Readers’ wildlife photos

July 7, 2014 • 4:34 am

These come from reader Mark Richardson, who adds this (click photos to enlarge, they’re really nice when big):

All the photos were taken around my house (in Washington state) with a Nikon D2Xs and a 200mm f/4 micro lens. This is probably my favorite lens, but it requires a tripod so sometimes taking shots of arthropods can be tricky, especially if there is a breeze. I hope the files are of a good size and not too huge. I sized them way down, but the exquisite details can still be seen.

Two views of the Eight Spotted Skimmer (Thomisus spectabilis). The full view shows the conspicuous 8-spots on the wings. The other is a nice view of the head. I love dragonflies, but they don’t sit still for very long!

8 spotted skimmer

8 spotted skimmer front

A male and female Garden Orb Weaver (Araneus diadematus…I think). These are very common around the Northwest, but it’s not common to see the male seeking to copulate. It was fascinating watching how he “courted” the female, gingerly touching her with his front legs and darting up and down her web…displaying dexterity on her web? Maybe you or an entomologist reader knows something about this behavior. Only the females weave webs, but the male could navigate it perfectly. After 10 minutes or so, the male fled the scene. The sexual dimorphism of this pair is also noteworthy.

orb weaver pair

The last photo is a beautiful White Crab Spider (Thomisus spectabilis). They are usually found on flowers of like colors. I have lots of white daisies, so perhaps that was where the spider did most of its hunting before moving on to this purple coneflower (Echinacea purpure).

white crab spider

I can’t resist a poem I remembered from my youth: it involves what is almost certainly a crab spider, but one sitting on a white flower.


by Robert Frost

I found a dimpled spider, fat and white,
On a white heal-all, holding up a moth
Like a white piece of rigid satin cloth—
Assorted characters of death and blight
Mixed ready to begin the morning right,
Like the ingredients of a witches’ broth—
A snow-drop spider, a flower like a froth,
And dead wings carried like a paper kite.

What had that flower to do with being white,
The wayside blue and innocent heal-all?
What brought the kindred spider to that height,
Then steered the white moth thither in the night?
What but design of darkness to appall?–
If design govern in a thing so small


26 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. ‘Dimpled’ is not a word one would generally associate with spiders, but ‘dimpled, fat and white’ it is. It’s almost as if the poet actually looked at real things sometimes, who’da thunk it?
    I like Frost; Frost is cool.

  2. Very nice pictures! I do not know why the male spider was darting up and down, but perhaps it was laying down non-sticky silk lines to help it later make its escape.

  3. One of my favorite Frost poems, even if it does mention “design.” But of course the poem then goes on to say “If design govern in a thing so small.”

    1. I’m not sure whether Frost was a believer. I should look that up, and should have a while back when I first read that poem. But of course at that time I wasn’t a strong atheist.

  4. “Maybe you or an entomologist reader knows something about this behavior.”

    Spiders aren’t insects, so what you probably meant was “arthropodologist” or “arachnologist”.

    I’m neither, but I do know from amateur reading and BBC documentaries that male spiders run a strong risk of getting eaten by the female, either because she mistakes him for prey or because his body can be used to nourish the eggs she carries after mating with him. The touching might be his way of carefully signalling to her what he is and what his intentions are, as a way of preventing death. Unless he copulated during the ten minutes, I imagine something went wrong with the procedure and he high-tailed it out of there.

    1. Thanks for the correction…note to self…as you can tell, I’m neither as well.

      I like your suggestions on the male’s behavior. Also, since the male was there when I first spotted the pair, perhaps they already copulated. Always more questions…that’s half the fun!

  5. Nice work, Mark!

    And don’t be afraid to take the camera off the tripod. In direct sun like that, even stopped down to f/11 you should still be at 1/250 at ISO 100, and that’s plenty fast enough to hand-hold a 200mm lens unless you’re planning on making exceptionally large prints. Shoot wide open and you’re at 1/2000, and you have to try hard to get blur at those speeds.

    …and then you’ve got at least another five stops of ISO to play with….


    1. Thanks!
      I only keep it on the tripod when truly shooting “micro” objects. The shallow dof and the hefty 6 lbs. of this set-up is sometimes frustrating when hand held, even in full sun. And since I’m shooting RAW files the potential for massive prints is always there. I’m a stickler for composition, so not having to worry about camera shake, holding my breath, keeping the object sharp etc. the tripod allows me to focus (pun intended) on the photo at hand. If I’m shooting subjects far away, then hand held is more than adequate in all day-time conditions. Thanks for the tips though, they are spot on. ISO is something I sometimes space in good light conditions…must remember that!

      1. I’ve found being able to push the ISO has been very good for me. I am always in a situation where I need to grab my camera quickly and tripod set up doesn’t work out for me. Being able to push the ISO up a bit lets you shoot fast enough that blur is not a problem. I’ve shot 420mm (300+1.4x telextender) at 1/60 with no blur (also with IS so that helps too).

        1. The IS on that 300 f/4 is awesome, despite its clunky sound. That lens absolutely deserves its white paint and red ring, even if it’s the cheapest of the Great Whites.

          …but it’s also worth noting that the 400 f/2.8 II lets you shoot the Orion Nebula handheld, so long as your elbows are braced to your knees….


          1. Clunky sound? What d’ya mean?!

            I still don’t believe the Orion nebula thing. Shoot it, yes but to Diana standards….I’m unconvinced.

            1. You haven’t noticed the <thunk /> every time IS starts up and stops?

              The handheld astrophotography isn’t going to show up on APOD any time soon, but you can get frames with no motion blur. Be patient and stack several of them and the result ain’t half bad.

              Of course, if you’re going to spend that much time at it, you might as well haul out a tripod….


              1. There once was this thing that goes thunk; not a cling nor a clang nor a clunk. Weighs one kilogram in a white, red-ringed Canon — yet now you claim I’m full of bunk?


  6. Thanks for the Frost poem Jerry! That indeed must have been a white crab spider.

    I would venture that “design” was intended to evoke god, and the ironic/ominous role god plays in the natural world…much like Blake’s “The Tyger”. Being an atheist, I’m glad I don’t have to ponder this imagined antithesis in nature. Much better things to ponder.

    1. I recommend reading the Songs of Innocence and the Songs of Experience together. They provide context to the whole thing. The Tyger is from the Songs of Experience and it contrasts Innocence strongly. It’s noteworthy that Blake’s illumination of a tiger that this poem is a cute, cuddly tiger which is in stark contrast to the tiger described in the poem. It’s an interesting hearkening back to innocence or a gloss over of the fear and contemplation brought out by the tiger. It is possible that in Experience, the speaker starts to think more seriously about and question god just as Blake did (though not as an atheist but more as a rebellion from the establishment of religion).

      1. Thanks for the comment, I appreciate it. I’ve read both (been a long while) but my reference was quick and not thought out…just focusing on the emotional “gist” of how could a loving god create such a violent beast. The greater context is indeed important and I’m glad you pointed it out.

  7. Lovely photos! I love dragon flies. Spiders freak me out, but the pictures are nice and even I have taken spider photos.

  8. Wow! What beautiful photos! I’ve always had a thing for dragonflies. I was deathly afraid of spiders as a kid, but now find them really fascinating (as long as they’re not on me).

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