Readers’ wildlife photos

August 12, 2014 • 4:50 am

Well, I guess this has become a regular feature, though I didn’t plan it that way. I’m not sure that I’ll receive sufficient good photos to sustain this on a daily basis, but we’ll see. Remember, if you have critter or plant photos, please send me high-quality ones, and, as always, I make no promises to post readers’ submissions. (Most, however, seem to appear!)

Today we have some lovely damselflies from reader/photographer Pete Moulton in Phoenix, Arizona (his notes are indented):

These are all examples of the same species of damselfly, Ischnura hastata, familiarly known as the Citrine Forktail. It’s Arizona’s smallest regularly occurring odonate, usually less than 25mm long. It’s also a rather variable critter, and these photographs show the range of variation.
The orange version is an immature female. As she matures, she’ll become heavily pruinose and turn a pale blue-gray color.
Ischnura hastata_7-3-11_Papago Pk_8723
I presume this is a mature female, though the photo wasn’t labeled:
Ischnura hastata_Papago Park 7-5-10_0544
The golden-yellow guy with the pale green thorax is a mature male. At the very tip of his abdomen (segment 10) you can see the dorsal process that gives Ischnura damselflies their collective common name of ‘forktail’; this process is particularly well developed in I. hastata.
Ischnura hastata_Papago Park 6-20-10_0292
For the photographers, all these were taken with a Canon EF 100-400mm L image-stabilizing lens with a +2 diopter (Canon 500D) attached to the front of it, handheld in natural light.
You can see more of Pete’s photos at his ipernity site.
Reader Adam Baker sent photos of chameleons from Spain; I had no idea this creature lived in Europe. I have now learned that it’s pretty endangered by both habitat loss and the greed of collectors (many die in captivity). His notes:
According to Wikipedia, the Common Chameleon (Chamaeleo chamaeleon) is the only chameleon species native to Europe.  In mainland Europe, its distribution is limited to a small strip on the southern coast of Portugal and Spain.  I was fortunate enough to be in Rota, Spain for a work trip this spring, and found out that the chameleon is something of a mascot there (see pictures 4 and 5 for some chameleon-themed graffiti, and a chameleon statue (with my son astride it).
In an effort to find the little guys, I ventured to the local botanical garden (Jardin Botanico Celistine Mutis), which I had read was an ideal spot.  My wife and I looked for 20 minutes and found nothing, then asked a woman working there for help.  She quickly pointed out about five chameleons in five minutes (she gets a lot of practice I suppose).  One of these was in a bush right below eye-level, and was perfect for photographing.
Chameleon 1 compressed
 And yes, they do change color, though Wikipedia notes that this is in response to heat, light, and emotion, not as a way to camouflage itself. I must say I have doubts about that, for camouflage would surely be an important selective pressure. But I don’t know from chameleons—perhaps a reader can weigh in.  The one below, at least, is pretty cryptic!
chameleon 3 compressed
Finally, a day without a Stephen Barnard photo is like a day without sunshine (actually, it’s raining in Chicago).  Barnard is now seeing these creatures as menaces, and this photo, labeled “Hummingbird apocalypse,” came with the caption:
When it happens you’ll never see them coming.
It’s a rufous hummingbirdSelasphorus rufus:

29 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. I had no idea that the damsel flies changed colour; I thought there were just lots of differently coloured ones. I have lots of those at my place because there is a pond next door. Now I want to go where there are more damsel flies and dragon flies.

    Chameleons, along with geckos, must be the cutest lizards! I love the chameleons’ strange little fingers. They are very difficult to raise though and I don’t like seeing them for sale in pet stores because they are often not given proper care and die. I also suspect they mostly are taken from the wild so some ecosystem is pillaged.

    Love the hummingbird bum! I think they have bums a bit like ducks.

    1. My best guess about why damselflies change color is that they build a reflective waxy layer on their exoskeleton. Such a layer can have several uses for a small insect that relies on visual cues.

    2. Yesterday the kids and I were body surfing, and otherwise playing around in the ocean, when a very impressive squall line moved passed us just missing us.

      That was a very impressive sight all by itself and I wish I had had a camera that could have captured it as we saw it.

      But, back on topic, as the wind from this squall line began rising all around us, we were suddenly in the midst of a dense cloud of large dragonflies all buzzing around within a few feet of the waters surface. Looking around there were many of these dense clouds of dragonflies and we would periodically be engulfed by them as we were bobbing around out passed the break line. Sort of a fairy-land interlude. I’ve never seen dragonflies out over the ocean like that before.

