Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘spider

Lichens in the woods

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A month ago today while walking in the woods in my hilly part of Austin I found some attractive lichens to photograph. The ones above were on a tree stump, the ones below on a slender dead branch. Only after I later looked at the second picture on my large computer monitor did I realize I’d failed to notice a spider whose colors and patterns made it resemble parts of the decaying wood.




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Long Before Trees Overtook the Land, Our Planet Was Covered by Giant Mushrooms


Cast a net back 450 million years ago to the Ordovician Era, and you wouldn’t capture anything more than the ancestors of millipedes and worms.

However, you might notice 29-feet-tall (8m) trunks without branches or leaves, towering over a landscape of newly-evolved vascular plants.

These trunks, which have been found as fossils all over the world, are now strongly believed to be mushrooms—giant fungal towers that mean the kingdom of fungi produced the first giant land organism.


That’s the beginning of an interesting article in the Good News Network that you’re welcome to read in full. Other recent articles there include “Formerly Homeless Hero Stops Runaway Baby Stroller Moments Before it Rolls into Traffic,” “World’s Tallest ‘Hempcrete’ Building in South Africa Captures More Carbon than it Emits,” “Man Summits Highest Peaks of England, Scotland and Wales with Fridge on his Back For Mental Health,” and “Parrots Kept as Pets Were Taught to Video Call Each Other—and They Loved It.”


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 8, 2023 at 4:27 AM

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Anemone seed cores

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At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center on March 31st, when I got in close to look at a ten-petal anemone seed core (Anemone berlandieri) I noticed a spider that had stretched itself out there. And from our back yard on April 2nd, here’s how a seed core comes undone.




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If you’d been reading the New York Post on April 1st you might at first have thought that this story was an April Fool’s joke. 

A Manhattan parking garage attendant who was shot twice while confronting an alleged thief — then wrestled the gun away and opened fire on the suspect — has been charged with attempted murder, police said.

Hmmm. You could understand why the suspected thief who shot the parking garage attendant would be charged with attempted murder, but why the man who was attacked and defended himself? The story continues:

The overnight worker, identified by cops as Moussa* Diarra, 57, was also hit with assault and criminal possession of a weapon charge in the Saturday incident, which unfolded around 5:30 a.m. as the attendant saw a man peering into cars on the second floor of the West 31st Street garage, the sources said.

Believing the man was stealing, the attendant brought him outside and asked what was inside his bag.

Instead of cooperating, the man pulled out a gun, the sources said.

Diarra tried to grab for the weapon, and it went off — leaving him shot in the stomach and grazed in the ear by a bullet before he turned the firearm on the would-be thief and shot him in the chest, sources said.

The suspected thief, identified as Charles Rhodie, 59, was also charged with attempted murder, assault and criminal possession of a weapon, as well as burglary, police said late Saturday.

While police hit Diarra with attempted murder, it wasn’t immediately clear if prosecutors would follow through with the charge.

The initial charges against Diarra sparked outrage — and recalled the case of Manhattan bodega clerk Jose Alba, who was charged with murder after a fatal July 1 confrontation in his store with an angry customer who came behind his counter and accosted him.

Family friend Mariame Diarra, who is not related to the attendant, slammed the decision to hit the married dad of two with charges.

“That’s self-defense. The guy tried to rob his business,” she told The Post. “He’s there for security. That’s literally his job, to defend his business. … He takes his job seriously. … Attempted murder charge has no place there. He [robber] came to find him at his job with his gun, he [Diarra] has to defend himself.”

An individual who works nearby the garage, which is across from Moynihan Train Station, was also incredulous.

“You are kidding. That’s an April Fool Day joke, right?” the worker asked of the charges against Diarra, adding, “How can a hardworking man get arrested for defending himself?”

The answer, unfortunately, is that this took place in Manhattan, where a district attorney named Alvin Bragg refuses to prosecute many criminals, has reduced 52% of felony charges to misdemeanors, and who charged the aforementioned José Alba with murder for defending himself against a criminal.

On April 2nd the New York Post ran a follow-up:

The Manhattan parking-garage worker who was initially hit with an attempted-murder rap for shooting an armed would-be thief wept as he lay handcuffed to his hospital bed Sunday, stunned at his fate.

“I got bullets in me, and I’m chained to a hospital bed, but I didn’t do anything wrong,” Moussa Diarra, 57, lamented, according to Meyers Parking’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Carolan, who spoke to The Post.

Finally came another follow-up on the incident:

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg will not prosecute the parking-garage attendant who shot a suspected thief after getting wounded himself, the DA’s office told The Post on Sunday.

