Reader’s wildlife photos (and videos)

December 17, 2022 • 8:15 am

Today we have photos of a swell trip taken by Robert Lang, physicist and origami master. (I believe it was this trip, sponsored by New Scientist and Steppes Travel, and featuring Richard Dawkins as lecturer) Robert’s notes and IDs are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Hawaii Wildlife

We spent a week sailing around the Hawaiian islands. We saw quite a few birds, both endemic and introduced, but I didn’t get many good pictures of the endemics; most of them were too skittish and/or stayed in heavy leaf cover. But I did get this Saffron Finch (Sicalis flaveola), which is an introduced species, but was too pretty to pass up.

We also did some kayaking along sea cliffs. I loved the brilliance of this Red Pencil Urchin (Heterocentrotus mamillatus), which was just above the waterline.

At one point, the ship we were on spotted a pod of Pantropical Spotted Dolphins (Stenella attenuate). As we revved up the engine, they joined us to surf the bow wave.

The highlights of the trip were two snorkeling excursions. First, a night snorkel with Reef Manta Rays (Mobula alfredi). The organizers set up surfboard with lights, which attracted plankton; the plankton attracted the rays, which did repeated somersaults just underneath us—literally less than a foot away. This picture is a screen capture:

But I hope you will able to see the video:

Later we did a day snorkel on Lahaina with Green Sea Turtles (Chelonia mydas). There were quite a few people in the water (as you will see in the video), but they just ignored us, coming up to the surface for a breath, then heading back down.


We’d arrived on the big island of Hawai’I while one of the volcanos, Mauna Loa, was undergoing an eruption (note, this is not the volcano with all of the telescopes on it—that’s Mauna Kea). We only saw lava distantly from the plane on the way in, but the ash in the sky gave us some beautiful sunrises and sunsets.

Robert didn’t ask me to put this up, but I couldn’t resist.  He sent it while on the trip, with the remark, “Richard had a slide in one of his talks comparing embryonic development to origami, which was why he pulled me in as a visual aid when that slide came up. That was, of course, great fun.  Charming fellow, I gather he’s done some biological something-or-other in his day.”

Finally, since Mauna Loa is having one of its rare eruptions on the Big Island, I asked Robert if he saw it directly. He responded:

We did see the eruption from afar, from the plane while flying in. (Pic below.) One of the days we drove up to within a mile of the flow, but it was fogged in so we couldn’t see anything.
What a great gig for Richard! I’m jealous.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 12, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s selection comes from Ivar Husa from Washington State, but the photos are from Arizona. Ivar’s captions and ID’s are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

These photos were taken near Buenos Aires NWR southwest of Tucson. I might add  near our southern  border.

Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus) are birds of prey that often fly stealthily by staying below treetops, rising above only when they get close to their nest. This one bears a rodent for the chicks.

These chicks fledged within a few weeks of these photos being taken.

It was jarring to see for myself  a new section of border wall slashing through wildlands southwest of Tucson.  Animal movements are restricted, causing ecological damage.

Here are images taken south of Tucson AZ

American Snout, Libytheana carinenta  These were present in prodigious numbers at lower levels of the Santa Rita Mountains. I crudely estimate that along an 8 mile stretch of Box Canyon Road that perhaps 100,000 American Snout could be seen.

Here is a look at them along the road. Every black spot on the road, every one, is an American Snout. They had record rains this year which perhaps explains their spectacular abundance here.  Sulphurs were nearly as abundant in other locations.

Checkered WhitePyrgus albescens:

Dainty SulphurNathalis iole. Did they say ‘dainty’? This butterfly has about a 2.5cm wingspan: about an inch.

Variegated Fritillary, Euptoieta Claudia:

Queen butterflyDanaus gilippus:

Tiny CheckerspotDymasia dymas.  Did they say ‘tiny’? These have wingspans in the range of 2.3 to 3.5 cm.—around an inch.

