Readers’ wildlife photos

September 25, 2021 • 8:00 am

We have a passel of hummingbird photos from reader Emilio d’Alise, which I’ll spread out over several posts. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

I lived in Colorado for 11 years and Colorado has eight species of hummingbirds, but during my time there, I’ve only been able to capture photos of three species (the ones that came to feeders I had up):

Broad-tailed Hummingbird

Rufus Hummingbird

Calliope Hummingbird

The photos I sent are a sampling from this 2012 blog post, and the SmugMug Gallery for that post is at this LINK. Anyone interested in the technical aspects of the photos (ISO, shutter speed, f-stop, etc) can find it by clicking on the “i” icon in SmugMug.

All of the photos were shot by me on my deck, often just a few feet from the birds. Almost all the photos are cropped for composition and to isolate the subject. In Colorado, I has something like twelve feeders around the house and went through about 25 to 30 pounds of sugar per season, all the more impressive because it’s a short season (they get there in late May and by mid-to-late September, they’re all pretty much gone).

Today we’ll look at one species, the Broad-tailed hummingbird (Selasphorus platycercus).

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 24, 2021 • 8:00 am

I have returned, and I hope that some of you have accumulated wildlife photos to send me for the cache. Now is the time!

Today’s contribution of spider photos is from Tony Eales of Queensland. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Spider guru Dr Robert Raven, Head of Terrestrial Biodiversity & Senior Curator of Chelicerata at the Queensland Museum, has been telling me for some time now that the way to survey for spiders is to leave your diesel engine running for a while, and the spiders will come crawling out of the surroundings like hypnotised zombies. I had tried this a few times with little success, but recently I tried it on some sandy loam in coastal heath near Bundaberg, Queensland, and it worked beyond my wildest expectations.

Big spiders, little spiders, huntsmans and jumpers and especially ground spiders all came out toward the car. As did a lot of native cockroaches. And at one site the engine vibrations seemed to induce a bunch of spiders to compulsively climb a small tree near the car. I can’t wait to try it again.

Here’s a small sample of some of the things that came running to the siren call of the diesel engine.

One of the larger spiders to come out (around 20mm) and an unusual one. Asadipus sp. There are only seven observations of this genus on iNaturalist. It comes from an Australasian family Lamponidae which has the undeserved reputation of giving necrotic bites, though there is no solid evidence for this idea.

This little guy is probably Epicharitus sp or something related. This genus of striking black and white spiders belongs to the family Gnaphosidae. This is a varied cosmopolitan family known rather unhelpfully as Ground Spiders. [JAC: Wikipedia notes that “Epicharitus is a monotypic genus of Australian ground spiders containing the single species, Epicharitus leucosemus.”, so that may be the species.]

This one is Mituliodon tarantulinus, also knowns as the Little Tarantula even though it’s not remotely related to tarantulas. It’s in the family Miturgidae with the ominous common name of Prowling Spiders.

This is a juvenile wolf spider (Lycosidae). As it’s so young, it’s hard to guess at the ID. Quite pretty, though.

By far the most common family attracted to the car were members of the family Zodaridae AKA Ant Spiders. This one is Habronestes hunti and the next two are ones I have yet to get an ID for.

And lastly a couple of the spiders that climbed the small tree in response to the engine vibrations. Hamataliwa sp from the Lynx Spider family Oxyopidae.

And a lovely male Helpis minitabunda: A jumping spider, family Salticidae.

Food in the Boston area

September 22, 2021 • 11:00 am

I have eaten very well on my vacation, having gone to several semi-upscale ethnic restaurants and also eaten well in the homes of two people who were kind enough to put me up. But I often forgot to use my camera when I was absorbed in the food, so I’ll present a melange of photos of different foods, restaurants, and the like.

First, though, a scene from Harvard Square, which has changed immensely since I arrived in Boston in 1972.  It’s gentrified now. My erstwhile favorite place to eat as a grad student, Elsie’s Deli (home of the huge “Fresser’s Dream” sandwich), has long disappeared. As has Steve Harrell’s ice cream shop, which made the best hot fudge sundaes in Massachusetts. The Coop is still there, and Cardullo’s is hanging on, but the magazine store in the center of the Square is defunct.

This is one thing that remains. If you listen to NPR, you’ll recognize the name of the fictional accounting firm on the third-floor window: “Dewey, Cheetham & Howe.”

Yes, it’s from Car Talk. Wikipedia has an entry for this fictional firm, which was also used as a joke by others.

