Readers’ wildlife photos

March 7, 2021 • 8:00 am

It’s Sunday, and that means a themed group of birds from biologist John Avise. John’s notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos, as always, by clicking on them.

Bald Birds

In recent weeks, Jerry has posted some of my photos of birds with fancy feathers on their heads (see “Avian Crests, Tufts, and Horns”, and “Other Avian Hair-dos”).  Presumably such elaborate head-dressings are attributable to sexual selection.  But did you know that some birds have few or no feathers on their heads?  Such “bald birds” are the subject of this week’s post.  In the case of the carrion-eating vultures, being bald is surely favored by natural selection to help keep the head relatively clean from blood and guts that otherwise would accumulate and mat a bird’s cranial feathers whenever it feeds on a messy carcass.

Condors and storks are related to vultures, so there is probably a phylogenetic component to avian baldness too.  Further, newly hatched chicks of various bird species sometimes have few feathers on their heads. Finally, because of its name (which is derived from Old English), I’ve also included the Bald Eagle in this set of photos, despite the fact that its head is covered in white feathers.  All of these photographs were taken in Southern California or Florida.

Wood Stork, Mycteria americana:

Wood Stork in flight:

Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura:

Turkey Vulture in flight:

Turkey Vulture head:

Black Vulture, Corygyps altratus:

Black Vulture in flight:

Black Vulture head:

California Condor, Gymnogyps californianus:

California Condor head:

Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo:

American Coot chick, Fulica americana:

Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus:

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 4, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have photos from reader Dave, whose photography website is here (note that he sells a different photo print every month). The titles (indented) are his; click on the photos to enlarge them (all photos ©DSF_ All Rights Reserved).


Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos):

Illuminating Fog:

Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum):

North American Azaleas:

Glacial Collapse:

Thomson Scattering:

Against Entropy:

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 3, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your good photos!

Today we have bird photos from two contributors. The first is reader Gary Miranda, whose IDs and comments are indented. Click the photos to enlarge them.

Here are a few that were taken at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge in southern Washington state.

Gary identified this as a “great ibis”, but it’s clearly not, as there’s no such bird. It isn’t even an American white ibis, so I’ll leave it to readers to identify. Is it an egret?

Northern harrier, [Circus hudsonius] juvenile

Red-tailed Hawk, light juvenile [Buteo jamaicensis]:

Bald Eagle [Haliaeetus leucocephalus] screaming at the sky or maybe the rain:

And from Bill Meyer:

Attached are a few recent, local wildlife photos.  I’m ready for spring but now is a great time to see our local woodpeckers.  First is a yellow-shafted [Northern] flicker (Colaptes auratus) from my yard in Grundy County, Illinois.

And, also from the backyard, our biggest, a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).

A moment of zen on the temporarily serene Illinois River in Morris, Illinois.

The final two shots are from two days ago,  a red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) and a relatively rare red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) at a Will County Forest Preserve (Illinois).

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 28, 2021 • 8:15 am

It’s Sunday, and that means a new “themed” batch of birds from John Avise. His notes and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

More Avian “Hair-dos”

Two weeks ago, Jerry posted some of my photos of bird head-dressings (see “Avian Crests, Tufts, and Horns”).  Many additional avian species have other kinds of head adornments that are the subject of this next batch of photos.  Some of these birds look like they’ve had various “haircut” styles (such as a crew-cut, mohawk, punk-style, or long hippie-style), but of course feathers rather than mammalian hairs are involved.  Some species simply look as if they’re having a “bad-hair” day, while others appear neatly coiffed.

All of these photographs were taken in Southern California or Florida, where only the Peafowl is non-native.

Hooded Merganser female, Lophodytes cucullatus. hood up:

Hooded Merganser female, hood down:

Hooded Merganser male, hood up:

Hooded Merganser male, hood down:

Eared Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis:

California Quail, Callipepla californica:

Gambel’s Quail, Callipepla gambelii:

Elegant Terns, Sterna elegans:

Royal Tern, Sterna maxima:

Sandwich Tern, Sterna sandvicensis:

Belted Kingfisher male, Ceryle alcyon:

Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysactos:

Snowy Egret, Egretta thula:

Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis:

Red-breasted Merganser, Mergus serrator:

Indian Peafowl female, Pavo cristatus:

Indian Peafowl male:

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 27, 2021 • 8:15 am

Send in your good photos, please! I will of course ask again.

