Readers’ wildlife photos

December 6, 2021 • 8:00 am

Do send in your photos if you have good ones. Today’s batch contains recent owl-related photos taken just recently by Paul Matthews in Canada. Paul’s notes are indented, and you can enlarge his pictures by clicking on them.

These photos were taken in the Ottawa area in Canada. The first series is from November 20, 2021, and the second (boreal owls) from December 5, 2021.

With winter on the doorstep, my first encounter of the season of a Snowy Owl (Bubo scandiacus) was a memorable one. The presence of an owl usually greatly upsets the other birds in the vicinity, who will surround the owl in an aggrieved, even hysterical group, calling insistently (a behaviour known as mobbing). I don’t think mobbing is well understood. It often seems rather ineffectual, as the wise owl (see what I did there?) will simply wait out the harassment till its tormentors lose interest and go back to their normal activities. That said, a small to medium-sized owl being mobbed by little rather powerless passerines is one thing, and a medium to large owl being mobbed by ferocious corvids (crows and ravens) quite another. While I’ve never seen a corvid actually strike an owl during mobbing, the dive-bombing and other mock attacks within centimetres of an owl’s head must be very unsettling.

This snowy owl was also mobbed by Ring-billed Gulls (Larus delawarensis), American Crows (Corvus brachyrhynchos) and one Common Raven (Corvus corax). The raven really got in the owl’s face. Ravens are large birds with quite an imposing bill (compare with the smaller-billed crow in the background of one of the photos), but snowy owls are the heaviest North American species of owl and have rather fearsome weaponry. I really wondered whether the raven knew what it was doing but, as I returned to my car, I noticed it flying away, apparently unscathed. The owl, by the way, is likely a young female given the extensive barring. As with all owls, female snowies are larger than males. By the way, there is a mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) in one of the photos. Can you spot it?

As lagniappe (a word I learned from WEIT), I offer another winter owl, much smaller than the snowy: a Boreal Owl (Aegolius funereus). This is the least frequently encountered of our regular owls, much sought, and I hadn’t seen one in several years. It tends to be very well hidden. If you’ve been paying attention you can probably guess how it was discovered: yes, it was being mobbed (by chickadees).

Did you spot the raven?

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 5, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have our Sunday aliquot of photos by biologist John Avise, and today’s subject is dear to my heart. John’s captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them:

Lake Merritt Ducks

Last week, I flew north to spend Thanksgiving with my family in Oakland, CA.  Near the center of that city is Lake Merritt, an estuarine jewel that has the distinction of being the United States’s first official wildlife refuge, designated in 1870.  I took the opportunity to repeatedly hike the lake’s 4-mile circumference, and here are some photographs I took of the ducks I encountered.  Several of these species (notably the Canvasback, Greater Scaup, and the Goldeneyes) are quite rare near my home in Southern California, so I was especially happy to
find them on this trip to a more northern part of the state.  [I hope I’ve identified the scaups correctly; the Lesser and Greater can be very difficult to distinguish!].

Part of Lake Merritt in its urban setting:

Ruddy Duck drake (Oxyura jamaicensis):

Ruddy Duck hen:

Bufflehead drake (Bucephala albeola):

Bufflehead hen:

Canvasback drake (Aythya valisineria):

Canvasback head portrait:

Canvasback hen:

Greater Scaup drake (Aythya marila):

Lesser Scaup drake (Aythya affinis):

Common Goldeneye drake (Bucephala clangula):

Another Common Goldeneye drake:

Common Goldeneye hen:

Common Goldeneye pair:

Barrow’s Goldeneye drake (Bucephala islandica):

Barrow’s Goldeneye hen:

Another Barrow’s Goldeneye hen:

 Mallard pair (Anas platyrhynchos):

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 4, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have assorted photos of MALLARD DRAKES courtesy of Emilio d’alise. His notes and captions, which are brief, are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.  He sent a lot of photos, so I had to make a judicious selection.  This is part 1 of several parts. To come: hens, landing, and flapping.

Mallard or wild duck (Anas platyrhynchos)

These mallards were all photographed in Monument, Colorado, on a pond behind the Public Library. There is a large population of ducks and geese that inhabit the pond nearly year-round, in part because people feed them.

Drakes feeding (this upside-down foraging is called “dabbling”:

Readers’ wildlife photos

December 2, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have the first of two installment of Cooper’s Hawks photographed by Greg Stewart in California. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Some time in 2011, a male Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) showed up in my backyard, attracted to birds at my birdfeeder in Orange County, California.  His injured left wing made him easy to recognize over the years. I raise feeder mice for snake food in my garage and soon began sharing some with the hawk.

