Readers’ wildlife photos

November 4, 2023 • 8:30 am

Today we’ll have a mélange of photos that have accumulated over the past months from readers who sent in just a couple of pix. The captions are indented, and click on the photos to enlarge them.

From Jon Alexandr:

I’m not a biologist, but I do occasionally like to take photos of plants and animals, including “bugs.” Because I favor its handy small size, I’m still using an old, first-generation iPhone SE (2016 or 2017), so it’s not “professional” photography. Still, I think the attached impromptu photo of a “grasshopper” in a wood pile next to my house has a certain presence, which is maybe amplified by the lighting, shapes, and textures.
The grasshopper’s body was just slightly more than an inch long, I estimate, not counting the extremities. Location is San Francisco East Bay, Contra Costa County.

From Bryan Lepore, sent October 29:

 I spotted what I think is a tree frog, genus Dryophytes, today. Middlesex county, MA.She is about the size of my thumbnail and has a very long jump span. Usually, I see what I think are Leopard frogs (genus Lithobates) jump like that but they’re green. Maybe she’s a brown variant, or a differeny frog.

Two animals photos and an architecture photo from reader joolz:

 Two of my photographs from the Oceanographic Museum, Monaco 2023.  Taken through glass.
Lion fish [Pterois sp.]. Oceanographic Museum, Monaco 2023. Didn’t take a photo of the info.
Longspined Porcupine Fish – Diodon holocanthus. Info on sign: “At the slightest danger it inflates its body, pushing its spines outwards to protect itself. The fish of the Diodontidae family are toxic and unfit for human consumption. In Japan, where they are eaten in sushi, a special licence is needed to cook them.”

Queen Hatshepsut‘s Temple at Deir El Bahri, Egypt. Taken from a hot air balloon decades ago.

Hatshepsut was very powerful and took on the role of Pharoah. She wore the pharaonic regalia, which includes a false beard, so trans activists claim she was transgender, but there is no basis for this assertion. She just wore the standard regalia that all pharaohs wore. Her stepson Thutmose III had her name erased from monuments and she was unknown for centuries. Thankfully her legacy as a female Pharoah was restored when the hieroglyphs at this temple were translated in the 1800s.

Photos of the solar eclipse that occurred on October 14. The first is from Don McCrady:

Thought I’d send you a hot-off-the-press shot of this year’s annular solar eclipse, this one from Winnemucca, Nevada.An annular solar eclipse is a total eclipse of the sun by the moon, where the moon is far enough away from the earth that its disk does not fully cover the sun’s, creating a “ring of fire” effect such as this one.  I took this with a Canon EOS R5 with an RF 100-500 x1.4 extender, for a total focal length of 700mm.

From Avis James:

Bill and I went to a field half way between Ruidoso and Roswell New Mexico in the path of the annular eclipse this morning.  We took a colander- it is has the Star of David pattern:
Here is the shadow it made at full angularity!  The dot in the middle of each circle is the moon in the middle of the sun!

From John Runnels, “Unknown mushroom species, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.” (Readers: can you ID?)

Finally, a weird giraffe from Bob Wooley of Asheville, NC:

I know you don’t usually do zoo photos, but if you feel like making an exception for an exceptional animal, you’re welcome to use these. You featured a story about this amazing unspotted baby giraffe the other day. I live about 90 minutes from Brights Zoo in eastern Tennessee, where she was born, so today I went there to see her for myself. It’s very difficult to get good pictures of her because her enclosure has a tight-mesh fence that you have to shoot through (unless you have a 12-foot-long photo stick). That’s why most of the news stories just use pictures and videos given to them by the zoo. But I got several that I think are worth sharing, and hold up to on-screen embiggening. She’s a seriously beautiful creature.

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 23, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s bird photos come from Paul Edelman, a Professor of Mathematics and Law at Vanderbilt University. Paul’s captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. We also have two singletons by other readers at the bottom.

Some more bird pictures from our neighborhood pond.

We have a pair of Belted Kingfishers (Ceryle alcyon) that nest in the area.  They make a loud ratcheting sound when they fly. This pair was chasing each other all over the pond.  I was fortunate to get them in flight, something I’ve tried to do many times before.

I had seen a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) during the late winter and early spring, but this is the first time in a while.  This particular one is “yellow-shafted morph” with the characteristic red patch on the back of its head and the yellow tail feathers. 

