Readers’ wildlife photos

December 6, 2021 • 8:00 am

Do send in your photos if you have good ones. Today’s batch contains recent owl-related photos taken just recently by Paul Matthews in Canada. Paul’s notes are indented, and you can enlarge his pictures by clicking on them.

These photos were taken in the Ottawa area in Canada. The first series is from November 20, 2021, and the second (boreal owls) from December 5, 2021.

With winter on the doorstep, my first encounter of the season of a Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) was a memorable one. The presence of an owl usually greatly upsets the other birds in the vicinity, who will surround the owl in an aggrieved, even hysterical group, calling insistently (a behaviour known as mobbing). I don’t think mobbing is well understood. It often seems rather ineffectual, as the wise owl (see what I did there?) will simply wait out the harassment till its tormentors lose interest and go back to their normal activities. That said, a small to medium-sized owl being mobbed by little rather powerless passerines is one thing, and a medium to large owl being mobbed by ferocious corvids (crows and ravens) quite another. While I’ve never seen a corvid actually strike an owl during mobbing, the dive-bombing and other mock attacks within centimetres of an owl’s head must be very unsettling.

This snowy owl was also mobbed by Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis), American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and one Common Raven (Corvus corax). The raven really got in the owl’s face. Ravens are large birds with quite an imposing bill (compare with the smaller-billed crow in the background of one of the photos), but snowy owls are the heaviest North American species of owl and have rather fearsome weaponry. I really wondered whether the raven knew what it was doing but, as I returned to my car, I noticed it flying away, apparently unscathed. The owl, by the way, is likely a young female given the extensive barring. As with all owls, female snowies are larger than males. By the way, there is a mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) in one of the photos. Can you spot it?

As lagniappe (a word I learned from WEIT), I offer another winter owl, much smaller than the snowy: a Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus). This is the least frequently encountered of our regular owls, much sought, and I hadn’t seen one in several years. It tends to be very well hidden. If you’ve been paying attention you can probably guess how it was discovered: yes, it was being mobbed (by chickadees).

Did you spot the raven?

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 5, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have our Sunday aliquot of photos by biologist John Avise, and today’s subject is dear to my heart. John’s captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them:

Lake Merritt Ducks

Last week, I flew north to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Oakland, CA.  Near the center of that city is Lake Merritt, an estuarine jewel that has the distinction of being the United States’s first official wildlife refuge, designated in 1870.  I took the opportunity to repeatedly hike the lake’s 4-mile circumference, and here are some photographs I took of the ducks I encountered.  Several of these species (notably the Canvasback, Greater Scaup, and the Goldeneyes) are quite rare near my home in Southern California, so I was especially happy to
find them on this trip to a more northern part of the state.  [I hope I’ve identified the scaups correctly; the Lesser and Greater can be very difficult to distinguish!].

Part of Lake Merritt in its urban setting:

Ruddy Duck drake (Oxyura jamaicensis):

Ruddy Duck hen:

Bufflehead drake (Bucephala albeola):

Bufflehead hen:

Canvasback drake (Aythya valisineria):

Canvasback head portrait:

Canvasback hen:

Greater Scaup drake (Aythya marila):

Lesser Scaup drake (Aythya affinis):

Common Goldeneye drake (Bucephala clangula):

Another Common Goldeneye drake:

Common Goldeneye hen:

Common Goldeneye pair:

Barrow’s Goldeneye drake (Bucephala islandica):

Barrow’s Goldeneye hen:

Another Barrow’s Goldeneye hen:

 Mallard pair (Anas platyrhynchos):

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 4, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have assorted photos of MALLARD DRAKES courtesy of Emilio d’alise. His notes and captions, which are brief, are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.  He sent a lot of photos, so I had to make a judicious selection.  This is part 1 of several parts. To come: hens, landing, and flapping.

Mallard or wild duck (Anas platyrhynchos)

These mallards were all photographed in Monument, Colorado, on a pond behind the Public Library. There is a large population of ducks and geese that inhabit the pond nearly year-round, in part because people feed them.

Drakes feeding (this upside-down foraging is called “dabbling”:

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 3, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from reader Tony Eales in Queensland, and they’re lovely pictures of spiders. Tony’s captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here’s a grab bag of spiders I’ve photographed recently.

Firstly, two Arkys, my favourite spider genus.

Arkys speechleyi. These are relatively common in the right habitat but I haven’t seen this colour form before. The reddish-pink cephalothorax and legs are new to me. I like how it looks like it’s offering me some of its wasp(?) meal.

The other Arkys is A. cornutus, a species I haven’t seen in a few years. They are wonderfully colourful spiders in the 5-6mm range.

