Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘animals

On the ferry

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“We were very tired, we were very merry—
We had gone back and forth all night on the ferry.”

So begins Edna St. Millay’s 18-line poem “Recuerdo” (Spanish for “I remember” or “Remembrance”). While we could have gone back and forth as often as we wanted on the free car ferry between Galveston and Port Bolivar*, on October 7th we went only one-way, northbound from Galveston. And we weren’t tired, because it was morning, not night; tiredness would come later, after we’d driven four-and-a-half hours back to Austin.

I hadn’t taken this ferry in decades, yet I had a distinct recuerdo of the way birds follow the boat, and now I aimed to follow the birds and see if I could get any decent pictures of them. My technique was to pan with a telephoto lens at a high shutter speed to track an individual bird as it wheeled by, trying to keep it in focus and also completely inside the frame. Sometimes I failed on one count, sometimes on the other. And occasionally I succeeded, as you see in these two photographs of gulls.

* The Spanish surname is Bolívar, with the middle syllable stressed: bo-LEE-var. The Texas place name, however, has come to be pronounced in a way that rhymes with Oliver.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 11, 2019 at 4:36 AM

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More birds at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge

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How about the long common name black-bellied whistling duck and the scientific name Dendrocygna autumnalis (whose genus confusingly means tree swan)? We saw a group of those birds at the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge on October 6th. A quintet that I watched placidly gliding by reminded me of a longer single file I’d seen two years earlier in Alberta. (Click each picture to enlarge.)

As for those buds rising from the water on erect stalks, they’re Nymphaea elegans, called tropical water lilies. I’ll devote a future post to them in their own right.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 29, 2019 at 4:44 AM

Brazoria Wildlife Refuge

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After we all spent time at the Artist Boat Coastal Heritage Preserve on October 6th, Shannon and Scott went off on what proved a successful quest to find a rare bird that had been reported in the vicinity. Linda drove Eve and me off in the opposite direction so we could swing around and visit the Brazoria National Wildlife Refuge, where it turned out that we, too, had some avian encounters. This post shows you one of them.

Don’t you think someone should train each kind of bird to sit on a sign for its own species and not on one for a different species? That way the tourists wouldn’t get confused. Our mismatched bird wasn’t a roseate spoonbill but rather a double-crested cormorant, Phalacrorax auritus. It made up for not knowing its place by sitting docilely on the sign as I slowly got closer and closer with my 400mm lens. Linda and Eve, who were watching from the car, thought I’d soon be able to reach out and pet the cormorant. Well, not quite, but I did get much nearer than I thought I would, as you can confirm from the uncropped closeup below, which I took seven minutes after the first picture. (Click to enlarge each portrait.)

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 27, 2019 at 4:38 PM

Surrealistic barnacles, continued

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In a comment on the previous post, Shannon Westveer referenced the photograph showing barnacle shells on a larger shell against a background of cumulus clouds, and she mentioned the Belgian painter Magritte, whom I’d referred to in my post. That dose of Surrealism apparently primed me to misread* her next sentence, “I’m greatly looking forward to your artistic view of the barnacle covered log,” as “I’m greatly looking forward to your artistic view of the barnacle covered dog.” A barnacle-covered dog would indeed be surreal, as dogs don’t live in the ocean. Neither do large trees, yet the hefty stump shown above had spent enough time underwater in the Gulf of Mexico to acquire a crusting of barnacles before ending up on dry land again.

The second picture provides a closer look from a lower vantage, and the third one gets even more detailed. All are from our time at the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail on October 6th.

* In Nadja, published in 1928, André Breton (the leader of the Surrealist movement) gives value to the misreading of words. In particular, he tells how the poet Louis Aragon pointed out to him that from a certain angle the word ROUGE (red) on a hotel sign can be read as POLICE. I did my reading of Nadja in college in 1966–67 and still have my yellowing Livre de Poche paperback copy from way back then. It let me retrieve the details of what got misread as what, which I didn’t remember on my own after all these years.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 22, 2019 at 4:15 PM

More from the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail

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The previous post showed you six of the things we saw on October 6th at the Kelly Hamby Nature Trail on the south shore of the peninsula that’s across the bridge from the west end of Galveston Island. Now here are another half-dozen finds.

Trailing fuzzybean, Strophostyles helvola

Drying pod of a trailing fuzzybean, Strophostyles helvola

American oystercatcher, Haematopus palliatus

Purple beach morning glory bud, Ipomoea pes-caprae

Purple beach morning glory flower, Ipomoea pes-caprae

Barnacle shells on a larger shell

While that last picture may not be entirely “natural,” holding the shell up against the clouds seemed like a natural enough thing to do for the sake of a good portrait. Magritte or another Surrealist painter could’ve shown the entire shell floating in the clouds.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 21, 2019 at 4:42 AM

Two birds soaring at Niagara Falls on July 25th

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© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 1, 2019 at 4:43 AM

Inanimate and animate on the brink of the abyss

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So it’s our first close approach to Niagara’s American Falls on July 25th, and I’m noticing a tree limb on the brink of the waterfall. Eppur non si muove, and yet it doesn’t move, despite the rushing water.

And these Canada geese are calmly sure of themselves so close to the abyss:

Thanks to Shannon Westveer for identifying the birds.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 29, 2019 at 4:37 AM

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