Readers’ wildlife photos

March 7, 2021 • 8:00 am

It’s Sunday, and that means a themed group of birds from biologist John Avise. John’s notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos, as always, by clicking on them.

Bald Birds

In recent weeks, Jerry has posted some of my photos of birds with fancy feathers on their heads (see “Avian Crests, Tufts, and Horns”, and “Other Avian Hair-dos”).  Presumably such elaborate head-dressings are attributable to sexual selection.  But did you know that some birds have few or no feathers on their heads?  Such “bald birds” are the subject of this week’s post.  In the case of the carrion-eating vultures, being bald is surely favored by natural selection to help keep the head relatively clean from blood and guts that otherwise would accumulate and mat a bird’s cranial feathers whenever it feeds on a messy carcass.

Condors and storks are related to vultures, so there is probably a phylogenetic component to avian baldness too.  Further, newly hatched chicks of various bird species sometimes have few feathers on their heads. Finally, because of its name (which is derived from Old English), I’ve also included the Bald Eagle in this set of photos, despite the fact that its head is covered in white feathers.  All of these photographs were taken in Southern California or Florida.

Wood Stork, Mycteria americana:

Wood Stork in flight:

Turkey Vulture, Cathartes aura:

Turkey Vulture in flight:

Turkey Vulture head:

Black Vulture, Corygyps altratus:

Black Vulture in flight:

Black Vulture head:

California Condor, Gymnogyps californianus:

California Condor head:

Wild Turkey, Meleagris gallopavo:

American Coot chick, Fulica americana:

Bald Eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus:

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 6, 2021 • 8:00 am

About two weeks ago I showed some photos from my French-Canadian friend Anne-Marie, who used to lead strenuous adventure tours, including to Baffin Island, Morocco, and, today, a voyage to the Indian Himalayas. Her captions are indented, and you can enlarge her photos by clicking on them.

Destination: Indian Himalayas

Other souvenirs from a past trip in a faraway place. This time I was working with a local tour operator. My task was to make sure that my six customers were safe and happy.

I discovered Ladakh through the lens of Oliver Föllmi, a Franco-Swiss photographer and adventurer. So it was with a strong sense of wonder that I set foot on the Tibetan plateau. After New Delhi (216 m), the next stop was Leh (3524 m), the largest town in Ladakh. So, acclimatizing to the altitude was a must before beginning the Chadar trek toward Zanskar, a valley cloistered within the Indian Himalayas.

A Zanskarpa wearing her Perak for the Likkir monastery festival. The Perak is the headdress studded with turquoise stones.

A coppersmith in Chilling, a small village at the beginning of the Chadar.

Chadar is a local word for sheets of ice forming on the Zanskar river during their bone-chilling winters: it means “The Frozen One” For centuries, it has been a lifeline to the outside world during winter months that would be otherwise spent in autarky (self-sufficiency and limited trade). Every January and February, the locals use this route to commute and transport goods such as copper utensils, yak butter, goatskin, etc.

A Zanskarpa woman who was walking for four days on the Frozen One (if the weather is good) to visit one of her daughters living outside the valley. [JAC: Anne-Marie is behind her.]

Leaving the valley is not an easy walk. Set within narrow gorges, the Zanskar river is narrow, fast flowing and never completely frozen. Back in 1998, we were the only outsiders. Now it’s another story, for adventure travel has became very popular. Last February (2020), 41 trekkers were evacuated by the Indian Air Force and Army due to flash floods. Climate change is palpable in the region, and people are afraid the Chadar will disappear.

The river’s caprices sometimes forced us onto alternate routes. We all felt clumsy climbing down the cliff, but not the locals, who told us where to place our feet.

Hay is stored on the flat roof of the two-story houses. The walls are made of mud bricks. In wintertime, families live in the basement, near their yak, dzo (a cow-yak hybrid), horse and goat. Here, I am holding the key to the toilet, a hole in the floor. When we were there, human excrement was considered very valuable, as it was used as fertilizer.

Making friends who invited me into their winter kitchen for butter tea (made with hot water, yak butter and salt). It was cooked on a small stove using yak dung as fuel.

One of their sturdy little horses.

My friend offering me a gift: a small goat. I needed our local guide to explain why I could not accept it.

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 5, 2021 • 8:00 am

I importune readers once again to send in their photos, as the tank inexorably drops.

