The photo tank is inexorably draining, so please send in your good wildlife photos.
We have three contributors today, the first being John Crisp, who sent a video:
Here’s a short video of family interactions between gorillas I was fortunate enough to capture four years ago in the Rwandan highlands. Personally, I find the commentary by the guide a little irritating, because I don’t think it is correct, but I could be wrong.
These photos are from John Egloff:
My wife, Cindy, and I live in Carmel, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis. We are both attorneys – Cindy works for the state of Indiana and I am a business lawyer in private practice.
We have been long-time fans and have both of your books. Cindy even got you to autograph her copy of “Why Evolution is True” (along with a cat drawing) when she traveled to Purdue University several years ago to attend your lecture there. We read your website religiously (pun intended) and I often post comments under the name “JohnE”.
Cindy and I are also big fans of our national parks, and over a two-week period early last fall we visited Arches, Canyonlands, Capitol Reef and Zion National Parks. I’ve attached several of the wildlife photos we took at Zion (I hope the total size of the files isn’t too big for the email). The photos are labeled with my best guess as to the scientific names of the various critters. The photos of the condor and her chick (which include a photo of the mother feeding the chick) were taken at quite a distance, so they are a bit grainy.
Besides his duck and faux-duck photos, John Avise has sent us a series called “Avian Reflections”. His notes and IDs are indented:
I love to photograph waterbirds on still days when the water’s surface is so glassy that I can capture the bird and its reflection in one picture (thereby giving “two views for the price of one”). Later, I like to reflect on when and where I took each such artistic picture. So, this brief introduction also reflects my enjoyment of reflection-photos, each of which was taken near my home in Southern California.
Doug Hayes is back with another installment of the avian theater that occurs in his backyard. Voilà: Part 9 of “The Breakfast Club”. Doug’s notes and IDs are indented:
Here’s the ninth installment of the Breakfast Crew, here in Richmond, Virginia. The weather has been cool and rainy for the past few weeks. We had a couple of nights of near freezing temperatures. Bird activity has increased as food becomes scarcer in the wooded area surrounding the Forest Hill neighborhood.
The house sparrows (Passer domesticus) spend a lot of their time hanging out in the azalea bush in our front yard, especially if traffic at the feeders is heavy. Gradually, they head to our neighbor’s yard across the street (she has a pair of feeders that are less busy than ours). Eventually they do turn up in our yard after morning traffic dies down.
The nuthatches (Sitta carolinensis) have been showing up in greater numbers since the weather has started to cool. It is not unusual to see five or more darting around the feeders and chasing each other away from the food.
A house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus) gets a choice seed. They use their tongue and beak to remove the husk to get at the kernel inside the seed.
A white throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis). These guys have made their appearance with the arrival of cooler weather. I haven’t seen them at the feeders—just scavenging seeds from the ground.
One of the northern cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis) that hatched late in the spring. This one and her three siblings still hang out in the yard and are the only cardinals that will perch and eat from both the seed and suet feeders. All of the adult cardinals gather seeds from the ground.
The young female cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) and a female red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) at the feeder.
The blue jays (Cyanocitta cristata) have been out in the more wooded areas around Forest Hill for the past couple of months. As the weather has turned cooler, they are now making their way back into the neighborhood for some easy meals. So far, they are keeping to the far side of the yard which has more trees and bushes. Occasionally, one will make its way to the feeders to grab a few seeds.
A female red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus). One of three regulars that hang out in the trees overlooking the backyard.
A house finch (Haemorhous mexicanus). These birds are the most numerous in the yard. The tend to sit at the feeders for extended periods, cracking seeds and just hanging out until driven away by other birds that want to eat.
I decided to go down to the lake for the first time in over a month. The great blue heron (Ardea herodias) is still there, looking remarkably like Big Bird. The last time I saw the heron, it had molted and was looking quite scruffy. Its feathers are coming back in quite nicely.
This is a new eastern chipmunk (Tamias striatus) who has been visiting the yard for the past week. This guy is bigger than the other three regulars and has a scar on its face. I have seen chipmunks fighting and I have seen squirrels attack them while scavenging seeds. Not exactly a peaceful, Disney-type lifestyle. BTW, I clean up the spilled seeds and husks with a shop vac a couple of times a week to avoid mold and having some of them sprout.
