Animals I saw today

May 4, 2022 • 11:46 am

We are at harbor in Portimão, Portugal, near the southwestern tip of the country (red circle). Tomorrow I fly home around noon:

We had a fine day up in the mountains, consuming a lovely lunch in a country restaurant, touring a museum that used to be a sardine canning factory (the sardine story is fascinating!), and seeing some wildlife. I’m in a rush for our Final Dinner, but here’s some of the wildlife I saw.

Matthew will identify this: I can’t, but he’s a fan of swifts and swallows. Or, readers can tell us:

OMG. Stork City! I have never seen white storks (Ciconia ciconia) so close, or so close to the ground:


Cork oak (Quercus suber). The “6” means it was stripped in 2016; they leave 9-12 years between successive peeling of bark. A cork tree first yields cork at about 25 years of age, but the first two harvests after that yield inferior cork. You don’t plant cork for yourself, or even your children1

The cork bark:

And our own favorite mammal, Felis catus tuxedosis:


Tuesday felids

May 3, 2022 • 1:00 pm

We are now in Cadiz, Spain, at the location below that’s circled in red.

and visited a small underground archaeological dig from Phoenician times.  There I saw remains of a cat from the 8th century BC:

Here it is below. I believe the earliest evidence for cat domestication is about 10,000 years ago from Cyprus. This one is considerably younger, and these don’t look like cat bones to me, but I assume the experts know what they’re digging up.

Finally, I found a gorgeous stray tabby kitten on the streets of Rabat, Morocco, and couldn’t resist petting it. It promptly crawled into my lap and, purring, fell asleep. I was very sad that I couldn’t bring it home with me (“Rabat” would be a great name for a cat). And I couldn’t do what Muhammad was reputed to do: cut off the sleeve of his robe when the call to prayer came but his favorite cat, Muezza, was sleeping on it.

This afternoon we’re off to Jerez for a sherry tasting (most other folks are in Seville, but I’ve been there.)

Two baby tigers are born!

January 19, 2022 • 1:45 pm

It’s time for some relaxation. Tomorrow is Go for a Walk Day but I’m going to do this now. But I want you to see this video of a mother tiger (I don’t know the zoo or sanctuary) giving birth to two babies. It all turns out okay, but there’s a bit of suspense. At any rate, you get to see baby tigers being born!

It’s fascinating that a mother tiger who’s never had cubs knows exactly what to do: open the amniotic sack and lick the hell out of the baby to get it to start breathing. Those behaviors are surely encoded in the DNA, for of course any mother who didn’t do those things wouldn’t leave viable cubs. But I digress . . .. . watch two birthdays.

Oh, be sure to listen for the cries of the newborns.

Caturday felids: Christmas edition with readers’ kitties!

December 25, 2021 • 10:30 am

I got more cats from readers than I expected, which is great. Here is the promised panoply of readers’ cats in Christmas poses (and one video). Each reader has named their cat and provides a bit of information (indented):

From Paul T.

Please find attached my Christmas cat shot. This is one of our cats, Brio, attempting to be a tree topper. It was taken a few years ago. Of course, this is a fake tree so it is much more supportive of his weight than a natural tree would be. Still, it does demonstrate good balance.

By the way, Brio and Zing, our other cat, had a big scare a few days ago. Right after I let them out in the morning, two coyotes showed up in our back yard. I actually had to chase them out of the yard in my bathrobe. I found Zing immediately in one of our trees but Brio was nowhere to be found. We spent a nervous morning but he showed up around noon and was very skittish. These coyotes are so bold and fast.

From Glenda Palmer:

This photo might be suitable for your Christmas selection of cats. These are Devon Rex altered females, 14 years old now, weighing in between eight and nine pounds. Photo from about four years ago.

A brief background story. I am in my eighties now and three years ago I had spontaneous cracked vertebra. Since I would not be able to properly look after two cats anymore,  I was forced to give up one of my beloved furbabies. Fortunately Minky, the darker one, quickly found a home where two of her brothers already lived. I knew she would be better able to make a successful transition. The lighter cat, Kofi – after Kofi Annan, remains with me and we are growing old together. She sees herself as a badass girl, still very vocal, bossy and busy – and dedicated to keeping me on my toes.

