Readers’ wildlife photos

Bring out your photos, please: I go through seven sets a week from generous readers, and I always need more. Thank you!

Today’s photos come from regular contributor Tony Eales, who hails from Queensland.  His notes are indented.

Spring has really taken hold now and the colours of nature are showing. We just recently took a trip a few hundred kms to the north of my city of Brisbane to a lovely coastal spot. The nearby national park is mainly a dense coastal heathland called “Wallum” named after the dominant tree the Wallum Banksia (Banksia aemula). This is a very diverse habitat with much of the diversity on a tiny scale, which for me is perfect.

Many of these photos are from one misty evening when I went spot-lighting in the national park, and the subjects are covered in a fine layer of dew, as with this St Andrew’s Cross Spider (Argiope keyserlingi) and the less common Argiope probata (second photo). These will look familiar but different to most people as the genus Argiope occurs on every continent except Antarctica and are common garden orb-weaving spiders.

If there is such a thing as a beautiful cockroach, it is these ones in the genus Balta. Their transparent edges and fine lined patterns are really worth seeing up close. They occur only in intact native habitats and don’t invade our homes like the introduced cockroaches.

The small shiny green scarabs of the genus Diphucephala appear in great numbers in spring time to feed on flower pollen and new growth. Some species are even commonly known as green spring beetles. I don’t think I’ve seen this particular species before. Its iridescence is more uniform—like metallic paint—than most of the ones I’ve seen.

The delicious coastal pigface (Carpobrotus sp.) were all in flower, attracting hundreds of small native sweat bees like this Lasioglossum (Homalictus) sp.

I finally managed to photograph the very fast and flighty beach tiger beetles (Hypaetha upsilon). I couldn’t get close enough to use the macro lens, and so had to take the photos with a cheap telephoto lens. This lost some detail, but they are beautifully iridescent and shine in the sun.

Speaking of beautifully iridescent beetles, I just had to show this one I found in a local park. It is a species of leaf beetle (Johannica gemellata). I’ve seen beautiful leaf beetles before, but this one takes the prize. I can’t find much info on these beetles. They appear to be endemic only to my little corner of the world with records from only a couple of hundred km north and south of my city. I wonder what use they have for those remarkable antennae?

Also from my night walk was this colourful and probably undescribed katydid (sp.). I actually found a number of remarkable orthopterans that night, which I’ll send in a separate email. This one was by far the most colourful.

And lastly the beach, with thousands of Greater Crested Terns (Thalasseus bergii) roosting on sand bars waiting for the right tide to go hunting. The colours of the water here are so many shades of magical blue that I really didn’t want to go back to work.


Faux Duck o’ the Week

I completely forgot about Sunday’s Faux Duck O’ the Week, being occupied yesterday with The Auction and all. But better late than never, and here’s the latest in biologist John Avise‘s series of waterfowl that resemble ducks but aren’t. Can you guess this species?

His captions and Fun Duck Facts are indented. (To see the ID, Fun Duck Facts, and range map, go below the fold.)

At its summer home in Central Alaska:

Close-up in breeding plumage:

Frontal view:


With next week’s species to its left:

Click on “read more” for the identification, John’s Fun Faux Duck facts, and a range map: Continue reading “Faux Duck o’ the Week”

Readers’ wildlife photos

Robert Lang, reader, physicist, and world-class origami artist, is also a photographer of his local wildlife (he lives in California).  Today we get some photos taken from his place, which encompasses Marx Brothers Meadow (see below). Robert’s text is indented, and click on the pictures to enlarge. (I’m working on getting larger pics embedded.)

It’s acorn season in Marx Brothers Meadow (*), and the California Mule Deer (Odocoileus hemionus californicus) come hang out for hours at a time munching and sleeping, right outside the window over my desk. They have grown accustomed to my presence, though, and pretty much ignore me when the noms beckon. (In fact, there are three out there as I write this.) One of the things I hadn’t noticed before was how shaggy their winter coat is, as you can see here.

But the main purpose of today’s collection is birds, which also regularly visit, especially this time of year. I keep my camera at hand, and most of these were shot through the window from my work desk.

First, we have the Acorn Woodpecker (Melanerpes formicivorus), which are very common, and don’t seem to hold it against me that Edison took out their granary when they replaced the telephone pole at the corner of the lot last year. No doubt they’re re-stocking somewhere nearby. They’re not content to wait for the acorns to fall; they pull them right off of the tree.

Also raiding the tree is the California Scrub Jay (Aphelocoma californica).

But they’ll also pick up the odd stray that makes it to the ground if they can get to it before the deer.

