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 12, 2022 • 8:30 am

Today we have a rarity: photos of social insects. Our contributor is Christopher Starr, a retired Professor of Entomology at the University of the West Indies in Trinidad & Tobago.  His captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Apoica flavissimais is a member of a small genus of neotropical wasps distinguished by being nocturnal.  During the day they are almost always to be found resting on the nest in this formation.  Brazil.

The neotropical Angiopolybia pallensis is the commonest social wasp in some parts of its broad range.  Although it shows high alertness when approached and has a moderately painful sting, it is surprisingly slow to fly off the nest and attack.  Trinidad.

Members of the genus Miscyocyttarus show a great diversity of nest structure. An extreme nest form is seen in M. punctatus, in which each cell is based on the lip of the previous cell.  This is expensive in building material, but it presumably allows the wasps to camouflage the nest as a vine against visually-searching predators.  Trinidad.

Parachartergus colobopterusis notoriously docile and can only with difficulty be provoked to a stinging attack.  Note that I have broken off the stick on which this nest is based and am holding it in my hand.  It’s sting is ostensibly quite mild.  Venezuela.

No one has yet found a physical character to distinguish the sympatric Mischocyttarus alfkeni and M. baconi, yet they are easily separated by their nests, a good example of ethospecies.  The use of genetic characters confirms that they are two different species.  Trinidad.

M. alfkeni:


M. baconi:

Parachartergus fraternus makes a very fine-textured nest from plant hairs.  When a colony absconds the workers commonly return to the old nest over several days to salvage the valuable carton from the nest envelope.  In contrast to P. colobopterus, this wasp readily attacks when disturbed and delivers a painful sting.  Trinidad.

All studied Polistes spp. display a stereotyped set of visual threats when the colony is disturbed.  This Polistes exclamans has the forelegs raised and vibrating side to side, the wings raised and fluttering at low amplitude, and the abdomen bent and probing in a stinging motion.  Georgia.


Social wasps forage readily for water.  This P. dominula has landed on the surface of a stagnant pond and is drinking from it.  The abundance of algae in the water presumably aids her in standing on the surface without sinking.  Italy.

The conspicuous laminae descending from the envelope of this Polybia scutellaris nest may serve as drip tips that conduct rain water rapidly off the surface.  Costa Rica.

Where palms with spiny trunks are abundant, Mischocyttarus labiatus preferentially bases its nests at the tips of such spines.  This presumably serves a defensive function against ants, which would have to walk up a great many spines in searching for any given wasp colony.  Note also the nest’s extremely long, narrow petiole.  Costa Rica.

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.

The U of C campus in winter

January 10, 2022 • 2:59 pm

On my walk home today, it was sunny but cold (15°F, -9.4°C), with snow blanketing the quad, so I thought I’d take a panorama with my new iPhone. It was moderately successful (upper right is a mess), but at least you can see my academic environs in winter.

Click the picture twice to make it really big.

This is the main part of the campus, the “quad” looking toward the administration building from the East.

I have pretty much recovered from the Dreaded Black Ice Journey, except for some residual soreness EVERYWHERE.

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 9, 2022 • 8:15 am

It’s Sunday, which means a themed batch of bird photos by John Avise. John’s intro and captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them:

More Drab Flycatchers, and Then a Surprise

Last week, Jerry posted my photos of several sibling species in the genus Empidonax, drab little flycatchers commonly known as “empids” (see here).  Many other flycatchers (family Tyrannidae) likewise are dressed in conservative grays and browns (and are not sexually dimorphic).  A few of these non-empid flycatchers are the subject of this week’s post, but there is one North American flycatcher that blatantly contradicts the dull flycatcher motif.  The male Vermilion Flycatcher has a brilliant red-and-black plumage that makes this species unmistakable.  Why does this sole species depart so spectacularly from the flycatcher norm?

It’s a total mystery to me, so the question is on my bucket list of avian queries I’d love to have answered.

Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) (Michigan):

 Another Eastern Phoebe (Florida):

Brown-crested Flycatcher (Myiarchus tyrannulus) (California):

Eastern Wood-Pewee (Contopus virens) (Michigan):

Northern Beardless Tyrannulet (Camptostoma imberbe) (Texas):

Olive-sided Flycatcher (Contopus cooperi) (California):

Say’s Phoebe (Sayornis saya) (California):

Western Wood-Pewee (Contopus sordidulus) (California):

Vermilion Flycatcher male (Pyrocephalus rubinus) (California):

Vermilion Flycatcher female:

Another Vermilion Flycatcher male:

Yet another Vermilion Flycatcher male:

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 8, 2022 • 8:30 am

Thanks to all who sent in photos, and keep ’em coming!

Today we’ll have part 2 (of 3 total, part 1 is here) Emilio d’Alise’s photos of Hawaiian flowers, whether native, domesticated, or invasive (there are no IDs, but readers can help).  Here are his notes, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

While living in Hawaiʻi, I photographed a lot of stuff. Occasionally I paired my D7000 with the great Nikon 105mm f/2.8 VR Macro lens for flower shooting sessions around Kona or at the Kona Old Airport park. These are some of those photos.

There was a time when I would have researched the names of each and every flower . . . that time has passed. Now, I just enjoy them. If anyone really must know each and every one, HERE is a link to Hawai’ian flowers, but know that in the past I’ve not had a tremendous amount of luck with any but the most common varieties. Plus, some are imported species and not native to the islands, and only seen in gardens and the grounds of resorts or condominium complexes.

Readers’ wildlife photos

January 7, 2022 • 8:30 am

Send in your wildlife/people/street photos, please.

Today we have a change of pace: a series of signs taken by Athayde Tonhasca.  His captions (place of photograph) are indented, and you can enlarge them by clicking on the picture. I am not sure what many of these mean, as I’m not a polyglot, but I proffer them anyway. If you get the joke or significance for the more arcane photos, please enlighten us in the comments.

Bari, Italy:

Sicily, Italy:

Bologna, Italy:

Locorotondo, Italy:

Frascati, Italy:

Calabria, Italy:

Rome, Italy:

Rome, Italy:

Rome, Italy:


Berlin, Germany:

Berlin, Germany:

Berlin, Germany:

Berlin, Germany:

Berlin, Germany: [JAC: Our family passed by that sign on a tour of East Berlin when I was a child and my father an Army officer stationed in Heidelberg:

Berlin, Germany: