Readers’ wildlife photos

July 12, 2021 • 8:00 am

We are in serious trouble with the wildlife photos. I have about six contributions in the tank, but some are singletons or just a few photos. Please send me any good photos you have ASAP. Thanks!

Today we have photos from two contributors. Their captions and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

Our first contributor is James Blilie:

I am not the wildlife photographer in the family; but I got this one this morning (this was sent in March). A White-tailed Deer doe (Odocoileus virginianus).  She was casually walking along the edge of the pond behind our house eating willow leaves and other leaves. She was completely unconcerned with my movements 150 feet or so away.

Here is a dragonfly (species unknown) waiting on our Columbine plant for the sun to warm it up.

Seven (7) Painted Turtles (Chrysemys picta) on the “Turtle Island” I recently installed (anchored) in out pond behind our house.  This is the third version of Turtle Island I’ve launched (the previous two eventually sank – Minnesota is hard on floating objects). I think I have it down now:  The floats are garden kneeling pads which appear to be polyurethane foam.  Gentle ramps on all sides for easy access.  We enjoy watching the turtles basking in the sun.  We have also seen Spiny Softshell Turtles (Apalone spinifera) in our pond and common Snapping Turtles (Chelydra serpentina) are also very common.

Equipment:  Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III; LUMIX G X VARIO LENS, 12-35MM, F2.8 ASPH

Our second contributor is Art Williams:

Here are some shots of a bedraggled red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) that frequents the neighborhood. I hear him squawking nearly every morning and finally was able to get some decent photos. He was perched on a frequently visited dead pine tree, holding his left claw in a weird posture. When he took off, you could see his missing tail and flight feathers, as if he’d had a really rough week. I kinda feel for the guy ( I think it’s a male due to the smaller stature), with his sore feet and bedraggled appearance; hits a little too close to home.

I threw in a random shot of a Northern mockingbird (Minus polyglottos) in flight, leaping from a dense, tangled stage that seemed to amplify her mid-morning glottic reverie. They’re known to be very aggressive, mobbing cats, hawks and even postmen. I wonder if this one was off to harry the hawk.

The fawn of a white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) was left on its own by a hungry doe as is prescribed by their DNA. The little guy curled up in our day lily (Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus) outcropping, beside a well-traveled suburban street, and no one was the wiser.

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 6, 2021 • 8:00 am

Send in your wildlife/street/travel photos, please. Remember, this site is always free, ad-free, but depends on the kindness of readers.

Today’s photos are of desert animals, sent in by Charles Peterson. His notes and IDs are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

A few from the California Mojave Desert

An adult male chuckwalla (Sauromalus ater), sovereign of his realm. Herbivorous rock dwellers and the largest lizards around here.

A chuckwalla relative in the family of ‘true’ iguanids, and therefore also herbivorous, the desert iguana (Dipsosaurus dorsalis). This one posed on the edge of an old lava flow at Amboy Crater National Landmark.

A zebra-tailed lizard (Callisaurus draconoides), striking the same pose. These are found in flat open areas and are built for speed.

Not a great photograph, but a very cool lizard, the western banded gecko (Coleonyx variegatus). One of only two nocturnal lizards in the Mojave, this one is seen here in seminatural habitat on a retaining wall in my back yard.

A portrait of an adult female desert tortoise (Gopherus agassizii). My personal favorite animal species and the focus of my work.

Mammal-wise, the most commonly seen denizen is the black-tailed jackrabbit (Lepus californicus). Dig those crazy ears.

An unfocused phone photo of one the very few American badgers (Taxidea taxus) I have ever seen. I thought there was a tortoise in that hole until this guy popped up and surprised us both.

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 26, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send in your good wildlife/street/travel photos, as I’m getting nervous again (or rather, I’m always nervous):

Today’s photos come from Matt Young, one of the founders of the excellent pro-evolution website Panda’s Thumb.  His notes and captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.


Pursuant to your request for nature photographs, here is a baker’s half-dozen that I sent to Science in honor of Nature Photography Day. I have some text that goes with them.

Additionally, could I interest you in announcing the 13th annual Panda’s Thumb Photography Contest, here?

