Readers’ wildlife photos

August 25, 2021 • 8:00 am

Keep those photos coming in, folks (or, as it’s spelled now—for reasons that elude me—”folx”).

Today we have one of my favorite arthropods, jumping spiders. The photos come from Tony Eales of Queensland, whose notes are indented. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Just a quick one to celebrate the fact I photographed my first Maratus volans.

The is THE classic Peacock Jumping Spider, widespread along the south-eastern seaboard of Australia. They are also one of the most colourful, but that can be relative in a genus with so many colourful species. Next things to tick off are photographs of a male displaying and to photograph the other local species, Maratus ottoi. A friend of mine has spent 6 years trying to get a photograph of M. ottoi displaying and finally got a beautiful shot last weekend.

Much to the disgust of many of my Peacock Jumping Spider obsessed friends, two common and fairly dowdy jumping spiders have been shifted from genus Hypoblemum to the Peacock Spider genus Maratus. This had the effect of instantly upping lots of people’s peacock spider counts from zero to two. There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the purists. I present my photos of these two new members of the elite genus. I think they are quite nice.

Maratus griseus male:

Maratus griseus female:

Maratus scutulatus male:

Maratus scutulatus female:

Readers’ wildlife photos (and video and painting)

August 23, 2021 • 8:00 am

Last Friday I posted the tweet below, and suggested that because reader and biologist Lou Jost works in Ecuador and Peru, where this toucan lives, he might have seen one. (Lou works at a field station in Ecuador.) Indeed he had: he’d even filmed one and painted one of its relatives. Here’s Lou’s contribution (his words are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them).

First, the tweet I showed the other day:

From Lou:

A few days ago Jerry posted a photograph of a beautiful toucan, so colorful that he asked whether the colors were real. The bird was the Plate-billed Mountain-ToucanAndigena laminirostris, native to the western Andes of Ecuador and Colombia. I can vouch for the fact that the bird really is as beautiful as that photo showed. It is a common bird in good-quality cloud forest here in Ecuador, and we have them in two of our reserves.

One afternoon while I was showing some visitors our birds, one of these toucans flew low over the road in front of the car and landed in a roadside tree in perfect light. I told the car to stop and we stayed there watching, photographing, and videoing this magnificent bird for half an hour. Even though we had all seen this species many times before, there was something special about the perfect light, the close distance, and the absolute lack of fear or concern in the bird, and the way it posed for us at every possible angle. Two of the people in the car were Bob Ridgely, author of the Birds of Ecuador field guide, and veteran Ecuadorian ornithologist  Pancho Sornoza. As we were all watching the bird, Pancho said “Bob, this is the best bird sighting I’ve ever had in all my life”. This from a guy who had spent his whole life watching birds in Ecuador.

Here’s Lou’s wonderful video:

A photo montage:

Lou is also an artist and did a painting or a related species::

Here is my painting of another Ecuadorian member of the same genus, the Gray-breasted Mountain-ToucanAndigena hypoglauca. This species lives at much higher elevations than the Plate-billed Mountain-Toucan, and only on the eastern side of the Andes. It is one of my favorite birds. These toucans mostly eat fruit, but their long bills also facilitate reaching into hole nests of other birds and eating their eggs or young. Some toucans of a different genus are even known to kill and eat monkeys!

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 20, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your good wildlife photos, as the tank drops ever lower.

Reader Divy Figueroa and her husband Ivan Alfonso run an exotic-animal veterinary-care clinic in Florida (often going to the animals, as they treat all sorts), and also keep a number of reptiles (and two cats). Here we see one of their favorite turtles. Divy’s notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

This is a  Malayemys subtrijuga, commonly known as the  Mekong Snail Eating Turtle, or as we call them, Snail Eaters. Guess what they eat? They are originally from Malaysia, but the story from the Indonesian locals is that they were introduced to Java and Sumatra by the Dutch to eradicate snails. Needless to say, the snails are still around, and so are the Snail Eaters, who thrived and are by now established in the area.

We took a trip to Java a couple of years ago, and got to see them in situ. Ivan wanted to study and document their habitat for a lecture he would be giving later that year, and we wanted to see if we could improve our husbandry skills and care.

These turtles are one of my favorite species in our collection. They are very docile and I love their cute faces.

After several years of infertile egg laying, we hatched three babies in a matter of months. Our firstborn hatched in October, and the second two hatched the following January.  We’ve had several successful hatchings since then, but these three little amigos are our pride and joy, and in a few more years should join the breeding group.

This is our firstborn, pipping out of his shell.

The three babies in my hand, right after the 3rd hatched. Notice the difference in size.


One of the babies begging to be fed.

