Readers’ wildlife photos

November 25, 2023 • 8:15 am

If you’ve got photos, please send them in. I have about a week’s worth now, but in a week they’ll be gone. Thanks!

Today’s photos are contributed by reader Gregory Zonerowich, who directs the graduate program in ent0mology at Kansas State University in Manhattan, Kansas.  This series shows a controlled burn on the prairie.  Gregory’s notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

These are all taken at the Konza Prairie Biological Station just a few miles south of Manhattan, KS. The station is 8,600 acres of tallgrass prairie and is one of the original NSF Long-Term Ecological Research sites. Only about 2-3% of tallgrass prairie remains in the US.

The station maintains a herd of bison (Bison bison) to study the effects of native grazers. The lighting was not very good for this photo but the bull had such a regal pose.

Controlled burns are a common land management practice in this region and are necessary to preserve the prairie. We start at the upwind side of a watershed with two crews moving in opposite directions. Here a torcher widens the initial buffer along the edge of burn. There may hundreds of acres involving more than one watershed during a burn. Often the two crews are out of sight so we use radios to monitor each other’s progress. Communication and coordination can be critical given the direction of the wind and the natural twists and turns of the watersheds.

Backfires are low intensity and move very slowly against the wind, sometimes only about a foot per minute.

A nice comparison of a backfire and a head fire. The backfire is low and moves slowly against the wind, the head fire moves with the wind as a tall, hot, and fast wall of flame.

Universities and government agencies such as the EPA and US Forest Service conduct various studies at the station, including fire behavior and the gases and microbes found in smoke. Here a drone is taking smoke samples.

After the two burn crews meet at the downwind side of the watershed and the watershed has been ringed by fire, the head fire moving with the wind creates a surprisingly noisy maelstrom of smoke and flames. I used to wonder how people out in the open could be caught and consumed by wildfires, but I’ve seen many head fires I could not outrun.

It’s pretty easy to get dramatic photos while out on a prairie burn.

The result of a controlled burn, blackened earth that will soon green up with new grass after a spring rain. The burns expose the rocky soil and show why much of this prairie was spared from the plow.

Two watersheds are burned during the summer of every other year, hence the very dense smoke with the sun peeking through. “Bambi” is a military surplus vehicle equipped with a large water tank to refill the 300-gallon water tanks the burn crews have on their vehicles.

I liked the contrast between the black burned prairie, the tan unburned area, and the blue sky.

I’m always fascinated by the physics that produce smoke tornados, or “ashnados”. Sometimes they are just a few inches wide at the base but they also can be several feet wide at the base. These can dangerous because they might pick up hot ash or embers and drop them into an unburned watershed, creating a wildfire. For scale, the red truck is a Ford F-350 dually with a 300-gallon water tank on the back.

This tall white ashnado was right behind the site manager.

The station has a number of creeks and seeps. They run in most years but will dry up during a drought.

For folks who may be interested in controlled burns:

Nice drone view of a prairie burn: 

Why burns benefit the prairie:

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 17, 2023 • 8:15 am

Yes, they’re back again, but my supply is limited, so send in your good wildlife photos (submission rules are on the left sidebar).

Today’s submission comes from ecologist Susan Harrison of the University of Californa at Davis. Susan’s IDs and narrative are indented, and you can click on the photos (twice if you want) to make them bigger.

Drake’s Bay

Just north of San Francisco lies the miraculously wild Point Reyes Peninsula.   In 1962, its 71,000 acres of coastal terrain and 80 miles of shoreline were set aside as the Point Reyes National Seashore, managed by the National Park Service for wildlife and hiking. The peninsula is bounded on the northeast by Tomales Bay – an arrow-straight segment of the San Andreas Fault — and on the west by open ocean.  Its southern edge is Drake’s Bay, lined by a long gleaming arc of cliffs and beaches.

Drake’s Bay looking eastward from the tip of Point Reyes:

Seabirds, shorebirds, and marine mammals use Drake’s Bay’s sheltered waters.  So did English pirate Sir Francis Drake, who in 1579 repaired his ship here, reminisced about the white cliffs of Dover, and inscribed a Plate of Brasse — never since found — claiming “Nova Albion” for Her Majesty.

Here is a brief wildlife-oriented tour of Drake’s Bay from west to east, taken in November 2023.

