Readers’ wildlife photos

October 27, 2021 • 8:00 am

I am in dire need of photos, people. Send me some, please!

Here are some photos of a handsome bird from reader Jim McCormac, who has a blog and a “massive photo website“. His captions are indented and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

Here’s some images and brief narration of one of our handsomest terns, the Forster’s Tern.

A Forster’s Tern (Sterna forsteri) rests on a rail overlooking fishy waters. Note the bird’s deformed bill. Its lower mandible was damaged at some point. This tern is an adult, and at least 1.5 years old, and the injury does not look recent. Hard to say what happened, but the bottom line for the animal is whether the damage adversely impacts its fishing ability. We will check in on that issue in a few photos.

A Forster’s Tern banks, revealing its long wings and tremendous wing to body ratio. It is a master aeronaut, and woe to the piscivorous crowd when one these terns hovers overhead.

On an early October trip to Edwin B. Forsythe (formerly Brigantine) National Wildlife Refuge in New Jersey, I had ample opportunity to photograph these graceful terns. Many were present, and I came across a feeding hotspot with numerous birds diving for fish.

This tern’s head is canted downward, searching the waters 20 feet below for small fish. When prey is spotted, it will react instantaneously, plummeting to the surface and seizing the victim (although they do often miss – this is not an easy business).

Forster’s Tern is named for accomplished 18th century naturalist Johann Reinhold Forster. The irascible Scot was the first to describe the details of this species, although at the time he thought it was a subspecies of the Common Tern (Sterna hirundo).

An observer cannot help to notice the rapidity with which terns swallow their prey. Usually they’ve got the fish down the hatch within seconds of capturing it. There is good reason for their speediness: kleptoparasitism. Many gulls are generally lurking nearby, awaiting an opportunity to force a hard-working tern to drop its fish, which the gull will quickly grab. Such avian piracy forces the tern to not tarry with its meal. In this photo a Laughing Gull [Leucophaeus atricilla] harries a tern that for whatever reason did not quickly down its fish. In this case, the tern did manage to wolf down the scaly treat before the gull won out.

Back to stub-bill from the first photo. One might think that its truncated lower mandible would adversely affect its fishing prowess, but I saw no sign of handicaps. It caught a number of fish while I was there, and I managed to photograph one of those occasions. Animals are often extraordinarily resilient in overcoming disabilities, and this bird will hopefully live a long productive life (the oldest known Forster’s Tern was 12 years of age).

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 24, 2021 • 8:00 am

It’s Sunday, and that means it’s the Day of Avise, in which we get a themed batch of bird photos by biologist John Avise. His commentary and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Wyoming Birds

I recently returned from a wonderful family vacation to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks in Wyoming.  The scenery and autumn colors were magnificent, the mammals (e.g., elk, bison, and chipmunks) were abundant, and I even managed to photograph several bird
species that will be the subject of this Sunday’s post.

Ruffed Grouse (Bonasa umbellus)

Dusky Grouse (Dendragapus obscurus):

Black-billed Magpie (Pica hudsonia):

Black-billed Magpie flying:

Gray Jay (Perisorius canadensis):

Gray Jay head portrait:

Steller’s Jay (Cyanocitta stelleri):

Steller’s Jay frontal view:

Common Raven (Corvus corax):

Common Raven head portrait:

Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) male:

Red Crossbill pair:

American Coots (Fulica americana):

Mountain Bluebird (Sialia currucoides):

European Starlings (Sturnus vulgarus) on American Bison (Bison bison) [JAC: I don’t think they’re spaced randomly!]:

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).

Warbler:

Kinglet:

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

October 22, 2021 • 8:00 am

We continue with the last of the Tree Swallow feeding photos from Emilio d’Alise. I reprise his introduction below (indented), and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Nest Competition,  Feeding, and Hovering

From 2007 to 2013, I lived in Colorado and worked in Woodland Park (8,100 ft. elevation). We had an empty lot next to the office, and we put up a Bluebird house. For the first three years, we had Bluebirds nesting in it, but in 2011, a pair of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) moved in, and returned each year for the next three years. This post from 2011 documents the final weeks before that year’s brood fledged — they all fledged, but a hawk got one of them —and it includes photos and videos.

But, the year that I got serious about photographing them was 2012, and these are some of the photos from those sessions.

As I mentioned, the birdhouse is sized for Bluebirds, which are smaller birds, so the typical Tree Swallows brood of 5-7 makes for a pretty tight fit just before they fledge. Early on, the adults will enter the nest to feed the chicks.

On most feedings, a fair portion of the adult’s head goes inside the beak of the chick (both close their eyelids during contact) to ensure the meal is not lost. Still, occasionally, a few bugs fall out before the chick has a good grasp of it, probably because various parts of the bug may be stuck to the adult’s plumage.

On average, I would say at the peak (when I was shooting), the parents were coming by about every one to two minutes.

