Readers’ wildlife photos

June 17, 2021 • 8:00 am

Once again I emit my call for readers’ wildlife (or street) photos, as I’m getting a bit nervous when the tank runs low.

Today we have lovely plant photos (milkweed) from reader Christopher McLaughlin. His IDs and notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

I am answering your call for some more wildlife photos. The first three are some recent plant photos from a hike around Gay Feather Prairie Conservation Area in Vernon county MO.  My photos are, I hope, adequate as I have only an iPhone 11 and not a lick of artistry when it comes to photography.

Asclepias viridis, the Green Milkweed, also called Green Antelope Horns for some reason. Quite common along the roadsides and highways, so often just overlooked and mowed down.  I think they are just spectacular.

A closer view:

 Close-up view of an individual flower showing the corona and all the sexy parts.

For comparison, here are three photos of another species, Asclepias syriaca, the Common Milkweed, growing in my yard. Common it may be but it is still spectacular and the fragrance…!

This shows the top view of two flower as showing the corona in a textbook example for Asclepias flower morphology (I’m literally looking at a drawing of this in a wildflower book while typing and trying to make sense of it). Notice the tiny fly sitting on what is called the “horn”. We can also see the reflexed petals underneath the lower flower

Again, a close-up, but side view, showing the petals (pointing up this time, since I was looking down on the flower) as well as unopened flowers around the flower. Can you see the little line on the green bit in the middle? That’s the stigmatic slit, leading to the stigmatic chamber. Sometimes you can find insects trapped here by their legs, or the leg itself, ripped off from the insect who wasn’t strong enough to pull itself out.

Asclepias are fascinating flowers. I’m sure most readers know about monarchs laying their eggs on them and the milky latex sap that contains alkaloids and cardiac glycosides used by the butterflies and other insects as a chemical defense. But there are so many insects which are drawn to this plant that do not take up the toxins. It is quite the popular feeding site at the moment!

There is so much more I need to learn about the Asclepiadaceae and I’m not exactly the brightest bulb here, a rank amateur at best. I could spend two lifetimes studying them and not ever get tired of them but I just wish more people would appreciate them at any level and stop mowing them down. Luckily, there are several species that are easy to grow, easy to find at decent nurseries (choose your local natives, please!) and anyone with a patch of dull, boring, biologically sterile lawn can make a world of difference with a couple of plants, for yourself and your insect neighbors.

Readers’ wildlife photos (and a video)

June 12, 2021 • 8:00 am

Send in your photos, please.

Today’s selection comes from Rachel Sperling, whose notes and IDs are indented. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Apart from the video, these were all taken in Connecticut and the New York section of the Appalachian Trail, which I’m hiking with a friend.

A pair of mute swans (Cygnus olor) on the reservoir near my house.

A pair of black vultures (Coragyps atratusamid some glacial erratics in northern Connecticut. I think this is a bit north of their normal range. I used to see them fairly often when I lived in Maryland.

Canada goose (Branta canadensis) on Lake Zoar in Connecticut. Nothing terribly exciting about a Canada goose, but this one was sitting on some eggs, and it was around Mothers’ Day, so I thought it was sweet.

Red columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) on the Appalachian Trail in New York.

Bleeding heart (Lamprocapnos spectabilis)on the Appalachian Trail:

Pink ladyslipper (Cypripedium acaule) on the Appalachian Trail.

A couple of millipedes (Apheloria virginiensis) on a trail in Sharon, Connecticut. The one on the right is giving a ride to an inchworm, but I’ve no idea which species of Geometer moth it might be.

Finally (for now – I’ll be back on the trail this weekend, I hope!) here’s a video I took back in December of 2017, when I was living in New Hampshire. My cat Lloyd (Felis catus) was intensely interested in a supremely unruffled American goldfinch (Spinus tristis). I don’t know much about bird intelligence, apart from what I’ve read about crows, ravens, and parrots, so it surprised me that the goldfinch would understand that it was safe from the cat.

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 5, 2021 • 8:00 am

Thanks to those who sent in photos. If you haven’t done so recently, please email me your good photos. Thanks!

Today’s photos are of microscopic views of plants, and macroscopic views of oak galls, all by reader Bryan Lepore, whose captions and IDs are indented. Click the photos to enlarge them. (Note that we have a photo of a fall oak gall by Bryan from August of last year.)

Though I’d like to see you stand on your head, I will nonetheless offer some photos for wildlife.