Pt. Reyes Fish Docks, a spectacular birding hotspot:

Red-Breasted Merganser (Mergus serrator) at the fish docks:

Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) at the fish docks:

Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani):

Young male Northern Elephant Seals (Mirounga angustirostris), preparing for breeding season by contesting a strip of beach:

Long-Billed Curlews (Numenius americanus) at Limantour Beach:

Marbled Godwits (Limosa fedoa) at Sculptured Beach, with view to Arch Rock and Double Point:

Tule Elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) bulls in the headlands above the bay:

Bonus ducks!  Five female Northern Shovelers (Spatula clypeata) dabbling the surface of nearby Abbott’s Lagoon, another birding hotspot:

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 31, 2023 • 8:30 am

Today’s photos, a mélange, were sent a few months back by Jim Blilie, and I just found them. Jim’s notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Mount Adams lies directly north of our home.  I frequently take its photo since it is the dominant view from our place.  These are all taken from our driveway.  Our new home will have a similar, though even better, view of Mount Adams.  I have climbed Mount Adams three times, always from the opposite (north) side.

The first two images show Adams in mid-winter with a full mantel of snow and just a few days ago, with nearly all the snow melted.  We have had a very dry spring and summer, with no significant rain since the first week of May and very little prior to that.  Bad fire season this year, though we have actually been quite lucky so far.

The next one shows a morning shot of Adams with some of our resident Black-tailed Deer (Odocoileus hemionus, subspecies of Mule Deer).

The next one is an early morning, winter shot of Adams:  Misty morning.

We walk our local (very lightly traveled) road almost every day, if we aren’t doing a proper hike in the hills. This is a shot from a walk this winter with sun bursting through the local ground fog.  Iphone 11 photo.

The next one, another winter shot, I call “morning coffee”.  I step onto our front porch with my coffee almost every morning to view Mount Adams and Mount Hood.  Even frosty mornings.

Next is old structures at Mission San Juan Capistrano.  We visited Palm Desert and Seal Beach, California in February.\\\

Next are a couple of shots from Ballard Locks in Seattle.  We visited friends in Seattle for a long weekend.

Next is a photo of Mount Hood from the top of Chinidere Mountain.

Next is Ripples in the Deschutes River.

Finally, a very old one.  Goat for dinner, Nepal, 1991.  Scanned Tri-X-Pan negative.


Pentax K-1000 camera and Pentax M 85mm f/2.0 lens (Nepal photo) iphone 11
Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera (Crop factor = 2.0)
LUMIX G X Vario, 12-35MM, f/2.8 ASPH.  (24mm-70mm equivalent, my walk-around lens)
LUMIX 35-100mm  f/2.8 G Vario  (70-200mm equivalent)
LUMIX G Vario 7-14mm  f/4.0 ASPH  (14-28mm equivalent)
MEKE 3.5mm f2.8 220 Degree Manual Focus Circular Fisheye Lens  (7mm equivalent)
LUMIX G Vario 100-300mm F/4.0-5.6 MEGA O.I.S  (200-600mm equivalent)

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 30, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have photos from Bill Dickens, taken in Florida. Bill’s narrative and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photographs by clicking on them.

My home backs onto the Thousand Island Conservation Area on Florida’s Space Coast. (I’m close enough to the space center that launches shake my house.)

General guide to Florida archipelago naming:   Actual # of islands = Name / 10.  So the Thousand Island Conservation Area consists of around 100 islands in the brackish waters of the Banana River Lagoon.

It’s teaming with wildlife. The water boils with schools of fish and on most trips I see dolphins hunting. There is the occasional alligator although salt water is not their preferred habitat. There has been a sole crocodile which has moved north with the warmer temperatures (I have not seen this myself.) The main bird species are Pelican, Cormorant, Anhinga, Blue Heron, Osprey, Great Egret, and Wood Stork.

I love going out on the water and I try to get out a couple of times a week. It’s rare to see anyone else out on the 338-acre zone. Like a lot of Florida wildlife, the birds are not particularly disturbed by boats and will allow you to get quite close. The dolphins will often rush over as soon as they see my kayak or dinghy, sometimes swimming under the kayak or riding in the dinghy’s wake. It’s a complete joy interacting with them.

