Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘fly

An unaccustomed backdrop

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You may remember how on December 8th I spotted a bright red balsam gourd fruit hanging on a prickly pear cactus pad. As I walked to the end of that photo session a different red came into sight, namely that of our Subaru Outback. After I got close to the car I noticed that a tiny fly, probably no more than a quarter of an inch long (6mm), had landed on it. I approached using my macro lens with a ring flash around its far end. The flash got within inches of the fly, which despite the closeness obligingly stayed put while I took five pictures from varying angles. Bugguide.net so far has provided no more identification than that this is a member of the family Muscidae, known as house flies—even if this tiny one was outdoors.



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If you want recent examples of how close academia in English-speaking countries has been coming to the dystopian society George Orwell described in his novel 1984, you need only read the January 4th article “Reaping Postmodernism’s Violent Whirlwind.” The author, Prof. Frances Widdowson, was fired from her position at a Canadian college for raising questions like “How should researchers deal with the historical circumstance of some indigenous groups pushing earlier inhabitants out of their territories?” In the article she gives details of her own harrowing experience with mob mentality. She also recounts what happened to a physics professor at another institution. In that case, his university paid an outside “expert” psychiatrist to diagnose the professor. Not surprisingly, the paid psychiatrist concluded the professor was “mentally deranged, dangerous, and deserving of forcible removal from the university”—despite the fact that the psychiatrist never even met with the professor. That’s all too reminiscent of the way the communist dictators in the Soviet Union used to have political dissidents locked up in insane asylums.

People, wake up to what’s going on! You can read the full article on the Minding the Campus website.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 15, 2023 at 4:26 AM

Posted in nature photography

Tagged with , , , ,

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

Two flies from the side of the road

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Here are two flies from May 10th on the north side of RM (Ranch-to-Market) 2222 just west of the Capital of Texas Highway (the same location that provided the pictures for the posts on Monday, Sunday, and Saturday). The critter above is a tachinid fly in the genus Cylindromyia on a firewheel (Gaillardia pulchella). I believe the tiny fly on a Mexican hat (Ratibida columnifera) below belongs to the genus Poecilognathus (which was the subject of my most seen and commented-on post ever, thanks to WordPress’s Freshly Pressed feature).


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Face blindness, technically known as prosopagnosia, is a condition in which a person has trouble recognizing other people’s faces. According to a 2006 article in the Harvard Gazette: “The condition can be embarrassing and lead to social isolation: Severe prosopagnosics may mistake complete strangers for acquaintances even as they fail to recognize family members, close friends, spouses, and even themselves. Many report difficulty watching television shows and movies because they cannot keep track of characters. Face-blind individuals often compensate for their prosopagnosia using nonfacial traits, such as hair, gait, clothing, voice, and context.”

The same article gave an estimate of the disorder’s frequency: “Testing of 1,600 individuals found that 2 percent of the general public may have face-blindness and a German group has recently made a similar estimate. It’s conceivable that millions of people may have symptoms consistent with prosopagnosia, without even realizing it.” I’ve sometimes had difficulty keeping track of characters in movies and people that I’ve met, so I’m apparently on the spectrum for prosopagnosia.

Being facially challenged is yet another kind of differently-abled-ness that our hyper-enlightened society should be shame-faced about for not “doing the work” to ameliorate the plight of all the suffering prosopagnosics in our midst. The current sorry situation is prima facie evidence that we need to envisage solutions! In the United States we must face up to the problem by invoking the Adults with Disabilities Act to demand accommodation. From now on, every movie and television show must be made not only with closed captioning (CC) but also with facial facilitation (FF). A viewer watching a film or television show who turns on the built-in FF will see written in clear letters under each character’s face on the screen the name of the person whose face it is. Those names, of course, will follow the characters as they move about on the screen.

But wait! Even implementing that technology wouldn’t be enough of an about-face in our country’s wretchedly problematic history of systemic prosopagnosicism. Didn’t Shakespeare tell us (before he got canceled as a dead white male) that all the world’s a stage? What about the much greater number of prosopagnosia-triggering encounters outside of movies and television shows? Until electronic identification chips are perfected to the point that they can be surgically embedded in people to make facial facilitation technology operate in the world as a whole and not just in movies and television shows, Congress must pass a law requiring everyone who leaves home to wear a name tag so that prosopagnosics can recognize them. And of course to accommodate the visually impaired, those name tags must be large, with letters at least four inches high. The name tags must also be battery-powered so they’ll light up when it’s dark and would otherwise be hard or impossible to read.

Now, you may be among the people who protest that it’s unreasonable to burden the whole world with measures meant to accommodate the less than 2% of the population who suffer from an unusual condition. Oh, you hate-filled individualistic white supremacist enforcers of the cisheteronormative patriarchy!

Satire aside, consider the extreme policies some ideologues are already enforcing as they reconfigure the world to promote transgenderism, which the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law says affects 1.4 million people, or less than 0.5% of America’s 330 million people. Take our legal system: Fully intact biologically male prisoners who claim to be women can now demand to get moved to women’s prisons and share cells with women. Take education: Middle school officials have gone so far as to accuse eighth-graders of sexual harassment for not using the pronouns another child demands. If such extreme measures are already being inflicted on the population for the supposed sake of less than one-half of one percent of its members, then why wouldn’t ideologues insist on measures like those I made up for the much larger number of prosopagnosics? Better start getting your glow-in-the-dark name tags ready.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 25, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Worlds of tiny bubbles

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At Milton Reimers Ranch Park on January 14th I focused some of my attention on the many tiny bubbles emanating from algae in the shallow margins of the Pedernales River. In one place a tiny fly seemed to perform the miracle of walking on water; later the walker flew away.


