Readers’ wildlife photos

August 15, 2014 • 4:23 am

The next few weeks may be dicey, website-wise, as I’m working flat out on the Albatross. (I keep saying that but posts keep appearing.) Just don’t expect substantive ones, as my brain hurts.

How about some nice photos from our correspondent in Idaho, Stephen Barnard? (Click to enlarge.)

Three ways of looking at a rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus):

Rufous 5


Rufous 3

This is what they’re afraid of, for a sting could mean death:


A nighthawk (Chordeiles minor):


A sandhill crane (Grus canadensis):

Sandhill crane

And three more views of the rufous, first at the feeder:

Rufous 1

Rufous copy

Rufous at sunset:

sunset rufous

Finally, a lovely landscape. . .


20 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Love the hummingbird pics, but that landscape one outdoes them all with its vividness. Outstanding! 😀

    An idle thought struck me when I saw the wasp pic: Do we have a lower opinion of insects partly because they are the most “robotic” looking animals we know of? I mean, they have distinguishable body parts and clear articulations, they lack human-like similarities (such as expressiveness or even familiar lens eyes), they have antennae and jointed legs and look more automaton-like as a result, yet they move around and do stuff like small mammals and birds do, and they’re too small to even be granted the big brains we might tentatively give a dog or even a salmon.

    I ask this because it came easily to me to say “oh those birds are beautiful” or even “that sunset is gorgeous”, but I had to stop and think a bit before I could say something like that about the wasp. I’m not entomophobic, and I can tolerate wasps so long as they don’t fly too close to my face or land on my arm, but then I also think of science fiction “bug” wars and about questions of insect consciousness, and I wonder if this is somehow linked to similar questions about robots in sci-fi and questions of consciousness. I can’t imagine many people who would look at, say, a walking robot like Alvin and think “how beautiful” as opposed to “what a feat of engineering”. Much less suppose someone might not object if we start talking about robot consciousness.

    Or am I waffling? Tell me if I’m waffling, but I think there’s a thought here trying to get out, and photography like this “provoked” the thought, so to speak.

    1. I think that we use a number of different criteria to see something as beautiful or ugly. We recognize faces, we strongly recognize babies, good food, and comforts. When an insect triggers one of these senses, we are likely to see it as beautiful or cute even though it does not look like a fellow mammal. Flowers and irridescent hummingbirds and octopuses with short tentacles and big round eyes also trigger these kinds of useful within us.
      Here are examples of insects that are widely recognized as beautiful and cute, respectively: the sunset moth and the wooly bear caterpillar.
      We also have a useful sense of repugnance to recognize spoiled food, and danger to recognize, well, danger. Insects like the bot fly larva are therefore icky, and the ant lion larva looks incredibly dangerous (although on a very small scale).
      Even those of us who are entomophiles (me) or entomophobes will have these evolved and useful senses, and can see why this or that insect should be seen as beautiful, cute, or ugly.

    2. I’m averse to insects, but not morbidly. I don’t like to touch any but the smallest, most harmless ones, like mayflies and caddis and midges. I would not eat insects unless I had to. Spiders and centipedes and scorpions? Forget it. Crabs and lobsters, delicious. It’s irrational.

      Their forms are exquisitely alien. A stonefly nymph, out of the water, nimbly crawling on a rock, looking for prey or a place to shuck, is microscopically frightening and fascinating.

      I spend typically two hours or so a day in the summer observing aquatic insects through their life cycles, and the birds and the trout feeding on them, with the goal in mind to catch trout on dry flies. I think Darwin would have liked this place.

  2. Love the hummer photos. You are lucky to have such good light and from so many angles. My hummers often fall into shadow and I can only shoot them from one angle.

  3. Yesterday while sitting quietly near a Japanese cherry tree in the yard, there was a sound of leaves flapping around. Looking up, there was a hummingbird (on the US east coast here, so ruby-throated?) chasing a much larger sparrow around the branches! That hummingbird was mad and it wasn’t taking anything from that sparrow. Talk about aggressive!

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