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 26, 2021 • 8:00 am

Here’s the first installment of rainforest photos from reader Athayde Tonhasca Júnior.  Click on the photos to enlarge them, and his notes and IDs are indented:

You asked for readers’ photos, so here’s a tour through the Brazilian Atlantic Forest.

Moth:

Access road:

Bad-tempered toad:

Black-faced hawk (Leucopternis melanops):

Bothrops sp. (fer-de-lance). Keep your distance!

Bromeliad:

Another bromeliad:

Cheeky lizard:

Forest:

Forest:

Fungus 1:

Fungus 2:

Fungus 3:

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 25, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today I’ll show my own “wildlife” photos just for fun, but keep sending yours in.  Click the pictures below to enlarge them.

Feeding wild cats at a nunnery in Mystras, Greece, 2002. I always carry a box of dry cat food in my backpack in places like this.

A rare bloom in Death Valley, California, 2005. I don’t know what the moth is, and I’m baffled about where the many pollinating insects come from in those very occasional wet years. They just appear from out of nowhere.

Me feeding a grape (with permission) to a ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) at the Duke Lemur Center, 2006. Note the baby clinging to its belly.

Another ringtail with child:

Sifakas (lemurs, Propithecus sp.):

Cepea nemoralis snails on a fencepost, Dorset, England, 2006. The riot of colors and banding in this species was subject to a lot of investigation when I was in college, but evolutionary geneticists still don’t have an explanation for why the variation persists:

A butterfly (I don’t know the species) in the garden at Thomas Hardy’s boyhood home, 2006:

Snail and fly near Clouds Hill (T. E. Lawrence’s cottage), Wareham, Dorset, 2006:

Gooseneck barnacle, a rare and expensive delicacy. Galicia, Spain, 2006:

The one above was found on the rocks at low tide. Here are some for sale in the market. You eat the meat underneath the leather skin. It’s very good.

Me feeding a Texas longhorn on David Hillis’s and Jim Bull’s Double Helix ranch outside Austin, 2007:

Groundhog (Marmota monax), Capitol grounds, Ottawa, Canada, 2007:

Greg Mayer’s pet common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina); I believe its name was “Snappy”), Kenosha, Wisconsin, 2008:

Butterfly and orchids (species unknown), Guatemala, 2009:

Statue dedicated to all the lab cats “sacrificed” in medical research. St. Petersburg, 2011:

Gulls, Lake Geneva, Switzerland, 2011

Trees in autumn, Switzerland 2011:

I have many more, and perhaps I’ll post some of them on another holiday (Chanukah, Christmas, and Coynezaa are coming up).

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 13, 2021 • 8:00 am

Send in your photos, please!

Today we have a fall-themed post with photos by Jim McCormac, who has a blog and a “massive photo website“. Jim’s captions are indented and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

Here are some recent images from SE Ohio’s amazing Hocking Hills.

October 29 dawned a wet, cool, and misty day, so I took advantage and headed to southeastern Ohio and the beautiful Hocking Hills region. The main destination was Conkles Hollow State Nature Preserve, a picturesque sandstone box canyon thick with Eastern Hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) and many other tree species. The following photo was made along the Rim Trail, a path that traces the upper edges of the cliffs that define the gorge. Rolling waves of fog moved through the valley, and it was often necessary to wait until the mist cleared enough for photos.

Tenacious Eastern Hemlock trees cling to the cliffs on the sides of the gorge, interspersed with more colorful birch, maple, sourwood, tuliptree and others. The presence of a disjunct stand of hemlock – it becomes common far to the north of here – means a little slice of the boreal forest in southern Ohio. Northern species of breeding birds such as Blue-headed Vireo (Vireo solitarius), Canada Warbler (Cardellina canadensis), Hermit Thrush (Catharus guttatus), Winter Wren (Troglodytes hiemalis)) and other northerners nest here, attracted by the dense hemlock stands.

A steep forested slope rises from a river bottom, anchored by towering Sycamore trees (Platanus occidentalis) with their ghostly white trunks. While the oaks remain largely green, splashes of color are provided by Blackgum (Nyssa sylvatica), Red and Sugar Maples (Acer rubrum and A. saccharum), Tuliptree (Liriodendron tulipifera), Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum), Yellow Birch (Betula alleghaniensis), and others.