Painted Lady, Vanessa cardui:   

Finally, this cutie. I showed a picture to a local birder (as one does, herpetologists being less abundant in the field)  and asked “What do you call this red-spotted toad? “:  

To my surprise and amusement he replied “Red-spotted Toad.”  Anaxyrus punctatus. This one is yet only about 3.5mm (1.5”) long and will grow much larger.

Photos taken with Canon 5D SR with 100-400 Mark II and 1.4X multiplier.

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 29, 2020 • 8:00 am

Again I importune you to send in your phots. In a few days the situation will be dire!

Today, though,  we have a diversity of photos from Rachel Sperling, including Lepidoptera, landscapes, and herself. Her captions are indented; click on photos to enlarge them.

Here are a few wildlife photos for your site, taken around New England and New York this summer and fall.

Monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus) on butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii) in upstate New York this summer:

Spicebush Swallowtail (Papilio troilus):

White admiral (Limenitis arthemis):

Hummingbird clearwing (Hemaris thysbe), a moth in the Sphingidae (hawkmoth) family. They really do resemble hummingbirds at first glance and they’re hard to photograph because they don’t stop moving! Not for me, anyhow.

Common loon (Gavia immer) on a small lake in the southern Adirondacks this August:

White oak (Quercus alba) on the Appalachian Trail in Pawling, New York. This particular oak, known as the Dover Oak, is at least 300 years old and is thought to be the biggest oak (if not the biggest tree) on the entire 2,190-mile trail. I guess I AM an unabashed tree-hugger.

This black birch (Betula lenta) also known as a sweet birch or spice birch, is also on the AT in New York … and is clearly possessed by some kind of angry spirit. Consensus among hikers is that it was hit by a shotgun shell some years back (it’s still alive). I’d be angry too.

Smooth rock tripe (Umbilicaria mammulata) on a boulder on the AT in New York, though I’ve seen it almost everywhere I’ve hiked in the northeastern US. [JAC: This is a lichen.] So-named because of its resemblance to tripe (cow’s stomach) it’s apparently edible as a last resort. (According to accounts, George Washington’s men ate it to keep from starving at Valley Forge.)

I don’t know if you’re still collecting photos of readers, but this is me (Homo sapiens) on the summit of Mount Mansfield, highest peak in Vermont, trying not to get blown over by the high winds (I think it was gusting around 30mph, maybe more). There wasn’t much of a view at the summit, but once I began my descent, the clouds dispersed and it got better. This was back in late September. When I’m not hiking, I’m a librarian at a university in Connecticut.

“I didn’t mean to climb it, but got excited and soon was at the top.” – John Muir

It’s International Vet Day!

December 9, 2020 • 7:15 am

The formal title of this celebration is “International Day of Veterinary Medicine,” celebrated yearly on December 9. The Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care site says this:

International Day of Veterinary Medicine celebrates those intrepid souls who work hard to keep our animals safe, and are constantly going through ongoing education to stay at the very front of the medicine that will keep our pets alive and healthy for years to come. A special shout-out goes to those who practice exotic animal medicine, learning about critters that are rarely kept as pets.

So here’s a special shout out: I know of only one reader who practices veterinary medicine, and it’s only on exotic animals. She’s Divy Figueroa of Florida (highlighted before in a “photos of readers” feature), who is practice manager and vet tech for a practice that includes her husband, Ivan Alfonso, as the doctor. I asked her for some photos of veterinary medicine in action, and she sent some photos from a recent visit. I also got some earlier photos of Divy with some cool animals. Her narration is indented:

We really don’t have many good photos of us working together, because I’m usually the photographer, and when I’m working hands-on, nobody takes pictures of us.
This was a call we had last week in south Florida of an Aldabra tortoise feeling under the weather, so the clients wanted bloodwork. This tortoise weighed between 350-400 lbs, and was not allowing  us to grab his tail to draw blood. Though most giant tortoises are turned sideways to draw blood,  due to the animal’s history we didn’t do it in this case to avoid stressing him. We had the owner use his forklift to lift the tortoise. My tech steadied the tortoise in the front to prevent him from falling forward, while my husband drew blood and I passed him the necessary blood tubes and collected the blood samples. The tortoise excreted and urinated on him, while flashing his penis to the both of us. It was a tense few minutes, but we got the job done. The screenshot in the second picture is very blurry, but I wanted you to see how we had to elevate the tortoise, and to see that it was no easy feat.

