Readers’ wildlife photos

December 29, 2020 • 8:00 am

Again I importune you to send in your phots. In a few days the situation will be dire!

Today, though,  we have a diversity of photos from Rachel Sperling, including Lepidoptera, landscapes, and herself. Her captions are indented; click on photos to enlarge them.

Here are a few wildlife photos for your site, taken around New England and New York this summer and fall.

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) in upstate New York this summer:

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus):

White admiral (Limenitis arthemis):

Hummingbird clearwing (Hemaris thysbe), a moth in the Sphingidae (hawkmoth) family. They really do resemble hummingbirds at first glance and they’re hard to photograph because they don’t stop moving! Not for me, anyhow.

Common loon (Gavia immer) on a small lake in the southern Adirondacks this August:

White oak (Quercus alba) on the Appalachian Trail in Pawling, New York. This particular oak, known as the Dover Oak, is at least 300 years old and is thought to be the biggest oak (if not the biggest tree) on the entire 2,190-mile trail. I guess I AM an unabashed tree-hugger.

This black birch (Betula lenta) also known as a sweet birch or spice birch, is also on the AT in New York … and is clearly possessed by some kind of angry spirit. Consensus among hikers is that it was hit by a shotgun shell some years back (it’s still alive). I’d be angry too.

Smooth rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) on a boulder on the AT in New York, though I’ve seen it almost everywhere I’ve hiked in the northeastern US. [JAC: This is a lichen.] So-named because of its resemblance to tripe (cow’s stomach) it’s apparently edible as a last resort. (According to accounts, George Washington’s men ate it to keep from starving at Valley Forge.)

I don’t know if you’re still collecting photos of readers, but this is me (Homo sapiens) on the summit of Mount Mansfield, highest peak in Vermont, trying not to get blown over by the high winds (I think it was gusting around 30mph, maybe more). There wasn’t much of a view at the summit, but once I began my descent, the clouds dispersed and it got better. This was back in late September. When I’m not hiking, I’m a librarian at a university in Connecticut.

“I didn’t mean to climb it, but got excited and soon was at the top.” – John Muir

Joyce Carol Oates eulogizes her late husband in a science journal

December 11, 2020 • 11:30 am

This is a first, I think: a major literary figure writing a piece in a science journal. The award-winning author Joyce Carol Oates was married to distinguished neurobiologist Charlie Gross for a decade—until Charlie died in 2019. (They both taught at Princeton.) I met them at the Great New Yorker Cat vs. Dog Debate in 2014, where Joyce was on Team Cat, and had dinner with them afterwards at the Union Square Cafe. They were clearly deeply connected, and I remember that dinner fondly.

I’ve kept in touch with Joyce ever since, and know how devastated she was when Charlie passed away. She told me how, like me, Charlie was addicted to travel, especially to Antarctica, and also loved photography. She added that she was more of a homebody, but went with him on some of his trips.

This is recounted in a lovely new memorial that Joyce wrote for Charlie in Progress in Neurobiology—in a special issue devoted to him. Hers is a short piece, highlighting Charlie’s photos from around the world and connecting his vocation with his avocation.

I’ll give an excerpt and show a few of his photos. You can read the piece for free by clicking on the screenshot (if the link doesn’t work, a judicious inquiry will yield a pdf):

An excerpt:

If the world is essentially a mystery, research scientists are investigators, explorers, pilgrims, even at times mystics; “scientific method” is the crucial tool, but the motive underlying the pursuit of intransigent truth in a world of shifting illusions and delusions is likely to be deep-rooted in the personality, as the motives for art are deep-rooted, essentially unknowable. The research scientist, like the writer and artist, is not satisfied with surfaces—the “superficial”; the comprehension of underlying principles and laws are the goal.

Neuroscience dares to address the most basic of all questions involving life: what is the neural basis of behavior? how can it possibly be that out of molecules, ions, and nerve cells somehow there emerges the vast richness of human consciousness and experience? It isn’t an accident that Charlie Gross spent most of his professional life exploring vision in the cerebral cortex. He was never more fiercely concentrated in thought—(if indeed it was “thinking” that so absorbed him)—than when he was taking photographs, and afterward working with the digital images he’d captured. Out of the raw image, what “meaning” can be discovered? The camera lens radically narrows the visual field into an aesthetically satisfying form because it is limited, reduced; “coherence” is created out of a chaos of impressions that without the camera lens lack focus and meaning. Surely there is some fundamental analogy here with the mechanisms of the eye—the visual cortex.