The name of the DC&H corporate offices (otherwise known as the headquarters of the radio show Car Talk) is visible on the third floor window above the corner of Brattle and JFK Streets, in Harvard SquareCambridge, Massachusetts.

Tom and Ray Magliozzi, of NPR’s Car Talk radio program, named their business corporation “Dewey, Cheetham & Howe”. Their corporate offices were located on a third-floor office at the corner of Brattle and JFK Streets in Harvard Square in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The Magliozzi brothers declared that they established DC&H in 1989.

We went out several times, first to this excellent Spanish restaurant in Brookline, specializing in tapas. But I forgot to take pictures of the food! We had a fine Rioja with the meal, and were full after dinner. (The first question you have to ask when evaluating a restaurant is, “Did I get enough to eat?” If the answer is “no,” then you need go no further.)

The flavor board at my favorite ice-cream shop in the world, Christina’s Homemade Ice Cream in Cambridge.  If you go to Cambridge and don’t go here, you are a reprobate. There are usually many more flavors, but I expect the pandemic reduced the choice somewhat. Still, there are more flavors than you could try on several visits. I had the very best flavor, “burnt sugar” (the world’s best ice cream flavor) with a scoop of ginger-molasses, itself a wonderful combination. It was a great postprandial treat. They make ice cream the real way, dense and with all natural flavors. I wanted green tea with a scoop of adzuki bean, too, but I couldn’t pass up the burnt sugar.

Every reader here knows that my favorite British beer is Timothy Taylor Landlord, which has won Championship Beer of Britain four times and is a wonderful, tasty session ale that is not overhopped. It’s hard enough to find on tap in the UK, but there’s a bottled version as well, and four bottles were available in the Boston area. Andrew, my host, tracked them down and then cycled 22 miles to get those four bottles so we could have some. What a kind chap!

And even though it was bottled, it tasted nearly as good as a freshly-drawn pint in England. (As it had been kept in the fridge, we warmed the pints, 500 ml., up to 11°C in the microwave.)

Yesterday I moved to my second set of hosts, old Harvard friends Andrew and Naomi. Naomi is a world-class cook, and never uses recipes. I begged her not to go to any trouble to cook for me, as she always does, but she ignored my instructions and produced a wonderful dinner, which included this shepherd’s pie (a treat with a pint of Landlord!):

We also had a half avocado with lime for appetizer, green beans and baby asparagus on the side, and the apple-raspberry crumble below for dessert, served warm with vanilla ice cream.

I am allowed only one breakfast at this house due to Andrew’s insistence: two cakes of Weetabix with bananas as well as a strong mug of superb coffee. But Andrew is absolutely insistent on how one eats Weetabix. (He buys them by the case, and sometimes eats them three times a day when his wife is out of town: two for breakfast, four for lunch, and six for dinner. He is a Weetabix fanatic.)

Andrew displaying the breakfast item to come:

First, put two Weetabix biscuits, round side up (there are two different sides) in a wide, shallow bowl so that the milk doesn’t saturate the biscuit. The point is to retain most of the crunch of the biscuit while also getting the milk. You must always eat two Weetabix (I like three) as there are an even number of biscuits in the box and you don’t want to be left with just one. Four or six are permitted at other meals, but neer an odd number.

Half a banana is then sliced atop the biscuits with a sharp-edged spoon:

Then add milk, making sure to splash some atop the biscuits so they won’t be dry. The milk should be about a quarter-inch deep in the bowl.

Only then do you add the sugar, as you don’t want it dissolved in the milk when it’s poured:

Finally, tilt the bowl towards you so you can nip off a bit of biscuit and spoon it up with some milk, retaining the crunchiness but also getting the milk. For Andrew the consumption of the entire bowl takes about 40 seconds; he insists that speed is essential so that all the elements of the bowl are properly mixed with the right texture.

Here I am trying to eat properly. Note that I’m tilting the bowl:

I persuaded my first set of hosts to try Weetabix, and Andrew located one store in Cambridge that sold them. My hosts’ son-in-law went there and got a box, which was delivered yesterday by their granddaughter. I am curious about whether they’ll like Weetabix, as both of them eat only homemade granola (a different mix for each person) for breakfast. Son-in-law and second grandchild to the rear; photo used with permission.

I think this photo would make a great Weetabix commercial!

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 19, 2021 • 8:15 am

It’s Sunday, and of course we must have a selection of themed bird pictures from biologist John Avise, which I have with me. Remember to get your own photos together!)