I also caught this Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) perched in the trees over the pond.  Not sure what he was looking for.

In trees along with numerous titmice and chickadees were a number of Tennessee Warblers (Vermivora peregrine) and a solitary Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Regulus calendula).



I have another picture—the odd hybrid duck with a couple of mallards [Anas platyrhynchos].  [JAC: Neither of us are sure what this duck is, but I think it’s the result of a cross between wild mallards and Pekin ducks, which are the white ones: also mallards but bred for color, docility, and meat. The mallard in the rear is likely a hybrid as well, but could be a wild mallard “greening up” into his breeding plumage.]

From Christopher Moss, a baby American red squirrel:

Our young friend of the Tamiasciurus hudsonicus kind:

And a travel/cat/architecture photo from Nikos Kitsakis:

I immediately had to think of you when I took the picture attached. I took it this morning standing next to the greek flag at the Acropolis in Athens at shortly after 8 in the morning (What to call it? Acropocat? Catcropolis?).

Athens has the owl 🦉 as a symbol since ancient times as you know, but all I see all the time are cats 🐈. I think they ate all the owls… 🙂

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 27, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please keep those photos coming in, folkx!

Today we have a melange of travel photos by Joe Routon. Joe’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

First, I’ll post my photos of visitors from Asia who have invaded Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and a few other northeastern states. The nefarious planthopper Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) is wreaking havoc with trees. The photo on the left was taken around the middle of July; the one in the middle, photographed with my new iPhone 12 Pro Max, taken a month later, and the one on the right taken yesterday.

This is the Market Hall in Ghent, Belgium. It’s an open area that’s used for events and concerts.

Here’s my slightly Photoshopped photo of Bran Castle, commonly known as Dracula’s Castle, in Transylvania, Romania.

In the spirit of Brussels’ famous statue Manneken Pis (“Little Pissing Man”), Helsinki, Finland, has its own “Bad Bad Boy,” which is about 28 feet tall.

Here’s one of my photos of the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia.

I made this photo of the Andes Mountains on our trip to Peru.

Here’s one of my photos of the magnificent, breathtakingly beautiful Cologne Cathedral in Germany.

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 11, 2021 • 8:45 am

Thanks to several readers for responding to my plea for photos. But I can still use more, so, as they say in the Army, “smoke if you got ’em.”

Today’s photos are travel photos taken by Joe Routen, featuring spectacular architecture, old and new. Joe’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Always on the lookout for things that are pleasing to my eyes, I’m often gratified to see beauty in buildings. Here are a few of my favorites.
In France, this is Le Guetteur (“The Watcher”), a building in a mega shopping mall at Dagnes sur Mer. The face is Caesar.

Here’s the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey.

The transformation of a train station into Musée d’Orsay, one of Paris’ top art museums.

The Orange Cube, a design showroom and office building, in Lyon, France.

The magnificent mosaic artwork in the Church on the Spilled Blood in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The breathtakingly beautiful windows of Sainte-Chapelle in Paris, France.

The Euronews Building in Lyon, France.

Musée des Confluences in Lyon, France.

Interior of La Sagrada Familia* in Barcelona, Spain.


*The church where Professor Ceiling Cat was strip-searched by the Spanish cops

More houses from Kenwood and a possum

December 11, 2020 • 2:30 pm

Here are some more houses in Kenwood that I photographed on yesterday’s constitutional. (My previous post on the area is here.)

First, though, here’s a Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana) that ran across 57th Street and crawled through a window grate into a safe space. I took a photo and left it alone, though it may be the one I saw two days ago. I will feed it if I see it again. (I left a banana in the grate this morning.)

Click to enlarge all photos:

Here’s a better view of Obama’s house (or ex-house, as I’m not sure whether he still owns it). I shot over the cement barriers and wire that blocks off pedestrian access.

Moar fancy houses:


I’m quite proud of this photo, which is a selfie—I’m right in the middle of the reflection—because it was really hard to take. The sun was shining so bright in my eyes, reflected off the ball, that I could find my position only by standing relative to the red ribbon and the gate, which I could see in the reflection. It also shows the nice houses across the street.


