Readers’ wildlife photos

January 15, 2022 • 8:30 am

Today we’ll finish up Susan Harrison‘s batch of photos from last fall. I accidentally posted part 2 of this series yesterday, so we’re going backwards. But this finishes the lot. Susan’s captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. I’ve added one picture from reader Christopher Moss:

Half Moon Bay, Oct. 16, 2021

Pillar Point Harbor at Half Moon Bay (San Mateo County, CA) is a fishing marina catering to ecotourists headed for the Pillar Point State Marine Conservation Area and Montara State Marine Reserve, which lie just offshore.

Pillar Point Harbor. Numbers of wintering Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) in the harbor are truly fantastic, especially to those of us old enough to remember when DDT made this a rare species.  Rachel Carson, here’s to you!

The rock breakwaters are also foraging habitat for Black Oystercatchers (Haematopus bachmani):

Just outside the harbor were many Common Murres (Uria aalge):

A California Sea Lion (Zalophus californianus) and a three-times-more-massive Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) amicably shared a buoy.

From Christopher Moss

 I am a film photographer, and enjoy using what are now considered antique cameras. I have been watching a pair of squirrels fighting over the feeder full of sunflower seeds. This was them sorting out the dominance, taken with a 1975 Olympus OM-2n on Kodak Portra 400 and home developed:

Since then, the less dominant individual has persisted and persisted (which may be a redundancy or an Irishism, but he, or she, really has!) and today they have after much chattering and squawking, decided to share the feeder. And, yes, there are photos, but they are taken with another antique camera, which was an Olympus half-frame SLR. This made negatives of half-size from 35mm film, and consequently my ’24-exposure’ film needs me to take 48 exposures. When they are all done I shall process the film and scan the negatives. I promise there will be cute pictures! Maybe this photo will serve as a ‘taster’ in the meantime?

The intriguing thing is this – are these totally unrelated squirrels who have agreed to be co-dominant and share the feeder, or are they nestmates with some remnant of fellow-feeling that allows them to share the feeder? I vote for the latter, even though I have only ever seen very young squirrels share the feeder before, and they were thus very likely to be tolerant of each other for co-nestling reasons.

JAC: I vote for the former!

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 14, 2022 • 8:30 am

Today we have a first batch of photos from ecologist Susan Harrison, taken in October last year at Half Moon Bay in California. Her captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Half Moon Bay, Oct. 16, 2021

Pillar Point Harbor at Half Moon Bay (San Mateo County, CA) is a fishing marina catering to ecotourists headed for the Pillar Point State Marine Conservation Area and Montara State Marine Reserve, which lie just offshore.

Out at sea were many pelagic birds, including Black-Footed Albatross (Phoebastria nigripes):

These Orcas (Orcinus orca) belong to the “transient” ecotype that hangs out offshore and eats marine mammals – most notably, calves of migrating Gray Whales (Eschrichtius robustus).  They are genetically distinct from the “resident” and “offshore” orca ecotypes, and some people believe all three should be designated as separate species.  We saw two mothers and three young, all individually known to the biologists studying them

Back ashore, we stumbled on a flock of Snowy Plovers (Charadrius nivosus), which hide by crouching in sand indentations.  How many can you count in the first picture?   (I see 10.)

Also on the beach and mudflats were Black-Bellied Plovers (Pluvialis squatarola), Sanderlings (Calidris alba), Marbled Godwits (Limosa fedoa), and other shorebirds.

Black-bellied plover and sanderlings:


Here’s an old joke about Sanderlings.  Question:  What do their dating profiles say?   Answer:  Likes to take long walks up the beach…. and down the beach…. and up the beach…. and down the beach….

Marbled Godwit:

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 13, 2022 • 8:46 am

When Hili didn’t go up by 7:15, I got people writing to me asking if I was okay. Thanks for the concern, and I’m fine. I was just lazy today and also got hung up printing a bunch of stuff to read. Also, the university is pretty much closed and I’m the only person in my building, which is wearing on me. Plus, the early-morning routine is hard in the winter (kvetch, kvetch. . .)

