Readers’ wildlife photos

August 21, 2021 • 8:00 am

PLEASE send in your wildlife photos, as I have only a few days’ worth before I run out. You wouldn’t want that to happen, do you? Please make sure they’re good pics, of the quality that we see on this feature.

Today we have a melange of photos from several readers. Their captions are indented and you can enlarge their photos by clicking on them.

First, a yellow garden spider from Killian Sharp:

Argiope aurantia was just relaxing in its web amongst my friend’s tomato plants in SW Ontario.

From Julia Sculthorpe:

I have been taking pictures of wildlife in the various wildlife refuges in the Denver metro area. These were taken in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

The dragonfly and toad blend into their surroundings. The toad was very hard to photograph as he jumped at  almost any moment I made.


Can you spot the toad and dragonfly (the insect is easier)?

From Laurie Berg:

Immature eagle with former mouse

From Rachel Sperling:

I was saving this photo for when I had more to share, but I saw your request this morning. I’m pretty sure this is a dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus). I encountered it on the New York section of the Appalachian Trail earlier this month. In addition to insects (not sure what type of beetle this one has caught) larger ones are able to catch fish. According to Wikipedia, their bodies are covered with hydrophobic hairs that allow them to run on water (suck it, Jesus). When they submerge, the air trapped in these hairs becomes a thin film, allowing them to breathe underwater; the air makes them quite buoyant, so they have to hold onto a twig or a rock in order to stay submerged. I think they’re really cool.

Also sharing a photo I took last night of the ALMOST full strawberry moon. This is from a park in Meriden, Connecticut, which has a lovely ridge that offers views to the east and west. This was taken around 8:30.

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 16, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from Jamie Blilie, though the notes were written by his father James. Click on the photos to enlarge them.  And send in your wildlife/street/landscape photos, please!

Here’s another lot from our wildlife photographer, my son Jamie, age 17.  He captured these in about 10 minutes on the pond behind our house, yesterday afternoon (12-Jul-2021).  We are in Ramsey County, outside St. Paul, Minnesota. We have amazing wildlife (our bird list seen from the house fills three columns on letter-sized paper, single spaced) even though we are only 20 minutes by road from both downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul).

My wife and I were enjoying our back deck after lunch and suddenly there were three otters (Lontra canadensis) swimming around, cavorting (as otters do – it must be fun to be an otter), and hunting vigorously.  We saw them eating many small fish.  We’ve seen single otters in the pond before, but never three at once.  I guess that they are mother and two young offspring.

We called Jamie out and he got some good photos.  (Otters move fast and they are mostly under water.)

First the otters.  One swimming away from our shore, one looking back at us, and one on the far side, munching an unlucky fish: I think a Black Bullhead (Ameiurus melas).  This end of our pond has been alive with hunters:  Herons, Belted Kingfishers (Megaceryle alcyon), Ospreys (Pandion haliaetus; they nest in the park on the other side of the pond every summer), and Norther Pike (Esox lucius; of which Jamie has caught (and released) many this summer)

Next a shot of our resident Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), who is sitting very still and flattened to the ground just at the edge of the water until the otters leave!  His burrow is very nearby, just underwater on that far bank.

Next, two shots of a Green Heron (Butorides virescens), one with his crest raised high.  These nest in the trees along the pond and seem to bring off a successful brood (I’m sure a series of pairs) every year.  (I think these were from the same day; but not 100% sure.)

Finally, a proud mother Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos), guarding her second (or third?) brood of the summer. She stood guard over them as the walked around the edge of the pond, just at the water line, busily munching up something they really liked, perhaps insects.  They walked about 100 or so yards as we watched them.  Hungry little ducklings!

 Jamie’s equipment:  Nikon D5600, Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0-6.3 DG OS HSM

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 14, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your photos!

Today’s batch is quite diverse in content, and comes from reader Leo Glenn, whose notes are indented. You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

I haven’t been able to take many photos lately, and my archive is fairly disorganized, so here is a somewhat random collection of photos. The only thing tying them together, really, is that they were all taken within walking distance of my house in western Pennsylvania. I’ve also included a “macro” photo that you could use as a “What am I?” quiz, if you so desire. The subsequent photo is the reveal.  [JAC: I’ll put it below the fold.]

American giant millipede (Narceus americanus), a relatively common sight on my daily dog walk:

Gray treefrog (Dryophytes versicolor), so named because they can change color from gray to green or brown. Far more often heard than seen, this one was down near the ground and politely lingered long enough for me to take its picture:

Another organism with the species name versicolor, the Turkey Tail mushroom (Trametes versicolor)

Yellow morel (Morchella esculenta), from my secret morel patch:

Crown-tipped coral fungus (Artomyces pyxidatus):

Our mulberry tree had a bumper crop this year, which attracted many bird species, including this Black-billed cuckoo (Coccyzus erythropthalmus), seen here, though, on a neighboring red maple (Acer rubrum).

