World Views: Sunflowers have a new meaning at the end of February 2022

“Put sunflower seeds in your pockets so sunflowers grow here when you die.”

Sunflowers, the national flower of Ukraine, a country most had not given much thought to, has now become a symbol of resistance, unity, and hope. Sunflowers had been planted at a Ukraine missile base after the removal of nuclear weapons in 1996. Now, much of social media is sporting brilliant yellow sunflowers and the blue and yellow flag of Ukraine. We have a different view of these colors, these flowers, Ukraine, war, nuclear weapons, and our world.

Thinleaf Sunflower in UV

When I first started my “World Views: Pollinators & Plants project a few years back, it was to give a glimpse of what we humans see, or don’t see, and what many of the wild ones can see. I am not a fan of studio or portrait setups so the ultraviolet and high-key images have been a challenge. Maybe in seeing those other world views we can come to understand how important the world we often overlook really is. We have a lot to learn. About ourselves, others, and all life around us.

Finally, many are paying attention and seeing what bravery, kindness, passion, compassion, and solidarity are.

During this week, 2/28/22 to 3/4/22, of invasive species awareness and turmoil in Ukraine, plan on planting some sunflower seeds or plants this spring season. March 2, 2022 day 6 of the attempted invasion and war on Ukraine by Russia — as the world unites to support them in so many ways. Will it be enough?

Thinleaf Sunflower, Helianthus decapetalus is a native to much of the northeast to the central US, but there are so many wonderful Helianthus out there! The numerous species of bees, flies, butterflies, beetles, bugs, aphids, leafhoppers, grasshoppers, moths, songbirds, gamebirds, crows, voles, moles, groundhogs, deer, and others will appreciate the treats! If something isn’t eating your plants there is a problem!

The European Honey Bee

European Honey Bee Apis mellifera

Too often we consider this our most important bee without considering that it is a species introduced back in the 1600s. This is the generalist commercial pollinator bee that lives in colonies. The male worker bees have a barbed stinger but die after stinging.

Too Cute to not appreciate for all that they do!

Raptors and Rehabilitation

Amber – Great Horned Owl Bubo virginianus
A Place Called Hope

One day there was an invite to join some photographer groups while they were taking images of the Ambassador Birds at A Place Called Hope. So, never one to say no when opportunity knocks, off I went. I took a lot of snapshots as I didn’t want to get in the way of those paying for this opportunity. What a lovely two days! I was so grateful for being able to look these amazing beings in the eyes, see their different expressions, observe their movements, and watch their reactions to the audience and cameras all aimed at them. They were the center of everyone’s attention and what actors they were! Yes, look closely as there are curious looks, angry glares, and even fearful flinches. You need to be able to see in order to do so.

What is Amber trying to convey?

It was Amber, the Great Horned Owl that I seemed to connect with. Owls are a favorite anyway so seeking out an owl came naturally. Her expressions drew me in and enticed me to get to know her just a little bit better. I quickly become aware of the personality she has and her desire to share a bit of herself with us, her audience. An actor entertaining her admirers. Not all wildlife have the inclination to entertain but connecting with those that do becomes an enlightening experience.

Something in the sky that Amber does not like!

The simple invite for images has turned into a major project with exhibits in Beacon Falls, Seymour, Derby, Ansonia, Guilford, Branford, Hartford, Waterbury, and twice in New Haven. The exhibit at the Ives Gallery in New Haven was the largest with 60 images and I had an awesome review in the New Haven Independent! by Brian Slattery. He said it all so well! Ives Gallery Gives Sanctuary to Raptors.

The many faces of Amber
The many faces of Amber
The many faces of Amber

If you are interested in my curating a solo exhibit please contact me: I have a variety of options from one image of each of the 15 birds to 4 each. Some of the exhibit options can include an image of a wing or tail feather in a shadow box. All of the exhibits come with some educational information making them perfect for nature centers or libraries. They also work well as an exhibit in a cafe or workplace. Depending on location and availability, some of the openings have included a couple of APCH raptor visitors! Stop by my website to see some of the images of the fifteen raptors that have been in the various exhibit: SophieZylaPhotos; Raptors & Rehab