He would disappear (migrate ??) in the spring and reappear in fall. Beginning in 2017, he stayed all year, found a mate and raised 3 young. This year (2021) is the 5th year he and his mate have successfully produced young here. Because he had adult plumage and a red iris in 2011 (Cooper’s Hawk eye color darkens with age), he could be 13 years old now. That’s pretty old for a breeding Cooper’s Hawk.

Old man and hawk:



Hawk on roof with feeder mouse:

Reaction to strange hawk in the area:



Nap after bath:

Preening after bath:


Fluffing after bath:

p.s. Hili’s brother Ziggy is living the good life in Laguna Beach, CA:

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 30, 2021 • 8:00 am

Reader Chris Taylor sent us some lovely photos of moths and butterflies, most from Australia. His captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

I’ve dug out some lepidoptera photos for your wildlife photos. These have been taken in many places over a long period of time.  They are mostly Australian, but a couple of ringers crept in there too .I know very little about any of them, other than the identification and place where the photo was taken.

Danaus plexippus, Monarch, Nelson New Zealand:

Dasypodia selenophora, Southern Old Lady Moth, Burra NSW:

Delias nigrina, Black Jezebel, North Richmond NSW:

Euploea core, Common Crow, Burra NSW:

Graphium macleayanum, Macleay Swallowtail, Jindabyne NSW:

Unidentified Hawk moth, Burra NSW:

Junonia villida, Meadow Argus, Tallawang, NSW:

Orgyia anartoides, Tussock moth caterpillar, Atherton Tablelands QLD:

Papilio anactus, Dainty Swallowtail, North Richmond NSW:

Pararge aegeria, Speckled Wood, Stalybridge UK:

Unidentified caterpillar,  North Richmond NSW:

Vanessa itea, Yellow Admiral, Bundanoon NSW:

Vanessa kershawi, Australian Painted Lady, Bilpin NSW:

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 29, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have photos from Rik Gern of Austin, Texas. His captions are indented and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

I recently traveled for the first time since the covid outbreak and spent a week in Wisconsin’s Northwoods. I didn’t bring home a t-shirt, but here are a handful of pictures to submit for consideration for your Reader’s Wildlife Pictures feature.

Coming in from Texas, one of the first things that struck me is that the tall pines put the lie to the boast that “everything’s bigger in Texas”! The trees that made the biggest impression on me were red (Pinus resinosa) and white (Pinus strobus) pines and  the balsam fir (Abies balsamea). Unfortunately, I don’t know the identities of the trees with the bare branches, but I like the way they look.

There is typically snow that far north this time of year, but the week I was there saw only a few days of light snow which melted after about 48 hours. You can see how beautiful the forest is with even a soft dusting of snow.

Light snow in the northwoods. There are white pines on the left and balsam fir in the middle.

Snowy Wisconsin lake:

Looking up at the pines helps to differentiate the white from the red pines. The red pine coming up from the left has needles that form in starburst clusters and has a distinctive crusty looking bark tinged with red, while the white pine coming up from the bottom has branches that sort of pancake out.

Young trees ready for the sun.

The area is dotted with small lakes, and the bulk of these pictures were taken on a small peninsula on one of those lakes. The reflections on the water give everything a magical look, and even the rotting tree stumps seem to have kind of a grandeur about them; if I squint my eyes they make me think of ancient crumbling castles.

Boat by the lake:

Morning sky reflected in the water:

Tree stump and pine needles:

Tree stump, moss, and pine needles:

This was taken on the west side of the peninsula just before the sun rose above the tree line.

Just around the corner from the previous picture, it’s the east side of the peninsula and taken a few minutes later, just after the sun topped the trees.

I’m not the all-around cat lover that you are, but when I find one I like, I really fall for it, and I just love my Mom’s little cat, Bella; she’s a gentle little sweetheart! Along with a visit to see my mother and the beautiful scenery, Bella was a huge highlight!

Here she is looking out a window and another picture where she looks kind of ominous, but in reality is just perched to see out the front door.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 28, 2021 • 8:00 am

It’s Sunday, and you know what that means: biologist John Avise has a themed collection of bird photos for us. His narration and captions are indented, and you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them:

Yellow Warbler and other yellow warblers

For common names in birds, upper-case letters conventionally refer to a particular species, whereas a lower-case letter means that the word is being used merely as an adjective.  For example, “Yellow Warbler” refers to a particular species (Dendroica petechia) whereas a “yellow warbler” could refer to any of several warbler species with yellow in their plumages.   Thus, a Yellow Warbler is a yellow warbler but a yellow warbler is not necessarily a Yellow Warbler.  This week’s post shows the Yellow Warbler plus several other yellowish warblers.  All photos were taken in Florida or southern California.