A walk through Kenwood

December 10, 2020 • 1:15 pm

My thrice-weekly constitutional used to me down along by Lake Michigan, but that got boring. Recently, then, I’ve been heading up to Kenwood, a “community area”  that goes from 43rd street to 51st Street (Chicago streets are numbered consecutively starting from downtown and going south). Much of the southern part of Kenwood, from 47th Street to 51st Street, was occupied in the late 19th and early 20th centuries by rich titans and moguls: the Swifts, the Armors, and the executives of Sears-Roebuck.

This is also the area in which Bobby Franks was kidnapped by Leopold and Loeb, and where much of Richard Wright’s novel Native Son is set. The southern moiety is included within the Hyde Park-Kenwood Historic District. Some of the houses in Kenwood were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, though early in his career.

And of course this is where Obama lived when he was in Chicago—after he made his nut with his first book. The other day I put up a picture of his house, mostly blocked off by the Secret Service, though he no longer lives here.  The whole surrounding area is full of huge brick mansions, and it’s a lovely walk, though no U of C professor could ever afford to live here unless they win a Nobel Prize.

Here are a few houses and miscellaneous photos from Tuesday’s ramblings. I’ll identify them when I can. Click the photos to enlarge them.

Below is Wright’s 1896 Isidore Heller House. Earlier in his career, he hadn’t yet adopted the sweeping horizontality of, say, the Robie House (1909-1910), which I pass on my way to work every day. The Heller house is more vertical and includes columns and classical sculpture on the top floor.  It was on the market for a long time in the last decade, and I heard it had structural problems and leaks, which plagues most of Wright’s houses here. But it’s still a lovely building, and the “For Sale” sign is gone.

Closeup of the sculptures on top. The Frank Lloyd Trust says this:

Conforming to the irregular shape of the lot, the plan is arranged along a horizontal axis that extends back from the building’s street façade. The horizontal emphasis of the design is countered by the vertical form of the building which incorporates a substantial third floor playroom and servants’ rooms. The arcaded exterior of the third floor displays a frieze of classically-garbed maidens adapted from Wright’s cover design for the Eve of St. Agnes, published by his friend and client William Winslow in 1896. The sculpture was executed by Wright’s frequent collaborator, Richard Bock, who designed integral sculptural elements for several of Wright’s most important Prairie buildings, including the Dana and Martin houses, and the Larkin Administration building.

Below is the former home of Muhammad Ali, who lived in Kenwood for a while.  One site about the historic area says this:

In order to be closer to his Nation of Islam mentor, Muhammed Ali bought the brick mansion at 4944 S. Woodlawn, where he lived for several years in the 70s.

The Tudor-style mansion to the left was Ali’s:

Ali’s mentor was Elijah Muhammad, who lived about two blocks from Ali’s house. Muhammad’s house is shown below, and below that, right across the street, are houses for his associates. As the site above notes:

At the intersection of 49th and Woodlawn, Egyptian architect M. Momen designed five North-African style mansions for Nation of Islam founder Elijah Muhammad and his children and staff.

I used to be scared to walk by this house, as a group of men from the Fruit of Islam, the security wing of the Nation of Islam, would be standing on the sidewalk, guarding the house in suits and sunglasses, arms folded and looking very daunting. That look, of course was part of the job—a dressed-up version of the intimidating Black Panthers look. I’m not sure if Farrakhan lives here now, but it’s surely still owned by the Black Muslims, for one can sometimes see their members congregating in the driveway behind the house.

The four ancillary Nation of Islam homes across the street:

More fancy mansions nearby:

This modern house, fronted by a sculpture that looks like a jack, sticks out like a sore thumb. I’m not a fan.

Years ago, when I took an architecture tour of the area, I was told by the guide that this garage/apartment was designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It sure looks like it (note the resemblance to the Heller House):

Other houses in the area:

Two adjoining houses, somewhat in disrepair:

These wealthy homeowners have covered all the bases save for being anti-capitalist! Is this virtue signaling or “starting a conversation”?

I think the “Science is real” slogan really means, “the findings of science are real.”  And no, love doesn’t always win, though one wishes it did!

And I can never forego a selfie when I see a traffic mirror:

The toxic masculinity of architecture: a Guardian article that seems like a spoof but isn’t

July 8, 2020 • 1:15 pm

UPDATE: Reader John sent a counterexample: a hotel in Azerbaijan. Unfortunately, it’s invalid because it was built by Donald Trump! In fact, the Trump Tower Baku never opened. . .