. . . Charlie and I were married in March 2009 and in the decade we spent together traveled widely—to Spain, Italy and the Greek Islands, Capri, Corsica, Dubrovnik, Galapagos and Ecuador, Australia, and Bali as well as, more frequently, to London, Paris, Rome, and (his favorite) Venice. We spent time in the most scenic parts of California—Berkeley, Humboldt State Redwood Park, Big Sur; we visited many National Parks—Death Valley, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Yosemite. To all these places Charlie brought his photography equipment and spent many hours taking pictures, ideally at dawn. He was exacting and patient; he could wait a long time for a perfect combination of landscape, sky, and light. His work is surpassingly beautiful — not a consequence of accident but design. Though Charlie did not “photoshop” his work, he spent much time selecting images he wanted to make permanent. He was a serious artist of beauty but he did not theorize —he followed his intuition.

For the article Joyce selected nine photos “that are most abstract and apolitical—indeed, ahistorical—in their beauty; and those set in the West, which he loved and had visited many times.” Three of them are below— and one of Charlie as well.

Go to the article to read more about Charlie and photography, and to see more of his work.

Bryce Canyon at twilight:

Yosemite. A Magritte-like boulder suggestive of a glacier or a dream image seems to push through the surface of the water in this Yosemite scene:


Charlie in Antarctica, photo by Rowena Gross:

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 11, 2020 • 8:00 am

It’s time for my weekly importuning for wildlife photos, as I go through them at an astounding rate (at least 7 contributors per week), and can always use more. Though I have about a week’s supply, that’s not good enough to allay my anxieties, so send in your good photos. Thanks!

Today’s contributor is James Blilie, who sent landscape pics. I’ve indented his captions. Click photos to enlarge them.

Here is another batch of landscape photos for your consideration in no particular order:

A photo looking south from the top of Granite Mtn., Central Washington Cascade Range.  Sept. 1990. Scanned Kodachrome 64.  Probably Tokina ATX 70-200 f/2.8 lens (a superb lens for the time).

Mount Adams, Washington, 12,281 ft., from the north, with Whitebark Pines (Pinus albicaulis).  (Cascade Range). Scanned Kodak Tri-X Pan film.  Aug. 1987.

Climbers on the east right of Mt. Desperation, Olympic Mountains, Washington.  July 1989.  Scanned Kodachrome 64.  Pentax M 20mm f/4 lens.

Delicate Arch, Arches National Park, Utah.  April 1996. Scanned Kodachrome 64.  Probably Tokina ATX 70-200 f/2.8 lens.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota.  July 2013. Pentax K-5, Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC Lens at 10mm (crop factor 1.5)

Climbers descending from Mount Curtis GilbertGoat Rocks Wilderness (Cascade Range).  Oct. 1986. Scanned Kodachrome 64.  Pentax M 20mm f/4 lens.

Fern detail on solidified lava, Kilauea crater.  Hawaii Volcanoes National Park.  Nov. 1990. Scanned Kodachrome 64.

Gravestone detail.  Greenwood Cemetery, New Orleans, LA, April 2018. Lumix 7-14mm f/4 ASPH lens.  Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II camera (crop factor = 2.0)

Sugar Maples, Shawano County, WI. October 2016. Lumix 7-14mm f/4 ASPH lens, at 7mm.  Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II camera (crop factor = 2.0)

Looking east down the Ingraham Glacier on Mt. Rainier at sunrise (Cascade Range).  February 1987.

The standard climbing route is up the “cleaver” (rock ridge) to the left in the photo. This was mid-winter so we chose to climb straight up the Ingraham Glacier.  We summited later that morning about 9am.  This was my second (winter ascent) climb of Mt. Rainier. I was lucky to attempt Rainier twice and summit both times.  (The other was July 1984.) Weather is everything on Mt. Rainier, especially winter ascents. Scanned Kodachrome 64.  Pentax M 20mm f/4 lens.

View from the Island in the Sky, Canyonlands National Park, UT, with juniper snag (probably Juniperus osteosperma).  April 1986. Scanned Kodachrome 64.  Pentax A 20mm f/2.8 lens.

View of the moon and Mt. Rainier from the Cascadian Couloir on Mt. Stuart, Washington Cascade Range. July 1984.

I had only been living in Seattle a few weeks when I climbed Mt. Stuart via this easiest route. Steepness of the snow up the very long snow couloir climbing route is not exaggerated in this photo. Scanned Kodachrome 64.  Pentax M 20mm f/4 lens.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 5, 2020 • 7:45 am

Today’s photos come from biologist Joe Dickinson, who needed an escape from Halloween. His captions, IDs, and explanations follow:

A Halloween escape down the coast (because our d*g is driven crazy by the doorbell or even just a knock) yielded only a couple of decent wildlife photos, including the last in this set (setting sun with pelican), so I decided to put together a collection of favorites featuring birds at sunrise/sunset.

First are some sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) settling in for the night on the South Platte River in Central Nebraska.

Here are some the bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) that gather to winter at Farmington Bay, a freshwater area created south of a railroad causeway across the Great Salt Lake in Utah.