Altogether, about 36 warbler species (family Parulidae) breed in North America (not all have yellow in their plumages).  In my experience, these colorful and hyperactive arboreal sprites are very difficult to photograph.

Yellow Warbler, male (Dendroica petechia):

Yellow Warbler, female:

Wilson’s Warbler, male (Wilsonia pusilla):

Hooded Warbler, male (Wilsonia citrina):

Common Yellowthroat, male (Geothlypis trichas):

Common Yellowthroat, female:

Yellow-throated Warbler (Dendroica dominica):

Pine Warbler (Dendroica pinus):

Prairie Warbler, male (Dendroica discolor):

Prothonotary Warbler, male (Protonotaria citrea):

Hermit Warbler, male (Dendroica occidentalis):

Townsend’s Warbler, male (Dendroica townsendi):

American Redstart, female (Setophaga ruticilla):

Yellow-rumped Warbler, male (Dendroica coronata):

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 27, 2021 • 8:00 am

It’s a holiday weekend: a good time to gather up your good wildlife photos and sent them here!

You ate the bird on Thursday, now look at the birds on Saturday. These photos come from Paul Edelman, a professor of law and mathematics at Vanderbilt University (is there another such position in the U.S.?).  Paul’s narration and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

Here are some more pictures as I learn about the local wintering birds.  You can’t discuss winterers with mentioning the Tufted titmouse (Parus bicolor).  They are everywhere, moving in flocks. 


One of the few warblers that winters here is the Yellow-rumped warbler (Dendroica coronata) and, while not warbler, a similarly-sized winterer is the Golden-crowned kinglet (Regulus satrapa).


You’ve posted pictures of sparrows before but I saw some very pretty ones on my walk.  There was the Song sparrow (Melospiza melodia) and a White-throated sparrow (Zonotrichia albicolis). 


Finally was a solitary Hermit thrush (Catharus guttatus) staring off into space.

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 26, 2021 • 8:00 am

Here’s the first installment of rainforest photos from reader Athayde Tonhasca Júnior.  Click on the photos to enlarge them, and his notes and IDs are indented:

You asked for readers’ photos, so here’s a tour through the Brazilian Atlantic Forest.


Access road:

Bad-tempered toad:

Black-faced hawk (Leucopternis melanops):

Bothrops sp. (fer-de-lance). Keep your distance!


Another bromeliad:

Cheeky lizard:



Fungus 1:

Fungus 2:

Fungus 3:

Readers’ wildlife photos

November 25, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today I’ll show my own “wildlife” photos just for fun, but keep sending yours in.  Click the pictures below to enlarge them.

Feeding wild cats at a nunnery in Mystras, Greece, 2002. I always carry a box of dry cat food in my backpack in places like this.

A rare bloom in Death Valley, California, 2005. I don’t know what the moth is, and I’m baffled about where the many pollinating insects come from in those very occasional wet years. They just appear from out of nowhere.

Me feeding a grape (with permission) to a ring-tailed lemur (Lemur catta) at the Duke Lemur Center, 2006. Note the baby clinging to its belly.

Another ringtail with child:

Sifakas (lemurs, Propithecus sp.):

Cepea nemoralis snails on a fencepost, Dorset, England, 2006. The riot of colors and banding in this species was subject to a lot of investigation when I was in college, but evolutionary geneticists still don’t have an explanation for why the variation persists:

A butterfly (I don’t know the species) in the garden at Thomas Hardy’s boyhood home, 2006:

Snail and fly near Clouds Hill (T. E. Lawrence’s cottage), Wareham, Dorset, 2006:

Gooseneck barnacle, a rare and expensive delicacy. Galicia, Spain, 2006:

The one above was found on the rocks at low tide. Here are some for sale in the market. You eat the meat underneath the leather skin. It’s very good.

Me feeding a Texas longhorn on David Hillis’s and Jim Bull’s Double Helix ranch outside Austin, 2007:

Groundhog (Marmota monax), Capitol grounds, Ottawa, Canada, 2007:

Greg Mayer’s pet common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina); I believe its name was “Snappy”), Kenosha, Wisconsin, 2008:

Butterfly and orchids (species unknown), Guatemala, 2009:

Statue dedicated to all the lab cats “sacrificed” in medical research. St. Petersburg, 2011:

Gulls, Lake Geneva, Switzerland, 2011

Trees in autumn, Switzerland 2011:

I have many more, and perhaps I’ll post some of them on another holiday (Chanukah, Christmas, and Coynezaa are coming up).