John’s narrative and identifications are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Tilting and Bobbing

Rhythmic bobbing is an odd behavior shared by this week’s two featured avian species: the Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia), and the Louisiana Waterthrush (Sciurus motacilla).  As each bird walks along the bank of a stream or lake, it routinely bobs its booty as if listening to a musical tune.

Why do they do this?  I have no idea, but the question is on my bucket list of little queries I’d love to have answered.  [More generally, I never cease to be amazed by how genes apparently can prescribe even the most ethereal of characteristics– animal behaviors].

Another quirky behavior of the Spotted Sandpiper involves its flight mode. Characteristically, the bird flicks its wings below the horizontal and dangles its legs as it flits across a small body of water.

Louisiana Waterthrush tilting up:

Louisiana Waterthrush tilting down:

Louisiana Waterthrush in-between bobs:

Spotted Sandpiper frontal view of breeding plumage:

Spotted Sandpiper, side view of non-breeding plumage:

Spotted Sandpiper tilting up:

Spotted Sandpiper tilting down:

Spotted Sandpiper in-between bobs:

Spotted Sandpiper in flitting flight:

Another Spotted Sandpiper in flitting flight:

Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria); this is another species that
sometimes tilts and bobs:

JAC: I’ve put a video of a spotted sandpiper below; you can see the bobbing beginning about 24 seconds in.

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 18, 2021 • 8:00 am

I’m conserving my wildlife photos for when I return to Chicago, though tomorrow we’ll have another themed bird post from John Avise.

But here are two photos of mute swans (Cygnus olor) I took yesterday while taking my exercise in an energetic perambulation around Jamaica Pond. The swans must have been accustomed to people, as they didn’t move when I slowly approached them.

Mute swans are Eurasian in origin, and were introduced to the U.S.

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 17, 2021 • 8:00 am

We’ll have at least one set of wildlife photos this week, and here it is. But please collect any good ones you have to send me when I return in a week.

Today’s lovely flower photos come from Alan Clarke of Liverpool. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the blossoms by clicking on the photos:

Here are some close-ups of flowers for your Wildlife Photos feature.

First are Geranium versicolor and then a Geranium hybrid. Versicolor means variously coloured – the leaves have brown markings so the name is very apt.


Stapelia glanduliflora:

Two Echinopsis cactus hybrids:

Begonia ‘Marmoratta’. A garden hybrid.

A seed head of a Banksia:

The final photographs were taken at the Royal Horticultural Society’s new garden at Bridgewater, near Manchester, which opened this year. I have already been there four times!

Two Pelargoniums.

Tricyrtis, the Toad Lily. Several stacked images to give plenty of depth-of-field.

And finally a Cosmos, again with stacked images.

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 16, 2021 • 8:00 am

I haven’t yet decided whether to post wildlife photos for the week I’m in Boston, as photos sent to me there to replenish my waning stock might get lost. If you have some good photos to send, and I hope you do, please hold onto them until late next week.

Today’s photos come from Peter Sansun in England, whose ID’s and caption are indented. You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

Here are a few sample nature pictures that you may wish to consider for publication. The bird pictures were all taken within a short walk from my home here in the UK,  on the outskirts of London.

I have included the Linnean names (where known) in the picture titles.

Barnacle goose (Brantia leucopsis):

Eurasian coot chick (Fulica atra):

Cygnetsof the Mute swan (Cygnis olor):

Green  (ring necked?) parakeets (Psittacula krameri).  The putative origins of this feral population are quite amusing; see here.

Marsh warbler (Acrocephalus palustris):

European robin (Erithacus rubecula):

Spider web droplets:

Heath lobelia (Lobelia urens):

Readers’ wildlife photographs

September 15, 2021 • 8:00 am

We have more photos from Paul Edelman, a professor of Mathematics and Law at Vanderbilt University. His notes are indented below, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. I’ve put them in the order he lists in the second paragraph below:

In response to your call for bird photos, here are some recent ones.  This time of year is really hard for the novice birder because so many of the birds are either juveniles and hence not in their full plumage and so difficult to identify or they are still molting and, again, difficult to identify.  Thus all identifications below should be taken with a grain of salt.  If I get them wrong I hope your expert readers will correct me.  These photos were taken in and around Nashville with a Nikon D500 camera and a Nikkor 500mm f5.6 lens.

