Readers’ wildlife photos

May 22, 2023 • 8:15 am

I am seriously worried about the dearth of wildlife photos on hand. We have enough to last for about five days, and then that’s it. I urge you to send in your good wildlife photos if you have them.  (For submission guidelines, see the “how to send me wildlife photos” post on the left sidebar. Summer is coming in the Northern Hemisphere, and that means lots of sun, which prompts the appearance of flora and fauna.

Today’s photos are from UC Davis ecologist Susan Harrison. featuring her recent trip to Finaland. Her narrative and captions are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.


Oulu, Finland, May 2023

While in Finland in early May to attend a meeting at Oulu University, I had the opportunity to see one of nature’s marvels:  the arrival of migratory songbirds to their high-latitude breeding grounds.   At the edge of the Baltic Sea, at 65°N, and well-forested, southern Lapland is a prime destination for many migrants as well as a thoroughfare for others headed for the Arctic. Never before had I heard woods ringing with birdsong and observed new species arriving every day. The pace felt frantic: birds in constant motion singing, feeding, chasing, nest-building.  Every morning I headed to the parks and trails at sunrise — 4:30 am! — clutching the very helpful Merlin bird ID app.

Here’s Oulu; a very Finnish scene blending water, forest, traditional-style buildings, and industry (the giant Stora Enso paper mill):

Here are a few of the birds….

Great Tit (Parus major):

Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus):

Eurasian Robin (Erithacus rubecula):

Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs):

Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris):

Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula):

Redwing (Turdus iliacus):

Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella):

Wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe):

Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major):

Here are two adorable small mammals that have become rare in much of Europe…

European Hare (Lepus europaeus):

Red Squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris):

Here’s my main birdwatching haunt, Hupisaarti City Park, at dawn with European Hare in foreground and Oulu Lutheran Cathedral in background:

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 11, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos come from Israel and the camera of Scott Goeppner, a postdoctoral researcher at the Blaustein Institutes for Desert Research (BIDR), Mitrani Department of Desert Ecology. His narrative and captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Here are some pictures from around the town of Midreshet Ben-Gurion, which is located in the Negev desert of southern Israel:

First, a Nubian Ibex (Capra nubiana), which are common in the town. This one was taken by the cliffs on the southern edge of the town. Ibex are excellent climbers and they like to hang out on the cliffs which provide safety from predators.

Next, the gravesite of David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel and the namesake of Ben-Gurion University. Ben-Gurion led efforts to settle the Negev desert, and moved to Sde Boker, just north of Midreshet Ben-Gurion, after his retirement. He is buried with his wife Paula at the edge of a cliff overlooking the Zin valley.

Behind Ben-Gurion’s grave is a lush park, where the ibex also like to spend time. Here are some more ibex in the park:

Next, a panorama of the desert:

Next, some invertebrates from the area, including:

A Mediterranean red bug (Scantius aegyptius):

A harvestman (Order Opiliones, species unknown):

A cool beetle (Sepidium tricuspidatum):

A terrestrial snail (I’m not sure of the species). The Negev desert does not get much rain, but it does get a fair amount of dew. The dew is enough to support the growth of lichen and algae which the snails pop out and eat during the rainy season:

And a scorpion (Buthus israelis). Probably would not be pleasant to be stung by this!:

Next, some photos from Ein Avdat, an oasis with permanent spring fed pools about 2.5 miles from town.

The waterfall in Ein Avdat:

An Atlantic Terebinth tree (Pistacia atlantica):

On December 25th and 26th, there was an intense rainstorm over the desert that temporarily refilled many of the dry riverbeds near the town. Here is a photo of one of the waterfalls that formed as a result:

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 3, 2023 • 8:15 am

Send in your photos, folkx! (That’s the ideologically correct spelling of “folks”.) I am in desperate need of wildlife pictures.