This shot was taken just a few seconds after the photo of the chipmunk. This eastern gray squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis) came out of nowhere and jumped on the chipmunk, driving it away from the seeds birds have scattered on the ground.
Camera info: Sony A7R4 and A7S3 DSLR bodies, Sony FE 200-600 zoom lens plus 1.4X teleconverter. All shots hand held using the camera IBIS (In body image stabilization) and the lens’ optical stabilization. ISO 5000 at f/11, variable shutter speed depending on light condition.
Send in your photos, please! That is, if you want this feature to keep going.
Today’s selection is from regular Mark Sturtevant, whose IDs and captions I’ve indented.
I had recently described a visit to an “ichneumon tree”, a dead tree that had several giant ichneumon wasps on it. These are large wasps, and females have a very long ovipositor (described as the longest of any insect) for drilling into wood to parasitize the larva of a ‘horntail’ wasp. The ichneumons would repeatedly come to this tree for several days, and so I made it a high priority to come back as soon as possible for more pictures. Sure enough, on the second visit the wasps were still there, but among them was — a Mysterious Visitor.
To reprise, the first pictures show our two local species of giant ichneumons, both of which were on the tree. First is Megarhyssa macrurus…
… and then the very formal looking Megarhyssa atrata. The slender wasp also in the pictures is one of several male giant ichneumons (possibly M. macrurus) that were presumably hoping to pass on their genes.
Next is where things began to get a little weird. Here is a M. atrata, but note the little wasp in the foreground. At first I gave this no thought.
After some time, I noticed that the little wasp had moved on to one of the M. atrata females! The big ichneumon definitely was annoyed at this, as she wandered restlessly up and down the trunk and uselessly tried to swipe the little pest away. But the little wasp was able to stay upon her by sitting along her midline where it could not be reached. Eventually the giant ichneumon gave up and began to drill into the wood while her rider seemed to watch attentively. This was baffling.
At first, I was thinking the little Mysterious Visitor was a hyperparasite (a parasite of a parasite). Indeed, my perusal online turned up a group of ichneumons in the Xoridinae subfamily that do parasitize ichneumons, while others are parasites of horntails. So that seemed a possibility. But I sent pictures to BugGuide to get expert opinions on the matter. For those who do not know this resource, BG is an informal but enormous online database and picture repository for insects (and other arthropods) of North America. It has various search functions that are very helpful at identifying critters. The reason why I can post pictures of obscure arthropods with ID’s is mostly because of searching through BG. Anyway, upon receipt of my pictures, a crack team of Entomologists leaped into action to study the situation (at least that is what it seemed like). An answer came very quickly: our little mystery wasp was likely from the genus Rhysella– so actually in the same subfamily as the giant ichneumons and not the subfamily I had thought. More specifically, this is a male, and so is presumably very confused about his mating prospects (!) It is known that male wasps are often “twitterpated” by females of the wrong species.
To wrap up, here are some more damselfly pictures. While kayaking on a local lake, I noted that out on the lily pads were these beautiful orange damselflies, and that was something new. A second trip with a camera soon followed, and here is a picture. This is a young female lilypad forktail damselfly (Ischnura kellicotti), a species that spend their entire lives out on lilypads. When she matures, she will develop a pale blue color, while males will turn blue and so resemble a ‘bluet’ damselfly even though they belong to a different group. By the way, taking a heavy camera out on a tippy kayak is extremely dumb. Don’t do it.
The last picture is possibly of a young male ‘familiar’ bluet damselfly (Enallagma civile)that will later turn a lovely cobalt blue as he matures. Nothing remarkable, really, but this is one of the first successful pictures that I had taken with the help of the marvelous Helicon Fb tube, which is an attachment for doing rapid focus bracketing with an ordinary Canon or Nikon dslr camera. Focus bracketing is where one takes a series of pictures at slightly different focal points, and these are later ‘stacked’ with special software to make a single picture with extended focal range. So now I too am a “stacker”.