All of the precipitation flushed local streams with plenty of water, and the numerous waterfalls in this region were picturesque. This one is known as Robinson Falls, formerly called “Corkscrew Falls”. It is now protected as part of a state nature preserve, and a permit is required to visit.

A small stream, its rocky banks littered with fallen leaves. One can practically smell autumn in this photo, and in real life the wonderful admixture of scents – overly ripe marcescent foliage, decaying leafy detritus, damp humus – epitomized the scent of fall.

A dashing vine by any standard, at least in fall, a vigorous stand of Poison Ivy (Toxicodendron radicans) blankets a sandstone cliff face. This native member of the Cashew Family (Anacardiaceae) is a heavy-hitter in woodland ecology. Its copious berry production fuels birds galore in fall and winter. Everything from massive Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) to comparatively elfin Yellow-rumped Warblers (Setophaga coronata) feast on the fruit. Indeed, Poison Ivy berries are one of the main reasons that the latter species can winter far to the north, unlike most warblers.

Finally, one more vista of the gorge at Conkles Hollow and its massive sandstone cliffs, some of which rise to 200 feet. One of the great pleasures of living in the midst of the great Eastern Deciduous Forest region that cloaks (or used to) much of the eastern U.S. is witnessing the change of seasons. All of them have their own allure, but fall is hard to beat for sheer showiness.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 11, 2021 • 8:00 am

Bring out your photos, please!

Today’s contribution is from Tony Eales from Brisbane. His captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them. I was unable to get rid of the double-spacing and smaller fonts in the text. Be sure to see the Bumpy Rocket Frog!

I’ve been back out west in Bladensburg National Park, Diamantina National Park and areas around Mt Isa and Cloncurry. The land has some awe-inspiring scenery as well as mind numbing emptiness.

It’s also a place where European interference has led to the extinction and near extinction of many vertebrate species. I was privileged to visit the newly purchased recovery area for the (once believed extinct) Night Parrot and talk to the manager there about the problems and pressures they are facing.

Recent rain brought out frogs and insects at night but many of the billboard species are too rare and secretive for me to have photographed. Here’s a few highlights of animals and scenery.

The landscape around the town of Cloncurry is grassy and dotted with termite mounds:

This dry grass has a selective pressure on the arthropod life that lives in it, with many of the spiders and insects being a similar pale yellow or white.

For example, Neosparassus macilentus, Slender Badge Huntsman:

An as yet unidentified member of family Morabidae, AKA Australian Monkey Grasshoppers:

And this Oxyopes attenuatus, Attenuated Lynx Spider:

As I mentioned, recent rain had brought a lot of the area to life. There was abundant bird life at the dam outside Cloncurry.  Ardea intermedia, Intermediate Egret:

Psitteuteles versicolor, Varied Lorikeet:

Crinia deserticola, Desert Froglet:

Limnodynastes tasmaniensis, Spotted Grass Frog:

Litoria inermis, Bumpy Rocket Frog:

One of the big highlights for me was to see my first Great Artesian Basin mound springs. See here for info on these highly endangered and critical habitats

We visited Elizabeth Springs, one of the few in the region that is not extinct. It is home (as are many of these springs) to a handful of unique species and sub-species that are entirely restricted to and dependant on the springs including a species of desert goby found nowhere else Chlamydogobius micropterus.

The habitat itself is under threat from pumping for agriculture and intrusion by feral species such as pigs (which we observed about ten of as we arrived). Nevertheless, as a biodiversity fanboy, it was a great experience to get to visit this remote place in person.

The aquatic weed you see in the foreground is a species of macroalgae, known collectively as Stoneworts, called Nitella tumida. This species is associated with saline groundwater from Great Artesian Basin springs.

The greatest privilege and highlight of the trip was the visit to the (semi-)secret location of the Night Parrot (Pezoporus occidentalis) recovery reserve purchased by Bush Heritage Australia. They have done a remarkable job of setting up and managing a low-impact conservation research facility (and could always use more donations) on a remote mesa next to the Diamantina National Park.

The threats to the parrot are many, predation from cats and foxes, poaching of eggs and birds by collectors, habitat destruction from stock and an extreme crypticness and remoteness that makes them difficult to study and get a baseline on numbers from which recovery plans can be assessed. There had been no well authenticated sightings between 1912 and 2013, and the bird achieved legendary status among Australian birders with all the big names in birding having their own near-miss sightings.

