Readers’ wildlife photos

I importune you once again: send in your good wildlife photos.

Today Stephen Barnard is back with some lovely bird photos. His narrative is indented; click photos to enlarge.

Here are some Northern Harrier [Circus hudsonius] shots from yesterday afternoon. There were two birds in female plumage “harrying” flocks of mallards in Loving Creek, looking for cripples. The healthy ducks mostly ignore them. They seemed to work as a team, or at least were closely interacting. It’s common to see a male and a female hunting together, but I was a little surprised to see two females apparently cooperating. I may have it all wrong, though. Maybe they were competing. I’ve included an old photo of a male in breeding plumage for comparison.

 

Readers’ wildlife photos

Bring out your photos, please: I go through seven sets a week from generous readers, and I always need more. Thank you!

Today’s photos come from regular contributor Tony Eales, who hails from Queensland.  His notes are indented.

Spring has really taken hold now and the colours of nature are showing. We just recently took a trip a few hundred kms to the north of my city of Brisbane to a lovely coastal spot. The nearby national park is mainly a dense coastal heathland called “Wallum” named after the dominant tree the Wallum Banksia (Banksia aemula). This is a very diverse habitat with much of the diversity on a tiny scale, which for me is perfect.

Many of these photos are from one misty evening when I went spot-lighting in the national park, and the subjects are covered in a fine layer of dew, as with this St Andrew’s Cross Spider (Argiope keyserlingi) and the less common Argiope probata (second photo). These will look familiar but different to most people as the genus Argiope occurs on every continent except Antarctica and are common garden orb-weaving spiders.

If there is such a thing as a beautiful cockroach, it is these ones in the genus Balta. Their transparent edges and fine lined patterns are really worth seeing up close. They occur only in intact native habitats and don’t invade our homes like the introduced cockroaches.

The small shiny green scarabs of the genus Diphucephala appear in great numbers in spring time to feed on flower pollen and new growth. Some species are even commonly known as green spring beetles. I don’t think I’ve seen this particular species before. Its iridescence is more uniform—like metallic paint—than most of the ones I’ve seen.

The delicious coastal pigface (Carpobrotus sp.) were all in flower, attracting hundreds of small native sweat bees like this Lasioglossum (Homalictus) sp.

I finally managed to photograph the very fast and flighty beach tiger beetles (Hypaetha upsilon). I couldn’t get close enough to use the macro lens, and so had to take the photos with a cheap telephoto lens. This lost some detail, but they are beautifully iridescent and shine in the sun.

Speaking of beautifully iridescent beetles, I just had to show this one I found in a local park. It is a species of leaf beetle (Johannica gemellata). I’ve seen beautiful leaf beetles before, but this one takes the prize. I can’t find much info on these beetles. They appear to be endemic only to my little corner of the world with records from only a couple of hundred km north and south of my city. I wonder what use they have for those remarkable antennae?

Also from my night walk was this colourful and probably undescribed katydid (sp.). I actually found a number of remarkable orthopterans that night, which I’ll send in a separate email. This one was by far the most colourful.

And lastly the beach, with thousands of Greater Crested Terns (Thalasseus bergii) roosting on sand bars waiting for the right tide to go hunting. The colours of the water here are so many shades of magical blue that I really didn’t want to go back to work.

 

Faux Duck o’ the Week

I completely forgot about Sunday’s Faux Duck O’ the Week, being occupied yesterday with The Auction and all. But better late than never, and here’s the latest in biologist John Avise‘s series of waterfowl that resemble ducks but aren’t. Can you guess this species?

His captions and Fun Duck Facts are indented. (To see the ID, Fun Duck Facts, and range map, go below the fold.)

At its summer home in Central Alaska:

Close-up in breeding plumage:

Frontal view:

Preening:

With next week’s species to its left:

Click on “read more” for the identification, John’s Fun Faux Duck facts, and a range map: Continue reading “Faux Duck o’ the Week”

Readers’ wildlife photos

Robert Lang, reader, physicist, and world-class origami artist, is also a photographer of his local wildlife (he lives in California).  Today we get some photos taken from his place, which encompasses Marx Brothers Meadow (see below). Robert’s text is indented, and click on the pictures to enlarge. (I’m working on getting larger pics embedded.)

It’s acorn season in Marx Brothers Meadow (*), and the California Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus californicus) come hang out for hours at a time munching and sleeping, right outside the window over my desk. They have grown accustomed to my presence, though, and pretty much ignore me when the noms beckon. (In fact, there are three out there as I write this.) One of the things I hadn’t noticed before was how shaggy their winter coat is, as you can see here.

But the main purpose of today’s collection is birds, which also regularly visit, especially this time of year. I keep my camera at hand, and most of these were shot through the window from my work desk.

