Craig Clyde’s “Flowers on Timpanogos”

July 27, 2013

Photo by Craig Clyde, who explained:

Spent the night on the north end of Mount Timpanogos at 10,000 feet, by myself, taking it all in.

Flowers on the north end of Utah's Mt. Timpanogos, about 10,000 feet up. Photo by Craig Clyde.

Flowers on the north end of Utah’s Mt. Timpanogos, about 10,000 feet up. Photo by Craig Clyde.

Photo from July 25, 2013. Flowers include “Blue-pod Lupine, Narrow Goldenrod, Giant Red Paintbrush and Mountain Bluebells.”

Contact him for prints for framing.

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Turk’s Cap, native Texas flower in 90 seconds

June 26, 2012

Short piece from Texas Parks & Wildlife:

Turk’s cap is a native Texas shrub that attracts hummingbirds, butterflies and moths. This easy-to-care for plant is named for the shape of its small blooms. To learn more about Texas native species and habitats, see http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/huntwild/wild/wildlife_diversity/

Must admit I was unaware it’s a Texas native, though Kathryn has had it in all of our Texas gardens.  I love the blossoms.  I wish our local hummingbirds loved it as much as the photo in the video shows, but we have other plants they love and a feeder.  Butterflies like it, too.

Few other plants equal the intense red of the flowers.  Turk’s cap requires less water than many less spectacular, non-native plants.  Ours keep coming back year after year.  What more do you want in a good garden plant?

I wish my photos were so good as those used in the film.

More, and related material:


Joy of pollination, according to Louie Schwartzberg

November 21, 2011

It’s a TEDS Talk, of course

Birds do it, bees do it, even educated fleas do it.  Plants do it, too, but often with the help of animals.

Here are some of the most glorious pictures of sex you’ll ever see, filmed by Louie Schwartzberg.  Anyone who has ever tried to take a good photograph should marvel at these shots, and the skill and artistry and luck it took to get them:

What will we do if the bees vanish?

The lowdown:

http://www.ted.com Pollination: it’s vital to life on Earth, but largely unseen by the human eye. Filmmaker Louie Schwartzberg [of Moving Art] shows us the intricate world of pollen and pollinators with gorgeous high-speed images from his film “Wings of Life,” inspired by the vanishing of one of nature’s primary pollinators, the honeybee.


Glories of Glacier N.P.

November 6, 2011

Seven-plus minutes of good reason to get your tail to Glacier National Park as soon as you can.

Produced and shot by Joshua Thompson, this is part of an award-winning film made to promote the park and get money for the research that the park hosts.

Grizzly Bears, Bighorn Sheep, spectacular sunsets and more…..

Part 3 of the recently shot Glacier DVD. This 20 min. film recently was nominated for best new nature documentary in the music category as well received an award for photography from the Wildlife Film Festival held in May of 2008. All funds for this project are being donated to the Glacier National Park Fund. For more info: http://www.glaciernationalparkfund.org/cart.php?page=glacier_national_park_fu…

I’ve been there only once.  A wise American would get there before turning 35, and return several times.


Sky islands in Yosemite National Park

September 19, 2011

Nature Notes #16 from the good people at Yosemite National Park:  Sky Islands.

Throughout the Sierra Nevada, high flat plateaus are found at elevations around twelve and thirteen thousand feet. These isolated sky islands are the home to unique plant communities that are found nowhere else.


Watching the drought roll in at Colorado Bend State Park

July 6, 2011

It took me a couple of tries to figure it out — last week when I told people Kathryn and I were off to Colorado Bend State Park to spend time on the river, several people commented about how much cooler it would be there.

What?  West of Killeen about an hour, ten miles of dusty road outside of Bend, Texas (population 1,637), Colorado Bend is not cooler than Dallas.  It was over 100° F every day we were there, stayed well above 90° most  of the nights.

Kathryn Knowles checking wildflowers, Colorado River, Texas

Kathryn studied wildflowers at a spring at the side of the Colorado River during a break from kayaking; this spring's flow was reduced, but still moist enough to create a near-oasis.

Our well-wishers were geographically confused.  They thought we were headed to the Colorado River in Colorado, not the Colorado River in Texas, which is not the same river at all.  I didn’t bother to check the temperatures in Colorado, but one might be assured that it was cooler along the Colorado River in Colorado than it was along the Colorado River in Texas.

It was a return trip.  We stumbled into the park 16 years ago with the kids, for just an afternoon visit.  The dipping pools  in the canyon fed by Spicewood Springs captivated us.  It took a while to get back, and then the kids were off doing their own thing.

So, just a quick weekend of hiking/camping/kayaking/soaking/stargazing/bird watching/botanical and geological study.   Park officials closed the bat caves to human traffic in hope of keeping White Nose Syndrome from the bats; we didn’t bother to sign up for the crawling cave tour through another.

