It’s a holiday and I want to have a bit of fun today, so we’ll have just a brief edition of the wildlife photos: in fact, just one. But be sure to keep sending them in!
This comes from Claudia Baker, whose narrative is indented. Click on the photo to enlarge it.
This snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentine) made an appearance in my driveway a couple of weeks ago. As I live quite close to a wetlands area, about 30 km southwest of Ottawa, Ontario, I often get turtles in my driveway and yard this time of the year as they are looking for suitable places to lay their eggs.
Look at the size of this beast! I was taking out the garbage in the evening when I spotted her. She backed under the car a little in her fright. Those claws!
The moral: check around your car for turtles and other wildlife before driving off!
It’s Sunday, and that means “John Avise Bird Photo Day.” Today’s set features bills. The IDs and captions are John’s, and are indented. Click on the photos to enlarge them.
Last Sunday I showcased birds with recurved (curved upward) or decurved (curved downward) bills. This week’s post shows several bird species that in effect have compromised between these two extremes such that they have perfectly straight bills. No doubt you can guess the utility of these straight bills by considering these birds’ respective lifestyles.
Today we have some lovely seaside photos taken by reader Taryn Overton; they could be called “Fifteen ways of looking at a beach.” Her captions are indented and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.
I’ve lived in South Florida for a few years. This set of photos is from the same beach in Naples, Florida across seasons during 2021. All were taken near sunset and highlight the vastly different beach experience one can have on any given evening.
The white birds in the surf in multiple photos are Snowy Egrets (Egretta thula). I see them most often toward sunset wading in the shallow waters spearing fish. Their feet are bright yellow, and as such they’re said to ‘dance on golden slippers.’
In anticipation of Caturday, we have two Big Cat photos from Pramod Gowda. His narrative is indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them:
Pramod had just this caption originally:
I’ve come across your website, and I’m really interested in sharing a couple of Wildlife photographs I’ve captured in the jungles of Southern India.
But of course I wanted more information, as I don’t think we’ve had tiger photos before, so I asked for more, and Pramod sent this:
These tigers (Panthera tigris) were encountered in the Bandipur Tiger Reserve in Karnataka, India. Bandipur is one of the 5 tiger reserves in Karnataka and has the highest tiger population in the state.
These photographs were captured on a morning safari in the Indian winters.
This was one of the two subadults which was stalking the Indian Gaur (Bos gaurus) for a hunt on a winter morning. While the Indian Gaur struggled to keep its pace with the tiger, it was one of the finest sights I’ve had in the jungles of Karnataka. Eventually, the Gaur escaped into the bushes, and with that the tiger disappeared as well moments later.
(Below) This was a fully grown adult male who’d just moved out of its old territory and looking for a new territory. He was barely 50 meters away head-on and by far the best tiger sighting I’ve had thus far.
As he kept coming towards us, we’d have to keep driving the Jeep backwards for nearly a kilometer. He was old, bold and fearsome, and something I’ll always cherish every time I step into the woods of Bandipur. I’ve had a lot of encounters in the jungles of Bandipur and Nagarahole in Karnataka over the past few years, but, I’ve never seen any tiger who’s as brave as this one—ever!
JAC: Here’s a map showing the location of this reserve:
Get those photos in, please! Several readers obliged, and I’m grateful.
Today’s batch comes from Gary Radice, whose captions and descriptions are indented. Click the photos to enlarge them.
I just returned from a trip to the Tetons and Yellowstone. I was outside the Park in West Yellowstone when the devastating floods hit and was never in danger.
In the days before the flooding my wife and I saw quite a bit of wildlife but rarely close enough for pictures. Except these:
In Yellowstone, we watched a single trumpeter swan (Cygnus buccinator) preening in the middle of the Firehole River, close enough to photograph with my small telephoto lens.
And near the Obsidian Cliffs we saw a pair of sandhill cranes (Antigone canadensis) with two little chicks. I was pretty far away and I couldn’t get a shot of the whole family, but I did get this one. I think the sandhill crane is my absolutely favorite bird. I could watch them for hours.
And in the Tetons, we went to visit Mormon Row to photograph the barns, common site for photographs. There was a magpie sitting on a post that I hoped would make it a little more interesting. I was using my iPhone for this one. Just as I took the shot the bird flew off. “Darn,” I thought. “The bird will be just a blur.” Later I opened the picture on my laptop.
