Readers’ wildlife photos

September 7, 2014 • 4:37 am

Reader Mark Sturtevant sent us three arthropods:

I have been taking pictures of insects with my trusty little pocket camera. This has been tremendous fun.

 At first I thought these were large bumblebees, but I have since learned they are carpenter bees! This is the Eastern carpenter bee, Xylocopa virginica, on hydrangea. If you want to attract swarms of pollinators all summer long, this is the plant for you!


 A black swallowtail larva (Papilio polyxenes), feeding on queen Anne’s lace. Mature larvae of this species prefer to stay near the tops of their host plant to eat the flowers, making them fairly easy to spot.


OK, this is not an insect.  This is the banded garden spider (Argiope trifasciata). I used to play with various garden spider species for hours as a youngster, letting them crawl all over me. They were always very docile.


From Stephen Barnard, a Swainson’s Hawk (Buteo swainsoni). He points out that you can see its tongue:

Swainson's hawk


Finally, reader Elise sends an unknown skeleton from a tidepool in New Zealand, asking for identification:

This photo is of an intact skeleton I came across on the rocks at a beach northeast of Auckland that I couldn’t identify.  My area is biomedical research in humans so I’m not very proficient in marine biology, and while admittedly I didn’t spend too much time trying to identify the skeleton a biologist friend didn’t know what it was either.  If any other readers do I would be interested to know.

unidentified skeleton

16 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Magnificent portrait of the hawk.
    In a classic Renaissance style.
    You have to admire the powerful beak and talons.

    Would a more powerful telelens bring out more detail on all the distinct front feathers? I have seen pictures in which each little breast feather is clearly visible.

    1. If you click on the picture a couple times, it takes you to a larger version where the individual barbs on the feathers are visible. That larger version is, itself, much, much smaller than the camera records. I imagine Stephen cropped the image some for composition, but I also suspect that he downsampled it to bring the file to a manageable size. As such, the original would likely have significantly more detail still.



    1. I second this. There also appears to be both halves of the furcula (wishbone), though the photo is a bit washed out to tell.

    2. Cool, thanks! I was interpreting the rectangular bone as a strange shaped skull. Looking at some other penguin skeletons online, pelvis makes more sense, and the skull is actually missing. Sorry the photo is a little washed out, was taken with my IPhone.

    3. Not sure about penguin*, but definitely a bird (the vertebrae alone would be unmistakable!), and the rectangular-ish plate is the sternum. The scapulocoracoids articulate to the anterior edge of the sternum (left of photo, on either side of the narrow ‘spike’, which is the front end of the ventral keel) but have folded back during maceration. Coracoid and scapula are strap-like bones meeting at an acute angle, with glenoid cavity for humerus at their junction: that’s the left humerus towards bottom right of the picture, and a google image search (*) confirms it looks just like a penguin and very different from flying birds.
      New Zealand is the penguin capital of the world (6 of the 17 extant species breed there) so a closer ID would need a real expert.

  2. Carpenter bees are funny to watch. They are always looking for somewhere to live so you have to watch they don’t gnaw into wood in your house. What’s funny is they seem really ditzy and bumbling, bouncing into things while buzzing loudly. I don’t think they sting either

    1. Another species that I see around here are the really big, all black ones (like Xylocopa micans. The males are the ones that we most often see flying around, so of course those do not sting. The females stand guard in the tunnel, and I have been instructed that those can be aggressive, as in they will come out to sting you if you get too close.

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