Readers’ wildlife photos

July 27, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos are from New Zealand and taken by Chris Taylor. The captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

In response to your request I’ve been looking through my photos for some you might be able to use.  To start off with, here’s a set of photos from New Zealand, from a trip I made to the North Island a few years ago.

First, a panorama of the active volcano Mt Tongariro.  It looks peaceful enough, but you can see steam issuing from two vents in the volcano’s slopes.

New Zealand Dotterel (Charadrius obscurus). Also known by its Maori nameof Tuturiwhat.

New Zealand Pigeon or Kereru, Hemiphaga novaeseelandiae:

Grey Duck or Pārera, Anas superciliosa.  Although known in Australia as the Pacific Black Duck and Grey Duck in New Zealand, there is almost no black in the plumage.  It is very closely related to the Mallard, and will interbreed with introduced birds.

Red Billed Gull or tarāpung, Larus novaehollandiae.Also called Pacific Silver gull in Australia.

Pied Stilt or Koaka , Himantopus himantopus . Two photos taken at the Hell’s Gate Thermal area near Rotorua.The birds were feeding in the warm water of the springs, and it was a couple of minutes before I saw the chicks – they were quite camouflaged against the volcanic rocks!

Can you spot the chicks?

 

Pohutukawa treeMetrosideros excelsa.

Photos from the Pūkorokoro / Miranda shorebird reserve.  Flocks of Bar-tailed Godwit/Kuaka Limosa lapponica , Turnstone Arenaria interpres, Wrybill/Ngutuparore Anarhynchus frontalis and others.  I was there at low tide, not the best time to see the birds!  This is looking out across the flats and the Firth of Thames to the hills of the Coromandel Peninsular.   This is a vital area for many of the migrant species that arrive in New Zealand, as they can feed here to build up their bodies after the rigors of their flight.  The Bar-Tailed Godwit or Kuaka is the world champion when it comes to migration, traveling from NZ to Alaska and back each year.  The Northward flight usually goes via Indonesia and China, but the southward return to Pūkorokoro is often done non-stop.  Last year, one bird known as 4BBRW, was fitted with a tracker and was observed to make a 12,050km non-stop flight.

Silver Fern, Alsophila dealbata, in Rotorua.  One of the Floral Emblems of New Zealand.

House Sparrow, Passer domesticus.  Introduced by the British after colonisation.  This one was flying around as we sat having coffee at a cafe in Whitianga.

Tui, Prosthemadera novaeseelandiae:

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 26, 2021 • 8:00 am

Lou Jost, who’s been absent from this site for a while doing biology in Ecuador, where he lives, has returned with some lovely photos of orchids, including some new and undescribed species. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

It’s been wonderful to read about your exploits as a duck foster dad. I am answering your call for photos.

The orchid genus Dracula has a modified petal (the “lip”) that imitates a mushroom, and smells like one too. They are pollinated by female fungus gnats looking for mushrooms to lay their eggs on. Here is an undescribed Dracula species that I discovered in our Rio Zunac Reserve in eastern Ecuador.

Lepanthes lophius is a tiny orchid flower pollinated by male fungus gnats who think the flower is a female gnat. These orchids emit female gnat pheromones, and the male gnats follow the pheromone trail upwind to the flower. The gnats actually mate with the flower, and even deposit sperm on the fake female genitalia on the underside of the flower. This is a huge genus of over a thousand species, many of them very local endemics.

I spent a lot of time mapping the ranges of the hundred or so Lepanthes species that live in the Rio Pastaza watershed where I live. This led to the discovery of some new species. Lepanthes ruthiana is one of my first discoveries.

While my friend Stig Dalstrom and I were exploring a poorly known forest in the Amazonian foothills, we discovered two new species of orchids in the genus Masdevallia, including this one. This was a beautiful tall forest full of unusual plants, including several other new species. My colleagues and I are currently working to make this forest into a reserve.

Andinia hippocrepica used to be included in the genus Lepanthes. DNA analyses by my friend Mark Wilson showed that the traits which had led taxonomists to classify it as a Lepanthes were actually cases of convergent evolution, rather than evidence for common descent.  DNA analyses have been shaking up the taxonomy of all groups of organisms over the last twenty years; it has been an exciting time now that we have the ability to trace out the actual paths of evolution.