This one is worth seeing enlarged. [JAC: the bird is there!]
Well, folks, we’re going to run out of photos by the weekend, so if you want this feature to continue, and have some good photos, send ’em in.
Today’s batch includes some lovely arthropod photos by regular Tony Eales from Queensland. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the pictures by clicking on them.
I have been trying to get good at taking intimate portraits of insects and spiders where they are looking right down the barrel of the camera, with varying success. Here’s a few of my more favourite ones.
The best I’ve achieved, in my opinion, so far is this portrait of Myrmecia brevinoda, the Giant Bull Ant. At 35mm and armed with large jaws and an impressive sting, these are terrifying looking ants but actually they are very calm. They are entirely nocturnal and construct fairly large mound nests with multiple entrances in wet forests. I was able to sit right beside their nest and observe the colony doing maintenance without even a threat display let alone a sting.
Another large rainforest ant is Notostigma foreli. Workers are around 15mm long and quite robust. They are in the subfamily Formicinae, and as such do not have a stinger. These ants defend themselves with sprays of formic acid, but generally in interactions with large creature like ourselves they tend to just run. Like the Giant Bull Ant, they are nocturnal.
Other good subjects for front on shots are Jumping Bristletails. This one is a member of the Rock Bristletail family Meinertellidae.
Not only do you want a subject that will keep still, but for a really nice close-up it’s good if they have a fairly flat face. This reduces the need for photo-stacking which can be a bit of a pain and hard to do with live subjects that might move between shots.
An obvious candidate is the so-called Flat-faced Longicorns sub-family Lamiinae. This one isRhytiphora albocincta, a fairly common species that feeds on acacia.
Another one I love to get in face-on shots is a small treehopper with a large head adornment Eutryonia monstrifera.
Raspy crickets also photograph well head on. In fact some will face off against threats and display with their wings, like this Nunkeria sp.
One of the more difficult ones for me are harvestmen, but I do love their little eyes up top. No idea of the ID for this one.
But the best all round subjects for front on portraits are spiders. No wavy antenna, no protruding mouthparts and sit as still as a rock.
Today’s photos come from reader Mark Sturtevant, specialist in arthropod photography. His IDs and text are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.
Here are more pictures taken in 2020.
One day while hiking in the woods, a large flying beetle made a noisy passage across the trail. I managed to knock it down. This is Osmoderma scabra, and it’s only slightly smaller than a walnut.
After a few minutes it had enough, popped out its wings, and lumbered away through the air:
I recently showed a group of strange insects called bark lice. They’re in the same order as parasitic lice, but bark lice are more into feeding on lichens and algae. Some bark lice have wings; here is a handsome example of one. It is Cerastipsocus venosus.
Bark lice are pretty alert and fast. But evidently the one shown in the next picture was not quite fast enough. Based on some details like the relative length of the legs, my guess is that the spider is one of the running crab spiders (species unknown). It was quickly hauling its prey along the twig.
An extremely common visitor to our porch lights is this lovely little Geometrid moth known as the green pug, Pasiphila rectangulata. Cherry trees are one of their host plants, and we do have one, probably explaining why I see them so often.
Let’s stay with the Lepidoptera. Next is a lovely Virginia ctenucha moth (Ctenucha virginica), a species found along wood margins. They resemble the closely related yellow-collared scape moth that frequents fields, and together they are part of an extensive mimicry complex that includes several orders of insects. Some members of the complex are distasteful, or they sting, and others are imposters.
Next up is a caterpillar that was clearly preparing to form a chrysalis. Spiny caterpillars can be hard to identify, but I kept this one and it later emerged as a grey comma butterfly (Polygonia progne).
And next is that same butterfly with recently expanded wings after emerging from its chrysalis. The reason for its common name is because of the comma-shaped mark on the underside of the wings. The upper side of their wings are mostly orange, but they spend much time sitting with wings closed on the ground among the dead leaves. In this circumstance, they are nearly impossible to see!
Next up is a little planthopper called Acanalonia conica. These cute little insects are amusing to photograph, because when they realize they are being watched they deviously move to the back of the twig. The trick then is to extend a finger behind the twig, and that makes them sidle back out to sit in plain view.