Today we have some diverse landscape photos by reader James Blilie, including some great mountain-climbing shot. His notes are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

These ones are landscape photos, sometimes including human figures.

First, a church doorway (St Bartholomew’s parish church) in Brightwell Baldwin, Oxfordshire, England. Also home to a fine pub:  The Lord Nelson (2015):

The next one is a climber resting on the easiest route up Mount Stuart in the Washington Cascade Range, 9,415 ft (2,870 m), a huge exposed block of granite.  I climbed this peak when I’d been living in Seattle only a few weeks (1984):

Then a view of Hell’s Canyon on the border of Idaho and Oregon.  1.5 times as deep as the Grand Canyon, though without the spectacular geology of the Grand Canyon (1987):

Next a view of the Isle of Hoy from Stromness, Orkney Islands (1992).  I was fascinated by the dry stone walls around around the UK.

Next is a view of Mount Foraker (17,400 ft (5304 m)) taken from the 14,000-foot camp on the West Buttress Route on Mount McKinley (now officially Denali).  We were attempting the peak and had the “worst weather since 1967” or something like that.  It never went above 0°F (-18°C) for the three weeks we were on the mountain (May, 1987).  The photo was taken at 2am – it never really gets dark in May at the latitude.

Next is a view of the Emperor Face of Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies (1981).  We hiked in to Berg Lake to camp.  Spectacular hike and location; but a long day of hiking uphill (and then down).  

Then a view of climbers moving onto the edge of the Sulphide Glacier on Mt. Shuksan in the North Cascades of Washington, 1985.

Next, a view of one of the large Fjords in western Norway (2012).  I’ve traveled pretty widely and I think the Norwegian Fjordlands are one of the most scenic places on Earth.

The next one shows my son Jamie on the “hiking” route up to a small chapel on a mountaintop in Seguret in the Vaucluse in France:  Notre Dame de Aubusson.  My wife said, “If you have to use your hands, it’s climbing, not hiking.”

The next one is a view of Sentinel Peak on the Ptarmigan Traverse in the North Cascades, 1986.  The shot is from Yang Yang Lakes.

Next is a view of St. Helen’s Passage, Oxford, England.  2015.  I was standing next to an outdoor table of the Turf Tavern when I took this photo.  I was having Real Ale and fish and chips.  Yum.

JAC: The Turf is my favorite local in Oxford; they have at least 20 real ales on tap and yes, the fish and chips is (are?) great.

Lastly, a view of the eponymous cave at the Cave Stream Reserve between Porter’s Pass and Arthur’s Pass on the South Island of New Zealand.  I’m sure you were very near this (if you didn’t get to visit it) during your recent trip to NZ.  You can hike up through the cave and come out the other end after about a ½-mile underground.  You are wading in the stream to dress appropriately and carry multiple light sources and watch the weather!

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 4, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today we have photos from reader Dave, whose photography website is here (note that he sells a different photo print every month). The titles (indented) are his; click on the photos to enlarge them (all photos ©DSF_ All Rights Reserved).

Neuronal:

Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos):

Illuminating Fog:

Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum):

North American Azaleas:

Glacial Collapse:

Thomson Scattering:

Against Entropy:

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 3, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your good photos!

Today we have bird photos from two contributors. The first is reader Gary Miranda, whose IDs and comments are indented. Click the photos to enlarge them.

Here are a few that were taken at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge in southern Washington state.

Gary identified this as a “great ibis”, but it’s clearly not, as there’s no such bird. It isn’t even an American white ibis, so I’ll leave it to readers to identify. Is it an egret?

Northern harrier, [Circus hudsonius] juvenile

Red-tailed Hawk, light juvenile [Buteo jamaicensis]:

Bald Eagle [Haliaeetus leucocephalus] screaming at the sky or maybe the rain:

And from Bill Meyer:

Attached are a few recent, local wildlife photos.  I’m ready for spring but now is a great time to see our local woodpeckers.  First is a yellow-shafted [Northern] flicker (Colaptes auratus) from my yard in Grundy County, Illinois.

And, also from the backyard, our biggest, a pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus).

A moment of zen on the temporarily serene Illinois River in Morris, Illinois.

