Readers’ wildlife photographs

March 29, 2015 • 8:10 am

Three oddments today, the first a trio of rescue birds from reader Joe Dickinson (and yes, non-domestic rescue animals count as wildlife!):

Didn’t know rescue birds counted as wildlife.  Here are three from the Sitka Raptor Center, Alaska.  First, a Northern Pygmy Owl (Glaucidium gnoma), then a Snowy Owl (Nyctea scandiaca) and, of course, a Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus).




From reader Harry C.:

While vacationing in Telluride, Colorado, I looked out the window and saw this bobcat (Lynx rufus). I took these with my cellphone. The third photo is my cat, Woodstock.


From Wikipedia:

In a Shawnee tale, the bobcat is outwitted by a rabbit, which gives rise to its spots. After trapping the rabbit in a tree, the bobcat is persuaded to build a fire, only to have the embers scattered on its fur, leaving it singed with dark brown spots.


Harry slipped in his own moggie which, according to Timetree, is about 7 million years diverged from the bobcat:


From reader Tim Anderson:

Here is a picture of part of the Milky Way showing the Southern Cross (just to the left of the dark area in the middle) and the Pointers (the two bright stars toward the bottom).

If you draw an imaginary line through the long axis of the Southern Cross and second one at right angles through the midpoint between the Pointers, the lines cross very close to the Southern Celestial Pole (true south).

The bright collection of stars above the dark area is the Running Chicken Nebula. [JAC: What??]
Taken with a Canon 70D paired with an 18-35mm zoom lens, made from a stack of 41 15-second exposures.

40 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

  1. If it is the Running chicken nebula, then it takes some imagination to see it.
    here is the best picture I can find that maximizes its chickenness. The head is top right, and the wings are spread.

    1. As far as I ever noticed, the names attached to every constellation are “imaginative” in the very same sense.

  2. An astronomical photograph juxtaposed with the complex and magnificent animals of our secluded planet invariably makes me curious. What are possible products of Darwinian processes elsewhere?

    And then I despair of never knowing. How I often wish some sophisticated aliens would appear with Sagan’s Encyclopedia Galactica.

    1. Makes you think, doesn’t it?

      In 10-20 years we may know that oxygenating photosynthesizers analogous to cyanobacteria exist elsewhere. At that time the capacity of telescopes allow a wide enough survey to observe oxygenated biospheres, if they are reasonably common.

      That would be a start on constraining your question.

  3. It is just so nice that the state of Illinois is moving a bill through the legislature to enable hunting of bobcats on the canard that bobcats are destructive of wildlife and livestock. The nerve of bobcats killing something that was meant by god for us to kill! Let’s just wipe away the nonsense, many if not most hunters enjoy killing anything they can get their sights on.

    1. Interestingly, my 2000 Sibley guide does not even list the Saw-whet Owl, although my 1961 Peterson does. I guess I’ll check google to see if there has been a name change or something.

        1. Ann is correct! The species’ name is Northern Saw-whet Owl, which is the way that it’s listed in the Sibley 2000 Guide, and the owl in the photo is a Northern Saw-whet Owl, not a Northern Pygmy-Owl. Nice photo!

  4. Tim, your photo stacking idea is an interesting option for celestial photography, for those of us too cheap or poor to buy a clock drive to keep the stars stationary. A large number of short photos, stacked using the alignment feature in Photoshop, should produce results similar to (though noisier than) a single long exposure on an expensive clock-driven tracking tripod head.

    1. I know stacking is the most common basic technique for amateur astrophotography…and I’m pretty sure it’s also used extensively by the big deep-sky observatories, including Hubble.

      There are certain types of noise that increase with the time since the sensor is activated but that don’t increase with the total time of sensor activation. Reading out the sensor clears out that noise and only takes a fraction of a microsecond, so you can do that periodically to clear out that type of noise without meaningfully interrupting the total exposure time.