Here are a couple of different pics of me with a cute Geoffrey’s cat [JAC: a kitten getting its checkup] and with a Patagonian Cavy. We had already finished the cavy’s physical (again, we have no pics), but the cavy approached me to tell me all was good. (That client just got some cool, new animals, so we should be visiting them within the next month for an inspection. I’ll take good pics. )

More photos of the kitty are here.

Photos of readers

September 4, 2020 • 2:30 pm

We’re BACK with this feature, which I guess will be sporadic. But I invite you to submit your photos (2 max) and a narrative.

Today we have two—count them, two—readers, Dom and Jez, both hailing from England. Jez sent the text (he’s on the right below).

As you [Jerry] know, WEIT reader Dom just visited us here in Royston, Hertfordshire for a couple of days.

Royston is a small market town about 13 miles from Cambridge, 43 miles north of London, and very close to the prime meridian. According to those who grew up in it, the town is world famous (!) for several things. Two ancient roads, (Roman) Ermine Street and the (prehistoric) Icknield Way, meet here which is probably why the town was founded here at all; the mysterious Royston Cave lies under the town centre; the town was the site of an Augustinian priory built in about 1250, part of which forms the nave of the current church; King James I of England (and VI of Scotland) had a palace here; and the Royston Golf Club claims to be possibly the oldest golf club outside of Scotland. Recent notable people with connections to Royston include trumpeter Alison Balsom, British blues guitarist Danny Bryant, and pianist Joyce Hatto. (The latter was proclaimed by The Boston Globe as “the greatest living pianist that almost no one has ever heard of”, until the fraud perpetrated by her husband was uncovered! The story was the subject of a film written by Victoria Wood called Loving Miss Hatto.)

When he visits, Dom is always keen to visit Therfield Heath, a chalk escarpment with Neolithic and Bronze Age barrows which is a designated Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and just a short walk from the town centre. Here’s Dom (on the right) with me and my wife Lyn at the Heath on Tuesday.

Dom is now retired, following the closure of the specialist library at University College London where he worked. I’m a self-employed academic proofreader; after a brief hiatus due to papers being postponed for reasons related to the coronavirus things have been unusually busy. My theory, which is mine, is that with no conferences etc. to attend, academics have finally been able to get around to writing up the research that they conducted a while ago. That’s been good news for Lyn and the kids, as they’ve been trapped at home since March but I’ve had less time to play guitar (very badly). Dom looks rather dubious about being in the photo at top, despite my best attempts to ply him with Timothy Taylor’s Landlord (it’s not the same from a bottle, though). I freely admit to being the least musical member of the family, and that includes Marcus Clawrelius (pretentious, moi?) our toothless cat. The photo of Marcus was taken earlier this summer.

Photos of readers

August 28, 2020 • 3:15 pm

We have another entry, folks, and I urge you once again to send me a couple of pictures and a narrative. I have a feeling that there are a gazillion more stories in the Naked City.

Today’s reader is. . . well, he introduces himself, but give him a round of applause for his work with the disabled!

My name is Art Rigsby, 78 years old and retired for 18 years. I spent 9 years in the Army and retired as an IT manager of an electronics company in Silicon Valley. I spent most of my life in California with a few in Idaho before I ended up in Bloomington, IN.