Here are some juveniles that look rather shaggy:  A juvenile Eastern Bluebird (Sialia sialis)  and a juvenile Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos).  Less disheveled is this juvenile Black-throated Green Warbler (Setophaga virens), a juvenile Wood Duck (Aix sponsa) and this Indigo Bunting (Passerina cyanea). Finally here is Ruby-throated Hummingbird (Archilochus colubri ) which may or may not be a juvenile, but I just really like this photo!

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 14, 2021 • 8:00 am

We have a decent backlog of photos now thanks to kind readers, but they continue to diminish at the rate of one batch per day, so please send yours in. Thanks.

Today we have regular Doug Hayes, who takes some lovely photos of the visitors to his bird feeders for his “Breakfast Crew” series. Doug’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Here is the 16th installment of the Breakfast Crew from Richmond, Virginia. The yard has been busy as usual, with a slightly different lineup. Last year, we were mobbed with starlings. This year, the cardinals have taken over with a big population explosion. It is not unusual to see as many as ten at the feeders or on the ground scavenging at one time. The females seem to get along pretty well, but the males spend much of their time chasing each other away from the food – and the females!

A juvenile American robin (Turdus migratorius) hanging out on the chicken wire enclosure we built around our tomato plants to protect them from squirrels (the little tree rats don’t eat the tomatoes, but will take a bite out of them just to assure themselves that they don’t like tomatoes).

A male house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) surveying the yard from the pomegranate tree that overlooks the feeders. These guys are as numerous as the cardinals. I haven’t seen any purple finches yet. They got hit pretty hard last year by Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, an eye disease that can cause blindness. The house finches seem to have weathered the storm OK.

Male and female house finches (Haemorhous mexicanus) sharing breakfast.

A Carolina chickadee (Poecile carolinensis) snags a tasty seed. Usually, the chickadees will grab a bit of food and fly away immediately. If things are quiet, they will place a seed between their feet while perching on the feeder and peck away the hull to get at the kernel inside.

Common grackle (Quiscalus quiscula) snags a peanut.

It takes more than pouring rain to keep this Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) away from the feeders.

A young Brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) hanging out on the tomato plant enclosure. Usually, the thrashers keep to the bushes surrounding the yard, but will go for the suet feeders when I place them out.

A pair of Mourning doves (Zenaida macroura) just chilling. Like their cousins the pigeons, they don’t seem to be the brightest birds. I frequently see them just sitting out in the open after they have eaten their fill, totally unconcerned about the hawks that patrol the neighborhood.

This male Ruby-throated hummingbird (Archilochus colubris) is king of the feeder. After feeding, he will perch a few feet away from the feeder and drive off any other hummingbirds that approach his territory and food source. He will even go after larger birds that get too close.

Good morning!  This cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) seems to greet the day with a smile.

Baldy, a male cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is a regular to the feeders. His head has been bare all summer, but now it seems as if he is sprouting some new feathers. There is a big debate among birders if this loss of feathers is part of the molting process or some kind of parasite infestation. I have seen this in cardinals, grackles, wrens and thrashers, sometimes with patches of feathers missing from other parts of the birds’ bodies. None of them seem to be ill or discomforted by it.

Everybody loves peanuts! This Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) seems to have snagged a bit more than it could chew. It flew off with its prize to work on it in private.

A Tufted titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor). Another shy feeder. These little guys hit the feeder and fly off immediately with the first thing they can grab. It is unusual for them to linger more than a few seconds.

Chip Monk, the Eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) returns. I had not seen Chip in over a month, but we had some pretty heavy rain a few days ago and Chip was back. For some reason, rainy weather seems to bring her out into the yard and she will spend much of the day scrounging for seeds in the wet grass and plant beds.

Camera info:  Sony A1 mirrorless camera body, Sony FE 200-600 zoom lens + 1.4X teleconverter, some shots hand held or supported by an iFootage Cobra 2 monopod and gimbal head, ISO 5000, f/11, shutter speed varies according to lighting conditions, in-body image stabilization and lens image stabilization on for hand held shots.

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 13, 2021 • 8:00 am

Stephen Barnard is back with some photos of the many elk (Cervus canadensis) that frequent his property. His narrative is indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

This year, because of the drought and irrigation restrictions, I’m not farming my fields across the creek. As an unanticipated result, the elk are there like I’ve never seen before at this time of year. Normally, they show up in October when hunting season starts and they get pushed around. This year they feel safe because there’s no farming activity.

The rut hasn’t started yet. The bulls are mixed together in the herds more-or-less peacefully. When it does start (I’ll hear bugling) there will be fireworks.