Readers’ wildlife photos

August 10, 2022 • 8:00 am

Today’s batch of photos come from Costa Rica, and were taken by Fred Dyer. His notes and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

Some Photos from Costa Rica 10-20 July 2022

I recently traveled around Costa Rica with my family for about 10 days prior to a conference.  Our itinerary included a day in the capital city of San Jose, a couple of days in the mountainous/volcanic region northwest of San Jose, and then several days along the central Pacific coast. Costa Rica is an amazing place, geologically, biologically, and culturally.  Almost everything you see is beautiful.  These photographs are a grab bag that don’t have much in common except that they were the ones that came out looking pretty good.

First, a few photos from near the town of La Fortuna and the Arenal volcano, including from a guided walk through a private rainforest reserve.  On the walk we saw toucans, howler monkeys, army ants, leaf cutter ants and morpho butterflies, plus these (I welcome corrections on the species identifications):

Python Millipede (Nyssodesmus python). This one was about 8 cm long.

Eyelash pit viper (Bothriechis schlegelii), which gets its common name from the hairlike scales protruding over each eye. It is a small snake, but one of the most dangerous in Costa Rica.

Stingless bees (Apidae : Apinae : Meloponini: Perhaps Tetragonisca sp?) guarding their nest entrance tube. There are something like 60 species of stingless bees in Costa Rica. These guard bees were 4-5 mm in length. The colony is enclosed in a cavity so its size is hard to know, but some species have several thousand workers in each colony.

View of the Arenal Volcano from the north. This volcano began erupting violently in 1968 and continued until 2010. Vapors still issue from the peak, although this picture shows only clouds:

Golden-bellied Flycatchers (Myiodynastes hemichrysus) perching behind our rental house in El Castillo (south of Arenal):

From La Fortuna/Arenal we drove toward the Pacific coast, and stopped at a wildlife rescue center (Santuario Las Palmas) near the town of Cañas in Guanacaste province.  The enclosures held rescued jaguars, pumas, ocelots, monkeys and several species of parrots.  We also spotted some wildlife outside the enclosures:

Automeris metzli caterpillar (larva of a Saturniid moth—in the same genus as the North American Io moth). This beauty was about 10 cm long

Same caterpillar after it moved onto a twig. The urticating spines supposedly produce a nasty venom. Here is what an adult Automeris metzli looks like. Whereas the larva relies upon aposematic signals and spines to deter potential predators from attacking, the adult is cryptic in the resting position, and exposes eyespots as a startle cue.
You can read more on Automeris here.

Black Ctenosaur (Ctenosaura similis), also known as the black spiny-tailed iguana, grazing at Las Palmas. These large lizards are extremely common along the Pacific slope:

On the coast our home base was the resort town of Manuel Antonio, which is next to the wonderful Manuel Antonio National Park.

Ponies for the tourists:

In Manuel Antonio National Park, stingless bees (species unknown) on a Heliconia sp.:

Also in the park, Panamanian white-faced capuchins (Capuchin imitator) engaged in a groomfest, while baby looks on. These were part of a larger group of a dozen or so monkeys in a grove of trees about 3 meters above the ground:

Same monkeys, still grooming.

Back in town, a Groove-billed Ani (Crotophaga sulcirostris) with some insect yumminess for its nestling(s). These are large birds (a bit bigger than a grackle) in the cuckoo family.  They often nest communally but this seemed to be a single mated pair.  The nest was in a tree across the street from our rental house in Manuel Antonio. Pictures of the nestling(s) and the other parent didn’t come out so great.

Playa Hermosa, a black-sand beach about an hour north of Manuel Antonio. This is a destination for expert surfers, and the surf was really intense the day we were there.

American Crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus) basking next to the Tárcoles River below the “Crocodile Bridge.” This is a tourist attraction on the main coastal highway (Route 34). The travel guidebook said that there is a population of 2000 or more crocs in this river and the nearby Carara National Park. Crocodiles often rest with their mouths open to dissipate heat.

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 13, 2022 • 8:00 am

Send in your photos lest this feature die!

Today’s photos come from reader Mark Sturtevant, specialist in arthropod photography. His IDs and text are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Here are more pictures taken in 2020.

One day while hiking in the woods, a large flying beetle made a noisy passage across the trail. I managed to knock it down. This is Osmoderma scabra, and it’s only slightly smaller than a walnut. 

After a few minutes it had enough, popped out its wings, and lumbered away through the air:

I recently showed a group of strange insects called bark lice. They’re in the same order as parasitic lice, but bark lice are more into feeding on lichens and algae. Some bark lice have wings; here is a handsome example of one. It is Cerastipsocus venosus

Bark lice are pretty alert and fast. But evidently the one shown in the next picture was not quite fast enough. Based on some details like the relative length of the legs, my guess is that the spider is one of the running crab spiders (species unknown). It was quickly hauling its prey along the twig. 

