Readers’ wildlife

We have contributions from two readers today. The first is a stunning leucistic pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus), with the photo taken by Peter Thornquist and sent in by his friend, reader Gregory.

The bird is the subject of an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (click on screenshot),

An excerpt:

The leucistic pileated Thornquist photographed Saturday was a male, an identification made possible by the red slash along its bill. Females of the species have a red crown only.

Thornquist said he’s only seen a pileated woodpecker in Milwaukee County three times, and each was leucistic. He believes it’s been the same individual.

The distinctive bird may have been spotted by others in southeastern Wisconsin in recent years, too.

A leucistic pileated has been reported at Cedarburg Bog in Saukville, Mequon Nature Preserve in Mequon and Schiltz Audubon Center in Bayside, according to local birders.

Given its call, appearance and behaviors, if it stays in the area it will likely continue to be observed.

Is it possible the male pileated has been traveling widely looking for a mate?

“If that’s true, I hope he finds one,” Thornquist said. “It would be great to have a family of them gracing the Milwaukee River corridor.”

And today we’ll finish the batch of animals photographed by reader David Hughes on a trip to India. Wild felids! David’s email to me with this group was called “And now your favourite animals”. (His first two sets of photos are here and here.)

And now your favourite animals….


Squirrel: The Indian giant squirrel (Ratufa indica), photographed in Satpura Tiger Reserve. It’s hard to tell from the photo, but this is not far short of a metre long from nose to tail tip. It’s a southern Indian species which reaches its northernmost range limit around Satpura, so it’s used as the emblem of the park.

JAC: I added a picture from Wikipedia because I didn’t know these squirrels existed. Look at that tail!!


Jungle cat (Felis chaus), photographed on a late-evening drive in Satpura. About the size of a domestic cat, and with a similar taste for mice and small birds.


Leopard (Panthera pardus), Pench Tiger Reserve: Of course, it’s the big cats that everyone really wants to see. Leopards are still widespread across much of India, but very elusive, so it’s a real thrill to see one. This individual was perched on a rocky outcrop, enjoying its latest kill, a spotted deer. The photo was taken with my longest lens through a veil of leaves and branches, so it’s not the best quality. The forested terrain makes it hard to get good views and photos of animals, compared with the more open environment of your typical African park.

Tiger (Panthera tigris): and finally, the most sought-after species of all. On my tour we saw tigers in Pench and Kanha, but drew a blank in Satpura. None of the sightings were particularly long duration, or close-range, but they’re still memorable. This is a tigress seen on an early-morning drive in Kanha. The park rangers monitor the tiger population by camera-trapping, and know all the resident adults as individuals. This tigress is T32, the “Umarjhola female”. She was born in mid-2011, so would have been around 7.5 years old when photographed.


  1. garry vangelderen
    Posted February 15, 2020 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    What a thrill it must be to see the leucistic pileated woodpecker. I have the ‘standard’ one in my back yard all the time. Even had a nest with 2 chicks in a dead tree next to my front door one spring three years ago. But to see one of these…oh my.!

  2. GBJames
    Posted February 15, 2020 at 8:53 am | Permalink


  3. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 15, 2020 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Stunning indeed

    Excellent set!

  4. rickflick
    Posted February 15, 2020 at 9:22 am | Permalink

    Beautiful animals.

    The image I have of India is one with far too many humans – and no space left for nature. It’s good to know there are still natural places.

    • David Hughes
      Posted February 15, 2020 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      The road trips between the Tiger Reserves really brought home the fact that these parks are “islands” of wild country surrounded by farmland and human habitation. Surprisingly though, tigers do travel between the parks, sometimes crossing hundreds of miles of populated terrain in the process. Identification of individuals by camera-trap photos means that tigers recorded from one park are occasionally spotted in another. That’s a good thing, as it allows some genetic interchange between the remaining small populations.

      • rickflick
        Posted February 15, 2020 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

        It seems risky for tigers to go through town. I hope they do OK.

  5. Bruce E Lyon
    Posted February 15, 2020 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    The tiger photo is a stunner—what an experience that must have been.

  6. Debra Coplan
    Posted February 15, 2020 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    Really exciting photos….Thanks!

  7. Ray Little
    Posted February 15, 2020 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    I love the ‘NO PLATFORM’ photo. DO congratulate them on their diversity!

    Oh, and the beefcake photos are the worst Photoshop I’ve ever seen.

  8. Posted February 15, 2020 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

    Great photos! The leucistic woodpecker is very striking. In 2015, one had been spotted in Edmonton, Alberta, and the following article is interesting:

  9. phoffman56
    Posted February 16, 2020 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

    Kanha Park and the tiger triggered my recollection (correct for a change) of Wallace’s book on the many worlds interpretation of quantum theory, of all things. In pp. 48-50 he has a wonderful picture by his brother of a tiger there.
    It’s labelled “An object not among the basic posits of the Standard Model”– but later says something like ‘Try asking the nearby deer whether the tiger is real.’

    Why, in that book?
    The section is emergence in practice, the many worlds being emergent from basic theory, not an assumption. So here its evolutionary adaptationism emerging from zoology emerging from cell biology emerging from atoms and molecules, etc. There ain’t no tigers at the bottom level, which is hopeless to explain tigers, despite there being a computer ‘calculating’ positions and momenta of all the particles– namely Kanha National Park itself.

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