Readers’ wildlife photos

January 31, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have something new: thermal imaging by Peter Nothnagle. His narration and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

Seen in a Different Light

A couple of years ago, as a sort of cheer-myself-up-during-lockdown gift, I bought a FLIR C2 thermal camera. That’s a pocket-sized camera that detects infrared light and displays it in a variety of false color schemes. It covers a wide temperature range and it’s very sensitive to differences in temperature.

Cameras like this are marketed to plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians – and indeed I’ve found it useful in those pursuits, but it’s also a lot of fun to play with. I don’t really need this thing, but it’s loads of fun to walk around and see what energy is emanating from everyday objects. Take, for example, this manhole cover (are we allowed to say “manhole” anymore?):

Can you tell how much water is in my rain barrel just by looking at it?

I like exploring obscure old cemeteries in the Iowa countryside:


Those were taken just before Halloween, but disappointingly there were no ghosts. They must have been busy elsewhere.

And now for a little wildlife. The other day a couple of deer (Odocoileus virginianus) spent much of the day in my back yard. Spot the deer!

Here are the deer!

[The blob on the left is the heat signature of the neighbor’s back window]

Bare tree against a winter sky:

And finally, a thermal cat (Felis catus)…

… and where the cat had just been sitting on the floor. You can even see the heat left by her paws as she walked away.

25 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

    1. Yes, the camera detects heat, not visible light. So a scene would look exactly the same in total darkness.

      It does however have a feature whereby it can draw a sort of pencil-sketch outline of the visible-light content of an image. This would be useful for locating a hot component in a tangle of wiring, for example. You can see this in action in most of the images here.

      1. Thanks for the pix. I used to work on the design of thermal imagers. To be precise, a thermal camera detects wavelengths of light which correspond to the blackbody radiation of objects which are at a temperature of around a few hundred Kelvin. Normal body temperature is about 310K. The blackbody radiation from the surface of the sun which has a temperature of about 6000K peaks in wavelengths of visible light. It’s the same underlying physical mechanism for the production of thermal radiation as sunlight. There is a lot of processing going on in a thermal camera to produce a useful image. For example, the thermal image of the camera itself has to be removed.

    1. I came to offer the same pun. Seems, from the deer picture, like something a hunter might want. Or would that be considered cheating?

    1. It’s possible, if the pipes were a very different temperature from the wall. You would only be “seeing” the surface of the drywall after all, so for example, the pipes would have to be hot enough to heat up the nearby wall. [On a cold day the camera can easily discern the studs inside the walls of our house, since the insulated space between the studs is warmer than the studs themselves.]

      It might be better to drain a pipe, cut into it at some point, run an electrician’s “fish tape” through it, and try to find it with a stud finder or metal detector. It sounds like a tricky project; good luck!

      1. Bought one of these two months ago, the kind that attaches to a smart phone, and for the sole purpose of trying to find my black cat when she goes into hiding.

        Cat has spent her entire adult life trying to escape the house, and will sneak her way through any opening that she suspects will lead there. She’s also an expert at concealment, and I’m using it uncover all her hiding spots.

        The black and white may setting may work best, as colors are too distracting and I’m already stressed if I’m using it.

  1. It’s the depth of winter and I need one to image my beehives! It’s one of those toys that your favorite beekeeper would love to have but probably can’t justify the cost with all the other items he/she has to purchase. Of course, I’m always willing to accept donations. 🙂

  2. What a fun post! I was sorry to see no evidence of ghosts in the cemetery. I’ve never seen one, but would love to.

  3. Now that’s something new. I love the novelty! Thanks. I’ve had fun with night-time vision binoculars…different technology I think.

  4. I hear owls around my house at night, but I never know where they are. If this would help, I’ll totally buy one!

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