Bomarea longipes is a climbing plant related to Alstroemeria (often sold as cut flowers). These are the only plants I know whose leaves are built “upside down”. As the erect leaf develops in the bud, in most plants the side of the leaf facing the stem will be the top, and the side facing away from the stem would be the underside of the leaf, with lots of stomata. In Bomarea the leaves are still erect, but they have the bottom side facing the stem. When the leaf is deployed, the leaf stem twists around so that the stomata face the ground. This particular species of Bomarea had been lost to science and was believed extinct for a hundred and fifty years.

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 25, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s Sunday, ergo we have a themed bird post from biologist John Avise. John’s notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Avian Sexual Dichromatism

Sexual dichromatism is a difference in plumage coloration between males and females, typically due to sexual selection via male-male competition and/or female preferences during mate choice.  Many bird species are sexually dichromatic.  Ducks (including Jerry’s beloved Mallards) offer great cases-in-point.  In most ducks, breeding drakes are brightly colored whereas hens are dull brown and well camouflaged.  But many other kinds of birds are sexually dichromatic too.  This week’s post highlights several species in the taxonomic order Passeriformes in which males are much brighter than females.  I took these pictures near my home in Southern California.

House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus) male:

House Finch female:

Blue Grosbeak (Guiraca caerulea) male:

Blue Grosbeak female:

Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) male:

Red-winged Blackbird female:

Vermillion Flycatcher (Pyrocephalus rubinus) male:

Vermillion Flycatcher female:

Western Bluebird (Sialia mexicana) male:

Western Bluebird female:

Western Tanager (Piranga ludoviciana) male:

Western Tanager female:

Hooded Oriole (Icterus cucullatus) male:

Hooded Oriole female:

Lesser Goldfinch (Carduelis psaltria) male:

Lesser Goldfinch female:

Lazuli Bunting (Passerina amoena) male and female:

House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) male and female:

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 23, 2021 • 8:00 am

Our tank is running low, and I’m afraid we’re down to readers who sent in one or a few photos. That’s fine, but I must group them together, as I will today. Please send in your batches (10-15 if possible) of good wildlife photos.  This is an urgent call for photos!

Contributors’ captions and IDs are indented; you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

First up is reader Michael Hart, with two photos.

My wife’s stargazer lilies (Lilium sp. hybrid) went wild this year. It has been hot here in Vancouver – I guess lilies must like the heat. This one (photographed at night) is >2 meters tall.

It took a couple weeks, but the flowers have finally been colonized by crab spiders. This may be Misumena vatia, but I’m not sure because it lacks the pink racing stripes on the opisthosoma that I see in some of the field guides. Maybe others will know the ID.

It costs me a lot to look up these spiders because I have a bad phobia. I like these little thomisids and the salticids, but I have to skip over the photos of the big hunting spiders. There is something about the size of my hand that lives in one of the boxes of garden tools (probably one of the Eratigena species), and I’m staying away from it. We found a dead mouse in that box last spring, and I’m concerned that spider has developed a taste for mammals.

From Larry LeClair:

As requested, I send photos of four fledgling Eastern Screech-Owls (Megascops asio) taken last week in a neighbor’s maple tree in Hamilton, NY.

From Robert Placier:

Long-time follower of your website, and finally heeding your call for photos. But I’m not very good at it: all these pics taken with my Android phone. I am, like you, retired from teaching. But for me, I was at a 2-year technical college, Hocking College, in Appalachian southeastern Ohio. Essentially a forest ecologist, I taught Dendrology and Ornithology in my last years to wildlife and interpretive naturalist students. I am a bird bander, so all bird photos are from my operations, mostly at my home, which I call the Palatial Woodland Estate. So here are a few, all from SE Ohio.

A photo from my home area, just outside Chillicothe. This is a view of the Paint Creek gorge, formed during the last glaciation. Ross County is where the glacial advance terminated. The ice blocked drainage of Paint Creek, forming a lake which spilled over a low spot in the hills. Virginia Pines (Pinus virginiana) frame the view, and Eastern Hemlocks are found in the gorge below this cliff.

Because of the heavily forested (>70%) nature of my home area, Vinton County, and my banding birds coming to feeders through the winter, I band more Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) than any other bander in central North America (2-4 per year, nearly 30 since 2009). They are tough to hold with one hand, and I work alone, so this is as good a photo as I can produce. And they often bloody my hands—I think a peck wound is visible in this photo. And I do recapture ones I have banded: the longest span between banding and recapture is about eight years.