From Divy:

I had to bribe Jango with extra catnip and laxatone before I could take this picture. His expression says it all.

From Claudia Baker:

I submit to you my ginger tabby, Bodie. He is almost 17 years old and came to me via his mother, who was a rescue that I took in. She promptly had four kittens (of course) and I ended up keeping one because, from the time he could walk, he never left my side. He was born in my clothes closet in a box and had his mother with him until about 4 years ago. He has led a charmed life, living in the country, hunting mice, drinking from the lake in summer and curling up by the fire in winter.

Heating with a wood stove means that one has to have kindling handy at all times. I keep mine in a basket by the woodbox, because it’s in the living room and it looks nicer than say, a cardboard box.

One day, the basket was empty, and I was taking it out to the shed to refill it. I set it on the bed for a minute, and when I came back, Bodie was happily ensconced, asleep, in the basket, and I didn’t have the heart to take it away from him. It is now his favourite place to sleep, day and night. After breakfast this morning, he headed back to his basket for a nap. I put a Christmas elf hat on him for this picture. In a wink, he had the hat off and used it for a pillow instead (of course).

My kindling stash now: in a cardboard box (of course).

From Susan Harrison:

Catmas with Boris and Natasha! (Note: the “Santa”-like ornament in the center of the tree is actually Darwin!)

From reader Linda:

The real cat’s name is Bella. The others are unnamed. Bella sleeps wherever she likes, most often in my lap.

PS. She is a cat welfare cat and about 12 years old. Still leaping at furniture and knocking chairs over!

From Jeff Lewis:

Here is a Christmas themed photo of Chester.  As you might notice from the notched ear, he was a feral cat who decided he liked us and subsequently learned how to use the doggie door.  We had a big scare a couple years ago when he got attacked by something (probably a dog).  Luckily, he managed to make it back into the house where we found him.  After several vet visits, a surgery, and weeks of spoon feeding, draining wounds, and recovery, he’s back to almost as good as new, minus a few scars and a bit less muscle on left front leg (it could have been worse – he could have lost the leg).

The way I see it, he’s not my pet, and I’m not his staff.  We’re just two good friends.

Here he is relaxing in front of the Christmas tree.

From Michelle Caprara:

My 2 girls, Luna (top) and Rarity, Christmas 2015.  They’ve outgrown climbing the tree, without once toppling it.

From “Winpay”:

Coco is about 7 years old and lives on the Dutch/French Caribbean island of St. Martin. He got his name because we first thought he was a female cat. But it turned out he wasn’t.

From Josephine:

Here’s a submission for your Christmas cat post; a picture of our 1-year-old cat, Baxter. He’s a blue bicolour ragdoll who loves drinking from the tap but who hides under the sofa when we have visitors! He loves playing with the laser-pointer, even as he knows it’s us controlling it(!). In this picture I caught him chewing on my pencil on the table behind me as I was working.

From Debra Coplan:

This is Peaches. She was just featured on WEIT a couple of weeks ago. Here she is again. Unfortunately, she has to wear the cone of shame for 2 weeks. She had minor surgery and will be fine. She has figured out how to take off the cone! Here she is in front of her present to be opened Caturday! (The dog bag is the only bag I had.)

From Mark T.:

All our cats visit Santa, it’s tradition! This is Tricks, a feral cat we captured using a trap with some fresh-cooked chicken as bait. She enjoys sitting in a cardboard box and making me pull her around the house using a string tied to the box.”

From Bruce Cochrane:

Per your request, here is our newest kitten Firefly, age 6 months, exploring her first Christmas tree.  She is an absolute delight (as is our other new cat, her big friend Alexander The Great Cat – ATGC).

From Reese Vaughan:

The granddaughter and Rocky. Our cats are not enthusiastic about Christmas — I don’t think they are believers.

