Father’s Day on Olney Pond

Black-bellied Whistling Ducks (Dendrocygna autumnalis) form life-long pair bonds, and this couple has their wings full with fourteen young ones to keep watch over.

The ducklings had roamed away from their parents as they fed, but when it was time to move toward the shelter of the grasses and reeds, the mother and father lined them up like a group of kindergartners on a field trip. With such attentive parents and such a nice pond to live in, more than a few of these babies probably will survive.


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Mooo-ve Over, Belle

One of Texas’s best-known advertising logos — for Blue Bell ice cream — includes the image of Belle, an entirely sweet cow known for standing in fields of central Texas bluebells. Lacking bluebells (or bluebonnets, for that matter), this cow chose to pose in a field of scattered white prickly poppies (Argemone albiflora) on the historic El Capote ranch near Seguin.

Farther down the road, the hills were alive with the sight of poppies.

When their numbers are fewer, the poppies still make a lovely counterpoint to other Texas delights. Here, they’ve taken up residence next to a grove of gnarled oaks at the Aransas Wildlife Refuge.

Even a single poppy can please. Rooted in sand at the edge of San Antonio Bay, this one matches the whitecaps of a windy day.


Comments always are welcome.
For more views of this flower in a different part of the state, visit Steve Schwartzman’s Portraits of Wildflowers.

A Few Plum Blossoms in a Temple Garden

While both the Washington Tidal Basin and Tokyo will limit opportunities for hanami (花見, or ‘flower-viewing’) this year, cherry and plum blossoms still entice. At the Linh Son Buddhist Temple in nearby Santa Fe, Texas, the same plum trees that recently endured our unexpected freeze are coming into bloom. Whether they achieve the glory of past years remains to be seen, but in his Essays in Idleness, Yoshida Kenko (1283-1350) offers this salutary perspective:

Are we to look at cherry blossoms only in full bloom, the moon only when it is cloudless? To long for the moon while looking on the rain, to lower the blinds and be unaware of the passing of spring—these are even more deeply moving. Branches about to blossom or gardens strewn with faded flowers are worthier of our admiration.

Somewhat earlier, the Northern Song dynasty poet Lin Bu (967-1028) composed “Shan Yuan Xiao Mei,”  or “Little Plum Blossoms in a Mountain Garden.” After withdrawing from government service to live in solitude by the West Lake in Hangzhou, the poet embraced a plum tree as his spouse and a crane as his child. While I enjoy both plum blossoms and cranes, I’m not likely to follow his lead in that respect, but the words of his poem do suit the early buds and flowers I found at Lin Sohn.

Among withered flowers plum trees brightly bloom
Dominating garden with beauty unsurpassed

In clear and shallow water sparse branches loom
Floating in moonlit air with delicate fragrance
Eager are the winter birds who come to look
Spring butterflies they must equally enchant

To enjoy such beauty writing these few lines I have luck
Want of wine and song these blooms supplant


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