Ed Darrell at Colorado Bend State Park, Texas

The author, still working to master that Go-Pro camera on the hat -- some spectacular shots, but I don't have the movie software to use it all; you know it's hot when SPF 75 sunscreen is not enough.

What did we see?  Drought has a firm grip on Texas, especially in the Hill Country, especially outside of Dallas.  The Colorado River  is mostly spring fed; many of the springs are dry.  No water significant water flowed through the park while we  were there — kayak put-ins have been reduced to the downriver-most ramp, and the bottom of the boat launch ramp is three feet above water.  Gorman Falls attracts visitors and scientists, but the springs feeding it are about spent this year — just a few trickles came over the cliff usually completely inundated with mineral-laden waters.

Drought produces odd things.  The forest canopy around the park — and through most of the Hill Country we saw — is splattered with the gray wood of dead trees, many of which at least leafed out earlier this spring.  The loss to forests is astonishing.  Deer don’t breed well in droughts; deer around the campsites boldly challenge campers for access to grasses they’d ignore in other seasons.  One ranger said he hadn’t seen more than about three fawns from this past spring, a 75% to 90% reduction in deer young (Eastern White Tail, the little guys).  Raccoons are aggressively seeking food from humans, tearing into tents and challenging campers for food they can smell (lock your food in the car!).  Colorado Bend is famous for songbirds, including the endangered Golden Cheeked Warbler, and the elusive, spectacular painted bunting.  But the most commonly-sighted birds this year are turkey vultures, dining on the young that didn’t make it healthy into the summer and won’t survive until fall.

Warming denialists’ claims of “not so bad a drought” ring out as dangerous, wild delusion.  (By actual measurement, Texas average rainfall the past nine months was 8.5 inches, the driest ever recorded in Texas, shattering the old record drought of 1917).

Great trip.  Kathryn’s menu planning was spectacular.  The old Coleman stove  — a quarter century old, now, with fuel almost that old — performed like a champ even without the maintenance it needs (later this week).  Other than the hot nights, it was stellar.

Stellar.  Yeah.  Stars were grand.  It was New Moon, a happy accident.  A topic for another post, later.  Think, “Iridium.”

So posting was slow over the weekend.  How far out in the Hill Country were we?  Neither one of us could get a bar on our phones.  We were so far out the Verizon Wireless guy was using smoke signals.

Thoreau was right, you know.


Butterflies are free, to move about the country

October 24, 2010

Great mysteries of science, history and spirit call to us:  How do the monarch butterflies do it?

Monarch butterflies (Danaus plexippus) fly north from their enclave in Mexico every spring, stopping to lay eggs on milkweed plants.  After a migration of several hundred miles, that first group that left Mexico dies off.  Their offspring hatch in a few days, devour the milkweed, make a chrysalis, metamorphose into butterflies, then fly farther north, where they repeat their parents’ behavior:  Lay some eggs, and die.  Within three generations, they’ve spread north into Canada.

Kathryn's butterfly plantings, October 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell

Inviting the monarchs in: You can see how Kathryn worked to attract butterflies. In this photo, you can see the butterfly weed (a milkweed), red Turk's cap, and blue ageratum especially for the monarchs.

Then the fourth generation does something so strange and wonderful people can’t stop talking about it:  They fly back to Mexico, to the same trees their great-great-great grandparents left.  There they sip some nectar, get some water, and spend a lot of time hanging in great globs, huddling over the winter, to start life for generations of monarch butterflies the next spring.

Sometimes in Texas in October, we can see clouds of monarch butterflies winging south.  If we’re lucky, they stop to visit our backyards and gardens, and we might provide some water and nectar to urge them homeward.  Kathryn, of course, plants the stuff the monarchs like, to help them, and to give us a chance to see them.

Monarch habitat in Mexico is under severe stress and threat.  Late storms and early freezes decimated monarch populations over the last decade [yes, that’s the proper use of “decimated;” look it up].  Human plantings are more critical to the monarch butterflies than ever before.

Two years ago Kathryn and I spent a September morning outside the library at Lawrence University, in Appleton, Wisconsin, watching monarchs sip nectar from local flowers for their journey.  Those same butterflies — we hope — passed through Texas a couple of weeks later.

Two weeks ago . . . well, see for yourself:

Monarch butterfly on blue porterweed, Dallas, TX October 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell IMGP5343

A monarch butterfly feeds on blue porterweed in Kathryn's garden, October 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell

Monarch butterfly on blue porterweed, Dallas, October 20101 - photo by Ed Darrell IMGP5347

. . . we're here with the camera, little guy, just open up those wings, please . . .

Monarch  butterfly on blue porterweed, Dallas, Texas October 2010 - photo by Ed Darrell IMGP5345

That's it! Beautiful! Have a safe trip, and come back next spring, will you?

Resources, more:

Conoclinium coelestinum


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