Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘bird

Redwing blackbird

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On the dozenth day of this month I spent time at Cypress Creek Park along Lake Travis. At one point I noticed a redwing blackbird, Agelaius phoeniceus, had settled near me atop the remains of a dead tree. I went to my camera bag, took off my macro lens and attached my telephoto lens, turned around, and found the bird had flown away. Off with the telephoto lens, back on with the macro. Except a moment later the blackbird came back. Another round of lens changing, and this time I managed to get three avian pictures. Even without the blackbird the spiderwebbed dead whitened tree called for a portrait.

 

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Disingenuous

 

For decades I watched the television program CBS Sunday Morning, first with its original host, Charles Kuralt, and later with its second host, Charles Osgood. What I and presumably everyone else in the program’s audience enjoyed about it was that its stories were what you would call “human interest,” not dealing with politics or current world events. Beginning in 2018, however, after the third host took over, politicized and ideological segments began appearing. Needless to say—it’s CBS after all—those segments leaned in one and only one ideological direction. Things got to the point where I gave up watching the show I’d looked forward to for decades.

This past Sunday, I’m not sure why, I turned on the show for the first time in several years and caught a few of its stories. One, about the son of singer/songwriter Jim Croce, was fine, just like in the old days. Another feature was not. It was a narrated animation about how “ravenous for ancient sunshine” we are today. The narrator talked about Kentucky, a state that mines plenty of coal, which is a major fuel in the generation of electricity. Coal, the narrator explained, was formed aeons ago from trees. He stated the average amount of electricity a Kentucky home uses, then worked backwards to determine how much coal and therefore how many ancient trees a Kentucky home consumes each year. The program made it seem as if the burning of coal formed from trees millions of years ago is just like cutting down vast forests of trees today. That’s disingenuous. The trees that turned into coal died millions of years ago. Refraining from burning coal today isn’t magically going to bring those trees back to life.

Then the narrator launched into a similarly disingenuous shtik about oil, which he told us formed from microscopic organisms millions of years ago. It turns out we now use up the equivalent of trillions upon trillions of those ancient organisms when we burn petroleum to get energy. Once again the program seemed to suggest that burning oil that formed millions of years ago somehow amounts to destroying trillions of organisms that are currently alive.

Hey, I can play that game too. Let me talk about how many zillion photons of light a solar panel steals from the sun every day. What’s more, those photons were generated just eight minutes earlier—the time it takes for light to travel from the sun to the earth—not millions of years ago like the trees and microscopic organisms that went into the making of coal and oil. If consuming the byproducts of entities that died millions of years in the past is bad, then for solar panels to consume photons born of the sun’s fiery womb just eight minutes earlier is downright solar infanticide.

I told you I could be just as disingenuous as the people on CBS Sunday Morning.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 22, 2022 at 4:32 AM

Yet another change of pace

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Outside Corpus Christi’s Art Museum of South Texas on June 3rd as we were walking back to our car I noticed a great blue heron (Ardea herodias) standing on a piling in the bay right at the edge of the parking lot. Hurriedly going to my camera bag and putting on my telephoto lens, I made a bunch of portraits. A man fishing near by noticed what I was doing and volunteered to throw a fish onto the ground near where the heron was. I said sure: he threw his fish, the heron fluttered onto the ground and snatched it up, and I kept taking pictures till the fish disappeared down the bird’s long throat.

  

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Here’s some good news. In Chicago on June 6th, 20-year-old Anthony Perry had just arrived at his train station when he noticed a nearly unconscious man on the electrified third rail. Anthony jumped down on the track bed, nimbly worked his way into a good position, and pulled the injured man away.

“‘I was hoping I could just grab him and not feel nothing, but I felt a little shock,’ Perry said. ‘I felt it all through my body actually. I didn’t let that stop me.’ With the help of another commuter, Perry administered CPR, saving the man’s life.”