An extremely common visitor to our porch lights is this lovely little Geometrid moth known as the green pugPasiphila rectangulata. Cherry trees are one of their host plants, and we do have one, probably explaining why I see them so often. 

Let’s stay with the Lepidoptera. Next is a lovely Virginia ctenucha moth (Ctenucha virginica), a species found along wood margins. They resemble the closely related yellow-collared scape moth that frequents fields, and together they are part of an extensive mimicry complex that includes several orders of insects. Some members of the complex are distasteful, or they sting, and others are imposters. 

Next up is a caterpillar that was clearly preparing to form a chrysalis. Spiny caterpillars can be hard to identify, but I kept this one and it later emerged as a grey comma butterfly (Polygonia progne). 

And next is that same butterfly with recently expanded wings after emerging from its chrysalis. The reason for its common name is because of the comma-shaped mark on the underside of the wings. The upper side of their wings are mostly orange, but they spend much time sitting with wings closed on the ground among the dead leaves. In this circumstance, they are nearly impossible to see! 

Next up is a little planthopper called Acanalonia conica. These cute little insects are amusing to photograph, because when they realize they are being watched they deviously move to the back of the twig. The trick then is to extend a finger behind the twig, and that makes them sidle back out to sit in plain view. 

The house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) is a fairly cosmopolitan species that favors living in houses. As a result, many people know what it’s like to live with house centipedes. Let’s see. . . they attain a size that makes them a bit unnerving, they move fast, and they do have a tendency to suddenly dart out across a wall while you’ve settled down for the evening. I think that about covers it. Folks who live with house centipedes always have strong opinions about them, although they really cause no problems.

Here are some photographs of one that are actually focus-stacked from dozens of pictures taken during a staged setting on the dining room table. Lights were kept off, save for a lamp, and that helped keep it calm. Even so, I am rather surprised this even worked. A few times it did zip away into the dark surroundings, and it was challenging to find again. 

Thank you for looking! 

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 26, 2022 • 8:00 am

Today’s batch comes from regular Tony Eales from Queensland.  His notes and IDs are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

One of my favourite habitats is leaf litter, I think because it is often overlooked by the general public unless you’re a little kid. Something about lying down in the dirt, watching what is going on brings back my childhood wonder at the variety of life all around us.

So here’s a random selection of leaf litter denizens from around Brisbane Queensland.

First a common little jumping spider called Bianor maculatus. These spiders live in open grass and leaf litter. I was out one day hunting for Peacock Jumping Spiders (Maratus sp.) but all I found was dozens of these little guys.

What they lack in colour they make up for in their charming way of constantly being on the move and waving their forelegs around like antenna. To me this seems to be the first steps towards ant-mimicry, which is highly advanced in some tribes of jumping spider.

It did this individual no good however because shortly after I took this shot it was nabbed and consumed by a wolf spider.

This strange beast is a Short-tailed Whip Scorpion, which is a small order of arachnids called Schizomida. There are only fewer than 250 described species and externally they are all very similar. Generally, the largest are 5-6mm long and are found in humid tropical and subtropical leaflitter and soil in Africa, Australia, Asia and the Americas. The most common genus in Australia is Brignolizomus and that’s likely what this one is.

They have no eyes, but are active predators using their antenna-form forelimbs to find and investigate prey and their relatively large pedipalps to seize, subdue and grind up their victims.

Another strange beast that is common in the litter is millipedes in the Bristle Millipede order Polyxenida. Probably Polyxenus sp.

And I always love finding these blue-legged beauties hunting through the sticks and leaves. Rhysida nuda, the Northern Blue-Legged centipede.

The leaf litter in Australia is the kingdom of ants. It’s nearly impossible to find anywhere without several species. This is a large Camponotus sp. that I’ve yet to identify.

This ant is perhaps my favourite but they are extremely difficult to photograph as they are always on the move. It is one of the so-called spider ants, Leptomyrmex rothneyi, found in subtropical rainforest leaf litter.

And another favourite is the Painted Strobe Ant, Opisthopsis pictus. These are less common in my area and tend to be in the drier open forests to the north and west. They have an odd stuttering gait that appears to be to confuse predators. It has been observed that they never walk with their strobe gait when inside their nests, only when out in the open.

The subtropical rainforest near where I live has plenty of species of snail but this one is the most spectacular. This is the Giant Panda Snail (Hedleyella falconeri). They are leaf litter specialists and are never found more than half a metre above the ground—unlike many of the other snails that regularly feed on the trunks and leaves of trees.

This is unsurprising given that an adult snail is the size of a tennis ball and a fall from any great height would be potentially fatal. They are under threat from collectors and the pet trade. They are almost impossible to keep in captivity as they require a high humidity and a thriving population of particular fungi on which to feed. Hence many are captured only to die in peoples’ vivariums.

Leaf litter in the open eucalyptus forest has many species of small orthoptera and this is one of my favourites. Macrotona mjobergi the Handsome Macrotona. Macrotona is a genus of spur-throated locusts mostly from Australia often associated with spinifex grasses.

Other common Hymenopterans in the leaf litter are various parasitoid wasps, the most common being velvet ants (Mutilidae), which is what I thought this was at first. However, as it turns out, this is Myrmecomimesis sp., a member of the cuckoo wasp family Chrysididae. Unlike many other cuckoo wasps (but like Mutilids), the females are wingless and spend their time hunting for Phasmid eggs in which to lay their eggs.

Phasmids in Australia produce seed-like eggs that are dropped into the leaf litter. Some have a part to the egg that is meant to be eaten by ants, who take the eggs into the nest where they develop in safety. These wasps run around manically tapping everything with their antenna looking for these eggs before the ants take them.

Another predator, this tiny Carabid beetle, Scopodes sp. hunting through for tiny prey, I’m guessing probably larvae.

One of those potential prey, defending itself with camouflage and silk with leaf-plate armour. One of the case moths in the family Psychidae. Maybe an early instar Lomera sp.

x

 

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 11, 2021 • 8:00 am

Send in your photos, please; the holidays will soon be on, and nobody will be reading or sending. Thanks!

Today’s photos, a great batch, come from regular Tony Eales from Queensland. His notes are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

A grab bag of rainforest finds.  I’ve been getting seriously addicted to doing night walks in the local rainforest. There’s a lot of different species out compared with the day, and different activities are going on.
Like cicadas emerging from their pupal shells, this one is a Green Grocer (Cyclochila australasiae). One of the favourite photos I’ve ever taken.

I encountered this mantidfly (Ditaxis biseriata) wandering about on a huge tree fallen limb. The ones I’ve found in the rainforest in the day have flown off quickly but this one seemed very interested in my lights.

A lot of sex seems to happen at night as well. Who would have thought that cockroach sex would be so weirdly beautiful? These are in the family Ectobiidae, but more than that I do not know.

There’s a few species I only ever see at night, like this huntsman (Heteropoda hillerae):

And these harvestmen, probably an undescribed Neopantopsalis species:

. . . and these weird crickets in the ‘Cave Weta’ family Macropathinae:

During the day these spiders (Genus Namandia in the family Desidae) stay deep in their messy cobweb retreats in the hollows and forks of trees. But at night they run out and grab anything walking around on the trunk of the trees. This hairy caterpillar’s spines were apparently no defence.

The lower trunks of the trees are full of these prehistoric looking pygmy grasshoppers (Tetrigidae). They are both armoured and camouflaged and difficult to photograph well, but worth the effort. This one is  Vingselina crassa. [JAC: Look at those hoppers!]

Not just invertebrates come out at night but also vertebrates and normally shy frogs are rather easy to approach and photograph at night time. This one is the Dainty Tree Frog, Ranoidea gracilenta, a fairly common frog but one I never tire of photographing.

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 24, 2021 • 8:00 am

I have returned, and I hope that some of you have accumulated wildlife photos to send me for the cache. Now is the time!

Today’s contribution of spider photos is from Tony Eales of Queensland. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Spider guru Dr Robert Raven, Head of Terrestrial Biodiversity & Senior Curator of Chelicerata at the Queensland Museum, has been telling me for some time now that the way to survey for spiders is to leave your diesel engine running for a while, and the spiders will come crawling out of the surroundings like hypnotised zombies. I had tried this a few times with little success, but recently I tried it on some sandy loam in coastal heath near Bundaberg, Queensland, and it worked beyond my wildest expectations.

Big spiders, little spiders, huntsmans and jumpers and especially ground spiders all came out toward the car. As did a lot of native cockroaches. And at one site the engine vibrations seemed to induce a bunch of spiders to compulsively climb a small tree near the car. I can’t wait to try it again.

Here’s a small sample of some of the things that came running to the siren call of the diesel engine.

One of the larger spiders to come out (around 20mm) and an unusual one. Asadipus sp. There are only seven observations of this genus on iNaturalist. It comes from an Australasian family Lamponidae which has the undeserved reputation of giving necrotic bites, though there is no solid evidence for this idea.

