Readers’ wildlife photos

November 4, 2023 • 8:30 am

Today we’ll have a mélange of photos that have accumulated over the past months from readers who sent in just a couple of pix. The captions are indented, and click on the photos to enlarge them.

From Jon Alexandr:

I’m not a biologist, but I do occasionally like to take photos of plants and animals, including “bugs.” Because I favor its handy small size, I’m still using an old, first-generation iPhone SE (2016 or 2017), so it’s not “professional” photography. Still, I think the attached impromptu photo of a “grasshopper” in a wood pile next to my house has a certain presence, which is maybe amplified by the lighting, shapes, and textures.
The grasshopper’s body was just slightly more than an inch long, I estimate, not counting the extremities. Location is San Francisco East Bay, Contra Costa County.

From Bryan Lepore, sent October 29:

 I spotted what I think is a tree frog, genus Dryophytes, today. Middlesex county, MA.She is about the size of my thumbnail and has a very long jump span. Usually, I see what I think are Leopard frogs (genus Lithobates) jump like that but they’re green. Maybe she’s a brown variant, or a differeny frog.

Two animals photos and an architecture photo from reader joolz:

 Two of my photographs from the Oceanographic Museum, Monaco 2023.  Taken through glass.
Lion fish [Pterois sp.]. Oceanographic Museum, Monaco 2023. Didn’t take a photo of the info.
Longspined Porcupine Fish – Diodon holocanthus. Info on sign: “At the slightest danger it inflates its body, pushing its spines outwards to protect itself. The fish of the Diodontidae family are toxic and unfit for human consumption. In Japan, where they are eaten in sushi, a special licence is needed to cook them.”

Queen Hatshepsut‘s Temple at Deir El Bahri, Egypt. Taken from a hot air balloon decades ago.

Hatshepsut was very powerful and took on the role of Pharoah. She wore the pharaonic regalia, which includes a false beard, so trans activists claim she was transgender, but there is no basis for this assertion. She just wore the standard regalia that all pharaohs wore. Her stepson Thutmose III had her name erased from monuments and she was unknown for centuries. Thankfully her legacy as a female Pharoah was restored when the hieroglyphs at this temple were translated in the 1800s.

Photos of the solar eclipse that occurred on October 14. The first is from Don McCrady:

Thought I’d send you a hot-off-the-press shot of this year’s annular solar eclipse, this one from Winnemucca, Nevada.An annular solar eclipse is a total eclipse of the sun by the moon, where the moon is far enough away from the earth that its disk does not fully cover the sun’s, creating a “ring of fire” effect such as this one.  I took this with a Canon EOS R5 with an RF 100-500 x1.4 extender, for a total focal length of 700mm.

From Avis James:

Bill and I went to a field half way between Ruidoso and Roswell New Mexico in the path of the annular eclipse this morning.  We took a colander- it is has the Star of David pattern:
Here is the shadow it made at full angularity!  The dot in the middle of each circle is the moon in the middle of the sun!

From John Runnels, “Unknown mushroom species, Baton Rouge, Louisiana.” (Readers: can you ID?)

Finally, a weird giraffe from Bob Wooley of Asheville, NC:

I know you don’t usually do zoo photos, but if you feel like making an exception for an exceptional animal, you’re welcome to use these. You featured a story about this amazing unspotted baby giraffe the other day. I live about 90 minutes from Brights Zoo in eastern Tennessee, where she was born, so today I went there to see her for myself. It’s very difficult to get good pictures of her because her enclosure has a tight-mesh fence that you have to shoot through (unless you have a 12-foot-long photo stick). That’s why most of the news stories just use pictures and videos given to them by the zoo. But I got several that I think are worth sharing, and hold up to on-screen embiggening. She’s a seriously beautiful creature.

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 29, 2023 • 8:15 am

Please send in your good wildlife photos lest the feature become sporadic or—Ceiling Cat forbid—go extinct.

Today we have some nice photos by reader Mark Sturtevant; his captions are indented, and you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them.


This looks to be the last batch of WEIT-worthy pictures that I have from 2021.

First up are some of my favorite dragonflies, starting with the impressive royal river cruiser dragonfly (Macromia taeniolata). These are among the largest dragonflies in my area, but I am fortunate in that they are also among the most approachable. Sure, they will fly at break-neck speed as they patrol along a tree-line, as this one was, but then they hang themselves up at about eye-level, and there they sits. You may then take all the pictures you want, even at close range, and they don’t mind. The link to this species gives an idea about their size and approachability.

Next is our black saddlebags dragonfly (Tramea lacerate). Common in fields, but unlike most dragons in the skimmer family who do more perching than flying, these will fly all day, effortlessly cruising around on those overly-broad wings. But occasionally one will give me a gift by sitting on a perch as this one was at a pond near where I work. So I like them because they play hard to get.