      If you’re going to do it yourself, you’ll still need a way to get exposures free of motion blur. A good tripod, active image stabilization, and short exposure times are your friend. But the downside is that, the shorter your exposure time, the more exposures you need to take…and that can quickly overwhelm your computer’s ability to process them in a reasonable amount of time.

      Additional problems…geometrical distortion in your lens (no lens is perfect) can make it impossible to line up two exposures just by sliding the one over the other. Many lenses suffer from increasing coma towards the edges such that one shot might have a star with minimal coma and another with significant coma. At the end of the day, you’re left with a cropped image that only includes the usable overlapping portions of all the images.

      But, yes. Stacking is about the only way you’re going to get good astronomical imagery with the kind of gear mere mortals can afford.



        1. Post-processing can only do so much to correct shortcomings in the glass. Geometry can be corrected such that typical scenes don’t look noticeably distorted to casual observation…but astrophotography is the process of getting individual pixels in the right spot, and that’s stretching correction matrices to the limit and beyond. Plus, there’s really nothing you can do about coma and astigmatism and other sorts of faults.

          Not that you don’t get better results with such post-processing! It’s just that the improvements can be marginal and may well be disappointing….


    2. You can build your own clock drive. It isn’t hard but I forget how – I’m sure online you can find something that can be built cheaply.

      The trick with long exposure deep sky and the drives is you need to make micro corrections and have a very accurate drive. I bought a nice mount and I have software to correct it. Of course, I hardly used it after I did due to being to sore and tired to set up the equipment in the dark.

      1. The cheap-and-easy one is a “barn door” tracker, with lots of search hits.

        I do believe the time is fast approaching for my photographic efforts to finally no longer be absorbed with color profiling, which should hopefully give me bot the time and excuse to get out there and just shoot, damnit. And some of that “just shooting” will hopefully include some astrophotography…which will help me figure out if I want a tracker or not….


          1. Well…once you get away from the light dome over Phoenix. You can see the Big Dipper from my back yard, but Polaris can sometimes be a challenge to spot.

            On the other hand…the best astronomical location in the lower 48 is the area north of Flagstaff, only a few hours’s drive from here. Dry, clear skies, high altitude, and enough distance from metropolitan areas that pollution is minimal.


          2. I remember as a child first learning that ‘light pollution’ was a thing, and thinking “Great! Now all we need to do is make sure all the streetlights point down where they help us see at night, not up where they just pour into space and annoy the astronomers. Think of the electricity that can be saved that way!”

            Needless to say, very few places have done anything to reduce the waste of power and night sky.

      2. I don’t know, but it doesn’t seem like a good clock drive should be all that expensive. At least not relative to what a decent camera body and a decent lens costs.

        I have a little 90mm Maksutov-Cassegrain scope with an electronic dual fork altazimuth mount that can be used in a variety of modes. Didn’t cost more than $500 fifteen years ago. A quick search shows similar scopes / mounts for $400.

        1. It depends on the accuracy needed. For long exposure shots, you need more accuracy. I couldn’t get good deep sky without blur on my LX10’s mount and I had to buy the Losmandy GM8.

  5. Would someone please mark the Southern Cross on that image? Yes, I’m challenged by some things…

    Great birds, Joe! That Snowy Owl’s expression is priceless. 😀

    Gorgeous bobcat, Harry! That must have been quite exciting to see! (Woodstock is looking unimpressed, however.)

    1. Me too. I see three or four things that might be the southern cross, but when it comes to constellations, I can find Orion’s belt without help but that’s about it.

  6. Nice assortment today. Great bird portraits. Bobcats are such cool cats. I’ve seen a couple around here, but they never stuck around long enough for me to take a photo. When will we be able to take photos with a chip implanted in our brains! 🙂

    1. The Southern Cross is very easy to spot with one’s own eyes rather than from a photo. In real life the background stars are much dimmer and hence not so confusing.

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