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 8, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we finish up the last third of Stephen Barnard’s photos sent from his ranch in Idaho. His captions are indented and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them. The title is “Mammals and lanscapes.”

Moose (Alces alces). A cow and two yearling calves in my back yard.

A trio of North American river otters (Lontra canadensis) cruising downstream, making good time, in early morning light. They probably just decimated the rainbow trout spawning upstream.

Some landscapes. The first two are iPhone 12 photos. The last was made with the pano feature and blew my mind.

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 6, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have more  travel photos from Anne-Marie Cournoyer of Montreal, who guided treks all over the world. Her captions are indented, and you can enlarge her photos by clicking on them.

Euskaraz badaizu? Do you speak basque?

Souvenirs from hiking trips I guided in 2004.

I visited the « pays Basque»  a few times, and remember it as always green. Guess why! One must not forget to carry an umbrella!

When I was scouting in May, the skies were mostly clear. On the other hand, September was more moody and gray, creating a mysterious ambiance that delighted my clients hiking under the rain.

The Basque country is situated in the western Pyrenees, in adjacent parts of Southwestern France and Northern Spain. Both sides have been sharing the same language, culture and traditions for centuries.

The Basque language might be one of the oldest language spoken in Europe; it has nothing in common with French and Spanish

Meeting a Pottok on La Rhune, a mountain tied to Basque mythologies. The Pottoks are semi-wild ponies roaming the Pyrenean pastures. Notice the gentleness of my client: presenting himself and letting the horse decide whether or not to make contact.  One should never impose on a horse. A true relationship emerges from a dialogue, not a monologue.

Rain is in the air: a typical old Basque house.


Walking on the GR10 (hiking route) toward Ainhoa. GR is an abbreviation for «  Grande Randonnée » which means « long distance hike » . This hiking trail runs the length of the Pyrenees, parallel to the Spanish border.

The red and white lines found along the trail signal that we are on a GR route and the direction to follow.  The 2 other signs refer to the Camino de Santiago Compostella road.

«  Les Aldudes »  is a French village and a valley situated in Spain. The region’s pastures are administrated by France, which is paying a rent to Spain. Every year, at the end of May, the transhumance begins.


Cattle are marked with a red iron before being led to high pastures for the summer.


Crossing the Pyrenees from St-Jean-Pied de Port to Roncesvalles, one of the most beautiful hikes in the Basque Country.


Entering Spain on the Camino Frances toward Santiago de Compostella.  I took the next two pictures on the way down. Same hour of day, very different weather.

Entering Spain on the Camino Frances toward Santiago de Compostella.

Readers’ wildlife photos

April 27, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from reader James Blilie, whose notes and captions are indented. You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

These are my photos from 1981 and 2006.

I keeping with the theme theme, I call this set “close encounters”. All are taken in the Rocky Mountains of North America and all are close encounters with wildlife found there.  I’m not really a wildlife photographer.  These were just lucky encounters while hiking and backpacking in the parks.

None of these photos are taken with a telephoto lens.  Every one in the first batch from the Canadian Rockies was taken with a 50mm lens (“normal lens”) on 35mm Kodachrome 64 film. Of the second batch, one is even taken with a wide-angle lens.

First, from Jasper and Banff National Parks and Mount Robson Provincial Park, in September 1981, a series of scanned Kodachrome images.  September seems like a spectacular time to view wildlife in these vast and beautiful parks.  (Equipment:  Pentax K-1000 or ME-Super and Pentax M 50 mm f/2.0 lens)

A bull elk (Cervus canadensis):

Next, a large group of stone sheep (Ovis dalli stonei), you can see the proximity to the road.

Next, a series of my friend and I photographing a group of Mountain Goats (Oreamnos americanus) (These are neither goats nor sheep of course.)  We saw this group of goats and sat down in the direction they were traveling and they walked right past us.  My friend was lucky to encounter a curious youth.

Next a bull moose (Alces alces).  I can’t recommend getting close to these; and in northern Minnesota I’ve been aggressively threatened by them  Luckily in those cases, I was in a canoe and they were unable to approach us!

Finally from the Canadian Rockies, a couple of views of what the local scenery looks like.

Bow Lake with moonrise.

And spectacular Mount Robson from the shore of Berg Lake.

