn Kelly interview with David Zweig that goes from about 1:00 to about 49:00 in this YouTube video. (The timeline slider lets you skip through a couple of two-minute commercials; one or two very brief commercials dismiss themselves, and in another one or two you can click to dismiss the ads.)

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 23, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Small frog on a palmetto leaf

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On November 11th at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center the Lady Eve caught site of a small frog on a palmetto leaf (Sabal minor) and called my attention to it.

UPDATE: This appears to be an American green tree frog, Dryophytes cinereus. Austin is at the western edge of the range for that species.


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I invite you to take a look at Michael Shellenberger and Peter Boghossian‘s chart showing the taxonomy of the Woke religion. “We decided to publish the Woke Religion Taxonomy because it was helpful to our own understanding of Wokeism as a religion, and we felt it might help others. The Taxonomy identifies common myths and supernatural beliefs and helps explain why so many people continue to hold them, despite overwhelming evidence that they are false. We are under no illusion that the taxonomy will reduce the power that Wokeism holds over true believers. But we also believe it will help orient those who are confused by its irrationalism, and are seeking an accessible overview. Finally, we are publishing it because we recognize that we might be wrong, either about matters of fact or classification, and hope it will encourage a healthy discussion and debate. As such, we have published it with the caveat that it is ‘Version 1.0’ with the expectation that we will revise it in the future.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 11, 2021 at 4:30 AM

Two brown things

with 18 comments

The opening picture confirms that as I was wandering near Bull Creek on September 30th I noticed something brown on a sideways inflorescence of giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida. I managed to find a position from which the unknown thing—probably the remains of a caterpillar—lined up with a nearby prairie agalinis flower, Agalinis heterophylla. The photograph below, from November 9th at the Riata Trace Pond, is of a curlicue or tilde coming off the main part of a bushy bluestem seed head, Andropogon glomeratus. Whether the tilde is upside down, as shown here, or right side up, depends on which side it gets looked at from. Now that I think of it, that could be a metaphor for many things in life, couldn’t it?

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The other day I came across a revealing 14-minute excerpt of a discussion between Coleman Hughes and Bonnie Snyder about some of the abuses being perpetrated by “woke” teachers in our public schools. The examples provided in the interview refute the claim that Critical Race Theory isn’t really being taught in our schools. You can find out much more in Bonnie Snyder’s new book, Undoctrinate.

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UPDATE. The day before yesterday I mentioned that I gave up my subscription to the New York Times some years ago after I found that too many of the stories the paper presented as news were ideologically slanted. Yesterday I came across an Epoch Times article from March 2021 reporting that New York Supreme Court Justice Charles Wood similarly found that “in stories from 2020 about Project Veritas videos, [New York Times] writers writers Maggie Astor and Tiffany Hsu had inserted sentences that were opinions despite the articles being billed as news.”

“’If a writer interjects an opinion in a news article (and will seek to claim legal protections as opinion) it stands to reason that the writer should have an obligation to alert the reader, including a court that may need to determine whether it is fact or opinion, that it is opinion,’ Wood wrote in a 16-page decision denying the paper’s request to dismiss a lawsuit from Project Veritas.”

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 18, 2021 at 4:36 AM

Clammyweed

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Clammyweed (Polanisia dodecandra ssp. trachysperma) has appeared in several posts here. Because the most recent was in 2015, it’s high time to let you have another look at the helter-skelter inflorescence of this species. Notice the tiny bee in the lower part of the top picture. In the image below, you’re looking at a caterpillar on a clammyweed pod. Presumably the chomped-out part of the pod was inside the caterpillar at the time I made the portrait. Both of today’s photographs are from my neighborhood on October 6th.


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As someone who spent years studying linguistics, I often notice when someone uses a word in an unusual way. Take a look at this interchange:

Person A: This morning I went shopping for food and filled up a whole grocery cart.
Person B: How much did you spend?
Person A: The cash register rang up $217.65.
Person B: Wow, that cart of groceries cost you a lot!
Person A: Oh no, it cost me zero.
Person B: How do you figure that? I thought you said it cost you $217.65.
Person A: No, I said the register rang up $217.65. But then I paid the $217.65, so the groceries cost me zero.

Readers, what do you say? Is it true that the groceries cost Person A zero?

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 24, 2021 at 4:37 AM

Smartweed from pond to pond and insect to insect

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I think the first time this year I photographed smartweed (Polygonum or Persicaria sp.) was on July 7th at the Riata Trace Pond, as shown above. Note what seems to be the segmented tan larva of an insect sitting inconspicuously in the middle of the inflorescence at the right.

The two main colors in the top photograph warrant a different observation, a surprising one that I’ve repeated here from time to time: as recently as the first half of the 20th century people in the United States took pink to be the appropriate color for boys and blue the appropriate color for girls. Let that be a reminder or how quickly and arbitrarily fashions often change.

The most recent time I photographed smartweed was at the Arbor Walk Pond on October 8th, as shown below with a leaffooted bug (Leptoglossus sp.) as the rider. Flash let me stop down the aperture to f/22 for good depth of field; that combination also gave me a very dark background, all the better to isolate my subjects.


