Readers’ wildlife photos

August 21, 2021 • 8:00 am

PLEASE send in your wildlife photos, as I have only a few days’ worth before I run out. You wouldn’t want that to happen, do you? Please make sure they’re good pics, of the quality that we see on this feature.

Today we have a melange of photos from several readers. Their captions are indented and you can enlarge their photos by clicking on them.

First, a yellow garden spider from Killian Sharp:

Argiope aurantia was just relaxing in its web amongst my friend’s tomato plants in SW Ontario.

From Julia Sculthorpe:

I have been taking pictures of wildlife in the various wildlife refuges in the Denver metro area. These were taken in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

The dragonfly and toad blend into their surroundings. The toad was very hard to photograph as he jumped at  almost any moment I made.

 

Can you spot the toad and dragonfly (the insect is easier)?

From Laurie Berg:

Immature eagle with former mouse

From Rachel Sperling:

I was saving this photo for when I had more to share, but I saw your request this morning. I’m pretty sure this is a dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus). I encountered it on the New York section of the Appalachian Trail earlier this month. In addition to insects (not sure what type of beetle this one has caught) larger ones are able to catch fish. According to Wikipedia, their bodies are covered with hydrophobic hairs that allow them to run on water (suck it, Jesus). When they submerge, the air trapped in these hairs becomes a thin film, allowing them to breathe underwater; the air makes them quite buoyant, so they have to hold onto a twig or a rock in order to stay submerged. I think they’re really cool.

Also sharing a photo I took last night of the ALMOST full strawberry moon. This is from a park in Meriden, Connecticut, which has a lovely ridge that offers views to the east and west. This was taken around 8:30.

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 14, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your photos!

Today’s batch is quite diverse in content, and comes from reader Leo Glenn, whose notes are indented. You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

I haven’t been able to take many photos lately, and my archive is fairly disorganized, so here is a somewhat random collection of photos. The only thing tying them together, really, is that they were all taken within walking distance of my house in western Pennsylvania. I’ve also included a “macro” photo that you could use as a “What am I?” quiz, if you so desire. The subsequent photo is the reveal.  [JAC: I’ll put it below the fold.]

American giant millipede (Narceus americanus), a relatively common sight on my daily dog walk:

Gray treefrog (Dryophytes versicolor), so named because they can change color from gray to green or brown. Far more often heard than seen, this one was down near the ground and politely lingered long enough for me to take its picture:

Another organism with the species name versicolor, the Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor)

Yellow morel (Morchella esculenta), from my secret morel patch:

Crown-tipped coral fungus (Artomyces pyxidatus):

Our mulberry tree had a bumper crop this year, which attracted many bird species, including this Black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus), seen here, though, on a neighboring red maple (Acer rubrum).

Red-headed bush cricket, also known as a Handsome trig (Phyllopalpus pulchellus):

Pennsylvania leatherwing, also called a goldenrod soldier beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus):

And a photo from this past winter. Even the Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) were social distancing:

Finally, here’s the photo for the “What am I?” quiz:

To see the reveal, click “read more”:

Continue reading “Readers’ wildlife photos”

Readers’ wildlife photos and videos

June 2, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your good photos, as I always have need of more.

First, a video from evolutionary biologist Iñigo Martinez-Solano, who sent in some amphibian photos in December. Now we have a video:

Last December I contributed some amphibian pictures to your website, including two of Iberian midwife toads [Alytes cisternasii], which have a unique reproductive biology with male parental care of the eggs for about a month, after which they release the tadpoles in ponds and streams. Recently I had the opportunity to take a video of a male releasing the tadpoles and I thought you might be interested in sharing it with your readers:

 

And we have two photo contributions today, the first from Charles Schwing. You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

First, some deer photos from Charles Schwing.

Some pictures from our backyard in Napa, CA. Our lot backs on to Redwood Creek, which is seasonal this far down from its source and deer use it as a main thoroughfare. We often see more than one deer at a time, but  this is the record holder:

We see males together more than we expected. Here are several in velvet. BTW, the ugly green plastic container on the steel post is an improvised but effective squirrel deterrent, keeping them out of the bird feeders.

