Readers’ wildlife photos

June 23, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send me your wildlife/street travel photos; there’s always an aching need.

Today’s photos come from Christopher McLaughlin, whose words and captions are indented. Click on his photos to enlarge them.

Rudbeckia hirta, aka Black-eyed Susan, very close up. I suppose this is the floral equivalent to conjoined twins. I include this not because it is a great photo but a bizarre subject. I would love to know what’s going on here. (Bates County, MO, Battle of Island Mound State Park.)

Satyrium calanus, the Banded Hairstreak, at least according to iNat, feeding on the common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. I rely on the iNaturalist app and its users to identify many species or at least back up my hunches, so readers please correct me if I am wrong. (Bates County, MO, my backyard)

Phidippus princeps, the Grayish Jumping Spider, again according to iNat, perched upon a lilac stem. The little dude’s about the size of half a shelled peanut but brimming with personality. Just look at that punim! Adorable. (Bates County, MO, my backyard)

Terrepene ornata, the Ornate Box Turtle. . . notice the ladder and the gutter in the background and the leaves adhering to the turtle’s carapace. I found this little butthead INSIDE the gutter’s downspout, having climbed into the lower part, up the bend and then a few inches up. I had to take of the bottom part of the downspout, then climb the ladder with a hose on full blast to dislodge the adventurous little twerp. Quite the rescue effort. I only wish I had taken the photo of its guilty little butt and hind leg dangling out the bottom end of the gutter. (Bates County, MO, my gutter!)

And finally, I believe this to be Comandra umbellata, the delightfully-named Bastard Toadflax. I don’t typically like common names (even those that don’t promote white supremacy) but this one’s ok with me. (Vernon County, MO. Gay feather Prairie Conservation Area)

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 15, 2021 • 8:00 am

Once again the photo tank is getting close to empty, so please send in your wildlife photos.

Today’s odonate photos come from Mark Sturtevant, whose notes and IDs are indented. Click on the photos to enlarge them. Mark adds that you can see his most recent photos on his Flickr page.

Here is a set of dragonfly pictures that were taken two summers ago. I seek to photograph nearly any kind of arthropod, but my thoughts are never far from dragons.

Clubtail dragonflies are an enormous family. Most species are boldly marked with black and yellow, and then there is that ‘clubbed’ tail, although that is often not so distinct in females. This striking individual is a female arrow clubtail (Stylurus spiniceps). a species quite common in the ‘Magic Field’. The picture was focus stacked from a small number of pictures taken by hand.

There is a quick story attached to this find, which is that the dragonfly was found for me by another dragonfly. I was following a male dragonfly that wasn’t even a clubtail when it suddenly paused to inspect a branch before moving on. On that branch was this fine female arrow clubtail! I have seen before that males are very attuned to spotting other dragonflies in their endless pursuit of a mate, so I’ve learned to watch their behavior to help me find a perched dragonfly that I would have overlooked.

The next picture is another clubtail, and a goal of mine is to get better pictures of it. This is a male Dromogomphus spinosus, but its common name is black-shouldered spinyleg. The name is very literal, as you can see from its shoulders and wicked looking hind legs.

The next two pictures are different species of “mosaic darners”, which are a group of darner species with intricate markings and a strong resemblance to one another. The first is a male green-striped darner (Aeshna verticalis); the second is a female lance-tipped darner (Aeshna constricta) – at least that is what I think they are, and I could easily be wrong. Other than the differences in appendages at the rear of the abdomen, which mainly identify the sex, there is scarcely a difference. You can’t rely too much on the slightly different colors since that is pretty variable.

I was out photographing insects with a camera buddy. After a long summer day goofing off in fields and woods with cameras, we were slogging it back to the parking lot when a drab and “fluttery” dragonfly landed along the trail right in front of us. What the heck was this?? It was a female fawn darner (Boyeria vinosa), a completely new species to me, and one I thought I might never see! Fawn darners are one of a small number of dragonfly species that become more active late in the afternoon. They will continue to fly well into dusk.

In closing, here are some egg laying pairs of green darners (Anax junius). While they were securing the next generation, a frustrated male was dive bombing them but I was never fast enough to catch that.

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 10, 2021 • 8:00 am

Again I beseech thee to send in thy photos. Thanks!