Here’s today’s contributor, as described in a previous post:

Today’s photos come from Rosemary Alles, who lives in South Africa and works for a conservation organization that partners with local people. Her narrative and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

I am an American living (temporarily) in SA. These pics were taken from my small studio in rural South Africa and while within the greater Kruger region. I am originally from Sri-Lanka, a war-torn nation just to the south of India. My family and I immigrated to the west to escape a violent civil war in Lanka.You can find more about us (the work our org does) here. We focus primarily on indigenous women/children at the intersection of conservation.

Her narration is indented:

Here are a few more from our most recent trip with the kiddos. Will send you more eventually. Nothing new; however, there’s an interesting sighting: a breeding herd of elephants walked (intentionally) into a pride of lions, and the two dominant male lions got up – immediately- and gave way to the elephants, (specifically, to the matriarch) signaling “no contest and surrender”. It was too dark for a video clip. A single data point, but it confirms my pseudoscientific hypothesis that the real king of the forest is the elephant.

Here is a warthog she has befriended, sent on the occasion of Agustín Fuentes’s claim that the sexes aren’t binary:

He’s my friend Colonel Ballsy.  He shows up (sometimes) in a tutu, but alas, still a male.   Cheers from South Africa, where we are not as confused as Agustín Fuentes.

JAC: This is the common warthog (Phacochoerus africanus).

Lion [Panthera leo]:

Baby elephant [ African bush elephant, Loxodonta africana]

Adult elephant:

Baby elephant:

Readers’ wildlife photos

April 29, 2023 • 8:15 am

I’m resuming this feature, but I don’t have a big backlog of photos, so please send your good ones in.

Today we have some desert plants and animals from ecologist Susan Harrison. Her captions are indented, and click on the pictures to enlarge them (twice if you want them really big):

Pink Flowers, Yellow Birds, and Other Desert Wonders

California’s epic wet winter of 2023 brought wildflower displays to some of its southern deserts, including the marvelous Anza-Borrego State Park and its surroundings. On a late March visit, the park seemed especially rich in pink flowers and yellow-to-orange birds, as reflected in the photos below.  The birds shown here are mostly spring arrivals, but the winter residents seen during my January 2021 visit were present as well – Verdins, Phainopeplas, California Thrashers and others.

Turbulent clouds lay ahead as we approached the park, possibly related to the tornadoes in Southern California two days later:

Sand Verbena (Abronia villosa) carpeted the desert floor, while rain and snow fell frequently in the mountains west of the desert:

Sand Verbena closeup:

Bigelow’s Monkeyflower (Mimulus bigelovii) added splotches of maroon:

Desert Calico (Loeseliastrum matthewsi) was palely exquisite:

Hooded Orioles (Icterus cucullatus) were abundant, feeding on the nectar of Ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) and other shrubs:

Bullock’s Orioles (Icterus bullocki) mingled with their hooded cousins:

Scott’s Oriole (Icterus parisorum), an uncommon desert dweller, was my quest-bird on this trip; here is my first ever (a.k.a. “lifer”), building his nest in the skirts of a Fan Palm (Washingtonia filifera):

Lawrence’s Goldfinch (Spinus lawrencei) is a southern coastal and desert bird, and this pair gathering nest material were only the second and third ones I’ve seen:

Orange-Crowned Warblers (Leiothlypis celata) were feeding even more plentifully than Hooded Orioles on flowers of Chuparosa (Justicia californica) and other shrubs:

Common Yellowthroats (Geothlypis trichas) were singing by a desert spring, and this one seemed to be choosing a shrub to match his outfit (Brittlebush, Encelia farinosa):

Rufous Hummingbirds (Selasphorus rufus) were passing through en route from Mexico to Oregon and beyond:

Moving on from orange and yellow birds to less colorful ones, and – perhaps not coincidentally* – from migratory to resident species, here’s a Cactus Wren (Campylorhynchus brunneicapillus) singing his unmelodious song:

Black-Tailed Gnatcatchers (Polioptila melanura) sang only slightly more tunefully than Cactus Wrens:

Long-Eared Owls (Asio otus) residing in Tamarisk Campground are a major attraction for Anza-Borrego birdwatchers, and while I didn’t see them this time, one was observed in Davis a few weeks earlier:


* Is bright male coloration more common in migratory songbirds than non-migratory ones?   On a quick bit of post-trip internet searching, I learned that this is a well-known pattern, likely related to the shorter breeding seasons and more intense sexual selection experienced by migrants.