First, we have the Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus), which are very common, and don’t seem to hold it against me that Edison took out their granary when they replaced the telephone pole at the corner of the lot last year. No doubt they’re re-stocking somewhere nearby. They’re not content to wait for the acorns to fall; they pull them right off of the tree.

Also raiding the tree is the California Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica).

But they’ll also pick up the odd stray that makes it to the ground if they can get to it before the deer.

The acorn woodpeckers are by far the most common woodpeckers (and they are very chatty), but occasionally I get other varieties dropping in. Here is a female Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus).

Another “northern” bird in this southern place is the Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos).
The bushes and cactus outside the window also make convenient perches for smaller birds. Here’s a California Towhee (Melozone crissalis):
And its relative, the Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus), here foraging on the ground:

And finally, another ground-forager, the Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura). I’ve see flocks of 10–15 of these out in the meadow in recent weeks. This time of year, the pickings are surely slim, but there must be something that attracts them.

(*) Regarding the name of the meadow: turns out the land behind my studio was owned by the Marx Brothers back in the 1950s and 1960s. (Probably explains the horse feathers lying around.) It’s part of the Angeles National Forest now. It’s kept bare eight months of the year due to fire danger, but for four lovely months in the spring, it’s a beautiful grassy meadow. This time of year, calling it a “meadow” is a bit of a stretch, but “Marx Bros. Dirt And Gravel And Bits of Dead Stuff” just doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.

P.P.S. Literally as I was putting this collection together I caught a glimpse of a flyover out of the corner of my eye and rushed outside in time to catch this Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) circling overhead:

It doesn’t look very red-tailed from the underside, but when it made a low swoop, it became pretty unmistakeable. (It also blends in with the dead chaparral pretty well.)
My productivity has taken a definite hit since moving here: there are way too many animal distractions (and it never seems to get old).

Readers’ wildlife photos (and video)

The photo tank is inexorably draining, so please send in your good wildlife photos.

We have three contributors today, the first being John Crisp, who sent a video:

Here’s a short video of family interactions between gorillas I was fortunate enough to capture four years ago in the Rwandan highlands. Personally, I find the commentary by the guide a little irritating, because I don’t think it is correct, but I could be wrong.

These photos are from John Egloff:

My wife, Cindy, and I live in Carmel, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis.  We are both attorneys – Cindy works for the state of Indiana and I am a business lawyer in private practice.

We have been long-time fans and have both of your books. Cindy even got you to autograph her copy of “Why Evolution is True” (along with a cat drawing) when she traveled to Purdue University several years ago to attend your lecture there.  We read your website religiously (pun intended) and I often post comments under the name “JohnE”.

Cindy and I are also big fans of our national parks, and over a two-week period early last fall we visited Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion National Parks.   I’ve attached several of the wildlife photos we took at Zion (I hope the total size of the files isn’t too big for the email).  The photos are labeled with my best guess as to the scientific names of the various critters.  The photos of the condor and her chick (which include a photo of the mother feeding the chick) were taken at quite a distance, so they are a bit grainy.

California condors (Gymnogyps californianus):

Cicindelinae (tiger beetle):

Mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus):

Prickly pear (Opuntia):

Bighorn sheep (Ovis canadensis):

Cindy and John: 

From Robert Lang, who calls this “a kitty from Botswana” [Panthera leo]

 

Readers’ wildlife photos

The photo tank is getting a bit low, so send in your good wildlife photos, please.

Today we have another batch of lovely penguin photos and videos from reader Peter Klaver. I’ve put his notes and IDs in indents.

Below is a third and last batch of wildlife photos from the holiday in Argentina + Antarctica I had with Rachel. [JAC: I haven’t yet put up the second batch.] As with the previous two submissions, English and Latin names come courtesy of Rachel Wilmoth.

The animals we saw most of in Antarctica were penguins. Most numerous were gentoo penguinsPygoscelis papua.

We also saw chinstrap penguins, Pygoscelis antarcticus.

The gentoo penguin colonies we saw numbered up to lower hundreds.
We were there in February and there were young.
While these little fluff balls are indisputably cute, like human babies they are highly demanding of their parents’ attention.

When they grow a bit older, they start shedding:

They have a funny walk, as you can somewhat see in the pictures below but better in the video clips here and here.

We were told not to go closer to them than 5 meters. But they are not shy and if they walk up to you it’s ok. So you can get Pygoscelis papua in the same shot as Homo sapiens for size.
All the photos and video of our Argentina + Antarctica trip are here.

Readers’ wildlife photos

Besides his duck and faux-duck photos, John Avise has sent us a series called “Avian Reflections”. His notes and IDs are indented:

I love to photograph waterbirds on still days when the water’s surface is so glassy that I can capture the bird and its reflection in one picture (thereby giving “two views for the price of one”).  Later, I like to reflect on when and where I took each such artistic picture.  So, this brief introduction also reflects my enjoyment of reflection-photos, each of which was taken near my home in Southern California.

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana):

Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger):

Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus):

Bonaparte’s Gull (Larus philadelphia):

Brant (Branta bernicla):

Bufflehead (Bucephala albeola):

Egyptian Goose (Alopochen aegyptiacus):

Great Egret (Ardea alba):

Hooded Merganser (Lophodytes cucullatus):

Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps):

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus):

Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis):

Swan Goose (Anser cygnoides):

Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis):

Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis):

American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana) flock:

Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus):

Greater Yellowlegs (Tringa melanoleuca):

Green Heron (Butorides virescens):

Snowy Egret (Egretta thula):

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia):

 

Readers’ wildlife photos and videos

We have two contributors today. First, reader “sherfolder” sent us some photos and videos of penguins, and I can’t resist posting penguins. Sherfolder’s captions are indented:

I send you some pictures I took in March of African Penguins at Seaforth Beach, near Simons Town on the Cape Peninsula.

African penguins, also known as the Cape penguin or South African penguin, live on the west coast of Africa, on the islands of Angola and Namibia to the South African east coast. They are pursuit divers and forage in the open sea, where they pursue fish such as sardines and anchovies.

In 1910, the population of African penguins was estimated at 1.5 million. In 2010, the total African penguin population was at 55, 000. At this rate of decline, the African penguin is expected to be extinct in the wild by 2026. The total breeding population across both South Africa and Namibia fell to a historic low of about 20.850 pairs in 2019.

By the way, the German name for that species (Spheniscus demersus) is “Brillen-Pinguine” (that would mean in English: “Eyeglass penguins”), which is probably due to their facial drawings, although I don’t think that those markings actually resemble glasses.

The first video shows three penguins that have just landed on the beach from the sea and are now setting out to climb a rock, you could have touched them, they came so close.

The second video shows a group of four penguins diving and swimming almost in formation gracefully and swiftly in the sea.

Our second contributor is Tim Anderson from Australia, with one of his lovely astronomy photos:

This is the Tarantula Nebula (NGC2070), an enormous star-forming region inside the Large Magellanic Cloud, the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way. It contains some of the largest stars ever measured from Earth.

 

Readers’ wildlife photos

Today we have photos of Iguazu Falls, the world’s largest waterfall, from reader Peter Klaver and his partner Rachel Wilmoth. Their captions are indented. (Their Antarctica photos will be up soon.) Notice that there is an unidentified heron-like bird that readers are welcome to name.

Before the corona pandemic, my girl friend Rachel Wilmoth (who has submitted wildlife photos to you before, and who has provided both the English and Latin names for animals) and I had a trip to Antarctica for our 10 year anniversary. On our way South we stopped by Iguazu Falls on the border between Brazil and Argentina. Apart from the waterfalls there, you also get to see some wildlife. 

On the day we arrived, we spent the afternoon looking at the Brazilian side. On our way to the falls we spotted South American coatis, Nasua nasua:

On the Brazilian side there are walkways over the water that let you stand at a point where you are half surrounded by the falls:

While impressive, the falls above are not the big falls of Iguazu yet.

The next day we walked along the Argentinian side. There you walk through a beautiful sea of green rain forest.

And in the forest you see various smaller animals, like this orb weaver spider in the Araneidae familiy:

plush-crested jay, Cyanocorax chrysops:

A bird we can’t identify (readers?):

An Argentine black and white tegu, Salvator meriana:

And a tiger swallowtail butterfly, Papilio glaucus:

Along the Argentinian side you also see many ‘smaller side arteries’ of the falls again:

And then after the hiking, a short train ride and a board walk, you get to the very big falls at the beginning, called the Devil’s Throat. It’s so big that the spay of tiny droplets covers the lower 2/3 or so of the falls. But you do get a rainbow from the spray, and you can still see the upper part of this biggest falls of Iguazu:

 

Faux Duck O’ the Week

John Avise has once again sent photos of a faux duck: a species that looks like a duck but isn’t. Your job is to look at the photos and then guess the species. After you do that, go below the fold for the ID, some Fun Duck Facts, and a range map.  The captions and ducks facts (and, of course, the photos) are John’s:

Basic or non-breeding plumage, side view:

Basic plumage, frontal view:

Another bird in basic plumage:

Preening and showing lobate toes:

Showing propeller-like swimming:

Small group in winter:

Breeding plumage:

Transitional plumage:

Another view of transitional plumage:

Click “read more” for the answer, ducks facts, and a range map. Continue reading “Faux Duck O’ the Week”