Moussa Diarra, 57, was shot twice by alleged thief Charles Rhodie, 59, early Saturday before turning the tables on the suspect and pumping a bullet into him with the accused criminal’s handgun, authorities said.

Yet cops charged Diarra with attempted murder, assault and gun possession in the case, while Rhodie was slapped with those three raps as well as burglary.

But Bragg — who is already under fire for indicting former President Donald Trump last week in a fraud-related case — will dismiss the case against Diarra “pending further investigation,” his office said.

The raps remain against Rhodie, who police sources say has at least 20 prior arrests, mostly for petit larceny, with the most recent one occurring in 2018. Diarra has no priors, sources said.


* Moussa is a French spelling of Mūsā, the Arabic form of the name Moses.


© 2023 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 4, 2023 at 4:33 AM

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Two takes on goldeneye

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After I saw frost on my neighbor’s roof the morning of November 13th I hied me down to Great Hills Park hoping for some pictures of frost-bedecked native plants. Though I found no frost at all there, some of the plants I photographed did have water droplets on them. One was the goldeneye (Viguiera dentata) you see above. And look how a spider had folded the ray florets of another goldeneye flower head:



Now it’s three weeks later and some goldeneye flowers are still making their presence known in Austin.


Today’s pictures continue the “golden yellow” theme of recent posts
about New Mexico. That state will be back next time.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

December 6, 2022 at 4:28 AM

On and near the boulders

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The last two posts have featured scenes from our October 12th visit to City of Rocks State Park, which is in southwestern New Mexico. While the arrays of boulders are the park’s major draw, as a photographer I also got attracted to things on and near the boulders. Include among them the chartreuse lichens on a shaded boulder, as shown above. Grass seed heads stood out against the darker base of another boulder:


Did I mention that the chartreuse lichens on a shaded boulder caught my fancy?



In the underbrush near some other boulders the Lady Eve noticed something moving. It turned out to be a tarantula, which I coaxed onto a stick so I could hold it up for a portrait before setting it gently back on the ground in the place it had come from.



© 2022 Steven Schwartzman



Written by Steve Schwartzman

October 30, 2022 at 4:29 AM

“Spider lily”

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I often find small crab spiders on rain lilies (Zephyranthes chlorosolen), the most recent time being on August 23rd. Click the excerpt below from a different frame to get a much closer look at the spider.


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The Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) measures the international scholastic performance of 15-year-olds in mathematics, science, and reading. You can see the 2018 results for 77 or 78 countries. In all three subjects China was #1. The United States came in 13th in reading, 18th in science, and a dismal 37th in mathematics.

That’s what I reported last year. At the end of August this year came worse news:

In a grim sign of the pandemic’s impact, math and reading scores for 9-year-olds across the U.S. plummeted between 2020 and 2022.

The declines erase decades of academic progress. In two years, reading scores on a key national test dropped more sharply than they have in over 30 years, and math scores fell for the first time since the test began in the early 1970s.

Put another way: It’s as if 9-year-olds were performing at the same level in math as 9-year-olds did back in 1999, and at the same reading level as in 2004.

How could they not, after so many American schools canceled in-person classes during large parts of the two years that the Covid-19 pandemic lasted? At the behest of teachers’ unions, plenty of schools expelled students from in-person learning even after teachers had gotten vaccinated—and long after researchers had determined in the first few months of the pandemic that children were practically immune to harmful consequences from the virus.

And of course the people in charge or our educational “system”—I hate to call anything so chaotic, inefficient, unfair, and counter-productive a system—those people who prattle on endlessly about “systemic racism,” made things worse with their harmful policies:

Reading and math score declines were most severe among students who were performing at the lowest levels. That means kids who hadn’t yet mastered skills like addition and multiplication, or who were working on simple reading tasks, saw their scores fall the most.

The gap between higher- and lower-performing students was already growing before COVID hit, but federal officials say the pandemic appears to have exacerbated that divide.

Nice going, education bureaucrats and teachers’ unions!

You can read more about the depressing findings in an August 31st article.


© 2002 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

September 10, 2022 at 4:32 AM

A crab spider and more

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On May 23rd I found a crab spider ensconced in a basket-flower (Plectocephalus americanus) on the Blackland Prairie along the southern fringe of Pflugerville. Whether the smaller arachnid jumble was the shriveled cast-off exoskeleton of the same spider, or the remains of a different one, I don’t know.