The three, about a year after hatching.  The first-born will be the smallest once they reach adulthood, as males are smaller than females.

This is one of our adult Snail Eaters, and you can see that the babies are a miniature replica of their parents

A few of our adults on land.

Another pic of our firstborn as he was emerging from the egg.

A female looking to nest in her enclosure. This process can take several days—sometimes up to a week or more.

Snail-Eating habitat in Java. This picture was taken in July during the dry season, when the turtles normally hibernate-aestivate.

How did a picture of Jango get there? 😻

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 15, 2021 • 8:00 am

Once again the photo tank is getting close to empty, so please send in your wildlife photos.

Today’s odonate photos come from Mark Sturtevant, whose notes and IDs are indented. Click on the photos to enlarge them. Mark adds that you can see his most recent photos on his Flickr page.

Here is a set of dragonfly pictures that were taken two summers ago. I seek to photograph nearly any kind of arthropod, but my thoughts are never far from dragons.

Clubtail dragonflies are an enormous family. Most species are boldly marked with black and yellow, and then there is that ‘clubbed’ tail, although that is often not so distinct in females. This striking individual is a female arrow clubtail (Stylurus spiniceps). a species quite common in the ‘Magic Field’. The picture was focus stacked from a small number of pictures taken by hand.

There is a quick story attached to this find, which is that the dragonfly was found for me by another dragonfly. I was following a male dragonfly that wasn’t even a clubtail when it suddenly paused to inspect a branch before moving on. On that branch was this fine female arrow clubtail! I have seen before that males are very attuned to spotting other dragonflies in their endless pursuit of a mate, so I’ve learned to watch their behavior to help me find a perched dragonfly that I would have overlooked.

The next picture is another clubtail, and a goal of mine is to get better pictures of it. This is a male Dromogomphus spinosus, but its common name is black-shouldered spinyleg. The name is very literal, as you can see from its shoulders and wicked looking hind legs.

The next two pictures are different species of “mosaic darners”, which are a group of darner species with intricate markings and a strong resemblance to one another. The first is a male green-striped darner (Aeshna verticalis); the second is a female lance-tipped darner (Aeshna constricta) – at least that is what I think they are, and I could easily be wrong. Other than the differences in appendages at the rear of the abdomen, which mainly identify the sex, there is scarcely a difference. You can’t rely too much on the slightly different colors since that is pretty variable.

I was out photographing insects with a camera buddy. After a long summer day goofing off in fields and woods with cameras, we were slogging it back to the parking lot when a drab and “fluttery” dragonfly landed along the trail right in front of us. What the heck was this?? It was a female fawn darner (Boyeria vinosa), a completely new species to me, and one I thought I might never see! Fawn darners are one of a small number of dragonfly species that become more active late in the afternoon. They will continue to fly well into dusk.

In closing, here are some egg laying pairs of green darners (Anax junius). While they were securing the next generation, a frustrated male was dive bombing them but I was never fast enough to catch that.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 13, 2021 • 9:00 am

Please send in your good photos; there’s a NEED!

Today’s batch comes from Arthur Williams. His captions are indented, and you can click his photos to enlarge them.

Please find attached several photos I dug up from this summer and one from more recently. The butterfly is a eastern tiger swallowtail (I think): Papilio glaucus. There is an Appalachian variant, a hybrid between Canadian tiger swallowtails and Eastern tigers, that look similar, but given our location in Cincinnati, it’s likely to be the Eastern tiger. Here’s a link for the cladists in the crowd.

The nest is a bald eagle’s nest, lacking eagles, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, but gives a notion on how big these things can get. I think there are smaller apartments in Tokyo than this behemoth structure. This thing must weigh at least two tons after a good rain. It’s been built up over the last eight years, near Norris Lake, Tennessee, with the same pair, we think, diligently adding on to the structure.

The brown-headed cowbirdMolothrus ater, isn’t so interesting for its photogenicity but for its behavior. I would see him and his harem in the summer, parading through the grass looking for seeds or insects maybe. The females apparently lay their three dozen or so eggs in other birds’ nests as a brood parasite, hoping to take advantage of a warbler’s soft spot for a doughy-eyed passerine. Apparently the juvenile cowbirds slip out of their foster nests to rendezvous with other cowbirds in order to learn how to be a cowbird and not a warbler. And their biologic mothers don’t completely abandon them, but keep tabs on their development. (More here.)

The white tail doesOdocoileus virginianus, are shown with their winter and summer coats as comparison. The prominent tarsal gland is visible on both animals, but particularly conspicuous on the summer photo. The oily glandular secretions beneath the fur mixes with urine and gives each animal a unique calling card, which they rub on trees to indicate territory or receptiveness.

