Readers’ wildlife photos

We have a comfortable backlog of photos now, but you should still send in your good ones lest ye forget.

Today’s batch, lovely photos of invertebrates (with a bonus mammal and reptile), comes from reader Bruce Budris. As he says about locations, “These are mostly taken in upstate NY (Columbia County).  The two exceptions are the one I note that is taken at the Berkshire Botanical Garden in Stockbridge, MA, really only 20 mins. away from us, and the snake pic, which is from Innisfree Garden about 30 or so miles south of us in Dutchess County.”

I’ve put Bruce’s IDs and notes in indents.

We’ve already had our first snow and a number of below freezing nights, but this common drone fly (Erastalis tenax) is still at it on the last flowers we have left (marigolds). This is a species of hoverfly whose body structure and coloring mimics a common honeybee.
Also in the hoverfly family, this is most likely a female migrant hoverfly (Syrphus ribesii) whose coloring mimics a yellowjacket wasp.
And a third type of hoverfly: The oblique stripetail (Allograpta obliqua), which also shares a mimicry of yellow jackets.
The great golden digger wasp (Sphex ichneumoneus), a cousin of the cicada-killer wasp, is probably the largest wasp in this part of the world.   They can usually be found dragging their prey (crickets and such) back to their in-ground burrows.  Golden diggers also seem to like the nectar of swamp milkweed plants.  This one happened to be photographed at the nearby Berkshire Botanical Garden, but I’ve found them to similarly visit the swamp milkweed plants in our garden.  Despite their appearance, golden diggers are very unaggressive, although I noticed the patrons of the garden that summer afternoon were giving their nesting area a wide berth.
The Tomentose burying beetle (Nicrophorus tomentosus) is a type of carrion beetle.  The club at the tip of their antennae is an olfactory organ used to find decaying carcasses, and once found, the mated beetles will bury the dead animal and use it to feed their brood.
The recycler of the previous photo (Nicrophorus tomentosus) is itself being recycled by a horde of red whirligig mites (Genus Anystis).
A beautiful yellow swallowtail butterfly (Papilio glaucus) drinking from a Mexican sunflower and another resting on a basil leaf.
A large ferruginous tiger crane fly (Nephrotoma ferruginea) hangs in wait.
Bonus raptor:  A Cooper’s hawk (Accipiter cooperii) that frequently stalks my bird feeder in search of unsuspecting sparrows.
Bonus snake:  While we were attempting to photograph a massive orb weaver spider at the beautiful Innisfree Garden in Dutchess County, NY, this garter snake (Thamnophis sp.) slithered over to check on the proceedings.


Readers’ wildlife photos

Get those wildlife photos, in, folks! (And remember, landscapes and general high-quality photos count as “wildlife”.) Today’s photos come from Kevin Elsken, who lives in Arkansas. I’ve indented his captions and IDs.

So many of your reader submitted wildlife photos are so remarkable and so well done, I use them as aspirational motivation for the photos I take. Hopefully these photos will be of interest to you and your readers.

The first three photos are of everyone’s favorite black and yellow garden spider, Argiope aurantia. Truly a gorgeous animal, though I wouldn’t want to be a small critter on the receiving ends of those fangs.

The second spider I think is a Mabel Orchard Orb WeaverLeucauge argyrobapta. Much smaller than the yellow garden spider, but almost iridescent and gleams in the sunlight. Loves to build webs in and about the compost piles—great place to catch a fly or two.

The last spider I would like to share is the Hentz’s (sometimes called Spotted) Orb WeaverNeoscona crucifera. These spiders become very active in late summer and are nocturnal, so I thought I would share photos that depict both their magnificent orb webs and their propensity to scare the beejeebers out of you at night.

On to the snake portion of the program. The first one is a RIng-necked snakeDiadophis punctatus. My brother spotted this guy on a recent bike ride, and let me tell you he may look tough but this guy was all of about 2 inches long.  According to Wikipedia these snakes are secretive and nocturnal (my 82 year old father in law has lived here his entire life and had never seen one).  While they are believed to be abundant, the author of the Wikipedia article suggests detailed research on this snake is lacking.

The second snake will get your attention: the Eastern Copperhead, Agkistrodon contortrix. This two-foot-long specimen was lazing in the middle of a country road on a different bike ride. Again according to Wikipedia, these snakes are not aggressive and their bites rarely fatal (I will take their word on the matter).

