Readers’ wildlife photos

May 28, 2021 • 8:00 am

I am running dangerously low on photos, and worry that I will have to cancel this feature or make it more sporadic. If you have good wildlife (or “street”) photos, please send them in pronto. If you’re an American, you have a long weekend coming up to peruse your photos.

All photographers’ words and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

We have a potpourri today, the first coming from reader Jonathan Storm.

I found this dead grasshopper on an eastern hemlock in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina. It was killed by an entomopathogenic fungus last summer or fall. These fungi are parasites that infect and eventually kill their insect host. Last summer, a fungal spore landed on this grasshopper and worked its way into the body cavity. The fungus then grew and spread until it killed the grasshopper. Several fruiting bodies of the fungus later grew out of the grasshopper and released their spores into the breeze. Some of these spores will then infect a new insect host and the cycle continues.

A gorgeous Cyclops moth (Antheraea polyphemus) from reader Smith Powell, photographed by Jennifer Lawson:

My granddaughter, Jennifer Lawson, photographed this moth on 02 May 2021 in the family yard in Arlington, Texas. I think this is the prettiest photograph that I have seen of Antheraea polyphemus.

As I’m not a biologist, I had no idea what it was, but I was quickly able to identify it as the Cyclops moth.  Indeed, several websites so identify it and note that it is named for the race of one-eyed Cyclops famously described in the Odyssey. The sites even say that Cyclops means one-eyed.

But, it doesn’t!  Besides, this moth has two eyespots.  Cyclops means “round eye”.  And this photograph shows the eyespots as very round or spherical.

Jennifer’s father, Clint, told me, “ We used to tell our baseball umpires ‘if you had another eye you’d be a cyclops ‘“.

And a pair of Great Tits from reader Pyers:

A Great Tit (Parus major) saying hello from the nest box in my garden:

And have a female Great Tit. the even more cute partner of the one I sent you the other day 🙂

14 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Nice photos!

    We couldn’t help (as USians) having a laugh about the name Great Tits, my wife included. “Hey, look over there! Great Tits!”

    (Someone had to say it.)

    1. Nature’s cruelty and beauty in two photos, and who doesn’t love tits, whether blue or great? (Meant the bird.)
      Wondering why English didn’t have the general Germanic “meise/mais” root for the bird I looked it up in Wiktionary, didn’t get an answer to my silly question, but found that the association of the bird name with being slightly mentally off kilter holds in several European languages. I wonder where that comes from.

      1. The English term everyone is familiar with is just an abbreviation of the composite my English-teachers in Germany preferred us to learn (titmouse), the plural of which (titmice) still has the German “Meise”. I wonder if the present-day singular ‘titmouse’ was formed from the plural by popular etymology.

  2. The moth is a beauty! There are two species in the U.S. that look like this. The regular polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus), and the Western polyphemus (A. oculea). Both occur in Texas. There are small differences between them. For comparison, here is a male A. polyphemus:

    And here is a male A. oculea:
    I can’t quite tell if yours is a male. There is a range of variations which does not help matters, but with time spent in BugGuide comparing pictures, one could come away with a provisional ID.

    1. Thanks for the additional information. This library of expertise associated with this site is one of the things that gives me much joy every day.

    1. Our backyard feeders seem to have had a pretty strong effect on the local populations of: Cardinals, Goldfinches, Red Squirrels, Juncos. They seem to raise large broods every year and come back to our yard along with their progeny.

      (We go through about N=5 40-pound sacks of black oil sunflower seeds during the winter.)

  3. Thise are definitely blue tits – the blue cap is a dead give away. The young blue tits in our nest box have started peeking out. Our feeders seem to have given the local tits a taste for sunflower kernels – the adults have been quite busy eating them over the last couple of weeks.

  4. Great insects and wonderful pics – thank you.
    I’ve seen a bit of what those fungi do to insects…. partly in these pages. And that’s BEFORE the wasps get to them and lay their parasitic kiddies to grow inside the poor bastards and eat them from inside to outside. It is hard to imagine anything worse than that and always makes my skin crawl (which is why, of course, I spend so much time reading about them). 🙂

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