Walden West ~ April 2

By the first week of April, much of Texas was abloom with vibrantly colored bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, and coreopsis, but in the deeply shaded woods surrounding Walden West, no dramatic sweeps of color had emerged. There, more subtle changes were marking the turn of the season.

For the first time since January, the sound of birds filled the air. The clatter of woodpeckers at work and the delicate chirps of chickadees were everywhere, although only the cardinals were singing and calling. Most of the birds remained hidden, but it’s hard for a cardinal to hide; even the swing of an unfocused macro lens can catch a flash of its color.

Other bits of red roamed the woods in the form of spotless lady beetles (Cycloneda spp.) I’d never seen so many: there might have been hundreds of them flying, crawling on plants, and landing in my hair. Perhaps I’d encountered a ladybug bloom: an aggregation of insects so large it sometimes shows up on National Weather Service radar.

For the first time, the woods were filled with the froth of spittlebugs. Spittlebug nymphs — small, yellowish-green, wingless insects resembling leafhoppers — create the bubbly mass as protection from predators and harsh weather.

To create the bubbles, air is mixed with a substance secreted by the insect’s epidermal glands. As the mixture is forced out of the abdomen through the anus, the bubbles form: sometimes as many as 80 bubbles per minute. Then, the insect reaches back with its legs, pulls the bubbles forward, and surrounds itself with its own protection.

Other insects roamed the grass, like this katydid, and a tiny grasshopper nymph perched on a pink evening primrose petal.

A rise in the water table had led to even more crawfish chimneys, although, in one instance, I paused to note different moisture levels in the mud surrounding the hole.The lightest mud was entirely dry; the bit in the center still was malleable;and the darkest mud at the top left seemed quite recent.

I imagined several explanations for the phenomenon: most of them quite fanciful. Could this have been the work of a young crawfish-in-training who hadn’t quite mastered the technique?

At the edge of the pond, a number of moisture-loving plants were flowering: particularly Allium canadense, variously known as wild garlic, wild onion, Canada onion, and meadow garlic. Its combination of flowers and bulblets is unusual; while it spreads readily through offsets and bulblets, it often fails to produce viable seeds.

While not in the pond itself, a few wild iris grew along the edge of the road leading to the pond; their buds were as pleasing as the blooms.

When I photographed one of the flowers, no filters or processing techniques created the gray background. A few months earlier, the tall, slender stems behind the iris had supported a mass of tiny white asters. As the flowers aged and faded away, the stems turned to gray, providing an interesting contrast to the emerging spring flowers.

Closer to the pond, an unusually colored vetch caught my eye with its pure white accents.

In more sunlit areas, a pretty pink flower known as Lady Bird’s Centaury (Zeltnera texensis, previously Centaurium texense) had grown up. While similar in appearance to mountain pinks found on the Edwards Plateau, this centaury has a more open appearance than the bouquet-like mountain pinks. The flowers are less than a half-inch wide; their early buds are especially small and delicate.

Other new growth edging the pond included Cherokee sedge (Carex cherokeensis). An important cover plant for waterfowl, this clumping sedge does well in the sandy loam soils found in east, southeast, and north central Texas. A southern species, it also ranges through the Gulf states to Georgia and north to Oklahoma, Arkansas and Missouri.

Cherokee sedge

In January, I showed some of the purple leatherflower (Clematis pitcheri) seed pods dangling from trees and shrubs.

Clematis pitcheri seed pods

By April, their cycle was beginning again and their first tendrils were beginning to climb. I’d never seen their early growth; now, I’m looking forward to the appearance of the flowers.

Clematis pitcheri vine

The biggest mystery of my April visit appeared just as you see it here: a single, unidentified object I assumed to be a flower lying on a leaf that had fallen onto palmetto fronds. It was so artfully arranged, I wondered if someone had placed it there.

Looking around, I found a similar flower, caught by spider webbing and suspended in midair.

After finding more floral remains hanging from a tree that I recognized as yaupon (Ilex vomitoria), things began to fall into place.

I usually notice yaupon in the fall, when its bright red or orange berries adorn the woods, but I’d never seen it blooming until that day. Its lush display of flowers didn’t seem particularly fragrant, but they were exceedingly lovely.

Yaupon in bloom

Eventually, the rest of its blooms will fall; berries will begin to form, birds will come, and the cycle will have been completed for another year. This time, I will have seen it all.

