Readers’ wildlife photos

March 3, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your good photos!

Today we have bird photos from two contributors. The first is reader Gary Miranda, whose IDs and comments are indented. Click the photos to enlarge them.

Here are a few that were taken at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge in southern Washington state.

Gary identified this as a “great ibis”, but it’s clearly not, as there’s no such bird. It isn’t even an American white ibis, so I’ll leave it to readers to identify. Is it an egret?

Northern harrier, [Circus hudsonius] juvenile

Red-tailed Hawk, light juvenile [Buteo jamaicensis]:

Bald Eagle [Haliaeetus leucocephalus] screaming at the sky or maybe the rain:

And from Bill Meyer:

Attached are a few recent, local wildlife photos.  I’m ready for spring but now is a great time to see our local woodpeckers.  First is a yellow-shafted [Northern] flicker (Colaptes auratus) from my yard in Grundy County, Illinois.

And, also from the backyard, our biggest, a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).

A moment of zen on the temporarily serene Illinois River in Morris, Illinois.

The final two shots are from two days ago,  a red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) and a relatively rare red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) at a Will County Forest Preserve (Illinois).

19 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. The first one is almost certainly a Great (aka American) egret, Casmerodius albus. Black feet and legs would confirm that. The second last one is identified correctly–it’s a male Red-bellied woodpecker, though in this photo one cannot see the small tinge of red on the belly.

    1. I believe that it is now usually placed in the genus Ardea as Ardea alba. It is misleading to refer to it as the American egret as the species has a global distribution, being present on all the continents apart from Antarctica.

      The only other white egret species that might potentially be seen in Washington State would be the Snowy Egret which is smaller and has a finer, black bill. The other egret/heron species with white morphs that occur in the US are restricted to the south east of the country.

  2. Beautiful photos. The Red-headed Woodpecker made me sad; it used to be common when I was growing up, but it has been disappearing everywhere. It is estimated that the species has declined more than 70% since my childhood days, and the decline in the century before I was born was even greater. It used to eat chestnuts (chestnut trees are now practically extinct due to chestnut blight) and beech nuts (beech forests are largely gone now). It is sobering to think that we look back on our childhood and notice how many species have declined since then, as if things were good back then, without realizing that those halcyon days of our childhood were already just the leftover wreckage from the mass extinctions of the previous century.

    1. In my experience, many more birds have come back, than have disappeared since my childhood (1960s and 1970s), though I lament the losses, of course.

      Cardinals: I saw my first one at age 21. Now they are as common as robins in southern Minnesota
      Bluebirds: Never saw one in my youth. Now we have pairs nesting in our backyard Peterson houses most years.
      Orioles: Extremely rare in my youth, now common
      Trumpeter swans: Nearly extinct in the “lower 48” in my youth, now we have more than 20,000 pairs nesting every summer in Minnesota, they are common in our neighborhood.
      Sandhill Cranes: Never saw one until the 2000s, now they are common and we have pairs nesting in the open space across the street from us every summer.
      Bald Eagles: Almost wiped out by DDT, now common. We watched one from our front yard yesterday, it gave us a fine fly-by
      Ospreys: Same as eagles: A pair nests in the park behind our house every year now. I’ve watched them take fish in the pond 60-ft behind our house.
      We now see Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls commonly in our neighborhood.
      Pileated Woodpeckers: Now common around here (maybe due to woods increase? See below.)
      Hairy Woodpeckers: Same
      Red-bellied Woodpeckers: Same

      Some of the declines:
      Purple Martins: Uncommon now, maybe because of people no longer putting up Martin houses?, maybe because of the expansion of woodlands in the southern half of Minnesota?
      Eastern Meadow Larks: Haven’t heard one in decades. I used to wake up every early summer morning to that call. Again, maybe because of the (hugely) increased woodland areas in this area?

      When white people got to Minnesota, the only trees south of around Lake Mille Lacs were in the river bottoms. Now woods are extensive in southern Minnesota.

      1. Yes, that’s a good counterbalance to my post, many birds have recovered well. But some of the most characteristic and common birds of the US were driven to extinction before you and I were born. And the list of declining birds is quite long, at least from my viewpoint in Wisconsin where I grew up. Just the list of declining warblers is longer than your list of comebacks, though the Kirtland’s Warbler, nearly extinct when I was a kid, has recovered well and expanded its range. Some day you might even see it in Minnesota.

        Sadly, overall the declines outweigh the gains, in terms of population sizes (billions lower!!!) and in terms of species (57% of species are declining):

        https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/silent-skies-billions-of-north-american-birds-have-vanished/

        https://science.sciencemag.org/content/366/6461/120
        .

      2. It would be interesting to see data on this and see what the overall balance is in terms of losses and gains and how these are distributed across habitat types and in different parts of the country.

        In the UK we have good series of monitoring data for a wide range of bird species going back to the late 1960s early 1970s. There are some species that have shown strong positive trends since then but many more have declined. Farmland birds have generally done badly with only some generalist species faring well such as wood pigeon (Columba palumbus) magie (Pica pica) and carrion crow (Corvus corone) but many others declining badly. Causes of decline include changes in farming practices – the switch to winter sown cereals and the switch from hay production to silage have been very unfavourable to many ground nesting species – and (from the farmers viewpoint) better drainage and improved crop production with fewer ‘weeds’ in either arable crops or pasture amongst other things.

        Species that have done reasonably well over this period include peregrine, sparrowhawk (Accipiter nivalis), common buzzard (Buteo buteo) and Red Kite (Milvus milvus). The first three have bounced back from low numbers due to DDT but Peregrine, although now nesting on buildings in many towns and cities, remains scarce on moorland where it is subject to illegal persecution. Red Kites were reduced to a tiny population in Wales but have been the subject of a very successful reintroduction programme that has lead to them becoming reestablished in many parts of the country.

        It is interesting, in relation to Lou’s comment, how we tend to be subject to ‘shifting baselines syndrome’ becoming accustomed to the current population levels of species and failing to notice that what we now perceive as normal is less abundant than what was the case in previous decades or centuries.

          1. Actually the figures I just gave are for North America, not just the US. The relative declines in the US would be much greater than those figures indicate.

          2. Hmm, now my 9:59 post has appeared. How strange; it had not been there at 10:20. Maybe the presence of two links automatically throws messages into moderation?

          3. Thanks for the links Lou. A rather depressing picture that is reflected both sides of the Atlantic (and I know that other European countries besides the UK have recorded declines in many bird species). It is frustrating that since ‘Silent Spring’ and the beginnings of the environmental movement the trajectory continues to be downward.

            It is not just birds of course either. Here in the UK the ‘State of Britain’s Larger Moths 2021’ report has just been published (https://butterfly-conservation.org/sites/default/files/2021-03/StateofMothsReport2021.pdf), giving the latest results of a monitoring scheme that has been running since the 1968. Amongst the UK’s 900 odd macro-moth species there are of course some that are doing well and some badly but over the fifty year period, four times as many species have decreased in abundance as have increased. Similar trends are found for other taxonomic groups.

            We have governments who keep promising to reverse the decline in our wildlife but more often than not this turns out to be empty rhetoric and when push comes to shove economic and commercial interests are invariably prioritised over nature.

  3. your photos are lovely … i’m not a bird watcher, but i enjoy watching birds in their free flight, and community type air shows – if you will. they are adorable, they are majestic, they are gracious and they know how to enjoy the freedom of the sky …

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