Speaking of bird feed, we put some seed on a table so it would be accessible to birds (mourning doves, for example) that haven’t mastered feeders. This deer had other plans.

And a plant, a cactus from reader Linda Calhoun (photo by her husband John) that she can’t identify. Can readers help?

John took this yesterday (May 30).  It’s under a tree along the driveway.  It’s not a common species, so I can’t ID it, but it bloomed suddenly, which is how John found it.

Amphibian Week Day 5

May 7, 2021 • 9:02 pm

by Greg Mayer

For the end of Amphibian Week, we have a photo gallery, starting with my late, lamented, Toady, who was collected by David Wingate, Bermuda’s foremost naturalist, in 1999, and who died in 2019, at the age of 20+ years. The Giant Toad, Bufo marinus, (also known as the Marine Toad or Cane Toad) is native to the continental American tropics and subtropics, and was introduced to Bermuda.

Giant Toad, Bufo marinus, Bermuda (collected in 1999; photo taken in 2012).

Note the enormous parotoid gland behind the eye, which secretes poisons that can protect the toad from predators.

Giant Toad, Bufo marinus, Bermuda (collected in 1999; photo taken in 2012).

Next, from Chis Petersen of DoD PARC, a gallery of amphibians that are found on U.S, military bases, and this report summarizing the status of threatened and endangered species on these bases (it includes both amphibians and reptiles).

My thanks to Chris, who has been distributing amphibian images, documents, and links throughout Amphibian Week. (If you’re wondering why the Department of Defense is involved in conservation, we’ve dealt with that before at WEIT. The short answer is that 1) the military must obey applicable environmental and conservation laws on military lands, and 2) certain animals pose practical issues for the military (e.g., venomous snakes). The Navy, which I know best, employs a number of professional herpetologists. Recall as well that the military has often enabled scientific exploration (the Beagle, for example, was a Royal Navy ship), and military reservations have sometimes had the best preserved habitats (e.g., much of the Patuxent National Wildlife Refuge was annexed from Fort Meade.)


Department of Defense Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. 2019. Department of Defense Herpetofauna Conservation Status Summary. Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program. pdf

Amphibian Week Day 4

May 6, 2021 • 2:15 pm

by Greg Mayer

The theme of today’s post is threats to amphibians.

In the above graphic, “41%” of amphibians are threatened”, may seem improbably precise, since threatened species are usually identified by the realization that some species is under threat, which then gets the species added to the IUCN’s Red List, an authoritative compilation. But the Zoological Society of London‘s Institute of Zoology has for a decade been implementing a “Sampled Red List Index“, which, instead of seeking out threatened species, assesses a large, random, sample of an entire higher taxon, thus giving a valid estimate of the proportion threatened. (I worked on the reptile SRLI, which assessed 1500 species).

One major threat to amphibians has been the global spread of the chytrid fungus, Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis, which infects amphibians and can wipe out whole populations and species. Chris Petersen, of Department of Defense Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation, sent me links to the following reports on surveys and assessments that have been conducted concerning the chytrid threat to amphibians inhabiting military lands.

Report 1: Do Frogs Get Their Kicks on Route 66?

Report 2: From the Mountains to the Prairies Seasonal Bd Responses Differ by Latitude and Longitude at a Continental Scale

Report 3: Salamander Chytrid Fungus Risk Assessment on Department of Defense Installations

I especially liked the first survey, a transcontinental transect study from California to Virginia; it found chytrid at all but one location.

Figure 1 from Petersen et al. (2011).

This and the second study were coauthored by, among others, my colleagues Rob Lovich and Mike Lannoo; Rob has previously treated WEIT readers to World Snake Day, and Mike has authored or coauthored several major works on amphibian conservation, including the monumental Amphibian Declines: The Conservation of United States Species. (The titles of these two reports also show the authors’ knowledge of song lyrics!)

We’ll finish off today’s installment with the non threatened Wood Frog (Rana sylvatica), which is widespread in North America. A northern species, a number of relict populations have survived in mountains south of the main range, left behind as the species followed the retreating glaciers north. This fellow’s from the main range in northern Minnesota, near Lake Superior.