Today’s photos are from reader Dave, who notes that he has a new monthly edition of photos at this site. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Skyward:

Northern harrier (Circus hudsonius):

Juvenile European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris):

Fractal:

Western Honey Bee (Apis mellifera):

Glisten:

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula):

Long-Legged Fly (Dolichopodidae):

Canada Geese (Branta canadensis):

Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia):

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura):

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 9, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s diverse photos come from Ian Churchill, whose Flickr site is here. Ian’s captions are indented. Click the photos to enlarge them.

Amanita muscaria, [the “fly agaric”], Horsell Common, England:


Baby European Herring Gulls [Larus argentatus,]Wadars Wildlife rescue, Worthing, England:


Crocodile, Black River, Jamaica:


Damselfly, Woods Mill, England:


Deer, Petworth Park, England:

 

Iguana? Tulum, Mexico:


European Robin [Erithacus rubecula], Brighton, England:

 

Seals, Juneau, Alaska, US:

 

Grey Squirrel [Sciurus carolinensis] eating mealworms from bird feeder, Brighton, England:


Humpback Whale [Megaptera novaeangliae], Juneau, Alaska, US:

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 5, 2021 • 8:00 am

Thanks to those who sent in photos. If you haven’t done so recently, please email me your good photos. Thanks!

Today’s photos are of microscopic views of plants, and macroscopic views of oak galls, all by reader Bryan Lepore, whose captions and IDs are indented. Click the photos to enlarge them. (Note that we have a photo of a fall oak gall by Bryan from August of last year.)

Though I’d like to see you stand on your head, I will nonetheless offer some photos for wildlife.

There are two microscopy photos of plants from the garden. The leaves were simply shoved under the slide clips of a low-cost student microscope – it was maybe $30 on Amazon. I was surprised the method worked at all. An iPhone 6 was then used to capture the photos. I particularly like this sort of low-cost naive approach – remarkably good results with modern-simplistic equipment. I will try to find out the plant name and get back to you, but might not be soon.

One of the microscopy specimens is a green leaf from Kalmia latifolia :

The other photos are galls from an oak tree in the spring of 2021 in the Northern hemisphere in the Northeast. While trying to figure out what these galls were all about, a nifty green beetle appeared, so I include as a bonus – but she was not from the gall. I learned about galls having posted a purple one last fall that was on the ground. It seems the galls are Oak Apple Wasp galls according to a site at The Ohio State University.

… they turn brown in the fall and, to me, have been more recognizable at that time for some reason.

New woke taxonomy: a special pronoun added to a species’ name

June 1, 2021 • 9:30 am

Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying have made a video about a new scientific paper in which two biologists name a new species of ant—but according to woke specifications. They named the ant after a person (this kind of naming is likely to stop when people discover that nobody in the world has ever been perfect), but instead of putting the customary “i” after a male name or “ae” after a female name, they used “they” as a plural pronoun. This, as the authors describe, is to honor people who “do not identify with conventional binary gender assignments.”

The new ant species’ name, Strumigenys ayersthey, with the “they” appended to Ayers’s name) is in honor of Jeremy Ayers, a potter from Athens, Georgia. Did Ayers used “they” as his pronoun? I have no idea. New Scientist reports that he was gay, but gay people don’t use “they” pronouns unless they identify as multiple genders at once. From New Scientist‘s piece on the name:

Ayers was a protégé of Andy Warhol in the 1970s under the pseudonym of Silva Thinn. He died in 2016. “He identified as a gay man outside of his Warhol character, but I’m naming it after him with the suffix added to include all non-binary people for his activism,” says Booher.

In other words, they’re honoring not the man’s open homosexuality, but genderfluidity in general. Is that the place of a scientific paper?

And a famous musician contributed to this name:

Booher also asked Michael Stipe, the lead singer of the band R.E.M. and a mutual friend with Ayers, to join him in writing the etymology section of the paper outlining the new species:

Click on the screenshot to read the paper:

A picture of one individual of S. ayersthey:

Here’s how they named it.