The final two shots are from two days ago,  a red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) and a relatively rare red-headed woodpecker (Melanerpes erythrocephalus) at a Will County Forest Preserve (Illinois).

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 2, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s contribution is from faithful regular Mark Sturtevant. His notes are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

This theme of this post will be about moths. Most of the pictures were taken at a single location, on a single day, after someone left the lights on all night at a park building. It became well covered with moths that stayed on into the morning when I came upon it. It’s fun to just enlarge the pictures and gaze at their scaley, fuzzy details.

First up is a Geometrid moth. This is the adult of the curved lined looper (Lambdina fervidaria). They are quite variable in color, ranging from pale white to a lovely yellow.

Another example of the same family is shown next. Plain and yet very striking. This is the tulip tree beauty (Epimecis hortaria), and they are super-variable in their patterns, as shown in the link. It seems like no two are alike.

Sometimes I need to spend a lot of time trying trying to ID an insect, and moths can be especially challenging. The next picture shows what might be the Ipsilon dart, Agrotis ipsilon, but I cannot be sure of that.

There is no mistaking the next moth. This tiny beauty has a name at least 5 times longer than its body (Epicallima argenticinctella). It is in the ‘concealer moth’ family, which is a group whose larvae live in a bundle of plant debris, tied up in silk.

Dagger moths are a large group of species, so named because of the distinctive tufts on their fuzzy larvae.  The next two pictures show the American dagger moth (Acronicta americana).

I was very happy to find several of the next moth around the light, as I had never seen them before although they are described as being common. This is the painted lichen moth (Hypoprepia fucosa). Their larvae feed on lichens, although I have never seen them on it.

Next is a bird dropping mimic. This is the tufted bird dropping moth (Cerma cerintha).

Finally, this remarkable looking moth is the pink-shaded fern moth (Callopistria mollissima). Their larvae will feed on ferns.

Thanks for looking!

Readers’ wildlife photos

March 1, 2021 • 8:00 am

I importune you in the bowels of Ceiling Cat to send me your wildlife photos!

Today’s contributor is Joe Routon with some lovely travel photos. Joe’s captions are indented and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

My balloon ride over Cappadocia.

 

Electrical wires in India

 

Mt. Popa is a volcanic formation in Myanmar. On top, 2,500 feet above, sits a Buddhist shrine and monastery.

 

A street photograph.

When I’m in a foreign country I’m always on the lookout for interesting looking people to photograph on the street. A few years ago, when my wife and I were in Budapest, we were walking near the Parliament building when I spotted two young women. Not being able to speak Hungarian, I pointed to my camera to indicate that I’d like to take a photo. They nodded, so I took several. When I finished I asked them, enunciating slowly so they could understand what I was saying, “Where . . . are . . . you . . . girls . . . from?” One looked up at me, smiled, and said, “Florida.”

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 26, 2021 • 8:15 am

Today’s photos come from Dom, who’s spent the lockdown in Cromer, a seaside town on the east of England. Dom’s notes are indented, and you can click on his photos to enlarge them.

Here are some snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, in the Cromer woods. Not a native species in the British Isles, they have however become naturalised. They hang their flower heads- I suppose it protects the flower from precipitation…

This is a mass of hornwrack, not the same as horned wrack which is a seaweed, but a form of sea-mat and a Bryozoan or Polyzoan. With the iPhone it is hard to get a good close-up, but you can see the spaces individuals live in—a bit like a honeycomb. They live below the tideline & presumably dead ones get thrown up on shore in storms. This mass of hornwrack was 2-3 feet deep, & full of bits of shore crab; and I found part of a lobster shell. There was a dead black-headed gull, probably the victim of one of the peregrines that nest on the church tower, also remains of 6 dead woodcocks – wings & breastbones- possibly  also eaten by the peregrines.

There were also masses of Whelk eggs – Buccinum undatum – astonishingly large compared with the size of the whelk. They look like bubble-wrap. Apparently of all the eggs in each bubble, only one hatches, after consuming its fellows! Common Whelks, found on shores of the North Atlantic as far south as New Jersey and France, do not tolerate waters warmer than 29° C. They are also affected by marine pollutants, like the coatings used on ships to inhibit growth of marine life – Tributyltin or TBT.  These can cause female whelks – they have male/female sex unlike some molluscs – to develop male gonads, which is called ‘imposex’.
Photo attached is a rather bashed whelk shell. I threw the egg cases in the sea – some eggs were still unhatched – but they could easily have been washed up again. I imagine whelks attach them to something. I cannot understand how one whelk can produce so many eggs!

