Photos of readers

May 31, 2020 • 3:15 pm

Today’s photo and narrative comes from reader Max Blanke and his trusty hound. Max is engaged in an very interesting quarantine project, and his commentary is indented:

Here is an image of the dog and myself today, working in the shop. One of my current projects is on the table. It is a hand cannon, of a type that would have been used in Western Europe around 1750. The originals would have been used to lob bombs over fortifications (“bombs” in the cartoon sense of iron balls filled with gunpowder with a fuse stuck into it) .

I, however, am building this for a different purpose. I sized the bore so that I can shoot racquet balls for the dog.  Almost any other device for shooting rubber balls would have been much simpler to make, but I have never built a flintlock before, and it was on the list of things I wanted to know how to do.  I have built percussion guns before, but they are easier to design and build.

I sort of had the idea of this project in the back of my mind for several years. But recently I was working on a more important project, and ended up with just the right piece of 4150 tubing, so I just stuck it on the lathe and got started. The stock is walnut.

My current quarantine routine is that every other day, I go over to help an elderly friend with his restoration of a 1940 ford convertible. The rest of the time I either do chores around the house, or go down to the shop and work on frivolous projects like this.

Should we open up America now? A cat and a dog debate the issue.

April 18, 2020 • 12:15 pm

I’m going to follow this quickly with another post, as you might not be able to read it if it’s at the top.

Reader Simon sent me this, and it’s about the funniest thing yet to come out of the shutdown. Below you see a screenshot from an article in The Wall Street Journal.

I hate to say this, but, just for the time being, I’m on the side of the d*g.

Readers’ wildlife photos (and one of mine)

February 13, 2020 • 7:45 am

Today we’re continuing on with David Hughes’s photos from India, the first aliquot which I posted yesterday. Here’s the introduction, and David’s captions are indented:

In December 2018 I went on a wildlife-viewing tour to three tiger reserves in Madhya Pradesh, central India, a trip I can thoroughly recommend if it ever takes your fancy. We visited Pench, Kanha and Satpura Tiger Reserves. Kanha is the most famous, and probably offers the best chance of seeing tigers in the wild. I’ll add a caption to each photo.

Bee-eater: The Indian green bee-eater (Merops orientalis) on a power line just outside Satpura Tiger Reserve.

Honey buzzard: I’m not 100% sure of this one, but I think it’s the oriental honey buzzard (Pernis ptiloryhnchus), photographed in Kanha Tiger Reserve.

 Crocodile: Mugger or marsh crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), basking on the bank of the Denwa River, which forms one of the boundaries of the Satpura Reserve. The bird in the background is a yellow-wattled lapwing (Vanellus malabaricus).

Spider: The signature spider (Argiope anasuja), photographed on its web in the grounds of Kanha Jungle Lodge.

Jackal: the Golden jackal (Canis aureus), in Kanha Tiger Reserve. We came across a pair using the jeep trail to move through the forest, and this one obligingly posed for photos close to the jeep.

Here’s a photo I took yesterday of one of my orchids. This one, the natural species Paphiopedilum sukhakulii, blooms once or twice a year in my lab.  I don’t find it nearly as hard to grow as the notes below suggest. It was identified a while back by reader Lou Jost, and here are some photos of the species that confirm the ID.  And here are a few notes from Wikipedia:

True endemic species are often rare, tending to be confined to specific areas. The P. sukhakulii is one of these rare species with a very restricted distribution at one small location. The P. sukhakulii is a species of orchid endemic to northeastern Thailand. It grows at heights of 240–1000 meters on Mount Phy Luang Mountains in the province of Loei This orchid grows in leafy sand-clay linens, usually along mountain streams under the shade of large forest trees. Flowering occurs during the warm months of the year.

P. sukhakulii is a species of the hill evergreen forest and is very sensitive to the environment. It must be grown near rocky high altitude, particular nutrient availability, and shaded habitats.


Belated Caturday felid trifecta: Kittens frozen to ground rescued with hot coffee; cat chases d*g; dog dad brings up abandoned kittens (and lagniappe)

February 2, 2020 • 9:00 am

Oy! As reader Linda Calhoun reminded me this morning, there was no Caturday Felid yesterday. And indeed, although I have about six such posts prepared in advance, I was rushing out to do my grocery shopping morning, and the feature simply slipped my mind.

But one day late is better than not at all, and so I consider my long record of Caturday Felid postings to be unbroken. Here’s what was going to go up yesterday.

This came from BBC News but has gone viral. Several readers sent it to me as well. It’s the kind of video where you realize that yes, there are good people in this world, and so, for all the people who have emailed me that they’re depressed about the world, have a look at this video. As the old Jewish saying goes, “Whoever saves a life saves the world.” And this oil worker saved three. 

Here’s a longer news report as well as an update on the three rescued kittens. They’re fine, and have found a forever home—together.


As reader Tom said about this video, “Legend has it Shackles is still running to this day.”


And yet another rescue of abandoned kittens, and we have a foster d*g parent. Reader Merilee sent this, and reader Michael, seeing it, added, “Valia is a Greek loony animal lady person & more loons are needed!”  Indeed, the hero here is Valia, not Aragon the d*g, whose only duties seem to be sniffing the kittens and covering them with saliva. 


Lagniappe: This picture of what cats really are is, as reader Jon notes, available on a t-shirt from Sheharzad whose Instagram account says, “Illustrator of dark humor cartoons … or is it just regular cartoons? You decide!”

$21 will get you this:


h/t: Woody, Jeremy

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 30, 2019 • 8:00 am

Regular Stephen Barnard has been busy this winter, explaining the dearth of photos from him. But today he sent a batch which weren’t labeled. However, you can recognize the animals, including Deets the Wonder Dog. The landscapes are taken on his property.