Etymology. Many cultures have recognized a spectrum of genders between and beyond the binary of male and female. However, by following a rule exampled in the International Code of Nomenclature (ICZN 1999) for how to name species after individuals, one might conclude only binary gender assignments possible when assigning new species names derived from Latin. Dubois (2007) provides clarification to this rule stating that there is no need to amend or Latinize personal names – and therefore no need to assign gender. In contrast to the traditional naming practices that identify individuals as one of two distinct genders, we have chosen a non-Latinized portmanteau honoring the artist Jeremy Ayers and representing people that do not identify with conventional binary gender assignments, Strumigenys ayersthey. The ‘they’ recognizes non-binary gender identifiers in order to reflect recent evolution in English pronoun use – ‘they, them, their’ and address a more inclusive and expansive understanding of non-neutral gender identification. Strumigenys ayersthey sp. nov. is thus inclusively named in honor of Jeremy Ayers for the multitude of humans among the spectrum of gender who have been unrepresented under traditional naming practices. Jeremy was a multifaceted and beloved Athens-based (GA, USA) artist and activist whose humanity and achievements defied the limits of categorized classification. Jeremy brought an intellectual and playful, Pan-like curiosity to every aspect of his life. He was a writer, philosopher, painter, musician, activist, photographer, gardener, and exploder of boundaries who transformed the culture that surrounded him. His deep appreciation of the variety and minute details of the natural world astounded all who knew him. In the spirit of Jeremy, we also propose that the -they suffix can be used for singular honorific names of non-binary identifiers in compliance with the ICZN.

But did he refer to himself as “they”? I doubt it. If Ayers did use “they”, as a reader below points out, why do the very authors of the paper repeatedly refer to him as a “he” or “him”?

The video below by Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying is devoted entirely to this paper, which they see as mostly traditional taxonomy but with some performative wokeness tacked on. As they note, taxonomists often put “i” for names after males (e.g., Atelopus coynei), or “ae” on species names dedicated to a woman, but they add, according to Dubois (2007), that if you look at interpretations of the zoological code of nomenclature, neither “i” nor “ae” endings need be used, and you can just use an unmodified name (Strumigenys ayers).

Ants, of course, have only two sexes, like nearly all animals, so the “they” is meant to make a political point that has nothing to do with ants, nor, in any obvious way, with Ayers himself. It seems to be a way to use the scientific literature to flaunt your ideology. With respect to that, Bret says,  “If you want to have that discussion abut whether or not we should change the language, all right, we can have that discussion; but we are borrowing the scientific literature to pull a fast one, and you’re doing so in the context of creatures that, frankly, so predate any of this this human absurdity that the idea of sort of imposing it on them as if it’s their obligation to broadcast your virtue is just. . . absurd.”

I can’t get as worked up about this as are Bret and Heather, as I’m getting used to and inured to this kind of silly performance, but I do agree with the two that it’s performative wokeness, and will accomplish virtually nothing to help the acceptance of those who use “they” as their pronoun. Nearly all of us are already happy to do that, anyway, and who is going to read this bit of ant literature and feel empowered? Will someone read it and say, “Hey, I should use ‘they’ pronouns more readily if someone wants that.” ? But we already do! I can’t help but agree with Bret that this in indeed “virtue broadcasting”, with the message being, “Here’s a new ant, and, by the way, look how politically savvy and inclusive I am.”

More seriously, does this presage the widespread incursion of woke names and concepts into science? I suspect so, but hope not. Already birders are trying to expunge all the common names of birds which contains a real person’s name, regardless of that person’s “virtue”. At least Atelopus coynei (a frog) is untouchable since it’s the Latin binomial, not a common name (I’s suggest for the latter “Coyne’s poison-arrow frog.”).

Note that in the video below, a cat appears at 8:42.

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 28, 2021 • 8:00 am

I am running dangerously low on photos, and worry that I will have to cancel this feature or make it more sporadic. If you have good wildlife (or “street”) photos, please send them in pronto. If you’re an American, you have a long weekend coming up to peruse your photos.

All photographers’ words and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

We have a potpourri today, the first coming from reader Jonathan Storm.

I found this dead grasshopper on an eastern hemlock in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina. It was killed by an entomopathogenic fungus last summer or fall. These fungi are parasites that infect and eventually kill their insect host. Last summer, a fungal spore landed on this grasshopper and worked its way into the body cavity. The fungus then grew and spread until it killed the grasshopper. Several fruiting bodies of the fungus later grew out of the grasshopper and released their spores into the breeze. Some of these spores will then infect a new insect host and the cycle continues.

A gorgeous Cyclops moth (Antheraea polyphemus) from reader Smith Powell, photographed by Jennifer Lawson:

My granddaughter, Jennifer Lawson, photographed this moth on 02 May 2021 in the family yard in Arlington, Texas. I think this is the prettiest photograph that I have seen of Antheraea polyphemus.

