Readers’ wildlife photos (and video and painting)

August 23, 2021 • 8:00 am

Last Friday I posted the tweet below, and suggested that because reader and biologist Lou Jost works in Ecuador and Peru, where this toucan lives, he might have seen one. (Lou works at a field station in Ecuador.) Indeed he had: he’d even filmed one and painted one of its relatives. Here’s Lou’s contribution (his words are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them).

First, the tweet I showed the other day:

From Lou:

A few days ago Jerry posted a photograph of a beautiful toucan, so colorful that he asked whether the colors were real. The bird was the Plate-billed Mountain-ToucanAndigena laminirostris, native to the western Andes of Ecuador and Colombia. I can vouch for the fact that the bird really is as beautiful as that photo showed. It is a common bird in good-quality cloud forest here in Ecuador, and we have them in two of our reserves.

One afternoon while I was showing some visitors our birds, one of these toucans flew low over the road in front of the car and landed in a roadside tree in perfect light. I told the car to stop and we stayed there watching, photographing, and videoing this magnificent bird for half an hour. Even though we had all seen this species many times before, there was something special about the perfect light, the close distance, and the absolute lack of fear or concern in the bird, and the way it posed for us at every possible angle. Two of the people in the car were Bob Ridgely, author of the Birds of Ecuador field guide, and veteran Ecuadorian ornithologist  Pancho Sornoza. As we were all watching the bird, Pancho said “Bob, this is the best bird sighting I’ve ever had in all my life”. This from a guy who had spent his whole life watching birds in Ecuador.

Here’s Lou’s wonderful video:

A photo montage:

Lou is also an artist and did a painting or a related species::

Here is my painting of another Ecuadorian member of the same genus, the Gray-breasted Mountain-ToucanAndigena hypoglauca. This species lives at much higher elevations than the Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, and only on the eastern side of the Andes. It is one of my favorite birds. These toucans mostly eat fruit, but their long bills also facilitate reaching into hole nests of other birds and eating their eggs or young. Some toucans of a different genus are even known to kill and eat monkeys!

24 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos (and video and painting)

  1. Lou, this is one of the most impressive follow-ups in the history of Readers’ Wildlife Photos! And o.m. (non-existing) g. that is a wonderful painting. It has a very classical style!

    1. Wow, thanks Mark! The painting was made very quickly, with oils used transparently as if they were watercolors, no white paint. With this technique, textures in the moss and feathers come out instantly with no fuss, just by usng the brush to play and dabble in the wet oil paint.

      1. Its been ages since I’ve done a painting (I used to do it a lot). But for wildlife I’d work from a picture, or a mix and match of different pictures. I know what you mean about working oil as if its watercolor. In fact, I always thought oil was easier to work.

        1. I work from memory, pictures and especially my own videos, because the poses are more dynamic And I try to have a museum speciemn on hand as wel to get the colors right.

          I took up painting because, in pre-digital days, most of my bird pictures were not that good, and I always wished the light had been a little different, or a branch in a different place. So I painted what I had wanted to see. However, I haven’t been able to paint since around 2003, because of bad eyes. So now I concentrate on my photography again.

          1. ‘Bad eyes’ is very vague. ARMD? Glaucoma? Care to elaborate -if it is not too personal? I’m particularly interested in eyes.
            Your painting is absolutely beautiful and ‘accomplished’. I used to paint too, nut never on that level.

            1. One of my eyes sees double and is really bad…though if I stop the eye down by looking through a tiny hole made by my finger. It can only see very close objects (a few centimeters). The other eye sees far objects more or less well.

              1. I see double also and wear a prism lens patch on the left lens of my glasses. It has been quite a liberation for me to see one image rather than two.

              2. I don’t see double when I look through my right eye.
                This all happened about 4 years ago. I started seeing double and I closed one eye half the time. Not safe to drive this way! I finally found a doctor that put this plastic lens that works top focus one image. My email is debcoplan@mac.com. Email me and I can send you a picture of my glasses. The plastic lens can peel off and stays on the glasses using moisture only. I’ve had no problems with it.

  2. Your painting is spectacular, Lou, thank you. You pull the viewer right in!! The colors are exciting and the composition is spot on. I am enjoying it.

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