For my 80th birthday, my son gathered some of my “favorite” pictures on some pretext or other, and presented me with a splendid casebound book, cleverly formatted with quotations, mostly by photographers. These are some of the pictures that I chose.

American avocet, Recurvirostra americana, Cottonwood Lake, Boulder, Colorado. This one was just standing there, begging to be photographed, as I biked past.

Orange meadowhawk, Sympetrum spp., Elmer’s Two-Mile Creek, Boulder, Colorado. Dragonflies are a dream to photograph, because they often return to roost in the same spot.

Rainbow Bridge,, Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Utah, just off Lake Powell.

Antelope Canyon, a slot canyon near Page, Arizona, on Navajo land. I took a guided tour (the only way you can see it) and was lucky to get a couple of halfway decent pictures despite the darkness and the guide always at my heels.

Crepuscular rays, Niwot, Colorado. In this picture, you can see clearly that the rays are formed by atmospheric scattering, where the irregularities in the clouds are essentially projected onto the atmosphere. Also, every cloud has a silver lining (sometimes gold).

Painted turtleChrysemys picta, Walden Ponds, Boulder, Colorado. This is the western variant, at roughly its westernmost extreme, yet you can see many of them sunning themselves in Duck Pond every year.

Eclipse of the sun, Jackson, Wyoming, August 21, 2017.

And, finally, a mite too late for the book, an eclipse of the moon, just before sunrise on May 28, 2021. The moon was not visible after totality because of the brightening sky and set soon after.

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 23, 2021 • 8:00 am

Please send me your wildlife/street travel photos; there’s always an aching need.

Today’s photos come from Christopher McLaughlin, whose words and captions are indented. Click on his photos to enlarge them.

Rudbeckia hirta, aka Black-eyed Susan, very close up. I suppose this is the floral equivalent to conjoined twins. I include this not because it is a great photo but a bizarre subject. I would love to know what’s going on here. (Bates County, MO, Battle of Island Mound State Park.)

Satyrium calanus, the Banded Hairstreak, at least according to iNat, feeding on the common milkweed, Asclepias syriaca. I rely on the iNaturalist app and its users to identify many species or at least back up my hunches, so readers please correct me if I am wrong. (Bates County, MO, my backyard)

Phidippus princeps, the Grayish Jumping Spider, again according to iNat, perched upon a lilac stem. The little dude’s about the size of half a shelled peanut but brimming with personality. Just look at that punim! Adorable. (Bates County, MO, my backyard)

Terrepene ornata, the Ornate Box Turtle. . . notice the ladder and the gutter in the background and the leaves adhering to the turtle’s carapace. I found this little butthead INSIDE the gutter’s downspout, having climbed into the lower part, up the bend and then a few inches up. I had to take of the bottom part of the downspout, then climb the ladder with a hose on full blast to dislodge the adventurous little twerp. Quite the rescue effort. I only wish I had taken the photo of its guilty little butt and hind leg dangling out the bottom end of the gutter. (Bates County, MO, my gutter!)

And finally, I believe this to be Comandra umbellata, the delightfully-named Bastard Toadflax. I don’t typically like common names (even those that don’t promote white supremacy) but this one’s ok with me. (Vernon County, MO. Gay feather Prairie Conservation Area)

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 22, 2021 • 8:00 am

Thanks to several readers for sending in photos. I still can always use others, though, so keep this site in mind.

Today’s photos come from Andrew Furness, whose IDs and captions are indented. Click on his photos to enlarge them.

All these photos were taken in the last 6-months in South Florida. They showcase some of the wildlife of the region, including species introduced from elsewhere in the world and now firmly established. If readers are interested, I have a Flickr account where more of my photos can be seen.

A brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) stretches while waiting for an easy meal on a fishing pier.

A male green iguana (Iguana iguana) bobs his head as a warning.

A pike killifish (Belonesox belizanus) lurks just below the water surface. This species, native to Central America, was introduced into Miami-Dade County in 1957 and is now established in South Florida’s waterways. It is a livebearer in the family Poeciliidae, the same family that includes guppies, mosquitofish, mollies, and swordtails. Remarkably, this single species has evolved a pike body shape and specializes in eating other fish.

