Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

019092021
0440Hours EDT

The Seeds That Were Silent All Burst Into Bloom

A red powder puff (Calliandra haematocephala) flower head at the Castellow Hammock Preserve and Nature Center.

22301 SW 162nd Avenue, Miami, Florida: Sunday, 17 January 2021

part of the Castellow Hammock Preserve and Nature Center album


After I was fortunate to photograph a ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) — see The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Pictorial — at Castellow Hammock Preserve and Nature Center in agricultural and rural western Miami-Dade County, I noticed a fascinating plant flowering nearby, the red powder puff (Calliandra haematocephala).

The red powder puff is a "large, multiple-trunked, low-branching, evergreen shrub [with] silky leaflets that are glossy copper when new, turning to a dark metallic green." Its most noticeable feature are its large blooming flowers, which are "two to three inches across, of watermelon pink, deep red, or white silky stamens, produced during warm months." The buds resemble raspberries prior to the flowers opening.

Although non-native to North America, red powder puff is "not considered a problem species" in Florida. Its range includes South Florida and parts of Central Florida; areas of southern Texas, Arizona, Nevada and California; and coastal California. Their presence at Castellow Hammock is logical as they are attractive to hummingbirds, butterflies and bees.

The Ruby-Throated Hummingbird Pictorial

A female or immature ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) sitting within a large mandarin hat (Holmskioldia sanguinea) plant at the Castellow Hammock Preserve and Nature Center.

22301 SW 162nd Avenue, Miami, Florida: Sunday, 17 January 2021

part of the Castellow Hammock Preserve and Nature Center album


Even though I often see them visiting flowers on my property and have observed them elsewhere in the past, the ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) has always been fast and elusive enough to avoid my camera. That finally changed during a recent visit to Castellow Hammock Preserve and Nature Center in agricultural and rural western Miami-Dade County. In the area for winter, the hummingbirds will stay until March and then fly back north for spring.

There were several individuals flying in and around a large mandarin hat (Holmskioldia sanguinea) plant in front of the visitor center building. As I looked inside the plant, I saw a female or immature hummingbird sitting on a branch. For nearly twenty seconds she sat there while I took ten photographs — much to my delight — six of which are decent and presented herein.

Although I did not get to hike the park's tropical hardwood forest trail due to the late hour, it was certainly worth the visit just to see and photo the hummingbirds up close.

The Dzaanh Nezoonh And Nedaats'e Koonh

A vast area of wilderness leads to Alaska Range slopes and glaciers surrounding Denali, cloaked behind dense clouds, from through a starboard window aboard the Kantishna Experience tour bus.

MP 86.5 Denali Park Road, Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska: Friday, 16 June 2017

part of the Denali National Park and Preserve album


Typical during the summer months, Denali (formerly Mount McKinley) was shrouded in dense clouds and fog layers during most of my viewing opportunities in Denali National Park and Preserve. Fortunately, there were a few exceptional moments when I did see this spectacular 20,310-foot mountain. Doing so allows one to claim membership in the so-called Thirty Percent Club, a reference to the low probability of glimpsing this elusive landmark, and I was fortunate to join multiple times.

With this uncertainty, one must make the most of any opportunities because there may not be another. I figured that my first and possibly best chances would occur during the Kantishna Experience bus tour, a twelve-hour excursion to the end of Denali Park Road and back — one hundred eighty-one miles in Blue Bird 120570, a "Type D" former school bus painted akaroa instead of neon yellow, plus another mile on foot at the far western end. Unfortunately, the weather on this day was not particularly cooperative and primarily featured thick clouds, limited visibility and, as we were out walking that last mile, pouring rain.

It was on the return voyage, about six miles east of the road's terminus in Kantishna, when another visitor excitedly informed the group of a developing viewing window. At first, only the surrounding Alaska Range topology emerged from the clouds and allowed me to capture the header photograph. After continuing another 4.6 miles east and stopping at a clearing, the massive nature of Denali finally presented itself. All of the clouds make it very difficult to determine and appreciate its size.

To illustrate, here is an image captured with the lens set to 235 millimeters. In the moment, I mistakenly thought that this large jagged versant was "the tall one" itself but is actually Mount Tatum (elevation 11,053 feet) just northeast of Denali.

With the lens at fifty-five millimeters instead, you can see how Mount Tatum blends into a craggy panorama yet is overshadowed by Denali, which tops out at nearly twice the height. The yellow rectangle represents the frame of the previous photo, while the green line shows Denali's maximum height.

Can you locate the summit? It takes a moment to spot even knowing where to look. Click-through twice to the full-size photograph to see in more detail.

One hundred and sixty minutes (nearly twenty-nine miles) later, as we were driving away from the Toklat River Contact Station, the clouds finally abated and give our group the clearest view yet. From a relatively low elevation and with obscuring terrain in between, Denali does not look nearly as massive from this location's perspective.

Following the tour, I was disappointed that I was unable to truly photograph Denali from Park Road's more famous vistas such as Stony Hill Overlook, Eielson Visitor Center and the Reflection Pond, even though we stopped at each one and I shot hundreds of frames. The tour was otherwise excellent and featured moose, brown bear, caribou and great horned owl.

What I did not know at the time was that crystal clear weather would be present twelve days later as I flew to Utqiaġvik.