Wood frog, Lutsen, near Lake Superior, Minnesota, 6 June 2014.

h/t C. Petersen, G. Wood


Böhm, M., B. Collen, … G.C. Mayer… et al. 2013. The conservation status of the world’s reptiles. Biological Conservation 157:372-385. pdf(MS)

Lannoo, M.J., ed. 2005. Amphibian Declines: The Conservation of United States Species. University of California Press, Berkeley. publisher

Petersen, C., R.E. Lovich, M.J. Lannoo, and P. Nanjappa. 2011. Do Frogs Still Get Their Kicks on Route 66? A Transcontinental Transect for Amphibian Chytrid Fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) Infection on U.S. Department of Defense Installations. Proj. No. 09-246, Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program. pdf

Petersen, C., R.E. Lovich, C. Philips, M. Dreslik, P. Nanjappa, and M.J. Lannoo. 2013. From the Mountains to the Prairies—Seasonal Bd Responses Differ by Latitude and Longitude at a Continental Scale. Proj. No. 10-426, Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program. pdf

Petersen, C., K.L.D. Richgels, G. Lockhart, and R.E. Lovich. 2019. Salamander Chytrid Fungus Risk Assessment on Department of Defense Installations. Department of Defense Legacy Resource Management Program. pdf

Amphibian Week Day 3

May 5, 2021 • 3:00 pm

by Greg Mayer

For the midpoint of Amphibian Week, Chris Petersen of Department of Defense Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation sent me these amphibian facts.

Characteristics of Amphibians:

· Include frogs and toads, salamanders and caecilians (approximately 8,300 species worldwide)
· All are vertebrates (have a backbone)
· Are ectothermic (meaning they rely on external sources from the surrounding environment to maintain their body temperature)
· Most live part of their life in water and part on land (although there are many exceptions)
· Most have moist glandular skin through which they can respire (breathe) to various extents (some exclusively so, but most also through lungs or gills)
· Lay unshelled (jelly-like) eggs in moist to wet environments
· Most go through a process called metamorphosis to develop from a water-living life stage to a land-living stage

I then headed out to Greenquist Pond here at UW-Parkside to see what amphibians were about. You’ll recall that Chorus Frogs and American Toads have been calling on campus, but I hadn’t seen them at this pond. Here’s what I found.

Bullfrog, Rana catesbeiana, Greenquist Pond, Somers, Wisconsin, 5 May 2021.

I walked around three sides of the pond, and heard or briefly saw several Rana jump into the water, many emitting a little “yelp” as they dove in. I think both Green Frogs (Rana clamitans) and Bullfrogs (Rana catesbeiana) make that noise, so I wasn’t sure of the species. All were smallish, except for one that was bigger, but could have been either a large Green or a medium Bullfrog in size. I was heading back, reconciled to failure, when I spotted this medium-sized Bullfrog on the bank, which didn’t spook. I was able to get pretty close to get this shot, and even was using sticks to bend shadowing leaves out of the way, but it stayed put.

The Green Frogs and American Toads I showed in earlier Amphibian Week 2021 posts were also from this pond, but I’ve not seen them at the pond yet this year. (Some of the frogs today may have been Green Frogs.)

There were also turtles, so I’ll cheat a bit (they are reptiles, of course) and throw them in here. There were four five Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta),

Painted Turtle, Chrysemys picta, Greenquist Pond, Somers, WI, 5 May 2021.

plus this Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans), with another two Painted Turtles behind.

Red-eared Slider, Trachemys scripta elegans, and , in back, two Painted Turtles, Chrysemys picta, Greenquist Pond, Somers, WI, 5 May

There were a total of four five Painted Turtles, all with the slider in this corner of the pond. The slider is the most popular turtle in the pet trade, and is not native to Wisconsin. Although we find them not infrequently, they all seem to be released or escaped– they don’t seem to breed up here, even though they can survive the winters. (I had my own “Spot the …” moment– I didn’t see the further back Painted Turtle in the above photo until I’d posted it here!)

Amphibian Week– day 2

May 4, 2021 • 2:45 pm

by Greg Mayer

I’ve received another batch of amphibian goodies for Amphibian Week. Department of Defense Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation suggests having a look at this video about the Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), a giant permanently aquatic salamander, and the largest (heaviest) amphibian in the Western Hemisphere. When I took herpetology as a summer course at Cornell University in upstate New York, there was a thrill when visiting a drainage in which hellbenders could occur; the mere possibility was enticing. Alas, we didn’t find any.