From JP:

Our Siamese, Jiro, obviously named after the famous chef, enjoys a good container like the rest of us, but one under the bird ornamented tree is extra special.

From Frank Colia:

Thank you for this opportunity to share a photo of our beloved Kitty Flash (full name: Kitty Flash Super Hero Tater Tot). As you can see, she has assumed her place upon her throne vigilantly awaiting her chance to pounce Cat Santa (Cat Jesus’ father).

From Merilee:

Booker T under the tree last night. [She sent this on Dec. 23]

From Tom Czarny:

Certainly not a great photo (way too overexposed) but this is Paisley (inherited from my daughter when she returned to university) imitating an area rug.

From Paul:

Attached is a picture taken by my son Ian of his cat Hazel helping to hang up the sock.

From Bill and Sara Meyer:

This is JeJe.  She is straight from the streets of Grundy County USA.  Over 10 years ago, my wife and I were walking in the neighborhood and I called, “Hey Kitty!” to a local stray.  All other strays usually bolt the opposite direction but this one ran towards us and accepted us from then on.  She’s a good kitty; she needn’t worry about Santa’s close surveillance.

From Terence:

I saw your request for Christmas cat photos today, so here is one of Ruby looking grumpy (with d*g brother Max cushion in background). Ruby was a stray last year, and now she rules the house.


From Heather Crozier:

Nala enjoying her new cat condo with some Christmas catnip from her stocking.

From “ebasham”:

Here is Maya, my apple-headed Siamese. She was adopted in 2009 when so many shelters were overrun due to the recession. The bow and holly are photo-shopped on. She has never worn a collar much less costumes-

From Effie:

I enjoy reading your blog and this is the first time I have emailed you. I am not a cat owner due to allergies, but my sister snapped these photos of her kitten, Bloom. Feel free to use either of them!

A video by Bruce Lyon:

You called for Christmas themed photos. Will a video do? Last year I spent Christmas by myself and entertained myself with making slow motion videos of my cat/kitten named Pigeon. At the time she loved to chase balls and would go crazy and slide into things. I decided to play with the slo-mo feature on my phone and see if I could get a video of pigeon bowling for Christmas ornaments—the three wise guy deer we have under our tree. With slo-mo the first couple of seconds start at regular speed; that is why the slo-mo only kicks in just before pigeon slams into one of the deer. I was also playing around with a remote camera trigger for my camera so I could set up the bowl and get the iphone recording before the action started.

In June 2020 you posted a couple of photos of the kitten (HERE) and implored me to keep her. She was a foster kitten but of course we were going to keep her—she is so adorable. My daughter came up with the name Pigeon because she is gray with stripes. At the time we were unsure of the name but now we think it is perfect. She is a fabulous cat packed with personality.

From Anne:

Well, there are no decorations in the photo, as they are something that Amber is deeply uninterested in, but perhaps the attached will do:

From Sonja M.

Marley enjoys the lights for her 15th Christmas.

From Ben and Christina Schwarz:

We’ve had cats, dogs, birds, and a kid who are wonderful, interesting, and usually loving—and also high-strung, demanding, quirky, and somewhat neurotic.  Cyrus, on the other hand, is perfect.  He’s deeply affectionate, attentive, and calm, while also having a big personality and a fascinated approach to the world.  We, flawed creatures that we are, don’t deserve him.

From Greg Matukitis:

Chester’s first Christmas. Taken just before his first attempt at climbing the tree, which he did a half dozen times or so before losing interest.

A fluffball from Alexandra:

 He is called Bean, and is a Siberian  cat. He is wonderful, absolutely smooth  & friendly in all situations, lives rurally (but inside) in NH,  with  2other cats (rescues) and happily with  6 Great Danes.  He has sired waited-for amazing kittens-that part of his story is now over. Photo by Sterling Moffat (my nearby daughter) Lyme, NH

From Alex K.:

This white boy’s name is Siegfried (Ziggy for short) and he’s been with us for about 8 years. The one in the back is Lucia whose celebrating her second Christmas. You can’t tell from the back that she has only three legs with one deformed stump where it should be her left hind leg.