Readers’ wildlife photos

April 22, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos come from reader Teresa Vuoso, who sent a batch of pictures from Arizona. Teresa’s captions and narrative are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

In late February, my father, brother, and I met in southeastern Arizona to visit the Chiricahua National Monument and Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area.  The weather was unusually cold, and a light snow actually closed the road the road to the top of Chiricahuan. Still, beauty was in abundance.  My brother, Mark McMillen, took some of these pictures and they are included with his consent.  I have no background in photography, biology or any other “ology”.  I am just a fan of Dr. Coyne since hearing him speak about Darwin on a cruise to Antarctica and who wants to help keep the readers’ wildlife photos coming.

JAC:  Yes, please follow Teresa’s lead and send in those photos!

Big Balanced Rock at Chiricahua National Monument.  It is 22′ in diameter, 25′ tall, and weighs about 1,000 tons.  Mark and I hiked almost 8 miles roundtrip with an elevation gain of 1396′.  We got to Big Balanced Rock just in time to watch a storm roll in complete with sleet, wind, and rain. Got drenched walking back down, but would do it again:

Our first sighting of Big BalancedRock:

We hiked a trail along huge rock formations such as these:

A portion of the trail:

On the way to Faraway Ranch (a dude ranch established in 1917), we saw these cute raccoon-like critters, Coatimundi/Coati (Nasua narica).  They are native to South America, Mexico, and the southwest US.

Curious Coati trotted along with their bushy tails held high and then would stop to assess us:


We visited Whitewater Draw Wildlife Area on two occasions.  The first was terribly cold and windy.  While there we saw thousands of Sandhill Cranes, Snow Geese, American Coots, and Mallards.

Whitewater Draw is a very scenic, marshy area surrounded by mountains.

Whitewater Draw is the winter home of thousands of birds including flocks of Sandhill Cranes (Antigone canadensis) .  They form flocks of more than 10,000 as they fly down from northern Canada every year at altitudes averaging 6,000-7,000 feet (Photo by Mark McMillen):

Here you can see the red skin on the crown of adults (Photo credit Mark McMillen):

We were fortunate enough to watch several flocks descend, circling from very high altitudes before landing. (Photo by Mark McMillen):

These birds fly out in the morning to forage in other fields and marshes before returning in the afternoon.  (Photo credit Mark McMillen):

American Coot (Fulica americana):

Snow Geese (Anser caerulescens):

It’s a small world. Two groups of birdwatchers from Jamaica Bay, NYC (a favorite spot of mine) happened upon each other by sheer coincidence.  I mentioned I was from New York also, whereupon I heard someone, whom I presume was not a New Yorker, say, “You can’t swing a dead bird without hitting a New Yorker.”  🙂:

I’m including this because I found it unique.  A couple traveling from Switzerland brought their own camper.

Readers’ wildlife photos

April 5, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos come from Rosemary Alles, who lives part-time in South Africa and works for a conservation organization that partners with local people. Her narrative and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.  As I wrote about her in a previous post:

I am an American living (temporarily) in SA. These pics were taken from my small studio in rural South Africa and while within the greater Kruger region. I am originally from Sri-Lanka, a war-torn nation just to the south of India. My family and I immigrated to the west to escape a violent civil war in Lanka.You can find more about us (the work her conservation group does) here. We focus primarily on indigenous women/children at the intersection of conservation.

Francolin Chick (tiny tiny tiny)

Kiddos we work with  – all from communities around Kruger.

African Bush Elephant, Loxodonta africana (male)

Black Headed Weaver bird nests (Ploceus melanocephalus; can be hundred on one tree).   “Black-headed weavers are known for their intricately woven spherical nests crafted from hundreds of blades of grass, reeds, or palm fronds. Weavers are very noisy and highly social. They live in colonies, so a hundred nests may dangle from a single tree.”


Plains zebras (Equus quagga):

Kiddos we work with – all from communities around Kruger.

Vultures at dusk (Hooded, Necrosyrtes monachus, and White-backed, Gyps africanus):

South African giraffes (Giraffa giraffa):

Savanna Elephant (male, in stress – check the dribble, not in Musth, probably stressed because he was trying to cross a railway line and they know about trains):

  • European Roller, Coracias garrulus, (Migratory, in Southern African/African regions during European Winter):

Breeding herd of female Savanna Elephants (they were being pursued by several males in Musth – big “drama”)

 Olifants River:

Southern Fiscals (Lanius collaris) in a row:

Wild Hibiscus (Hibiscus sp.):

Cape Starling (Lamprotornis nitens):

Female Greater Kudu, Tragelaphus strepsiceros, (Antelope):

Leopard (Panthera pardus) track (gorgeous animals, couldn’t take a picture of him though, he was there for a moment and then into the bush, marking territory, was really awesome to see him, good looking, adult, and healthy male) :

Giraffe track :

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 20, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos come from Rodney Graetz in Australia. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

A Wetlands story.

Australia is the driest of all occupied continents; the central latitude of Australia is the same as that of the Sahara Desert.  Accordingly, the majority of Australians live close to permanent water, choosing either the ocean, or the inland rivers and wetlands.  Because we are an urbanised nation, and seven of our eight capital cities are coastal, oceans and their beaches are our first choice.

A beach environment is always vibrant, but the repetition of waves and tides does not easily generate any long-lasting appreciation.  Because it is daily renewed, a memory of yesterday can be as fleeting as your footprints.

In contrast, my preference is the tranquillity of freshwater bodies, the rivers, and lakes – the wetlands.  Here the most important cycle is the slow and noiseless day-night cycle, and much of the surroundings suggest timelessness, such as these centuries-old trees.

And, even with an approaching death, it can be interesting and informative.

With tranquillity, beauty comes easily.  Such as the visual delight of the mirroring by water, as here on a small scale.

And likewise, on a larger scale:

Calm waters can soften the visual impact of a gathering of dead trees.

And duplicate the sky colours as Earth rotates away from the Sun.

In southern Australia, the boundary between land and water is usually sharp, static, and hugged by trees (Eucalyptus species) whose dense wood makes for long-lived, bleached remains.

In northern Australia, in the many extensive tropical wetlands, the land-water boundary is neither sharp nor static, and the bordering trees are varied and mostly short-lived.  One of their compelling attractions is the (edible) aquatic plants, the ‘water lilies’, which decorate their surfaces (Nymphaea species?).

All wetlands are nutrient-rich islands of fertility, and thus productivity, typified by this gathering of waterbirds – mostly (sleeping) Plumed Whistling Ducks .

Regrettably, people have initiated serious, lasting problems for wetlands, particularly in northern Australia.  The churned, dried mud these Burdekin Ducks are resting on was pushed up by feral pigs rooting for plant or animal material.  Non-aboriginal Australians introduced domestic pigs which have now joined a lengthy list of serious invasive pests.

The yellow light of a setting sun contrasts the dark clouds of a coming storm.  A beautiful, unspoiled floodplain?  No.  The little palm tree-like plants in the foreground, and patchily across the floodplain, are an introduced plant (Mimosa pigra) that is now a very serious weed invading large areas of floodplains and wetlands.  How to eradicate it is not yet determined but one of its spreading agents can be minimized.

This is the principal weed spreading agent, the Asian Water Buffalo (Bubalis bubalis).  Deliberately introduced into tropical Australia for tropical meat and milk production, which with abandonment in the 1850s, have quickly grown into huge feral populations.  Scroll down for their Australian history in this link here.