The many faces of Amber

To learn about the work that A Place Called Hope does, schedule a photography visit, host an event, have raptor ambassadors to your party, or donate to help the birds visit their website: A Place Called Hope

For a sampling of photo exhibits and images available for showing at your venue visit: > Photo Exhibit & Gallery Images:

World Views: Insects and People

Polemonium reptans
Jacob’s Ladder
Metallic Green Bee

This year I discovered Jacob’s Ladder. Actually I bought the plant and once the flowers appeared, followed by lots of insects, I fell in love. Just over a foot tall with an abundance of flowers to entice the honeybees, bumblebees, carpenter bees, mason bees, cuckoo bees, Halictid bees, Andrenid bees, Giant Bee Fly, butterflies, skippers, moths, and aphids – of course! Not to shabby an assortment for those tiny flowers.

Polemonium reptans
Jacob’s Ladder
Strong back light

Jacob’s Ladder turned out to be rather pretty when I photographed it against a light box. The details and colors were pretty and a bit elegant for this dainty native wildflower.

Polemonium reptans
Jacob’s Ladder
Ultraviolet Light
What many insects, birds, and mammals see

The Visible Spectrum humans see is very limited in range compared to what other species see. Human sight is in the 380 to 740 nm range while bees are between 300 to 600 range. The ultraviolet light I used was rated at 365nm.

It is always a surprise to see what the plants will look like under ultraviolet light as there is no way of knowing until the image is on the computer. I wore protective yellow eye goggles and had to use a best guess as to how long to shine the UV light and leave the shutter open for.

The Common Eastern Bumble Bee and the Nodding Onion

Common Eastern Bumble Bee approaching the Nodding Onion

The bumble bee and assorted relatives pollinate the luscious fruit, appetizing vegetables, and vibrant flowers we have all grown to love.

The magic of the Nodding Onion encompass the range from an edible addition to our foods, treatments for colds and respiratory illness, and a treatment for infections, sores, and swellings. Nodding Onion is dainty and pretty as well as a repellent for moths, insects, and moles.

Nice addition and asset to any yard and garden.

Finding Love in a Nodding Onion
Sweetness found!

Why is it humans see themselves as the sole asset to Planet Earth?

Megaptera novaeangliae – a fitting name for the majestic “big wing” Humpback Whale

Humpback Whales feeding off the coast of Cape Cod

So many whales! So little time! The weather was not predicted to be the best that day and thoughts of an early return were lingering in the background. We saw one lone fishing boat early on and upon reaching our reported whale feeding area found ourselves alone in the waters. Except for being surrounded by whales in every direction! There were water spouts, fluke and pectoral fin flaps, and bubble nets near and far!

Near as in that moment when you realize you really don’t need a 600mm lens! Jonah going down!
This Humpback was just a little further away! The view of the baleen was incredible through my camera and lens!
Follow the birds and they will lead to the feeding whales. The birds were awesome but, as much as I love the gulls, cormorants, terns, petrels, jaegers, gannets, and others, my sights were on the whales for this trip.
The gulls do add a bit of humor at times when they are caught in a spray rinse with some whale breath added for good measure.
Whale skate does look like a fun activity!
The magical moment when the research team realized that it was Salt with a new calf! S

Salt is one to keep tabs on as she has a nice long family tree with 14 calves dating back to 1980, grandcalves, and great-grandcalves! You can rather easily recognize Salt as she was named for the white streaming off her dorsal fin that you can see in the image above.

Could that be a wave goodbye from the “big wing” for which it was named?

There were so many images taken that June 16th trip with New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance. Such wonderful memories that the cloudy day with spatters of rain and spray from the waves were not even a thought. Except for the wiping of camera filters!

Alas! There is a lecture at the end of a happy story!

2019 is a year of numerous dead sea mammals washing up on shores in too many places. So much so that places for them to rot are becoming scarce. Since the warning signs of plastic becoming meal items for sea birds and sea life has not been enough, the slap of sights and odors of death of these huge majestic lifeforms should be our awakening. Do Not Buy Balloons! They are a menace to all wildlife! They travel long distances, last extremely long periods of time and degrade into tiny pieces and particles, and wildlife become tangled, and many, such as, turtles and whales ingest them. They are not a symbol of a celebration but rather represent a death sentence. Please celebrate responsibly!

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