As far as I could tell, for a few weeks — from early morning to dusk — both adults did nothing but catch bugs and feed the chicks.

Hovering

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 21, 2021 • 8:00 am

Once again I appeal for photos, as I go through seven batches per week. If you have some good ones, please send ’em in. Remember, I never ask for money (except for charities), but I do ask for photos.

Today we have the second installment of bird photos (and one mammal) from Susan Harrison, an ecologist at the University of California at Davis. Part 1 of her contribution is here. Susan’s captions and IDs are indented, and you click on the photos to enlarge them.

GREAT BASIN WILDLIFE, PART 2 OF 2

Birdwatching in the Great Basin in summer gives “flyover country” a new and improved meaning.  These are sightings from Nevada, Utah, and Idaho in July-August 2021, sorted loosely by habitat and elevation.  Some fun facts are taken from Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s excellent site, allaboutbirds.org.

Sagebrush desert

This has been called “the bird without a field mark” with “no mark of distinction whatever—just bird” (allaboutbirds.org), but it has a crazy song that reminds me of samba percussion:

Brewer’s Sparrow, Spizella breweri:

A passing Short-Eared Owl (Asio flammeus), too fast for me to photograph, put this bird and several others on high alert:

Rock Wren, Salpinctes obsoletus:

This coyote seemed interested in the flutter of small-animal activity in the wake of the Short-Eared Owl:

Coyote, Canis latrans:

This family was breakfasting on bugs in the cow pies in a very small pasture surrounded by desert:

Sage Grouse, Centrocercus urophasianus:

These great singers were hunting insects around the cow pasture:

Sage Thrasher, Oreoscoptes montanus:

This dashing flycatcher breeds all the way from central Mexico to the Arctic:

Say’s Phoebe, Sayornis saya:

Wetlands

Named for its flashy legs, and also called telltale, tattler, and yelper for its sounds:

Greater Yellowlegs, Tringa melanoleuca:

Simulates the Doppler effect with its calls, giving the illusion that it’s moving faster than it is:

American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana:

These legs are proportionately longer than those of any bird but flamingos:

Black-Necked Stilt, Himantopus mexicanus:

Dances on the water in courtship, carries young on its back, and is almost identical to Western Grebe (Aechmophorus occidentalis);

Clark’s Grebe, Aechmophorus clarkia:

Females are the colorful sex in this species, though these ones are in nonbreeding plumage:

Red-necked Phalaropes, Phalaropus lobatus:

Next two photos from the Great Salt Lake near Antelope Island National State Park:

Red-necked Phalaropes, Phalaropus lobatus:

American White Pelicans, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos:

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 20, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos are from Tony Eales in Queensland, and are a combination of culture, landscapes, and animals. Tony’s captions are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

I just got back from a short trip to the outback to attend and celebrate the Koa People’s successful struggle for recognition of their continuing native title rights in the Winton area of my state. My job is to assist Aboriginal traditional owner groups in their legal battles to have their native title rights recognised by the Commonwealth of Australia, so it was a good day for us as an organisation as well as the Koa.

I spent some time in Bladensburg National Park on Koa country prior to the hearing and drove out there and back some 1400 km each way so it was a big week. Here are some of the sights.

On the way out, my wife and I passed through the small town of Muttaburra. It was a bit of a detour but is the home of the rather musically named dinosaur Muttaburrasaurus langdoni (seen here in statue form at the Muttaburra discovery centre, holding hands with my wife).

Where we camped in Bladensburg was very dry with little life around but at night the lights attracted a wide variety of beetles, bugs, moths and lacewings including this very beautiful thread-wing lacewing, Austrocroce mira.

At night things came more alive with many wolf spiders, visible by their eye shine, dramatically striped native cockroaches, and large huntsman spiders—to single out a few.

My friend suspects some of the wolf spiders like this one may be Allocosa sp. but the huge diversity of Lycosids in Australia are currently being reviewed and removed from European genera and given new taxonomic labels.

Daytime was the time for birds and when we could appreciate the dramatic landscape.

EmusDromaius novaehollandiae:

White-breasted woodswallows: Artamus leucorynchus:

I watched this immature Grey Shrike-thrushColluricincla harmonica, work hard at removing the cottony thread from a seed by wedging the seed in the fork of a bush and pulling the hair away.

At the few water holes, you could sit and wait for the seed eating birds to come in to drink. Zebra Finches, Taeniopygia guttata, are never far from surface water and could help you survive. If you hear them, you know there must be some water nearby.

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 17, 2021 • 8:00 am

It’s Sunday, and that means a themed bird post with photos and commentary from biologist John Avise. Click on the photos to enlarge them; John’s IDs and commentary are indented.

All-Americans

Several avian species have the word “American” in their official common name.  This is to distinguish them from counterpart species that reside in other parts of the world.  For example, the American Bittern has a close cousin in Europe and Asia known as the Eurasian Bittern; the American Goldfinch has a relative in Europe known as the European Goldfinch; the American Wigeon is closely related to a European Wigeon; and several non-American Oystercatcher species are found in other parts of the world.  Naturally, all of my photographs this week were taken in North America.