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I commend the National Association of Scholars for its stance against gender ideology.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 20, 2021 at 4:44 PM

Snow-on-the-prairie and friends

with 12 comments

On October 4th I drove east to Manor and spent a couple of hours in the Wildhorse Ranch subdivision, new parts of which have kept springing up for several years now. As was true in October last year, I found no shortage of native species doing their autumnal thing this year. Some of those plants will likely survive development; others won’t. The picturesque group that you see above, because of its location, probably won’t last. The prominent red-stalked plants are snow-on-the-prairie, Euphorbia bicolor. Across the bottom of the picture is a carpet of doveweed, Croton monanthogynus (a genus-mate of the woolly croton you saw here a week ago and again yesterday. The erect plant a quarter of the way in from the left is annual sumpweed, Iva annua, whose pollen, like that of the related ragweed, triggers many people’s allergic reactions in the fall.

Aesthetically speaking, the top picture exemplifies a more-is-more, fill-up-the-frame approach to photography. In contrast, take the minimalist view below that gives a much closer look at snow-on-the-prairie.

And while we’re offering more-detailed views, the portrait below gives you a better look at doveweed, garnished with a dameselfly that might be a female Kiowa dancer, Argia immunda.


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Austin, where I’ve lived since 1976, is the Berkeley of Texas, with leftist ideologues controlling the city’s government. In 2020, the Austin City Council’s response to months of daily rioting in cities around the country was to cut $21.5 million outright from the Austin Police Department budget and to shift another $128 million to other city departments. Predictably, crimes in Austin have increased. As local television station KXAN reported on September 13, 2021, two murders that weekend were the 59th and 60th homicides for the year so far, “the highest number of homicides Austin has recorded in one year in modern history” — and the year still had three-and-a-half months to go.

Apologists argue that crime has also gone up in many other American cities in the past year. True, but that’s hardly a justification for Austin to cut its police budget. According to that “logic,” because Covid-19 was increasing in other parts of the country last year, Austin should have reduced funding to deal with the pandemic.

On July 5 this year, KXAN quoted Interim Police Chief Joseph Chacon: “When it comes to the most critical calls… — shootings, stabbings, rape and domestic violence in progress — the current response time average is nine minutes and two seconds…. That is a minute-and-a-half slower than the department’s three-year average of seven minutes and 30 seconds.”

In response to the increased dangers caused by such a large reduction in the police budget, a group called Save Austin Now got enough signatures (close to 30,000) on a petition to place a proposition on the ballot for November 2nd, just two weeks from now. Among the things that Proposition A [as it’s designated] would do are:

  • establish minimum police staffing and require there to be at least two police officers for every 1,000 residents of Austin;
  • add an additional 40 hours of training each year on “critical thinking, defensive tactics, intermediate weapons proficiency, active shooter scenarios, and hasty react team reactions”;
  • pay police officers a bonus for being proficient in any of the five most frequently spoken foreign languages in Austin; for enrolling in cadet mentoring programs; for being recognized for honorable conduct;
  • require police officers to spend at least 35% of their time on community engagement;
  • require full enrollment for at least three full-term cadet classes until staffing levels return to the levels prescribed in Austin’s 2019-2020 budget [in 2020 the City Council had canceled two cadet classes as part of its “defund the police” hysteria];
  • require the mayor, council members, staff and assistants of council members, as well as the director of the Office of Police Oversight, to complete the curriculum of the Citizen Police Academy and participate in Austin’s Ride-Along Program [in other words, the people in charge of the police should know what the police actually do in their job!];
  • encourage the police chief to seek demographic representation, as reflected in “racial, ethnic and gender diversity of the city,” in hiring police officers.

Do you find anything objectionable there? All of those things sound worthy to me. Nevertheless, leftist activists who want to keep the police underfunded are fighting fiercely against this proposition. Money to campaign against it has been coming in from many places outside Austin and outside Texas. As Austin’s NPR radio station KUT reported on October 4: “Billionaire and left-wing activist George Soros gave $500,000 to Equity PAC, a political action committee lobbying against Prop A. The group also received $200,000 from The Fairness Project, a Washington, D.C.-based organization founded in 2016 that backs progressive ballot measures.”

So there you have it: the people pushing “equity” and “fairness” are working to undermine civil order and public safety. What a sorry state of affairs for my country.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 17, 2021 at 4:33 AM

One more take on woolly croton

with 53 comments

On a woolly croton plant (Croton capitatus) in Bastrop State Park on September 23rd I noticed that a green lynx spider (Peucetia viridans) had caught what appears to be a potter wasp, seemingly in the genus Parancistrocerus, from the subfamily Eumeninae.

One of the great existential questions of our time, at least in the Anglosphere (i.e. the English-speaking parts of the world), is how to spell the adjectival form of wool: is it woolly or is it wooly? Dictionaries accept both, though the form with a double-l seems to be favored, for the same reason we write really rather than realy and totally rather than totaly. For people who come to woolly as non-native speakers, its non-literal meanings must seem strange. Merriam-Webster gives these:

2a: lacking in clearness or sharpness of outline
woolly TV picture

b: marked by mental confusion
woolly thinking

3: marked by boisterous roughness or lack of order or restraint
where the West is still woolly— Paul Schubert—used especially in the phrase wild and woolly

Though my pictures have usually come from the wild and my posts have sometimes been wild and woolly, I trust you haven’t found any instances of really totally woolly thinking in them.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 16, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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