Eastern Brown Pelican [Pelecanus occentalis] – the name doesn’t reflect the colors and feather patterns:

Eastern Brown Pelican – they will sometimes dive down right in front of my boat to catch fish:

Eastern Brown Pelican – I sometime feel like I’m on the Jurassic Coast when they’re flying in a diagonal line down the beach:

Osprey [Pandion haliaetus]:

Osprey with catch:

Anhinga [Anhinga anhinga]:

Anhinga drying its wings in the last of the sunlight:

Kayaking through the Mangroves:

Sunset on the lagoon – it’s rare to see anyone else out on the water:

Great Egret [Ardea alba] on my lawn:

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 13, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have the second installment of photos from Jamie Blilie, sent in by his father James, all taken in Southern California (part 1 is here). You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. James’s captions are indented.

A spectacular crested bird with red eyes, the Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens), photographed in Murray Canyon.

The final desert bird, the Greater Roadrunner (Geococcyx californianus), was photographed right in town on the Sunnylands Estate. This formal garden was alive with birds; but they were tricky to photograph because they mostly perched in the thick Mesquite trees (Prosopis spp) planted in the garden, which played havoc with the cameras’ autofocus.

Next, we move the southern California coast in the region of Seal Beach, California. These are taken at the Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve. Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias), a familiar friend from all over North America.

And, our final bird:  The American Avocet (Recurvirostra americana).  These were very common in the Bolsa Chica Reserve. None of us had ever seen one before.

Also one that may be of interest:  Sea Level marked on a structure in the Imperial Valley, near to the Salton Sea.  The whole area is below Sea Level.

Finally, the photographer, Jamie, showing him doing what he does:  Shooting bird photos along the shores of the Salton Sea.


Nikon D5600 (crop factor = 1.5)
Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0-6.3 DG OS HSM600 lens (225-900mm equivalent). This is a very good lens, especially for the cost.  Good VR.

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 10, 2023 • 8:15 am

We return to our regularly scheduled feature after an interruption due to war (there may be more interruptions in the future, but keep sending in your photos).

Today’s batch comes from reader Keith Cook from New Zealand. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Moon and cloud fingers. Not the best maybe a little too grainy and certainly not the true colour, but this is how the camera saw it. I like how the clouds seems to be holding the moon. The distant red lights you can see in the middle are from the 05 end of the runaways at Auckland airport, which protrude out into the Manukau Harbour.

Siloutte sunrise. Autumn shot as winter approaches and is now rising to the left of frame. At the height of summer it would be to the far right of the Phoenix Palm (Phoenix canariensis) before the hill.

Close up of Ponga dust, a description from the Department of Conservation:: “Would the arms (the frond stalks) of the tree fern beat you in an arm wrestle? If so, it’s most likely a mamaku (also known as a black tree fern, Sphaeropteris medullaris).

. . . second shot, Ponga Dust. What I’m trying to show in this shot is the dusty ‘spores’ of a ponga frond. Ponga (Cyathea medullaris) I think this is correct, after laying them down and picking them up, all this ‘powder’ falls off. I want to know what this stuff is called I’ve tried on line with no luck. I\we have these ferns all over the property so when the wind is up this stuff gets blown around, the car gets covered in it. It must be hell for those sensitive to sinus clogging but I’ve never noticed it in myself. The leaf lying on top in this shot is from our resident Kauri (Agathis australis).

Kererū Wood Pigeon (Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae). This to me is a “how do you do?” shot. Here it’s presumably eating seeds in one of a few cabbage trees we have (Cordyline australis) I have noticed over the years that these seeds are not their favourite; nikau palm (Rhopalostylis sapida) seeds seem preferable but it could be just a cycle of what seeds are available for snacking on. These birds are  daily visitors to our guava tree at the moment, and they look in good shape nevertheless. We have had some crazy wet and wild weather in 2023, flooding, high winds, land slips, road closures, so it’s good that they seem in good health.

Forest Gecko (Mokopirirakau granulatus). Sorry to have to show this creature in a bucket, but it was either that or let it run its luck of being squashed. I released it not far from where I “saved” it. This is only the third one I have seen in four decades of living here and it is exciting when I spot one.

Bird of Paradise (Strelitzia spp.). This is very common in gardens This one is at the top of the hill behind our house and it has a panoramic view of the harbour. I’m just waiting for this one to take off as I’m  using it as a divider between properties.

Papamoa Beach. The last shot is a post-covid-19 lockdown shot of Papamoa Beach, Bay of Plenty on the east coast. I thought it was a nice winter scene with people exercising and relaxing.

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 28, 2023 • 8:32 am

Today’s photos come from ecologist Susan Harrison at UC Davis.  Her captions are indented, and you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them.

