Readers’ wildlife photos

September 11, 2014 • 5:12 am

If you have some wildlife photos, send ’em in, as the queue is getting uncomfortably small. But, as I always say, publishing them is at my discretion, as I hate disappointing people. So make sure they’re good ones!

Reader Ray sent some unusual photos: domesticated reindeer. They were taken in Ivalo, which is in Lapland (Finland):

Taken by me, August 2012, near Ivalo above the Arctic Circle. At the reindeer farm, a Sami reindeer farmer beat a tree with a stick, and they came running from all over. They ate from our hands and you will see that they are quite small. Both male and female have antlers, unlike other deer, and the antlers always have a forward pointing`prong’ (I forget the technical term.) Most Christmas cards that  purport to show reindeer from Lapland get them all wrong.

They are indeed smaller than I imagined; and I’d love to see the herds. I also didn’t know that reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) are the same species we call “caribou” in North America, though that species is geographically variable in size and other morphological traits. Finally, I didn’t now they had a central, forward-pointing prong!



Regular Stephen Barnard from Idaho sent an amazing series of photos showing an interaction between Buteo swainsoni and B. jamaicensis:

Swainson’s and Red-tailed hawks in a dogfight high over my fields. The Swainson’s (with the darker  breast) seems to have the upper hand. There was a third hawk taking place in the acrobatics — a Red-tailed, I think.




Finally, reader pyers sent us a photo absolutely emblamatic of England:

Mute swans (Cygnus olor) on the River Severn at Worcester. Nothing very special (we in England have few animals that can equal the spectacular ones that you have highlighted)  but just an attractive sight ….

Indeed. If I saw that I’d immediately repair to the nearest pub to have a pint or three. Do they still have Landlord over there?


33 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Mute Swans, native to Europe, were introduced by the wealthy in America to decorate their estate ponds. Though we have our own native swans here, they have the nasty habit of migrating north during the summer and leaving our sylvan contemplation pools devoid of their majestic focus. Mute Swans however are non-migratory and serve this purpose reliably. Unfortunately they are prolific and have become established in the wild to the detriment of other waterfowl and also of habitat. There is a battle between conservation agencies and animal activists about how to address this issue.

      1. The Mail and Express love nothing better than stories about east Europeans attempting to catch swans for their dinner table!

    1. I met a lady who used to spend weekends with her husband & a team of volunteers, catching & measuring/observing mute swans. They are very territorial & agressive. I recall she told me of a male/male pairing. Because they have observed them so well they can trace families of swans, which I suppose is a goldmine for populkation biologists.

    2. It’s controversial, but they’re killing them here in Michigan. Meanwhile, the native Trumpeter Swans, with a lot of help from conservationists, are rebounding spectacularly.

  2. If you are referring to Timothy Taylor’s Landlord, then yes we do. It’s not a common beer here in London, but I’ve seen a few pubs selling it in the past year.

  3. “Do they still have Landlord over there?”

    We certainly do. Timothy Taylor’s Landlord – from Keighley, West Yorkshire. A magnificent brew.

  4. Being a resident of the faithful city ( Worcester) I am certain that Taylors may be found. But I heartily recommend the Plough, winner of CAMRAs Worcester Pub of the year on more than one occasion, which is within a very short distance of the river and I am happy to buy any WEIT readers a pint!

    1. I can’t quite believe there are at least two readers of WEIT from Worcester! (And possibly three depending on where the submitter of the photo is from.)
      The Plough is a good pub. I’ll shout your name next time I’m in there.

  5. Reindeer antlers are deciduous, the ones shown appear to still be velvet covered, which makes sense in August. Most of the males have shed theirs by mid december (after the fall rut) – females and castrate males however keep them into the spring. The point being that this tells us something about Rudolph as normally depicted – beyond his red nose

    1. Not to mention his eight tiny compatriots, who are also usually shown in their antlered state. Maybe the magic dust has something to do with antler retention…

    2. I’ve read, as well, that reindeer have joints in their toes that “click” when they walk- it’s said that you can hear a migrating herd of them coming by this long before you see them.

  6. I knew the reindeer size and species factoids, but not about the forward-facing antler. Cool stuff, thanks for the pics and text!

    1. I’ve just been looking at lots of pics to figure out what is going on with that, and conclude:
      (1) that isn’t a separate median antler, but the antlers are asymmetric: it’s the brow tine of the right antler, much bigger than the left.
      (2) there are examples where it’s clearly present in North America (e.g. the link Diana gives below), so the asymmetry is not just a result of domestication.
      (3) it only seems to be present in very well developed antlers, not in young animals.

  7. Funny that all those strap-on reindeer antlers we put on dogs and cats during Xmas always lack the middle antler! These holiday accessories should be anatomically accurate!

    1. You made me think of Max in the Grinch who stole Christmas. He’s got a forward-facing antler. Dr. Seuss is more accurate than most renderings – who knew? 🙂

  8. My wife and I were visiting Sweden a few years ago and traveled to a northern area where there is a sizeable Sami population. The reindeer herds were roaming freely during the summer and presented a regular obstacle to travel on back roads. They were all tagged to indicate ownership, but it was a puzzle to us as to how much time it would take to sort them all out or find all your own herd later if needed. In Stockholm we had some reindeer meat as part of an appetizer at a lovely restaurant located in the basement of the city hall. It seemed an odd place to locate a restaurant.

  9. Mute swans: I had never seen a swan (mute or otherwise) that was not pinioned until I moved to Newburgh NY in the mid-1970’s. In the fall we had many waterfowl on the Hudson River. A mixed flight of birds came down the river where we were working and I was astounded by the size of the swans! They appeared to be as large in comparison to the Canada geese as the geese were to the ducks!

    1. Long time ago at university an entomology professor stayed in the apartment next to the one I and some other students rented together. We often spent nice evenings sitting outdoors drinking beer and shooting the shit with him. It was on one such evening that I learned from him that the highest density of mosquitos were to be found on the arctic tundra. I would have never guessed that.

      1. Yes, northern latitudes are pretty bad for that. The tour guide warned us that getting some insect repellant in Helsinki was very important before we headed north. And she was right: there were literally clouds of the little buggers.

        1. I’m always surprised when I go into the bush in other countries & I’m not chased by clouds of mosquitos & deer flies. They seem to love me the most!

  10. Mute swans are, erm, interesting. I grew up on the coast and we had a lot of mating pairs around. The local mill pond was a good place to feed the ducks (mainly Mallards, plus Coots and Moorhens), but if the swans got interested they’d be out of the water and after you for the food.

    The next town along has a swan sanctuary, and there are >30 of the birds in residence. Those ones are very tame, don’t mind too much if you walk close to them, and quite often block the roads.

    I suppose that I need to take my camera the next time I’m down there, but I don’t have a long lens so can never guarantee that I can catch anything avian!

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