The acorn woodpeckers are by far the most common woodpeckers (and they are very chatty), but occasionally I get other varieties dropping in. Here is a female Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus).

Another “northern” bird in this southern place is the Northern Mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos).
The bushes and cactus outside the window also make convenient perches for smaller birds. Here’s a California Towhee (Melozone crissalis):
And its relative, the Spotted Towhee (Pipilo maculatus), here foraging on the ground:

And finally, another ground-forager, the Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura). I’ve see flocks of 10–15 of these out in the meadow in recent weeks. This time of year, the pickings are surely slim, but there must be something that attracts them.

(*) Regarding the name of the meadow: turns out the land behind my studio was owned by the Marx Brothers back in the 1950s and 1960s. (Probably explains the horse feathers lying around.) It’s part of the Angeles National Forest now. It’s kept bare eight months of the year due to fire danger, but for four lovely months in the spring, it’s a beautiful grassy meadow. This time of year, calling it a “meadow” is a bit of a stretch, but “Marx Bros. Dirt And Gravel And Bits of Dead Stuff” just doesn’t roll off the tongue as well.

P.P.S. Literally as I was putting this collection together I caught a glimpse of a flyover out of the corner of my eye and rushed outside in time to catch this Red-Tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) circling overhead:

It doesn’t look very red-tailed from the underside, but when it made a low swoop, it became pretty unmistakeable. (It also blends in with the dead chaparral pretty well.)
My productivity has taken a definite hit since moving here: there are way too many animal distractions (and it never seems to get old).

Readers’ wildlife photos

The photo tank is getting a bit low, so send in your good wildlife photos, please.

Today we have another batch of lovely penguin photos and videos from reader Peter Klaver. I’ve put his notes and IDs in indents.

Below is a third and last batch of wildlife photos from the holiday in Argentina + Antarctica I had with Rachel. [JAC: I haven’t yet put up the second batch.] As with the previous two submissions, English and Latin names come courtesy of Rachel Wilmoth.

The animals we saw most of in Antarctica were penguins. Most numerous were gentoo penguinsPygoscelis papua.

We also saw chinstrap penguins, Pygoscelis antarcticus.

The gentoo penguin colonies we saw numbered up to lower hundreds.
We were there in February and there were young.
While these little fluff balls are indisputably cute, like human babies they are highly demanding of their parents’ attention.

When they grow a bit older, they start shedding:

They have a funny walk, as you can somewhat see in the pictures below but better in the video clips here and here.

We were told not to go closer to them than 5 meters. But they are not shy and if they walk up to you it’s ok. So you can get Pygoscelis papua in the same shot as Homo sapiens for size.
All the photos and video of our Argentina + Antarctica trip are here.

Readers’ wildlife photos

Don’t forget to send in your good wildlife photos. I bet many of you have been putting it off, but I’ll need them as the holidays approach and nobody feels like sending anything.

Today, Joe Routon is back with some “street photography”, which today is really diverse. I’ve indented his captions.

Here is a potpourri of some of my photo interests. This first is one that I made of a cataract surgery. The instrument in the ophthalmologist’s right hand is a phacoemulsifier, used to send ultrasonic vibrations that emulsify the cataract, allowing the particles to be vacuumed out through the instrument. The phaco, as it’s affectionately called, then inserts a new and clear lens. The procedure, which is 99% effective, usually lasts about 20 minutes and produces spectacular results, in most cases.

This is my macro photograph of an Eupatorium perfoliatum, a wildflower commonly known as the Common Boneset. This entire bundle of exquisite flowers is smaller than an M&M. Each blossom is about a millimeter across.

My favorite subject for photography is the human face, especially when it’s combined with my passion for travel. I photographed this young lady on a street in Tokyo.

What would a photographic sampling in WEIT be without the ubiquitous duck? This is eine Ente in Deutschland.

On my daily social-distancing walk I photograph flowers in the neighborhood. I think this is Clematis vitalba, also known as “Old Man’s Beard.”  I’m not a botanist, so I expect that my identification will be challenged by others on the list.

I enjoy the fun of manipulating images. For example, here’s what you get when you crossbreed a sweet gum seed pod and a potato. It appears that the bloodshot eye might be the result of the potatos early fermenting into vodka.

My final photo is of one of the main gems in Philadelphia. In the Curtis Building, across from Independence Hall, is a magnificent work of art that few seem to know about. “The Dream Garden,” a mural made of 100,000 pieces of hand blown glass, was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, based on a landscape by Maxfield Parrish. It’s 15 feet tall and 49 feet wide, and is breathtakingly beautiful!

