Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘animals

Apache plume in Albuquerque

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I enjoyed looking at the historical paintings of New Mexico in the Albuquerque Museum on October 15th, but when I arrived and noticed a bunch of native plants in a garden outside, I spent the better part of an hour there before viewing the museum’s exhibits. Among the native plants I photographed was Apache plume, which I get to see only when I travel to far west Texas or further west. Botanists classify this member of the rose family as Fallugia paradoxa, the only species in its genus. When I first glimpsed the plant years ago, its fluffy stage made me think I was looking at some kind of Clematis. The top picture shows the resemblance.

 

 

The flowers are white, but as the one above began to shrivel and produce the characteristic plumes, one petal was turning a rich red. I scrolled through several hundred pictures online and didn’t see an Apache plume flower with a red area like this one. Maybe the red is typical and people just tend not to put up photographs of shriveling flowers. On the other hand, I saw two flowers with a petal turning red, so maybe it’s common.

 

 

In any case, the Apache plume flowers attracted a slew of insects, mostly ants, but also
this syrphid fly, which is apparently Paragus haemorrhous (thanks, bugguide.net).

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

November 19, 2022 at 4:27 AM

A Halloween lizard

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I’ll occasionally punctuate the posts about our great New Mexico/ West Texas trip with some more-recent goings-on back in Austin. And what could be more appropriate for Halloween than a dead lizard? Mind you, I didn’t think it was dead when I first spotted it in our driveway on the morning of October 25th; I figured the cool temperature had rendered it inert while it waited for more warmth. I went back into the house, put a macro lens and ring flash on my camera, and went back out to the driveway. When I looked more closely at what I take to be a Texas spiny lizard (Sceloporus olivaceus), I noticed tiny movements in the eye socket. Then I realized I was seeing ants, and the lizard was dead. If you’re up for a close look at that, click the thumbnail below. Ghastliness is in the eye of the beholder—and in this case the eye of the photograph’s subject.

Happy Halloween.

 

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 31, 2022 at 4:35 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Thursday threesome, little beastsome

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⇧ Lacewing on Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) in Great Hills Park on May 5th.

 

⇧ Spider on prairie celestial (Nemastylis geminiflora) in Round Rock on April 11th.

 

⇧ Bug in prickly pear cactus flower (Opuntia engelmannii) in north Austin on May 1st.

  

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Did you know that in 2021 the most popular first names given to babies in the United States were Liam for boys and Olivia for girls? You can see the follow-up top 9 for each sex last year in this USA Today article. Of the 20, one was originally an occupational last name: Harper, literally someone who makes harps. And of course that gives me an ever-welcome chance to harp on the usefulness of etymology.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 12, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Posted in nature photography

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Blue stars and Barbara’s buttons

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Drove the 36 miles out to the Doeskin Ranch on April 27th in hopes of finding some blue stars (Amsonia ciliata). Found a few. Also found some flower heads of Barbara’s buttons (Marshallia caespitosa) with both a longhorn beetle (Typocerus sinuatus) and a bug of some sort.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 1, 2022 at 4:28 AM

Not a partridge in a pear tree

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Not the Christmas song’s partridge in a pear tree, but a bunch of turkey vultures (Cathartes aura) in a live oak tree (Quercus fusiformis) is what we found on January 3 while driving along Burnet County Road 330 for what I think was the first time ever. Branches blocked the line of sight to all but the highest-perched birds, so I zoomed in on a few of those. Click the thumbnail below for a closer look at the top pair from a different frame.

After I moved a little closer all the vultures flew away, leaving me to take a few more-is-more pictures of the scraggly live oak branches in their own right.

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It’s heartening that people and organizations have been working to counter the onslaught of illiberalism coming from certain sectors of our society. In posts over the past year I’ve singled out some of the people and organizations that uphold free speech and due process, and that work against “wokeism” and “cancel culture,” or whatever other name you care to use.

Following is a list of people and groups working to maintain the values of a free society. Some of these consider themselves politically center-left, some center-right, and others centrist or independent or libertarian. The important thing is that all of them favor freedom, value open discussion grounded in demonstrable facts, and deplore indoctrination. Most of the links below take you to sites where material keeps getting added (as opposed to books, which could make up another list), so you can go back to each site from time to time—even daily for some—and expect new articles.