There are two microscopy photos of plants from the garden. The leaves were simply shoved under the slide clips of a low-cost student microscope – it was maybe $30 on Amazon. I was surprised the method worked at all. An iPhone 6 was then used to capture the photos. I particularly like this sort of low-cost naive approach – remarkably good results with modern-simplistic equipment. I will try to find out the plant name and get back to you, but might not be soon.

One of the microscopy specimens is a green leaf from Kalmia latifolia :

The other photos are galls from an oak tree in the spring of 2021 in the Northern hemisphere in the Northeast. While trying to figure out what these galls were all about, a nifty green beetle appeared, so I include as a bonus – but she was not from the gall. I learned about galls having posted a purple one last fall that was on the ground. It seems the galls are Oak Apple Wasp galls according to a site at The Ohio State University.

… they turn brown in the fall and, to me, have been more recognizable at that time for some reason.

Readers’ wildlife photos and videos

June 2, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your good photos, as I always have need of more.

First, a video from evolutionary biologist Iñigo Martinez-Solano, who sent in some amphibian photos in December. Now we have a video:

Last December I contributed some amphibian pictures to your website, including two of Iberian midwife toads [Alytes cisternasii], which have a unique reproductive biology with male parental care of the eggs for about a month, after which they release the tadpoles in ponds and streams. Recently I had the opportunity to take a video of a male releasing the tadpoles and I thought you might be interested in sharing it with your readers:


And we have two photo contributions today, the first from Charles Schwing. You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

First, some deer photos from Charles Schwing.

Some pictures from our backyard in Napa, CA. Our lot backs on to Redwood Creek, which is seasonal this far down from its source and deer use it as a main thoroughfare. We often see more than one deer at a time, but  this is the record holder:

We see males together more than we expected. Here are several in velvet. BTW, the ugly green plastic container on the steel post is an improvised but effective squirrel deterrent, keeping them out of the bird feeders.

Speaking of bird feed, we put some seed on a table so it would be accessible to birds (mourning doves, for example) that haven’t mastered feeders. This deer had other plans.

And a plant, a cactus from reader Linda Calhoun (photo by her husband John) that she can’t identify. Can readers help?

John took this yesterday (May 30).  It’s under a tree along the driveway.  It’s not a common species, so I can’t ID it, but it bloomed suddenly, which is how John found it.

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 19, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from reader Richard Bond, and the set is called “Tree Roots.” Richard’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Two years ago I was on a guided tour in Cambodia. Inevitably the tour concentrated on temples and museums. After three days in the Angkor Wat complex, I was suffering from temple overdose and I started to take a broader interest in the sites, which were previously overrun with forest that had been only partially cleared.

The first thing to catch my eye was a lone tree (photo #1); from where its greenery remained, I assume that it was an example of a tree that normally forms the forest canopy.

The second photo shows a termite nest using a ruined temple (not part of Angkor Wat) as a foundation.

The next seven photos show what really piqued my interest, at the Ta Prohm temple: trees self-seeded on top of the buildings have spectacular roots that are finding their way to ground level. On checking the spelling of this temple, I was initially discouraged to find that the internet is hoachin’ with such photos, but I suppose that that is true of many of your readers’ subjects. However, some of my photos include people, giving an idea of scale. I was unable to identify the tree species at the time, but the Wikipedia entry on Ta Prohm gives some guidance.

In any case there is a sting in the tail. Ta Prohm is infamous for a carving that creationists claim is a stegosaurus, “proving” that dinosaurs lived with human beings, There are several things wrong with that (see next to last photo): the “plates” are the wrong shape, and in only a single row; the head is far too large and on too short a neck; the relative proportion of the legs is wrong; and there is no sign of the thagomizer. The clincher, if any were needed, comes from viewing the carving obliquely.

The last photo (which could have used more depth of focus) clearly shows that the “plates” are not in the same plane as the centre of the creature, as defined by its tail. Almost certainly, the carving is of a small animal against the background of a flower. Some sort of chameleon has been suggested. This idea is supported by what appears to be the weathered remains of a neck frill, which is much more easily seen when one is actually there, as opposed to in a photo.

Readers’ wildlife photos and videos

May 14, 2021 • 8:00 am

I am running worryingly low on readers’ photos, so PLEASE send in your good ones. I don’t want to have to cancel this feature or put it up sporadically. Thanks!

We have a potpourri of photos and movies today. Readers’ captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

The first two photos are by Andrea Kenner.