You’re welcome to read more about this heroic act and watch a 7-minute video about it.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 18, 2022 at 4:27 AM

New Zealand: Cathedral Cove

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Five years ago today we found ourselves on New Zealand’s Coromandel Peninsula, on whose eastern side we visited Cathedral Cove. The place hosted plenty of tourists, whom you don’t see, and many birds, which you do. In the top photograph you can barely make them out on the central rock and the one a little farther away at its right; you have no such trouble in the second view.

 Four years ago I showed two other portraits of gulls from the Cathedral Cove excursion.

 

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You may have heard that Elon Musk, the world’s richest person, heeded Ukrainian President Volodimir Zelensky’s urgent request to maintain communications with the outside world by enabling the Starlink satellite system for Ukraine and sending ground receiving units there.

You probably know that Elon Musk is in charge of Tesla, which makes more all-electric vehicles than any other company in the world. It’s clear Elon Musk is producing all those cars as a way to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide going into the atmosphere, which in turn should slow global warming and its harmful effects on the world’s climate.

Depending on the news outlets you follow, however, you may not have heard what Elon Musk announced on March 5. As The Hill reported:

Tesla CEO Elon Musk urged the United States to increase its oil and gas production following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, despite the negative impact on his company.

“Hate to say it, but we need to increase oil & gas output immediately. Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures,” Musk tweeted on Friday.

“Obviously, this would negatively affect Tesla, but sustainable energy solutions simply cannot react instantaneously to make up for Russian oil & gas exports,” he added.

You’re welcome to read the full story, especially if this comes as news to you. [Update: yesterday Elon Musk also called for Europe to restart dormant nuclear power stations and increase power output of existing ones.] Musk’s stance on oil is in stark contrast to that of the current American administration, which wants to keep importing oil from Russia [update: that finally changed] and is negotiating to re-allow another dictatorship, Iran, to sell its oil on the open market—all while obstinately refusing to take any steps to increase oil production in the United States. You can find further details in a story by the Federalist. And news broke yesterday that the current administration is negotiating with yet another dictatorship, the one in Venezuela, to start buying oil again.

As I pointed out in a commentary on February 12, no matter where oil comes from, the burning of it and its derivatives sends the same amount of carbon into the atmosphere.* As a result, we should get as much oil as possible from our own country, or from a friendly nation like Canada. What we should not be doing is giving in to the current administration’s obsession—because that’s what it is—of getting oil from hostile and unfree countries like Russia and Iran and Venezuela. If reducing the warming power of carbon in the atmosphere is important, so is reducing the power of dictatorships to keep oppressing their own people, and in the case of Russia other people as well.

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* Actually I was wrong, but the correction makes for an even stronger argument to use our own oil. As The Federalist reported on March 5th: “According to the International Energy Agency’s global methane tracker, Russia was the world’s leading producer of methane emissions last year with its oil and gas operations producing 30 percent more per unit of production than the United States. Iranian producers emitted 85 percent more methane per unit of production when compared to U.S. operators.” The reason that’s so bad is that methane contributes to global warming at a much higher rate than an equal weight of carbon dioxide.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 7, 2022 at 4:31 AM

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A figurative feather in my cap, a literal one in my hand

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A wanderer in nature is inevitably a finder of feathers. When I came upon this one in my neighborhood on January 2nd, I held it up in front of me and made a portrait. Call so close and tight a view monumental, and you may have given an idea to a sculptor or architect. Actually that feathered inspiration isn’t new.

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  You can’t make this stuff up.

If you or I want to fly on a commercial airplane in the United States we have to show a picture ID, typically a driver’s license or passport. Now the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has confirmed that it allows illegal immigrants to use arrest warrants as an alternative form of ID to enter airports and board airplanes. You can read about that or watch a 4-minute video about it.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 22, 2022 at 4:28 AM

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Same long lens, same creek, different subjects

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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

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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

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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

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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