If I may indulge you with a cat story (I know, twisting your arm!):

It was the second day of July, 2019. I was sitting in our backyard reading when I became aware that the robins were raising a fuss – something was bothering them. It was then I became aware of another sound. . . mew, mew, mew, mew.  I peeked through the fence and you can guess what I saw. I called my wife and after a little work and few bleeding cuts, we brought this guy home:

He appeared to be only 5 or 6 weeks old, but we have no idea where he came from (we did check around the neighborhood). He was a little rough around the edges, hungry, but he did not have fleas but only a few ear mites. He seemed well socialized, did not mind being picked up or petted, and he has used the litter box from day one. We named him Rocket, in honor of either a) the best friend of Bullwinkle J. Moose or b) the best friend of Groot. He can exhibit characteristics of either of his namesakes.

Well he both grew and grew on us, as cats can do. Our last cat, Simba, who had graced the pages of your esteemed blog, passed away before we moved back to Arkansas. We were not sure we wanted another cat, but when a cat like Rocket shows up, what can one do?

But unbeknownst to us, about one month before Rocket appeared to us, a stray tabby with a severely broken back leg was brought to the attention of Keely’s Fund, a charity which assists pets in need in Northwest Arkansas.

With a grant from a local trucking company, JB Hunt, the one year old cat had the surgery he needed to repair his leg. And he earned a name: JB. But he had no home except for the local vet’s office where he spent nights and weekends alone in his cage.

Fast forward to December of 2019. We had gone on a trip and boarded Rocket with his vet. We went to pick him up and the technician, with a bit of a tear in her eye, told us that they had this tabby who had never really been friendly with any cats who came in, but Rocket was different, and would we want to take home a friend? Well who could resist this lovable tabby?

There were a few tears shed at the vet’s office when we took JB home, but when we sent them this photo they cried for joy:

Spot the rattlesnake!

Ken Howard sent a photo of a hidden rattlesnake, and you should try to spot it in the photo below (click to enlarge). I rate this one as “fairly easy,” but it’s good for novices to develop an eye for cryptic wildlife, especially when it’s venomous!  Ken’s notes are indented:

An easy one for your consideration. From this morning’s desert hike [Sunday] – a Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atrox). My father-in-law constantly warns me when I cross desert hike to ‘watch the shadows’. For good reason.

Ken sent two lagniappe pictures as well, taken on July 12:

I attempted to observe comet Neowise this morning, rising at 3:30am and hiking two miles to a place I hoped would provide a clear horizon in order to view and photograph the comet.  Unfortunately, clouds from the previous evening’s storms obscured the area I anticipated seeing the comet, yet Venus was clearly visible.  Although disappointed, I listened to the beautiful twilight desert chorus crescendo as the sun rose.  Owls and nighthawks flew past as quail and doves scurried and cooed.  I was perched on granite boulders watching as the sky revealed a palette of pinks and blues, whereupon I heard the faint but distinct rattle somewhere below me.  I can’t think of any other sound that quickly grabs ones attention from the tranquility of the desert. Nature’s alarm clock that it was time to hike back home. Will try again tomorrow morning for a glimpse of Neowise but probably from a different location.

Now, to see the “reveal” of the rattlesnake in the top photo, click “read more”: Continue reading “Spot the rattlesnake!”

Readers’ wildlife photos

Send in your pictures, I implore you! We’re already out of “photos of readers”, and I’d hate to ditch two features.

Today we have wildlife photos from two readers. First up is Roger Sorensen. (All readers’ captions are indented):

Two photos taken at the Sherburne National Wildlife Refuge, east-central MN, of the Common eastern bumblebee (Bombus impatiens), first foraging on Purple prairie clover (Dalea purpurea) and second, foraging on Lead Plant (Amorpha canescens)

And the next batch comes from Rachel Sperling.

Here are a few photos from some of my recent hikes around New England. First up is a Milbert’s tortoiseshell butterfly (Anglais milberti), which I spotted – along with the rest of the butterflies in this post – in a field near the summit of Mount Ellen in Warren, Vermont.

Next up is a Baltimore checkerspot (Euphydryas phaeton) on what I think is Orange hawkweed (Hieracium aurantiacum).
Next we have a Great-spangled fritillary, Speyeria cybele. There were a LOT of them on the peak.

Heading south to Mount Monadnock in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, we’ve got a red eft, the juvenile form of the Eastern newt (Notophthalmus viridescens). I used to catch these by the bucket-full in the woods after it rained when I was a child. I always let them go.

