Readers’ wildlife photographs

August 21, 2015 • 7:30 am

We have a diversity of fauna (and flora) today. We’ll begin with a lovely photograph by Stephen Barnard: a honeybee (Apis sp.) in flight over a Rocky Mountain bee plant (Cleome serrulata):

Barnard Bee

Reader Leo Glenn, who identifies himself as “the staff of Baxter and Gremlin”, has a caterpillar:

As you just posted a reader’s (Matthew Rave) wildlife photo of a Giant Leopard Moth [Hypercompe scribonia], I thought your readers might like to see what the caterpillar looks like. We don’t see many of the moths, but the caterpillars are frequent visitors on our property in western Pa., in the late summer and early fall. They are magnificent creatures.

Leo Glenn

We don’t often get underwater photographs, yet the sea is teeming with great species. Reader Jeff Gawthorpe sent a selection of pictures taken by him and his friends, including two mimics:

I’ve attached some of the photos from my trip last year to the Red Sea. They were all taken in or around Makadi bay near Hurghada in Egypt and all during the first week or two of November last year. It’s a great time to visit the area because just as the weather is getting greyer and colder here in Yorkshire, it’s still 30 Celsius over there with sea temperatures hovering between 26 and 27! I’ve been three times in the last few years and will hopefully be going again later in the year (international situation permitting). As you can see, the abundance and variety of marine life in the area is amazing. You’ll notice from the lighting that the sun is quite low in some photos as we tend to snorkel at sunrise when the nocturnal animals are still lurking around the reefs before disappearing into their hiding places when the sun gets up.  By the way I can’t claim exclusivity as the photographer here – the pictures are a group effort between myself and my friends Ania and Konrad.

This first one is a houndfish (Tylosurus crocodilus). We used to joke about how vain this fish was because it was in the same place every single morning being pampered by bluestreak cleaner wrasse (Labroides dimidiatus). You (and many readers) will no doubt be aware that this species has a Batesian mimic called Aspidontus taeniatus [JAC: the “false cleaner fish”] which makes use of its disguise to take sneaky bites from unsuspecting fish hoping to be groomed.


This next one is a spot-fin porcupine fish (Diodon hystrix), it’s pretty unusual to see these out in open water as they are usually quite shy, preferring to lurk under ledges. They are extremely cute in real life. This one was pretty big – over 60 cm.


Here is another member of the porcupine fish family (Diodontidae), and as you can see it has a similar appearance to the Diodon hystrix with those spines and big eyes. This is a yellowspotted burrfish (Cyclihthys spilostylus) and, like other porcupine fish, they like to hide under ledges during the day.


To my great disappointment I was not present when this picture was taken. I would have loved to swim with this pod of dolphins but I guess that will just have to wait till next time. Apparently they stayed around for about 5 minutes before swimming away. I think these are common bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus), but I’m not sure – I stand to be corrected.


And here we have what I think is a black-headed heron (Ardea melanocephala) but not being an expert I might be wrong here. The bird is up early looking for breakfast before the sun gets high and drives the fish from the shallows. As far as I saw it went hungry on that particular morning.


The striped mackerel (Rastrelliger kanagurta) [JAC: the binomial name is for the Indian mackerel, perhaps not the same species?] is another species that you never see once the sun has been up more than a short while. They can actually be quite intimidating when a large school swim towards you with open mouths. However they are filter feeders straining zooplankton as they swim, so are not going to bite! They’re not bothered in the slightest by a human’s presence, swimming really close as they go past.


I don’t actually know what this once belonged to but it’s absolutely beautiful. Maybe a reader could identify it?


Here are a couple of great examples of camouflage. First is a Red Sea Moses sole (Pardachirus marmoratus) doing its best to blend into the sea bed. This one stands out as it lies perpendicular to the ridges of sand on the sea bed but usually they are very difficult to spot.


And here is a reef octopus (Octopus cyanea) doing its best to look like the surrounding coral. The octopus is one of the critters that you need to be up early to see – any later than 45 minutes past sunrise and they have all disappeared back to their daytime hiding places.


At first glance this looks like someone dropped a bag of tortilla chips over the sea bed but it’s actually an example of triangle turbinweed (Turbinaria decurrens) which is endemic to the Red Sea.


Oh and a bonus pic – this was actually taken without my knowledge and was not posed, I didn’t even know about it till we got back to the UK. I was re-reading WEIT while I was there and had been caught having a snooze while shielding my eyes from the light. I know the subject isn’t wildlife exactly—but feel free to post it if you like!

I do feel free to post it, of course! Why pass up a chance for self-promotion?

homo sapiens

26 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

    1. Yes! I’m a huge fan of the underwater stuff. There are a couple of excellent YouTube channels that post underwater films of reefs each week. One’s called Earth Touch Wild Oceans, but I can’t remember the name of the other channel.

    2. Expect to spend about as much on the housing as on the camera itself. Seriously.
      I don’t even know how the prices of Nikonos systems compare to that, except having seen brave men weep over the news of one being dropped (60ft, onto rock). If you’re into film and big expenditures.

    1. Some of the odder looking denizens of the reef look positively alien. Ever seen a trumpet fish?

      There are similar species in Florida and those species are common by-catch for anglers fishing for grouper or snapper in the troughs on the reef (the reefs off of Florida tend to be of the spur and groove variety.) Those species are often amazing to look at, but frequently have all sorts of sharp, uncomfortable defense mechanisms, like spines right underneath the pectoral fins.

  1. What a SHELL! I would ask Helen Scales, author of Spirals in Time, on Twit*er, but she is in Madagascar…

  2. “Keep Calm and I will research that for you.” (Introvert’s motto)

    That ‘absolutely beautiful’ shell is most likely a member of the top (resembles a spinning toy top) snail family, that is, Trochidae.

      1. Well, this saves me a lot of time, so thank you. Whenever these things come up ’round here I need to look for the ID rather obsessively.
        Anyone else have that trait?

        1. I have that trait, but by the time I get to RWP, someone invariably has already done the work. (Which is fine by me.) Living on the west coast always puts me behind on WEIT’s morning posts.

  3. I have swum with a huge pod of dolphins, not once but twice. More properly (and legally) they swam with me. In Hawaii (Big Island) they can approach you but you are not supposed to approach them.

    Awesome creatures and very loud.

  4. I love coral reef shots! It’s especially nice to see healthy corals. In the photos, I only saw Acropora (hard corals) and not any Alcyonacea (soft corals). Is that just the area you dove or is that the norm in the Red Sea? The mackerel pic was something else…they do look menacing.

    Thanks for the insect photos too!

    1. It’s just those particular photos. There are lots of Alcyonacea in the area but most of these shots were taken close to the shore. The softer corals tend to be a little further offshore in my experience. I have lots more photos which I will be sending in to Jerry at some point. I’m pretty sure there are Alcyonacea on some.

      1. Thanks for the info, and I’m sure we’d all like to see more of your underwater photos. Acropora in general need more sunlight, so it makes sense Alcyonaca would be further off shore (I’m assuming this means a little deeper waters).

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