Next are a few from our (USA) northern Rocky park:  Glacier National Park, in 2006, when my son Jamie was 2 years old.  He could hike with us even then!  (Equipment: Pentax *ist DSLR and some entry-level lenses.  I hadn’t really converted to digital at this point.  I’m a late-adopter.)

The first two are another close encounter with a Mountain Goat (Oreamnos americanus). We were sitting eating our lunch and a group walked past, including this large male:

Finally, another scenic view from Glacier National Park.  This is on the Sunrift Gorge Hike.

My scanner is an Epson V-500 perfection photo scanner (current version is the V-600), which I can highly recommend.  A good film dust brush is a key accessory.  And good software to adjust the images and spot out dust that the brush didn’t get.

Readers’ wildlife photos

April 23, 2021 • 8:00 am

I’m very pleased at our new contributors responding to my call for photos. One of them was Suzanna Sherry, who sent in her husband’s bird photos. Her captions and narrative are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

My husband took these photos but doesn’t think they’re good enough to share. [JAC: they are!] All of them were taken in South Florida, at the Ding Darling Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island, or at the Audubon Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary in Immokalee. All were taken with a Nikon D-500 camera and a Nikkor 500 mm f5.6 lens.

It’s breeding and birthing season, so that’s the theme of these photos:

We saw a pair of thick-billed vireos (Vireo crassirostris) carefully building a nest. Lots of birding sites don’t list them at all, but the Audubon Field Guide says they are limited to some Caribbean Islands and “occasionally as vagrants in South Florida.” There is apparently some controversy about whether they are just a subspecies of white-eyed vireos (Vireo griseus). Notice the thick bill!

There’s also a tricolored heron (Egretta tricolor) in breeding plumage with its iridescent blue beak, and a great egret (Ardea alba) trying to impress a mate.

As for babies, here’s a fuzzy little common moorhen (Gallinula chloropus) chick and an adult osprey (Pandion haliaetus) with chick in the nest. And killdeer (Charadrius vociferous) busy making more killdeer.

Finally, I couldn’t resist sending this photo of the usually shy green heron (Butorides virescens) strutting his stuff right out in public. No idea whether that’s a breeding behavior, but it made for easy photography!

Readers’ wildlife photos

April 8, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have a contribution from physicist and origami master Robert Lang, presenting some photos called “Altadena: Squirrel Noms Edition” (Altadena, California is where he lives). His captions and descriptions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them:

Most of these photos were taken from my office out the window above my desk.
Naturally we need to start with a kitty. Our first pic is a Bobcat (Lynx rufus), a species I get regular visitation from, though more often at night than daytime. As you can see here, the meadow outside my studio is starting to come back to life, which brings out the ground squirrels and rabbits that keep the bobcats coming.

I live and work in Altadena, on the northern boundary of the freeway-and-housing metropolis of Los Angeles. Because the mountains rise so abruptly, the boundary between civilization and wilderness is pretty sharp, and so we get a lot of wildlife along the edges, both big and small. The Western Fence Lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis) is one of the smaller ones.

One of my favorite visitors is the Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus). They’re distinctive and chatty, and the locals seem to have forgiven me for letting Edison replace the old telephone pole last year that had become on of their granaries over the years.

I rarely see the Gray Fox (Urocyon cinereoargenteus) during the day, but one is a common nighttime visitor who gets snapped by an IR camera I have set. Here’s video.

The Western Gray Squirrels (Sciurus griseus) regularly come down from the trees to root around for seeds and such. This time of year, there’s lots of empty acorn caps, but not many acorns left (last year was a bumper crop).

A different kind of squirrel is the California Ground Squirrel (Otospermophilus beecheyi), which, though superficially similar to the grays can be distinguished by a tinge of brown and speckling in the fur and a not nearly as fluffy tail. (As the name suggests, they live in burrows, not trees.) This morning I saw a behavior I’ve never seen before: one was climbing around on a patch of Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia sp.), which must have hurt! Or else he climbed very carefully.

What could be so attractive to induce one to brave the glochids (the short, incredibly nasty little spines that grow in the areoles)? Turns out he was eating the cochineal insects (Dactylopius coccus)—which produce and live under the white, waxy tufts that you see around the areoles.

