Readers’ wildlife photographs

September 29, 2015 • 7:15 am

Today we have the birds and the bees. First, reader Mark Sturtevant sent some hymenopterans—bees in the family Halictidae, sometimes called “sweat bees.” His notes are indented:

The halictid bees would often go spelunking into the trumpet vine flowers that cover one end of our house. When I would loom in to take a picture, for some reason they would often stop and just stare at me for up to several minutes. I would always lose these stare-down contests since they seemed willing to just sit there forever. I wonder if they were just admiring their reflection in the lens.

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Some halictid bees form nests in wood burrows. I found one digging its nest in a nearby forest.

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I can usually at least roughly identify an insect to family, but sometimes I am stumped for a time at even the insect order. In our garden I kept seeing these largish insects bossily zooming around our garden, concentrating especially on a patch of lambs ears. They would often chase each other, and they would also chase other species of bees which led me to wonder if these were some kind of bee fly (a fly that parasitizes insects, including bees). They could also hover in place and turn with amazing precision. They showed very little interest in the flowers, so definitely un-bee-like since bees love those flowers. Only after I captured a few (which was noteasy) did I discover that they were bees. They were damn difficult to photograph in the garden since they hardly ever landed and were always very wary of me. I later managed to get this not-so-good picture from a distance. I think this captures the personality that they seemed to project – not very friendly, and wound up very tight.

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And the birds from reader Colin Franks (Facebook page here, please “like” if you want to follow it, photography website here, and and on Instagram under the name colinfranksphotography):

Northern Harrier (Circus cyaneus):

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Killdeer (infant; Charadrius vociferus):

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Caspian Terns (Hydroprogne caspia):

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Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus):

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13 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photographs

  1. Bees are able to do the damnedest things. Staring contests wouldn’t surprise me.

    This segues into another pollinator, which seem to have the first know example of an outboard pump [?]. Meet the semiopen peristaltic pump of the Orange Nectar Bat (Lonchophylla robusta):

    “Using high-speed video recordings on experimental feeders, we show distinctly divergent nectar-feeding behavior in clades. Grooved tongues are held in contact with nectar for the entire duration of visit as nectar is pumped into the mouths of hovering bats, whereas hairy tongues are used in conventional sinusoidal lapping movements. Bats with grooved tongues use a specific fluid uptake mechanism not known from any other mammal. Nectar rises in semiopen lateral grooves, probably driven by a combination of tongue deformation and capillary action.”

    [ http://phys.org/news/2015-09-species-tongue-nectar.html ]

    Giraffes are envious. [Not really, because efficiency drops fast with distance.]

    This is the one time I wish I could embed the high speed movies that were essential for the discovery. Make sure you don’t miss them!

    1. That is cool. I guess that the muscular action is basically peristaltic waves along the grooves to draw up the nectar.
      I do not know how bees imbibe nectar with their tongues, but these are finely haired and so it should involve a degree of capillary action.

  2. I saw the sweat bee – a green one – on a sunflower last weekend. I don’t see them often so it’s nice to find them.

    1. We have too many of them, and they are slowly penetrating our siding in places, and some have even sent some scouts up thru cracks in our garage floor.
      But they are great places to watch pollinators of all kinds. I spent a lot of time this summer stalking our trumpet vines, staring into them, etc.. I suppose I should wonder what the neighbors think.

  3. “Largish insects”…so how large? Bumble bee size, or? I’ve never seen bees like that, though I have seen flies that look similar.

    That baby killdeer is adorable…I’d love to hear it call ‘killdeer’…I imagine a very high voice 🙂

    1. Medium sized bumble bee size. I have never seen these either. I will have a later installment in which I show what they are.

  4. Such beautiful & interesting bees, Mark! Looking forward to the second installment on the mystery bee.

    Just splendid, as always, Colin!

  5. The bees patrolling lambs-ear plants were most likely wool-carder bees, genus Anthidum (Megachilidae). The bee shown in the photo looks like a male of Anthidium manicatum, a species native to Europe, but introduced to the US. The males patrol and defend flower patches where females forage, and attempt to mate with females while they collect nectar.

    The green-metallic bee nesting in wood could be Augocholora pura.

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