The Eastern Newt (Notopthalmus viridescens) and the Bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) are common through much of the eastern US (the latter is also widely introduced in the west), and DoD PARC has produced fact sheets on both of them. This website explains, for kids, some of the differences between frogs and toads, but the problem with trying to distinguish frogs from toads is that there are many more kinds of members of the amphibian order Anura than just frogs and toads. “True toads” (Bufonidae) and “true frogs” (Ranidae) are only two of the dozens of families of anurans. We have two words in English, which correspond to the two genera (Bufo, toads, and Rana, frogs)  which occur in England, but these aren’t enough; we tend to shoehorn that diversity them into either ‘frog’ or ‘toad’

We’ll finish off today with a species common in SE Wisconsin, the Green Frog (Rana clamitans). The relatively small eardrum would suggest this is a female, but it’s fairly small, and might just not have developed sexually dimorphic features yet.

Green Frog, Rana clamitans, UW-Parkside, Kenosha, WI, 20.ix.2015.

And here’s a bunch more. These were all rescued from a deep (ca. 20 foot) window well, and then released into nearby Greenquist Pond.

Green Frogs, Rana clamitans, UW-Parkside, Kenosha, WI, 20.ix.2015.

Happy National Amphibian Week!

May 3, 2021 • 11:00 am

by Greg Mayer

May 2-8 is National Amphibian Week, and Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (PARC) wants everyone to participate. Here are the themes for each day:

Sunday, May 2: What are Amphibians?
Monday, May 3: The Secret Lives of Amphibians
Tuesday, May 4: Amazing Amphibian Facts
Wednesday, May 5: Threats to Amphibians
Thursday, May 6: Amphibian Tweets from the Field
Friday, May 7: Partnering for Amphibian Conservation
Saturday, May 8: Actions for Amphibians

I began my Amphibian Week by hearing for the first time this year the trilling call of American Toads (Bufo americanus) yesterday afternoon, and I heard them again this morning. They were on my campus at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside, but not at the pond I was visiting, but I didn’t try to find out exactly where they were (I was tracking a family of Canada Geese both days). Here’s a calling toad from Pennsylvania, so you know what they sound like.

These were the first toads I’ve heard this season; Chorus Frogs (Pseudacris triseriata) have been calling since March 21 (a late start for them). I’ve featured our local American Toads a few times here at WEIT; here are a couple of featured WEIT toads from 2015.

American toads, Greenquist Woods, UW-Parkside, Kenosha, WI.

I was sent a few amphibian related items for Amphibian Week from PARC affiliates. A salamander coloring page and a scavenger hunt for kids from Southeast PARC (other SEPARC herp education resources here), and a nice color fact sheet about amphibians on military bases from Department of Defense PARC.

Many states and other places do aural surveys as “citizen science” projects, and there are compilations of call recordings for many places. As examples of both, here’s Wisconsin’s state aural survey, and here’s a very nice collection of the frog calls of California.

Readers’ wildlife photos

April 6, 2021 • 8:30 am

by Greg Mayer

For today’s post we return to the New York City Subway 8th Avenue local (B and C trains) station at 81st-Museum of Natural History,this time for the amphibians.

81st St.-Museum of Natural History station, New York subway, July 17, 2019.

My favorite of the amphibians is this brooding caecilian, curled round its eggs. These legless, short-tailed amphibians are found only in the tropics, and there is no real English vernacular name for them. (You can find a Sicilian in the subway, but I prefer Neapolitan.)

Brooding caecilian. 81st St.-Museum of Natural History station, New York subway, July 17, 2019.

What appears to me to be a reed frog (Hyperolius sp.), an African tree frog of sorts, hangs on the wall next to a station identifying sign.

Reed frog. 81st St.-Museum of Natural History station, New York subway, July 17, 2019.

This looks like a ranid frog to me– a member of the family Ranidae, perhaps intended to be a Rana proper. Many species in this and related genera look much alike the world over. Note the nicely delineated tympanic membrane.

Frog. 81st St.-Museum of Natural History station, New York subway, July 17, 2019.