A silhouetted eagle in that same area.

And a hawk, probably a northern harrier (Circus hudsonius), again in the same area.

I believe this is a marbled godwit (Limosa fedoa). It’s at Stinson Beach, north of San Francisco.

My notes say this is a willet (Tringa semipalmata), also at Stinson Beach.

Gulls, probably mostly western (Larus occidentalis) by the mouth of Aptos Creek at Seacliff Beach, where I walk most mornings.

Ross’s geese (Chen rossii) and/or snow geese (Chen caerulescens) at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge.

My notes say white-fronted geese (Anser albifrons) at that same refuge.

Assorted coots, ducks and geese, same refuge.  Hard to be more specific given the lighting.

Cormorants, probably double crested (Phalacrocorax auritus), back at Aptos Creek.

And finally, a couple of brown pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) flying into the sunset.  The first is at Cambria, on the central coast,  a few years ago and the other is this Halloween at a little town called Marina between Monterey and Santa Cruz.


Readers’ wildlife photos

October 31, 2020 • 8:15 am

Send in your photos, but make sure they’re good ones. Thanks!

Today was have some lovely landscapes from reader Bill Zorn. His captions are indented.

Sand Dunes, Colorado:

The Narrows, Utah:

Altamaha River, Georgia:

Monument Valley, Utah:

Jekyll Island, Georgia:

Jekyll Island, Georgia:

Linville Gorge, North Carolina:

Irwin Creek, Colorado:

Reeds, Georgia:

North Fork of the Virgin River, Utah:

These images were made using a Linhof Master Technika 2000 camera, Fuji Velvia film. I sent the film to a lab, and printed these on Ilfochrome. These are scans from the transparencies.


Readers’ wildlife photos

October 20, 2020 • 7:45 am

Today we have a potpourri from several readers. Their captions are indented.

First, a photo from Kristin Wells (click to enlarge):

The picture attached was taken this month at  Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Reader Cate found a debilitated baby squirrel (probably dehydrated) and wrote me asking what to do with it (she’s local). I told her to call the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, who would know what to do with it.  They did, and took it for rehab. Her notes:

Thanks Jerry, you were spot on. I called the bird people, and I was able to drop the poor little guy off with Annette downtown so she could bring him along with this morning’s wounded birds to Willowbrook. If you want to post anything about it to alert people about the wonderful people saving birds again, and that they can also take and safe squirrels, I can send you a picture of Annette holding the box with the squirrel too. He or she was a lovely specimen, an incredible tail.

The poor baby after rescue:

Annette taking it to Willowbrook (a rescue/rehab facility where I’ve sent several orphaned or abandoned ducklings). Chicago Bird Collision Monitors is a fantastic organization, made up largely of volunteers. Their main job is to find birds downtown that have been stunned by flying into buildings, and rescuing them. But they go all over the Chicago area rescuing wildlife in trouble.


A spider from Jorg Driesener:

A friend of mine, Peter Simpkin,  suggested I send you some photos of wildlife I have taken in my yard in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  I don’t know the scientific names of the animals, but I enjoy macro photography and thus take photos at every opportunity.

If you know the spider, weigh in below:

From Tim Anderson:

Messier 16 is a bright emission nebula in the Serpens constellation. This image was compiled from forty 180-second frames captured with a 100mm refracting telescope and a colour astronomical camera.
In the centre of the image is a structure known as “The Pillars of Creation“, made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope:

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 17, 2020 • 7:45 am

We have landscapes and “street nature photos” as wildlife today, and the photographer is James Blilie. His notes and captions are indented:

Here are some landscape photos for your consideration. First, some old ones, from my film days.  I shot nothing but Kodachrome 64 and Kodak Tri-X Pan black and white film for many years.  I developed all of my own black and white film and did my own black and white printing.  I even loaded my own film cassettes with 35mm Tri-X, from 100-foot rolls.  I did not use light meters, auto-exposure, or auto-focus.  I was an all-manual, all the time guy.

I just trained myself to recognize the lighting conditions marked on the old Kodak film boxes:

Bright sunlight (f/11, 1/125s; Kodachrome 64)
Hazy sun, soft shadows (f/8, 1/125s)
Cloudy bright, no shadow (f/5.6, 1/125s)
Heavy overcast, open shade (f/4, 1/125s)

A really old one from 1981:  An Aspen leaf covered in rain drops.  This image was made at about 30-second exposure, f/32, using an old Pentax M 135mm, f/3.5 lens and several extension tubes (obviously using a tripod).  The extension tubes move the lens further away from the film plane, allowing a much shorter focal distance to the subject (usually referred to as “macro”).  You can see I am pushing the limits of the setup:  The corners are heavily vignetted (black).