As I’m not a biologist, I had no idea what it was, but I was quickly able to identify it as the Cyclops moth.  Indeed, several websites so identify it and note that it is named for the race of one-eyed Cyclops famously described in the Odyssey. The sites even say that Cyclops means one-eyed.

But, it doesn’t!  Besides, this moth has two eyespots.  Cyclops means “round eye”.  And this photograph shows the eyespots as very round or spherical.

Jennifer’s father, Clint, told me, “ We used to tell our baseball umpires ‘if you had another eye you’d be a cyclops ‘“.

And a pair of Great Tits from reader Pyers:

A Great Tit (Parus major) saying hello from the nest box in my garden:

And have a female Great Tit. the even more cute partner of the one I sent you the other day 🙂

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 27, 2021 • 8:00 am

Another person returning after a photographic hiatus is Mark Sturtevant. Here are some of his photos; click on them to enlarge.  His narrative and captions are indented.

And PLEASE send in your wildlife photos!

Broad-headed bugs are seed feeders, and the adults are unremarkable in appearance. But the nymphs are really good ant mimics, and in keeping with the rule about such mimicry, they also scurry around like ants and so are challenging to photograph. This broad-headed nymph is Alydus eurinus, and it is a mimic of a local species of carpenter ant.

Next is a portrait of a fragile forktail damselfly (Ischnura posita). It’s a posed picture, since I’m carefully holding it outside of the frame.

In most fields I can pretty easily find some praying mantises (mantids?). I get two species where I live, although both are imports to the U.S. Here are examples of a green form and a brown form of the European mantis (Mantis religiosa). The other species around here is the much larger Chinese mantis, and you will see lots of pictures of one in a later post.

Next, can you spot the mantis in this picture? It’s not hard, but do keep it secret for others to have a go.

Next up is one of our most common butterflies, the painted lady (Vanessa cardui). I’ve come to very much admire them as they are among the most abundant butterflies in the world. Painted ladies are known on almost every continent, and many populations migrate long distances in numbers so large that they can even become visible on radar. Painted ladies are admirable butterflies.

The odd-looking caterpillar shown next is from the Prominent moth family –  identified from the distinct rear-word projecting anal prolegs. Knowing the food plant (linden tree) then clinched the ID. This is the larva of the linden prominent (Ellida caniplaga).

On summer nights, the trees and bushes around my house become quite noisy with various tweets and chirps of male insects, all singing energetically to attract a discriminating female of their kind. A great website for hearing the songs of different insects is found here: http://songsofinsects.com . It’s a fun place to do some exploring.

One insect song immediately recognizable is from the snowy tree cricket (Oecanthus fultoni). Their chirping is familiar the world over, even for people who’ve never met this species, because snowy tree crickets are commonly used as cricket sound effects in movies. You are probably hearing snowy tree crickets in your head right now. 

I had been using a flashlight for a couple summers to try to photograph singing males of this species from around my house. But getting pictures of a male in full song is challenging! First, they seem to “throw” their chirping so they can be hard to locate precisely. Cupping one’s hands over the ears helps to pinpoint them, although that does not always work. But even when spotted, they are easily spooked into shutting down and then they move to a different location. Anyway, this is my best picture so far, but I want to do better.

I often see male tree crickets in this pose, leaning out from a gap between the leaves and singing their little hearts out over the long summer nights. Perhaps they use the leaves to amplify and direct their sound?

Finally, here is that hidden mantis from the previous picture. But you probably already spotted it.

 

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 20, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from reader Tony Eales in Queensland. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

I recently went on a citizen science weekend called the Cooloola Bioblitz. This consisted of guided survey and collecting, IDing and cataloguing of life within the Cooloola Section of the Great Sandy National Park. There were many teams with different foci and interests. I was with the spider group for the weekend but we were encouraged to photograph and/or collect anything that caught our eye and the results are being uploaded into iNaturalist.

While there’s something to be said for just getting out into nature by yourself =, which I do as often as I can, it’s amazing what many eyes all searching a given area can turn up. I thought I’d share some of my favourite observations.

First is a small species, Araneus transversus, which I have been looking for for some time. They weave a small orb web across the surface fold of a large leaf and sit on the underside of this horizontal web. I gently encouraged it out of the web to take a photo of the hockey-mask looking abdomen.

