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.

Some science listening from the BBC

July 30, 2021 • 10:00 am

Reader Dom called my attention to today’s BBC Science in Action program, which contains several items of interest. You can hear the 35-minute show by clicking on the site below and clicking “listen now”:

There are four bits:

Start – 12:20.  A discussion with Elizabeth Turner about her new evidence for 890-million-year-old animals (spongelike creatures), which I wrote about yesterday.

12:20-18:55.  A discussion with Cambridge University’s Dr Sanna Cottaar about the “Insight” probe on Mars’s surface and scientists’ attempt to deduce the structure of the planet.

18:55-26:45: Prof Lesley Lyons from the University of Missouri discusses the similarity of the genome of cats to that of humans, and how that could be used for medical purposes in humans. I’m not keen on this because it implies that they’re going to experiment on cats. As she says, “they’re bigger than mice and cheaper than primates”.

26:45-end:  A remembrance of Steven Weinberg, who died a week ago. There are extracts from two BBC interviews with Weinberg as well as discussions of his work by fellow scientists.

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 29, 2021 • 8:00 am

Send in your photos!

Today’s batch comes from reader Mark Otten, whose captions are indented. You can enlarge his photos by clicking on them:

I have a bit of a mish-mash of photos taken in 2020 and 2021 for your consideration.


Brood X of the 17-year periodical cicadas [Magicicada sp.] emerged in my neighborhood this summer.  Here are two photos of a white-eyed male I came across in June.  The close up on the compound eye was taken through a stereoscopic dissecting microscope at 25X. [JAC: this is surely a mutation]

In Spring 2019, Union Township, Clermont County, Ohio stocked a local pond with 5 female and 5 male Mandarin ducks (Aix galericulata).  One male returned to the pond in early winter 2020, creating much excitement among enthusiasts in the area.  The two photos below were taken on December 10, 2020.  The photo of the duck floating was taken by my wife Dianne.

Comet C/2020 F3 (Neowise).  Photo taken on July 16, 2020.

Jupiter-Saturn conjunction.  Photo taken on December 21, 2020.

 Mars and open star cluster M-45 (The Pleiades).  Photo taken on March 7, 2021.


Readers’ wildlife photos

June 26, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your good wildlife/street/travel photos, as I’m getting nervous again (or rather, I’m always nervous):

Today’s photos come from Matt Young, one of the founders of the excellent pro-evolution website Panda’s Thumb.  His notes and captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.


Pursuant to your request for nature photographs, here is a baker’s half-dozen that I sent to Science in honor of Nature Photography Day. I have some text that goes with them.

Additionally, could I interest you in announcing the 13th annual Panda’s Thumb Photography Contest, here?

For my 80th birthday, my son gathered some of my “favorite” pictures on some pretext or other, and presented me with a splendid casebound book, cleverly formatted with quotations, mostly by photographers. These are some of the pictures that I chose.

American avocet, Recurvirostra americana, Cottonwood Lake, Boulder, Colorado. This one was just standing there, begging to be photographed, as I biked past.

Orange meadowhawk, Sympetrum spp., Elmer’s Two-Mile Creek, Boulder, Colorado. Dragonflies are a dream to photograph, because they often return to roost in the same spot.

Rainbow Bridge,, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah, just off Lake Powell.

Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon near Page, Arizona, on Navajo land. I took a guided tour (the only way you can see it) and was lucky to get a couple of halfway decent pictures despite the darkness and the guide always at my heels.

Crepuscular rays, Niwot, Colorado. In this picture, you can see clearly that the rays are formed by atmospheric scattering, where the irregularities in the clouds are essentially projected onto the atmosphere. Also, every cloud has a silver lining (sometimes gold).

Painted turtleChrysemys picta, Walden Ponds, Boulder, Colorado. This is the western variant, at roughly its westernmost extreme, yet you can see many of them sunning themselves in Duck Pond every year.

Eclipse of the sun, Jackson, Wyoming, August 21, 2017.

And, finally, a mite too late for the book, an eclipse of the moon, just before sunrise on May 28, 2021. The moon was not visible after totality because of the brightening sky and set soon after.

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 5, 2020 • 8:00 am

Thanks to the several readers who topped up my photo tank. Do keep this site in mind as you accumulate good photos, and remember that “street photography” and landscapes also count as wildlife.