A photo of aspen trees, in October 1987, taken on a hike in the Entiat Mountains of the Washington Cascade Range.:

A shot of back-country cross-country (as we called it in those days) skiing in the Washington Cascade range, December 1988. 

Sunlight breaking through under rain clouds on the Interstate Highway 90 bridge over Lake Washington in Seattle:  

A view of Rosario Strait from the top of Mount Constitution on Orcas Island Washington, at sunset, taken in July 1990: 

Double Arch with figures, Arches National Park, taken in June 2013:

A view of the Grandes Jorasses (Mt. Blanc massif) from the Italian side, with wild rhododendrons in the foreground, taken in July 2018:

A cemetery in rural southern Ireland, taken in May 2011:

Beach view, Key West, April 2019.  This photo captures the light of Key West for me:

Another old one but favorite:  A shuttered window in the Loire Valley, 1992:

A photo of Royal Basin in the NE part of the Olympic Mountains of Washington state, October 1988. 

Another really old one and long exposure (roughly 30 seconds):  A view of downtown Seattle before the I-90 connection to I-5 in Seattle had been completed.  This was taken in December 1985: 

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 13, 2020 • 7:45 am

Send in your “wildlife” photos, please, and remember that “wildlife” includes landscapes and “street photography.” All I ask is that the photos be of high quality. Thanks—and thanks to the many readers whose contributions have kept this feature going for years.

Today, as fall has apparently arrived for good, we have some fall photos from Gregory James. His note is brief:

Since the definition of “wildlife” has broadened, I’ll offer a few photos from along Lake Michigan the last day or two.

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 9, 2020 • 7:45 am

We have some lovely black and white landscape photos today courtesy of reader Bill Zorn. His captions are indented.

Here are a few landscapes. I made these photographs with a Linhof Master Technika 2000 camera, a variety of Kodak 4×5” films, which I processed and printed on Ilford paper using Ansel Adam’s technique.

Great Wall from Sumatai:

Great Wall at Jiankou:

Teahouse, Dachang Village, China:

White Mosque, near Isfahan, Iran:

Acadia National Park, Maine:

Somewhere in North Carolina:

Linville Falls, North Carolina:

Sheikh Lotfalla Mosque dome, Isfahan, Iran:

Winery, Three Gorges, China:

Two Boats, Scottish Highlands:

Old man of Storr, Westeros, near Winterfell:

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 3, 2020 • 7:45 am

Today’s photos come from reader Chris Taylor, and show a panoply of Australian wildlife. His notes and IDs are indented.

Yourka is a Bush Heritage Australia reserve in the Einasleigh Uplands bioregion in Far North Queensland, not far from Cairns. Its 43,500 Ha covers the region from the Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Site in the east down to the Herbert River valley in the west, and protects a range of habitats.  There are a number of endangered species on the reserve, including a population of Mareeba Rock Wallaby.
Last year I spent six weeks working on the reserve doing a number of jobs, including fence maintenance.  These are some of the photos I took at the time.

Looking out across Yourka from the Lookout.  The little hill on the horizon is Tiger Hill, about 20km distant.  Everything in between is the reserve, and at the time that  I took this photo, I was almost certainly the only person in that 400 square kilometers.

Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) flying above the Lookout.

The accommodation is in the middle of the reserve, and is very often visited by wildlife moving between – and through – the buildings.  After work it was good to sit on the verandah and watch.  These are a few of the animals.

A Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) silhouetted against the sunset:

Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae) in the grounds of the station at sunset.

There are a number of diverse habitats across Yourka.  Grass trees are found across the reserve, but in the areas near the head of Sunday Creek, there are very many, and there they form grass tree “forests”. Grass trees grow very slowly, and the tallest of these trees, at around two metres may be as much as 100 years old.

Grass tree (Xanthorrhoea sp. possibly johnsoni).

The billabong below the station.  This is in the dry season, in the wet, all of this area will be flooded with up to six metres of water.  It is a great place to spot wildlife, the next photos are from around the area.

Straw-necked ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis).

A Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala) feeding in a Silky Oak (Grevillea robusta).  One of the most common of Australia’s honeyeaters.

Restless Flycatcher. (Myiagra inquieta).

Squatter Pigeon (Geophaps scripta).

Yourka includes almost the whole course of Sunday Creek from its headwaters up in the north east, until it joins the Herbert River on the south west of the reserve.  The creek flows through a number of different ecosystems, including the wet sclerophyll, a small gorge, and the Paperbark and Bluegum forest.  Great for cooling off after a day spent fencing!

The evening light in the Paperbarks (Melaleuca quinquenervia) along Sunday Creek.

Back at the station, a Blue-winged Kookaburra perched on the power lines.  Less widespread than Laughing Kookaburra, this has more blue in its plumage, and a white eye ring.