And three landscapes. Stephen called the first one “sad”, presumably because his fishing float is grounded for the winter.



Christmas kitties

December 25, 2019 • 12:00 pm

by Greg Mayer

Peyton, the Philosophical Cat, is not much moved by the holidays, except that, with someone at home during the day more frequently, she’ll be able to have her midday treat more often—her choice between salmon snacks or a paté.

Unusually, she’s not taken to sleeping under the tree this year, but she has found a spot on the dining room table amongst the accoutrements of the holidays. Her eyes are very bright, which I attributed to the flash, but another viewer of the photo thought it was because Peyton can stare into your soul.

I’m cat-sitting over Christmas, so I can also share a second cat, Delilah, a longhair, who has both the hair and the cranial structure typical of the breed.

Delilah gave me a present, which she disdainfully glanced at in order to bring it to my attention, preferring for herself canned cat food to fine Belgian chocolates.

And even though he’s a d-g, here’s Peyton’s nephew, Q-Tip, taking more advantage of the under-tree space at his house. (And, yes, obviously, he’s her nephew by adoption.)

Hero dog in al-Baghdadi chase finally named

October 29, 2019 • 9:00 am

Up to now, the Belgian Malinois hero dog who chased Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi down the tunnel has not been named. In fact, on the CBS News I just watched in my cabin, the dog was still anonymous. I was concerned about its fate as it was apparently wounded when al-Baghdadi detonated his suicide vest (taking three of his kids with him), but the dog is going to be okay.

And, mirabile dictu, the dog has been named, and her name is CONAN. In fact, Conan has her own Wikipedia entry already. Here’s a bit of it, along with her picture.

President Donald Trump posted the declassified picture of Conan on Twitter and called her a “wonderful dog” in the tweet. The name was classified at the time, but it was revealed as Conan to Newsweek.

Meet Conan:

These dogs are apparently very good at recognizing scents, and the Wikipedia article on the breed says that one named Cairo took part in the raid that led to the death of Osama bin Laden. They’re also used to guard the White House and track down poachers in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.

The tweet below gives some amazing facts about these military dogs, including the fact that they can parachute into battle sites wearing goggles, infrared cameras, and waterproof gear.

And here’s one of the hero dogs parachuting from a plane. Imagine the training it takes to get a dog to do that—and tolerate it!

The ABC News video above says that Conan will get an invitation to the White House, as she should, but Trump will only use that to tout his own wonderfulness. If I were the President, I would feed Conan a lovely filet of beef rather than the McDonald’s hamburgers that guests often get in the White House.

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 6, 2019 • 7:45 am

Stephen Barnard has been busy fishing, but he favors us today with a new batch of photos from Idaho. His captions are indented.

The first four are rufous hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus). They migrate through in August and put on quite a show at the feeders. They’re gone now.

Next is a moose (Alces alces) across the creek in early morning sun. I see this young bull frequently. He’s almost tame.

Next, a rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) that I’m releasing.

Next, a woolly worm caterpillar on the handle of my fishing net. It surprised me. Beautiful creature up close — slow, exploratory, undulating motions. I don’t know anything about these other than what you can find on google. Apparently there are several species.


Next, a grasshopper on Loving Creek, taken while fishing. I’m in the habit of photographing insects that fish eat. Now they’re eating a lot of these. Again, I don’t know anything about these other what you can find on Google.

My d*g Deets has something of a following in WEIT. Here he’s recovering from hernia surgery, which was very successful, although manual, not robotic. I think the new style fabric cones in royal blue are fashionable.

Finally, just before sunrise over Loving Creek this morning. [This was yesterday.]

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 15, 2019 • 7:45 am

It’s been too long since we’ve had some photos by Stephen Barnard from Idaho, but he came through with this nice batch (and an explanation). His captions are indented.

I haven’t been doing much photography, for a variety of reasons, one of which is that I’ve been doing a lot of fishing.

This is my  pet fish, a  large, active, aggressive rainbow trout that dominates a deep pool. It’s a peculiar fish in that the right side of its head is dark compared to the rest of the body, which is unusually blonde. It’s striking. My theory, which is mine, is that it’s a genetic mosaic.


Pet fish taking a Trico spinner, a tiny mayfly that has died and fallen to the water. The fish gorge on these insects that hatch in multitudes.


Taking photos of fish is a problem. They’re usually the boring and repetitious “grip and grin” type photos. I typically fish alone and that makes it even more difficult. Hitch in the background likes to watch.


Instead, I’ve been photographing trout underwater at the time of release.


Some birds. These are barn swallows (Hirundo rustica). They build several nests every year under the eaves of my house and raise multiple broods. Kind of messy, but amusing. They keep the mosquitoes under control. The broods occupy the nests from time to time well after fledging, and I’ve noticed that they will eject newly hatched chicks to their deaths.


A black-chinned hummingbird (Archilochus alexandri) showing off his gorget.


A rufous hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) spoiling for a fight.


The rare and endangered great-horned rufous hummingbird (Bubo rufus).


Deets (Canis lupus familiaris)


Readers’ wildlife photos

May 4, 2019 • 7:30 am

Since Stephen Barnard sent his recent batch of photos to me in one dollop, and I posted half of them yesterday, here is the other batch; Stephen’s notes are indented:

The second batch is a mixed bag. First, a couple of duck mated pairs: Cinnamon Teals (Anas cyanopteraand Gadwall (Mareca strepera).

The next three are a mated pair of Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis). The male is performing a courting ritual, which involves among other things throwing stuff in the air.

Next, a couple of d*g (Canis lupus familiaris) photos. I usually take Deets and Hitch along when I fish on my place. Hitch is very interested when I manage to catch something (a Brown Trout in this case).

Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) warming up in the morning sun.

Finally, a sunset.