I band a lot of Wood Thrushes (Hylocichla mustelina) here, some years over 100, during my Spring and Fall migration banding seasons. The total is over 1,000 since I began banding in 2006. They are regular nesters on my eleven forested acres, and I catch ones each Spring that have returned from their winter (here) sojourn in Central America.

A woodland species that has notably increased on my “estate” since coming here in 2005 is American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). And my understanding is that Wood Thrushes feed on the bright red fruit of this species, and are an important seed disperser. Perhaps some of the other thrushes, common migrants here, also play a part in dispersal.

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 21, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s lovely arthropod photos come from regular Mark Sturtevant, whose IDs and captions are indented. Click on the screenshots to enlarge the photos.

The first pictures continue the series showing a big female Chinese praying mantis (Tenodera sinensis) that I had shared here recently. This time we see her on the “mantis branch” that I use to pose these insects for pictures. The raptorial fore-legs (I call them “murder arms”) are a marvelous trapping device.

I had recently learned that there is a record of what are thought to be early mantids, and these are purported to show their murder arms in transitional stages of evolution. Some early mantids also had raptorial characters in both their front and middle pair of legs. Here are two papers with pictures and drawings: papers 1 and 2.  

During one of the photo sessions, I had tried to introduce the female to a male Chinese mantis. He is the eager looking fellow shown in the next picture.

My intention was to maybe photograph a mating (and hopefully not cannibalism), but the male was far too hyperactive. Without even glancing at the female, he immediately took flight. No problem, I thought, since these large insects aren’t strong fliers, right? Wrong. He quickly ascended to the tallest tree-tops, and disappeared. I did not know they could do that!

Well, there will be more female mantis pictures in the next post.

Next up is an installment of pictures taken during a vacation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Michigan U.P. is a sparsely populated area of the country, and visiting it is like stepping back in time. The family would go sight-seeing along the numerous waterfalls and river rapids while I mainly hiked forest trails and fields with the camera. There were numerous large orb webs along the forest trails. In all cases one would see a suspicious looking leaf, artfully rolled up at either the 10- or 2 o’clock position. The next two pictures show what is to be found inside the leaves. Several orbweavers can be tricky to tell apart, as they are variable in color and pattern, but I suggest this is a hefty example of the marbled orbweaver (Araneus marmoreus). 

You can find new species of insects if you go to a new place, and a new tiger beetle is a very special find. Here is a very dusty boreal long-lipped tiger beetle (Cicindela longilabris) which is new to me.

One of the more memorable sessions with the camera during our U.P. trip was spent at night, sitting outside with a lantern and a bed-sheet to draw in night flying insects. Even in the chilly northern air, things got busy very quickly. What was recorded included this large popular longhorn beetle (Saperda calcarata).

Next is one of the giant caddisflies (I think from the genus Ptilostomis). These insects resemble moths, but they are from a related insect order. Their larvae are aquatic.

Next are actual moths. These include, in order, the common gluphisia (Gluphisia septentrionis), and the forest tent caterpillar moth (Malacosoma disstria). I was having a lot of trouble identifying that last one, but the crack team at BugGuide leapt into action and provided the name.

Finally, here are two elegant examples from the Geometrid family. First is the tulip tree beauty (Epimecis hortaria), and then the adult of the lesser maple spanworm (Macaria pustularia). This picture is two years old, but I still enjoy just gazing at the ethereal details of that moth.

Thanks for looking! 

Reader’s wildlife photos

July 20, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have photos from reader Daniela, whose notes and captions are indented. You can enlarge her photos by clicking on them.

I hope to find you well. I’m sending you my wildlife/nature pictures, which were taken with a basic or cell phone camera. I’ll send some that I think might be interesting. I took them while on vacation in Kauai in Jun/Jul 2021.

I know you are a fan of Aloha shirts, so I’m wondering if you have ever been to Kauai. I think it was the most beautiful place I have ever seen.

There were lizards and chickens everywhere in Kauai, which was great because there were no bugs!! I was really surprised to be in a tropical paradise where I didn’t need to worry about mosquitos.

This gold dust day gecko (Phelsuma laticauda) seems to have been in some fights. I took the pictures in a restaurant where they had some plants and a fountain.

The red-crested cardinal (Paroaria coronata) was introduced in Hawaii and it is also called Brazilian Cardinal, which is funny because I’m from the Brazilian region where it occurs and I’ve never seen it before. They were very common on the island.

A brave fisherman:

Crabs. (What are those small balls?)