He went from pad to pad, cleaning them off. I’d never known that squirrels were cochineal predators, but this explained why they slowly disappeared from the cactus over the summer. I’m sure the cactus appreciated the squirrels’ cleanings.
In this last photo, you can see some of the waxy tufts around the squirrel’s mouth and I think I see one of the cochineal insects stuck on the end of a whisker—they’re tiny dark red dots (and are the source of Red Dye #4, also know as carmine, and commonly used in foods and cosmetics).
In this last photo, he has his eyes closed, and I see him as savoring the flavor of this delicacy that made it worth the trip and the spines. (I imagine Jerry having the same expression after a particularly juicy slab of brisket.)

You can see Robert’s origami page here.

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 24, 2021 • 8:00 am

Do send in your photos, and please make sure they’re good ones, comparable in quality to what usually appears in this space. Thanks!

Today we have photos by reader Joe Dickinson. Joe’s comments are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Here are some photos from a recent trip down the central California coast.

We stayed in Cambria, which always means elephant seals (Mirounga angustirostris) and California ground squirrels (Otospermophilus beecheyi):

We also ventured as far south as Morro Bay, a good place for sea otters.  We did see a few dozen otters, but this time they stayed too far out for me to get a decent photo.  This snowy egret (Egretta thula) was more cooperative, hanging out near the cliff-top boardwalk across from out motel.

For context, this is the rising sun catching a wave (so to speak) viewed from the boardwalk.

Finally, for the physics buffs, the combination of a window screen and a privacy curtain gave some fine interference patterns. 

Reader’s wildlife video

March 8, 2021 • 8:00 am

After nearly a year’s hiatus, we have a new video from Tara Tanaka, and it’s a lovey one: gorgeous shots of Sandhill Cranes (Antigone canadensis) accompanied by appropriate music. (Tara’s Vimeo page is here, and her Flickr page is here.)

The notes on Tara’s public Facebook post say this:

It’s been a year since I created a new wildlife video, but this one has been floating around in my head and my heart since 2014, and sharing these scenes and the emotion behind them was one of the top things on my bucket list. Be sure not to turn it off too early – there are two main parts to this video. I hope you enjoy it!

Be sure to enlarge the video and turn the sound on! The first thirty seconds is the intro.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 28, 2021 • 8:15 am

It’s Sunday, and that means a new “themed” batch of birds from John Avise. His notes and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

More Avian “Hair-dos”

Two weeks ago, Jerry posted some of my photos of bird head-dressings (see “Avian Crests, Tufts, and Horns”).  Many additional avian species have other kinds of head adornments that are the subject of this next batch of photos.  Some of these birds look like they’ve had various “haircut” styles (such as a crew-cut, mohawk, punk-style, or long hippie-style), but of course feathers rather than mammalian hairs are involved.  Some species simply look as if they’re having a “bad-hair” day, while others appear neatly coiffed.

All of these photographs were taken in Southern California or Florida, where only the Peafowl is non-native.

Hooded Merganser female, Lophodytes cucullatus. hood up:

Hooded Merganser female, hood down:

Hooded Merganser male, hood up:

Hooded Merganser male, hood down:

Eared Grebe, Podiceps nigricollis:

California Quail, Callipepla californica:

Gambel’s Quail, Callipepla gambelii:

Elegant Terns, Sterna elegans:

Royal Tern, Sterna maxima:

Sandwich Tern, Sterna sandvicensis:

Belted Kingfisher male, Ceryle alcyon:

Golden Eagle, Aquila chrysactos:

Snowy Egret, Egretta thula:

Brown Pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis:

Red-breasted Merganser, Mergus serrator:

Indian Peafowl female, Pavo cristatus:

Indian Peafowl male:

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 27, 2021 • 8:15 am

Send in your good photos, please! I will of course ask again.

Today’s contributor is Joe Dickinson, who presents us with photos of my beloved waterfowl. His comments are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Here is a collection of unusual ducks (even some faux ducks?) from my usual walk down by Rio del Mar/Seacliff in Aptos, CA.

Surf Scoters (Melanitta perspicillata) have a striking sexual dimorphism in bill shape as well as color.

This is probably an adult female common merganser (Mergus merganser) although immature/non-breeding males are pretty similar.

I’m pretty sure this is an adult female common goldeneye (Bucephala clangula).

And I’ll add a singleton photo that Joe sent on December 31:

Here is a contribution to your faux ducks series.  They are, of course, mute swans (Cygnus olor), an Old World species that has been introduced and is now widely distributed in North America.