Please send in your good wildlife photos, folks. The tank is dropping at a disturbing rate.
Today we’ll feature the second half of Daniel Shockes’s photos from Africa (part 1 is here). His narration is indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them. Here’s his original introduction:
Here are photos from our trip to Africa. Started in Livingstone Zambia, traveled through Zimbabwe, and into Botswana.
Male Lion after a kill. This group had just taken down a baby elephant and was methodically eating it. I do have pictures of them eating the carcass but even dispassionate scientific readers might find it a bit disturbing. Happy to share more if you want (also have great video):
Today’s photos are the first of three batches of pictures taken by reader Daniel Shoskes on a trip to Africa. He didn’t supply the scientific names, so I’ll just give a link to the animals (Daniel’s words are indented.) Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Here are photos from our trip to Africa. Started in Livingstone Zambia, traveled through Zimbabwe, and into Botswana.
Today we have the second batch of photos taken by ecologist Susan Harrison on a recent trip to Finland (part 1 of her trip is here). Her IDs and narratives are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.
Finnish Forest Fauna
While visiting the University of Oulu in May 2023, after enjoying the common migratory birds flooding into the city’s parks, I took two guided day tours to see elusive forest-dwellers such as owls and grouse. On these trips I met British “twitchers” and German “Vogelbeobachters” who’d come to Finland just for this purpose, since it’s one of the best places in Europe to see forest wildlife.
Large old trees with nest cavities are scarce, so nesting boxes are frequently set out by bird-lovers. The nature tour company in Oulu takes it a step further: they put up owl boxes, and take customers to view the inhabitants, but you must sign an agreement not to record the location. I guess on balance this is a good arrangement for the owls and us.
Female Ural Owls (Strix uralensis) sometimes maim people who approach their nests, so we were cautious:
Domestic Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) wandering around in radio collars:
On both trips we also saw many interesting songbirds and water birds; here are some of the latter.
Arctic Loon (Gavia arctica), a.k.a. Black-Throated Loon or Diver:
Slavonian Grebe (Podiceps auritus), known as Horned Grebe in North America, and also picturesquely called Devil-Diver, Hell-Diver, Pink-eyed Diver, and Water Witch:
Male Ruff (Calidris pugnax). This shorebird has three types of males, determined by a chromosomal inversion. The common type (85-90%) is colorful and puts on aggressive group displays. A second type is paler and less aggressive, and a third type mimics females and sneaks copulations. The genetics and evolution of this complex mating system are just beginning to be understood. This male is of the common type:
JAC: I’ve added a figure from a paper in BMC Genomic Datashowing the various types of males. “L. L. F.” is Lindsay L. Farrell, and “S. B. M.” is Susan B. MacRae; click to read the caption.
Thanks to all who sent in photos; we’re good for a short while, but please don’t forget the site!
It’s been a while since we’ve heard from Tony Eales, who recently moved to Canberra, but he sent us a diverse batch of photos. His narrative is indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.
So, we had a long weekend for Reconciliation Day and despite it being bitterly cold, the wife and I decided to go camping. We went to the Southern Forest National Park, three hours away, because in my investigations these are the temperate rainforests closest to my new home in Canberra.
This area was also ground zero for some of the worst of the unprecedented 2019-2020 bushfire season, and the damage to giant swathes of forest was still in evidence. Where we camped was completely destroyed in those bushfires and while the rainforest plants were back along the streams, the same could not be said for the canopy, and most of the understory was a mix of packed wattle and invasive fireweed. Very different to the sparser and fern-heavy understory that would have existed before the fires.
But despite the cold and the damage there was a lot of life around to be seen and heard. I heard Superb Lyrebirds calling every day and briefly saw one dash into the understory from the side of the road as I was driving past.
Other birds were more friendly like this beautiful Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang). The Austro-Papuan Robins are not closely related to northern hemisphere robins but they come in a variety of shades of red, orange, pink, yellow and white:
In the mountains closer to Canberra, I saw Flame Robins (Petroica phoenicea), close cousins of the Scarlet Robins:
There were also flocks of the tiny Brown Thornbills (Acanthiza pusilla) foraging through the leaves for small insects:
We saw many signs of wombats but no actual wombats themselves but there were plenty of Swamp Wallabies (Wallabia bicolor) around:
At night, in among the leaves I found more than enough invertebrates to keep me photographing for a couple of hours each evening.