Red-headed bush cricket, also known as a Handsome trig (Phyllopalpus pulchellus):

Pennsylvania leatherwing, also called a goldenrod soldier beetle (Chauliognathus pensylvanicus):

And a photo from this past winter. Even the Eastern gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) were social distancing:

Finally, here’s the photo for the “What am I?” quiz:

To see the reveal, click “read more”:

Continue reading “Readers’ wildlife photos”

The marvelous beaver

August 13, 2021 • 12:30 pm

This is a wonderful ten-minute BBC Earth summary of the life of the beaver, narrated by David Attenborough. There are two species of this rodent: the North American beaver (Castor canadensis) and the Eurasian beaver (C. fiber).

This is about the North American beaver, as European beavers are very rare, and almost went extinct. One of the best parts of the video is the footage from the first installation of infrared cameras inside the beaver lodge, showing them being active in winter (they also have some muskrat freeloaders). I also like their underwater “refrigerator” where they store their food (in winter:  tree bark and cambium, the growth layer inside the bark). In general, they’re herbivores, but they store trees in winter for food by sticking them into the lake bed.

Beavers have so many diverse adaptations that they’re worth marveling at, and also wondering about their whole lifestyle got started. After all, their famous behavior is the creation of lakes and ponds by damming up streams with wood, and how the hell did that get started? And their complicated dams! (I suppose Eric Hedin, unable to figure it out, would say that beavers are proof of God.)

There must be hypothetical scenarios for the gradual evolution of beavers and their behaviors from other rodents (their closest living relatives are gophers and kangaroo rats), but I don’t have time to look it up. (A kindly reader can oblige).

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 3, 2021 • 8:00 am

I’m running out of photos to post, so once again I importune readers to send me their good wildlife/landscape/street photos. The need is urgent. Thanks!

Today we have a melange of photos from several readers. Their captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

First up are moose and elk photos from Stephen Barnard in Idaho.

I had another visit from mama moose and the twins. Not knowing the moose [Alces alces] were in the front yard, I let my dogs out to confront them face-to-face. The dogs started barking like crazy, of course, but obediently came back in. Mama and the twins were unperturbed and kept browsing on my shrubbery, finally crossing the creek in the usual place.

I don’t normally see elk [Cervus canadensis] herds in this field this time of year, because I’m normally growing barley or alfalfa so the farm hands scare them off. This year, because of the irrigation restrictions, I’m not growing anything, so there’s no one to bother them. The air is clouded with smoke from wildfires.

From Leo Glenn:

Here are a few that I took back in May of a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianusdoe and newborn fawn. This was just beyond our orchard in our back yard, in western Pennsylvania.


From Laurie Berg:

Immature eagle with former mouse

Limpets from  Ken Phelps:

And from Diana MacPherson:

I took this on my iPhone of the tiny little thing. This pseudoscorpion lives in my bathroom enjoying the humidity.  Isn’t he/she cute?

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 16, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from young Jamie Blilie, but the captions and IDs (indented) are from his father Jim. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Here’s another batch from my son, Jamie, the real wildlife photographer in the family. All of these are taken from our yard or within a couple of miles of our house. In the linden tree directly behind our house, (Tilia americana), Jamie captured male and female Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) – tough job for the camera’s AF! and a Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis).  Not all at the same time of course.  Cooper’s Hawks are frequent visitors, probably attracted by the heavy bird traffic behind our house.  I have seen Cooper’s Hawks take Robins (Turdus migratorius)and Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) over our back yard.

Male cardinal:

Female cardinal:

Cooper’s Hawk:


Next, we have a turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), taken in our back yard.  Turkeys have become very numerous and aggressive in our area.  I never saw a (wild) turkey until the 2000s.  They have really made a comeback.

Next is our resident Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), taken this spring.  You can still see some hunksof ice on the pond.  We see him motoring around our pond nearly every day. He is a very endearing animal.

Next are some birds taken at a very nearby lake (Lake Vadnais) where Jamie likes to go fishing in the summer.  First three shots of Common Loons (Gavia immer).  An adult breeding pair and one baby loon.  In one shot, one of the adults is giving the crouching posture, which is sometimes a prelude to the “yodeling” call.  In another of the shots, the two adults are offering food to the baby.

Also at Lake Vadnais, some shots of one of your favorite birds:  Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). One mother with a nearly-grown brood of youngsters.  In the other shot, a mother providing shade for her duckling.

Finally, our home beast Rascal (Felis catus), relaxing in spring sunshine. He is a very old beast, 14 or 15 years.  But still going strong.