This is one of those articles so over the top that you don’t know whether it belongs in the Guardian or the Onion.  Unfortunately, it’s in the former, showing that the Guardian, long circling the drain of wokeness, will publish nearly anything so long as it’s ideologically pure.  In fact, this article, by Leslie Kern, is such a stylistic and argumentative mess that one isn’t sure what the point really is, except to press every hot button of the Authoritarian Left.

Click to read and weep:

The article starts out as an accusation of a phallocentric urban architecture that, says Kern, exemplifies in stone, glass, and steel the oppressive tenets of the Patriarchy. To wit:

Glass ceilings and phallic towers. Mean streets and dark alleys. Road names and statues of men. From the physical to the metaphorical, the city is filled with reminders of masculine power. And yet we rarely talk of the urban landscape as an active participant in gender inequality. A building, no matter how phallic, isn’t actually misogynist, is it? Surely a skyscraper isn’t responsible for sexual harassment, the wage gap, or even the glass ceiling, whether it has a literal one up top or not?

That said, our built environments can still reflect patterns of gender-based discrimination. To imagine the city and its structures as neutral places where complicated human social relations are staged is to ignore the simple fact that people built these places. As the feminist geographer Jane Darke has said: “Our cities are patriarchy written in stone, brick, glass and concrete.” In other words, cities reflect the norms of the societies that build them. And sexism is a deep-rooted norm.

As far back as 1977, an American poet and professor of architecture named Dolores Hayden wrote an article with the explosive headline “Skyscraper seduction, skyscraper rape”. Hayden tore into the male power fantasies embodied in this celebrated urban form. The office tower, she wrote, is one more addition “to the procession of phallic monuments in history – including poles, obelisks, spires, columns and watchtowers”, where architects un-ironically use the language of “base, shaft and tip” while drawing upward-thrusting buildings ejaculating light into the night sky.

At those point I chortled internally, but then forced myself to continue:

If the sexism of the city began and ended with architectural symbolism, I would’ve happily written a grad school essay about this then turned my attention to more pressing matters. But society’s historical and ongoing ideas about the proper gender roles for men and women (organised along a narrow binary) are built right into our cities – and they still matter. They matter to me as a mother. They matter to me as a busy professor who often finds herself in strange cities, wondering if it’s OK to pop into the neighbourhood pub alone. Ask any woman who’s tried to bring a pram on to a bus, breastfeed in a park, or go for a jog at night. She intuitively understands the message the city sends her: this place is not for you.

Here we see Argumentation from Authority: the citation of two feminist writers to prove the case that skyscrapers are simply phalluses write large. No, they don’t exist because of the limitations of urban space, but to show off the genitalia of the Oppressor. Kern adds a picture of what, to be sure, is the most penis-like building I’ve ever seen. However, she shows the building—the office of the People’s Daily newspaper in Beijing—when it was under construction. Its phallosity declined considerably when it was done.

Kern’s photo in the Guardian article (from Imaginechina/Rex Features). Under construction:

As it looks now, completed, looking more like a toboggan than a penis:

After writing those paragraphs, Kern abandons her hypothesis about architecture and simply goes off the rails, full steam ahead, reciting a boilerplate of grievances that have absolutely nothing to do with architecture. The suburbs, for example, are characterized as a way to turn working women in the city into stay-at-home moms out of town. Even the cities themselves are indicted as places that allow domestic violence, make breastfeeding difficult, and prevent women access to running (or patronizing) businesses.

Poor old Jane Addams is even dragged in as an example of what the city needs, neglecting the fact that her famous Hull House in Chicago was a center for social work, particularly in the immigrant community. It is by no means a typical city building, but the harbinger of an admirable way to do social work.  Kern’s article then becomes completely unmoored from architecture:

The vast majority of violence, including fatal violence, against women and girls worldwide is perpetrated in the home, and lockdowns have exacerbated its every cause. These include stress, financial pressure, isolation, and a lack of interventions from family, friends and colleagues. Women are frightened to access shelter services and have little safe space or time to reach out for help. Not only is it almost impossible to move during the pandemic, loss of employment for many also means they can’t afford to leave anyway.