Yaupon berries

 

Comments always are welcome.

97 thoughts on “Walden West ~ April 2

  1. That’s a nice abstract closeup of the vetch. As you know, petals and feathers and other light-weight objects caught in spider silk are hard to photograph because the slightest breeze keeps them moving and sometimes even spinning; you did a good job with the suspended yaupon flowers. And now we’ve both gotten acquainted with yaupon flowers. All the gray surrounding the iris is indeed unusual; it does look like you desaturated that area, even when you didn’t.

    1. I thought that vetch was particularly lovely. It would have been nice if it had set up shop in a spot other than nearly under a boardwalk, but we do what we must. Of course, when it comes to difficulty, I still remember the evening I tried to capture a spinning basket-flower seed hanging by its silken thread. I wasn’t at all aware of the breeze until I started trying to make that photo.

      You may or may not remember my earlier comments about the abundant tall white asters that turned into that gray background. I’d never seen any like them, but I got distracted and never did go back to make a proper ID. I certainly never expected them to become so useful when not in bloom.

    1. And to think I forgot to include the four-foot tall vervain and the snake — although if I’d been fast enough for a snake photo, it surely would have been here. There’s so much richness in this spot; I’m glad you’re enjoying it.

  2. A great return visit to Walden West, Linda. You are turning into quite the naturalist. There was much of interest. I met several friends, or at least relatives. I’ve seen several ladybug gatherings over the years where they are migrating in the thousands. And on occasion bought ladybugs to control the aphids attacking our garden. Mine always had spots. As kids we would play “Ladybug, ladybug, fly away home.Your house is on fire and your children are alone.” The vetch was a great shot. We are in Zion National Park today. Incredible views. Peggy and I were very busy with our cameras. –Curt

    1. I should have had this posted much earlier, but I got distracted by the bluebonnets and such. I had a feeling that when our delayed spring decided to make an appearance, it was going to be a challenge to record it all, and so it’s been. Heavens! it’s time to make a May visit to Walden West. It’s going to be interesting to see what awaits. Maybe the next time I’ll finally see a frog or a toad. I seem to be blind to them: all I get are croaks and kerplunks.

      I had no idea ladybugs would show up on radar, but it makes sense if they show up in those numbers. Our NWS office shows dragonfly swarms from time to time, as well as bats and birds. It’s fascinating stuff.

      Speaking of fascinating, Zion certainly must rate right up there. As I recall, there are pictographs and petroglyphs there: camera-worthy subjects for you!

      1. Time flies when you are having fun. Grin. And nature has a way of doing its thing when it is ready to do its thing. Like the flowers in Death Valley. Thanks much for the heads up on Zion, Linda. I wasn’t aware of that and we didn’t get over to the east side. We are staying near there on our way back to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon when it opens mid-May, however. There will be another chance!

        1. We’ll all be looking forward to it. Is the ‘opening’ so late because of snow? Or the park service’s reluctance to deal with the thundering hordes until they have to? (Obviously, that’s a joke!)

          1. The North Rim is much higher than the South Rim, Linda. While the South Rim is open year round, they have to wait for the snow to melt on the North Rim. The North Rim, because of accessibility and fewer grand views sees far fewer tourists than the South Rim. And that’s nice. We saw ‘thundering herds’ in Zion Canyon. But we spent more time in remote areas. We will be back to ‘thundering herds’ tomorrow as we visit the main section of Bryce. Grin. For six of the seven days we will have been here we will have focused on places where tourists are few and the scenery is different but equal in beauty. Today we hiked through Red Canyon in Dixie National Forest. We met a total of seven people omg the trail. Love it!

            1. Generally speaking, tourists aren’t a problem for me, apart from traffic issues getting to my chosen destination. There’s a reason I don’t head across the bay to the Anahuac refuge on a summer weekend; waits for the ferry can easily be two hours or more.