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When I was in my 20s I bought a cheap used French car, a Simca. It ended up causing me a bunch of problems. Eventually a warning light on the car’s dashboard began coming on. I took the car to a repair shop and, sure enough, after I got it back the dashboard warning light no longer came on. Problem solved? Not quite: I soon discovered that the “mechanic” had put an opaque covering in front of the warning light so I couldn’t see it was still coming on and the car still had a problem. That bit of “lived experience” came to mind recently when I read this passage in Luke Rosiak’s 2022 book Race to the Bottom:

Educrats wanted to eliminate anything that could function as an objective assessment of the scholastic competence of American children—and, therefore, their own job performance. Fringe racial activist consultants offered them a convenient political tool. Superintendents began paying big bucks to racial equity “consultants” to make the argument that basic performance standards and units of measurement were inherently racist. What these entrepreneurial consultants talked about was not diversity, nor how to help minority students excel. It was nihilism: that nothing was real and nothing mattered.

Under the standard preached by these consultants, any “system” that highlights racially unequal results is inherently “systemically racist.” This included grades, rules, test scores, and any other way of objectively assessing accomplishment. Therefore, every indicator of the massive failures of America’s public schools was illegitimate. This was like a doctor claiming he cured your fever by breaking the thermometer.

New York City paid race consultant Glenn Singleton nearly $900,000 and instructed teachers in 2019 that “perfectionism,” “worship of the written word,” “individualism,” and “objectivity” were aspects of “white supremacy culture.” The idea that reading was white supremacist, and therefore undesirable, undercut one of the most basic missions of teachers. But for educrats, it was convenient, since in some minority-heavy schools in the city, only 5 percent of kids were proficient in reading during certain school years.

It’s unconscionable that the bureaucrats in charge of education enforce measures which ensure that the people who most need an education and who can most profit from it will be denied that education.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

June 6, 2022 at 4:33 AM

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

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Crab spider on prairie paintbrush

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One of the flowers I expected to see at the Doeskin Ranch on April 27th was prairie paintbrush, Castilleja purpurea var. lindheimeri, based on what I found there last year (though a month earlier in the season, when things were on a normal schedule rather than the delayed one we had this spring). As I got close to one prairie paintbrush I noticed a little crab spider on it, as you see here. The plant bumping up against the paintbrush was white milkwort, Polygala alba, which was out in force at the Doeskin Ranch. Below is a somewhat dreamy view of white milkwort near a few sensitive briar flower globes, Mimosa roemeriana.




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“Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”

— President Harry S. Truman
Special Message to the Congress on the Internal Security of the United States. August 8, 1950.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman






Written by Steve Schwartzman

May 8, 2022 at 4:31 AM

Bold twin selfies

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At East Metropolitan Park on March 25th I ended up with twin selfies in the central eyes of this bold jumper (Phidippus audax). The iridescent green appendages, visible from a meter away, are called chelicerae.

Believe it or not, this species is New Hampshire’s official state spider. Why any state legislature needs to waste time designating an official spider is beyond me—but then making sure kids get a good education seems to be beyond the power of state legislatures, so they have to fill their time with something.

And speaking of seeming, what may look to you like volcanic rock is actually the foam mat I carry around with me to ease kneeling, sitting, and lying on the ground. This time it served as a good spider stage. An elevated stage it was, too: I held it with my left hand while wielding the camera with my right hand.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 5, 2022 at 4:33 AM

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First wildflower for 2022

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Yesterday I went to an undeveloped lot on Balcones Woods Dr. where I’m accustomed to photographing ten-petal anemones (Anemone berlandieri) at this time of year. I found a smattering of those flowers, and on one of them I also found a tiny spider; it might have been a quarter of an inch (6mm) long.

For a closer look at the spider, click the thumbnail below.

UPDATE: Bugguide.net has identified the subject as a lynx spider in the genus Oxyopes.

Anemones typically rise only inches above the earth, so my normal photographic posture when portraying them is to lie on a mat on the ground and aim upward as much as possible. I took advantage of a dark area in the distance to “cap” the flower. Fortunately the closer distracting stuff on the ground stayed out of focus.


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Garry Kasparov is arguably the greatest chess player in our lifetime. “From 1984 until his retirement in 2005, Kasparov was ranked world No. 1 for a record 255 months overall for his career, a record that outstrips all other previous and current players.”

Garry Kasparov is also a Russian advocate for freedom and democracy, and currently chairman of the Human Rights Foundation. His years of experience give him better insights into Russian dictator Putin and the depredations now taking place in Ukraine than most Americans could ever have. You can profit from those insights by listening to yesterday’s interview with him on the Megyn Kelly Show. The interview takes up the show’s first two segments and lasts a total of 39 minutes.


© 2022 Steven Schwartzman




Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 2, 2022 at 4:11 AM

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