American Avocet, Recurvirostra americana:

American Bittern, Botaurus lentiginosus:

American Coot, Fulica americana:

American Crow, Corvus brachyrhynchos:

American Goldfinch, Carduelis tristis:

American Oystercatcher, Haematopus palliatus:

American Dipper, Cinclus mexicanus:

American Kestrel, Falco sparvarius:

American Pipit, Anthus rubescens:

American Redstart, Setophaga ruticilla:

American Robin, Turdus migratorius:

American Three-toed Woodpecker, Picoides tridactylus:

American Tree Sparrow, Spizella arborea:

American White Pelican, Pelecanus erythrorhynchos:

American Wigeon, Anas americana:

Feeder cam gets great bird shots

October 16, 2021 • 1:00 pm

My Modern Met has an assortment of lovely bird pictures taken by a woman who’s set up a “feeder cam” in her back yard. Click on the screenshot to see them:

Here are the details and then I’ll show my favorite photos.

Lisa, aka Ostdrossel, is fascinated by our feathered friends and has an ingenious setup that allows her to get very close to them—without scaring them away. She uses her feeder cam to remote capture incredible pictures of a variety of species as they nosh on tasty bird feed.

The visitors to Lisa’s backyard don’t know they are being photographed and so they let their personalities shine for the camera. We get a glimpse of two mourning doves nuzzling beaks and a couple of other birds who look like they are in a shouting match. But some of the most fascinating images are of the solo creatures enjoying a mid-day snack. Lisa’s camera has snapped pictures of a crow who has a toothy grin made of a mouthful of kernels as well as a blackbird showing off the giant moth it’s about to feast on.

So, how does a feeder cam work? In a post on her Tumblr, Lisa shares her setup. “It consists of this camera box, much like a trail camera, that has a macro lens on the top and a regular one on the bottom,” she writes. Inside of the box is a shelf where she has placed a camera that has a motion-sensor function and takes 10 pictures per second. Whenever a bird lands on the bowl, the device starts snapping pictures. If the camera is out the whole day, it can yield up to 7,000 photos! Lisa, however, doesn’t mind. “My evening pleasure and routine is to go through all of them, delete the bad ones and keep and slightly edit the ones I deem publishable.”

You can follow Lisa’s work on Instagram and buy a selection of it as photo postcards through Etsy.

She also sells calendars here.

Here are my favorite pics (6 out of the 21 on the site; go see ’em all), with the first being hilarious. Corn dentures!

h/t: Malcolm

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 15, 2021 • 8:00 am

We continue with the series of Emilio d’Alise’s lovely pictures of swallows feeding their young (see first installment here).  Emilio’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.  I repeat some of the intro from the last series.

From 2007 to 2013, I lived in Colorado and worked in Woodland Park (8,100 ft. elevation). We had an empty lot next to the office, and we put up a Bluebird house. For the first three years, we had Bluebirds nesting in it, but in 2011, a pair of Tree Swallows (Tachycineta bicolor) moved in, and returned each year for the next three years. This post from 2011 documents the final weeks before that year’s brood fledged — they all fledged, but a hawk got one of them —and it includes photos and videos.

But, the year that I got serious about photographing them was 2012, and these are some of the photos from those sessions.

As I mentioned, the birdhouse is sized for Bluebirds which are smaller birds, so the typical Tree Swallows brood of 5-7 makes for a pretty tight fit just before they fledge. Early on, the adults will enter the nest to feed the chicks.

. . . On most feedings, a fair portion of the adult’s head goes inside the beak of the chick (both close their eyelids during contact) to ensure the meal is not lost. Still, occasionally, a few bugs fall out before the chick has a good grasp of it, probably because various parts of the bug may be stuck to the adult’s plumage.

On average, I would say at the peak (when I was shooting), the parents were coming by about every one to two minutes.

As far as I could tell, for a few weeks — from early morning to dusk — both adults did nothing but catch bugs and feed the chicks.

Here’s a swallow feeding its offspring a “pretty large bug”: a grasshopper:

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 14, 2021 • 8:00 am

Send in your photos, please!

Today we have a lovely series of falcon pictures taken by reader Steve Adams, whose notes are indented. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

Here is a young Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) that we came across during a visit to the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in New York State. The refuge lies between the cities of Rochester and Syracuse and is one our favorite places to visit. At first, the falcon was perched on what seemed a perfectly serviceable horizontal branch. Suddenly, it turned and eyed up the vertical branch next to it and leapt. The ensuing few seconds were both comical and nerve-racking as the poor bird strived fruitlessly to gain a hold. Eventually, it abandoned its attempt and flew off.

This was the first time I’ve been able to capture a falcon perched, so I was very happy. The show was an added bonus!