To keep busy I do a lot of volunteer work. I volunteer at a local food bank, do handyman work for seniors, and assist in building ramps for disabled individuals. The ramps are provided free of charge to people who don’t have the funds to have one built.

I have enclosed a picture of me dressed for the job. I was screwing down the boards that comprised the walk way on the ramp. I think I placed about 250 screws that day.

The other picture of me was taken in front of the Gus I. Grisson Memorial in his hometown of Mitchell, Indiana:

I have also enclosed a picture of my cat Cujo. I think he is about 10 years old. My late wife and I got him from out next door neighbor and we converted him from an outdoor cat to an indoor one. Cujo has no teeth. He had 3 teeth when we got him but the vet said they had to go. I suspect his previous owner(s) didn’t take him to the vet very often if at all. I live alone, so having him around makes my day a little better.

Photos of readers

August 21, 2020 • 2:00 pm

After I post this, we’re again down to zero submissions, so please send yours in (three photos max, please, though readers keep sending in more!). Today’s entry is from reader Ned from Oz, and I’ve indented his words:

A casual but frequent reader of your website (I feel I want to be playful and call it a blog, but perhaps too soon). I really enjoy the mix of everything – hard science, critical thoughtful social commentary, fun bits and so on. I was in the States this time last year, and thought for a while I’d be driving from Grand Rapids in Michigan down around the bottom of the lake up to Chicago to catch a flight. I was really looking forward to going via Botany Pond for a walk and a look and to see if I could spot Honey. But plans changed, and I ended up on a train, so didn’t get the chance.

I’m a high school maths and science teacher. I’ve mainly taught physics over the years, but slowly became more interested in biology, and especially genetics. Now I find genetics hard to teach, because it’s such a huge topic, and I never know what to put in and what to leave out. And high school texts still basically teach (or to put it differently, students typically walk away from the topic with) “there are two versions of a gene – the good dominant version, and the bad recessive version.” And it’s hard to get past that. At the moment I’m “teaching” from home, and all the screen time is driving me a bit crazy. We here in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia have had a reasonably serious second wave of covid, with the result that we’re pretty strongly “locked down” – only leave the house for an hour of exercise a day, or for necessary shopping and giving/receiving care. Compulsory masks everywhere out of home, and the vast vast majority just mask up with no issues. Which seems, um, different to the USA.

Four photos:

Standing on top of Mt Elbert in Colorado, the highest point in the Rocky Mountains (a long but easy walk):

A composite photo of three beasts from that US trip – ID anyone? (the middle one, the white woolly one, just wandered out of nowhere and disappeared into nowhere right on the summit of Mt Bierstadt not that far out of Denver):

Lying in my tent on a shorter hiking trip a couple of hours west of Melbourne (Mt Langi Ghiran):

Machu Picchu a couple of years back – the “joke” is that a banana is something of a standard measurement sometimes – so “banana for scale”.

As we say in Oz, goodonya.

Photos of readers

August 20, 2020 • 2:30 pm

This is our last contribution for now, people, so I’d welcome some readers sending a few photos in (limit 3 now) and captions. Tell us a bit about yourself!

Today’s reader is William London, and his notes are indented:

I’m a professor of public health at Cal State LA. I’m glad that the California State University system committed early to delivering coursework online for the fall so that my colleagues and I won’t have to risk our lives to teach. 

I was able to make a smooth transition to teaching undergraduate introductory epidemiology online for the second half of Spring Semester and for the entire 10-week Summer Session. My lectures are now all recorded and available along with other learning resources I’ve previously made available in the online course platform (Canvas). Students can earn some points toward their final course grades for their contributions to Canvas discussion forums for each major course topic and/or in contributing to small-group Zoom breakout-room discussions of assigned exercises at regularly scheduled class meeting times. I think I’ve made the 100% online version of the course at least as good as the 100% face-to-face version I offered for years in physical classrooms.

