Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘McKinney Falls State Park

Fowlerium acutum

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In my part of town on April 8th I got close to photograph an opening Texas bindweed flower (Convolvulus equitans) and noticed a planthopper on it that might have been a quarter of an inch long (6mm). Thanks to Ken Wolgemuth at bugguide.net for identifying it as Fowlerium acutum. If you’d like a closer look at the little critter, click the thumbnail below. The Latin present participle equitans means ‘riding a horse’ (compare equestrian). In this picture, the Texas bindweed plays the role of an unusually colorful horse and the planthopper that of its contrastingly colored rider.





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The natural foods chain Whole Foods, which now has over 500 locations in the United States (plus 14 in Canada and 7 in the UK) got its start right here in Austin in 1980. I used to shop in the original store on N. Lamar Blvd. in the city’s downtown. On Memorial Day in 1981 Shoal Creek, which runs near by, flooded badly, sending muddy water high inside the store. “The store’s inventory was wiped out and most of the equipment was damaged. The losses were approximately $400,000 and Whole Foods Market had no insurance. Customers and neighbors voluntarily joined the staff to repair and clean up the damage. Creditors, vendors and investors all provided breathing room for the store to get back on its feet and it re-opened only 28 days after the flood.” Not only did the original store survive, it throve, and within a few years the company began opening stores in other cities.

Last week came the news that Whole Foods is closing a recently opened store in San Francisco. The reason?
As CNN reported:

Increased drug use and crime near the Whole Foods on Eighth and Market, which opened just one year ago, contributed to the store’s closing, a city hall source told the San Francisco Standard.

“We are closing our Trinity location only for the time being,” a Whole Foods spokesperson said in a statement. “If we feel we can ensure the safety of our team members in the store, we will evaluate a reopening of our Trinity location.”

The news comes after a recent spate of violent attacks upon prominent San Franciscans. CashApp founder Bob Lee was fatally stabbed last week, cycling champion Ethan Boyes died after being struck by a car, and former fire commissioner Don Carmignani was brutally beat over the head with a pipe by a homeless man, surviving.

When a team from CNN traveled to San Francisco’s city hall to report on the crime issue, members of the crew had their bags stolen out of their rental car nearby.

The Whole Foods move is merely the latest of such withdrawals. As an article reported in October 2021:

Just this week, the pharmacy chain Walgreens announced that it will close five of its stores in San Francisco, citing theft and retail crime as the main motivator behind its decision.

“Organized retail crime continues to be a challenge facing retailers across San Francisco, and we are not immune to that,” Walgreens spokesman Phil Caruso said. “Retail theft across our San Francisco stores has continued to increase in the past few months to five times our chain average. During this time, to help combat this issue, we increased our investments in security measures in stores across the city to 46 times our chain average in an effort to provide a safe environment.”

Authorities’ coddling of looters and other criminals, allowing thousands of vagrants to live in squalor on the streets, and refusing to treat people obviously suffering from mental illness and addiction, turned San Francisco, once a beautiful city, into the dystopia it has become.

While the population of California as a whole went down by 1.3% from July 2019 to July 2022, that of San Francisco declined by 4.4%. Conditions in San Francisco seem to have worsened in the nine months since then. Who would want to live in such an unsafe place?


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman







Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 18, 2023 at 4:32 AM

Another abstract nature photograph from McKinney Falls State Park on April 14

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This time the leaf in front of the buttercup (Ranunculus sp.) belonged to an Engelmann daisy (Engelmannia peristenia). The purple came from bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis). And after keeping the flowers formless in the background for two posts, I guess I owe you a picture of a detailed one in its own right. So here’s an Engelmann daisy, complete with a tumbling flower beetle:



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Knowing what people think — even if it’s troubling — is essential to understanding the world as it is and to deciding how to act within it. Unfortunately too many of today’s leaders — whether in education, at social media companies, or in the larger corporate and governmental world — preempt this process of understanding through censorship, believing they’re acting in the interest of either factual accuracy or emotional or psychological safety. Furthermore, they attempt to lead through confirmation, taking institutional positions on hotly contested issues, imposing a “correct” way to think.

That’s from an open letter that Greg Lukianoff, president of FIRE (the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education), wrote to Elon Musk, giving him suggestions for how to follow through on his promise to promote free speech on Twitter now that Musk has bought that company. You may have heard about it, and how so many of the “woke” are in a panic because Twitter’s staff will no longer be able to censor people who put forth opinions or even facts the staff doesn’t like.

You’re welcome to read all of Greg Lukianoff’s letter to Elon Musk.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 27, 2022 at 4:33 AM

More from along Onion Creek

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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

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

Rattlebush flowers

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At McKinney Falls State Park yesterday the rattlebushes (Sesbania drummondii) along Onion Creek downstream from the Lower Falls were flowering, so how could I not take some pictures?

A little earlier, after I’d arrived and was walking in from the parking area, I noticed that a man near me was heading in a direction that wouldn’t take him to the Lower Falls, which is the place I assumed he was trying to get to. I called over to the man, explained that he was heading the wrong way, and pointed him in the direction he needed to go.

On my way back from photographing the rattlebush flowers I passed by the Lower Falls and noticed the man sitting nearby. He looked like he was from India, and I wanted to find out his opinion about something, so I struck up a conversation. First I asked if he lived here or was just visiting the United States. He told me he’s been in the country about 20 years. He started in New York, then moved to Texas, where he’d run a Subway shop. I asked him what he thought of America. In particular, I pointed out that many people in the news media and now even many in our government are claiming that America is a horribly racist country, and I wanted to know if he agreed. He said that there’s always some discrimination in all countries, that it’s a reality of human nature. He mentioned the caste system in India as an example. Then he said that the United States is better. That immigrant to our country understands human nature and the United States in a way that too many Americans fail to—or refuse to—understand.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

July 19, 2021 at 4:35 AM

Great purple hairstreak butterfly and Mexican plum blossoms

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On March 15th at McKinney Falls State Park many flying insects were drawn to the heady blossoms of a Mexican plum tree (Prunus mexicana). Among those insects was a great purple hairstreak butterfly (Atlides halesus). You can see that despite its common name, it doesn’t look purple. You can also see in the second picture the dense multitude of blossoms that adorned the tree.

© 2021 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 23, 2021 at 4:29 AM

Whole lotta spashing going on

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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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