Brown anole (Anolis sagrei):

We took a helicopter ride where I could see the most amazing views of the Napali Coast and the north side of the island. It was totally worth it for me, we got lucky and it was a pretty sunny day with almost no clouds. The helicopter got really close to that big wall, and it seemed like we were going to hit it.

Namolokama Falls:

Namolokama Mountain:

Napali Coast:

The beginning of a river:

The Cathedrals, Napali Coast:

Tunnels Beach:

View from Nourish Hanalei Restaurant:

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 19, 2021 • 8:00 am

Ruth Berger sends us a first: a series of copulating insects. Her captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them. (All photos are “copyright Ruth Berger”.)

I have beetles’ copulation themed photos today, with a beetle penis as the climax. All were recently taken in Frankfurt, Germany, with a 28 mm automatic camera, and all the plants are on “wild“ sites, not in gardens. Sorry for the lower quality of some of the pics, I chose them for copulation, not beauty.

The first picture isn’t even of beetles, but of St. Mark’s flies (Bibio marci), which congregate in swarms around St Mark’s Day (April 25th), start copulation in flight and then settle for the rest of the act. My photo is of a copulating pair I spotted landing on a sidewalk beside a major thoroughfare. They are very sexually dimorphic, the one with the large head in the upper part of the picture is the male, and the one with the very tiny head — the small nib up front is the head — and the tinted wings is the female. I find the extreme head and eye size difference puzzling, does anyone know what the function is, if any?

Bugs, which some people take for beetles, do it in the same position as Bibio marci, with heads in opposing directions. The bug pair here is Grapheosoma lineatum:

Now to true beetles. Here, the males mount from behind. This is Oxythyrea funesta, called the mourning rose beetle in German, probably spotted rose beetle in English. You can see that their behinds do not actually join. They were also struggling a bit because of a strong wind that blew their flower in all directions.

The homely little guys below (4 mm, Byturus ochraceus) are doing it on a Geum urbanum blossom, the main food plant of their larvae. Another Gerum urbanum flower at the site had 3 copulation-interested animals; at one point, they were all three of them stacked up one above the other.

Here is a pair of (probably) Anastrangalia dubia on Berteroa incana. The male’s color is a bit muted compared to the female’s in this species. The background is my hand helping my automatic 28 mm camera to focus on the beetles and not the landscape.

Now come the stars of my set, a pair of spotted longhorn beetles, Rutpela maculata, making out on wild carrot or a similar plant. Usually both beetles of a pair seem concentrated on the act, but this lady was walking about the flower feeding as if the male on her back didn’t exist. She even once stopped to groom her antennae. It is with this pair that I think I got the penis (the flagellum) — beetle fans among the readers, please correct me if I’m wrong.

The (methinks) penis is the colorless tube coming out of males’ hindquarters, and most of it is inside the female. Here are enlarged close-ups from different perspectives; the slate grey background again is not a bokeh, but a paper map I improvised as a background to help my camera get a focus.

I’ll end this with something a bit more aesthetic, a photo of the Main River in Frankfurt near where the other photos were taken, a bare 5 kilometers from the central train station.

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 18, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have the special Sunday bird-themed collection of photos by John Avise. John’s IDs and comments are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Sex-role Reversal

In the scientific literature, “sex-role reversal” is defined as any situation in which the intensity of sexual selection is stronger on females than on males.  Although the phenomenon is very rare in birds, it does characterize some shorebirds known as phalaropes.  In these sex-role-reversed avian species, the following features are also present:  brighter breeding plumages in females than in males (resulting from the intense sexual selection on females); active courtship and mating solicitation by females; polyandry, in which females often mate with multiple males but each male typically has only one mate; nest-tending and incubation duties are solely by males; and in general a reversal of what we typically might think of as “normal” roles for the two sexes. This week’s photos show the world’s only three phalarope species, but I’ve also included the Spotted Sandpiper because it too shows some behavioral (though not plumage) tendencies toward a milder degree of sex-role reversal.

Several plausible scenarios have been envisioned for the evolution of sex-role reversal in phalaropes.  For example, under the “fluctuating-food hypothesis” the ancestral condition was biparental offspring care, but then, under the harsh tundra conditions where phalaropes breed, some birds faced severe food shortages such that females were physiologically exhausted after laying a clutch of eggs.  Faced with an incapacitated mate, a male phalarope in effect would have no choice but to tend the nest and young.  Males thereby became “captured” into a high-investment reproductive strategy.  If food resources then improved, any rejuvenated female could perhaps maximize her genetic fitness by courting other males and laying additional clutches.  Repeated over time, this process presumably eventuated in the evolution of sex-role reversal that we see today in extant phalarope populations.