Next is from my favourite family of spiders, the Australiasian endemic Arkydidae family. Arkys dilatatus, here shown happily consuming a small fly.

Hands down the find of the weekend for me was this undescribed Crab Spider, Phrynarachne sp. While it is well known that this genus is in Australia, so far there are no described species from this location. My son found this specimen which he thought was some bird droppings on a leaf until it, in his words, “suddenly grew legs and started walking”. Not only does this spider look remarkably like bird poo, it also smells really sour and bad, something we never tired of demonstrating to people by opening the vial it was in and inviting them to take a whiff.

We found many of the strange Gasteracantha quadrispinosa. If I have a second favourite group of spiders it is these Gasteracanths. They’re colourful, shiny and spiny.

We spent the better part of half a day searching the grass for a peacock jumping spider species that had been reported here a year ago, well outside of its usual range. Alas, to no avail. But we did go to the sand dunes to look at the Maratus anomalus peacock jumping spiders we knew were there.

The rainforest section was full of these net casting spiders, Menneus sp. The common net casters are also known as ogre-faced spiders for their gigantic forward-facing eyes. Menneus on the other hand have small pin-prick eyes that still seem to do the job, allowing the spiders to drop their net on any passing beetle or other prey item walking past. The net is made of a different type of silk that does not have the sticky globules but is instead woolly. It tangles up all the claws and spines and legs and wings of the prey, holding it fast for wrapping and consumption.

We also came across a few oddballs one doesn’t normally encounter. A strange mite in the family Erythraeidae was uncovered while sifting through leaf litter.

In the rainforest section at night were members of the insect order Archaeognatha or Jumping Bristletails, in the family Meinertellidae. They sat on the trunks of palm trees grazing on lichens under the cover of darkness.

Lastly I saw two interesting Longicorn Beetles, family Cerambycidae.

Phlyctaenodes pustulata was sitting on a leaf during my nightwalk in the rainforest. I don’t know too much about these beetles. The warty elytra is unusual for this family and the huge eyes are presumably for night vision.

The other cerambycid was Uracanthus triangularis. This one I found in the kitchen back at the accommodation. I think it had attached itself to my camera bag when I was out in the field.

 

Readers’ wildlife photos and videos

May 14, 2021 • 8:00 am

I am running worryingly low on readers’ photos, so PLEASE send in your good ones. I don’t want to have to cancel this feature or put it up sporadically. Thanks!

We have a potpourri of photos and movies today. Readers’ captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

The first two photos are by Andrea Kenner.

Here’s a photo of my first sighting of a Brood X cicada. The baby is sitting on the sidewalk in Hyattsville, Maryland. I’m not sure which species he is (there are three). Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page.

I took this photo in my front yard in Prince George’s County, MD, and posted it on Facebook. The tree is an Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). An entomologist in my neighborhood identified the bee as a Hairy Footed Flower Bee (Anthophora villosula), a recently introduced species in the Mid-Atlantic region.

From Linda Mercer:

It is hard to see the tiny fawn hiding behind my air conditioner.

A duck video from Brian Tarr:

I’ve been an avid lurker on your excellent website for several years, and have finally plucked up the courage to share a bit of wildlife with you. This is a sord of mallards which I filmed this last winter in Łuków, Poland, by the Southern Krzna River in the central park. I thought it a bit unusual to see so many, because I figured they would have flown south by then. As you can see, they are quite accustomed to humans, as people often come with their children to toss them bread (not the ideal diet, as I learned from you).

Please feel free to share this with your readers, if you so choose. I would love to get some feedback about migratory patterns. (Possible aberration due to climate change?)

 

And a parasitized grasshopper from Jonathan Storm:

I found this dead grasshopper on an eastern hemlock in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina. It was killed by an entomopathogenic fungus last summer or fall. These fungi are parasites that infect and eventually kill their insect host. Last summer, a fungal spore landed on this grasshopper and worked its way into the body cavity. The fungus then grew and spread until it killed the grasshopper. Several fruiting bodies of the fungus later grew out of the grasshopper and released their spores into the breeze. Some of these spores will then infect a new insect host and the cycle continues.

And a video from Jonathan:

This female Ruby-throated Hummingbird [Archilochus colubris] was collecting spider silk from a window on my house in South Carolina. The sticky and stretchy nature of the silk help hold the nest together and anchor it on top of a tree branch. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds often construct their nest from dandelion seeds, moss, and lichens and place it high up in a hardwood tree.