Between 1990 and 2013 two dead birds (one on the grill of a truck and one that flew into a barbed wire fence at Diamantina National Park) had turned up proving that the bird still existed. The person who produced the first video evidence was the absolute rogue and reputed bird hoaxer John Young. Since then, ornithologists have captured, tagged, filmed and recorded birds in several dispersed locations across the desert areas of Australia.

Pullen Pullen Reserve:

Night Parrot habitat:

JAC: Here’s a photo of a night parrot:

The fence between the reserve and the cattle property from which it was purchased. Recent rain shows both sides as green but the reserve side is all grass and the cattle side is all Australian tumbleweed (Salsola australis) seedlings:

And finally the ubiquitous Horner’s Two-lined Dragon, Lophognathus horneri, a lizard that was in every reserve and motel garden in this part of the outback.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 5, 2021 • 8:00 am

Remember to keep sending in photos when you have them.

Today’s contribution is from Jonathan Wallace, and reminds us how adorable (and cunning) bees are. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Everybody knows that flowering plants and various insects, including bees, have co-evolved to form a mutually beneficial relationship whereby the plant provides a nectar reward to the insect and the insect provides a service tothe plant in return by transferring pollen from flower to flower.

Things are not always so straightforward, however and sometimes the relationship is subverted.  Fuchsia species are widely planted as ornamental shrubs in many parts of the world but originate from South America, where they are principally pollinated by hummingbirds.

In the UK and Europe there are no hummingbirds but bees of various species are keen to exploit fuchsia nectar and, since they cannot reach it the ‘correct’ way, do a smash and grab raid by biting a hole through the neck of the flower and thereby gaining access to the nectary while completely by-passing the stamens and stigma.  It is common to see a high proportion of the flowers on a shrub bearing the tell-tale holes that indicate they have suffered nectar robbery.  The species shown in the act of thieving here is the buff-tailed bumble bee (Bombus terrestris) and the honey bee, Apis mellifera.

I have also included a couple of other pictures of honey bee attracted to a garden pond to drink and one foraging on marjoram flowers respectively, as well as a picture of a buff-tailed bumble bee foraging on European gorse Ulex europeaus.

Bombus terrestris worker 2021-05-31:

Bombus terrestris buff-tailed bumble bee worker:

Bombus terrestris buff-tailed bumble bee worker:

Honey bee drinking:

Honey bee marjoram 2021-08-02:

Honey bee nectar robbing:

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 3, 2021 • 8:30 am

Thanks to the generosity of readers, I’ve received a fair number of photo contributions in the last week, so we’re good to go for a while.

Today we feature the photos of two readers. Their comments are indented and, as always, you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

First up is reader Dave, who adds that his site has a new monthly-edition print, along with several new limited-edition prints. His intro:

Attached please find the next (small) batch of photos: five images of different trees across seasons at various times of day.

Photos ©DSF_ All Rights Reserved.

Stir:

Autumnal shift:

Dayspring:

Halcyon:

Hyper:

Here are two landscape photos from Rick Longworth, sent yesterday:

This morning I was compelled to shoot the sunrise. The valley near Caldwell was filled with a thin pool of haze. There was no wind.  Temperature: 8°C.

The first one is Lizard Butte, so named because from the south side, it resembles a lizard.

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 30, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have three photos and some science from Lou Jost, a polymath biologist who works at a field station in Ecuador. His notes are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Recently I gave Jerry some photos of plant fluorescence, which is visible light excited by incoming UV light. The fluorescent light is just normal light that you can see with the unaided eye, but the UV light I used to excite the fluorescence is invisible, with wavelengths too short to be detected  by our eyes. There is also invisible light on the other side of the visible-light spectrum, beyond the long red wavelengths. This is infrared light. Though we can’t see it, camera sensors are quite sensitive to it. Camera makers have to build their cameras with infrared-blocking filters in front of their sensors, so that colors look the same as what our eyes see. These filters can be removed. The camera that I used to take today’s pictures has had this surgery.

The first picture shows a rocky mountain in front of my house, covered in evergreen tropical forest. The forest is red because it is reflecting lots of infrared light, which the camera is reading as red.  Things that don’t reflect much infrared (the rocks and sky) have their normal colors.  This is actually a composite of two images, one with a filter that cuts out infrared light and the other with a filter that cuts out visible light (and then converting the resulting monochrome image to a red one). The two images are overlaid on top of each other and at each pixel, I keep the brightest one. This view is how the world would look if our red cones had a slightly extended spectral response.

