Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘animal

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

Posted in nature photography

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Stalking a caterpillar

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At Barkley Meadows Park in Del Valle on November 6th a caterpillar sat for its portrait.
I’m afraid I don’t know the sitter’s identity; whatever it is, every day must be a bad-hair day.

UPDATE: based on a comment from Shoreacres and further comparisons of photographs,
I’ll add that this appears to be a salt marsh caterpillar, Estigmene acrea.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 20, 2020 at 4:33 AM

Sunrise at Morro Bay, California

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Four years ago this morning I went out early to see if I could catch the sunrise at Morro Bay, California. I did. The vertical view above, with its dark strip of land across the middle and a border around it gives me the illusion now of looking through a two-pane window. I also made a tight one-pane portrait of a seemingly unshy gull, which I take to be Larus occidentalis. The red patch on the lower bill apparently characterizes a breeding adult; imagine if breeding people had a red patch on their chin.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 4, 2020 at 4:41 AM

What do these two have in common?

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What the great blue heron (Ardea herodias) has in common with the variegated stone and its shadow is that I photographed them both at Muir Beach in California four years ago today. You might also find that the forms and colors of the heron’s feathers resemble those on the stone.

And here’s a relevant poem for today:

“The Peace of Wild Things”
by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 1, 2020 at 4:39 AM

Bumblerod

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As the second yellow-on-yellow picture in two days, behold a bumblee (Bombus sp.) visiting goldenrod flowers (Solidago sp.) along Ross Road in Del Valle. The date was October 10, and the place was one I’d never worked at before, so you could say I had beginner’s luck. I could reply that I’ve been beginning my photography for more than 50 years now.

UPDATE: Robert Kamper (see comment below) has presented evidence that this is really a carpenter bee and not a bumblebee. I’ve left the original post’s title rather than changing it to something like “Carpentrod.”

Instead of a quotation today, how about listening to a two-piano dueling version of Rimsky-Korsakov’s famous “Flight of the Bumblebee”?

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 28, 2020 at 4:38 AM

Textures

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On August 12th I spent some time on the Blackland Prairie in far northeast Austin. Of the many textures I observed there then, this post singles out two. Compare and contrast, as schoolteachers are wont to say.

In the first you’re looking at a Texas spiny lizard, Sceloporus olivaceus, on one of those low construction fences that have become so common in central Texas (and presumably also everywhere else).

The second picture is a closeup of the brain-like chartreuse fruit of a Maclura pomifera tree—known as osage orange, hedge apple, and bois d’arc—that I found fallen on the ground.

Did you know that the words text and texture are both ancient metaphors? They come from textus, the past participle of the Latin verb texere, which meant literally ‘to weave,’ and then more generally ‘to fabricate.’ As a noun, textus took on the sense “the style of a work,” which is metaphorically how it is woven, which is to say its texture. The subjects of these portraits gave me a pretext for providing a bit of etymology that I hope has let you put things in context (two more derivatives of textus).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 15, 2020 at 2:38 AM

The often seen and the seldom seen

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In several posts this year you’ve seen little snails that have climbed onto plants in central Texas. The plant that this snail found its way onto is one I’ve encountered only a couple of times in my two decades of nature photography. I couldn’t even remember its name, and had to go searching. Botanists call it Ammannia coccinea, whose species name is Latin for ‘scarlet.’ Colloquially descriptive names are scarlet tooth-cup and valley redstem. I found this specimen not in a valley but at Cypress Creek Park out by Lake Travis on October 4th. Turns out the species has a pretty wide distribution across a large part of the country.

And speaking of things seldom seen, I don’t believe I’ve ever come across a bluebell (Eustoma sp.) as late in the season as October 4th, but that’s what happened when I was calling it a day after photographing the little snail and already heading back toward my car. This was the one and only bluebell I saw there.

 © 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 11, 2020 at 4:35 AM

Estigmene acrea

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“What’s that white thing?” That’s what I wondered when I glimpsed a little white area on one of several distant narrowleaf sumpweed* plants (Iva angustifolia) that were flowering in my neighborhood on September 29th. After I walked closer I saw that it was a moth**, which I take to be Estigmene acrea, known as the saltmarsh moth. An even closer look revealed that on the sumpweed it had laid some tiny pearl-like eggs, several clusters of which you can discern in the photograph. The three larger round yellowish areas interspersed across the bottom of the picture were out-of-focus broomweed flowers (Amphiachyris dracunculoides).

* Sumpweeds (which you might be surprised to learn that botanists put in the sunflower family) are close relatives of ragweeds. Like those better-known plants, sumpweeds’ airborne pollen at this time of year causes hayfever in susceptible people, including this photographer who sometimes sneezes his way through the autumn landscape for the sake of pictures from nature.

** Modern English moth developed from Old English moððe, where the ð represented the sound we now spell th. People must have found it troublesome—as we would—to pronounce two th‘s in a row and therefore dropped one of them (along with the supporting vowel that followed, thereby reducing the word to a single syllable).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 8, 2020 at 4:43 AM

South Fork of the San Gabriel River

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As often as I’ve photographed along the North Fork of the San Gabriel River at Tejas Camp in Williamson County, I’d never photographed along the South Fork till September 18th, when we visited the relatively recent Garey Park in the southwest corner of Georgetown.

All three of these landscape pictures show the eons-long erosive effect of water streaming against rock.

In case you’re wondering about the yellow-green stuff at the edge of the water, it’s duckweed (Lemna minor), which forms floating mats. On one such mat I found a tiny grasshopper.

Click to enlarge.

Here’s an unrelated thought for today: “Dear, sweet, unforgettable childhood! Why does that irrevocable time, forever departed, seem brighter, more festive, and richer than it actually was?” — Anton Chekhov, The Bishop (1902).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 6, 2020 at 4:24 AM

I cotton to snake cotton

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I rarely come across snake cotton (Froelichia gracilis), so I got excited on August 2nd when I discovered a colony of it in a dry sump at the edge of Great Hills Park. On one of the snake cotton plants I noticed spiderwebs and soon saw the spider. Below is the picture I took of it using daytime flash and a small aperture; that combination gives the impression of dusk rather than broad daylight.

Then on August 14th out beyond Bastrop I found a few stalks of snake cotton
and was able to get a picture showing one of the plant’s small and inconspicuous flowers:

Here’s an unrelated quotation for today:
“Qui grate beneficium accipit primam eius pensionem solvit.”
“Anyone who receives a benefit with gratitude repays the first installment of it.”
Here’s an alternate translation (I wanted to make it sound more colloquial):
“If you accept a favor with gratitude you’ll repay the first installment on what you owe.”
Seneca the Younger in De Beneficiis (On Benefits).

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 28, 2020 at 4:32 AM

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