Monday: Readers’ wildlife photographs

September 21, 2015 • 8:00 am

We have new photos—and one painting—from a new contributor, Charleen Adams, soon to get her doctorate in public health genetics (cancer epidemiology). Her website is here (more photos and paintings under “Art”). A few of the species aren’t identified, so I’ll leave that to the readers. Charleen’s captions are indented.

Starlings [Sturnus vulgaris] on my fence.  Check out the middle baby’s wing move: that cheeky interference was no accident.

Karate chop

Harpy eagle [Harpiya harpyja]  Though resembling a pirate’s eye patch, the nictitating membrane covering the right eye is a transparent inner eyelid that slides horizontally.


Heron [Aredea herodias].  This shot was taken near a rookery in Boise.  I have hundreds of heron pics, but this one stands out because of the yellowness of the eye against the blue Boise sky.


Massachusetts [Canada] geese [Branta canadensis].  I took this shot with an old phone in solorize mode.  It makes me feel peaceful.


Toad and epidemiology. Remarkably, he’d let himself inside and joined me for an evening of reading. [Readers: species ID?]


California Condor (1/3) [Gymnogyps californianus]. So sweet; I can hang out all day with the curious condors. Lead poisoning, as most know, is the main threat to their survival.


California condor (2/3).  Condors can raise the feathers on their necks up around their heads like hoods on a hoody when cold.


California condor (3/3).  Wingspan of 9.5 feet!


Murine submarine!  Taken at the Bruneau Sand Dunes in Boise, a rat running under ice. [She tentatively identifies this as the water vole Microtus richardsoni, but readers can weigh in.]


Ok, not a photo.  I painted a heron.


Acorn woodpecker? [Readers?]


Baby owl. [Readers: what species?]


This koi [Cyprinus carpio] seems to be part of the water.


33 thoughts on “Monday: Readers’ wildlife photographs

  1. I love how the starling puts its wing in the way while looking the other way as to absolve himself of any culpability. Well played baby starling, well played.

  2. The “Readers’ Photos” post is ALWAYS fantastic. Always. But this one — holy heck…

    How come no one ever told me about California condors before? Photo #1 is especially endearing — I feel I know that guy so well.

    If the woodpecker one was billed (no pun intended) as a carefully staged realist painting, I’d think it’s wonderful but slightly too anthropomorphic. As a photo, it’s stunning.

    And the baby owl — well who doesn’t love baby owls? And that’s a wonderful photo!

  3. Where was the toad photo taken? If it was Washington State, then that’s very likely a Western toad (used to be Bufo boreas, now Anaxyrus boreas, I think)- can be recongnized by the lack of cranial crests (top of the head, between the eyes).

    1. Hi Raskos,

      The toad pic was taken at my previous home, located in the tiny, woodland town of Williamsburg, MA (population about 2500), which is about 16 miles northwest of Northampton.

      Google just provided me with a list of candidates:

      Bullfrog, American (Lithobates catesbeianus)
      Frog, Green (Lithobates clamitans)
      Frog, Wood (Lithobates sylvaticus)
      Frog, Leopard (Lithobates pipiens)
      Frog, Pickerel (Lithobates palustris)
      Peeper, Spring (Pseudacris crucifer)
      Spadefoot, Eastern (Scaphiopus holbrookii)
      Toad, American (Anaxyrus americanus)
      Toad, Fowler’s (Anaxyrus fowleri)
      Treefrog, Gray (Hyla versicolor)

      I honed in on the Eastern Spadefoot because the online version has a link to a picture. But I haven’t a good way to screen the features. I thought about the cranial crests you mentioned and will read more about cranial crests later this afternoon.

      1. Sorry to leave you sitting, I am currently writing my thesis and it drives all else from my mind.
        Had a look at my field guides, and Gregory Mayer could be correct – the key characters just aren’t visible in your photo (at least the ones I am used to). Can’t see the cranial crests, and I tend to rely upon these, as colour is so variable in toads. So either a Fowler’s toad or an American toad. But definitely not a spadefoot.
        I like the pose. He looks as though he is perfectly content to wait until you are ready for whatever the two of you are going to do together.

        1. Hi Raskos,

          1) Thanks for writing back. I had gone down a rabbit hole with cranial crest, which had taken me to Schwann cells, which had me thinking of neurofibromatosis and malignant peripheral nerve sheath tumors. So, I didn’t get far…
          2) Cool about your absorbing thesis. Can you describe it in 7 words? They did something like that during the Ig Nobel Prize ceremonies, and I’ve been itching to try it. My 7-word thesis: Working at night may predispose to cancer.
          3) Re the toad’s pose and him waiting for our activity, he was waiting to go on a bike ride.

          1. Hi Charleen –
            not neural crest – there’s an example at this site ( although it’s a tiny thumbnail in the right corner and you have to click it.
            A 7-word description of my thesis? Especially challenging, seeing as my main problem right now is keeping myself from writing on and on and on. How about “Horned lizards’ heads trace their evolutionary history”?

            Actually that’s not bad. Would not have thought of this myself. What a useful exercise. Thanks, Charleen.

            Hope that you both enjoyed your bike ride.

  4. All toads share a common toadness, and the distinctions among species are often subtle. Letting us know where the photo was taken would help (City, Country, or City, State/Province for the US or Canada).

      1. It’s either the American toad (Bufo americanus) or Fowler’s toad (B. woodhousei fowleri); definitely not a spadefoot. It’s most likely americanus, which has a spotted chest like this fellow. In fowleri the chest is usually not spotted. I can also kind of convince myself that the tibia is especially warty, another characteristic of americanus.

  5. What a thoroughly enjoyable set of pictures! I love the fact they tend to be more than classic portraits–there’s action, expression, close-ups, etc.

    So nice to see condor shots without huge obtrusive wing tags. Where on earth did you photograph that Harpy?!

    My first thought about the underwater guy was muskrat (see thick tail), but I’m not really knowledgeable about other aquatic rodents.

    Lovely heron portrait (well, both of them; but I’m thinking of the painting)! You obviously have many talents!

    1. Hi Diane G.,

      Thank you for the affirming and warm words! I must say that all this attention has been good for my sense of well-being. I wonder what hormone is responsible for this, supposing one is. Dopamine?

      About the Harpy, condor, and owl shots, I wish I could say I’d been on an exotically intriguing journey, but the truth is that I found them at the World Center for Birds of Prey near Boise. I went over and over during my short stint in Idaho. Brought my cameras and sat with the birds. I had a couple of observations from my Jane Goodall-esk experience with them: Condors seemed more interactive than eagles, who seemed more interactive than owls, excepting baby, hand-reared owls, who acted like beaked puppies. I fell into amazement with the California Condors. And mused: what a life falconers must have!

      Thanks again.

    1. Thanks 🙂 It’s the only one I’ve made. I keep him in my office at the Hutch. He stands in my window and makes people feel like they are being watched. Mutters under his breath about the articles he’s just read.

    1. Hi mrclaw69,

      Yes, muskrat is the other contender in my head. I could be suffering from recall bias, but the swimmer seemed closer to the size of a lab rat than what I imagine a muskrat to be. But Diana G. noticed the tail girth, too. So that’s three of us holding muskrat as a possibility.

      1. I think muskrat is correct. My field guide gives the adult weight at about a kilogram, and the body length is about 30 cm, which would put it in the lab rat range. Voles really are a lot smaller, small enough to sit on the palm of your hand – they’re more hamster-sized than rat-sized.

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