Saturdays are potpourris, when I display the photos sent by readers as singletons or as a small titers. Their captions and IDs are indented.

First up is a photo by Christopher Moss.

The Evening Grosbeaks (Coccothraustes vespertinus) have returned, and flocking with them are some waxwings. I noticed, without paying much attention, that the waxwings had rather reddish caps, and only after staring at one for some time as it recovered slowly from flying into a window, did I realise in my dull brain that I was looking at a Bohemian Waxwing (Bombycilla garrulus), rather than the usual Cedar Waxwing (Bombycilla cedrorum). Here is one:

Three waterbirds from Mary Barbara Vance Wilson:

Here are photos of three waterbirds, seen in W. B. Nelson State Park near Waldport, Oregon, December 2.  My favorite is a “faux goose,” the Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus).  It uses its hooked beak to catch fish. The orange, hairless throat, the gular pouch, is homologous to the pouch of the related pelicans.
Female Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus). The species is sometimes called the hammerhead because of its crest.  Mergansers are real ducks but unusual because the bill is slender with serrations that help it catch slippery fish.
The male Gadwall (Mareca strepera) looks plain, but if the camera focuses just right, its small-scale patterns are impressive. 


From reader Markus Helenä we have red squirrels (Sciurus vulgaris). Photos were taken in Leenankuja, Espoo, Finland by Marukus’s wife Tanya:

And astronomy photos from Terry Platt, Berkshire, UK:

Here’s a couple of shots of Comet NEOWISE that I took last July. The comet first appeared in the twilight on the 12th of July (as seen from Binfield, UK) and passed closest to Earth around July 23rd. Both pictures were taken with a 70mm lens on a Nikon D7200 DSLR and are exposures of about 5 minutes. A small ‘tracking mount’ was used to correct for the rotation of the Earth.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 21, 2020 • 8:00 am

Today is odds-and-ends day, with photos from readers who sent in only one or a few pictures. Their captions and IDs are indented.

First, an astronomy photo from reader Terry Platt, who lives in Binfield, UK:

Here is an image of the ‘Tulip nebula’ in Cygnus, taken with a hydrogen alpha filter and CCD camera. A special feature of this area is the presence of the X ray source ‘Cygnus X1’ (indicated). This is now known to be a black hole in mutual orbit with a blue giant star. The hole is stealing material from the blue star and this emits X rays as it falls through the intense gravitational field of the hole. The hole has a mass of 14.8 times that of the Sun, and the pair are about 6070 light years from Earth.

Ivy (or Virginia creeper; you tell me) in Hyde Park; photo by Team Duck member Dr. Jean Greenberg:

We have two entries in the “backyard wildlife” category. First, reader Grania Devine saw American black bears (Ursus americanus) at her house:

I live in rural southeastern BC and the pictures were taken with my phone through our living room window.

Late in the afternoon a couple of days ago, I looked out the window to see a black bear mama and subadult cub.  We have an old cedar stump in the yard which has a small mountain ash tree growing through it.  The female hopped onto the stump and then bent the mountain ash down to the ground.  She held it there while the two of them pretty much stripped it of berries.

In the first photo, she’s just finished bending the tree.  Unfortunately, the cub is just a dark shape, hidden by the foliage.  In the second picture, she’s just released the tree and the last one shows the two of them ambling off into the woods.

And reader Christopher Moss saw a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) on November 6:

Today, standing in the kitchen assembling fishcakes, I saw this character sitting the driveway having a scratch. Apologies for wretched iPhone photos through a shamefully dirty kitchen window. Much healthier looking than the last fox I saw in the garden, which looked rather mangy. Maybe the diet of rodents I leave out for them is helping (although I understand you don’t want to hear about where they come from!)

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 10, 2020 • 8:00 am

Don’t forget to send in your photos!

Today we have three contributors, whose words I’ve indented. First, reader Dom in England sent some spiders:

Some nice big hairy spiders for you! These are probably all Eratigena genus, but they were formerly Tegenaria. In addition, in April the view that Eratigena atrica was, in fact, three species, was endorsed by the authority, the World Spider Catalog.

These are the biggest European spiders, and consequently the ones that induce the greatest panic in phobics. I photographed them with the iphone, and the flash made their little eyes light up.