At another park there are redbud trees, and late in the season I noticed that just about every leaf was fastened shut as shown here. What was the surprise inside?

Why, a whimsical caterpillar! A squirmy little Dr. Seussian sock. In olden times, finding an ID of something like this would be a great tedium, but now we have the BugGuide web site. A simple search in there for “caterpillar on redbud”, and immediately we learn that this is the redbud leaffolder, Fascista cercerisella.

One might think that a “March fly” would be a spring insect, but actually members of this family have several generations a year, and they emerge synchronously in large numbers. One day in November just about every leaf along a forest trail had at least one of these odd little flies. They are also known as “love bugs”, as they are often seen mating. This particular species is Bibio albipennis.

I try to carry my wide-angle macro lens when I go out, but I seldom find a scene that will work with it. Here I managed to get a picture among a group of unknown mushrooms. Sorry, I don’t know the species.

One day the wife brought home a Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula). A friend from down the street was visiting, and she had never seen one having a meal so I brought in a fly, slightly stunned it, and placed it as shown. As is well known, the trap is sprung if the hairs inside are triggered more than once. Our friend was pleasingly horrified at the sight of botanical carnivory.

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 1, 2023 • 8:15 am

Send in your photos, folks. We’re doing this feature after my Parisian hiatus, but I always need photos, and in fact we’re running low.  Please follow the instructions on the sidebar (or link), “How to send me wildlife photos.” Thanks in advance.

Today’s batch comes from reader Rodney Graetz in Canberra. His narrative and captions are indented, and you can click on his photos to enlarge them.

A Backyard in Autumn

It is Autumn here in Canberra Australia with warm 25°- 30° C (81°F) temperatures in addition to many months of good (La Nina) rainfall, our backyard is humming.  Here are a few examples of the activity.

Life at work.  We do not feed birds; we do cultivate flowers to attract birds and insects.  This flower is a Paper Daisy (Xerochrysum species) native to the arid outback.  We chose it for the beauty of its colour and shape and (successfully) predicted that it might also attract insects, even though daisies are not big producers of nectar.  If you search this photo, you will find six very different insect species, all foraging in separate parts of the one flower.  Life: busy at work.

Look at me, look at me!  A light-hearted comment on the strategy of sexual dimorphism – the separate colouring and body shape of male and female organisms and the competition for mating opportunities.  Here is the male Orchard Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio aegeus) – I think.

This is the female of the species – I think.  She has the wider wingspan with very different wing shape and colouring.  Both sexes were happily and simultaneously feeding on the nectar-rich flowers of ‘Butterfly Bush’ (Buddleia sp.), but no display or mating behaviour was noticed.

The body shape of a praying mantis appears too frail for an ambush predator, but obviously, they are successful.  Here a slightly battle-worn, thin (starving?) individual; note the tattered antennae.  It was still very aware, reacting to my presence metres away shooting with zoom lens.  I suspect that the costuming of several of the more bizarre characters in the Star Wars movies, such as Admiral Ackbar, was based on the head shape of a praying mantis.

The ambush predator in action – note the long antennae folded carefully away from the struggle.  This mantis – not the same individual as above – hung itself on the underside of a leaf and captured an unsuspecting, daylight-flying Grape Vine Moth.  This moth species is a chubby, relatively heavy prey item and it was its vigorous fluttering struggle that I noticed.  I was impressed that the mantis was able to continue to hold it while hanging from the leaf.  How to stop the fluttering of the heavy moth?

Simple – first, disconnect the control centre.

A familiar fungus (Amanita muscaria), about 3 days old, in the front lawn.  Originally a Northern Hemisphere species, now spread world-wide, travelling as a component of the root system mycorrhiza of introduced trees, such as Quercus rubra (Red Oak), a street tree whose scattered, woody leaves are obvious in the photo.  I like its symmetrical shape and colour, along with the mystery of its rapid appearance, followed by slow decay, and disappearance.  I know it is toxic, but not lethally so, while a close relative, Amanita phalloides (‘Death Cap’), growing just a few streets away, is super-lethal, as two visiting Chinese Chefs recently demonstrated.

A young female (Doe) Eastern Grey Kangaroo  [Macropus giganteus], likely less than 3 years old, and her independent young (Joey), both on alert to my presence.  This not my backyard – though I have found kangaroos there – but in a nearby (300 metre) nature reserve.  Note the focussed orientation of ears, which can rotate about 90°.  By her height, this is likely her first joey, which by its size, she can no longer carry in her pouch (marsupium).  If you look at her lower abdomen, you can see her pouch is gaping open, indicating that the joey is still suckling.  This is one example of why Canberra is called the ‘Bush Capital’.