Today’s contributor is Joe Dickinson, who presents us with photos of my beloved waterfowl. His comments are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here is a collection of unusual ducks (even some faux ducks?) from my usual walk down by Rio del Mar/Seacliff in Aptos, CA.

Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) have a striking sexual dimorphism in bill shape as well as color.

This is probably an adult female common merganser (Mergus merganser) although immature/non-breeding males are pretty similar.

I’m pretty sure this is an adult female common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula).

And I’ll add a singleton photo that Joe sent on December 31:

Here is a contribution to your faux ducks series.  They are, of course, mute swans (Cygnus olor), an Old World species that has been introduced and is now widely distributed in North America.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 25, 2021 • 8:00 am

I’m seriously low on photos; you don’t want this feature to disappear, do you? (I have about a week’s worth left.) Please send in your good ones!

Today’s batch comes from reader Bob Fritz. His captions are indented, and click on the screenshot to enlarge the photos:

Here are some bird photographs taken at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach, California. The reserve has a mix of salt and freshwater marshes with many hiking trails, and hosts a wide variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles.
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia):

The Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) struts and spreads its wings while hunting for fish. In the first picture the left leg is bent back, causing it to appear like a pole behind the bird.

The Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) flies low to catch its prey, with its narrow beak gliding through the water.

Bolsa Chica at sunset.  View facing north-west, with Pacific Coast Highway on the left.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 22, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have some nice photos of (be still my heart) Antarctica taken by reader Mike Hannah, an evolutionist and paleontologist at the University of Victoria in Wellington, New Zealand. Mike’s captions and narrative are indented; click the photos to enlarge them.

I have been fortunate to spend five seasons in Antarctica as a palynologist on two scientific drilling projects – The Cape Roberts Project (1997 – 1999) and ANDRILL (2006 – 2007) . These pictures are all from my association with ANDRILL – it was the only time I got my camera to work!


The first image is of the American McMurdo Station on Ross Island (where New Zealand’s Scott Base is also situated). Although I was part of the New Zealand programme, we worked and were quartered in McMurdo, which has a population of over 1000 in summer. The photo was taken from the top of Observation Hill, where  a look out was kept for Scott and his party, hoping that they would return from the South Pole.

This is the view from my office window – across McMurdo Sound to the Royal Society Range – part of the Transantarctic Mountains.

As part of the project we got to visit the Dry Valleys – areas that are snow and ice free all year round – the winds are so strong that snow can’t accumulate. Flying into the Taylor Valley, you pass several beautiful ice falls.

Taylor Valley itself is stunningly beautiful, much of it free from snow and ice but with hanging glaciers dripping from the margins.

Another view of the Taylor Valley this time with the Taylor Glacier that fills one end of it, The black stripe running around the valley is the Ferrar Dolerite. The injection of this igneous rock as the supercontinent Gondwanaland broke up is associated with one of the planet’s mass extinctions.

 Mt Erebus, Antarctica’s only active volcano, dominates Ross island:

Across McMurdo sound is another volcano – Mt Discovery. I took this picture at about midnight in early January, and did not use any filters! If you look closely, there are Adelie penguins [Pygoscelis adeliae] in the foreground.

Finally, a much younger me on top of Observation Hill next to the cross erected by the survivors of Scott’s expedition in memory of Scott, Oates, Bowers, Wilson and Evans—all of whom perished on the return journey from the South Pole. The famous quote from Tennyson: ”To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield” that they inscribed on the cross is now barely legible.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 21, 2021 • 8:00 am

It’s Sunday, and that means that we have a themed photo contribution by John Avise. John’s text is indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Sweet Waterbed Dreams

Recently I went to a local park in the late afternoon in hopes of taking some “artsy” photographs.  The light was long, the wind balmy, the water wavy.  As each American Coot (Fulica americana), Ruddy Duck (Oxyura jamaicensis), Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), Double-crested Cormorant (Phalacrocorax auritus), or Eared Grebe (Podiceps nigricollis) paddled through the waves, it left a smoothed swirl in its wake.  In these pictures, the birds are easy to identify, but focus more on the water. The net effect of the conditions gave each picture a unique dreamy aura as the fading light danced off the water’s surface.  As darkness fell, I departed, wishing these floating birds sweet waterbed dreams.  Perhaps these calming photos can help you sleep well tonight also.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 20, 2021 • 8:00 am

We last heard from reader Lance Emrick five years ago, but he promises to be more regular with his photos. I hope so, as these ones are good, and include WILD FELIDS! (And please send in your own photos.)