Closeup of the head of the pike killifish (Belonesox belizanus) revealing large jaws and needle-like teeth.

A common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentina) with several leeches just above the head.

Brown water snake (Nerodia taxispilota). The snake was stuck in the plastic erosion-control netting. After taking a few photos I carefully cut the netting and freed the snake.

Muscovy duck (Cairina moschata) mother and her chicks. These ducks are a very common in the greater Miami area.

Black ctenosaur (Ctenosaura similis), a large lizard in the family Iguanidae introduced to Florida from Central America.

A male peacock (Pavo cristatus) spreads and waves his impressive plumage.

A male sailfin molly (Poecilia latipinna) showing an impressive sail-like dorsal fin.

Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox) making a foray onto land.

Close-up portrait of Florida softshell turtle (Apalone ferox).

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) surfacing amongst the water lilies.

American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) in a drying pool. The alligator, around 5 foot in length, appeared to be attempting to capture and eat schools of small poeciliid fishes swimming near the surface in the muddy oxygen-deprived water.

Southern water snakes (Nerodia fasciata) gathered at high density in the shallow waters to hunt fish.

Friday ducks (and turtle lagniappe)

June 18, 2021 • 12:30 pm

All is well and peaceful on Botany Pond, with the two cohorts (four broods) getting along well. First let’s see America’s Most Famous Mallard, Honey, in a formal portrait. She has been with her four ducklings for several weeks now, after a satanic drake drove her away from her brood for about two weeks (they had to take care of themselves, but we made sure they were fed). For some reason that drake left, there was a grand reunion, and now they’re back to being a family again.

Honey smiling:

Honey swimming:

Honey’s four scruffy teenagers:

Honey, her drake Shmuley, and one of their offspring, who in this photo is getting up there with tail feathers and a rudimentary speculum.

A video of Honey and her four getting out of the main pond (one has a bit of trouble) and crossing the sidewalk to get to the channel on the other side.

Here’s Dorothy, who had 11 ducklings originally. We lost one, and she expelled another (the “Peepster”) from the brood). The Peepster was alone and sad, chased around a lot by other ducks, and peeped a lot, but we fed him well and he’s managed to bring himself up to nearly a full-sized duck. He’s going to be fine, despite his status as a pariah.

I’ll show the photos as Dorothy’s babies grow up. Newborns:

Dorthy’s brood as it ages. Here she is sitting on them on a chilly day.

On warmer days they huddle together but don’t need Mom to sit on them for warmth. But ducks are social creatures and the broods stay together until they get older and fully feathered.

The brood slightly older, starting to grow feathers:

The feathers start as “epaulets” on the rudimentary wings, and then on the tail, and then grow backwards and forwards to meet.

Look at these ugly ducklings!

Dorothy’s brood just yesterday—fully feathered but without large primary feathers on the wings, so they won’t be flying for about a week or so. Dorothy is in the foreground, right—attentive as always.

Here’s the Peepster about two weeks ago, looking sad and scruffy as his feathers begin coming in. No other duck likes him—he’s the lowest duck in the pecking order. Despite that, he’s developing just like his sibs and will be fine.

Here’s Dorothy’s Armada flapping, diving and splashing after their lunch the other day. Notice that their wings are larger, but still not full sized. (Video by Jean Greenberg)

Shirley Rose crossing the path with her brood of 12. We lost two of these, but since then she’s been stable at ten. Make way for ducklings! Note the baby having a sip from a muddy puddle.

Courtship of the turtles.  These are red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans), of which the pond harbors several dozen. Greg told me that the small one is a male, and he has special large claws on his forelegs that he uses to stroke the female’s face during courtship. He then goes behind her in a mating ritual. We’re too far north for this species to breed, but they still try. (These turtles undoubtedly descend from pets that were put into the pond. They can thrive here, but it’s too cold for them to nest and breed.

Readers’ wildlife photos

June 9, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s diverse photos come from Ian Churchill, whose Flickr site is here. Ian’s captions are indented. Click the photos to enlarge them.

