Readers’ wildlife photos

September 12, 2014 • 4:29 am

Mammals, birds, and insects today! There’s also a YouTube video, which Professor Ceiling Cat requests that you watch.

First, Joe Dickinson, to whom I misattributed some whale photos recently, sent me some real whale photos he took:

Having briefly been credited with some fine whale photos that were not mine, I went to my archives to find these.  Just outside Juneau, Alaska, a bit more than a year ago, we watched for a couple of hours as a pod of six or eight humpbacks [Megaptera novaeangliae] repeatedly sounded, then surfaced simultaneously in the cooperative “bubble net” feeding behavior.




What is bubble net feeding? It’s very clever, and Alaska Wildlife explains:

Bubble Net Feeding is a unique feeding technique employed by Humpback Whales, in which a group of whales swim in a shrinking circle blowing bubbles below a school of fish. This shrinking column of bubbles surrounds the school of fish forcing them upward. The whales spontaneously swim upward through the bubble net, mouths wide open, catching thousands of fish in one gulp.


Here’s a BBC video showing the feeding behavior, which involves three separate tasks, each performed by a whale or group of whales. This is a stunning video clearly showing the circle of bubbles and then the open-mouthed whales lunging up through the center. Do watch the whole thing, especially the reconstruction of the behavior beginning at 3:40. This is one of the most striking cooperative behaviors I’ve seen in any animal.

From Stephen Barnard, whose email was titled “The last thing you want to see if you’re dying of thirst. . . ” we have a Turkey Vulture (Cathartes aura) on the wing:


Reader Mark Sturtevant sent two insects:

A battle damaged red spotted purple (Limenitis arthemis). This butterfly returned to our hydrangeas over several days. Interestingly, this species comes in two main varieties with partially overlapping ranges. The red spotted purple variety is shown here, and the other variety is known as the white admiral. This is explained here. I believe the white admiral was once considered a separate species.


A young widow skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa). Older specimens tend to have a whitish body, and areas of white on their wings. To take pictures of this wary insect, I first caught it and chilled it in a refrigerator for a couple minutes. After several minutes outside, it warmed up and flew away.


8 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Lovely photos. And thanks for posting the incredible video! This will surely be the high point of my day.

    How can we hunt and kill such magnificent and intelligent creatures that are whales?!

  2. Watching that amazing video, I was delighted to learn that the bubbling whales were not relatives, but “friends”. 😎

  3. Love the turkey vultures! They’ve been hanging around here a lot & will probably migrate south in a month or so. My dog hates all big birds flying in what she feels is her air space & will bark at them angrily.

  4. I did not know about all the details of whales using a bubble net. The ‘herders’ and the ‘caller’ were new to me. Very cool.

  5. Thanks for posting the video. 180 decibels is an incredibly loud sound I was amazed to learn that in and of itself, but I had only read a few brief descriptions of bubble netting before and had no idea it was such a complex and coordinated process. Until recently, I never thought of marine mammals as great predators. Other than the Atlantic Bottlenose Dolphin, many of which I saw in the wild as a youngster, my impression was mostly that they were passive feeders, only nomming on krill. But when I began to read and learn more about them, I realized that a lot of the most elite hunters in the ocean are cetaceans.

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