            2. Tourism has been increasing at the National Parks for a long time, Linda. There is a lot of talk about them being ‘loved to death.’ I think that it was given a big boost by the pandemic as well. Fortunately/unfortunately, tourists focus on the hot spots. Peggy and I just visited Bryce. The first four miles of the 18 mile road are where most of the tourists go. We found the other 14 surprisingly free. Also, Red Canyon is on the road in and in ways, has more beauty than the park. We found almost nobody there, relatively speaking. –Curt

    2. Curt, I noticed that your name no longer is a clickable link that takes me to your blog, and last night I didn’t get an email notification of your comment. You’ve disappeared from the WordPress reader, too. I noticed that with a previous comment you used an unfamiliar screen name, and it occurs to me you may have changed your settings. You might want to check it out.

  3. I have noticed the spittlebug froth all over at my place recently too, but I thought, “That will never show up right in a photo,” and I just kept walking. So I appreciate your gorgeous picture of the bubbles! As well as all the other pictures and information. Thank you!

    1. Reading about how those bubble clusters are formed was fascinating. The thought of those tiny nymphs using their tiny feet to cover themselves ranks right up there with butterfly cocoons; it’s hard to imagine how that process developed. As for the photo, it was a cloudy day, and that helped. I’d tried photographing them another time or two, but it was in bright sunlight, and the detail washed out a bit. Thanks for appreciating this photo; not everyone enjoys spittlebugs as much as cardinals or sunflowers.

    1. I don’t know about that. I enjoy a nice ladybug as much as anyone, but shaking them out of my hair is a bit much. I see these spotless ones from time to time, but a couple of months ago there were orange ones with spots flying around. I suspect they might have been the invasive Asian Lady Beetle, but I was otherwise occupied, and didn’t take the time to photograph them.

    1. It just occurred to me this past weekend that we’re very close to moving from spring into summer. Several typically summer flowers are beginning to appear, and even though I suspect most of them won’t be thriving at Walden West (because of the shade) it won’t be long until shade-accepting flowers, like the Turk’s Cap, begin to appear. We have one more front coming that will dip us down into the high 50s for a night or two, but then it’s back to summertime temperatures and humidity.

        1. It is — although we had rain and a front yesterday, and it’s a wonderfully refreshing 67F just now. This may well be our last cool morning until October. Given that I’ve already had my first good sweat of the year, it’s certainly welcome.

    1. Isn’t he the cutest thing? Once I spotted him, I tried to get a closer and more detailed view, but he hopped away in a flash: proof that he does, indeed, get about very well. I did see a nice snake, but he was too fast for me, too, and disappeared into the water. I assume he was one of our water snakes; with luck, I’ll see him again.

  4. So well seen and photographed, with good information. The grasshopper nymph is a particularly amazing spot.

    1. I often see katydid nymphs, particularly the meadow katydid, but grasshopper nymphs are a special treat. I certainly was pleased to find this one, although I’ll confess that at first glance I thought it was a speck of dirt. Second glances are good.

    1. I’d meant to post this much earlier, but then the bluebonnets started to bloom, and there was noting for it but to put everything on hold and head out to see those. Now, it’s almost time to head back to Walden West for a May view, while trying not to get distracted by the summer flowers that are emerging.

  5. Linda, this post is absolute heaven. You ARE waking in your world! And what a beautiful world it is. Fascinating about the lady bugs and I didn’t know about the bubbles! The flowers — so pretty and colorful. Did you squeal in delight? I think I might have!

    1. I knew that ladybugs would swarm, but I had no idea they could be picked up on radar, like birds or bats. I have seen dragonfly swarms on our NWS radar, but even they are larger than ladybugs. I guess individual size doesn’t matter when there are hundreds of thousands flying together.

      It occurred to me this morning that I missed including a pretty flower, and I missed getting a photo of the startled snake that headed for the pond when I came around the corner — maybe next time. There’s no way to include everything, so I choose what I think will be most interesting.

  6. It is amazing what one can see with careful observation. Your photos are wonderful. I have had the Yaupon flowers hanging on spider silk in my yard. It is very magical and my kids found it amazing.

    1. As light as those falling flowers are, and as ubiquitous as spider silk is, it makes sense that you could have seen the same thing. I’ve just never encountered yaupon blooms before, so it was especially intriguing — and great fun to figure out the mystery!

      1. I have quite a few growing in my wooded area. The Cedar Waxwings love the berries and some people make tea from the leaves. But the tree’s botanical name is Ilex vomitoria and can make humans sick.

        1. I’ve purchased yaupon tea from a small business in Cat Spring. It’s really delicious. The berries are poisonous, but the leaves aren’t. Apparently Texas tribes made a drink from the plant that was used ritually and to induce vomiting: hence, the specific epithet. But it contains a natural caffeine without the acidity of coffee — a real plus.