From my friends Don and Karen in Pilorus Bridge, New Zealand:

Herewith a couple of photos of our two (new) kittens, to replace our beloved Sugar. The tabby is Kona, the black Nori. Names care of Karen’s son, Lloyd who’s staying with us  over this period.
The kittens have had a ball tearing into the paper as well their own kitty presents. Lloyd is preparing a beef Wellington and my steamed pudding is awaiting its second steam, having been made a couple of days ago.

From Robert Seidel:

for your Christmas cats entry, I’d like to present you the latest addition to our household: 7-month old Rufus aka Busby aka The Night Terror aka The Toebiter of Abingdon, sampling his first Christmas tree.

From Simon:

Well my daughter finally got a picture of Pachacca in front of the tree. She is now an elderly kitty, coming up for 21 in the spring, so we have relented and are letting her drink this year!

From Greg:

Holiday Greetings from Perry.

Send in your Christmas cats!

December 22, 2021 • 3:36 pm

Yes, I’m going to post only minimally on Christmas, as I have to get out of town before I’m apprehended as a Jesus-killer.  But I’d like to post pictures of readers’ cats with a Christmas theme (in front of a tree, with their presents, etc.) If you have one of these, and we get a dozen or so, I’ll put up a Christmas Caturday post (Christmas is on Caturday).

Don’t forget to say a few words about your kitty, and include its name. And if you don’t have a picture at the moment, take one! (Remember, it must have a Christmas theme.) And please, only one photo per moggy.

Send ’em in NOW please.

—The management

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 9, 2021 • 8:15 am

Today we have part two of Greg Stewart’s photos of Cooper’s Hawks (you can find part one here). His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here’s Greg’s introduction to the last set, which holds for this one:

Some time in 2011, a male Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) showed up in my backyard, attracted to birds at my birdfeeder in Orange County, California.  His injured left wing made him easy to recognize over the years. I raise feeder mice for snake food in my garage and soon began sharing some with the hawk.

He would disappear (migrate ??) in the spring and reappear in fall. Beginning in 2017, he stayed all year, found a mate and raised 3 young. This year (2021) is the 5th year he and his mate have successfully produced young here. Because he had adult plumage and a red iris in 2011 (Cooper’s Hawk eye color darkens with age), he could be 13 years old now. That’s pretty old for a breeding Cooper’s Hawk.

Preflight stretch:

The hawk soon figured out that feeder mice live in the garage:

Female molting into adult plumage:

Male hawk catches a nutmeg mannikin [also called scaly-breasted munia; Lonchura punctulata] at the birdfeeder:

Hood ornament!

Never able to eat in peace with mockingbirds nearby:

Young in tree, showing juvenile plumage:

Female calls to male to bring more food for the kids:

Male with small rat. Note drooping left wing:

Bad hawk! You can kill all the house finches, white-crowned sparrows and nutmeg mannikins you want, but not the song sparrows!

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 2, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have the first of two installment of Cooper’s Hawks photographed by Greg Stewart in California. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Some time in 2011, a male Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) showed up in my backyard, attracted to birds at my birdfeeder in Orange County, California.  His injured left wing made him easy to recognize over the years. I raise feeder mice for snake food in my garage and soon began sharing some with the hawk.

He would disappear (migrate ??) in the spring and reappear in fall. Beginning in 2017, he stayed all year, found a mate and raised 3 young. This year (2021) is the 5th year he and his mate have successfully produced young here. Because he had adult plumage and a red iris in 2011 (Cooper’s Hawk eye color darkens with age), he could be 13 years old now. That’s pretty old for a breeding Cooper’s Hawk.

Old man and hawk:



Hawk on roof with feeder mouse:

Reaction to strange hawk in the area:



Nap after bath:

Preening after bath:


Fluffing after bath:

p.s. Hili’s brother Ziggy is living the good life in Laguna Beach, CA:

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 29, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have photos from Rik Gern of Austin, Texas. His captions are indented and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

I recently traveled for the first time since the covid outbreak and spent a week in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. I didn’t bring home a t-shirt, but here are a handful of pictures to submit for consideration for your Reader’s Wildlife Pictures feature.