Okay, on to the readers’ wildlife. Today we have photos from reader Keith. His captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

California quail (Callipepla californica), male and female; as you and WEIT readers probably realize, the birds with the larger, teardrop-shaped ornamentation on the forehead are typically the males.

The covey was feeding alongside a trail adjacent to an open-canopy field of grass.

Steller’s jay (Cyanocitta stelleri):

A  beautiful, and cheeky, western bluebird (Sialia mexicana) who doesn’t think the rules apply to him. He’s probably correct.

Black-tailed deer (aka mule deer, Odocoileus hemionicus):

 Acorn woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus) and its stash tree, Arizona:


Unidentified bird. Readers?


Readers’ wildlife photos

January 11, 2022 • 8:45 am

Reader Gary Arndt sent in photos of a place I’ve longed to visit: South Georgia Island. Famous for Ernest Shackleton‘s desperate visit in an attempt to rescue his men after his ship was destroyed by an Antarctic icepack, it harbors Shackleton’s grave as well as one of the largest colonies of King Penguins anywhere.  Here’s where it is:

Gary’s captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

I thought my first submission would be for images I took on South Georgia Island when I visited back in 2012.South Georgia is one of the largest penguin breeding areas in the world. I saw at least five different species of penguin there, but by far the most prevalent are the King Penguins. The largest site for them is the area known as the Salisbury Plain, where you can find well over 100,000 penguins.

In addition to penguins, you can find fur seals as well. South Georgia used to be a big area for seal hunters in the early 20th century. The seal pups will often be found sleeping on Tussock Grass like this one.

This is a leucistic fur seal next to a normal fur seal. I actually saw several leucistic animals including some penguins on this trip, which is far more than I’ve probably seen anywhere else on Earth.

Some species of penguins have very cute chicks. King penguins are not one of them.

The reason why all the penguins are on land is so they can hatch their chicks and feed them until they are ready to go into the water and start feeding on their own. You can see lots of penguin vomit on the breasts of the chicks.

Rockhopper penguins are one of the other species you can find on South Georgia. I did occasionally see different penguin species intermixing, but mostly they kept to separate colonies.

Elephant seals can also be found on South Georgia. The males will spar with each other on the beach to establish dominance and to control their harems.

Most of the female elephant seals will just spend their time on the beach sleeping with the other females in their harem.

South Georgia was home to millions of seabirds. However, when whalers arrived in the early 20th century they brought rats which decimated the seabird population. Since I was there, they have completed their rat eradication program and it appears to be successful. Reports are that the seabird population has already rebounded and is growing rapidly.

South Georgia is best known as the location where Ernest Shackleton rescued his crew from the HMS Endurance. He landed on the south shore of the island and walked across the mountains and found this Norwegian whaling station called Stromness.

Shackleton’s remains were eventually moved to South Georgia Island and they rest today in the island’s only thing you can call a settlement: Grytviken.

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 10, 2022 • 8:30 am

Today’s photos, a mixed bag of taxa, come from reader Chris Taylor in Australia (that almost rhymes!).  His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Another set of photos:  all were taken at home on my property outside Canberra.

Black Fronted DotterelElseyornis melanops, at the edge of the dam next to the house.  These are quite common visitors, and have even tried to breed here. Unfortunately, their nest attempts have not met with success.

An Eastern Grey KangarooMacropus giganteus, on the dam above the house just before dawn.  Very common here; there are mobs of up to 50 that move between the forest reserves up above our house and the paddocks in the valley.

An Echidna, Tachyglossus aculeatus, ambling across one of the paddocks.

Eastern Long-necked TurtleChelodina longicollis. These are quite common in the farm dams and waterways around here.  Unfortunately, many fall victim to cars as they try to cross the roads – they just stop walking and retreat into their shell as a car approaches, with the inevitable result.

