Readers’ wildlife photos

June 24, 2022 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos come from UC Davis ecologist Susan Harrison. They’re birds, with one mammal thrown in for fun. Click the pictures to enlarge them.

BTW, I have enough photos for less than a week, so once again this feature is circling the drain.

Malheur National Wildlife Refuge, May 6-11, 2022

Malheur NWR, in the high sagebrush desert of southeastern Oregon, is, alas, recently best known for having its headquarters taken over in 2016 by anti-government extremists.  Much more significantly, it’s a migratory stopover on the Pacific Flyway and a rich breeding ground for resident wildlife.  Even in the current severe drought, snowmelt from 9,700-foot Steens Mountain provides water to the Donner und Blitzen River at the head of the refuge.  During our May visit, an unseasonable storm was the biggest challenge for the birds (and the birdwatchers).

Steens Mountain:

Prairie Falcon (Falco mexicanus) in the snow:

Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) female in the snow:

Blue Grosbeak (Passerina caerulea), several hundred miles north of the species’ normal breeding range in the California Central Valley.  Maybe it got confused in the storm.

Sagebrush Sparrow (Artemisiospiza nevadensis) singing on a rainy and snowy morning:

American Kestrels (Falco sparverius) huddling together for warmth… or is it love??

Great Horned Owls (Bubo virginianus) nesting in a cave.  Look closely to see mom, dad, and a fluffy youngster:

Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) on her nest:

Wilson’s Warbler (Cardellina pusilla):

MacGillivray’s Warbler (Geothlypis tolmiei):

Black Tern (Chlidonias niger):

Lark Sparrow (Chondestes grammacus):

Sandhill Cranes (Antigone canadensis):

Burrowing Owl (Athene cunicularia):

American Badger (Taxidea taxus):

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 14, 2022 • 8:00 am

We have a very few large sets of photos left, so I’m conserving them by putting up just a few today. Get those photos in! Reader’s notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Two photos from Diana MacPherson:

Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus) Holding in Hands

First Male Ruby-Throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) of Spring 2022:

And from Bobby Math:

As someone who’s both familiar with the Cambridge area and who appreciates wildlife photos, I thought you’d appreciate these two photos I took of a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) standing at the edge of the Charles River at night. In, you’ll see the shining dome of MIT (yes yes, second fiddle in Cambridge!) as well as some other accompanying buildings on the Cambridge shoreline that you may or may not be familiar with. One of the photos offers a wide-angle view, while the other – taken shortly after, is a bit more zoomed in on the heron.

And from Lenora Good in Kennewick, Washington.

Just a block from my apartment complex. We get them in our ‘lake’ too.”

It’s Paradise! There are other pictures of wildlife (including more mallards) on her website, “Coffee Break Escapes with Auntie Leora“.

Reader’s wildlife photos

June 4, 2022 • 8:00 am

It’s been a while since Doug Hayes sent us his “Breakfast Crew” photos of birds at his home feeders, but here’s a new batch. Doug’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them:

Another installment of the Breakfast Crew from Richmond, Virginia. These photos were taken from January to about a week ago. The first crop of babies has started to show up: starlings, mockingbirds and Carolina wrens so far. We should be seeing some baby Cardinals soon.

House sparrow (Passer domesticus) not letting a bit of snow get in the way of a free meal.

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata) We don’t see very many of these around the yard as they prefer the more heavily wooded areas around Forest Hill park and are a bit skittish, flying away when they spot humans or dogs.

Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) There has been a population explosion among the Carolina wrens. There are over a dozen regulars who show up almost every day. They are very curious birds – they have to check out every box or item left lying around.

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) This has also been a good year for mockingbirds, with more of them in the neighborhood than previous years.

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis): probably the most common bird in the yard. They tend to be the first arrivals shortly after sunrise and are the last to leave after sunset.

House Finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) Shot in early spring, this pair is engaging in “courtship feeding”. The male will keep the female fed while she is brooding. He will also gather food for the babies when they hatch.

Brown Thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) Although they usually keep to the brush at the rear of the yard, this one has developed a taste for suet.

Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) A huge flock of these birds showed up a few weeks ago. The entire flock goes from a large cedar tree about two blocks away to the trees in my next door neighbor’s yard. They will go back and forth between the two yards several times a day.

Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura) They hang out in the yard much of the day. They alternate perching on the feeders with scavenging seeds on the ground.

Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor) One of the more numerous small birds that visit the feeders. They grab a choice morsel and fly off to a safe location to eat.

American Robins (Turdus migratorius) This birdbath is obviously not big enough for the three of them.

Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) These birds are fairly common around the yard. The camera’s eye autofocus has no problem locking on to these birds’ eyes.

Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) I had seen hummingbirds zipping around the yard a few weeks ago and decided to put the nectar feeder out. No more than an hour later, this one showed up for a drink.

Chip Monk, the Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) Chip lives in the base of our home generator. She is most active early mornings and during rainy weather. Although she mostly scavenges around the seed feeders, I have seen her climb the trellis to eat suet.

Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea) My neighbor (an avid birder) got word that Indigo buntings had been spotted along the Lake Hanover Nature Trail. So we took a road trip in search of the birds. Unfortunately, it was very overcast and threatening to rain at any moment. We walked for several miles without seeing a single bird of any kind. Just as we were about to give up, this little guy showed up and hung around for 20 minutes or more.

Photography note: Sony A1 camera body, Sony 200-600 zoom lens plus 1.4X teleconverter, ISO 3200-5000, shutter speed and aperture dependent on lighting conditions. All shots hand held.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 15, 2022 • 9:00 am

Today we have ELKS, with photos taken by Emilio d’Alise. Emilio’s notes are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Yellowstone 2002 – Elks

In 2002, we loaded our Suburban, picked up my father-in-law, and left Michigan for a visit to Yellowstone. We usually flew places and rented cars, but this first major driving trip cemented our love of long road trips.

We saw lots of interesting sights as we crossed Illinois, Wisconsin, Minneapolis, South Dakota, Montana, and Wyoming, but this is about Elks (Cervus canadensis), also known as the wapiti, we saw in Yellowstone.

This is the first elk we saw as we crossed into Yellowstone at the North Gate after leaving Gardiner, MT.

The next elks we saw were just outside Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone NP proper. The two below look like the same elk, but they’re not (you can tell by the number of points and shape of their racks).

Bugling elks:

If they’re not bugling, they’re listening . . .

. . . or watching the photographer . . .

Hint: in our humble opinion, late Fall and late Spring are the best times to visit the park.

We’ve been to Yellowstone a number of times, and there’s always a herd of Elks in Mammoth Hot Springs (the males occasionally attack passing cars, something one can find on YouTube), but I don’t have any photos of that herd worth sharing from that visit.

A quick word of advice about photographing wildlife and being around large animals like Elk, especially during the mating season . . . don’t get close! Some of these photos appear as if I’m violating that advice, but here are two photos illustrating how far I kept:

The photos were taken with my then brand new Nikon D100, the first ‘prosumer’ digital camera I owned. At 6MP, it’s far behind even what’s available from the resolution on my phone’s camera, but still miles ahead of it (and most point-and-shoot cameras) as far as image quality. Yes, I still own it, and I still fire it up to make sure it works.

For all these photos, the lens of choice was the Nikon 75-300mm f/4.5-5.6, a relatively inexpensive lens that I should have kept but that I sold after buying better lenses.

But, back to elks . . . that male was herding the female toward his other stable of females.

I have a limited number of shots from that session because the memory cards I had at the time maxed out at 1GB, or about 100 photos per card when shooting RAW. I had multiple cards, but we encountered this herd in the evening, on the Madison River, as we were heading back to our hotel on West Yellowstone. Meaning, all my cards were nearly maxed out and I had to switch to shooting JPGs just to get these shots. Side note: the memory card on my current Nikon D7500 allows me to snap over 22,000 photos — at 27MB each — before I run out of memory, or twice as many photos as I shoot in a year . . . but the camera also records movies in 4K, and movies chew up a lot of memory.

Even as JPGs captures, these photos are some of my favorites from the park.




Watching me:

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 7, 2022 • 8:45 am

Please send in your photos, as the tank falls ever  lower.  I know it’s harder to take photos when it’s cold outside, but south of the Equator it’s Summer!

Today we have bird pictures from Paul Edelman, whose narrative and IDs are indented. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

This is the second set of pictures from my trip to Harns Marsh in Lehigh Acres, FL. The first set focused on wading birds in the marsh.  These photos are of other birds, mostly raptors,  that live in and around the marsh. Plus, there will be a guest appearance by an otter.