I recently found my first Carepalxis sp., a genus I’ve been hoping to encounter for a while. I find their bulbous faces quite mournful. They are rarely encountered spiders, hiding in the day and making a small orb web at night. The genus is present not just in Australia but also South and lower North America.

I also found a nice all-green member of the Araneus circulissparsus species complex. These are some of the prettiest small orb-weavers around. They often have yellow orange and deep red patches that look rather like a sherbet lolly we have called a fruit tingle.
The all-green one:

A more colourful one.

One I see commonly at night in the rainforests is the colourful Copa kabana in the family Corinnidae. The spider was described by Robert Raven in 2015. The genus name Copa already existed and I just think Robert Raven couldn’t resist the joke.

Another rather recently described spider from the family Lamponidae. This is a Gondwanan family with most species endemic to Australia but also found in New Guinea and New Caledonia. Two species have been accidentally introduced into New Zealand from Australia. Most members of this family are specialist spider-hunting spiders. I found this one, Centsymplia glorious, hunting through the moss on a tree trunk in the rainforest. This montotypic genus and species were described in 2000 from a specimen collected at Mt Glorious which it is named for and where I found this one.

I watched some interesting behaviour from this pair of net-casting spiders, Menneus sp. The female, on the left, was trying to hunt but constantly had to put down her net to chase off the amorous male, right. She’d pick the net up again, stretch it out, only to have the male come up and disturb her again.

Lastly, a cute little jumping spider that I encounter in the rainforest fairly regularly. Probably an undescribed member of the genus Tara. And when I say “small”, they are small!

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 2, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have the first of two installment of Cooper’s Hawks photographed by Greg Stewart in California. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Some time in 2011, a male Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) showed up in my backyard, attracted to birds at my birdfeeder in Orange County, California.  His injured left wing made him easy to recognize over the years. I raise feeder mice for snake food in my garage and soon began sharing some with the hawk.

He would disappear (migrate ??) in the spring and reappear in fall. Beginning in 2017, he stayed all year, found a mate and raised 3 young. This year (2021) is the 5th year he and his mate have successfully produced young here. Because he had adult plumage and a red iris in 2011 (Cooper’s Hawk eye color darkens with age), he could be 13 years old now. That’s pretty old for a breeding Cooper’s Hawk.

Old man and hawk:



Hawk on roof with feeder mouse:

Reaction to strange hawk in the area:



Nap after bath:

Preening after bath:


Fluffing after bath:

p.s. Hili’s brother Ziggy is living the good life in Laguna Beach, CA:

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 1, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have some nice raptor photos from Alan Clark in Liverpool.  His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the fearsome bird pictures by clicking on them. TRIGGER WARNING: Predation!

Here are some more photos for your Wildlife Photos section. The birds were all photographed at a recent photo shoot organised by a local Nature photography group, with birds provided by a falconer.

Peregrine falcon, Falco peregrinus. This species is widespread on all the unfrozen continents. It became endangered in some places because of the use of DDT, but has now recovered well. It has been used in falconry for over 3000 years, and is the fastest bird in the world, having been reportedly measured at 389kph/242mph in a dive.

Northern Goshawk, Accipiter gentilis. Widespread in the Northern hemisphere. The name means Goose hawk, as it is able to catch large species of birds.


Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Accipiter nisus. The same genus as the Goshawk, but a much smaller species. Found in much of the Old World North of the Equator. It is often seen in gardens. At one time in England it was thought that Cuckoos changed into Sparrowhawks in Winter.

Eurasian Eagle-Owl, Bubo bubo. Mostly nocturnal. This bird weighs 5 pounds and has a wingspan of 6ft.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 30, 2021 • 8:00 am

Reader Chris Taylor sent us some lovely photos of moths and butterflies, most from Australia. His captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

I’ve dug out some lepidoptera photos for your wildlife photos. These have been taken in many places over a long period of time.  They are mostly Australian, but a couple of ringers crept in there too .I know very little about any of them, other than the identification and place where the photo was taken.

Danaus plexippus, Monarch, Nelson New Zealand:

Dasypodia selenophora, Southern Old Lady Moth, Burra NSW:

Delias nigrina, Black Jezebel, North Richmond NSW:

Euploea core, Common Crow, Burra NSW:

Graphium macleayanum, Macleay Swallowtail, Jindabyne NSW:

Unidentified Hawk moth, Burra NSW:

Junonia villida, Meadow Argus, Tallawang, NSW:

Orgyia anartoides, Tussock moth caterpillar, Atherton Tablelands QLD:

Papilio anactus, Dainty Swallowtail, North Richmond NSW:

Pararge aegeria, Speckled Wood, Stalybridge UK:

Unidentified caterpillar,  North Richmond NSW:

Vanessa itea, Yellow Admiral, Bundanoon NSW:

Vanessa kershawi, Australian Painted Lady, Bilpin NSW:

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 29, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have photos from Rik Gern of Austin, Texas. His captions are indented and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

I recently traveled for the first time since the covid outbreak and spent a week in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. I didn’t bring home a t-shirt, but here are a handful of pictures to submit for consideration for your Reader’s Wildlife Pictures feature.