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A recent “woke” aggression into our public schools is a propaganda game called Privilege Bingo. If you want, you can read a second article about that. You can even have a third one. Heck, why not go for a fourth?

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 31, 2022 at 4:43 AM

Here’s looking at you, kid[neywood flowers]

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How ’bout this face-on view of a small fly getting nectar from the flowers of a kidneywood tree (Eysenhardtia texana) in my neighborhood on December 16, 2021? That tree kept putting out flowers through the end of the year, even if only a tiny fraction of what it had produced at the end of October.

(This post’s title is an allusion to a line from the movie “Casablanca.”)


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Three months ago in these pages I wrote a commentary pointing out that inflation is a hidden tax that most affects the people least able to afford it, including the poor, of course, and the elderly on fixed incomes. People who have dutifully saved money for their later years look on helplessly as their retirement savings dwindle in value.

Yesterday the United States government announced that from December 2020 to December 2021, the Consumer Price Index had risen 7%, which was the highest jump in 40 years. A big factor in the increase is that both the last administration and the current one each spent trillions of dollars that we don’t have. Borrowing and printing money so extravagantly contributed heavily to the high inflation we’re now experiencing. And still the current administration is desperate to borrow, print, and spend trillions of dollars more in a Congressional bill that I can’t help but call Bilk Back Better. It’s madness.

UPDATE: A Quinnipiac poll whose results were released yesterday found that only 34% of the respondents approve the current president’s handling of the economy, with 57% disapproving. (The margin of error was 2.7 percentage points.)


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If you have the time, you can watch a two-hour conversation
among Steven Pinker, Jonthan Haidt, and Jordan Peterson.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 13, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Make my day

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I haven’t shown a photograph of a dayflower (Commelina erecta) here since 2012. Today’s picture is from Allen Park on May 15th. You could say figuratively that the two tiny flies on the dayflower made my day flower.


What doesn’t make my day flower is the craziness that descended upon many American colleges and universities in recent years. You may or may not have heard about something called micro-aggressions. Those are innocuous or even traditionally aspirational statements that now upset the permanently distraught inmates who run academia. Here are examples of statements now considered so terrible that if you utter them you’ll be branded a bigot and get reported to a “bias response team“:

America is a land of opportunity.

People are likely to succeed if they work hard.

When there’s a job opening, the most qualified person should get the job.

Where are you from?

There’s only one race, the human race.

All lives matter.

That last sentiment has recently gotten person after person after person after person fired from or forced out of their jobs. Purges like those show how microaggressions have led to megasuppressions that have metastasized out of academia and into many other institutions.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 27, 2021 at 4:42 AM

You’ve gotta hand it to me

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On April 12th I wandered for close to three hours along the right-of-way beneath the power lines west of Morado Circle. It was spring and a lot was happening there. At one point I noticed a robber fly on a rock on the ground. I moved in slowly with my macro lens, hoping the insect would stay put. It did, and I took a bunch of pictures from several angles. The robber fly seemed unusually docile for one of its kind, and I suddenly wondered whether I could lift up the rock and take pictures that would have a less distracting background.

Slowly I put my left thumb and index finger around the rock to take hold of it, gradually stood up, and was relieved that the robber fly stayed on for the ride. After I held the rock out in front of me and was about to try for a few more pictures, the fly moved around a little, then walked off the rock and onto my hand. Robber flies are fiercely carnivorous, “robbing” other insects by pouncing on and devouring them, so I wondered whether this handy visitor might suddenly take a nip out of my skin. But no, the robber fly remained friendly, as polite a digital guest as any nature photographer could want.

For a classic three-quarter view of the subject with a better look at its characteristic “moustache,” click below.

If you’re interested in photography as a craft, the newly added point 30 in About My Techniques applies to these two portraits.

© 2019 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 17, 2019 at 4:49 AM

Ageratina havanensis does its thing

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A great floral attractor of insects in the fall is Ageratina havanensis, known as fragrant mist flower, shrubby boneset, and thoroughwort, and apparently in Spanish as the barba de viejo (old man’s beard) that corresponds to the fuzzier stage the inflorescence takes on after it goes to seed.

Click to enlarge.

The insect shown above working these flowers in my neighborhood on November 2nd is a syrphid fly, which you can see gains some protection by mimicking a bee. The stray seeds with silk attached came from the adjacent poverty weed bush that graciously put in an appearance here a couple of weeks ago. Below you’ll find a much larger and more colorful insect that was visiting the flowers, a queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus.

© 2018 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 4, 2018 at 4:56 AM

A tiny fly on narrowleaf penstemon flowers

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It was late in the afternoon on May 28th and the wind had picked up at the top of Scott’s Bluff National Monument in western Nebraska. Concentrating on the tiny fly that became my subject once I noticed it, I had to let most of the flowers fade out of focus in order for the fly to stay sharp. The flowers are Penstemon angustifolius, called narrowleaf penstemon or narrowleaf beardtongue. Call the photographer Nimbletongue Beardface and you might not be far wrong.

© 2017 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

August 2, 2017 at 5:00 AM

To bee or not to bee…

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When is a bee not a bee? When it’s a fly masquerading as a bee and presumably gaining protection against predators that would fear the sting of a real bee. Thanks to Bill Dean, via BugGuide.net, for identifying this syrphid fly as a male Copestylum tamaulipanum. Today’s picture, which is from August 30 along US 183 in Cedar Park, also gives you a pleasant glance back at the flowers of Euphorbia marginata, called snow-on-the-mountain because of its white-margined bracts. For a zoomed-in look at the syrphid fly, click the excerpt below.


© 2016 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 18, 2016 at 5:00 AM

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