Amanita muscaria, [the “fly agaric”], Horsell Common, England:

Baby European Herring Gulls [Larus argentatus,]Wadars Wildlife rescue, Worthing, England:

Crocodile, Black River, Jamaica:

Damselfly, Woods Mill, England:

Deer, Petworth Park, England:


Iguana? Tulum, Mexico:

European Robin [Erithacus rubecula], Brighton, England:


Seals, Juneau, Alaska, US:


Grey Squirrel [Sciurus carolinensis] eating mealworms from bird feeder, Brighton, England:

Humpback Whale [Megaptera novaeangliae], Juneau, Alaska, US:

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 31, 2021 • 8:00 am

Thanks for the response to my importuning you for photos: I got several sets, one of which is below. But don’t neglect sending in your good photos, as I always have a need for more.

This set comes from reader David Campbell, whose captions are indented. Click on his photos to enlarge them.

A few photos for the hopper.  As usual, a diverse lot.

Great Egret (Ardea alba) photographed at St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge.  The bird is gliding within one half of one wingspan above the water, a condition known as ground effect.  This reduces the drag on the wing because the fixed surface (in this case the water) breaks up the wingtip vortices.  Less drag increases glide efficiency.  If the bird gets close enough to the surface of the water on a calm day, you can actually see the ripples where the vortices meet the water.  This egret did not oblige.

Spotted Sunfish (Lepomis punctatus).  Male coming into breeding color photographed in Silver Glen Springs in the Ocala National Forest.  Spotted Sunfish are among the most common of the Lepomis in the St Johns River drainage and the most approachable.  If a swimmer is  motionless and patient the fish will swim up within inches and hover.  Look closely and you can see the teeth in the lower jaw and a leech attached to the fin rays.

Wilson’s Snipe (Gallinago delicata) photographed at Payne’s Prairie Preserve south of Gainesville, Florida.

Horned Spanworm (Nematocampa sp.  Probably N. resista.). This larva dropped down from an oak canopy on a silk thread.  The dorsal threads can be extended until straight.

Eastern Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis).  This is a quartet of photos showing how a nonvenomous snake can intimidate perceived threats by changing its appearance to look like a venomous snake.  When grabbed, garter snakes respond by biting and smearing musky feces on the attacker.  The experience is both unpleasant and memorable.  When threatened they try to flee.  When cornered, like many other snakes, they vibrate their tails, inflate the body to look larger and fatter, and flatten the head to make it wider and more triangular while elevating the front third of the body in an S shaped coil.  It is a pretty impressive mimic of a small viper.

This is a close up of the front part of the snake.

The first photo shows a normal eastern garter snake as it would look minding its own business.

The second shows a snake that is in almost full defensive posture with inflated body and flattened head.

The fourth photo shows a snake in full defensive threat posture with head elevated for a strike.

Florida Softshell Turtle (Apalone ferox).  The trash can lid with legs and an attitude.  This is one of the largest freshwater turtles in the United States, with large females having carapace lengths approaching 40 cm long.  They spend most of their time under water except when basking or seeking mates/laying eggs.  They have very long necks and extended nostrils, allowing them to sit on the bottom waiting for food but still reach up to the surface to breathe.  The neck is long enough that the turtle can bite a careless human grabbing the shell behind the middle of both sides.  Turtle rescuers grab (VERY carefully) the front edge and rear edge of the shell to transport softshells.

Eastern Coral Snake (Micrurus fulvius).  I found this little beauty crawling next to my house.  Coral snakes are elapids, related to cobras, with short fixed fangs and primarily neurotoxic venom.  We used to see them a lot more frequently, but drought and a large feral cat colony down the road have decimated populations of lizards and snakes that coral snakes feed on.  These are shy snakes that tend to be very nervous.  When threatened many (but not this one) curl the end of the tail into a small ball and wave it around, supposedly mimicking a head, while burying the real head under a coil of snake.  Several species of nonvenomous snakes mimic coral snakes, but their banding patterns are a bit different.  The late Dr. Roger Conant suggested thinking of a traffic light.  Red means stop, yellow means caution (except around here where a yellow light means floor it).  If the danger colors touch, it’s a coral snake.  In North America.