This little guy is probably Epicharitus sp or something related. This genus of striking black and white spiders belongs to the family Gnaphosidae. This is a varied cosmopolitan family known rather unhelpfully as Ground Spiders. [JAC: Wikipedia notes that “Epicharitus is a monotypic genus of Australian ground spiders containing the single species, Epicharitus leucosemus.”, so that may be the species.]

This one is Mituliodon tarantulinus, also knowns as the Little Tarantula even though it’s not remotely related to tarantulas. It’s in the family Miturgidae with the ominous common name of Prowling Spiders.

This is a juvenile wolf spider (Lycosidae). As it’s so young, it’s hard to guess at the ID. Quite pretty, though.

By far the most common family attracted to the car were members of the family Zodaridae AKA Ant Spiders. This one is Habronestes hunti and the next two are ones I have yet to get an ID for.

And lastly a couple of the spiders that climbed the small tree in response to the engine vibrations. Hamataliwa sp from the Lynx Spider family Oxyopidae.

And a lovely male Helpis minitabunda: A jumping spider, family Salticidae.

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 8, 2021 • 8:00 am

I am running very low on photos, with less than a week’s worth left—and some of them singletons.  Please send your good wildlife/street/travel photos, or we’ll have to abandon this feature.

Today’s contribution is from a regular, Mark Sturtevant, whose IDs and descriptions are indented. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Here are more pictures of arthropods from way back in 2019. These were taken at various Michigan parks late in the season. Autumn was rapidly closing in, and this is my final set of pictures for readers from that year.

First up is a six-spotted fishing spider (Dolomedes triton), with barely a one inch leg span, so she is just a youngster. Folks may remember earlier pictures in which I used a much bigger adult spider to show that they are able to catch fish and also dive under water. But here this little one is demonstrating that they are quite skillful at hunting above the water as well.

This very small Muscid fly (species unknown) was so intent on feeding on a drop of berry juice that I could get all fancy at using my highest magnification capabilities. A good macro lens with a Raynox diopter attached can do wonders at boosting magnification. If people don’t have a macro lens, a Raynox diopter is still an easy and inexpensive way to get good close up pictures with the lenses you have now.  Raynox lenses were also helpful at taking the next two pictures.

I can usually find a few of these psychedelic leafhoppers in my yard (Graphocephala coccinea). Most are blue and red, but some are green and red. An accepted common name is ‘candy-striped leafhopper‘:

I saw this marsh fly (Tetanocera sp.) with something odd stuck on it. Marsh flies are fortunately pretty mellow about being photographed. What I saw through the camera viewfinder was a significant surprise, for this one was carrying a bunch of little pseudoscorpions! Pseudoscorpions are small arthropods, related to scorpions, and they are known for hitching a ride on insects as an aid to their dispersal. Now I must look carefully at each marsh fly that I see.

Next up is our largest damselfly, the great spreadwing (Archilestes grandis). The first picture shows a lovely male, and the second is a mated pair in which the male (on the left) is guarding the female while she inserts eggs into a twig above a stream. The hatchlings will have to drop about eight feet to the water below.

Next up is an underwing moth that I found in a park shelter while waiting out a sudden rain shower. The species looks to be Catocala amatrix. “Catocala” is Greek for ‘beautiful below’, which refers to the flashy hind wings that are typical of this large genus of moths. Underwing moths utilize a combination of camouflage and deception to thwart predators. When disturbed, they charge into rapid and evasive flight, flashing their colorful hind wings. They generally land on a tree trunk (sometimes ducking to the back side first), and with folded wings they are well camouflaged. Underwings will often scooch over several inches after landing as well. A predator will be challenged to find the flashy insect that they were following! If I were a bird, I’d just give up.

The next picture is an alien landscape of mosses and I don’t know what else, taken as a focus stacked picture early one morning. This is some of the ground cover in a marvelous place I like to call the Magic Field.

Finally, with autumn and the end of a fabulous season rapidly coming to a close, I found this queen bald-faced hornet (Dolichovespula maculate) who was going into hibernation under a fallen tree log. She was of course carefully returned to her retreat after a few pictures.

Thanks for looking!

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

August 3, 2021 • 8:00 am

I’m running out of photos to post, so once again I importune readers to send me their good wildlife/landscape/street photos. The need is urgent. Thanks!

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

First up are moose and elk photos from Stephen Barnard in Idaho.

I had another visit from mama moose and the twins. Not knowing the moose [Alces alces] were in the front yard, I let my dogs out to confront them face-to-face. The dogs started barking like crazy, of course, but obediently came back in. Mama and the twins were unperturbed and kept browsing on my shrubbery, finally crossing the creek in the usual place.