Lastly, here’s a young Common snapping turtle, Chelydra serpentina. I encountered this fellow on the trail around the Whiting Street Reservoir, at the Mount Tom State Reservation in Holyoke, Massachusetts. He was pretty tiny and he had quite a steep hike up to the nearest body of water, so I gave him a lift (in a Ziploc bag I happened to have handy – he was a little bitey).

Happy World Snake Day!

by Greg Mayer

Jerry noted this morning that it’s World Snake Day, but I thought I’d add to the festivities by sharing a couple of photos of my Ball Python (Python regius), Vivian.

Vivian, a Ball Python, Python regius, 16 July 2020.

I lifted Vivian’s hide box to take the photo, and she was mildly perturbed, so she defensively hid her head in her coils.

Vivian, a Ball Python, Python regius, hiding her head, 16 July 2020. Note the tiny  hind leg (“spur”) visible at the base of her tail.

The Department of Defense Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation has sent out a great set of links for World Snake Day, put together by my friend and colleague Rob Lovich. There’s loads of stuff in these links– look around. I’ve brought to the top of the list a shutterfly album of a great diversity of snakes. If you don’t have time for more, open up that album click on the slideshow, and enjoy! (It works best if you have dual monitors, one to work one, and one for snake pix.)

Here’s the album: Shutterfly Snake Pictures (over 800 pictures). From DoD Parc:

Tomorrow [i.e. today] (July 16th) is World Snake Day! In celebration of this event and the important ecological value snakes play in the ecosystems of military lands, we would like to highlight some snake-focused DoD Partners in Amphibian and Reptile Conservation (DoD PARC) products below.

We hope you enjoy learning about snakes through the various DoD PARC products below.

Snake Pictures, ID cards and Podcast:

YouTube Videos


Fact Sheets


Snake Guides


The Timber Rattlesnake (Crotalus horridus) was chosen on our logo to reflect the long-standing relationship DoD and the Military Services have with protecting both our nation and its resources, including snakes. Ultimately, the use of this species is meant to represent how DoD protects the natural resources with which it has been entrusted, and how those resources in turn provide for and protect the military’s ability to prepare for its war-fighting and peace-keeping duties.

If you’re wondering why the military has a unit devoted to amphibians and reptiles, the military must follow environmental and conservation laws (unless specifically exempted); there are practical issues for the military involving venomous reptiles; and recall that Darwin traveled around the world largely by courtesy of the Royal Navy. The U.S. Navy published, with the assistance of the American Society of Ichthyologists and Herpetologists, the classic Poisonous Snakes of the World:

If you want to learn more about snakes, I recommend, as I have before, Harry Greene‘s Snakes: the Evolution of Mystery in Nature as a good, well-illustrated, introduction to their natural history and diversity

Greene, H.W. 1997. Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature. University of California Press, Berkeley.

Minton, S.A., H.G. Dowling & F.E. Russell. 1965. Poisonous Snakes of the World: A Manual for Use by U.S. Amphibious Forces. NAVMED P-5099. Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Department of the Navy, Washington, D.C.

h/t: Caroline

Readers’ wildlife photos

Today’s contributor is reader Mark Sturtevant, and his notes are indented (he also provided, as always, the links):

Over a year ago, during Spring, I was asked to join an all-expenses-paid teaching conference hosted by a textbook publisher in Phoenix, Arizona. So I went, but arranged to arrive several days early (on my dime) so that I could basically goof off and take pictures of the various critters to be found in the Sonoran desert. It was fabulous. This is the first of two posts that summarize some of the adventures. It is suggested that readers click the photos to embiggen.

The first day had to be a short one, but I was able to make it to the Boyce Thompson Arboretum outside of the city. Time was limited, but I did manage to photograph a few things including this butterfly – the Texas hackberry emperor (Asterocampa celtis).

A later day was spent at the well known Desert Botanical Garden within the city. Their extensive gardens of native plants drew numerous butterflies, including one I was hoping to see. The following two pictures show queen butterflies (Danaus gilippus). These are of course close relatives of the widespread monarch butterfly, and like monarchs, queen butterflies advertise their toxicity since their larvae feed on various members of the milkweed subfamily.

Within the park grounds were desert pond habitats, and at these were the well named flame skimmer dragonflies (Libellula saturata), as shown in the next pictures.