The phalaropes are also of interest because of their peculiar feeding behavior, which entails rapid spinning on the surface of shallow water, thereby creating a vortex that brings up food items that they then pick from the water’s surface.  All of my pictures were taken near my home in Southern California, where the birds were in migration.

Red-necked Phalarope (Phalaropus lobatus), female in breeding plumage:

Red-necked Phalarope, male in breeding plumage:

Red-necked Phalarope, non-breeder swimming:

Red-necked Phalarope, non-breeder flying:

Wilson’s Phalarope (Phalaropus tricolor), female in breeding plumage:

Wilson’s Phalarope, male in breeding plumage:

Wilson’s Phalarope pair (with female behind):

Wilson’s Phalarope, non-breeding plumage:

Wilson’s Phalarope, juvenile:

Wilson’s Phalarope, non-breeder flying:

Wilson’s phalarope group:

Wilson’s Phalarope, two females spin-swimming:

Red Phalarope (Phalaropus fulicaria), male in breeding plumage:

Red Phalarope, another view (a breeding female would be even brighter red):

Red Phalarope flying:

Spotted Sandpiper (Actitis macularia) breeding plumage:

Spotted Sandpiper, non-breeding  plumage:

Spotted Sandpiper flying:

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 17, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have some plant photos by Rik Gern, whose captions are indented. Click on his photos to enlarge them.

On October 16th of last year you posted a variety of local wildflower photos I sent you, including one picture of Poison Hemlock (Conium maculatum). A search through the files shows that that was one of a half dozen pictures of the same plant, so I am sending the batch in case you can use them. It still blows me away that such a common and pretty plant is poisonous!

Another common plant, not quite as pretty as the Poison Hemlock, but a pleasure to have around is the Tufted Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis priceae), which I always mistake for clover. Here are some shots of a natural bouquet of the Sorrel popping up between bricks in a walkway.

I’ve been looking thru some odds and ends to find pictures for your Reader’s Wildlife Photos potpourri and found this picture of curled dried leaves. I’m not sure of the plant’s species, but I’m pretty sure it’s of the genus Yucca.

Nothing rare or exotic here, just examples of the kind of common beauty that’s there for the appreciation whenever we choose to look.

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 16, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from young Jamie Blilie, but the captions and IDs (indented) are from his father Jim. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Here’s another batch from my son, Jamie, the real wildlife photographer in the family. All of these are taken from our yard or within a couple of miles of our house. In the linden tree directly behind our house, (Tilia americana), Jamie captured male and female Northern Cardinals (Cardinalis cardinalis), a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) – tough job for the camera’s AF! and a Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis).  Not all at the same time of course.  Cooper’s Hawks are frequent visitors, probably attracted by the heavy bird traffic behind our house.  I have seen Cooper’s Hawks take Robins (Turdus migratorius)and Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura) over our back yard.

Male cardinal:

Female cardinal:

Cooper’s Hawk:

Junco:

Next, we have a turkey (Meleagris gallopavo), taken in our back yard.  Turkeys have become very numerous and aggressive in our area.  I never saw a (wild) turkey until the 2000s.  They have really made a comeback.

Next is our resident Muskrat (Ondatra zibethicus), taken this spring.  You can still see some hunksof ice on the pond.  We see him motoring around our pond nearly every day. He is a very endearing animal.

Next are some birds taken at a very nearby lake (Lake Vadnais) where Jamie likes to go fishing in the summer.  First three shots of Common Loons (Gavia immer).  An adult breeding pair and one baby loon.  In one shot, one of the adults is giving the crouching posture, which is sometimes a prelude to the “yodeling” call.  In another of the shots, the two adults are offering food to the baby.

Also at Lake Vadnais, some shots of one of your favorite birds:  Mallards (Anas platyrhynchos). One mother with a nearly-grown brood of youngsters.  In the other shot, a mother providing shade for her duckling.

Finally, our home beast Rascal (Felis catus), relaxing in spring sunshine. He is a very old beast, 14 or 15 years.  But still going strong.

Jamie’s equipment:  Nikon D5600, Sigma 150-600mm f/5.0-6.3 DG OS HSM