Readers’ wildlife photos and videos

We have two contributors today. First, reader “sherfolder” sent us some photos and videos of penguins, and I can’t resist posting penguins. Sherfolder’s captions are indented:

I send you some pictures I took in March of African Penguins at Seaforth Beach, near Simons Town on the Cape Peninsula.

African penguins, also known as the Cape penguin or South African penguin, live on the west coast of Africa, on the islands of Angola and Namibia to the South African east coast. They are pursuit divers and forage in the open sea, where they pursue fish such as sardines and anchovies.

In 1910, the population of African penguins was estimated at 1.5 million. In 2010, the total African penguin population was at 55, 000. At this rate of decline, the African penguin is expected to be extinct in the wild by 2026. The total breeding population across both South Africa and Namibia fell to a historic low of about 20.850 pairs in 2019.

By the way, the German name for that species (Spheniscus demersus) is “Brillen-Pinguine” (that would mean in English: “Eyeglass penguins”), which is probably due to their facial drawings, although I don’t think that those markings actually resemble glasses.

The first video shows three penguins that have just landed on the beach from the sea and are now setting out to climb a rock, you could have touched them, they came so close.

The second video shows a group of four penguins diving and swimming almost in formation gracefully and swiftly in the sea.

Our second contributor is Tim Anderson from Australia, with one of his lovely astronomy photos:

This is the Tarantula Nebula (NGC2070), an enormous star-forming region inside the Large Magellanic Cloud, the nearest galaxy to the Milky Way. It contains some of the largest stars ever measured from Earth.


Readers’ wildlife photos

Today we have photos of Iguazu Falls, the world’s largest waterfall, from reader Peter Klaver and his partner Rachel Wilmoth. Their captions are indented. (Their Antarctica photos will be up soon.) Notice that there is an unidentified heron-like bird that readers are welcome to name.

Before the corona pandemic, my girl friend Rachel Wilmoth (who has submitted wildlife photos to you before, and who has provided both the English and Latin names for animals) and I had a trip to Antarctica for our 10 year anniversary. On our way South we stopped by Iguazu Falls on the border between Brazil and Argentina. Apart from the waterfalls there, you also get to see some wildlife. 

On the day we arrived, we spent the afternoon looking at the Brazilian side. On our way to the falls we spotted South American coatis, Nasua nasua:

On the Brazilian side there are walkways over the water that let you stand at a point where you are half surrounded by the falls:

While impressive, the falls above are not the big falls of Iguazu yet.

The next day we walked along the Argentinian side. There you walk through a beautiful sea of green rain forest.

And in the forest you see various smaller animals, like this orb weaver spider in the Araneidae familiy:

plush-crested jay, Cyanocorax chrysops:

A bird we can’t identify (readers?):

An Argentine black and white tegu, Salvator meriana:

And a tiger swallowtail butterfly, Papilio glaucus:

Along the Argentinian side you also see many ‘smaller side arteries’ of the falls again:

And then after the hiking, a short train ride and a board walk, you get to the very big falls at the beginning, called the Devil’s Throat. It’s so big that the spay of tiny droplets covers the lower 2/3 or so of the falls. But you do get a rainbow from the spray, and you can still see the upper part of this biggest falls of Iguazu:


Readers’ wildlife photos

Today is odds-and-ends day, with photos from readers who sent in only one or a few pictures. Their captions and IDs are indented.

First, an astronomy photo from reader Terry Platt, who lives in Binfield, UK:

Here is an image of the ‘Tulip nebula’ in Cygnus, taken with a hydrogen alpha filter and CCD camera. A special feature of this area is the presence of the X ray source ‘Cygnus X1’ (indicated). This is now known to be a black hole in mutual orbit with a blue giant star. The hole is stealing material from the blue star and this emits X rays as it falls through the intense gravitational field of the hole. The hole has a mass of 14.8 times that of the Sun, and the pair are about 6070 light years from Earth.

Ivy (or Virginia creeper; you tell me) in Hyde Park; photo by Team Duck member Dr. Jean Greenberg:

We have two entries in the “backyard wildlife” category. First, reader Grania Devine saw American black bears (Ursus americanus) at her house:

I live in rural southeastern BC and the pictures were taken with my phone through our living room window.

Late in the afternoon a couple of days ago, I looked out the window to see a black bear mama and subadult cub.  We have an old cedar stump in the yard which has a small mountain ash tree growing through it.  The female hopped onto the stump and then bent the mountain ash down to the ground.  She held it there while the two of them pretty much stripped it of berries.

In the first photo, she’s just finished bending the tree.  Unfortunately, the cub is just a dark shape, hidden by the foliage.  In the second picture, she’s just released the tree and the last one shows the two of them ambling off into the woods.

