Readers’ wildlife photographs

November 15, 2014 • 12:19 pm

Is anybody out there today? If you aren’t, you’re missing some nice photos, including some spectacular eusocial behavior:

These wasp photos come from reader Jacques Hausser:

I was lucky enough to have my camera ready when these two European hornets (Vespa crabro) noisily landed in a spruce just in front of my nose. At first I thought it was a mating scene, but no. A fight ? Neither. It is a trophallaxy scene: a worker (left) is transfering a last drop of food to a young gyne (future queen) so eager to participate to her nuptial flight that she did take off before full refuelling…

Immediately after the second picture the two critters fell to the ground, separated and flew away in opposite directions.



Hornets are mostly carnivorous, catching and eating flies and bees, but in autumn they nevertheless appreciate the nectar of some flowers, for example the trumpet vine (Campsis radicans), and therefore contribute to its pollinisation (we don’t have humming birds in Europe). This worker is litterally covered with pollen.


And this one licks the nectar oozing from a bud.

Such beautiful creatures. . .


Reader Stephen Barnard sends us a bird attack:

I was photographing this Hooded Merganser  (Lophodytes cucullatus) when a Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus) attacked it.


I wrote back asking whether the attack was successful, and Stephen said that the harrier missed (I was happy about that, but probably shouldn’t have been), and he enclosed an additional photo:


30 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

  1. Amazing insect pics – so beautiful up close.

    Yours are always great Stephen, but I’m glad the hawk missed too. I especially like the last one – I’m currently fascinated by the way a bird uses its feathers in flight because (embarrassingly) I’ve got to 50 without really noticing just how amazing it is.

      1. Very nice shot of the bird! Stunning pattens! No wonder artists find their muses in nature! I want a skirt, scarf, top, hand bag, you know what, this bird’s dress has a perfect color scheme! A designer can easy make a set of clothes following the bird’s style.

        I can see what brought out the inner poet of Mr. Barnard…. I’m sure it is more than a tiger or symmetry… 🙂

    1. Once you understand what they want, and the limit of their behavior, ones’ feelings for these things can be changed. Knowledge and understanding can remove fear and superstition.
      A stinging insect only wants to provide for its nest, and it does not want trouble. They cannot understand much about their surroundings, as they have a tiny brain. The last thing that they want is to use their stinger. They can be even (carefully) handled with some safety, as long as they are not impended or made to feel threatened.
      So when you are ‘buzzed’ by a bee or wasp what is really going on is that the insect has simply been momentarily confused. It was probably flying along a route that it had stored in memory, using landmarks to find its way, when it is suddenly confronted by this big..thing (which is you). So it has to slow down and steer to one side as it tries to figure out a way around. The louder buzzing sound is not anger, it is just an effect of changing its rate of wing flapping.

      1. The last thing that they want is to use their stinger.

        Yeah, that may be, but it’s the first thing I think about when I see ’em.

  2. Nice photos.

    Offering regurgitated food is a true sign of loyalty and devotion. Reminds me of the Republican strategy towards their base- eat my vomit- yumyum. (Sorry, I’m still bitter from the recent elections.)

    Is this the first snow in Idaho? The snowscape really adds to the dynamic. Personally, I’m glad the merganser escaped unharmed. I usually root for the underd*g…er bird.

      1. Hope to get some snow here in western WA. It’s been bitter cold, but no precipitation. The sun is a rare sight this time of year though, so I’m not complaining.

  3. The second harrier’s picture is interesting, showing how she twists her wrists and uses her primary remiges to brake, but not the secondary ones. Very good picture!

  4. the harrier missed (I was happy about that, but probably shouldn’t have been)

    I have been trying to root for the predators more because they have to eat something, but it is hard not to feel relief when a creature lives instead of getting ripped to shreds.

    It’s kind of like English football: I root for Arsenal, but if Liverpool wins, it’s a fair outcome. Nothing wrong with favoring one side or the other.

    The harrier will get the next one! Or not!

      1. I especially cheer on the Harrier (Hen Harrier, as we call it in the UK) as the species is struggling here largely due to persecution. Hen Harriers take red grouse (= willow grouse elsewhere)chicks amongst other prey and as a result are hated by the people who run grouse shoots. The species is almost extinct in England but is doing better in Scotland.
        Grouse shooting is practised in upland areas of the UK by the very wealthy and grouse estates are very intensively managed to ensure maximum ‘bags’ for the fee-paying guns.

        1. I never root for the human predators. Unless maybe when they are thinning populations to restore balance – though “more wolves” would usually be the better solution.

  5. I saw my first harrier of the winter season today and it was a joy to watch it work the marshes for supper. But I saw nothing as dramatic as all that— wow!

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