Readers’ wildlife photos

September 23, 2022 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from reader Christopher McLaughlin, whose notes are indented. You can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

I’ll offer up this handful of wildflower/landscape photos, hopefully they are of interest. I don’t have fancy equipment, just an iPhone 11.  They were taken last summer, July 17, 2021, in between storms at Jerry Smith Park (supposedly a remnant prairie) in south Kansas City.

Silphium laciniatum [Prairie Compass Plant]:

Silphium laciniatum, Liatris pycnostachya [Prarie Blazing Star],and  Echinacea pallida, [Pale Purple Coneflower]:

Silphium integrifolium [rosinweed]:

I am not certain on the species, or even the genus of this crayfish, possibly Orconectes virilis, the rather common Northern Crayfish. This was taken on a rainy spring morning at Gama Grass Conservation Area, Vernon county MO.

Otherwise not an exciting find, as crayfish are quite common, but finding her loaded with babies was a treat. Pardon the dirty hands and fingernails.

Silphium perfoliatum [cup plant]from my back yard. Silphium being my favorite genus, I have four of the five species that grow in Missouri in my yard, with seeds of the fifth species on the way. They are excellent for attracting pollinators, including hummingbirds, and the seeds are eaten by several birds.

14 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Cool crayfish! I used to go chasing after them in creeks and streams in my native upstate New York—55 years ago.

    1. East Creek, Cass County, MO was my hunting grounds. We moved one door down from it when I was 6 (1983-ish) and it was my window to the wilderness. It was freedom from adults and school and chores. Under every rock was a new world to explore. I was born with what EO Wilson called biophilia, but that creek gave me place to indulge in that instinct. It’s increasingly surrounded by the spreading human tumor of suburbia now, that of manicured lawns, trimmed trees, and herbicides, but back then it was a living National Geographic special for me.

  2. How do you handle the crayfish without getting pinched????? Seems risky! lol
    Very interesting seeing the babies.
    Thanks for sharing your photos. So glad you were not put off from contributing because of a perceived lack of fancy equipment. These turned out great. The shots under the stormy skies were very dramatic. Always fascinating to see the native flora of unfamiliar places.

    1. You catch crayfish without getting pinched the same way you get to Carnegie Hall…with lots of pain a occasional bloody fingers! Kidding. Like commenter Norman, I chased them around a creek when I was young. You do get pinched a lot a first but soon learn the tricks. This one was easy since she was out of the water and had nowhere to jet of to with a flick of the tail. Just come in from behind quickly with thumb and forefinger.

  3. Thanks much, Christopher! I find your first photo very evocative of a pleasant longing.
    The cup plants are proliferating where I live in northeastern Illinois and indeed attracting hummingbirds, much to my delight.

  4. Not exciting? I’ll beg to differ! Great pix, thanks for posting. True, crayfish are common–yet since I live in Chicago, I don’t see them all that often! They’re around but you have to go to the right places. Generally I just see the claws that seagulls drop on the beach or revetment.

    1. Thank you. I can never tell what will be of interest to others so it’s nice to hear.
      Btw, there is a place called Wolf Road Prairie in Westchester, IL. that has similar prairie plant species. Might make a nice day trip, depending on where you are.
      And the crayfish, just look under rocks and you’re bound to find them. When I was a kid, a dog died and fell into the creek under a bridge near my house, damn did it stink! But, it attracted thousands of crayfish and when they all mated…! They were on and under every rock, log, climbing up the concrete walls of the bridge, everything was covered with crayfish. That was the first time I saw babies, too.

  5. Beautiful photos. Never want to eat crayfish, but they really are quite interesting to see, and I’ve never seen the young like that. The flowers are all quite lovely…but do you know whether rosinweed is so named because it’s sticky or smells like pine or something similar?

    1. Silphium species can exude a resin that has a rather pleasing scent, similar to turpentine. You can crush a leaf and get a whiff of it, or cut the stalk and let it ooze out a bit. Supposedly Native Americans chewed the resin as a breath freshener. I don’t know too much about photochemistry but if one has journal access, there are quite a few papers on it. They are rather tall plants. The species here in Missouri tend to grow 6-8 ft., while S. terebenthinacium grows massive basal leaves, as broad across as my chest, and then sends up a tall flower stalk. I grow these, too, but it’s a bit too wet where I am and they like the drier Ozarks just east and south of me. Crime Pays but Botany Doesn’t has a YouTube video on a Texas endemic, Silphium albiflorum, that is almost a dwarf version of S. laciniatum but with white flowers.

  6. Thanks for these. I usually have a smartphone with me but forget to use it. These are a good reminder how powerful a smartphone can be.

    1. Most of the photos I take are just for identification purposes; I don’t often think about artistic qualities. I use the app iNaturalist to help me since I’ve got a mind like a sieve, but I doubt they’d be of interest here. And if I forget my phone, which happens from time to time, I’m guaranteed to encounter a new insect, plant, or reptile that I’d love to have an ID record of. But I’m really glad people like these photos. I’ll try to be more art-conscious in the future.

  7. I enjoyed all of these, thank you. The crayfish underbelly with all the babies really is an amazing shot for me, something I had never seen. I also enjoyed reading that you found a scent pleasing because it is similar to turpentine. Agree!

    1. Thank you, and I’d encourage you, well, anyone and everyone who can, to grow whatever Silphium species (14, I think) that happens to be native to where you live. I believe they are only native to N. America, mostly east of the rockies, and can be invasive as they do spread easily, take up some space, but are long-flowering, long-lived, really easy to care for, and loved by pollinators.

      I should have also mention that the one and only T. H. Huxley wrote a monograph called “The Crayfish: An Introduction to the Study of Zoology”, if anyone is interested it’s worth a look.

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