Readers’ wildlife photos

April 26, 2015 • 7:30 am

First, let’s check on Stephen Barnard’s eagles.  He’s reported now that there are at least two chicks: he’s seen a pair and there may be more.  However, we don’t yet have a photo. But we do have a picture of parental care with Stephen’s caption:

Getting everything just right. Watch out for the kids!

I don’t know how one can observe the ubiquity of solicitous parental care across vertebrates and still deny that evolutionary psychology has anything to say about human behavior! Whether it be in eagles or humans, parental behavior can be considered a product of either individual selection or kin selection, and it’s really a whole complex of behaviors. Eagles built nests; we favor our kids over other people’s.


And reader Bob Lundgren sent cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus)!

Attached a some photos my wife and I took of a cheetah hunting with her cubs one morning while we were in the Ngorogoro Conservation Area in Tanzania.
The first two photos show our initial encounter in a savanna area near a dry lake. Our guide was quite certain the cheetah mother was going to hunt because he said her belly looked empty. In the second photo she is waiting for her cubs to catch up. They were playing and dilly-dallying around and we couldn’t get all three in one frame. The giraffes are clearly interested but don’t have to worry.
The third photo shows all three down by the edge of the dry lake. They have spotted a herd of gazelles grazing on the other side of the lake and mom spent nearly an hour patiently waiting for an opportunity.
The fourth photo is not an ad for a safari company (although it is a good one). The gazelle herd has been moving toward the left as they graze. One of the gazelles is lagging behind the group and a gap is opening up. Mom has seen this and has moved up behind the vehicle to use it as cover while she waits. Her cubs have been sent into the cover of some brush to watch.
In the fifth photo mom has moved away from the vehicle and is slowly and smoothly making her way out toward the lake bed.
The sixth and seventh photos are stills from a video I took of the chase. It was fascinating to watch. Mom slowly accelerated from a walk to a trot to a run toward the gap between the gazelles until the straggler made the fatal error of bolting to the right instead of toward the herd. The gazelle was now isolated and the cheetah lit the after chargers, turned on a dime and made the kill. The seventh photo shows the trail of dust and the doomed gazelle.
The eight and ninth photos show the result. It all happened very quickly after the patient wait for opportunity. We expected that this sort of thing might be gruesome to watch, but it was actually quite fascinating, exciting and just the way things work. We were definitely cheering for the cheetah.
The last photo is another still from a video and is a bit fuzzy. After the kill mom hauled the gazelle into the shelter of a bush, proceeded to open its belly and let the cubs go at it.  She laid down in the shade and ignored them.
Finally, moving to colder climes, here are two photos of arctic foxes (Vulpes lagopus) from my FB friend Ivan Kislov, who takes amazing animal photos from Siberia. (Ask to be friends; you’ll see unforgettable photos.) Ivan’s a miner who does nature photography in his spare time; see my earlier post about his work here.
His caption is this:
Чукотка – белое на белом.
Translation, anyone?
Notice the short ears that to conserve heat; and compare to, say, the ears of desert foxes like the kit fox or fennec, which function as head radiators.

26 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. It’s very interesting that the cheetah has learned to use the safari vehicle as cover. Great series of photos.

    1. Yes. We noticed that most of the animal species we came across had adapted to safari vehicles. The first time we approached lions my wife and I were about to protest to our guide that he was getting too close and disturbing them. The lions just looked at us and yawned. Moving wildebeest expertly guage the speed of a vehicle moving perpendicular to their movement and part their ranks precicesly. Vehicles can be a problem if they get too concentrated. We heard of an instance where a cheetah and her cubs got separated during a kill because the high concentration of vehicles blocked the cubs from reuniting with the female. Even after the vehicles had left they were unable to find each other again, with devestating effect for the cubs. There are regulations about how many vehicles are allowed to concentrate together at any one place. During high safari seasons this is pretty difficult to police. It’s very important to try and find safari companies that have integrity regarding conservation and wildlife. Then it’s important to impress upon the guide that the tip at the end is going to be partly based on their respect for the animals. Our guide, Mussa, was excellent and got quite angry whenever a guide in another vehicle did something he thought was inappropriate.

  2. Arctic animals are very cute with their frost bit resistant ears. This fox looks like it needs a nice shampoo.

  3. Great pictures today. i am looking forward to more pix if chix from Stephen.

    I may be oversimplifying, but is it not strange that some animals ignore (or are at least not threatened by) the safari vehicle full of humans? But other animals like rhinos and elephants often see it as a threat.