Today we have three contributors, whose words I’ve indented. First, reader Dom in England sent some spiders:
Some nice big hairy spiders for you! These are probably all Eratigena genus, but they were formerly Tegenaria. In addition, in April the view that Eratigena atrica was, in fact, three species, was endorsed by the authority, the World Spider Catalog.
These are the biggest European spiders, and consequently the ones that induce the greatest panic in phobics. I photographed them with the iphone, and the flash made their little eyes light up.
Mars from reader Terry Platt in Berkshire:
Here is a recent image of Mars that I took on the 10th of October, from my observatory in the UK. The telescope used was a 317mm off-axis reflector that I built back in 1986. As you probably know, Mars is at its closest for some years and so it is a good time to take images.
The picture is centred on longitude 230 degrees and shows the region of Mare Cimmerium (the dark region near centre) and Elysium (the pale patch below centre). Mars was about 22.5 arc seconds in diameter at this time.
And some lovely hummingbirds from Ken Howard in Arizona; “Kelly” is his partner, artist Kelly Houle:
For your consideration. Kelly and I maintain five hummingbird feeders around our home to support the migration given the backdrop of local severe drought, forest fires, and heat of this past summer and fall. Attached are images from Sunday’s visitors – a juvenile male Calliope hummingbird (Selasphorus calliope) and a broad-billed hummingbird (Cynanthus latirostris).
The first two are Calliopes, the second two broad-billeds:
Today we have more street photography from Joe Routon, whose captions are indented. (Remember, good street photography counts as wildlife.)
Jerry, in one of your recent newsletters you mentioned that you admire the work of Cartier-Bresson so I thought you might like to see some of my street photography.
When I’m roaming the streets with my camera, I’m searching for something that tells a story and evokes an inward response.
When I first noticed this man and his sign on the street, I desperately wanted to take his picture. But, he was very intimidating, so I hesitated. In fact, I walked by him four or five times, trying to summon up the courage to ask him if I could take his photo. When I finally took the plunge, I was relieved when he smiled and said, “Sure.” After I had taken several photos, I expected him to extend his palm for some kind of fee. Instead of asking for any money, he wished me a good day. Thrilled to get the photo, I reached into my wallet and retrieved a ten dollar bill for him.
I made this photo from our hotel room in Estonia. The young lady was not quite as romantically involved as her boyfriend.
Here are young girls keeping cool on a hot day.
When we travel, I’m always on the lookout for street photos. I made this one of a barber in India.
While doing some shopping in a grocery store, I happened upon this lady. It takes a person with courage and nerves of steel to approach someone wearing a “No Photos Please” shirt and ask to take a photo. I have neither courage nor nerves of steel, but I absolutely had to have that picture, so I asked. The sweet lady laughed and nodded. With the help of photography, I’m gradually learning to overcome my shyness.
Today we have photos from a regular: Tony Eales of Brisbane. Tony’s notes and IDs are indented, and check out the spider and its egg sac in the fourth photo.
Spring has sprung but life is only slowly struggling out from under winter where I am, as it has remained very dry for a few months now. Even so, the signs are here if you look hard enough.
I hardly ever see these little Theridiids without a clutch of giant eggs. I’m told that these are undescribed but will probably fall in the genus Chrysso. I’ve posted pics of these before but they are a personal fave.
I found my first masked bee of the season and a new one for my life list. A female Hylaeus (Hylaeorhiza) nubilosus. She was warming up on the back wall of my house.
In the local sub-tropical rainforest there was some activity despite the dry conditions. I found these little Lioponera sp. ants moving house. These ants aren’t often seen above ground. They specialise in raiding termites for their larvae and generally stay underground and within logs.
I was stunned by the weird long egg sac of this Miagrammopes sp. These are strange enough spiders already but I’ve never seen an egg sac like this before.
In the same family with a more normal egg sac is this little Philoponella sp. Both these spiders have no venom and don’t have sticky droplets on their web. Spidering on hard mode.
Finally I came across this clump of newly hatched spiderlings. No idea what species they are but a definite sign that spring is here.