Mars from reader Terry Platt in Berkshire:

Here is a recent image of Mars that I took on the 10th of October, from my observatory in the UK. The telescope used was a 317mm off-axis reflector that I built back in 1986. As you probably know, Mars is at its closest for some years and so it is a good time to take images.

The picture is centred on longitude 230 degrees and shows the region of Mare Cimmerium (the dark region near centre) and Elysium (the pale patch below centre). Mars was about 22.5 arc seconds in diameter at this time.


And some lovely hummingbirds from Ken Howard in Arizona; “Kelly” is his partner, artist Kelly Houle:

For your consideration.  Kelly and I maintain five hummingbird feeders around our home to support the migration given the backdrop of local severe drought, forest fires, and heat of this past summer and fall.  Attached are images from Sunday’s visitors – a juvenile male Calliope hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) and a broad-billed hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris).

The first two are Calliopes, the second two broad-billeds:

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 25, 2020 • 7:45 am

Today we have photos from several contributors. First, four photos from Patrick May (all readers’ notes and IDs are indented).

In case your tank is running dry, here are two recent subjects.  A late season white-tailed deer fawn (Odocoileus virginianus) waiting for its mother to return and a PCC(e) combo of wildlife and food (sorry, no cats).  I included the Eastern Yellowjacket (Vespula maculifrons) with the context of a fork and lemon wedges, the capers are out of frame.

Here’s a whitetail doe resting in my backyard.  There’s an eight point buck who comes by every now and again that I’m trying to get a decent shot of.

For any gearheads, the insect was taken with a 105mm micro-Nikkor on a D610, cropped in Lightroom with no color adjustments.  I’m just getting into macro photography, so I’m working on technique.

From Dom, a bee-wolf wasp:

No, not Beowulf, which of course means bee wolf (but is a kenning for a bear), but Philanthus triangulum, the European bee wolf, aka bee-killer wasp. This species specialises in the western honey bee. However the adults feed on nectar and pollen, and it is the female who hunts bees to stock the burrow for her larvae.

And an astronomy photo from Tim Anderson in Australia:

Messier 8 is a gigantic interstellar gas cloud in the Sagittarius Constellation, and was discovered by Giovanni Hodierna before 1654. It lies between 4000 and 6000 light-years from Earth and has a distinct reddish hue owing to emissions from hydrogen and helium gas in the cloud. The dark patches in the gas field are called Bok Globules.

The prominent star to the right is 4Sgr – in other words, the fourth brightest star in Sagittarius. The star cluster NGC6544 is visible at the left-hand edge of the image.

This image was compiled from fifty 180-second photographs taken in Cowra NSW with a 100mm refracting telescope and a colour astronomical camera.

The big announcement about supposedly biogenic chemicals on Venus: 11 a.m. Eastern time, 4 pm BST (watch here)

September 14, 2020 • 9:00 am

I’ve written a few times since yesterday about the Big Astronomy Reveal today. It’s going to be the subject of a live announcement from the Royal Astronomical Society in about an hour from this posting: at 11 a.m. Eastern time (US) and 4 p.m. BST.

As I suspected, It’s going to report the discovery of phosphine (PH3) in the atmosphere of Venus—presumably from the light spectrum—and since the compound is made on Earth only by organisms, this is said to be “evidence for life”. I am dubious, for, as J.B.S. Haldene said, nature is queerer than we can suppose.  It would be arrogant to claim that we have exhausted all knowledge about how phosphine is produced.

There will of course be tons of speculation about life elsewhere in the Solar System, and that would be cool if it were true. We’ll just have to wait and see. At any rate, tune in here in one hour from this posting.

Big astronomy announcement coming up

September 13, 2020 • 12:15 pm

Something big is brewing in the world of astronomy, and will be published soon, but it’s heavily embargoed, and so every time it’s mentioned it gets taken down, like the video in the second tweet below. One possibility is that they’ve discovered “signs of life” on Venus, in the form of phosphine in the atomosphere, a gas (PH3) that on Earth has only a biogenic origin. But this is Venus, Jake!

Word on the street is that there will be a Big Announcement tomorrow. There’s been recent speculation that microbial life could survive in the atmosphere above Venus, but we would only be able to see the compounds there, and who knows how phosphene could be formed—if it is phosphine. But the news may be something quite different.

Anyway, does anybody know what this is about? I’m very curious.