Readers’ wildlife photographs

March 14, 2015 • 7:20 am

This spot must be a favorite for birders, as the majority of what I get are pictures of living dinosaurs. Today’s photos are from one of our best bird photographers, the famous Stephen Barnard of Idaho.

Canada Goose (Branta canadensis):


 Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus):


Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis):


And for those invertebrate lovers, here are three insect photos taken by reader Todd Fife of Kentucky. First, a tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) parasitized by an unknown species (perhaps a wasp? Readers can weigh in):

Parasitized tobacco hornworm

A spotted cucumber beetle (Diabrotica undecimpunctata), described by Wikipedia as a “major agricultural pest”:

Spotted Cucumber Beetle

And a scary-looking larva of a squash lady beetle (Epilachna borealis), another agricultural pest:

squash lady beetle larva

27 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

  1. The red-winged blackbird looks odd without the yellow stripe at the bottom of the red patch. Is this a variant of some sort?

    1. Don’t know, but I got curious about the pigments, and found this – HPLC identification of the carotenoids, and also ID of apparently atypical (vs. such-colored feathers from other birds) melanins. I think the basis of what you’re referring to is mentioned here, too.

      But the last sentences of the abstract intrigue me (my underlining).

      The dual pigment composition of red epaulet feathers and the melanin-only basis for yellow coloration may have important implications for the honesty-reinforcing mechanisms underlying ornamental epaulets in red-winged blackbirds, and shed light on the difficulties researchers have had to date in characterizing the signaling function of this trait. As in several other birds, the melanic nature of feathers may explain why epaulets are used largely to settle aggressive contests rather than to attract mates.

      1. I guess doesn’t underline.

        Honesty-reinforcing mechanisms? And why would the chemical basis of the coloration have anything to do with their functional basis?

          1. Sure, there must be some fitness component to the coloration, but unless I’m reading it wrongly, the abstract (and of course it would be a lot better to have the full paper) sounds as though the way the feathers achieve their color (melanic nature) is in some way related to their purpose? Unless the argument is that more melanin = greater aggressiveness –> coming out on top in conflicts = brighter color(?)

        1. Well that didn’t work! It missed out the brackets completely and the ‘and’ in between. I give up.

            1. The opening tag is a “less than” symbol, a lower-case “i” and a “greater than” symbol.

              The closing tag is a “less than” symbol, a forward slash, a lower-case “i” and a “greater than” symbol.

              I just type ii and my abbreviation expander gives me the tags next to each other. Then all I have to do is to put the italicized text between them.

              Replace the i with a b and you’ll get bold text.

              1. You reversed the order of the “less than” and “greater than” symbols in the closing tag.

  2. I can add that the braconid parasites are now cocoons in the picture. The larvae have emerged from their host, and the hornworm larva is doomed to die.

  3. Lovely – all the spring birds are starting to appear now. A grackle & some red-winged black birds have appeared at the feeder. I also see the chippy is awake again from his torpor. There are seeds ready for him (which a bunch of gold finches & a sparrow are enjoying).

  4. Gorgeous nature photography is one of the reason I come to this website. Thank you, Stephen Barnard and Todd Fife, for brightening up my day!

    By the way, the larva in the last picture looks like some fancy desert in an expensive Japanese restaurant.

  5. Those are some beautiful living dinosaurs. “All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.” Though I don’t think McCartney was singing about the red-winged version.

    And the pests are cool as well. I wonder if there is any mimicking going on with the cucumber beetle and the lady bug.

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