Thanks to the many readers who have been sending me photos. Keep ’em coming, please!
Today’s set of insect photos come from regular Mark Sturtevant, and I’ve indented his comments and IDs. I find the prey-locating and the drilling abilities of ichneumon wasps (below) almost beyond comprehension.
This is a set of pictures of insects that were taken over a short period of time over a year ago. By chance, they focus on a small number of species.
First up is a young widow skimmer dragonfly (Libellula luctuosa). In many of our local fields they are among the most common dragonflies, emerging in steady waves over most of the summer. As this young male matures, it will become accented with a white waxy bloom on its body and wings.
Next is a picture of one of our largest dragonflies, the spatterdock darner (Rhionaeschna mutata). I can well remember my trepidation when first seeing these swift and powerful fliers, since darner dragonflies can be especially difficult to photograph because many of them just . don’t . land (shakes fist at green darners especially). But spatterdocks can be kind to photographers because they will land after a time, and are even surprisingly tolerant of being approached. This stunning specimen is a mature male.
The next pictures are of another male spatterdock. I was just loading my gear into the car after a long day outdoors, when this one landed nearby while carrying … something. So out came the camera again. One can see that the spatterdock had taken another dragonfly (probably a blue dasher), and it was steadily stuffing the meal down its gaping maw. I was able to get in very close as he was finishing up. What a glutton!
Early last summer I was visiting a new park that was near my work. It was beautiful, featuring a sunny pond that was swarming with dragonflies, a lush meadow filled with wildflowers, and even a wetland area dotted with several dead trees. The dead trees were of timely interest since according to my calendar (one must of course note important insect activities in their calendar), giant ichneumon wasps from the genus Megarhyssa were supposed to be around. So I invested considerable time inspecting the dead trees, since that would be where these insects would be laying eggs. There are two species of these large parasitic wasps around here, but I had not seen one except in passing for several years.
A fellow nature lover saw me with my cameras, and came over to chat. After he had learned that I photograph insects, his next words were “Oh, did you see the giant ichneumons?” I must have looked fairly gob-smacked, but he pointed out the tree, and yes indeed there were giant ichneumons! At least a dozen of the large insects on a single tree. Incredible! The following pictures shows a few of them doing their thing.
Giant ichneumons are parasitic wasps, and females use their extraordinarily long ovipositor to drill into dead wood where they target the larva of another wasp known as the horntail. The first two pictures show one of the species, Megarhyssa macrurus. The raised ovipositor is already drilled a couple inches into the wood. At an early stage of this process, the base of the drill becomes partly wrapped with intersegmental membrane, as shown in the 2nd picture. Amazingly, over a period of several minutes the entire ovipositor will be worked into solid wood. She is able to somehow pinpoint a horntail larva and then thread an egg down her ovipositor to the prey deep in the tree. The link includes a film that shows the drilling process.
Among the many giant ichneumons on the tree were several examples of both species. The other local species, M. atrata, is shown next. This one has drilled almost all the way into the wood. The long coils that are looping out are not the ovipositor, but are a pair of supporting sheaths that are bent aside as she drills.
Next is one of several males that were restlessly wandering up and down the tree, checking out each female. These were presumably hoping for a mating opportunity. Males of the two species look quite similar, but I think this one is M. macrurus.
Over an extended time, various females came, raised their ovipositers, and drilled in. After a time they would slowly retract the ovipositor and move on to a different spot in the tree.
At one point a female atrata actually straddled a macrurus who was already drilling, and the interloper began drilling into the same hole! You can see this in the final picture if you look closely. This “claim jumping “ is probably common among these competing species.
Experience has taught me that this orgy of horntail murder was far from over, as the wasps will continue to visit this tree over several days. I resolved to return as soon as I could, and in a later installment you will see that things were going to get pretty strange on the ‘ol “ichneumon tree”.
We have some lovely black and white landscape photos today courtesy of reader Bill Zorn. His captions are indented.
Here are a few landscapes. I made these photographs with a Linhof Master Technika 2000 camera, a variety of Kodak 4×5” films, which I processed and printed on Ilford paper using Ansel Adam’s technique.