  4. Does anyone deny that evolutionary psychology has anything to say about human behavior? I know there are some (I’m thinking of one in particular) who object to EP just-so stories which predictably prompt ideological rage. Is that all? Could any reasonable person deny that human behavior to some degree shaped by evolution? Isn’t the nature/nurture argument pretty much settled, to the disadvantage of both extreme positions?

    1. For a few years in the 1970s I was embedded in a sociology department where Durkheim, long dead, was still the greatest authority for many. The epitome of the sociologists’ rejection of evolution and sociobiology was this quote from the most intellectual individual in the department, “If there are any rules of human behavior – I don’t want to know them.”

      PS: I really enjoy your photography.

      1. I neglected to address evolutionary psychology. Years ago I attended the first Human Behavior and Evolutionary Science meeting. This was my first and only introduction to Richard Dawkins (who alone amongst the well tailored crowd was wearing shorts). There were no psychologists at that meeting which had a panel of some of the leading biologists of the time. Subsequently psychology students began infiltrating the group and at the time were really hung up on symmetry as a major factor in mate selection and evolution. Thus facial symmetry, breast symmetry (which gave at least some a chance to study Playboy centerfolds as an “intellectual endeavor) and waist/hip ratios (.7 turned out to be a favorite number with no effort made to study morphological variation in global populations but again gave them justification for studying pictures of nude females). Strangely enough little to no attention was paid to male symmetry. At some point I bailed out of the HBES list-serve which was taken over by evolutionary psychologists and have had nothing to do with them since.

        Perhaps they have evolved but in my experience social science people assiduously avoided biology, ecology and natural history courses. That was/is largely true for anthropology as well – much to its detriment. I was in graduate school when Jane Goodall began reporting on her fieldwork, and there was much disbelief (for years) that chimp behavior could in any way be relevant to that of humans because chimpanzees did not have “culture” which isolated us from all other living organisms. Virtually all social scientists have urban backgrounds. Growing up on a farm does provide plenty of insight to animal behavior and its variability. I have more cows in my neighborhood than people, and the cows are much better neighbors.

    2. Amongst rational people? No.

      But the superstitionalists are adamant that our genes and perhaps even our brains have nothing whatsoever to do with behavior.


  5. Stephen, we all enjoy seeing pictures of the eagles nest. I know you have good quality telephoto lenses, but I’m sure several of us readers are wondering how you manage to get such great shots. Eagles nests are usually quite high so unless you have a hillside, windmill or are on top of the barn roof, I’m puzzled as to how you can almost see into the nest. Next time you photograph the nest, please have your daughter take a picture of you from your perch, and include the nest tree, so we can see the angle and distance that you are shooting from–along with the finished picture. (I’m a visual sort—I need to see the angles and distance in order to fully comprehend)

    1. I’m about 100 meters away, across a creek between two ponds. The nest is in an approximately 20-acre stand of mature aspens that surround the ponds and the creek, and the nest tree is one of these aspens. My camera (700mm full frame) is mounted on a heavy tripod and a Wimberley gimbal mount. I’m shooting up at about a 20 degree angle. Every morning, with decent weather, I visit the nest with Deets (who’s more interested in catching voles), and I’ll be shooting west with the morning light from the east. In the evening I’ll shoot from the other side of the aspens, toward the east with light from the west.

      1. Thanks, Stephen for the details. I’m not technically photo savvy or know what a gimbal mount is. I still think it would be neat to see a picture of you in action “wildlife shooting wildlife” —a portfolio of your morning stroll—your scenery and surroundings could be a study in itself. (I’m trying visualize if you are shooting at a 20 degree angle, how high is the tree, in relation to how high are you etc?)

        1. A gimbal mount has pivots in all three dimensions. When the camera is properly positioned in the mount, everything is balanced such that it takes no effort to point the camera in any direction, and the camera stays pointing in that direction until you reposition it.

          As for the geometry…a calculator like this one might help:

          The full, uncropped frame straight out of Stephen’s camera has about a 3°30″ diagonal angle of view spanning a distance of about 6m at 100m. Considering how much Stephen crops his eagle photos, that’s about right.

          Imagine yourself at the goalposts at one end of a football field photographing the tops of the goalposts at the other end of the field and you’ve pretty much got the idea.



            1. It also shows how good the Stephen’s camera is (along with his own skill of course!) to get such amazing photos from such a distance!

              1. The camera yes (I have the same one after speaking here with Ben and Stephen) but the best thing a photographer can have (next to skills) is good glass and that lens is a good one.

  6. Wonderful cheetah shots, and Ivan’s as well (Ivan apparently has reached his limit of 5000 FB friends!). And Lucy and Desi are wonderful as always;-)

  7. Great photos as always. The arctic fox is beautiful, and the sequence of cheetah photos is very special.

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