Winter:

Summer:

The two found our pumpkins that we had composted when the pumpkins began to ferment. I wonder if the belligerence of the one doe is a result of a little loudmouth pumpkin soup.

The final two pictures are of our local red-shouldered hawkButeo lineatus, being mobbed by a smaller bird. He gets his fill of the brave but annoying dive-bombing and exits stage right.

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 23, 2020 • 7:45 am

Keep sending in your wildlife photos, please. I have a decent backlog, but it gets depleted at the rate of 7 contributions per week.

Today we have some lovely photos of pelicans taken by reader Bob Fritz, whose captions are indented.

Here are some photos of Brown Pelicans (Pelecanus occidentalis) taken in La Jolla, California during breeding season (winter).  The birds cluster in large numbers along the cliffs by the ocean, and can be easily observed while walking along the various pathways.

Following are some “head throw” photos when the birds swing their head back.  I read speculation that this behavior helps stretch the skin of their pouch.

The La Jolla cliffs also provide good angles to catch the birds as they land, or to look down on them from above.

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 20, 2020 • 7:45 am

Today we have a potpourri from several readers. Their captions are indented.

First, a photo from Kristin Wells (click to enlarge):

The picture attached was taken this month at  Bear Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

Reader Cate found a debilitated baby squirrel (probably dehydrated) and wrote me asking what to do with it (she’s local). I told her to call the Chicago Bird Collision Monitors, who would know what to do with it.  They did, and took it for rehab. Her notes:

Thanks Jerry, you were spot on. I called the bird people, and I was able to drop the poor little guy off with Annette downtown so she could bring him along with this morning’s wounded birds to Willowbrook. If you want to post anything about it to alert people about the wonderful people saving birds again, and that they can also take and safe squirrels, I can send you a picture of Annette holding the box with the squirrel too. He or she was a lovely specimen, an incredible tail.

The poor baby after rescue:

Annette taking it to Willowbrook (a rescue/rehab facility where I’ve sent several orphaned or abandoned ducklings). Chicago Bird Collision Monitors is a fantastic organization, made up largely of volunteers. Their main job is to find birds downtown that have been stunned by flying into buildings, and rescuing them. But they go all over the Chicago area rescuing wildlife in trouble.

 

A spider from Jorg Driesener:

A friend of mine, Peter Simpkin,  suggested I send you some photos of wildlife I have taken in my yard in Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.  I don’t know the scientific names of the animals, but I enjoy macro photography and thus take photos at every opportunity.

If you know the spider, weigh in below:

From Tim Anderson:

Messier 16 is a bright emission nebula in the Serpens constellation. This image was compiled from forty 180-second frames captured with a 100mm refracting telescope and a colour astronomical camera.
In the centre of the image is a structure known as “The Pillars of Creation“, made famous by the Hubble Space Telescope:

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 1, 2020 • 8:00 am

According to our new policy, both landscapes and photos of people count as “wildlife.” That’s good because it enables me to post some lovely photos.

This batch comes from Joe Routon, and the subject is arches.

I’m always excited when I find a scene with an arch—it reminds me of a doorway to something beyond. I imagine passing through the arch and entering something new, something perhaps unknown. It adds anticipation to the photo.  Here are a few of my favorite arch photographs.

A city filled with arches is Florence, Italy. Here’s one at the Palazzo del Bargello, one of my favorite museums in the city.

Also in Florence is a series of arches at the complex of Santa Croce Church, the burial place of Galileo, the composer Rossini, and Machiavelli.

One of my favorite art museums in Florence is the Pitti Palace. I made this picture as we were leaving the museum. I purposely made the colors intense to give it the feeling of a painting.

In Sicily, this is the Ear of Dionysius, a cave carved out of a hill in the city of Syracuse. It was given its name by the painter Caravaggio because of its similarity to a human ear.

Moving to Moscow, here’s my photo of St. Basil Cathedral in Red Square. The turbulent sky and the ominous figure standing at the entrance give the picture a foreboding, almost unsettling, feeling—perhaps a gateway that one would be reluctant to enter.

Looking through this arch in Budapest, we see the Parliament Building.

Going through this arch, you enter the walkway of the Manhattan Bridge in NYC.

In Vacherie, Louisiana, there is an arch leading to the Oak Alley Plantation.

One of my favorite photos, this shows a shepherd with his sheep, after they’ve passed through the arches of an aqueduct in Rome. Watching it was like traveling back in history—I was witnessing something relatively unchanged that had happened every day for thousands of years.

These arches remind me of today in our country’s history. We’re about to enter a doorway into something new, something unknown. Let’s hope that a brighter, happier, more pleasant view awaits us on the other side. Vote!

