Readers’ wildlife photos

August 25, 2021 • 8:00 am

Keep those photos coming in, folks (or, as it’s spelled now—for reasons that elude me—”folx”).

Today we have one of my favorite arthropods, jumping spiders. The photos come from Tony Eales of Queensland, whose notes are indented. Click on the photos to enlarge them.

Just a quick one to celebrate the fact I photographed my first Maratus volans.

The is THE classic Peacock Jumping Spider, widespread along the south-eastern seaboard of Australia. They are also one of the most colourful, but that can be relative in a genus with so many colourful species. Next things to tick off are photographs of a male displaying and to photograph the other local species, Maratus ottoi. A friend of mine has spent 6 years trying to get a photograph of M. ottoi displaying and finally got a beautiful shot last weekend.

Much to the disgust of many of my Peacock Jumping Spider obsessed friends, two common and fairly dowdy jumping spiders have been shifted from genus Hypoblemum to the Peacock Spider genus Maratus. This had the effect of instantly upping lots of people’s peacock spider counts from zero to two. There has been much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst the purists. I present my photos of these two new members of the elite genus. I think they are quite nice.

Maratus griseus male:

Maratus griseus female:

Maratus scutulatus male:

Maratus scutulatus female:

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 21, 2021 • 8:00 am

PLEASE send in your wildlife photos, as I have only a few days’ worth before I run out. You wouldn’t want that to happen, do you? Please make sure they’re good pics, of the quality that we see on this feature.

Today we have a melange of photos from several readers. Their captions are indented and you can enlarge their photos by clicking on them.

First, a yellow garden spider from Killian Sharp:

Argiope aurantia was just relaxing in its web amongst my friend’s tomato plants in SW Ontario.

From Julia Sculthorpe:

I have been taking pictures of wildlife in the various wildlife refuges in the Denver metro area. These were taken in the Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge.

The dragonfly and toad blend into their surroundings. The toad was very hard to photograph as he jumped at  almost any moment I made.

 

Can you spot the toad and dragonfly (the insect is easier)?

From Laurie Berg:

Immature eagle with former mouse

From Rachel Sperling:

I was saving this photo for when I had more to share, but I saw your request this morning. I’m pretty sure this is a dark fishing spider (Dolomedes tenebrosus). I encountered it on the New York section of the Appalachian Trail earlier this month. In addition to insects (not sure what type of beetle this one has caught) larger ones are able to catch fish. According to Wikipedia, their bodies are covered with hydrophobic hairs that allow them to run on water (suck it, Jesus). When they submerge, the air trapped in these hairs becomes a thin film, allowing them to breathe underwater; the air makes them quite buoyant, so they have to hold onto a twig or a rock in order to stay submerged. I think they’re really cool.

Also sharing a photo I took last night of the ALMOST full strawberry moon. This is from a park in Meriden, Connecticut, which has a lovely ridge that offers views to the east and west. This was taken around 8:30.

Readers’ wildlife photos

August 4, 2021 • 8:00 am

We’re running seriously low on readers’ photos. Just sayin’ . . . .

But today we have a nice set of insect photos (and one spider shot) by Alan Clark from Liverpool, England. His captions are indented and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

I have lived here nearly 40 years, but I have never seen the first three species before this summer.

Swollen-Thighed Beetle, Oedemera nobilis. Only the males have those impressive thighs.

Malachite Beetle, Malachius bipustulatus:

Varied Carpet Beetles, Anthrenus verbasci:

This photo of Painted Lady Butterflies, Vanessa cardui, on Buddleja davidii, [the butterfly bush] is a composite made from the best of over 50 photos, most of which were inevitably out of focus. I was amused by the show-off bee in the bottom right corner!

A Marmalade HoverflyEpisyrphus balteatus. Four images were stacked together to give better depth of field.

A Green Shield Bug, Palomena prasina:

Another Hoverfly, Syrphus ribesii, with Cephalaria gigantea [the Giant Scabious]:

And finally some adorable newly hatched spiderlings on my wheelie bin, Araneus diadematus, the European Garden Spider. They are very different from the adults.

JAC: I’ve put a picture of the adults below (taken from Wikipedia): first a female, then a male:

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 23, 2021 • 8:00 am

Our tank is running low, and I’m afraid we’re down to readers who sent in one or a few photos. That’s fine, but I must group them together, as I will today. Please send in your batches (10-15 if possible) of good wildlife photos.  This is an urgent call for photos!

Contributors’ captions and IDs are indented; you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

First up is reader Michael Hart, with two photos.

My wife’s stargazer lilies (Lilium sp. hybrid) went wild this year. It has been hot here in Vancouver – I guess lilies must like the heat. This one (photographed at night) is >2 meters tall.

It took a couple weeks, but the flowers have finally been colonized by crab spiders. This may be Misumena vatia, but I’m not sure because it lacks the pink racing stripes on the opisthosoma that I see in some of the field guides. Maybe others will know the ID.

It costs me a lot to look up these spiders because I have a bad phobia. I like these little thomisids and the salticids, but I have to skip over the photos of the big hunting spiders. There is something about the size of my hand that lives in one of the boxes of garden tools (probably one of the Eratigena species), and I’m staying away from it. We found a dead mouse in that box last spring, and I’m concerned that spider has developed a taste for mammals.

From Larry LeClair:

As requested, I send photos of four fledgling Eastern Screech-Owls (Megascops asio) taken last week in a neighbor’s maple tree in Hamilton, NY.