Some pictures from Cromer this week. The only visible flowers are on the gorse which can be seen with some flowers every month of the year, though I wonder what insects would take advantage of that—perhaps winter flying gnats Trichoceridae? But they tend to be in the woods rather than heath-like habitat.

 A couple of pictures show snow showers blowing in from the north-east.

We have unusually had snow lying here for over a week – one of the crab fishermen said he’d never seen it last this long. Usually being by the sea moderates the cold, but that means it is often cooler in summer of course.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 25, 2021 • 8:00 am

I’m seriously low on photos; you don’t want this feature to disappear, do you? (I have about a week’s worth left.) Please send in your good ones!

Today’s batch comes from reader Bob Fritz. His captions are indented, and click on the screenshot to enlarge the photos:

Here are some bird photographs taken at Bolsa Chica Ecological Reserve in Huntington Beach, California. The reserve has a mix of salt and freshwater marshes with many hiking trails, and hosts a wide variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles.
Rock Pigeon (Columba livia):

The Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens) struts and spreads its wings while hunting for fish. In the first picture the left leg is bent back, causing it to appear like a pole behind the bird.

The Black Skimmer (Rynchops niger) flies low to catch its prey, with its narrow beak gliding through the water.

Bolsa Chica at sunset.  View facing north-west, with Pacific Coast Highway on the left.

Readers’ wildlife photos

February 24, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your good wildlife photos, as the tank is running lower.

Today’s photos feature dragonflies, a favorite subject of Mark Sturtevant. Mark’s comments are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

It is once again time to draw from the queue of WEIT-worthy pictures of dragonflies.  First up is a male calico pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa).

The handsome dragonfly in the next picture is a mature male slaty skimmer (Libellula incesta). These are, I think, the most entertaining of our dragonflies, since mature males stay next to water where they obsessively guard a favored perch against other dragonflies. They are constantly hurling themselves at real or imagined interlopers before quickly returning to their perch.

Now, male slaty skimmers are seen regularly. But what about females? I had never given it a thought, for some reason, until one day I came across a mystery dragonfly that was tucked away into some bushes, well away from the water. The next picture shows what turns out to be a female slaty skimmer, which is strikingly different from mature males. I have perhaps seen hundreds of males, but this is my only female, and that is weird.

It is always a special day when I find a new species. So here is an admittedly plain looking dragonfly, but I was very pleased to see it. This is a female belted whiteface (Leucorrhinia proxima).

The above species are all members of the skimmer family. Many skimmers spend extended periods of time on a perch, and that makes them easy to photograph. But the skimmer family is large, and there are species that show little inclination to do that. The next picture is one of those kinds of skimmers. This is the black saddlebags (Tramea lacerata), and species that I commonly see flying high and effortlessly all day on their extra broad wings. So it was a happy find to see one just sitting there! This is one of two species of saddlebags in my area, so one more to go!

The later months of summer are when the very special royal river cruiser dragonflies (Macromia taeniolata) make their entrance into the Magic Field. These large dragonflies are the largest species in the cruiser family. Fast and agile, even by dragonfly standards, they take long patrolling flights where they will quickly disappear into the distance, returning after several minutes. But they will eventually land, and with luck that will be in range of sight. Then, they suddenly become very easy to approach for photographs. So here are two of them. The first is a female, and the second a male. I was especially pleased with that one, as it was my first male r.r.c.

On a later occasion I returned to the MF with a friend who is also very enthusiastic about the hobby (I wish he would post here, but he’s too shy). We worked together to get more pictures of this species, and it was much easier to spot one landing since we could station ourselves along a patrol route.

Finally, here is a beautiful dragonfly from the darner family. This large male flew past me, perched within arm’s reach, and just sat there! Easiest darner picture ever. This is one of the “mosaic” darners, which are a group of species with nearly identical markings. It would have been best to get pictures from the side since the lateral stripes on the thorax can really help to identify mosaic darners, but I was not thinking clearly at the time. Fortunately, I have a good friend online who is quite good with dragonflies, and he thinks it likely (although not certain) to be a green-striped darner (Aeshna verticalis).