Here’s a photo of my first sighting of a Brood X cicada. The baby is sitting on the sidewalk in Hyattsville, Maryland. I’m not sure which species he is (there are three). Here’s a link to the Wikipedia page.

I took this photo in my front yard in Prince George’s County, MD, and posted it on Facebook. The tree is an Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis). An entomologist in my neighborhood identified the bee as a Hairy Footed Flower Bee (Anthophora villosula), a recently introduced species in the Mid-Atlantic region.

From Linda Mercer:

It is hard to see the tiny fawn hiding behind my air conditioner.

A duck video from Brian Tarr:

I’ve been an avid lurker on your excellent website for several years, and have finally plucked up the courage to share a bit of wildlife with you. This is a sord of mallards which I filmed this last winter in Łuków, Poland, by the Southern Krzna River in the central park. I thought it a bit unusual to see so many, because I figured they would have flown south by then. As you can see, they are quite accustomed to humans, as people often come with their children to toss them bread (not the ideal diet, as I learned from you).

Please feel free to share this with your readers, if you so choose. I would love to get some feedback about migratory patterns. (Possible aberration due to climate change?)


And a parasitized grasshopper from Jonathan Storm:

I found this dead grasshopper on an eastern hemlock in the Blue Ridge Mountains of South Carolina. It was killed by an entomopathogenic fungus last summer or fall. These fungi are parasites that infect and eventually kill their insect host. Last summer, a fungal spore landed on this grasshopper and worked its way into the body cavity. The fungus then grew and spread until it killed the grasshopper. Several fruiting bodies of the fungus later grew out of the grasshopper and released their spores into the breeze. Some of these spores will then infect a new insect host and the cycle continues.

And a video from Jonathan:

This female Ruby-throated Hummingbird [Archilochus colubris] was collecting spider silk from a window on my house in South Carolina. The sticky and stretchy nature of the silk help hold the nest together and anchor it on top of a tree branch. Ruby-throated Hummingbirds often construct their nest from dandelion seeds, moss, and lichens and place it high up in a hardwood tree.

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 10, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have bee photos from reader Ruth Berger in Germany. Her notes and IDs are attached, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. All photos are “copyright Ruth Berger.”

Here are some of my pics of wild/native bees, taken with a small automatic handheld camera not really suited for the job. I’d like to keep the copyright (already used some of them for a commercial publication and might do so again), hope that’s not a problem.

I’ve chosen Palearctic species to provide some novelty to US readers. All photos were taken in Frankfurt, Germany, near what used to be a cluster of chemical and pharmaceutical plants before globalization transported production to countries with less regulation. Building used to be prohibited in the vicinity because of concerns about chemical accidents, which made it into a kind of unintended nature reserve on urban land, with an abundance of wild pollinators, their parasites, and birdlife. The soil is sandy from river sediment, the climate is very mild for Germany. Part of the area will be ‘developed’ in the coming years, now that building restrictions have fallen with the demise of the industry.

This is a furrow bee, most probably a female of Halictus scabiosae (great banded furrow bee), a warmth-loving species, resting and sheltering in a Geranium pratense blossom on a cool and windy September day.

This is a bryony sand bee (my translation of the German name, Zaunrübensandbiene, Latin: Andrena florea), unsurprisingly feeding on bryony. This seems be to a largely Central European species, it certainly is abundant here in Frankfurt.

This furry thing, taken a few days ago (at 12 degrees C), is probably a male Osmia cornuta (yellow facial coloring due to pollen?), the European orchard bee, another Central European species, on snowdrops. On the second picture, it’s tackling a snowdrop blossom from below.

The next one is a parasitic cuckoo bee, Sphecoides albilabris (f.), “large blood bee” in German, feeding on Berteroa incana, a plant that attracts lots of wild pollinators. Blood bees are solitary, but I sometimes see them in groups for copulation. Their brood eats the eggs and food stores of other bees, normally Colletes cunicularis, but I suspect it parasitizes Halictus sp. here, which are far more abundant than their regular victims.

After so much red coloring, here is a bee in dark metallic blue, Ceratina charybea, a small, warmth loving species rare in Germany, all of whose brood at this site was destroyed when local authorities decided to clear away the dry thistle stalks they nested in.

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 3, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s diverse photos come from reader, anthropologist, and photographer Tony Eales from Queensland. You can enlarge his photos by clicking on them, and his captions are indented.

To answer the call for the readers’ wildlife segment and boost the tank I present some of the other critters and one plant that I photographed on my road trip to the tropical north of my state of Queensland.