We quite often see snakes here.  The most venomous are the Brown snake, and the Red-bellied Black Snake, Pseudechis porphyriacus, pictured here. The Brown is reputed to have the third or fourth most potent venom of any snake, while the Red-belly comes in rather further down.  It is said that the red-belly will eat brown snakes, and so when they are around, brown snakes will not be a problem.  Just how truthful that is I can’t say, but the years when the red-belly was here we didn’t see a single brown.

A Jewel Beetle, Scutiphora pedicellata:

Welcome Swallows, Hirundo neoxena. The first photo is of a swallow nest and fledgeling in the roof of one of the sheds above where we parked our vehicles. So during the time when the young birds were still in the nest, we had to clean the car windows every time we wanted to drive out!

The second photo is of the swallows bathing in the dam below the house.  They would fly around, then almost hover for a moment, before dipping their breasts into the water.

Two photos of Willie Wagtails (Rhipidura leucophrys). A very common bird, and here all year.  First we see a bird coming in to land on a fence post.  The second is one of a nest.  This is constructed from spider web, and this nest was particularly cozy as it was luxuriously lined with Alpaca fleece that the birds had been able to gather from bits left in the paddock after we had shorn our animals!

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 3, 2022 • 8:30 am

The attrition of my stock is worrying, so please send in your photos!

Today’s pictures come from Reader Dave; his captions are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Attached please find the next (assorted) batch of photographs, captured across New York, Vermont, and Maine. All photos labeled “, ©DSF_ All Rights Reserved.”

Dispelling Enlil:

Blue Hour:


Birch Condensate:

Inertial Rift:


Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor):

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis):

Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis):

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 1, 2022 • 8:30 am

This is the second part of a two-part batch of photos by Matt Young (part 1 is here). His IDs and captions are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

I was in the Galápagos Islands during the end of December 2005, and the beginning of January 2006, bearing my trusty Canon PowerShot S30, with 3 megapixels and a 3X zoom. I took one or two pictures through an 8X monocular, but other than that I was on my own.

Mammals. The only mammals I saw, other than bipedal, were Galápagos sea lions, Zalophus wollebaeki.

A little snack:

And a nap:

Some geological features. Landscapes.

Lava tunnel. You could have easily crawled inside.

Lava flow.


Stubborn little plant.

Invertebrates. Sally Lightfoot crabs, Grapsus grapsus.

Painted locust, Schistocerca melanocera.

Tourist. Not exactly an invertebrate, but looking kind of spineless at the end of a hot day.

And for good measure, Machu Picchu.

Shrews do the conga

December 30, 2021 • 2:15 pm

Bruce Lyon brought this short video to my attention. How does a nocturnal mammal get about with her young?

The video asks why they do this? Well, it’s clear that it keeps the family together, and here’s one explanation:

Shrews are highly territorial animals and only socialise with one another in the mating season. Females have three or four litters of 5-7 young between May and September. Females are promiscuous and a litter may have two or three different fathers. Young shrews are occasionally observed following their mother in a ‘caravan’. Each shrew grasps the base of the tail of the preceding shrew so that the mother runs along with a line of young trailing behind. This behaviour is often associated with disturbance of the nest and may also be used to encourage the young to explore their environment.

How much exploring can you do when your nose is up your sister’s butt? Can you think of any other reasons?

Here’s a daytime conga:

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 16, 2021 • 8:15 am

PLEASE send in your wildlife/landscape/street photos. The holidays are nigh (9 shopping days before Coynezaa begins), so perhaps you’ll have time to gather some pictures and send them.

Today we’re going to see photos of the Australian Outback, continuing the trip of Linda Taylor that we saw yesterday. Actually, today’s photos are from the first part of her trip.  Linda’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. I put her first bit in not as self-aggrandizement but to show that we have some hard determinists among us. I will excuse the word “blog”!