Several large ant species out hunting including this impressive Inchman Bulldog Ant (Myrmecia forficata):
And on the way home we stopped at Black Lake and photographed a couple of duck species that are new to me because they are more common in Southern Australia. Unfortunately, I am much more set up for close up photography than distance photography.
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):
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 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.
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:
Today’s photos come from UC Davis ecologist Susan Harrison. Her captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. By the way, I have less than a week’s worth of photos left, so I may have to stop this feature or make it more sporadic.
Dramatic wildflower displays in spring 2023 brought national attention to the Carrizo Plain National Monument, a vast (1,215 mi²) semidesert preserve 90 miles east of San Luis Obispo in the southern Inner Coast Range of California. Carrizo Plain hosts the state’s largest remnant native grassland, which was spared from development by remoteness and lack of water, and is also too arid to be completely overrun by non-native grasses. It’s a major refuge for threatened and endangered wildlife and has been protected since 1988.
In wet years like this one, the hillsides come alive with scenes like this flower-painted hillside:
The plain was formed by the San Andreas Fault, visible as the long narrow escarpment in front of the hills:
Mormon-tea (Ephedra californica), a common shrub, is a “nurse plant” for some wildflowers that grow best in its shade. The pink rings around these shrubs are Parry’s Mallow (Eremalche parryi) and the blue rings are Nightshade (Solanum umbelliferum); in between shrubs is Goldfields (Lasthenia californica):
Desert Candle (Caulanthus inflatus), the most Dr. Seussian of wildflowers:
Wildlife-wise our most exciting sighting was the San Joaquin Antelope Squirrel (Ammospermophilus nelsoni), a threatened species found only in this region. It jerks convulsively while giving its alarm calls, as it’s doing in this picture, and also responds to the alarm calls of birds:
Framing birds against wildflower backdrops was my pastime on this trip; here are a few.
Today’s batch of photos comes from regular reader and photo-provider Mark Sturtevant, who notes, “This batch is unusual in that it includes a vertebrate.” Mark’s notes and IDs are indented (the links are also his), and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.
Here are more wildlife pictures that were taken a couple summers ago, all in the general vicinity of where I live in Michigan.
One of the locally unique kinds of insects that can be found in what I call the Magic Field is the oil blister beetle (Meloe sp.). I don’t think it a stretch to say that they have one of the strangest reproductive biologies in the animal kingdom, as summarized here. The individual shown below is a male, and I have just learned at this writing that their specialized antennae are used to clasp the female antennae during mating. The second picture was taken with my wide-angle macro lens.
Next up are a couple staged pictures of a brown lacewing, possibly Micromus posticus, which came to the porch light one evening. A trick well known in the hobby is that membranous wings can give a nice iridescent effect if you photograph them against a dark background.
Here is a thread-legged bug, Emesaya brevipennis, which also came to the porch light. These large-ish walking stick-like predatory Hemipterans have incredibly long rear legs, as can be seen in the linked picture. When sitting still, they eventually take on this pose where their mantis-like fore-legs are positioned as shown.
Next up is a staged photograph of a helmeted treehopper, Glossonotus acuminatus. I don’t see this species in my immediate area, but they are common a couple hours south of me.
The next picture is another treehopper, Entylia carinata, photographed in my backyard. It was being tended by what look to be false honeypot ants, Prenolepis imparis. These ants seek the sugary secretions from fallen fruits and also from plant feeding Hemipterans, and their abdomens can become quite engorged as a result. There were actually so many ants that it was hard to see the treehopper. But this picture was made as a composite of several pictures, pieced together with layer masks to remove most of the ants and to show more of the treehopper.
Next up is a monarch butterfly, Danaus plexippus, sleeping in a cherry tree at a local park. Taken very late in the season, this one was perhaps on its southward migration.
Lastly, I have a cherry tree in the yard, and here is an Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus),having a nibble from some of the old fruits as fall and winter began to set in. It was definitely suspicious of me.
I decided to have the AI art generator Dall-E 2 produce some different interpretations of that last picture, and here are some results. All I did was drop the picture in, and these came out. I don’t know how it seems to know what it’s looking at.
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.