Readers’ wildlife photos

August 24, 2014 • 5:59 am

Reader Stephen Barnard in Idaho continues his quest for the perfect picture of a rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), one so good it could be an illustration in a bird guide. I think he’s close enough.


Every time I look at one of these things, I marvel at what natural selection can do, and I think of how, if we were there at the beginning of life, we’d never predict that a creature like this could evolve, much less be adapted to any lifestyle.

But I digress. Here are two more from Stephen:

A herd of elk [Cervus canadensis] on one of my alfalfa fields. In the first photo a Red-Tailed Hawk [Buteo jamaicensis] is in the background, and in the second a Black-billed Magpie [Pica hudsonia].




Finally, reader Mark Sturtevant continues his experiments in growing the Frankenstein of arthropods:

You may recall that I had photographed a cecropia larva that had molted from the 4th to the 5th instar. [JAC: see earlier post here.] They have now grown to a huge size (with some over 5 inches), and most are in cocoons. My time with these insects is almost over this summer. They will soon no longer need me until next year!

I had set about photographing the process of cocooning, but I had an amusing mishap. When I was just about done documenting the cocooning of this larva, another larva (who I thought was spinning a cocoon elsewhere on the branch) decided to barge in, sit on the cocoon, and start eating leaves again! They do not always commit to making a cocoon once they start, I guess.

Anyway, on a whim I stuck a mature larva of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster on it, and kept on shooting. I use some mutant stocks of Drosophila for a class that I teach. So, can you spot the ‘maggot’? I think this picture provides some sense of scale of different insects. The fruit fly larva is probably not more than 3 mm long.

Well? Can you spot the maggot?


24 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Yup, I see the maggot. Where’s the nightjar?

    What are the colored bumps called? Why are they different colors?

    1. I call them tubercles, but others call ’em knobs. I do not know why they are different colors, but Jerry had pointed out that they may be warning colors that say ‘do not eat me’.

  2. Wow, that rufous hummingbird shot is superb!
    The more I learn about hummingbirds, the more impressed I get. Their migration is beyond believable. Yet, they prove it doable every year.

    1. Yup. It might be front-focussed by no more than about a millimeter, but that’s all I can find to criticize. This really is as good as it gets. Audubon, National Geographic, and the like would happily publish these.



    2. Oh, yeah, well beyond your average bird guide photo, take my word for it!

      Love those elk, too, especially the antlers in velvet.

  3. Tremendously clear detailing in the rufous shot!

    The fruit fly larvae comparatively is indeed tiny.

    That pushy cecropia larva does not know how to behave during the creation of haute couture.

  4. Simply superb rufous shot. Wow. I could look at that guy for hours. I love PCC’s musing. Very moving for an atheist! lol!
    I spotted the maggot only after the zoom. Thanks Mark for the succession of photos during this Summer’s project. Too cool!

    1. Thank you! And thank you, Jerry, for posting these pix. It is a real thrill for me to see these here.

  5. I keep hoping that Stephen will do his magic with an adult male Rufous. There’s a good reason they call it a gorget.

  6. Amazing photo of an amazing bird. You could just about count the little guy’s feathers.

    I’d never seen hummingbirds until I visited California earlier this year, and I couldn’t get over how tiny they are. How a bird can be the size of a large insect is just incredible. And my appreciation of the feather is growing daily too. Fascinating things.

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