Since January 2018, I’ve been the editor of Consumer Health Digest, a free, weekly email newsletter that includes summaries of scientific reports; legislative developments; enforcement actions; news reports; website evaluations; recommended and non-recommended books; research tips; and other information relevant to consumer protection and consumer decision-making. The newsletter has more than 10,000 subscribers. Issues of the newsletter going back to 2001 are archived online.

I write the online Consumer Health column for Skeptical Inquirer. My latest column was published last week: “Trump and COVID-19: Population Health Neglect, Hydroxychloroquine Hype, and a Gambler’s Fallacy.”

I started and I frequently update the Dubious COVID-19 Treatments and Preventives page for the Center for Inquiry (CFI). It’s a work in progress that I plan to expand, but I think it’s already informative. I’m also curating content for CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center page and working on keeping Quackwatch’sCOVID-19 Schemes, Scams, and Misinformation page up to date.

Here’s my first day test shot of the mask look. That was several months ago. I haven’t had a haircut since February, so the look is now very messy.

These photos are with Cici, a rescued maltipoo who joined my family about 7 years ago. At the time, she was about 12 months old.


Photos of readers

August 18, 2020 • 3:16 pm

We have a reader’s photo entry! Perhaps this will prod some of you into sending your own contributions (2 photos max, though it’s actually 3), showing what you’re up to.

The Reader of the Day is Jeffrey Hatley, whose captions are indented.

As a long-time reader, I’m dutifully answering your call for photos from readers. I’m a mathematician at Union College in Schenectady, NY, and my partner and I live near the Adirondacks on our little farm, where we enjoy the company of our three cats, our flock of chickens, and our five llamas! I’ve attached some pictures of the animals. Here are some of the thing you’ll find:

A nice shot of me and Nicole with our two oldest llamas, Nimbus and Maverick, posing in the snow.

One of our chickens, Darcy, sitting on my leg and hollering while I try to read.
Here are our five llamas, lounging around and playing King of the Hill earlier this summer. 

All five our of llamas have the same sire, making them all at least half-brothers. Our two oldest llamas, Nimbus and Maverick [above], are in fact full brothers. They are about one year apart in age.

 Despite their reputation for spitting, llamas truly hate to spit, since it tastes bad to them and ruins their appetite (and they are normally voracious eaters!). Llamas will only spit at each other in order to assert dominance and establish a pecking order, and they’ll only spit at a human if they feel threatened. In fact, llamas are extremely gentle and agreeable animals, and ours are particularly friendly. We even take them to childrens’ birthday parties!

Photos of readers

August 14, 2020 • 2:30 pm

This is the last one in the tank, so send your contributions (two photos max, please) if you want your mug plastered on this site.

Today’s reader happens to be John Avise, a fellow evolutionist who’s contributed many photos to this site, and is now doing the “Duck O’ The Week” on Sundays.  John’s words are indented:

During my fifty years in academia, I’ve tried to bridge a formerly huge gap between the microevolutionary sciences (such as population genetics, ecology, and conservation biology) and the macroevolutionary disciplines of species formation and phylogenetics.  Another gap that I tried my best to close was between outdoor natural-history studies and indoor molecular biology. So my heart has always been devoted to the wonders of nature and my mind to understanding the genetics behind life’s diversity.  I spent the first 30 years of my career at the University of Georgia before moving to the University of California, where among other hobbies I’ve taken up bird and nature photography.

The photo is the cover of my autobiography, which was published in 2000 by Smithsonian Institution Press (and is available on Amazon).  The book details the many adventures I’ve had over the years and around the world with creatures ranging from corals and sponges to numerous fishes, herps, birds, and mammals. It also recounts all the personal joys and tribulations of a life spent teaching and doing scientific research. I love both science and nature, and that’s why the book’s subtitle is “A Naturalist In the Age of Genetics”.

And here’s a photo of my wonderful parakeet Buddy, who’s now 16 years old!  I’ve had parakeets or budgerigars (Melopsittacus undulatus) all my life.