The buffalo’s preferred habitat is the floodplains and wetlands.  Strongly social animals, their collective wallowing – to avoid the high midday temperatures and mosquitos – generate swimming pool sized eroded pits.

The combined effects of buffalo grazing and wallowing is deeply destructive of both wetland vegetation and soils.  The totality of their destruction is shown by this fence line contrast between no buffalo (LHS) and buffalo (RHS).

The current estimated feral buffalo population in northern Australia is 200,000 animals.  Mustering for sale (back to Asia) and culling by shooting (from helicopters) continues to be the only large scale management options.  On the much smaller scale is trophy hunting with clients from Europe, and the USA.  I use this borrowed image to illustrate just how massive the buffalos can become, and why they can be lethal animals.  From the hunter’s hats and suntans, can you pick which of the two men is an American?

Finally, a personal note.  About 35 years ago, I was surveying buffalo damage (on foot) in northern Australian wetlands where buffalos were thick on the ground.  To survive a buffalo charge I was ordered to carry a weapon at all times, so my colleagues provided this massive 44 calibre handgun.  Their user advice was simple: (1) wait until the charging buffalo is about 3 metres (10 feet) away, then try a double-handed, head shot; (2) if unsuccessful, then drop the handgun and quickly climb a tree.  Workplace conditions were really interesting back then.  I borrowed 3 (black-edged) photos to complete this story.

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 2, 2023 • 8:15 am

Like Tony Eales the other day, Jim Blilie sent photos celebrating a recent move. Jim’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

These photos celebrate our moving home to Washington state.  I retired in March 2022 and embarked on an intensive ten months. (I am just now starting to feel retired!)  We worked dawn to dusk all of March 2022 preparing to sell our Minnesota home the first week of April.  Jamie graduated high school in early June.  Then began the move which wasn’t done until July 2022 (we still aren’t fully unpacked!).  We were lucky to already own our retirement home in Klickitat County Washington, above the Columbia River Gorge, which we bought in 2001.  Then were many intense start-up activities.  We still need to build a planned new home, that will take better advantage of the views of Mount Adams and Mount Hood.  Maybe in Q3/Q4 2023.

These are all photos from our local area here in southern Washington (some are in the part of Oregon very near our home).  All photos are reduced in size (dumbed down some) in Photoshop Elements for emailing and posting.

First are some taken on our usual morning walk, right out of our front door.  This is a short 2-mile walk my wife and I do almost every day (even in winter, with light duty crampons on our hiking boots!).

A walk in the clouds.  Sun breaking through thin ground-level clouds.  We frequently get low-lying clouds, I think because or our very close proximity to the Columbia River Gorge itself.  This is a photo from my iphone 11:

Lupine flowers (Lupinus sp.) in morning sunshine:

Western Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio rutulus) on Columbia Lily (Lilium columbianum):

Ice on my barbeque grill on a cold winter morning (iphone 11 photo).  The frozen droplets (they were dew drops) are as large as an inch (2.5 cm) across:

Our local mountains are Mount Adams and Mount Hood.  Mount Adams is due north of us.  Mount Hood is to our southwest.  These images are taken from our driveway.  I take frequent photos of these, especially Mount Adams.  The photos are almost a calendar of our changing seasons.

Mount Adams at sunrise (on two different mornings):

Mount Adams early on the morning of January 1, 2023:  A nice New Years’ present to have a clear morning:

Mount Hood at a misty dawn:

The next batch are all from (relatively) local hikes.

