Today we have a nice astronomy picture, but first the beasts, a series (including SQUIRRELS) from reader and photographer Peter Moulton in Phoenix, Arizona:
I’ve been hosting a lovely cold for the last couple of weeks (plant allergies seem to have taken over lately), so all my photography has been the low-impact type, at the Desert Botanical Garden and the surrounding Papago Park. These are from the Garden. I know how you like sciurids, so they’ve been special targets. As always, I’ve tried to include only animals that are typical of, if not restricted to, Arizona, on the grounds that Arizona is home to a lot of unique and interesting organisms.First, a Round-tailed Ground Squirrel, Xerospermophilus tereticaudus. These are probably the most abundant of our squirrels.
Next, a couple of shots of a female Harris’ Antelope Squirrel, Ammospermophilus harrisii. These little guys are active even in the hottest conditions (it’s reached 50ºC in Phoenix before), and are superbly adapted for those conditions. They characteristically carry their tails curled over their backs, where they can serve as sunshades, and when their body temperatures are too high, they engage in heat-dumping behavior by finding a nice shaded spot and sprawling full-length on the ground. They’re omnivorous, and their diet is high in water content (up to about 80%), which supplements the scarce surface water in the Sonoran Desert. In case you were wondering, yes, these little guys are named for Audubon’s friend Edward Harris, of Harris’ Hawk and Harris’ Sparrow fame, but I doubt that Harris ever got to see them in life.
And, finally, a couple of bird shots, just to prove I haven’t forsaken them. This male Gilded Flicker, Colaptes chrysoides came over to keep an eye on me while I waited for the Harris’ Antelope Squirrel to come back out into the open. Both Gilded and red-shafted Northern Flicker C. auratusoccur in the Garden, and they assort by habitat preference. The Gilded is preeminently a bird of the giant cactus desert, which in Arizona typically means saguaro stands, while Northern Flickers favor trees.
And we have a beautiful picture of our galaxy from reader Tim Anderson:
This picture shows a fairly narrow-angle view looking through the rotational plane of our galaxy. The picture captures a tiny fraction of the 100 billion stars that make up the Milky Way, You can also see some of the gas clouds heated up by the emissions from nearby stars.The picture was composed from thirty 5-second exposures stacked up to get the detail into view. It was taken with a Tamron wide-angle lens on a Canon 70D camera.You only have to look to see that there are many places in our galaxy where life is possible.