Coming in from Texas, one of the first things that struck me is that the tall pines put the lie to the boast that “everything’s bigger in Texas”! The trees that made the biggest impression on me were red (Pinus resinosa) and white (Pinus strobus) pines and  the balsam fir (Abies balsamea). Unfortunately, I don’t know the identities of the trees with the bare branches, but I like the way they look.

There is typically snow that far north this time of year, but the week I was there saw only a few days of light snow which melted after about 48 hours. You can see how beautiful the forest is with even a soft dusting of snow.

Light snow in the northwoods. There are white pines on the left and balsam fir in the middle.

Snowy Wisconsin lake:

Looking up at the pines helps to differentiate the white from the red pines. The red pine coming up from the left has needles that form in starburst clusters and has a distinctive crusty looking bark tinged with red, while the white pine coming up from the bottom has branches that sort of pancake out.

Young trees ready for the sun.

The area is dotted with small lakes, and the bulk of these pictures were taken on a small peninsula on one of those lakes. The reflections on the water give everything a magical look, and even the rotting tree stumps seem to have kind of a grandeur about them; if I squint my eyes they make me think of ancient crumbling castles.

Boat by the lake:

Morning sky reflected in the water:

Tree stump and pine needles:

Tree stump, moss, and pine needles:

This was taken on the west side of the peninsula just before the sun rose above the tree line.

Just around the corner from the previous picture, it’s the east side of the peninsula and taken a few minutes later, just after the sun topped the trees.

I’m not the all-around cat lover that you are, but when I find one I like, I really fall for it, and I just love my Mom’s little cat, Bella; she’s a gentle little sweetheart! Along with a visit to see my mother and the beautiful scenery, Bella was a huge highlight!

Here she is looking out a window and another picture where she looks kind of ominous, but in reality is just perched to see out the front door.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 28, 2021 • 8:00 am

It’s Sunday, and you know what that means: biologist John Avise has a themed collection of bird photos for us. His narration and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them:

Yellow Warbler and other yellow warblers

For common names in birds, upper-case letters conventionally refer to a particular species, whereas a lower-case letter means that the word is being used merely as an adjective.  For example, “Yellow Warbler” refers to a particular species (Dendroica petechia) whereas a “yellow warbler” could refer to any of several warbler species with yellow in their plumages.   Thus, a Yellow Warbler is a yellow warbler but a yellow warbler is not necessarily a Yellow Warbler.  This week’s post shows the Yellow Warbler plus several other yellowish warblers.  All photos were taken in Florida or southern California.

Altogether, about 36 warbler species (family Parulidae) breed in North America (not all have yellow in their plumages).  In my experience, these colorful and hyperactive arboreal sprites are very difficult to photograph.

Yellow Warbler, male (Dendroica petechia):

Yellow Warbler, female:

Wilson’s Warbler, male (Wilsonia pusilla):

Hooded Warbler, male (Wilsonia citrina):

Common Yellowthroat, male (Geothlypis trichas):

Common Yellowthroat, female:

Yellow-throated Warbler (Dendroica dominica):

Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus):

Prairie Warbler, male (Dendroica discolor):

Prothonotary Warbler, male (Protonotaria citrea):

Hermit Warbler, male (Dendroica occidentalis):

Townsend’s Warbler, male (Dendroica townsendi):

American Redstart, female (Setophaga ruticilla):

Yellow-rumped Warbler, male (Dendroica coronata):

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 27, 2021 • 8:00 am

It’s a holiday weekend: a good time to gather up your good wildlife photos and sent them here!

You ate the bird on Thursday, now look at the birds on Saturday. These photos come from Paul Edelman, a professor of law and mathematics at Vanderbilt University (is there another such position in the U.S.?).  Paul’s narration and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Here are some more pictures as I learn about the local wintering birds.  You can’t discuss winterers with mentioning the Tufted titmouse (Parus bicolor).  They are everywhere, moving in flocks. 


One of the few warblers that winters here is the Yellow-rumped warbler (Dendroica coronata) and, while not warbler, a similarly-sized winterer is the Golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa).


You’ve posted pictures of sparrows before but I saw some very pretty ones on my walk.  There was the Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) and a White-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicolis). 


Finally was a solitary Hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus) staring off into space.