The house centipede (Scutigera coleoptrata) is a fairly cosmopolitan species that favors living in houses. As a result, many people know what it’s like to live with house centipedes. Let’s see. . . they attain a size that makes them a bit unnerving, they move fast, and they do have a tendency to suddenly dart out across a wall while you’ve settled down for the evening. I think that about covers it. Folks who live with house centipedes always have strong opinions about them, although they really cause no problems.
Here are some photographs of one that are actually focus-stacked from dozens of pictures taken during a staged setting on the dining room table. Lights were kept off, save for a lamp, and that helped keep it calm. Even so, I am rather surprised this even worked. A few times it did zip away into the dark surroundings, and it was challenging to find again.
Today is Sunday, which means we get to see a themed batch of bird photos from John Avise. John’s notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.
Recurved and Decurved Bills
Birds’ bills come in many shapes, two of the most interesting of which are recurved (curved upward) and decurved (curved downward). Diverse bird groups, ranging from wrens and thrashers to shorebirds, include at least some species with curved bills. In such taxa, both the bill
length and the degree of curvature can vary greatly from species to species, ranging from short and nearly straight to long and almost semicircular.
This batch of photos offers several North American species with a variety of recurved or decurved bills. When watching birds, it’s also fun to study how the various species utilize these remarkable eating utensils. For example, the American Avocets feed by swishing their recurved bills back-and-forth through the detritus of shallow waters to snare worms and other goodies.
All of these photos were taken either in Florida or California.
Today’s batch is from reader Steve Adams, whose text is indented. Click on the photos to enlarge them. My favorites—wood ducks! Most show the spectacular male, surely one of the most colorful birds in North America.
I was going through my photos from this spring and wanted to share these with you and your readers. I had a hard time picking photos, but I thought that since you love ducks so much, I would start with these. I have been trying for several seasons to get decent photos of Wood Ducks (Aix sponsa) and I finally succeeded this year. I received a tip that there had been sightings at a nature park not far from where I live. I was skeptical since the park is within a suburban area and quite well-trafficked.
To my surprise, there were 4 males and 3 females residing in the swampy area. I find them very beautiful and have spent some delightful hours there taking photos and watching them. The local park is called Tinker Nature Park and is located in the town of Henrietta, NY, a suburb south of Rochester.
Today’s photos of birds come from Bill Robertson, whose captions, descriptions, and IDs are indented. You can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.
All of these were taken near where I live now, in Fort Collins, CO. The city maintains a huge system of parks and natural areas protected from development. The amazing thing to me about this is that about 20 years ago (or thereabouts), the citizens of the town actually voted to raise the city sales tax to pay for all of this. They have a full-time staff of maintenance crews and a volunteer staff of citizen naturalists who give tours to school kids and anyone else interested. How amazing is that?
Some of these were taken in various parks and natural areas and I’ve tried to indicate that for each one. A lot of them were also taken in my yard, through my windows.
As for my gear, most of these were taken with a Sony a7RII mirrorless camera with a Sony FE 4.5-5.6/70-300mm G OSS zoom lens. I recently upgraded to a Sony a7RIVA, and a Sony FE 5.6-6.3/200-600mm G OSS zoom lens. The image stabilization on these cameras and lenses is phenomenal, but they’re also heavy buggers, so I’ve taken to using a monopod to help out.
Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). This one was hanging out in my back yard keeping an eye on the bird feeders and squirrels. Caught just leaping after a squirrel who managed to scoot under the deck.
American White Pelican (Pelecanus erythrorhynchos). This Pelican just speared some breakfast at the Prospect Ponds Natural Area.
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis). A goldfinch waiting its turn at one of my birdfeeders.
Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias). A great Blue Heron is carrying some nesting material back to a waiting companion, near the River Bend Ponds Natural Area. This is a multi-tree heronry that’s also home to some hawks and a lot of smaller birds.
Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus). This Northern Flicker has just had a drink of water out of the heated birdbath on my deck.
House Finch (Haemorhous mexicanos). A Housefinch serenading in Spring Canyon Park.
Canada Goose Goslings (Branta canadensis). A clutch of 2-day-old goslings chilling on a hot afternoon in a nearby neighborhood.