Southeastern Arizona (part 1)

Sooner or later, a U.S. birdwatcher must go to Southeastern Arizona.   That’s because dozens of Mexican and Central American bird species make it just across the international border into the tree-lined canyons of Arizona’s Chiricahua Mts., Huachuca Mts., and other small north-south oriented mountain ranges.  Many of these birds are as dazzlingly colorful as you’d expect from their mainly tropical and subtropical distributions.

In August 2023 I made my pilgrimage to see these species.  Today I’ll show the most localized species, and next time I’ll show some of the ones that also range east into south Texas, west to the California deserts, and/or north to the Great Basin deserts.

First, a habitat shot of a canyon in the Chiricahua Mts.:

Next, the region’s most fabled bird, the Elegant Trogon (Trogon elegans):

Hummingbird diversity is perhaps the region’s greatest claim to fame besides Trogons. Over a dozen species can be regularly found here!  The technique for seeing them is to visit small eco-lodges and visitor centers where feeders have been set up.  Here are four species:

Rivoli’s Hummingbird (Eugenes fulgens):

White-Eared Hummingbird (Basilinna leucotis):

Violet-Crowned Hummingbird (Leucolia violiceps):

Lucifer Hummingbird (Calothorax lucifer):

Other colorful denizens include these warblers –

Red-Faced Warbler (Cardellina rubifrons):

Rufous-Capped Warbler (Basileuterus rufifrons):

Some Southeastern Arizonan birds are close southern relatives of birds that are familiar elsewhere in the U.S.  Here are four examples:

Mexican Jay (Aphelocoma wollweberi), almost identical to California Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica) but more social in its behavior; we always saw them in flocks:

Mexican Duck (Anas diazi) in front of a Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos); these two species often hybridize in urban settings like this Tucson pond:

Whiskered Screech-Owls (Megascops trichopsis), related to Western Screech-Owls (Megascops kennicottii) and living beside them in this area, but in slightly drier habitats:

Mexican Spotted Owls (Strix occidentalis lucida), found in pine and fir forests at higher elevations, closely related to and just as threatened as the Northern Spotted Owl (Strix occidentalis caurina).   This roosting pair is grooming each other’s facial feathers.  My title for this photo is “Get a room, owls!”:

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 25, 2023 • 8:15 am

I’m gratified that several readers sent in sets of photos, so we’re set for at least four or five more days.  This batch comes from reader James Blilie, whose captions are indented. You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here are some landscape shots for your consideration. Most of these are taken on or near our homestead in Klickitat County, Washington.

Wintertime shot of our neighbor’s vineyard (wine grapes) in White Salmon, Washington.  Iphone 11 photo.

A shot from last fall using my MEKE 3.5mm f2.8 220 Degree Manual Focus Circular Fisheye Lens:  Ponytail Falls in the Columbia River Gorge.  I enjoy fisheye lenses.  They help me reimagine images.

Rain drops.  Winter 2023.

Frost on charcoal.  Winter 2023.

A view westwards into the Columbia River Gorge.  Very close to our home.

Falls Creek Falls, about 280 feet tall.  Washington side, near the town of Carson.

We recently traveled to our old stomping grounds in the US Midwest.  As Jamie said, when we arrivedin the heat and humidity, “I forgot how great the weather is in White Salmon!”  These are photos of sunflowers in Shawano County, Wisconsin.

Our son Jamie is just starting his engineering education as Washington State University, in Pullman, Washington (Go Cougs!).  On the weekend we moved him into his dorm, we went out into the Palouse to make photos of the unique landscape.  Whitman County, which covers a large area of the Palouse, produces more wheat than any other county in the USA.  These images show wheat being harvested, The unusual fluid shape of the Palouse hills, and a short depth of field shot of wheat ready for harvest.

Finally, my ringer.  Jamie and me on top of a local prominence, Chinidere Mountain with Mount Hood in the background.  Taken with my circular fisheye lens.


iphone 11
Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera (Crop factor = 2.0)
LUMIX G X Vario, 12-35MM, f/2.8 ASPH.  (24mm-70mm equivalent, my walk-around lens)
LUMIX 35-100mm  f/2.8 G Vario  (70-200mm equivalent)
LUMIX G Vario 7-14mm  f/4.0 ASPH  (14-28mm equivalent)
MEKE 3.5mm f2.8 220 Degree Manual Focus Circular Fisheye Lens
LUMIX G Vario 100-300mm F/4.0-5.6 MEGA O.I.S