Readers’ wildlife photos

February 4, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have a “late summer mix” of photos sent in September by reader Ruth Berger. Her notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. 

Here is what I recently caught on walks in Frankfurt near a semi-natural part of the Main river with my 28mm automatic camera.

The perennial pea (Lathyrus latifolius) is a favorite fodder of the violet carpenter bee (Xylocopa violacea) and this year, without fail, wherever there were there were peas there were (carpenter) bees.

Xylocopa violacea is striking due to its large size and iridescent black color. They like a warm-temperate climate and have recently moved north of 50 degrees latitude in continental Western Europe, where 50 degrees at low altitude can now be said to be warm-temperate, very different from 50 degrees latitude in Canada. I’ll add a photo I took in March, when I found some males of Xylocopa violacea frantically patrolling a crumbling Main river sandstone wall. Presumably, females where overwintering in the cracks and holes. Here is one the males, recognizable from the rust-colored rings near the ends of the antennae, just crawling out of a hole that he had inspected.

Here is a ruddy darter (Sympetrum sanguineum) sitting on sorrelat a place I call “behind Aldi” (our equivalent to Walmart), where I like to go to read:

The immediate vicinity of the dragonfly photo on the non-Aldi adjacent side:

As you can guess from the reeds, there is an overgrown pond there (I think it’s ground water and runoff from the business park filling a ditch), with very variable water levels. For dragonflies, frogs and myself, it’s a miniature paradise.

This very small bee on ragwort, either Megachile sp. or Osmia sp. cf spinulosa, is one that collects pollen with its belly, not its hindlegs, as you can see from the yellow coloring of its underside. Species who belly-collect move their abdomen in a characteristic, belly-dance-like way when they are on a flower.

This unassuming smallish bee I frequently see on Tanacetum vulgare must be Colletes sp., possibly Colletes daviesanus, and like most bees, including honeybees, it uses the standard leggy method of carrying pollen, see the 3rd pair of legs with their yellow freight:

My camera and I are not good at birds, but this one of an Egyptian goose (Alopochen aegyptiaca) is near acceptable. The goose was all by itself—a rare thing in this species (photo taken in September, maybe it’s a seasonal thing?). They have completely colonized the Rhine-Main region now, where they were unknown a generation ago. For a time, it looked as though they were outcompeting other waterfowl, whom they aggressively chased in herd-like groups of 20, 30, 40 individuals. But the population seems to have crashed at some point, and at the moment, they are just one more anatine species at the river, without sticking out. I guess it is mallards who suffer most from their competition, being smaller and far less clannish, and mallards seem rarer here now than they used to be.

Here is the “indigenous” eponymic Eurasian goose, Anser anser, the greylag goose, taken a few days before the first rains (we had a record-breakingly dry summer, followed with ample rain in September):

Apatura ilia, the lesser purple emperor, is a butterfly that comes in two sex-independent morphs, one blue/purple, the other red/rust. Here is the red morph, Apatura ilia f. clytie, licking water or minerals at the river edge:

I watched it move around for a while, and got the impression it was in some pain or slightly restricted in movement from the wing damage. It could still fly, though. Willows, the caterpillar food,  grow nearby in the form of Salix albaA picture of the blue morph, taken at the same location in an earlier year, is here if you scroll down a bit.

My final ones are of hoverflies, a group that unjustly tends to get overlooked among pollinating insects. Different from Lepidoptera (butterflies), whose caterpillars can be agricultural/forestry pests, hoverflies are wholly beneficial for humans, at least to my knowledge. Both pics were taken on windy, rainy, cool days that signaled the beginning of autumn.   This fragile beauty must be from the Eupeodes genus, but I’m not at all sure about the species (cf. nielseni), as the speckles were clearly white, not yellow:

The other hoverfly, likewise sitting on common chicory (Cichorium intybus), is Dasysyrphus tricinctusand that’s all for today:

8 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. Those are lovely, and I second your motion to pay more attention to hover flies! Big or small, they are all quite charming, as beautiful as wasps but without the sting, but the mimicry allows them to mostly mosey about unconcerned with bumbling iphone photographers like me. And three cheers for miniature paradises! Many an hour I’ve spent in them, seeking a reprieve from the overwhelming misery of the exponentially expanding human tumor. It feels increasingly like that’s all we are to have left for us to enjoy and for wildlife to inhabit. Gawd knows the world needs more humans, more suburban lawns, more roads, more strip malls, more warehouses…😩

    Thank you for sharing.

  2. A very nice set! Every large carpenter bee that I know will frequently do nectar robbing, where they clamber to the base of a flower and pierce it to get nectar without picking up pollen. I don’t see many pictures of one visiting a flower “properly”.

  3. Thanks everyone for your comments! Mark, could it be a “cultural”, regional thing with the carpenter bees? I have never seen one robbing in my small “habitat” here, they all seem do do the pollinating stuff properly.

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