And reader Christopher Moss saw a red fox (Vulpes vulpes) on November 6:

Today, standing in the kitchen assembling fishcakes, I saw this character sitting the driveway having a scratch. Apologies for wretched iPhone photos through a shamefully dirty kitchen window. Much healthier looking than the last fox I saw in the garden, which looked rather mangy. Maybe the diet of rodents I leave out for them is helping (although I understand you don’t want to hear about where they come from!)

Readers’ wildlife photos

Remember this site when you have some good animal, landscape, or street photographs!

Today we have a selection of seagulls from biologist John Avise. His captions and text are indented.

Most birders frown upon use of the word “seagull” for two reasons: 1) there are many different species of gull; and 2) gulls sometimes can be found far from any ocean.  Although gulls and terns are closely related (both are in the taxonomic family Laridae), they differ greatly in lifestyle.  Terns actively catch fish by plunge-diving into the water, whereas gulls are indiscriminate scavengers that forage by picking up food items along shorelines (or other places such as parking lots and municipal dumps).

Gulls are also among the most challenging of birds to identify to species for several reasons: 1) plumages within a species may differ from year-to-year during the first several years of a bird’s life; 2) adult plumages typically differ between the breeding and non-breeding seasons; 3) many species are generally similar in body size, shape, and color; and 4) many gull species occasionally produce interspecific (between-species) hybrids.  In an earlier WEIT post (see “one good tern deserves another”), I showed my photographs of several tern species in flight.  Here I show several North American gull species in flight, mostly against blue sky or water backgrounds.  Although gulls are generally more heavy-bodied and less agile than terns, they remain beautiful flyers.  So, with this batch of photos I invite readers to “See Gulls in Flight”.

Bonaparte’s Gull (Larus philadelphia), winter plumage:
Bonaparte’s Gull (Larus philadelphia), first-winter bird:

California Gull (Larus californicus):

Glaucous-winged Gull (Larus glaucescens), first-winter bird:

Heermann’s Gull (Larus heermanni), adult:

Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla), adult:

Laughing Gull (Larus atricilla), juvenile:

Mew Gull (Larus canus):

Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis):

Western Gull (Larus occidentalis), adult:
Western Gull (Larus occidentalis), juvenile:

Readers’ wildlife photos

Today’s reader photos are of fungi, and come from reader Rik Gern, who adds an artsy interpretation. His captions and ID’s are indented.

Here are some submissions for your Readers’ Wildlife Pictures section.

I’ve held off on sending these for a while because I’m having a devil of a time identifying genus and species. Believe me, I’ve spent hours searching images for potential matches, but if I’ve learned one thing, it’s that the world of mushrooms is vast. Talk about your endless forms most beautiful!

I’ll make a stab at the genera of three of the four types represented here:

The first two look like they might be of the genus Panaeolina (foenisecli?). They were growing in rotting leaves in central Texas in the autumn on a misty day, if that helps with identification.

The third picture was taken on the same day in the same location, a few feet from the first mushrooms, but these were growing from a fallen tree limb. Until I tried to look up the Latin binomials I had thought of them as cremé brûlée mushrooms, but I seriously doubt that’s what they’re called. My best guess is Galerina marginata.

The big spongy looking mushrooms were also found in central Texas, although these were taken on a cool Spring morning after a few rainy days, and were growing in the grass. They look like some kind of Boletus. They were partially covered with a soft white mold which is hard to see in the pictures, but looked like snow or frosting from other angles. A fungal fungal infection? One of the mushrooms looks like it has a bite taken out of it, but I wonder what would leave marks like that?

The pictures in the next set were taken in northern Illinois in the fall. These mushrooms were growing on a tree. I apologize for not being able to come up with a latin name for even the genus, but after many searches, the only comparable images I could find were stock photos that didn’t provide any information.

The Boletus with the “bite” taken out of it is the basis for the first–I don’t know what you’d call it–digital distortion, “Necro Borg: Resisting Assimilation”. I worked on this as news of COVID 19 was just starting to spread, and I guess I was picking up on a sense of doom and gloom and sort of an ambient ennui. It kind of gives me the creeps and I’m glad I’m not feeling that way now! (Exercise is your friend!)

The close-up of the mushrooms from Illinois is the basis for the second digital distortion, “Virus X: The Fear Factor”. This was also done right as the world was starting to shut down and there was this feel of a spreading biological menace and a spreading social isolation to combat the menace. The other thing spreading seemed to be fear, for some fear of the coronavirus, for some fear of the containment and isolation, for many, both. Maybe there are two pandemics, one biological and one psychological?