Heterodox Academy

FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression)

FAIR (Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism)

Clear and Present Danger (to free speech)

Ayaan Hirsi Ali

Sharyl Attkisson

Bari Weiss

Reason

Jonathan Turley

Glenn Loury

The National Association of Scholars

Megyn Kelly

Jonathan Haidt

Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying

Quillette

Steven Pinker

Glenn Greenwald

Pamela Paresky

Douglas Murray

Harvey Silverglate

1776 Unites

Peter Boghossian

The Epoch Times

City Journal

Victor Davis Hanson

Abigail Shrier

UnHerd

Zaid Jilani

Batya Ungar-Sargon

Parents Defending Education

Judicial Watch

Vivek Ramaswamy

Coleman Hughes

Jewish Institute for Liberal Values

University of Austin

Jordan Peterson

Michael Shellenberger

Matt Taibbi

James Lindsay

Tara Henley

No Left Turn in Education

Tulsi Gabbard

John McWhorter

Camille Paglia

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2022 at 4:22 AM

Exaggerations

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Despite what you’ll find frequently quoted, Mark Twain didn’t say “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.” That’s an exaggeration. Here’s the explanation from dictionary.com:

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated is a popular misquote attributed to author Samuel Clemens, known by his pen name, Mark Twain. The humorous quote is based on a letter Twain sent to a newspaper reporter who had asked Twain about rumors that he was dying.

Although it’s not an accurate quote, The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated remains associated with Twain. Twain was known for his humor, which the quote perfectly represents. Often, this quote is brought up to praise Twain’s skill as a humorist.

The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated is often used to humorously comment on a person’s absence from society or to refer to something that appears dead or hopeless but still has a slim chance of success.

In May 1897, there was a rumor among journalists that author Mark Twain was either dead or dying of a serious illness. Looking for confirmation, journalist Frank Marshall White of the New York Journal contacted Twain to see if there was any truth to the rumors. Twain responded to White with a letter in which he humorously said “The report of my death was an exaggeration.” In classic Twain fashion, the author jokingly expressed more offense with the rumors that he was poor than the rumors of his death.

The popular misquote of Twain’s words seems to come from a biography written by Albert Paine in the early 1900s. In the biography, Paine alters the incident so that Twain speaks to an unnamed reporter in person and humorously tells him that “The report of my death has been grossly exaggerated.” This misquote then changed over time to use the word greatly instead of grossly.

I bring this up because the word millipede is also an exaggeration. Latin mille meant ‘a thousand,’ and millipede therefore means ‘a thousand feet,’ but obviously each of the little critters in today’s photographs, which are in fact millipedes, has far fewer than a thousand limbs. On the other hand, there might be a thousand strands in the webbing around the millipedes, which I can say with no exaggeration were dead.

These pictures come from December 22, 2021, along the Shoal Creek Trail. The first section of the trail heading south from 32nd St. closely skirts a rock cliff with some overhangs in it, and that’s where the millipedes hang out, as shown in the two top photographs. In the third picture, the webbing served to anchor a dry leaf, which became the star of that portrait.

To get enough light to photograph in those shaded places I had to use flash, which also revealed the colors in some of the rocks themselves, which unaided eyes might not have noticed.

UPDATE: Scientists have discovered a new species of millipede with 1306 legs.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 11, 2022 at 4:38 AM

More turn-of-the-year wildflowers in my neighborhood

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Like the Ageratina havanensis that you saw two posts back, Viguiera dentata blooms in the fall and increasingly into the winter. Common names for this species include plateau goldeneye, sunflower goldeneye, and just plain goldeneye. It’s not uncommon for yellow daisy-type flower heads to open asymmetrically, as the one shown here was doing on December 16th in my neighborhood. The same goldeneye bushes were still displaying flowers on the day 2022 began.

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See what you make of each of these. Are any more logical or plausible than any of the others?

  • This is Daniel. He was born 10 years ago. That means that everyone thinks he’s 10 years old. Only now he’s grown old enough to tell everyone that he’s actually an adult and is entitled to get married, vote, and buy alcoholic beverages.
  • This is Maria. She was born in Italy to Italian parents who trace their Italian lineage back 500 years. This means that when she was born everyone thought she was Italian. Until she grew a little older — old enough to tell everyone that she’s actually Japanese.
  • This is Juan. He was born to a human mother and a human father, so everyone thought he was a human boy. Until he grew older — old enough to bark and tell everyone that he’s actually a dog.
  • This is Mark. He has been a truck driver his whole adult life. That means everyone believes he drives trucks for a living. But now he’s gone to the White House to reveal that he’s actually the President of the United States.
  • This is Ruthie. She’s a transgender girl. That means when she was born, everyone thought she was a boy. Until she grew a little older — old enough to tell everyone that she’s actually a girl.

   

The third of those fits a rare condition called clinical lycanthropy, in which people believe themselves to be animals. “Canines are certainly not uncommon, although the experience of being transformed into a hyena, cat, horse, bird or tiger has been reported on more than one occasion. Transformation into frogs, and even bees, has been reported in some instances.”