Flying above the marsh were a juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), a Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) flying with material to build its nest, an Osprey (Pandion haliaetus),   and a Black Vulture (Coragyps atratus).  Perched in some high grass is an American Kestrel (Falco sparverius).  In some  piles of debris was a Loggerhead Shrike (Lanius ludovicianus) eating a small lizard.

Juvenile Bald Eagle:

Red-Shouldered Hawk:


Black Vulture:

American Kestrel:

Loggerhead Shrike:

There are many things to see in a marsh other than birds. We noticed this otter [North American River Otter, Lontra canadensis]swimming in a  canal that feeds the marsh.  It disappeared under the water and when it surfaced it had caught a very large fish which it dragged to shore and began to eat. The flock of black vultures noticed the feast and flew at it.  The otter took his food and ran into the forest where the vultures couldn’t find him.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 5, 2022 • 9:00 am

Today’s photos are of the Galápagos Islands and its wildlife, taken by reader Joe Baldassano. His commentary and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Attached are some photos of my November 27 thru Dec 6, 2021 trip to the Galapagos Islands.

First, you will recognize the Island below (not named in the attachment) as Daphne Major. I want to mention to your readers that this was the site of Peter and Rosemary Grant’s studies of finches which led to the book The Beak of the Finch, a work I highly recommend. This island is off limits to visitors without special permission from the government.

During this trip, I visited the islands of Genovesa, Balta, St. Cruz, Santiago, and Isabella.  Most of the wildlife has no fear of humans and I believe credit for that rests with the government of Ecuador.  All excursions into the islands are closely regulated and visitors are accompanied by a well-trained naturalist. You can get very close to the animals, but no contact is permitted.

Each island offered an opportunity for snorkeling, and I was able to swim with sea lions, fur seals, sea turtles, manta rays, white tip sharks, and penguins. On one particular snorkeling excursion, a large sea gull did not welcome our presence and swam over to me and began pecking at my goggles; he/she was not happy and began pecking at my arm. I just swam backwards and the gull focused attention on my snorkeling buddy by ripping one of the filters off of his underwater camera.  It was very exciting provided and comic relief for all of us.

Seeing the giant tortoises and all of the wildlife found nowhere else was a gift,and I would encourage any follower of your WEIT site to put the Galapagos Islands on their bucket list.

Nazca Booby (chick):  Sula granti:

Blue Footed BoobySula nebouxii:

Galapagos Sea LionZalophus wollebaeki:




Magnificent FrigatebirdFregata magnificens:

Galapagos HawkButeo galapagoensis: 

Galapagos penguinSphensicus mendiculus: 

Galapagos short-eared owlAsio flammeus:

Ground Finch: (I do not know which finch I photographed; there are six different ground finches):

Land Iguana:  Conolophus subcristatus:

Red footed booby: Slua slua websteri:

With egg:

Round Shell Tortoise: Chelonoidis Nigra:

Saddleback Tortoise: Chelonoidis becki:

Sea (Marine iguana): Amblyrhynchus cristatus:

Green Sea TurtleChelonia mydas mydas:

Swallow-tailed gull: Larus furcatus:

Yellow warbler: Dendroica petechia aureola:

Darwin Research Station [b: An especially good photo!]:

Readers’ wildlife video and photos

February 3, 2022 • 9:00 am

Today we have a video and a couple of photos from a couple of readers. (All readers’ comments and IDs are indented; click photos to enlarge them.)

The video below comes from Avi Burstein, who sent this information:

I just caught this footage outside my home in the Catskills of a woodpecker creating a nest. Thought you’d enjoy it. Feel free to share it with your readers. I was inside my home while filming so no audio.

I believe this is a pileated woodpecker, (Dryocopus pileatus).

From Bryan Lepore:

Dear PCC(E) – the early morning walk revealed a breathtaking decoration of hoarfrost on a lilac (Syringa vulgaris). It brought to mind the absolute zero discussion. I picked out this particular detail for a more artistic interpretation. Perhaps a story can be invented for it by the beholder:

Some plants from Hawaii by Emilio d’Alise. I’m not sure, nor is he, whether these are native or introduced, nor do we have the species or IDs (His note on our first batch was “here are a bunch of flowers photos from when I lived in Hawaiʻi.”) Just enjoy the beauty:

On January 15 I published a few photos by Christopher Moss of a pair of squirrels fighting over a feeder full of sunflower seeds.  They achieved a temporary truce, but then. . .

Here are the remaining pictures of the squirrels learning to tolerate each other. Their truce didn’t last long, as they were back to fighting noisily yesterday.

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?