    1. Thank you, Eliza. I was rather taken with that iris photo myself; it’s not often such a nice, neutral background presents itself. I do wish I’d gotten a photo of the snake that slithered into the pond, but it was too fast for me.

  7. Unsure of what it was, I pulled up a handful of the sedge yesterday, to be on the safe side. I always photograph my yanks though. Thanks for identifying mystery plants for me.

    1. Maybe you could change your routine a bit — photograph first, then yank. I’ll grant you this: grasses, sedges, and rushes can be really hard to ID, and there certainly are a lot of them around that have sneaked in where they don’t belong. There’s a cute verse I learned when I first was trying to ID “those things that look like grass.” It goes, “Sedges have edges, Rushes are round; Grasses are Hollow right down to the ground.” When I started looking at the plants, I found that the little verse was true.

  8. Really nice picture of the iris. Seeing spittle bugs here too. Evening Primrose are declining here but the clasping leaved coneflower is the current star of the yard. Soon it will be time to mow.

    1. Our vetch is nearly gone now, and the primrose are fading a bit, too. The dandelions still are coming on, but yesterday I saw some good patches of deep purple. I think it was Verbena rigida, but there wasn’t any convenient place to pull off for a closer look. There’s not much else that glows with that purple, and it usually shows up about the same time as the coneflowers.

    1. You know what the old song says: “Little things mean a lot.” There certainly is a place for the wide view and the grand landscape, but hidden away in those landscapes are multitudes of treasures just waiting to be discovered!

  9. I’m familiar with Yaupon from when I lived on the Coast. It’s such a pretty berry and plant! The Centaury is quite pretty, too. Just goes to show one doesn’t have to look all complex to be striking! The lilac-colored vetch is so delicate. What happened to the spots on that Ladybug??

    1. I just learned that there are about five hundred species of ladybugs in the U.S. Some are red, some orange. Some have spots, some don’t. Apparently our most common is the seven-spotted ladybug; the next time you see one, count the spots!

      I came across this bit of history you’ll find interesting. According to National Geographic, “The name ‘ladybug’ was coined by European farmers who prayed to the Virgin Mary when pests began eating their crops. After ladybugs came and wiped out the invading insects, the farmers named them “beetle of Our Lady.” This eventually was shortened to “lady beetle” and “ladybug.” How about that?

      I love the Centaury, too. In the hill country, the mountain pinks will grow right out of the rock cliffs; that’s quite a sight.

  10. What a wonderful set of photos! Thank you for profiling the yaupon blooms. Such a wonderful wildlife plant. Those tiny flower pack a real pollinator punch–I’m always amazed at the variety of critters that visit those flowers and we humans hardly notice them!

    1. When I figured out that I was looking at yaupon flowers, I remember you talking about them. I might even have said something about never having seen them — so much for that! And the ones I found certainly were attracting little bees and flies. I didn’t see any butterflies or beetles, but I suppose the small size of the flowers might be responsible for that. On the other hand, I’ve seen skippers nectaring on bluets, so they might visit yaupon, too.

    1. It’s just my name for the area. Here’s the post that started it all off. I was looking for a year-long project that would focus on the same spot every month, and “Walden West” became the spot. It’s turning into both an education for me and a lot of enjoyment, as well. I suppose in a way it’s like watching a garden.

  11. These Walden West posts are proof positive there’s always something interesting to see in nature if we’re willing to take the time and learn to see. So much variety in such a small location. I love this!

    I enjoy finds like that wild iris, where there’s this natural background that really sets it off nicely. And I love the lady beetle photo. Very simple but so beautiful. Not sure if I’ve seen a spotless one before. And those spittlebugs are wild. I remember reading about those and suddenly realizing I’d seen them before (well, the bubbles anyway) but just had no idea what I was seeing.

    1. I still can remember the days when I’d see spittlebug bubbles and respond with an “Ewwww….” Of course, in those days, I thought the spittle was spit, and little more than evidence that a human with nasty habits had been in the neighborhood. Live and learn. I’ve been tempted to poke about and see if I could find a nymph or two, but I’m generally loathe to disturb anyone’s home.