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 27, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos of various plants and fungi come from reader Rik Gern. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

These pictures from Wisconsin’s Northwoods. There are two sets of mushrooms, one of fern and moss, and another of wildflowers and miscellany. All of the pictures in this series were taken in northern Wisconsin in late August.


These (photos 1-7) were all growing in close proximity. At first I thought there were several types of mushrooms in the area, but after going back and forth comparing these pictures to some online I came to the conclusion that they are all White pine bolete, or Chicken fat mushrooms (Suillus americanus) in different stages of growth. If these are indeed Chicken fat mushrooms, then they are edible, but I don’t trust my amateur identification efforts nearly enough to put that to the test!

The first one is young and smooth, but in the next picture you can see that it’s right next to a larger mushroom that’s got a slight brown crackling on the cap.

I would guess that these are in between the ages of the two mushrooms in the previous picture.

(The caps are really turning here. These mushrooms are  said to be associated with pines, and sure enough, they’re surrounded by tiny little pinecones!

Underneath the cap there are pores rather than gills or blades, and this gave a clue as to the identity.

Another identifier is a scaber stalk which can be seen here (and another pine cone for good measure).

Nature conveniently left this cross section!

Last three photos: I believe these are all the same type of mushroom, the beautiful but deadly Destroying Angel (Amanita bisporigera). The first one looked like a pale ghost by the side of the road, and the last two pictures are of the same mushroom from different angles. It was growing on a tree stump, popping up thru a thick mat of moss and pine needles.

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 18, 2023 • 8:15 am

Tony Eales from Australia has sent us some insects and spiders fatally infected with parasitic fungus. TRIGGER WARNING: ARTHROPOD DEATH!  His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

With the TV show The Last of Us and its fungi infected zombie antagonists in the zeitgeist, I thought I’d send through some pics of entomopathogenic fungi that I haven’t sent before.

This first one is either icing sugar fungus or a close relative, Beauveria sp. infecting a native wood cockroach (Family Ectobiidae) of some sort. It was hard to tell if the picture was in focus or not with the diffuse fuzzy nature of the fungus

Next might be a fungus in the family Entomophthoraceae. This family generally infect flies and other dipterans but there is a genus that specialises in cicadas, Massospora spp. Perhaps this is related? The host cicada is  or Frog Cicada.

Both the previous fungi I found in the tropical rainforests of North Queensland. The rest of these are from the subtropical areas around Brisbane, southeast Queensland.

Here we have the more typical form and host of Entomorpthoraceae, one of the fly-death fungus species complex. They are easily recognised by the way the light-coloured fungi bursts from between the darker abdominal tergites forming a striped look to the dead fly.

The rest of the fungi are in the family Cordycipitaceae as was the Icing Sugar Fungi up top.

Since I spend a lot of time looking for hidden and well camouflaged spiders, I come across a lot of  Gibellula ssp. This group of fungi really like spiders and I am presuming that the hosts in all of these following five pictures are small spiders of one sort or another (although with some it’s very hard to tell).

The only one that I can ID to species is the last one. This unfortunate is a male Green Jumping SpiderMopsus mormon, the largest jumping spider in Australia and common garden resident in subtropical areas.
Next is what I suspect is Hirsutella sp. I really can’t tell much about the host but I have seen Hirsutella on planthoppers before and the location under a leaf would be consistent with this group.

And lastly Ophiocordyceps dipterigena, another species that targets flies. I often found it on robber flies perched out on the end of twig in drier forests in SE Queensland.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 15, 2023 • 8:15 am

Thank Ceiling Cat, for readers have responded by sending in several batches of new wildlife photos. Today’s is from regular contributor Mark Sturtevant, who loves his arthropods. Here are photos of some, along with two mushroom photos (click all to enlarge); Mark’s notes are indented:

Here are more pictures of mostly local arthropods from two summers ago. The photographs were taken from area parks where I live in eastern Michigan. Many pictures are manual focus stacks to increase depth of focus.

The spiders shown in the first pictures are different species of sac spiders. These are small wandering spiders. The first is the long-legged sac spider (Cheiracanthium sp.), a common year-long resident in houses. They are a welcome sight on our walls during the long winters here, although I have learned in preparing this that their venom can cause necrotic effects in humans:

The second species is the broad-faced sac spiderTrachelas tranquillus. I don’t see these in houses, but they commonly turn up in bushes near the house. Their bite can also result in complications:

The spiders shown in the next pictures are in the nursery web spider family, so-named because females tend to their hatchlings in a web “nursery” on top of plants. The first is pretty much our largest spider, Dolomedes tenebrosus. You can have a gander at the linked picture to learn that these are indeed spiders of impressive size:

The second species is a smaller kind of nursery web spider called Pisaurina mira. It took a lot of experimentation with camera settings to combine flash and ambient light to preserve the glow of sunlight through the leaf:

The next picture shows a handsome male Pike slender jumping spider Marpissa pikei. I can sometimes get them by using a sweep net in tall grasses. These elongate jumping spiders are a delight to work with because unlike most jumping spiders they are willing to sit still for me so long as they can align themselves on a blade of grass:

The grasshopper nymph shown next was also picked up in a sweep net. This is the northern green-striped grasshopper (Chortophaga viridifasciata) that I posed on my straw hat for pictures:

This is a predatory robber fly. I can’t get the ID on this small one, and that will be the case for some of the other pictures below (sorry!):

Next is a rather strange caterpillar that I also have not been able to identify. It looks like an inchworm, but actually caterpillars from different families also have this look.

The cryptically shaped moth shown next is definitely known to me. This is a common looper mothAutographa precationis, that turned up at a porch light one evening:

The last pictures are of mushrooms (species unknown), and they were taken with the inexpensive Opteka wide-angle macro lens. I always carry that lens around when I’m out with the cameras in case scenes like these turn up. The pictures are assembled from two or more pictures taken at different flash powers and shutter speeds to either expose for the foreground or the background. The different pictures were then blended together thru layer masks. A thing that is rather strange about wide angle macro lenses is that although it does not look like it, the subjects are less than an inch away from the lens:

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 8, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos come from Rik Gern, and not an animal in the lot. This shows us again that mosses, ferns, and fungi are of both aesthetic andgreat biological interest. Rik’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here are some more pictures from the floor of Wisconsin’s Northwoods. This ecosystem seems like a very efficient recycling system; no sooner does a plant fall to the ground then it starts sprouting a carpet of green moss. Here are some moss and mushroom covered trunks and stumps.

This tree trunk and stump might be dead, but they sure are supporting a lot of life! I think the stump is covered in Fern Moss (Thuidium delicatulum).

This stump looks like it’s mostly hosting lichen, but there are some small orange spots that on closer examination turn out to be tiny little mushrooms known as Orange mycena (Mycena leaiana). That’s my best guess, anyway.

Here’s another stump sporting a velvety green vest, and also hosting two very unusual looking fungi. There are two little clusters up in front on the top of the stump, one just to the right of the center and the other to the left.

To the right are these odd fungi. They looked like pig ears to me, so I tried doing a web search for “Pig’s ear mushrooms”. I found one image that appeared to be a match, so I thought I’d identified it as Gomphus clavatus, but when I used that for an image search I got pages and pages of mushrooms that didn’t quite seem to fit the bill, so I’m not sure what these are, but I’m gonna keep calling them pig’s ears.

If you think the pig’s ears were strange, check out their neighbor to the left! This looks like molten hot lava, but it’s Witches butter, or Orange jelly spot fungus (Dacrymyces palmatus). It is said to be edible, but I’ll let my eyes do the feasting and keep my stomach out of it. There was a little bit growing on the side of the stump (last photo), but from this vantage point it looks like some rare jewel sticking out of a mountainside.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 26, 2022 • 8:15 am

Today we have photos from several readers. Their captions and IDs are indented; click to enlarge the photos.

First a few photos from reader Ken Phelps:

Attached photos of a fungus growing on a dead Arbutus tree, and backlit bark peeling from a live Arbutus. I believe the fungus is Laetiporus gilbertsonii, although I would take that with a grain of salt – literally, perhaps, as L. gilbertsonii is edible.

And from last year, a Roswell pear. As Ken says, “We are not eating alone!”:

Foggy morning dog walk in the yard:

From Rachel Sperling:

I was saving this photo for when I had more to share, but I saw your request this morning. I’m pretty sure this is a dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus). I encountered it on the New York section of the Appalachian Trail earlier this month. In addition to insects (not sure what type of beetle this one has caught) larger ones are able to catch fish. According to Wikipedia, their bodies are covered with hydrophobic hairs that allow them to run on water (suck it, Jesus). When they submerge, the air trapped in these hairs becomes a thin film, allowing them to breathe underwater. The air makes them quite buoyant, so they have to hold onto a twig or a rock in order to stay submerged. I think they’re really cool.

Also sharing a photo I took last night [June 23, 2022] of the ALMOST full strawberry moon. This is from a park in Meriden, Connecticut, which has a lovely ridge that offers views to the east and west. This was taken around 8:30.

Two photos from Divy:

Ivan and I love to relax in our backyard each evening with a cold beer, and just watch the birds and the insects frolic in our garden.

I think this is a Red-tailed Hawk [Buteo jamaicensis].

A Red-bellied woodpecker [Melanerpes carolinus]:

A male Northern Cardinal and two females [Cardinalis cardinalis]: