Readers’ wildlife photos

August 28, 2014 • 3:32 am

Out in Idaho, Stephen Barnard is trying to take the perfect bird pictures. He sends three species today.

First, a diving Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni):

Barnard Swainsons Hawk

Sandhill crane (Grus canadensis):

Sandhill crane Barnard

An osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with a rainbow trout:


And moar Swainson’s Hawks:




And reader Ken Phelps sends some unusual macro photography:

I thought you might be interested in these photos of some ants eating a dead Bumblebee. They were taken with a Canon 5D2, a Canon MP-E 65mm macro lens, and Canon macro twin flash.

If you know the species of the ant, weigh in below.



30 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

    1. Yeah. I wish I could afford that setup. Macro photography is great because every walk, even in the city, becomes a safari.

      1. Cheap point-and-shot pocket cameras with small sensors take surprisingly good macros. (The smaller the sensor the better the depth of field, all else equal.) Most of them have a macro setting (sometimes two). Try it — you might be surprised.

        Use the LCD display, not viewfinder (if you have one).

  1. Fantastic as always. And Ken, that is some serious macro photography. If I knew the approximate location where you lived, I might attempt to id the ant.

      1. Wow, that sounds like a neat place to live. I visited the coastal area of northern Washington state many years ago, and was blown away by the forests and houses with moss growing on their roofs.

        Based on the small eyes placed well above the antennae, and shape of the mandibles, this looks like a species of carpenter ant. Carpenter ants spend a lot of time scavenging dead insects, so this also makes sense.
        I used these great web sites: BugGuide and Ant Wiki to help narrow it down. I would guess either Camponotus herculeanus or Camponotus mordoc.

      2. We can see the lights of Nanaimo and Parksville from where we are, across the Strait. Gabriola probably blocks the view between us.

        That looks very much like the carpenter ants we have here. Same mandibles, same colouring of the limbs. I’ve shared a home with them several times, over the years.

        Based on the pictures over at antwiki, I’d say what we have here are the more common herculeanus, because of the length of the gaster (abdomen) compared to modoc. The gaster happens not to be visible in your shots, which are just amazing.

        1. I suspect you are correct. We found a colony of carpenter ants setting up residence in our house earlier this year.

          1. The exterminator said that the satellite colony in the house would be re-established sooner or later and recommended regular perimeter spraying. We’re due.

  2. I can’t imagine anyone better at capturing wildlife than Stephen Barnard. The photo of the diving Swainson’s Hawk is superb.

      1. Thanks for this terrific link.
        His flowers, too, are spectacular.
        The quantity of great shots is mind-numbing.
        Why not tell us a bit about this excellent artist?

  3. After seeing all the birds with their mouths open, the hawk with the closed mouth looked chastened. 🙂

    I suck at macro – I love those ant photos! I think my big problem is light. One day, I would love to get ring flashes.

    1. My tiny camera cannot do macro, but it can take decent close ups of non-tiny insects outside as long as I can get the lens about an inch away from them.
      I had a problem with the flash blowing out the light areas, and I helped diffuse that by taping two layers of heavy white paper over the flash.

  4. The first two pictures of the Swainson’s Hawk, diving and resting on a branch, but both with beak open, are spectacular. Hard to imagine how they could be bettered.
    ‘Tis true that an open beak adds a lot to the impression made by the picture of a bird of prey. The beak is so vital to the bird’s lifestyle that seeing it in function makes the picture more alive.

  5. Stephen has already reached perfection with his bird photos!

    Ken – what the heck is the ant on?? Great shots (and Vancouver Island is gorgeous!).

  6. 1st Swainson’s Hawk photo: “I’m mad about something and I want everyone to know about it!!”

    2nd Swainson’s Hawk photo: “Sorry folks, I kind of lost my temper there – won’t happen again.”

  7. The osprey photo is special for me, though it isn’t technically good. The light was marginal. ISO 2000, 700mm, f/8, 1/4000, hand-held, much cropped.

    Ospreys aren’t common here, though there are plenty of fish. Maybe it’s a combination of competition with bald eagles and a lack of good nesting sites. (Bald eagles and ospreys don’t get along.) I watched this one dive to catch a fish, far away with the view partly obscured by willows. I waited and caught him on the way home.

    1. Osprey’s are picky nesters. They often fly off their nest squeeing & owls go in and eat the eggs as well.

      1. Bald Eagles and Ospreys have an interesting antagonistic relationship. They’re both strong flyers and they prey on the same thing (fish). Eagles are larger and more powerful; Ospreys are more nimble and faster.

        I’ve seen on a couple occasions a pair of ospreys effectively attack an eagle in the open, high up. In a coordinated attack, the ospreys climb above the eagle and dive on it. The eagle responds by turning upside down, defending with its talons. The osprey pair clearly have the upper hand.

        On the other hand, an osprey burdened with a large fish is no match for an eagle and will be attacked. I was looking for, and in fact hoping, that this would happen because it would have been the shot of the year.

        They also will harrass each others’ nests and attempt to kill the eggs and the chicks. I’ve seen an osprey attack the eagle nest here and be driven away. The eagles are vigilant 24/7 when their nest is vulnerable.

    2. Looks like the osprey is going for that skateboard position to hold the fish nose first but not getting any co-operation from it.

      I perked up when I saw Swainson’s, but because I have finally identified the Swainson’s thrush (Catharus ustulatus) as the source of the song that has mystified me for so long. They really are often heard but seldom seen.

      What an interesting life William Swainson led. Wikipedia gives 9 birds named after him like this, 6 of which have swainsoni(i) as the species in their binomial.

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