      When I first began this series, I wondered if there would be enough variety for interesting posts each month. Silly me!

  12. Did you spot that Lady Bird’s Centaury bloom in the first picture that only has four petals? That poor spider. Imagine the excitement of catching something that big in your web only to discover it was a stupid flower.

    1. I’ll be darned; you’re right. I had missed that. I was so focused on finding a bloom that was in focus, I overlooked it. To make up for it, I did spot a prairie nymph flower, also usually five-petaled, that had six petals. It’s the balance of nature!

  13. So much drama happens in nature while we are busy not paying attention to it, but you did. I enjoyed reading it like a story, with all the small details and excellent photos. The spittle bug egg mass turned out particularly well. I never tried to photograph it.

    1. I hardly can believe it’s time for another visit. I got waylaid by the suddenly blooming bluebonnets and such, and let this slide a bit. It’s going to be interesting to see what else might be happening on May 1, especially since we’ve had some rain and the Walden West area got about an inch or more.

      The spittlebug mass actually is bubbles rather than eggs. By the time the bubbles appear, the insects have become nymphs, and create the bubbles for their own protection. I’ve seen some photos of the nymphs online, but I’ve not been willing to poke around myself. One of these days, I hope to see some of the mature insects emerging.

        1. I suspect people might be confusing the egg masses of creatures like frogs and toads with the bubbles produced by the spittlebugs. On the surface, they certainly could resemble one another. If I’d looked a little further, I would have included this marvelous NY Times video in the post. I certainly have it saved for future reference. Such clever creatures!

          1. That’s great, Linda. I knew about the life cycle but seeing it all “filmed” was enjoyable. I’ve never seen the nymph leaving the cocoon but now know to wait and watch.

  14. Lovely! I really like seeing the cycle of plants. Just this weekend I was annoyed that I hadn’t taken pictures of our oak tree last month – it leafs out SO QUICKLY that it almost seems overnight. Next year I’d like to take a photo every day in spring to see the process unfold.

    1. We had the same sort of leaf explosion this year. One day, the trees just were sitting around with leafless branches, and the next day they were covered in green. The cypress trees in my complex are especially interesting. They seem to leaf out in spring and drop their leaves in fall in unison, as though they’re communicating, somehow. Can you imagine those meetings? “So — is it time?” “No, let’s wait a little. Those trees on the north side don’t seem quite ready.”

  15. All of those photos are so lovely!

    I got ~~swooshed~~ back to my childhood at that photo of the yaupon holly.

    There was a very large stand of it behind my elementary school, which was across the road from our house. They were right at the edge of the marsh which was always a draw. They were the size of small trees. We used to prowl around down there at recess and after school hours and on weekends, which probably wouldn’t be allowed now. Too close to the water.

    It’s probably long gone now.

    1. Those flower-covered yaupon branches were lovely, and I was so pleased to finally find some in bloom. Others who have them in their yards had mentioned the flowers, but I’d never taken the time to look at photos, so it took a while for me to figure out what I was looking at when I found them. If I’d given it even a little more thought, it should have occurred to me that any tree that produces so many berries would have to produce bunches of flowers.

      More and more often, I’m coming across articles about the damage being done to children — physically, socially, and emotionally — by denying them access to nature and free play of every sort. There’s nothing sadder or occasionally more amusing than the sight of someone involved in discovering the obvious. I give thanks on a regular basis that I had the childhood I did, and I’m sure you do, too.

      1. I definitely am glad I had the childhood I had. We were allowed to run and play and explore and build forts and ride bikes and skate and play ball games of all kinds. Yes, we fell out of trees and broke bones and got scraped up and cut, from time to time, but we had a lot of fun, too!

  16. Even before I clicked on your post, I could feel my blood pressure drop slightly on its title alone. So much to enjoy here. That magical and unmanipulated gray background is fantastic. And I love the artful arrangement by someone or no one.

    1. I stared at that flower-on-leaf-on-frond for a good while, amazed by the accidental symmetry and color contrast. And while the asters were lovely while in bloom, the purpose they served at the end of their life cycle was no less delightful. I’d never seen such a stretch of that species before; I’m tempted to believe their enthusiastic spread was one more response to that significant freeze we suffered.

