Readers’ wildlife photographs

July 24, 2014 • 12:43 am

Reader Charlie Jones from the University of Pittsburgh sent several pictures of a gorgeous Cecropia “silkmoth” (Hyalophora cecropia), first described and named by Linnaeus. Charlie’s notes:

These were taken in June 2008 just northwest of Cody, Wyoming, in Sunlight Valley (part of the Clarks Fork of the Yellowstone canyon). I particularly like the last photo that shows what a great plush toy these moths would make for a very small child.


According to Wikipedia, this is North America’s largest native moth, with a wing span up to six inches in females. Its range is in the eastern part of the US, from southern Canada to Florida, and west to the Rocky Mountains.

Note the “eyespots” on the wing above and below, a feature found in many moths and butterflies. Its evolutionary significance, I believe, is still not fully understood. Some say it’s a mimic of vertebrate predator eyes, like those of owls, that can scare away birds who are going after the moths.


Someone should indeed make a plush toy of this moth. Don’t you just want to pet that furry belly?


And reader Diana MacPherson sends photos of her chimpunks, or rather one young chipmunk (Tamias striatus):

A juvenile chipmunk decided to explore everything on my deck this morning including the hummingbird feeder. You can see the sequence I shot with the chipmunk eventually falling off completely. This one climbed all over my screen facing down (I’ve never seen the chipmunks do that) and kept looking in. If I had the door open, I’d be trying to usher the chippy outside right now. I did get decent photo when the chipmunk stood still for a bit, resting with legs draped over the deck.




Oops. . .

On the screen:


On the deck:


Interspecific love:



23 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

  1. Gorgeous moth indeed! Definitively a wonderful inspiration for a plush toy, but also for a brooch made with rubies, diamonds,onyx, and silver.

    The squirrel sequence is really good! Such busy, quick, and high energy animals.

    1. This young one is so curious, even climbing on the lilly leaves. I was lucky to be able to get that shot! 🙂

      1. Water lily? There’s a shot deserving a tripod and a continuous-running camera. Change the SD card every however-many hours.

        1. Not a water lily, a canna lily. The leaves are thick enough that the small chipmunk could stretch its body across the length of them.

      2. That is such a cute sequence! This is a great time of year, when all the little bird-lets & mammal-lets & herp-lets start appearing in all their ingenuous splendor. It’s a miracle any survive. (And few do…)

  2. Someone does make plushy moths!

    OT to this post, but relevant to WEIT, the most creepy “Christian Soldier” t-shirt I’ve ever seen (I “fulfilled” this as an order today at work, and was just happy I didn’t have to look at the person who bought it. I don’t think I could have turned the other cheek, or whatever):

    “Armed & Dangerous – Christian T-Shirt – Dog Tags”

    I hesitated to post this link, because I don’t want anyone to buy *anything* from these people, but I just had to show you. Forgive me.

    1. Thos embroidered moths are absolutely gorgeous!!! Beautiful photos, too.

      What does the aful T shirt say? Something about strong holes ??

  3. That is one fat female moth. But I think it is a different species, Hyalophora columbia, which is more common in the western U.S. It has a lot more red on its wings than H. cecropia. What is also interesting is that as caterpillars these feed on juniper trees.

    1. I noticed that too. I have seen cecropia moths here but they aren’t as red. Could be the ones I see are a slightly different species than this one. I do miss seeing them though. Maybe I should find a source of eggs & reintroduce them.

  4. Just a quick bit of pedantry because hey, it’s the internet and that’s what it’s for: it’s the Sunlight Basin, not the Sunlight Valley, and it’s not actually part of the Clarks Fork canyon. Sunlight is formed by Sunlight Creek, which empties into the Clarks Fork a little ways down from the highest bridge in Wyoming.

    Here’s two photos I took a couple of years back to show you the geography. The first is looking downstream, and you can just barely see the place where Sunlight Creek empties into the Clarks Fork at the very upper left corner of the shot. The second is looking upstream (basically 180 degrees from the first), and the snow-covered mountains in the background are right on the edge of Yellowstone.

  5. here is a physics question: how far up a vertical tree trunk can a chipmunk climb before the forces of gravity equal and overcome the “adhesive” ability of chipmunk feet. My dogs tree them and if there are no branches to escape via, they climb, circling, up to a certain height and then cling, circle, cling, circle, up & down, but eventually have to circle down (head first of course), until they dart for the ground…..

    1. The gravity force is to null order the same over the tree. You would have to climb several hundred meters to measure percentage differences.

      If chipmunks prefer a certain height it may be that it is a survivable fall for them, e.g. they haven’t time to reach their terminal velocity. Or maybe the tree bark changes texture, and they keep to the rougher patches for their grip.

  6. Thanks for the lively ‘munk photos. Those little feet hanging upside down in the air is priceless. 🙂

    While living in WY, these beautiful moths appeared in the summer. The first time I saw one it was in our garage and it was so huge I mistook it for a bird! I was delighted to discover it was a moth; I gently carried it outside and off it flew.

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