Mount AdamsMount Rainier, and the Goat Rock Wilderness with the gorge of the Klickitat River in the foreground.  Taken from a local eminence called Stacker Butte on January 19, 2023:  Our first “proper” hike of 2023.  November and December were very cold and snowy (December) here:

Our son, Jamie, on top of Chinidere Mountain, with Mount Hood in the background: 

A view of Mount Hood from Lookout Mountain, Oregon:

Old growth forest on the trail up to Sleeping Beauty:

Mount Saint Helens from Johnston Ridge in the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument:

Finally, a ringer:  Me, harvesting chardonnay grapes in my friend and neighbor’s vineyard.  iphone 12 photo:


Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III Body, micro-4/3 format, mirrorless (crop factor = 2.0)
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario Lens, 12-35mm, F2.8 ASPH.
Panasonic Lumix G X Vario Lens, 35-100mm, F2.8 ASPH.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 100-300mm F/4.0-5.6 MEGA O.I.S.
Panasonic Lumix G Vario 7-14MM, F4.0 ASPH.
iphone 12
iphone 11

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 3, 2023 • 8:15 am

Reader Simon Hayward sent some photos of Mount McKinley (aka Denali), America’s highest mountain at 20,310 feet (6,190 m). These were taken on his trip to Alaska, the first part of which (including caribou and bears) you can see here.  Simon’s captions are indented, and you can click the photos to enlarge them.

I put five of my own photos at the bottom, taken on a visit to the park in April, 2006, when I hopped on a small plane taking climbers to the Denali glacier. (I was in Alaska debating a creationist for the Alaska Bar Association!)

Simon: This is the glacier coming down mt Denali. You must have landed near the top (I assume)

Just an amazing wild place:

And the train! (Which we didn’t catch, but seems a good way to get there). This is the Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star train that runs from Anchorage to Fairbanks.

As I said, I was in Alaska in 2006 and rented a car to drive to Denali, where I parked and slept overnight. (It was the coldest night I’ve ever spent, even though I was inside the car in a sleeping bag). The next day I drove to Talkeetna, where I hoped to get on a small plane to get a close view of the peak. But I did better than that: a bush pilot was flying two climbers to the mountain TO LET THEM OFF HIGH UP ON ITS GLACIER. I was allowed, for a fee, to ride along, and managed to wangle my way into the seat next to the woman pilot.  We flew up, landed on the glacier, let the two climbers off, and then the pilot taxied back and forth on the snow to make a strip from which to take off. It was tricky, the plane was tiny, the journey was bumpy, and I can’t say that I wasn’t a bit scared. But it was one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever done. (I showed these photos years ago.)

Here’s our bush plane, equipped with skis, loading up before takeoff. The pilot is wearing the green headscarf:

A view of Denali from my seat. These small planes, with only a thin floorboard between you and the air, induce a bit of fear!

Flying through the peaks to the landing site:

Me on the glacier with the peak in the background to the left:

And the pilot making a runway to use for takeoff. She had to go back and forth about five times.  What a skillful pilot!

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 31, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have something new: thermal imaging by Peter Nothnagle. His narration and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

Seen in a Different Light

A couple of years ago, as a sort of cheer-myself-up-during-lockdown gift, I bought a FLIR C2 thermal camera. That’s a pocket-sized camera that detects infrared light and displays it in a variety of false color schemes. It covers a wide temperature range and it’s very sensitive to differences in temperature.

Cameras like this are marketed to plumbers, electricians, and HVAC technicians – and indeed I’ve found it useful in those pursuits, but it’s also a lot of fun to play with. I don’t really need this thing, but it’s loads of fun to walk around and see what energy is emanating from everyday objects. Take, for example, this manhole cover (are we allowed to say “manhole” anymore?):

Can you tell how much water is in my rain barrel just by looking at it?

I like exploring obscure old cemeteries in the Iowa countryside:


Those were taken just before Halloween, but disappointingly there were no ghosts. They must have been busy elsewhere.

And now for a little wildlife. The other day a couple of deer (Odocoileus virginianus) spent much of the day in my back yard. Spot the deer!

Here are the deer!

[The blob on the left is the heat signature of the neighbor’s back window]

Bare tree against a winter sky:

And finally, a thermal cat (Felis catus)…

… and where the cat had just been sitting on the floor. You can even see the heat left by her paws as she walked away.