  17. A wonderful post, how I enjoyed it. Isn’t nature incredible and so creative. I love that cardinal, yes, it certainly has nowhere to hide. How strange re the ladybirds, they are very abundant here too, I’ve never seen one without spots, how cute. xxx

    1. I was so surprised when I first saw spotless ladybugs: two or three years ago, or maybe even longer. I thought they were cute, too, and now they’re my favorite. They do love their aphids, too. I once found a pair on a milkweed, feasting away. The aphids were about a tenth the size of the ladybugs!

  18. Reading your explanation of spittle bug spittle production reminded me of this. Also, that at one point I had a girlfriend whose last name was Spittle. And….once while traveling in Maryland on the way to see the Assateague Ponies I went by a restaurant called “Spittle’s”.
    I really liked the intimate katydid look. The vetch and pinks were nice to see as well as the great number of flowers you shared. The Clematis seed pods are interesting as is the wild garlic combo. We have a “wild” garlic around here…garlic mustard…that is an awful invasive and non-native to boot.

    1. How soon after reaching legal majority did your friend change her last name? I’ve heard some good (e.g., bad) names, but that’s a strange one. I couldn’t imagine naming a restaurant with that name, so I did some exploring, and found this:

      “Lester C. Spittel Sr., owner of a small chain of crab houses in the Baltimore area, died in his sleep Sunday at his home in Ellicott City. He was 74.

      A restaurateur for most of his life, Mr. Spittel started National Pike Crab House in Ellicott City in 1966 and Spittel’s Half Shell in Catonsville in 1974. He opened two other locations in Glen Burnie and Mount Airy. Noted favorably in 1981 by an Evening Sun restaurant critic for a “heavy hand on the seasoning,” the restaurants were Mr. Spittel’s life’s ambition, said his daughter Vicki Stahly of Baltimore.”

      The small alteration in the spelling helps!

      I think I remember Rob mentioning that garlic mustard. It’s mentioned on our Texas invasives website, but apparently hasn’t made it into the state yet: the mention is more of a BOLO. We have enough trouble with the invasives that have made their way here, like Japanese honeysuckle, Chinese tallow, and salt cedar.

      1. She still goes by her given family name. Very active in the small town where she lives and once got mad at me for making fun of her name. I denied that I was….but I was. I don’t remember that spelling but it has to have been the same restaurant. I was traveling with a different girl friend at the time so maybe not paying close attention to the signage. Yes, Spit-tell sounds less unappetizing than Spittle. Apparently it isn’t a huge rarity as a Google search of her whole name yields a business executive in the western part of the U.S. And further search shows that she has a few male siblings all spreading the family name.

        Two years ago I hired a neighborhood landscaper to move some backyard brush piles for us. He was to come in with a grapple, pick them up, and make one large brush pile at the back for the yard critters to take refuge in summer and overwinter. Instead he came in with a small plow and scraped the life out of our little woods and made a row instead of a pile. I made the fatal mistake of paying him in advance as I had to go to work and wouldn’t be there when he finished. He denied our agreement. At any rate, the worst part of it is that in scraping he pretty much tore most of the plant and insect life out of the top soil and now I have a budding forest of garlic mustard.

  19. So you’re saying spittlebugs spittle is actually collected bug farts?

    Your lovely photos are giving me inspiration to break out the 105 macro. It was my favorite lens for a while, but I’ve been neglecting it lately…

    1. Actually, no. Well, sort of. Here’s a good NY Times video that explains how it works. It’s amazing, really.

      I do love my macro lens. It felt too expensive when I bought it, but the cost has been more than justified; it certainly has paid me back with hours of enjoyment.

  20. It is no surprise that I live and learn. I had never even heard of Yaupon. Thanks for the introduction.

    1. There are two native Ilex species that delight me. This yaupon is Ilex vomitoria, so named both for its berries, which are poisonous to people, and for its use in Native American rituals designed to produce vomiting. Yaupon is an evergreen, but there’s also Ilex decidua, or Possumhaw, which loses its leaves in fall and is easily recognizable in autumn woods because of its bare, berry-laden branches.

      Yaupon leaves make a fine tea. The leaves (which aren’t harmful to us) contain a natural form of caffeine, and some prefer the tea to coffee because of the lack of acidity.

  21. Recalling your initial post upon discovering “Walden West”, I can’t help but wonder how many people would drive up to that scene. glance around and leave, convinced there was “nothing to see here”?