Clouded Leopard (Neofelis nebulosa) This is not “wild” life but the picture shows one of my favorite cats in a beautiful pose.  It was photographed at the Central Florida Zoo in Sanford, Florida.

Readers’ turtles

May 23, 2021 • 6:30 am

It’s World Turtle Day, and so, in addition to our usual wildlife posts, I’m putting up some readers’ photos of their turtles, including photos of how they can be damaged through human carelessness. Readers’ captions are indented, and clicking on the photos will enlarge them.

First, from Divy Figueroa:

Here are a couple of turtle pics from our collection. This little guy was one of our first hatchlings of this species.

Mekong Snail-Eating Turtle (Malayemys subtrijuga):

These are a couple of baby Forsten’s Tortoises (Indotestudo forstenii). We have a nice group of adults and sub-adults. They come from the island of Sulawesi in Indonesia, and sadly, they are endangered.

From reader Christopher McLaughlin:

Since Sunday, May 23 in World Turtle Day, I thought I would share some photos of local turtles (tortoises for you persnickety types). Three of them demonstrate how hard life is for the modern turtle and why we all ought to be more thoughtful and kind to turtles. Of course they suffer from all sort of issues; habitat destruction, poaching, pet trade, road crossings, invasive species, climate change, but also lawnmowers, wildfires, and being harmed by our pets.

The first turtle of the year, found in my yard on April 7, still covered in mud and just after a breakfast of dandelion flowers. The ornate box turtle, Terrepene ornata ornata. (Female, I think. I forgot to check)

Carapace damage from a brush hog-type mower favored by rural men to unnecessarily mow large swaths of grassland like the cow pasture behind my property. Terrapene carolina triunguis. (Male)

Prairie fire damage. These little dudes are able to withstand some serious damage from the fires that have always played a part in their ecosystems, and I could not be for certain that this wasn’t completely natural but it was on a nearby prairie “managed” by the conservation department and frankly they are not the most scientifically minded people, but are more concerned with “managing” lands for hunting and fishing. And yes, she is a survivor, a little melted and disfigured but with head, all four limbs, and tail intact.  Terrepene ornata ornata (female)

Another one from my yard with the usual brush hog damage, with the white bone showing through the carapace scutes, but also missing chunks of marginal scutes and carapace bone just in front of my thumb and another chunk on his backside. Terrapene ornata ornata. (Male)

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 7, 2021 • 9:06 am

By Greg Mayer

The following photos were sent to me by a colleague, and were taken during a trip to Costa Rica during December, 2011- January, 2012. We’ll start with the crocodiles of Rio Grande de Tarcoles, which are an attraction for both Costa Rican and foreign tourists, who gather at the highway bridge to see the many large crocodiles gathered there. I was told on one of my visits there that there used to be some sort of slaughterhouse or rendering plant, and that the offal was dumped in the river, which initially attracted the crocodiles. People now feed them, although I think this is officially discouraged.

American Crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, Rio Grande de Tarcoles, Costa Rica, January 2012.
American Crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, Rio Grande de Tarcoles, Costa Rica, January 2012.
American Crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, Rio Grande de Tarcoles, Costa Rica, January 2012.

She also saw crocodiles on a trip to Tortuguero.

American Crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, on boat trip to Tortuguero, Costa Rica, January 2012.

Also at Tortuguero was this heron, a widespread species which is also found in the southeastern US, breeding at least as far north as New York.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron, Nyctanassa violacea, Tortuguero, Costa Rica, January 2012.

A visit to the area of Fortuna revealed a couple of species of mammals. This is a normally colored Mantled Howler Monkey,

Non-blonde Mantled Howler Monkey, Alouatta palliata, N of Fortuna, Costa Rica, January 2012.

while this one is “blonde”; I’ve never seen a howler of this color myself.

Blonde Mantled Howler Monkey, Alouatta palliata, N of Fortuna, Costa Rica, January 2012.

There were also bats.

Proboscis Bats, Rhynchonycteris naso, N of Fortuna, Costa Rica, January 2012.

And last but not least, because they are practically honorary cats, a squirrel from Volcan Poas.

Variegated Squirrel, Sciurus variegatoides, Volcan Poas, Costa Rica, December, 2011.