Jamie’s equipment:  Nikon D5600, Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0-6.3 DG OS HSM

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 15, 2021 • 8:00 am

Keep those photos coming in, folks, and thanks to those several people who have answered my plea. But there’s always an aching need for more good photos!

Today we have another installment of the famous “Breakfast Crew” series from Doug Hayes of Richmond, Virginia. Doug’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Part 15 of the Breakfast Crew.  Folks who enjoy feeding birds have had a bit of a scare the past few weeks. Birds have been dying in great numbers West Virginia, Northern Virginia and several states along the east coast. No one is sure if it is a disease or the result of people spraying to control cicadas. Folks were asked to remove bird feeders and clean them and bird baths with a bleach solution until authorities get a handle on what is going on. We got the OK to resume feeding birds last week as no signs of the mystery illness has been seen in our area. All of the Breakfast Crew are healthy, in fact, we have a bumper crop of cardinals, grackles and starlings this year. There are at least six cardinal fledglings new to the yard (I don’t think they are all from the same brood) and more grackles than I can count.

A flock of house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) mobbing the feeder.

A female house finch not about to back down from this young cardinal.

Peanut Girl, the red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) doing her thing.

A common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) giving me the evil eye. Most people consider them pests, but I enjoy watching them squabble among themselves over a place at the feeders, and their eyes are hypnotic!

A male eastern towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus) scavenging for seeds with a cardinal fledgling.

A female eastern towhee. She and the male are becoming regulars in the yard. Towhees usually prefer more heavily wooded areas.

A mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) in the garden across from the feeders. The neighborhood is full of these birds, and you can hear them cooing all through the day.

A Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) and a female house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) share breakfast.

This female Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is keeping an eye out for hawks.

This northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) really enjoyed the new bird bath. It was splashing around in the water and running along the rim of the bath for several minutes.

A house finch coming in for a landing

This barred owl (Strix varia) was hanging out in the trees at the end of the yard. There are several mated pairs in the neighborhood and at Pony Pasture Rapids, so they are a fairly common sight. If you are up and around near sunrise, you can see them returning to their roosts after a night’s hunting. Eventually a group of birds swarmed the owl and drove it off.

Chip Monk, the eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) hanging out under the fire pit.

Camera info:  Sony A1 in crop sensor mode (A recent software update has made the bird eye autofocus even faster to acquire the subject and stay locked on!), Sony FE 200-600 zoom lens plus 1.4X teleconverter, ISO 3200 – 5000 depending on lighting conditions, 1/320 – 1/5000th second, f/11.

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 12, 2021 • 8:00 am

We are in serious trouble with the wildlife photos. I have about six contributions in the tank, but some are singletons or just a few photos. Please send me any good photos you have ASAP. Thanks!

Today we have photos from two contributors. Their captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Our first contributor is James Blilie:

I am not the wildlife photographer in the family; but I got this one this morning (this was sent in March). A White-tailed Deer doe (Odocoileus virginianus).  She was casually walking along the edge of the pond behind our house eating willow leaves and other leaves. She was completely unconcerned with my movements 150 feet or so away.

Here is a dragonfly (species unknown) waiting on our Columbine plant for the sun to warm it up.

Seven (7) Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) on the “Turtle Island” I recently installed (anchored) in out pond behind our house.  This is the third version of Turtle Island I’ve launched (the previous two eventually sank – Minnesota is hard on floating objects). I think I have it down now:  The floats are garden kneeling pads which appear to be polyurethane foam.  Gentle ramps on all sides for easy access.  We enjoy watching the turtles basking in the sun.  We have also seen Spiny Softshell Turtles (Apalone spinifera) in our pond and common Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are also very common.

Equipment:  Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III; LUMIX G X VARIO LENS, 12-35MM, F2.8 ASPH

Our second contributor is Art Williams:

Here are some shots of a bedraggled red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) that frequents the neighborhood. I hear him squawking nearly every morning and finally was able to get some decent photos. He was perched on a frequently visited dead pine tree, holding his left claw in a weird posture. When he took off, you could see his missing tail and flight feathers, as if he’d had a really rough week. I kinda feel for the guy ( I think it’s a male due to the smaller stature), with his sore feet and bedraggled appearance; hits a little too close to home.

I threw in a random shot of a Northern mockingbird (Minus polyglottos) in flight, leaping from a dense, tangled stage that seemed to amplify her mid-morning glottic reverie. They’re known to be very aggressive, mobbing cats, hawks and even postmen. I wonder if this one was off to harry the hawk.

The fawn of a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) was left on its own by a hungry doe as is prescribed by their DNA. The little guy curled up in our day lily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) outcropping, beside a well-traveled suburban street, and no one was the wiser.