The fourth of those could indicate schizophrenia, symptoms of which sometimes include delusions of grandeur. Approximately 1.2% of Americans suffer from schizophrenia., including the primary subject of the excellent documentary “I Am Another You,” which we watched last night.

The fifth of those is actual text from the book It Feels Good to Be Yourself, which some elementary schools have put in their library. You can read about it in a December 22nd opinion piece by Betsy McCaughey in the New York Post. Researchers have estimated that 0.6% of U.S. adults identify as transgender.

UPDATE: Here’s a follow-up on the last of those topics from Dr. Erika Anderson, who was the first transgender president of the US Professional Association for Transgender Health.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 6, 2022 at 4:27 AM

More from along Onion Creek

with 42 comments

Two posts back you saw a couple of the photographs I took with my longest lens in McKinney Falls State Park on December 20, 2021. During the same outing I zoomed that lens to its maximum 400mm to catch three turtles sunning themselves on the unsubmerged part of a log in a wide-open stretch of Onion Creek. Beyond the turtles, on the far shore of Onion Creek, young sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) still held on to some leaves in otherwise bare winter woods.

A different sort of dry vegetation lay at my feet
in the form of bald cypress leaves (Taxodium distichum).

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“The human understanding when it has once adopted an opinion draws all things else to support and agree with it. And though there be greater number and weight of instances to be found on the other side, yet these it either neglects or despises, or else by some distraction sets aside and rejects.” — Francis Bacon, 1620.

R. James Carter partly quotes that early recognition of what we’d now call confirmation bias in his thoughtful Quillette article “We Can’t Keep Going Like This,” which you’re encouraged to read.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 5, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Tawny emperor

with 53 comments

On July 23rd I noticed what I take to be a tawny emperor, Asterocampa clyton, on an aluminum railing near the entrance to Great Hills Park. I’d been doing botanical closeups in the park and still had a ring flash at the end of my macro lens, so I was able to get good depth of field in the pictures I took of the butterfly.

The other day I used the second picture to play around with some of the effects in Topaz Studio 2, which I downloaded a 30-day free trial of. Click the thumbnail below if you’d like to see the result of applying “Brilliant on White.”


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When I got home from taking pictures that morning, Eve was watching a television program in which the host was interviewing two women who had opposite political perspectives. I walked in just at the moment when the woman representing the Democratic Party claimed that a bill that had passed the Texas Senate, S.B. 3, would prevent teachers in Texas public schools from teaching about the Ku Klux Klan. I’d heard that false claim before. The reason I knew it was false, aside from the blatant implausibility that Texas schools would suddenly forbid the teaching of important episodes in American history that they’d already been teaching for decades, was that the first time I heard the claim I did what I normally do: I looked for evidence to support or refute it. In this case, the obvious source to check was S.B. 3. You’re welcome to read it for yourself, and if you see a clause that would forbid teaching about the Ku Klux Klan, please point it out to us.

You may recall that in a post last week I mentioned a television interview program decades ago that made a big impression on me because a guest persisted in repeating a claim about a federal bill even after the moderator had read viewers the relevant section of the bill that proved the activist’s claim false. In the July 23rd interview I wished the host had asked the activist making the claim to cite the provision in S.B. 3 that would prove her assertion.

I intended to include a link to information about the Ku Klux Klan for any readers from outside the United States who might not know about that terrorist organization (which ironically was founded and sustained over the course of a century by members and supporters of the Democratic Party). I thought the article in the Encyclopedia Britannica might serve, and then I noticed a mistake:

The 19th-century Klan was originally organized as a social club by Confederate veterans in Pulaski, Tennessee, in 1866. They apparently derived the name from the Greek word kyklos, from which comes the English “circle”; “Klan” was added for the sake of alliteration and Ku Klux Klan emerged.

Actually Greek kyklos has given English the word cycle. Our similar-sounding word circle comes from a diminutive of Latin circus, which the Romans had borrowed from the etymologically unrelated Greek noun kirkos. Several days ago I sent an e-mail to the Encyclopedia Britannica pointing out the mistake. So far I haven’t gotten a reply and the mistake is still there.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 29, 2021 at 4:34 AM

Whole lotta spashing going on

with 22 comments

On February 3rd we visited McKinney Falls State Park for the first time in more than a year. At one point as we walked along Onion Creek I startled some ducks and they quickly took off. I raised my camera, which fortunately had a long lens on it, and without time to adjust any settings I somehow managed to get this one picture with the ducks’ heads in focus. The wings, especially at their tips, were moving too fast to keep from blurring, even at the 1/500 of a second shutter speed the camera had been set to.

UPDATE: See the comment below from Circadianreflections regarding what species these birds are.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 19, 2021 at 4:37 AM

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