First is Cosmophasis micarioides, a small jumping spider found throughout eastern Queensland, and highly variable. The mature males all look the same, with stripes of iridescent aquamarine, white and black; indeed all the male Cosmophasis in Australia are variations on that theme. The females are more colourful with patches of red, green, sometimes purple and golden brown. This one is a juvenile, which in the tropical north are the most colourful of all. In South East Asian species these spiders are often colourful wasp mimics. That may be what the juveniles are going for here, but I can’t think of a wasp model offhand.

Ethmostigmus rubripes is the Australian giant centipede. It’s not as big as the giant centipedes I encountered in Borneo, but they’re still very impressive beasts. This one was probably a shade over 160mm. It was very fast and darted about looking to hide from my light. I can imagine it would deliver a very painful bite if one attempted to handle it.

The Peppermint Stick insect (Megacrania batesii) likes to eat the leaves of the many Pandanus trees in north Qeensland. I had seen pictures of them and have always been struck by their odd colouration. They look more like a plastic toy version of green than one that would really help with camouflage.

I’m sad that I didn’t get a good shot of these prehistoric looking Orange-footed Scrub Fowl (Megapodius reinwardt). They were common enough around the gardens of Port Douglas where we were staying. From a distance you could watch them scratching the leaf litter, but they would slip off into the dense plants when approached.

It was great to see these relatively large Southern Spotted Velvet-Geckos (Oedura tryoni) around Eungella National Park. During my lifetime, my home town of Brisbane has been overrun by introduced Asian House Geckos (Hemidactylus frenatus,) displacing the shyer natives and patrolling every outdoor light. It’s hard to describe the happiness of seeing a gecko running around the walls and noticing that it wasn’t one of those intruders.

Real treat for me was to see my first Emperor Gum Moth (Opodiphthera eucalypti). Technically, I have seen the caterpillars, which are spectacular in their own way, but this was my first adult attracted to the lights at a lonely highway rest stop.

I kind of bombed out on my bucket list spiders for this trip, but one long-desired species that I did photograph was the Australian Lichen Huntsman (Pandercetes gracilis). The camouflage is so good I was only able to see it because of the eyeshine. Night hunting Wolf Spiders and Huntsmans have very strong reflective eyeshine, making them easy to find at light with a torch.

It was only because I had stopped to look at the Huntsman that I noticed this other master of camouflage nearby. This is the Northern Spiny Rainforest Katydid (Phricta spinosa). I was on a night walk with my wife and a friend, and this friend and I were exclaiming about how crazy this Katydid looked and my wife, who was standing with her face only a foot or so away from it, was saying “Where? What are you looking at?” When I pointed it out, she yelped and literally jumped back as it was hidden right under her nose.

I also found several of these strange Theridula sp., one of the comb-footed spiders. The photo suffered from my inability to see what I was focussed on because the humidity of the rainforest fogged up my camera viewfinder and my glasses all the time. I didn’t get a single shot that wasn’t focused on the leaf background instead of the spider.

Lastly, the classic shot tourist shot of the Daintree Rainforest includes these beautiful North Queensland Fan Palms (Licuala ramsayi). Sunlight shining through their leaves graces nearly every piece of tourism advertising for world heritage rainforest.

Readers’ wildlife photos

April 16, 2021 • 8:00 am

Don’t forget to send in your photos!

Today we have the second installment of photos from reader Dave, whose website is here.  Dave’s captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. All photos ©DSF_ All Rights Reserved.



Windy pines:


Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea), West Fjords, Iceland:

Under Iridescence:, ©DSF_ All Rights Reserved.

Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata):

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis):


Shadowed Light:

Migrants (Canada GeeseBranta canadensis), ©DSF_ All Rights Reserved.

Readers’ wildlife photos

April 10, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your wildlife photos. I know some of you are sitting on good ones!

Today’s photos, half of a larger batch) come from reader Dave (website here), and portray a variety of critters and plants (and one astronomy photo). A few have locations specified, but Dave adds, “Most are from upstate New York, from gardens or indiscriminate hikes. By the time I edit the backlog, though, months pass, and any recollection of when and where dries up.”  Captions and IDs are Dave’s, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.  

Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis):

Dragonfly (Anisoptera):

Eastern Gray Squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis):

Daisy (Bellis perennis)


Eastern Chipmunk (Tamias striatus):


Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor):


Quiet Color:


Gather (Common Grackle – Quiscalus quiscula):

Mid-day Moon:

Mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) [JAC: Look at that beautiful hen!]