This generic frog (I won’t even try to name a family for it) is leaping out of the Signal Room. Interestingly, the subway workers here believe in free will, apparently of the libertarian sort. A scratched note on the door reads, “Use other door→ | or this one– up to you”.

Frog. 81st St.-Museum of Natural History station, New York subway, July 17, 2019.

These well-rendered salamanders provide detail enabling specific identification. On the left we have a Marbled Salamander (Ambystoma opacum), a species of eastern North America (including the New York area), and on the right we have a Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra), a species widely distributed in Europe. The American Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum; found in the New York area) is also black with yellow markings, but the yellow markings (quite variable in both species) look more like Salamandra to me, and the evident parotoid glands at the back of the head (making it look wide) are conclusive. Ambystoma and Salamandra are similar in size and body shape, and are sort of continental ecological analogues.

Salamanders. 81st St.-Museum of Natural History station, New York subway, July 17, 2019.

The Coelacanth (Latimeria chalumnae) is one of the few surviving lobe-finned fishes, and as such is one of the tetrapods closest living relatives, and so is included here as an honorary amphibian. I don’t know why there is a question mark on its tail; in fact I never noticed it there before till just now.

Coelacanth. 81st St.-Museum of Natural History station, New York subway, July 17, 2019.

Finally, we have a group of patently Paleozoic fish. The artist has rendered them neither strictly from above (as though we were looking down on them in the ‘water’ of the paving tile) nor from the side, but in a sort of twisted view, allowing us to see various aspects. The bottom four may be intended to be the same type of fish (I’m not sure what kind), but the top one (which seems to be more of an exclusively side view– see the partly opened mouth) looks like one of those strange Paleozoic sharks, with a spiny first dorsal fin, and a heterocercal tail. You can also see more clearly in this photo how the lighter brown granite-like stone is integrated with the darker paving tile.

Fish on the floor. 81st St.-Museum of Natural History station, New York subway, July 17, 2019.

There are other taxa represented in the tiles (e.g., ants), and other forms of art, including larger tiled murals, and casts of in-situ fossils projecting from the wall. Many of these works are depicted in a gallery at www.nycsubway.org, a subway fan/history site. Some of those depicted I’ve never seen in person, because I always exit the station at the south (Museum) end, not at the north (81st Street) end.

(Looking at one of the pictures in the gallery now, I see the undersea mosaic mural has  a coelacanth-shaped gray silhouette in the otherwise colorful tiles; could the question mark noted above be related to the coealcanth’s absence here?)

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 6, 2021 • 8:00 am

I’m running low, folks, and once again implore you to send me your good wildlife (or street or landscape) photos.

We have two contributions today. The first are footprints photographed by Coel Heller. His captions are indented, and he asks for IDs of the animals who made them:

I was out walking on the snowy moorland of Kinder Scout when I saw what seems to be the imprint of a bird (raptor?) perhaps taking off:

There were also tracks leading up to this imprint; note boot print for scale:

At the other end of the tracks, around 2 m away, was what could be the impression of tail feathers.  So perhaps a raptor swooped on a mammal, which then made the tracks leading to the take-off?  Perhaps WEIT readers could say better, or perhaps identify the bird?   The photos were taken with an iPhone in cloudy conditions, so are not high quality.

And from Bryan Lepore:

I could hear a chirping sound during the summer. Eventually, I narrowed the source to a rain gutter on the building I live in. I kept looking for a bird or a nest poking up above the rim. Later, I was confused – but soon realized there were two sources of chirping – one from two different independent sections of gutter. Dutifully, I typed in the scraps of evidence into a search engine : “frog gutter chirp/sound”, and found that the frogs use drains as megaphones to amplify their mating calls!

Eventually, I got up within arms reach of the gutter, and got the ol’ iPhone ready to capture the image of what was underneath the leaf guard thing in the gutter, and for a brief moment, this type of frog was observed before escaping down the downspout. Sorry but the video is buried somewhere. The frog was probably unharmed, being of low mass. I think these are gray treefrogs (Dryophytes versicolor).

One time, one of these frogs found a cozy nook in the car door jamb, and rode around on drives unharmed before it found another place to hang out.