Readers’ wildlife photos

September 3, 2020 • 7:45 am

Today the wildlife comes from reader Bill Zorn, who sent photos of Homo sapiens in Tibet, a place I once visited (but only Lhasa and its environs). Bill’s captions are indented.

Almost all of my photos are landscapes, but here are a few portraits. I lived in Beijing for several years and did a project on the Three Gorges Dam. I went to Iran in 2005 to photograph for a project on ‘rituals’, and some of the Tibet photos were for that.  Most of these photos were taken with a 4×5 field camera. I did the processing and printing.
A boy at a Tibetan Buddhist festival:

A Buddha (Siddhartha?) statue:

This is a living buddha, Kan Da, in Qinghai, China. He’s standing where 400 years ago, a monk sat for 60 days, taking no food, no water, then turned into a crow and flew away. apparently this practice has fallen out of favor and there are no recent instances to report.

Tibetan girls:

Buddhist monk with prayer beads:

Young monks and prayer drums:

Tibetan cowgirl (yakgirl?):

Woman in alley, Yazd, Iran:

Mother and child, Wu Gorge, China:

Workers, Qutang Gorge, China:

Old man, Peisha:

Boatman, Madu River, China:

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 28, 2020 • 7:45 am

Today’s lovely photos of spiders come from regular Tony Eales of Queensland, and I’ve indented his comments and IDs. Please send in your good wildlife photos, as the tank is getting lower. . .

Spring is in the air and I’m hoping to get out and find some interesting species of peacock jumping spiders this season. However, it has still been pretty cold of late, and I haven’t got out as much as I’d like, so I went through some old photos looking for something interesting to send. I thought I’d feature one of my favourite spider families, the Theridiidae. These are familiar spiders to many, as some species have taken to living in human habitations and are responsible for many of the cobwebs in the corners of houses. Also, the medically significant Black Widow and Australian Red-back Spiders are part of this group.

First up is the Australian Dewdrop Spider, Argyrodes antipodianus. These are kleptoparasites in the webs of other, usually orb-weaving spiders. They are extremely common in the giant webs of Golden Orb-weavers, Trichonephilia plumipes. Pictured here are a male and female T. plumipes. The giant webs of the females are home to a virtual ecosystem of kleptoparasites including the male golden orb-weaver and often several different species of Argyrodes. These scroungers are well tolerated by the large females as they tend to take prey under the size that she is interested in. However they can be a real problem for smaller females or other spiders as they can steal a detrimental amount of food, causing the spider to move her web to get away from them.

Next is a beautiful undescribed spider, one of a group of small cryptic Theridiids that live under leaves. I am informed that when someone does work on the group, these will likely end up in the genus Chrysso, which currently has no recognised species in Australia but many in east Asia and the American tropics. I really can’t understand how these tiny spiders often have a small clutch of eggs that seem bigger than they could possibly lay.

Next are a couple of Euryopis. They genus are specialist ant predators. The first one, E. umbilicata, lives under bark on gum trees and dashes out to ambush passing ants that are constantly going up and down the trunk. The next is an undescribed species that seems to actively hunt out in the open, I often see it on fences and railings. Euryopis are easy to recognise by their small cephalothorax, large abdomen ,and their legs arranged splayed out in a ‘swept-back’ fashion that looks like they are heading into a strong wind. I don’t know what it is about this arrangement, but they are preternaturally fast and able to run down ants which is no small feat. And they are fearless with respect to prey. As the photo shows, this one has caught a large ~12mm Myrmecia nigrocincta (Jumping Jack Ant) which are no shrinking violets as predators themselves.

The webs of Theridiids are very complex with threads at all angles, they look messy to us, giving them one common name of Tangle Web Spiders, but they are very efficient traps. They also make fantastic nurseries for the eggs and spiderlings. Here is a photo of a Parasteatoda sp. mum guarding her eggs in the centre of a pile of grass seeds, prey husks and litter to distract any predators away from the her charges.

There are a lot of strange tiny Theridiids in all sorts of places that we miss. This sp. was found in leaf litter where a multitude of tiny Theridiids all make their home. The members of this subfamily have these strange enamel-looking patches and sometimes weird humps or turrets from their abdomen.

Next is a Steatoda sp., the genus of classic house spiders known commonly as False Widow Spiders. The light patches on the abdomen on this specimen glowed under UV light, which is strange for a spider but common in scorpions.

Finally, my favourite of the Theridiids, the Mirror Spider. This is a Black-spotted Mirror-spider Thwaitesia nigronodosa. I’ve sent photos of these before, but they are a difficult spider to photograph well. I think I’m getting better at it, so here’s a more recent shot. The silver in Mirror Spiders and in Argyrodes species comes from deposits of guanine as explained in this article.