    1. It gets worse. Freshly emerged individuals (both males and females) are very pale, often whitish, and only begin to develop their colors a day or two later. Not only that, but females of some damselflies are polymorphic, and might occur in up to three or four different color morphs.

  2. “I’m not sure that I’ll receive sufficient good photos to sustain this on a daily basis, but we’ll see.”

    Are you kidding me? With all the talent here?

    I am a complete loss as a photographer, and continue to be impressed with the offerings of this feature, content, variety, quality.

    I hope to see this daily for many years to come.


    PS: Please don’t construe this as pressure, or telling you what to post. It’s meant as a compliment.

      1. We took a bunch yesterday, but they didn’t turn out very well, probably due to the herringbone pattern of the chair upholstery.

        We’ll keep trying, with a different background. L

  3. Readers Wildlife Photos every day?

    Please do!

    Someday I might even pull the trigger on the camera I want, and then I’ll start bombarding you with pics too.

    1. I believe most people email their photos. At top right of page visit “About the Author” and you will be able to find an address.

      Just in case you have not already done so, it might be appropriate to check out “Da Roolz” (left sidebar) regarding sending stuff to Jerry.

      I’m looking forward to some good pictures from you! Don’t let me down. (joking)

    2. I am mining my archives. Don’t have a lot of photos over the last year – medical issues make it difficult to get out when you are supposed to stay out of the sun and avoid getting bitten by disease-carrying mosquitos, always a possibility in Florida’s summer! Thanks for the tips!


  4. Those damselfly photos are cool. I’ve tried to photograph them because I have a lot on my creek, but they never stay still long enough. I use damselfly patterns a lot while flyfishing. It’s funny to see the naturals try to mate with the fly when it’s on the water.

    1. Do the dry versions work for you, Stephen? I never had much success with ’em, but the nymphs were killers.

      1. There aren’t many places where adult damsels are effective, but Loving Creek is one of them. In the summer it’s a match-the-mayfly-hatch place: baetis, PMDs, callibaetis, tricos, mahogany duns, drakes occasionally. Lots of midges. Sometimes four or five diffent species of mayfly on the water, duns and spinners, and the trout are eating just one. Damsel nymphs are deadly in the spring and the fall when the weeds are gone, and in the ponds, but this is dry-fly season. Damsel adults are my choice between hatches in the heat of the day.

  5. “And yes, they do change color, though Wikipedia notes that this is in response to heat, light, and emotion, not as a way to camouflage itself. I must say I have doubts about that, for camouflage would surely be an important selective pressure. But I don’t know from chameleons—perhaps a reader can weigh in. The one below, at least, is pretty cryptic!”

    I’ve long wondered about this myself. My personal guess is that unlike an octopus or cuttlefish, which seem to actively attempt to mimic the coloration of their immediate environment, chameleons tend to live in more chromatically stable environments and therefore just having the “it’s cooler and shady= turn darker green” reactions are able to provide them with sufficient camouflage?

    1. Octopodes, of course, also change color for ’emotional’ reasons.

      I once raised dwarf chameleons. As crazy as it sounds, we witnessed hatchlings apparently die of fright when a companion suddenly changed color. We ended up having to raise each one separately.

      In addition to this physiological communication, (at least some) chameleons have been shown to communicate via vibration:

      Combined with their glacial movements, these non-audible communication methods suggest to me a strategy for keeping quiet as a means to avoid detection.

            1. Oh, yes, the baby anurans! 🙂 Alas, we don’t get many toads anymore, but I love it when the newly metamorphosed peepers and gray tree frogs show up on our windows at night.

      1. I’ve heard that chameleons were quite difficult to raise in captivity, but hadn’t heard why before.

        1. Oh, that’s only one of the reasons! It’s really too bad they’re so delicate as otherwise they’re fantastic vivaria denizens. Some of the larger adults do well loose in rooms with potted plants/trees they can visit, as long as the humidity’s high. (A few species are definitely hardier than most of the rest.)

  6. Every morning I wake up anticipating the Wildlife Photos and Hili’s dialogue (congrats on #300 btw). So I too hope for its continued presence in my in-box.
    Awesome photos and thanks for the information. Polymorphs? I have noticed a multitude of colors of damselflies and always thought they were different species (like some others have posted here). Thanks for the learnings.
    That rufous shot is so dramatic. I love it!

  7. Pruinose?! I’ve learned something today. I thought from the context that it might have meant prune-coloured, but now I know better.

    1. I don’t know the etymology of that word, but it refers to a dull, waxy coating some dragonflies and damselflies develop. Only certain species produce the coating; in those that do, it’s more likely to be present in the males and absent to only weakly developed in the females. Ischnura hastata is a bit unusual in that the females become pruinose, but the males don’t.

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