I don’t normally see elk [Cervus canadensis] herds in this field this time of year, because I’m normally growing barley or alfalfa so the farm hands scare them off. This year, because of the irrigation restrictions, I’m not growing anything, so there’s no one to bother them. The air is clouded with smoke from wildfires.

From Leo Glenn:

Here are a few that I took back in May of a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianusdoe and newborn fawn. This was just beyond our orchard in our back yard, in western Pennsylvania.

 

From Laurie Berg:

Immature eagle with former mouse

Limpets from  Ken Phelps:

And from Diana MacPherson:

I took this on my iPhone of the tiny little thing. This pseudoscorpion lives in my bathroom enjoying the humidity.  Isn’t he/she cute?

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 27, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your best wildlife photos. I have a reasonable backlog, but it gets depleted quickly.

Today’s arthropods are from regular contributor Tony Eales from Queensland. His notes and IDs are indented; click on the photos to enlarge them.

I’m afraid I’m going to spam you with a few because I’ve had a good couple of weeks finding new weird beasties that I’m keen to share.

There’s been a lot of new life of late in the rainforest, with the spiders in particular producing slings (that’s what we spider lovers call ‘spiderlings’)

My favourite rainforest cellar-spiders, Micromerys raveni, are producing eggs and babies, and I managed to capture three stages in one afternoon. A gravid female, a female with eggs and a female with newly hatched slings on her back.

Also, at the tips of some palm leaves are folded tetrahedrons held together with silk. If you can carefully open them a crack there is a mother long-legged sac spider, Cheiracanthium sp. with her newly hatched young.

There seems to be no season to the little green jewel-like Chrysso sp.: I rarely see one without a clutch of humongous (relative to the mother) eggs.

I also love to find these tiny white Theridiids, currently undescribed but will probably go into the genus Meotipa. Looking at the developed eggs I suspect that spider eggs don’t so much hatch as just develop into slings. Does anyone know?

Finally, an unknown Theridiid mother inside a cured leaf retreat with her brood.

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 25, 2020 • 7:45 am

The photo tank is running low, so please send in your good wildlife photographs.

Today’s contributor is a regular, Mark Sturtevant, with some lovely arthropod photos. His notes are indented.

This is the last installment of pictures taken last Spring when I was visiting the Phoenix, Arizona area for several days before attending a fancy teaching conference.

First is a picture of a buckeye butterfly (Junonia coenia), a species that is widespread in the U.S., followed by a white peacock butterfly (Anartia jatrophae), whose range is restricted to southern states so it was new to me. I saw plenty of both on this trip, but they were easy pickings in the Desert Botanical Garden.

Next is a male western pondhawk (Erythemis collocata). Very similar to the eastern species back home, but eastern pondhawks have white cerci (the paired appendages near the tip of the abdomen), while the western species have black cerci.

I spent much time in the Tonto National Forest. This national forest covers an enormous part of the state, and in its northern range it is indeed forest, but in the Southern range it is of course Sonoran desert. Central to this region is the Salt River, which is wide but shallow (I could easily wade across it), and it is sustained by periodic releases of water from a dam. It is not unusual to see herds of wild horses at the river, and indeed I saw a large herd some distance away that was being surveyed by another photographer who had a lens that was the size of a fire hydrant. Here is a lovely video that features these animals, and you can see some of the Sonoran desert scenery as well.

Rubyspot damselflies were hoped for and found at the river. There is more than one species that is possible, but these are most likely the American rubyspot (Hetaerina americana). The first are females, and the last is a male. The males were firmly staying out on the water so I had to wade out and basically lie prone in the river to photograph them. It was like a warm bath.

Next is a beautifully camouflaged pallid-winged grasshopperTrimerotropis pallidipennis. Had to lie down on the hot ground for that one!

My last day goofing off was spent at the Hassayampa Forest Preserve that was north of Phoenix. This was a long drive to a higher elevation, so that the Sonoran desert was displaced by grassy meadows and deciduous forest. Part of the time in this park was spent searching for Dangerous Things by lifting up loose tree bark. This being Arizona, it did not take long!  The next picture shows a western black widow spider (Latrodectus hesperus). The link provides some information about the various species of ‘black widows’ in the U.S. In addition there are a couple other species of widows that we have.

Shortly after that I found what I was really after: an Arizona bark scorpion (Centruroides sculpturatus). This was a very satisfying end to the adventure!

And with that, it was time for the long drive back across Phoenix to the airport to drop off the rental car and experience the surreal plunge of being in civilization and mingling with people.