The next picture is the volcano next to my house. It is a single photo, taken with an “IR Chrome” filter which gives a result similar to the two-photo method I used in the first photo. The vegetation along the flank of the volcano glows red.

The picture of my night sky is taken without any filter; it is white-balanced to visible light but it is sensitive to infrared too. The universe emits lots of infrared radiation, so an infrared -sensitive camera is much more effective for astrophotography than a normal consumer camera. Here you can see the Milky Way, with a brilliant magenta nebula in the middle. This is the Lagoon Nebula, a particularly beautiful celestial object. It is three or four times bigger across the sky than the moon! But just barely visible to the naked eye if you are lucky.

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 25, 2021 • 8:00 am

If you have some good wildlife photos, by all means send them in stat.  The tank grows ever lower. . .

Today’s photos are from reader Bob Placier. His narrative and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

In response to your request for photos, thought I would change it up a bit with my submissions. Before becoming a bander, I would have described my field as being a forest ecologist and especially a dendrologist—still perhaps my strongest area. I still spend lots of time in the woods. so here are some non-avian photos I hope will be of use and interest to readers.

While still teaching Dendrology – I retired in 2015 – I took my lab to a nearby Ohio state forest to introduce them to our native American Chestnut (Castanea dentata). All trees of any size have been gone for many years, but the root systems keep on sending up sprouts in our highly acidic sandstone derived soils. When we reached the sapling I had in mind, we encountered this Gray Treefrog trying to remain inconspicuous. This is one of the two cryptic species (Hyla versicolor or H. chrysocelis, which are impossible to separate in the field, except by voice. And this one remained mute.

American Chestnut foliage. These are native. Efforts have been made to breed blight resistance by crossing with the Chinese Chestnut (C. mollissima), eventually producing 15/16 American individuals possessing the Chinese genes for resistance. Out-planting has begun in recent years.

Same forest, but in very early spring. Trailing Arbutus (Epigaea repens) is a member of the Ericaceae family, mostly found in highly acidic soils. It’s easily overlooked since the flowers are often hidden under the leathery evergreen leaves. And they bloom before most wildflower lovers have ventured into the woods.

Another acid soil denizen, called Teaberry, Wintergreen, or Mountain-tea (Gaultheria procumbens). Its leaves taste just like Teaberry gum. Both this species and Trailing Arbutus are woody plants, so I got to cover them in Dendrology.

A bit later in the season, and not confined to acidic soils. Showy Orchis (Orchis spectabilis). Happily common in my woods.

My lips are sealed about the location of these beauties, within easy walking distance of my home. Pink Lady’s Slipper or Moccasin Flower (Is that cultural appropriation?) (Cypripedium acaule). It’s in a very acidic oak forest.

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 19, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your photos. You have good ones, and I know who you are!

Today we have botanical images from Rik Gern. His commentary is indented.

A popular decorative plant here in Austin is the Peacock Flower (Caesalpinia pulcherrima).  You can find at least a half dozen examples just by taking a walk around the block.

I’ve taken a few pictures of them over the years, but always found them hard to photograph because they bounce and sway with just the slightest hint of a breeze, but I recently got a new/used camera, my first that’s not a simple point-and-shoot, and thought I’d try it out on the peacock flowers. Trying to wrangle a “real” camera is a whole ‘nuther challenge, so as usual I photoshopped these to within an inch of their lives in order to wrest some silk purses from sow’s ears, digitally speaking. Half a dozen of these were taken with a CanonEOS T2i 550D, and the rest with the old Canon Powershot SD400.

The petals are flamboyant and attention grabbing and seem to come in either yellow or orange variations. The stamen are huge, and usually stretch out in a graceful arch, though sometimes they flail wildly in the wind.

Naturally the plant attracts insects, and I spotted a bee (Diadasia diminuta), but almost missed an American grasshopper (Schistocerca americana). (Not sure about the americana part.)

The bird (Pixelus manipulus) in the neon-tinged picture is really a seed pod, but it was bugging me until I saw it as a bird, so I cheated in a beak and eye.

The leaves of the Peacock Flower have a nice lacy look to them. Here’s one that I obsessed over for a few days, as you can see from the before-and-after. The heart in the center of the final version is actually a scar from a cut limb on a Mexican White Oak tree (Quercus polymorpha).

Here’s the psychedelicized version of the peacock flower’s leaf.