Probably the highlight of the day came quite by accident. I was chatting with one of the volunteer staff about insects, when she mentioned there was some sort of “large bee just over there”, and pointed out a patch of desert milkweed on which there was an enormous tarantula hawk (This one was Pepsis thisbe). Oh my! I had come across these ginormous wasps before, but they were always in a great hurry. This one was intent on getting nutrients, and so it was content to stick around for a time while I frantically took pictures and hoped my flash batteries would not fail.

Tarantula hawks are our largest wasp, and as you see they are strikingly beautiful. Tarantula hawks are of course famous for preying on tarantulas, which they paralyze with a sting before placing them in storage to feed to their young. Their sting is regarded as among the most painful to humans, as is graphically demonstrated here by that lunatic Coyote Peterson:

From Wikipedia we learn that one researcher described the pain from the sting as “…immediate, excruciating, unrelenting pain that simply shuts down one’s ability to do anything, except scream.” Truth be told, however, like other solitary bees and wasps, tarantula hawks are not at all aggressive, but are instead single-minded about whatever they are doing. She paid absolutely no attention to me, or to the large crowd of curious onlookers that gathered to watch me photograph her. After many precious minutes together she flew loudly away, and that was that.

On other days I visited several natural habitats in the area. In the Tonto National Forest (which is pretty much all Sonoran desert without much trees), I came across a Western diamondback rattlesnake (Crotalus atria). This was exciting! The snake took shelter in the brush along the road, and of from there it did its thing by rattling and striking toward the macro lens of the camera. Not wanting to overly stress it, I took a few photos, wished the snake well, and moved on.


Here’s the snake!

Did you spot it in this morning’s photo from Christopher? I’ve circled it in the “reveal” below, and Christopher send an enlargement below that. His notes:

The Rough Green Snake, Opheodrys aestivus aestivus. It is quite widespread in Missouri, absent in only the northernmost counties. According to my copy of The Amphibians and Reptiles of Missouri by Tom R. Johnson, (2nd ed., 2000, Mo. Dept. of Conservation) its length ranges from 560 to 810mm and the tail makes up as much as 38% of its length. It’s no bigger around than a pencil, really.

It is highly arboreal, diurnal, and its diet consists of caterpillars, spiders, crickets, grasshoppers, dragonflies, and damselflies. It relies on its coloration to hide it among the trees and vines, and if wind moves the branch it is on it will sway with the vegetation. It is of course completely harmless (unless you’re an insect or arachnid) and a study by M. V. Plummer in Arkansas (Herpetologica 24(3) 1990b)  found that gravid females were preyed upon by speckled kingsnakes (Lampropeltis getula holbrooki) and southern black racers (Coluber constrictor priapus) but no word in the book about other predators. I know it’s not venomous, so I don’t know if it counts, but I can’t help but look at this beauty and channel my inner Steve Irwin and say “what a rippah!”

This might be my favorite Missouri snake species, perhaps because I have so much trouble spotting them in real life but also because their coloration (dorsal color an unbroken light green, creamy yellow ventral) is so different than any other Missouri snake and seems almost tropical to my eye. Here’s a closer look:


This might be my favorite Missouri snake species, perhaps because I have so much trouble spotting them in real life but also because their coloration (dorsal color an unbroken light green, creamy yellow ventral) is so different than any other Missouri snake and seems almost tropical to my eye. Here’s a closer look:

Readers’ wildlife photos

Do send in your photos! Thanks to kind readers, the tank has risen a bit, but I could always use more (don’t forget the Latin binomial as well). Today’s photos come from Susan Hoffman, an evolutionary geneticist at Miami University. Susan’s notes and IDs are indented.

I saw your appeal for more pics, so I’m finally pulling out some photos that I promised to you quite a while ago, from a trip we made in 2017 to the area near Port Elizabeth, South Africa. We spent most of our time in the Addo Elephant and Mountain Zebra National Parks, which are small but delightful drive-through parks, like mini-Krugers. This first batch is from Addo, and I’ve given you several of some species so that you can choose your favorites. The animals are:

Burchell’s zebra foal with mom (Equus burchelli):

Elephants (Loxodonta africanaand Cape buffaloes (Syncerus caffer) sharing a waterhole:

Red hartebeest (Alcelaphus buselaphus)—very numerous and unafraid:

Bat-eared fox (Otocyon megalotis)—this fox was very intent on checking out what appeared to be rodent burrows”

Common eland (Taurotragus oryx):

Warthogs (Phacochoerus africanus) with hartebeest:

Leopard tortoise (I think) (Geochelone pardalis):