I’m a big fan and I read your blog every day.  Of course there’s no free will and at times I have found that to be a comforting thought!

I’ve enclosed some photos of my 2015, it’s now or never, trip to the Bungle Bungles in Western Australia. Unfortunately there was precious little wildlife because of the cane toad invasion but the scenery is unique so I’ll let you decide if you want to show the photos. At that time I only had an iPhone but I have since upgraded to a better camera.

The entrance to Purnululu National Park:

It was the dry season and we hiked into the Bungles along the Piccaninny River bed.

Camp was set up in Piccaninny Crater, an ancient meteorite impact site. The left half of the pool was for swimming and the right half for drinking. No one got sick!

From the impact site five fissures or canyons spread out and each day we explored a different one. Here are Livistonia palms and plenty of fruit bats which due to their diet were not affected by the cane toads.

The pink pools:

Hiking up boulders tossed by the meteorite. Frighteningly deep crevasses between those boulders!

From Jerry:  I’ve enclosed a photo of Picaninny Crater from above taken from Wikipedia. The caption: “Landsat image of Piccaninny crater (circular feature in centre), Western Australia; screen capture from NASA’s World Wind program.”  You can see the five rivers flowing out of the impact area. 

Headline of the month!

December 13, 2021 • 9:15 am

I found this story mentioned on Facebook, and tell me: who would not want to read further? In fact, the story is true.

Saudi camel owners are illicitly injecting botox and giving their camels plastic surgery to make them more beautiful! I, for one, didn’t know that there was pride involved in owning a beautiful camel. Click the screenshot from NBC to read:

I will simply reproduce the whole story and try to find some pictures or videos of the beauty festival (my emphases below):

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi authorities have conducted their biggest-ever crackdown on camel beauty contestants that received Botox injections and other artificial touch-ups, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported Wednesday, with over 40 camels disqualified from the annual pageant.

Saudi Arabia’s popular King Abdulaziz Camel Festival, which kicked off earlier this month, invites the breeders of the most beautiful camels to compete for some $66 million in prize money. Botox injections, face lifts and other cosmetic alterations to make the camels more attractive are strictly prohibited. Jurors decide the winner based on the shape of the camels’ heads, necks, humps, dress and postures.

Judges at the monthlong festival in the desert northeast of the Saudi capital, Riyadh, are escalating their clamp down on artificially enhanced camels, the official news agency reported, using “specialized and advanced” technology to detect tampering.

This year, authorities discovered dozens of breeders had stretched out the lips and noses of camels, used hormones to boost the beasts’ muscles, injected camels’ heads and lips with Botox to make them bigger, inflated body parts with rubber bands and used fillers to relax their faces.

“The club is keen to halt all acts of tampering and deception in the beautification of camels,” the SPA report said, adding organizers would “impose strict penalties on manipulators.”

The camel beauty contest is at the heart of the massive carnival, which also features camel races, sales and other festivities typically showcasing thousands of dromedaries. The extravaganza seeks to preserve the camel’s role in the kingdom’s Bedouin tradition and heritage, even as the oil-rich country plows ahead with modernizing mega-projects.

Camel breeding is a multimillion-dollar industry and similar events take place across the region.

Now I understand: it’s all about the money! Sixty-six million bucks for the fastest and most beautiful camels!  If I had any desire to go to Saudi Arabia, I would go for this festival.

Here’s a 15-minute VICE video of a day at the King Abdulaziz Camel Festival in 20l8, including shots of camel racing (8 km in the desert with robot jockeys, but there’s cheating there, too!), and the famous beauty contest, which starts at 8:40.  What is judged is the collective beauty of each herd of 100 camels. A Saudi explains the criteria for a beautiful camel, including a long neck and lovely lips. They also explain the cheating (in that year 12 camels were disqualified for having Botox injections).  A prize camel can go for half a million dollars!

At the very end, the most beautiful herd is paraded past the spectators with much ceremony.

You MUST watch this video!