Lance’s captions are indented; click on the photos to enlarge them.

Here are some snapshots of the neighbors for Reader Wildlife. We’re at 8600 feet north of Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado; these are all from within 200’ of the front door, some through the living room windows.

Moose (Alces alces) were reintroduced to the North Platte headwaters area about 40 years ago, and have been very successful. We see them frequently through the Summer and Fall. This fellow is in July velvet:

Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus) are common and surprisingly casual around us and our noise:

There are a couple of large Elk herds (Cervus canadensis) in the area, but we rarely see them in daylight. The recent wildfires funneled them through our neighborhood more than usual this Fall – night time bugling from the nearby meadow!:

This American Badger (Taxidea taxus) had been digging around in well tailings, giving him this odd coloring:

We’ve been here long enough to watch several predator/prey cycles play out, particularly with the Bobcats (Felis rufus). They take over the area when they’re around – looking in windows, hanging out on the deck:

And here waiting for a vole under the bird feeder:

Opposite the cats are the Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel (Spermophilus lateralis):

. . .and Mountain Cottontail (Sylvilagus nuttallii) – both with strong comebacks the past couple of years while the cats have been elsewhere:

The indoor Shelter fauna have appreciated the current swing of the cycle:

Long-Tailed Weasels (Mustela frenata) will take over prime housing spots from the rabbits and ground squirrels. Around here they still turn pure white with a black tail tip during Winter:

The Wild Turkeys (Meleagris gallopavo) are fascinating to watch, but get really messy and aggressive as the guys get to their most colorful and romantic. I had to try the Parks and Wildlife recommendation of “run around, wave your arms like a big turkey” as a deterrent last Spring:

Pine Squirrels (Red Squirrel or Chickaree) (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) are a busy year-round presence, in this case apparently unconcerned about hawks. [JAC: I’d title this: “This squirrel approves of this post.”]

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 19, 2021 • 8:00 am

Our Richmond, Virginia correspondent Doug Hayes sends us the 13th episode of his continuing series, “The Breakfast Crew.” Doug’s captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them. This set arrived on Valentine’s Day:

We got a couple of inches of snow Friday here in Richmond, Virginia, then an all-day ice storm of sleet and freezing rain  on Saturday. The ice brought down power lines all over the city that evening. Quite a bit of the Forest Hill neighborhood was without power for much of Sunday (Fortunately, we have a whole-house generator.).  Despite the nasty weather the Breakfast Crew, including a couple of new birds, has to eat.

A new bird – a pine warbler (Setophaga pinus).  This one showed up to the feeders and hung around for over an hour.
Despite the rain and sleet, this male Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) made several trips to the feeders.
This white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) was hanging out at the far side of the yard, waiting for the crowds to die down at the feeders.
Another “new” bird, an eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus). I’ve seen these around from time to time. This is only the second time I’ve been able to photograph one.
 It was sleeting pretty hard when the male cardinal came back for another meal.
The yellow-rumped warblers (Setophaga coronata) have become regulars, preferring suet to seeds. This one was just hanging out.
The male half of a pair of downy woodpeckers (Picoides pubescens) who make several trips to the suet feeders every day.
A brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum), looking angry as usual.
A female cardinal going for an easy meal of seeds scattered on the ground by the other birds.
A female purple finch (Haemorhous purpureus) and a red-breasted nuthatch (Sitta canadensis) share a meal.
A tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) and a female house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) at the feeder.
A Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) singing in the freezing rain.
Singing done, the Carolina wren goes for breakfast. He hung around all morning, alternating between the suet and seed feeders.
This house finch does not like to share.
A pair of house finches stand their ground as a purple finch intrudes on their breakfast.
A male purple finch (Haemorhous purpureus) wonders what happened to the nice weather.
A male cardinal  checks out the food supply. The white-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis) just goes on eating.
A pair of purple finches and a white-throated sparrow.
A white throated sparrow at the suet feeder.
Naturally, the eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) would show up. This one made himself at home and stuffed his face for almost an hour.


Camera info:  Sony A7R4 digital camera body, Sony FE 200-600 zoom lens, 1.4X teleconverter, ISO 6400, Ifootage Cobra 2 monopod + Neewer gimbal head.