Readers’ wildlife photos

Today is a day for odds and ends: those photos that came in singletons or doubletons.  All readers’ captions are indented:

First, a mystery organism from Bryan Lepore:

I submit an entry for Reader’s Wildlife Photos. It appears beautifully life-like, however I am puzzled. I need to read and also hopefully observe this object again. It is hard to the touch (stick), so my best guess is a pink fungus growing from an oak leaf structure:

Can you ID this alien organism?

UPDATE:  Bryan reports that he cracked it open with a hammer, and it appears to be some kind of fruit or seed pod (photo below). I haven’t looked to see if readers identified it, but here’s the inside:

From Roger Lambert, with DUCKS:

Attached please find a Landscape with ducks. Waterfront walk in Burlington, Vermont.
Jamie Blilie, our youngest contributor, sent some photos of a Broad-winged hawk (Buteo platypterus) hunting—perhaps for frogs—along the margin of the family’s backyard pond:

From Ron Black:

Grey Heron [Ardea cineria] just before lockdown. I arrived early to find the bird close to the lake bank. I used my Sony A7r4 +200-600. It seemed to take ages looking at the fish, then took off low over the water before diving head first. There was a huge splash and it appeared with the fish. I hit my shutter and prayed they would be in focus.  The Location was Lancashire United Kingdom. North West.


21 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

    1. The hawk is awesome too!

      These type of photos show how dynamic and coordinated these animals are – in almost the same way that cars, trains, ships, jets, etc. can appeal viewers – except they’re rust-proof!

  1. Terrific pictures!
    Bryan has a plant gall. These are tumors that grow on plants, and are caused by a wide range of organisms from viruses, bacteria, to insects. The plant is induced to grow this mass of tissue, and the organism that caused it exists inside, afforded protection and nutrients. Many plant galls take on weird ‘biomorph’ shapes. I don’t know why.

    1. I just started reading about plant galls- I’ve seen these all my life, but now this is fascinating – not only the genesis of the structure, but they can be used make ink, dating back to “medieval” era (as the web pages claim), due to iron and gums in them.

      However, the specimen above has what appears to be seeds. I think the gall has a sort of powder inside.

      1. It won’t be plant seeds inside. Just the other day I opened a tennis ball sized gall and was surprised to see a complex network of plant fibers inside, and a tiny moth pupa the size of a grain of rice.

      2. “Iron gall ink is made from tannin or gallotannic acid which is derived from oak galls. When this is combined with ferrous sulfate, a colorless compound, ferrous gallotannate is formed which develops a black color on exposure to air because of oxidation to ferric gallotannate. Because 7-10 days are required for complete oxidation, a dye or other provisional coloring matter is added to the ink to give it immediate color. The ink ingredients are suspended in a solution of gum and water…” This was figured out in the Dark Ages or slightly later. From Painting Materials, A Short Encyclopedia by Gettens and Stout, 1942.

    2. If you want a free resource on plant galls (and a great deal more) check out they have a two-page pdf with great color photos of common plant galls of the Chicago region, but of course they are found in a much wider area. There was a great podcast about galls on In Defense of Plants, July 14, 2019, “Galls GoneWild”,with Tricia Bethke of Morton Arboretum, episode 221.

      1. Yes, knowing the oak helps and with any wildlife ID, knowing where the photo was taken would help a great deal.

        There is a neat app called iNaturalist that can be a great resource for all sorts of identifications. You upload a photo and can either wait for someone to ID it or look under suggestions to see similar photos. You can also see a map with other nearby sightings and you can use it anywhere in the world. Quiet helpful no matter where you fall in the spectrum of amateur to ignorant.

  2. The gall is likely from a gall wasp, family Cynipidae. The induced gall is essentially a home and food for the wasp larva as it develops.

    1. Yes, it is a gall induced by a Cynipidae. Oak species are are hosts to hundreds of gall wasp species. This gall looks similar to that, also known as bedeguar, induced by the cynipid Diplolepis rosae on wild rose species.

      1. Being on an oak it surely not D. rosae. Maybe another Diplolepis species. I do not know whether there are bedeguars in North America; in Europe you find plenty of them on wild rose bushes.

  3. Very nice. I love those rare occasions where one captures interesting action. I have one with a Great Blue Heron (same as your Grey Heron, I believe) holding a very large frog. It moved off behind some shrubbery before I could tell whether it managed to swallow. Another favorite is a loon rising up out of a pond with a small fish in its beak. Sadly, I missed the shot where the loon passed the fish on to a juvenile, presumably its offspring.

    1. Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)and Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) are two different species. They are very similar in appearance (Great blue heron is slightly larger and has some rufous colouring on neck and thighs which grey heron lacks) and also in terms of general behaviour and ecology.

  4. Great action shots in their. I guess the last with the gray heron on the run would have to be my favorite.

    1. There are lots of photos and information of this gall and the wasp – which GregZ and pballabeni correctly pinpointed as Cynipidae – found using “hedgehog gall”. They don’t sting!

      Thanks to everyone for the exceptionally interesting “mystery” solution and discussion! Special thanks to PCC(E) for setting up the photos!

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