These problems weren’t created by coronavirus. The pandemic is merely exposing the fact that cities have been content to ignore domestic violence, not seeing it as an urban problem deeply connected to such issues as housing, employment, transportation, childcare, and of course the wage gap. Ultimately, tackling domestic violence may mean unsettling the heterosexual nuclear family in ways that would be deeply disruptive to the status quo – namely, disruptive to the long-standing reliance on the single-family home as a place of unpaid care work, a disruption cities can ill afford given their reluctance to fund childcare, subsidise housing and prevent violence.

The good news is that women haven’t been twiddling our thumbs waiting for city planners or politicians to solve these problems. In fact, women have been coming up with their own designs for cities and homes for well over a century. In 1889, Jane Addams founded Hull House in Chicago, a social settlement for young, unmarried women and immigrants who needed a safe home and a sense of community.

But wait! There’s more!  Not content to leave any Woke trope unmentioned, Kern notes that “Black Lives Matter. . . was founded by black women” (indeed, but this is irrelevant to Kern’s thesis), and of course the cops come in for a beating too (my emphasis):

The current situation offers an unprecedented opportunity for even bigger changes. One possibility comes via the anti-racism protests sweeping the globe: defund the police. Transfer that money to affordable housing, childcare and public transport, all of which would dramatically improve women’s lives in ways that increased policing never has. A second move: all those people suddenly deemed “essential workers” should be paid as if our lives depend on them, because they do. Third: reinvest in the public realm by creating accessible, barrier-free spaces and transport systems that would allow everyone full access to the benefits of city living.

At this point I mercifully draw the curtains on the article, though you can read it if you want. It’s not that women don’t have legitimate grievances; it’s that Kern manages, in a confusing Joyceian mind-dump, to drag them all into a piece that is supposed to be how architecture mirrors the patriarchy. And she says absolutely nothing that hasn’t been said before.


h/t: Simon

Temples: Halebidu and Belur

March 26, 2016 • 12:15 pm

We honored the Good Friday holiday (it is a day off in India) by visiting two famous and ancient Hindu temples, perhaps the most famous in the state of Karnataka. The temple of Hoysaleswara in Halebidu (Halebid) dates from the 12th century CE, and was built in a mere thirty years. What’s remarkable is the quality of carving, and the fact that the stone was black basalt—very hard to work. It’s in remarkable shape and is dedicated to the god Shiva.

The Chennakesava Temple, 35 km away, dates to the same era, and is dedicated to a form of the god Vishnu. The linked Wikipedia articles should be consulted for more photos, detail, and history. Here are a few pictures I took:

These are low, star-shaped temples with inner sanctums containing effigies of the gods (and Shiva’s lingam at the Halebidu Temple, shown below):



Closer inspection reveals some of the finest and best-preserved temple carvings I’ve seen, especially because they’re almost a millennium old.


A lintel above the main door:


Nandi the bull, Shiva’s mount:



Narasimha (lion man): an avatar of Vishnu:

Narasimha (lion man): an avatar of Vishnu

A mythical but oft-seen animal that appears to be an amalgam of an elephant, a crocodile, and a horse:


A group of colorfully dressed ladies admiring the sculpture:


A corner of the temple:


It’s bloody hot here, and people took refuge from the sun where they could:


The ladies of Karnataka are famous for wearing flowers in their hair:




A green-coconut stall was doing a land office business in the heat. They chop off the top and you drink the sterile and refreshing coconut water:


The Chennakesava Temple at Belur:


The carving is equally intricate, but has become more eroded and effaced than that at the Halebid temple:


The lion-man incarnation of Vishnu:


A beautiful dancing apsara, one of the finest I’ve seen in India. Remember, these sculptures are almost a thousand years old:


Arjuna the archer, whom you’ll have encountered as the confidante of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (one scripture that I really enjoy reading):

Arjuna the archer

Krishna lifting the Govardhana mountain:

Krishna lifting the Govardhana mountain

A priest of the Belur temple. The string looped around his shoulder indicates he’s a Brahmin, a requirement for priesthood:



I encountered my first Indian toll roads on the drive to the temples; here’s one of the local toll-takers


And finally home to dinner, where Goonda (“rowdy”), Mr. Das’s favorite cat, occupied his privileged position in the kitchen. Goonda is about 8 or 9, and came to Mr. Das from a rescue organization several years ago. At that time he’d lost one eye, presumably in a cat fight.