Coming in from Texas, one of the first things that struck me is that the tall pines put the lie to the boast that “everything’s bigger in Texas”! The trees that made the biggest impression on me were red (Pinus resinosa) and white (Pinus strobus) pines and  the balsam fir (Abies balsamea). Unfortunately, I don’t know the identities of the trees with the bare branches, but I like the way they look.

There is typically snow that far north this time of year, but the week I was there saw only a few days of light snow which melted after about 48 hours. You can see how beautiful the forest is with even a soft dusting of snow.

Light snow in the northwoods. There are white pines on the left and balsam fir in the middle.

Snowy Wisconsin lake:

Looking up at the pines helps to differentiate the white from the red pines. The red pine coming up from the left has needles that form in starburst clusters and has a distinctive crusty looking bark tinged with red, while the white pine coming up from the bottom has branches that sort of pancake out.

Young trees ready for the sun.

The area is dotted with small lakes, and the bulk of these pictures were taken on a small peninsula on one of those lakes. The reflections on the water give everything a magical look, and even the rotting tree stumps seem to have kind of a grandeur about them; if I squint my eyes they make me think of ancient crumbling castles.

Boat by the lake:

Morning sky reflected in the water:

Tree stump and pine needles:

Tree stump, moss, and pine needles:

This was taken on the west side of the peninsula just before the sun rose above the tree line.

Just around the corner from the previous picture, it’s the east side of the peninsula and taken a few minutes later, just after the sun topped the trees.

I’m not the all-around cat lover that you are, but when I find one I like, I really fall for it, and I just love my Mom’s little cat, Bella; she’s a gentle little sweetheart! Along with a visit to see my mother and the beautiful scenery, Bella was a huge highlight!

Here she is looking out a window and another picture where she looks kind of ominous, but in reality is just perched to see out the front door.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 25, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today I’ll show my own “wildlife” photos just for fun, but keep sending yours in.  Click the pictures below to enlarge them.

Feeding wild cats at a nunnery in Mystras, Greece, 2002. I always carry a box of dry cat food in my backpack in places like this.

A rare bloom in Death Valley, California, 2005. I don’t know what the moth is, and I’m baffled about where the many pollinating insects come from in those very occasional wet years. They just appear from out of nowhere.

Me feeding a grape (with permission) to a ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) at the Duke Lemur Center, 2006. Note the baby clinging to its belly.

Another ringtail with child:

Sifakas (lemurs, Propithecus sp.):

Cepea nemoralis snails on a fencepost, Dorset, England, 2006. The riot of colors and banding in this species was subject to a lot of investigation when I was in college, but evolutionary geneticists still don’t have an explanation for why the variation persists:

A butterfly (I don’t know the species) in the garden at Thomas Hardy’s boyhood home, 2006:

Snail and fly near Clouds Hill (T. E. Lawrence’s cottage), Wareham, Dorset, 2006:

Gooseneck barnacle, a rare and expensive delicacy. Galicia, Spain, 2006:

The one above was found on the rocks at low tide. Here are some for sale in the market. You eat the meat underneath the leather skin. It’s very good.

Me feeding a Texas longhorn on David Hillis’s and Jim Bull’s Double Helix ranch outside Austin, 2007:

Groundhog (Marmota monax), Capitol grounds, Ottawa, Canada, 2007:

Greg Mayer’s pet common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina); I believe its name was “Snappy”), Kenosha, Wisconsin, 2008:

Butterfly and orchids (species unknown), Guatemala, 2009:

Statue dedicated to all the lab cats “sacrificed” in medical research. St. Petersburg, 2011:

Gulls, Lake Geneva, Switzerland, 2011

Trees in autumn, Switzerland 2011:

I have many more, and perhaps I’ll post some of them on another holiday (Chanukah, Christmas, and Coynezaa are coming up).

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).



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… 🙂