    It seems I recall Henry David himself saying something about the difference between looking and seeing.

    We are thankful you take the time to “see”!

    There is so much beauty in this post and your faithful readers have covered it well. For me, I’ll sit back and enjoy the images again.

    And again.

    1. When I selected this spot for my project, I certainly had no idea what I’d see. That was part of the fun, of course. I suspected the flowers would be fewer, as they have been. On the other hand, that allowed me to expand my vision a bit. Without those attention-getting blooms, things I might never have noticed took center stage. On this trip I even saw a (quickly disappearing) snake. Now, if only I could see a frog!

  22. Beautifully photographed and a wonderful account of the natural life around the pond. I experienced a ladybird bloom on the Norfolk coast a few years ago. Hubby and I had gone to a seaside town and started to notice that there were lots of them when we parked in the town. By the time we got near the shore they were everywhere. Walking along a path, they were clustered all along the edge of the grass very much in the way that snow can cling in the grass. But this was a mass of red. Soon they were in the air around us, getting in our hair – most peculiar! We went to our favourite cafe and saw that they were brushing them out through the door with a broom. It’s a day I’ll never forget!

    1. What an experience, Ann. I thought I’d seen a lot of ladybugs (as we call them), but it certainly was nothing like that. The thought of them being swept out the door with brooms is truly amazing. We have an insect called the ‘love bug’ that can behave in a similar manner. They emerge after a good rain (like the rain lilies!) to mate, and they can be so thick that anyone driving a car has to stop and wash off the windshield periodically. They contain a substance that can eat through paint, too, so getting the car washed is important.

      Do you happen to recall if there was an odor associated with your ladybug experience? I’ve read that they defend themselves against predators by producing some sort of nasty substance; I wonder if they did the same when the predator brooms showed up?

      1. No, I don’t remember any smell, although there might have been around the broom. It was just a shock to see such a huge number of them. A few hitched a ride here in our car…

  23. The little clusters of half-dried mud — immediately I thought, ‘Crawfish…’ —-
    Love the pure blue of the iris against that gray background. One might think that you spent hours in a photo program to get that effect!
    The artfully-placed yaupon flower was surely a special smile orchestrated by the universe.. how lovely that you captured it for ‘ever.’
    Great post!

    1. I laughed and laughed when I saw that iris photo on the screen. It turned out just as I hoped, and I’ll confess I thought of that line from Blazing Saddles, slightly revised: “Photoshop? We don’t need no stinkin’ photoshop!”

      Of course you’d recognize the crawfish chimneys. Now I know why those critters were one of the first to appear after the prairie burn I documented. They waited down in those damp burrows until the fire was gone, then started rebuilding. Seeing the fresh chimneys in the midst of the ash was quite something.

      I was up in the hill country this weekend, and the drought is in full force in some places. Still, where bands of rain had arrived, there was lush growth. Many of the fields of corn have tasseled out already; time’s a-passing!

      1. (Big eyes) Corn is tasseling? I remember when it was a challenge to have fresh corn ready by the Fourth of July! When those tassels first form, that’s when one can raid the patch and look deep into the joint where the leaf meets the stalk – and harvest the baby corn! To harvest baby sweet corn – oh my , fresh like candy – or more like heart of palm.

        The crawfish have a method of adaptation that we might all pause and take note. The drought and the fires seem to get worse each year – we’d best (as a species) pay attention and get proactive!

        Im preparing for Saturday’s Global Big Day/Migratory Bird Day — since no one is doing anything for the locals, I plan to do serious birding in the early and late hours of the day, and spend about four hours in town with a small group of people who are begging for more ‘Birding 101.’

        1. That corn was quite a shock to me when I moved down here. In Iowa, our mantra was “Knee high by the 4th of July.” Here, July is harvest time for corn and sorghum both. It varies, of course, but it’s much sooner. Even now, there’s hay cutting going on, the rice fields are turning green, and the fields are full of sunflowers. It’s beginning to feel like summer’s going to roll right over us!

          1. A field of sunflowers has to be stunning! I hope that your springtime hangs on, as summer can be a brutal time re: heat in the Southern half of the USA. Down here I’m lucky to live where the lows are usually around 70 or 75, and the highs in the 80’s – perhaps a little higher at times, but not much. But the humidity? Alas, you understand that as well!

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