Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘bird

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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Yummy yaupon

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You may remember the gorgeously fruitful possumhaws (Ilex decidua) that appeared in these pages three weeks ago. After I posted the second of those pictures to Facebook’s Texas Flora group on January 1st, a member commented that cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) had already stripped her possumhaws and yaupons (Ilex vomitoria) of all their little red fruits (berries in common parlance, drupes scientifically). That Texas Flora comment must have gotten picked up and broadcast on radio station KACW* (Kalling All Cedar Waxwings), because within a couple of hours a gang of those birds showed up at our house and gobbled down more than half the fruit on the yaupon tree outside my window. In today’s picture, which was a good photographic way to inaugurate the new year, you’re looking at one of the avian thieves caught in flagrante delicto. The waxwings came back on January 6th and mostly finished the job, so that now I see only a dozen or so spots of red outside my window, where in December hundreds had been.

* After I made up radio station KACW, I discovered that a real one with those call letters exists in South Bend, Washington. It has a greater range than its operators realize.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 9, 2021 at 4:32 AM

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The golden hour

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Nature photographers use the term “the golden hour” to refer to the first hour after sunrise and the last before sunset, in both of which the low sun casts a warm light. It was in the latter of those golden hours on November 16th that I rounded a curve on Rain Creek Parkway and noticed a great egret (Ardea alba) in the creek that flows through the golf course there. I pulled over, put on a long lens, and got off just a couple of shots before the egret took flight. Not having time to focus properly, I took four more pictures in quick succession. The one shown here was the best of the lot because it kept the center of the bird in focus from its tail to its head.

And how about the light in that golden hour? The phrase reminds me now of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem “The Children’s Hour”:

Between the dark and the daylight,
      When the night is beginning to lower,
Comes a pause in the day’s occupations,
      That is known as the Children’s Hour.

I hear in the chamber above me
      The patter of little feet,
The sound of a door that is opened,
      And voices soft and sweet.

From my study I see in the lamplight,
      Descending the broad hall stair,
Grave Alice, and laughing Allegra,
      And Edith with golden hair.

A whisper, and then a silence:
      Yet I know by their merry eyes
They are plotting and planning together
      To take me by surprise.

A sudden rush from the stairway,
      A sudden raid from the hall!
By three doors left unguarded
      They enter my castle wall!

They climb up into my turret
      O’er the arms and back of my chair;
If I try to escape, they surround me;
      They seem to be everywhere.

They almost devour me with kisses,
      Their arms about me entwine,
Till I think of the Bishop of Bingen
      In his Mouse-Tower on the Rhine!

Do you think, O blue-eyed banditti,
      Because you have scaled the wall,
Such an old mustache as I am
      Is not a match for you all!

I have you fast in my fortress,
      And will not let you depart,
But put you down into the dungeon
      In the round-tower of my heart.

And there will I keep you forever,
      Yes, forever and a day,
Till the walls shall crumble to ruin,
      And moulder in dust away!

(Alice, Allegra, and Edith were the actual names of Longfellow’s daughters.)

© 2020 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 8, 2020 at 4:33 AM

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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

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