From Robert Placier:

Long-time follower of your website, and finally heeding your call for photos. But I’m not very good at it: all these pics taken with my Android phone. I am, like you, retired from teaching. But for me, I was at a 2-year technical college, Hocking College, in Appalachian southeastern Ohio. Essentially a forest ecologist, I taught Dendrology and Ornithology in my last years to wildlife and interpretive naturalist students. I am a bird bander, so all bird photos are from my operations, mostly at my home, which I call the Palatial Woodland Estate. So here are a few, all from SE Ohio.

A photo from my home area, just outside Chillicothe. This is a view of the Paint Creek gorge, formed during the last glaciation. Ross County is where the glacial advance terminated. The ice blocked drainage of Paint Creek, forming a lake which spilled over a low spot in the hills. Virginia Pines (Pinus virginiana) frame the view, and Eastern Hemlocks are found in the gorge below this cliff.

Because of the heavily forested (>70%) nature of my home area, Vinton County, and my banding birds coming to feeders through the winter, I band more Pileated Woodpeckers (Dryocopus pileatus) than any other bander in central North America (2-4 per year, nearly 30 since 2009). They are tough to hold with one hand, and I work alone, so this is as good a photo as I can produce. And they often bloody my hands—I think a peck wound is visible in this photo. And I do recapture ones I have banded: the longest span between banding and recapture is about eight years.

I band a lot of Wood Thrushes (Hylocichla mustelina) here, some years over 100, during my Spring and Fall migration banding seasons. The total is over 1,000 since I began banding in 2006. They are regular nesters on my eleven forested acres, and I catch ones each Spring that have returned from their winter (here) sojourn in Central America.

A woodland species that has notably increased on my “estate” since coming here in 2005 is American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). And my understanding is that Wood Thrushes feed on the bright red fruit of this species, and are an important seed disperser. Perhaps some of the other thrushes, common migrants here, also play a part in dispersal.

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 21, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s lovely arthropod photos come from regular Mark Sturtevant, whose IDs and captions are indented. Click on the screenshots to enlarge the photos.

The first pictures continue the series showing a big female Chinese praying mantis (Tenodera sinensis) that I had shared here recently. This time we see her on the “mantis branch” that I use to pose these insects for pictures. The raptorial fore-legs (I call them “murder arms”) are a marvelous trapping device.

I had recently learned that there is a record of what are thought to be early mantids, and these are purported to show their murder arms in transitional stages of evolution. Some early mantids also had raptorial characters in both their front and middle pair of legs. Here are two papers with pictures and drawings: papers 1 and 2.  

During one of the photo sessions, I had tried to introduce the female to a male Chinese mantis. He is the eager looking fellow shown in the next picture.

My intention was to maybe photograph a mating (and hopefully not cannibalism), but the male was far too hyperactive. Without even glancing at the female, he immediately took flight. No problem, I thought, since these large insects aren’t strong fliers, right? Wrong. He quickly ascended to the tallest tree-tops, and disappeared. I did not know they could do that!

Well, there will be more female mantis pictures in the next post.

Next up is an installment of pictures taken during a vacation in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. The Michigan U.P. is a sparsely populated area of the country, and visiting it is like stepping back in time. The family would go sight-seeing along the numerous waterfalls and river rapids while I mainly hiked forest trails and fields with the camera. There were numerous large orb webs along the forest trails. In all cases one would see a suspicious looking leaf, artfully rolled up at either the 10- or 2 o’clock position. The next two pictures show what is to be found inside the leaves. Several orbweavers can be tricky to tell apart, as they are variable in color and pattern, but I suggest this is a hefty example of the marbled orbweaver (Araneus marmoreus). 

You can find new species of insects if you go to a new place, and a new tiger beetle is a very special find. Here is a very dusty boreal long-lipped tiger beetle (Cicindela longilabris) which is new to me.

One of the more memorable sessions with the camera during our U.P. trip was spent at night, sitting outside with a lantern and a bed-sheet to draw in night flying insects. Even in the chilly northern air, things got busy very quickly. What was recorded included this large popular longhorn beetle (Saperda calcarata).

Next is one of the giant caddisflies (I think from the genus Ptilostomis). These insects resemble moths, but they are from a related insect order. Their larvae are aquatic.

Next are actual moths. These include, in order, the common gluphisia (Gluphisia septentrionis), and the forest tent caterpillar moth (Malacosoma disstria). I was having a lot of trouble identifying that last one, but the crack team at BugGuide leapt into action and provided the name.

Finally, here are two elegant examples from the Geometrid family. First is the tulip tree beauty (Epimecis hortaria), and then the adult of the lesser maple spanworm (Macaria pustularia). This picture is two years old, but I still enjoy just gazing at the ethereal details of that moth.

Thanks for looking! 

Ant- and wasp-mimicking jumping spiders

July 20, 2021 • 12:30 pm

For today’s biology lesson as I get my teeth cleaned, here’s a 20-minute video lesson about some salticids—the family of jumping spiders—that mimic ants. As you’ll see, this resemblance appears to be a form of Batesian mimicry, in which the spiders mimic toxic, unpalatable, or dangerous ants. The remarkable near-perfection of this mimicry, in which many features of the spiders have been modified to look like ant features, shows how closely natural selection can take an organism to its “optimum” phenotype. (Mimicry is one of the feat aspects of organisms in which you can judge how close they come to the “optimum”: in this case the organism or aspect of the environment they’re imitating.) It also shows the ubiquity of genetic variation, which must, during selection, have been present for every one of the modified features.

And it’s not just morphology that gets imitated, either. There’s chemical mimicry in this case, and behavioral mimicry (e.g., how the spider holds its legs in an antlike position).

The YouTube notes say this:

An exploration of jumping spiders that mimic ants (aka Ant-Mimicking Jumping Spiders) framed around a discussion with spider-scientist Alexis Dodson of the University of Cincinnati’s Morehouse Lab. 

h/t: Jacques

Readers’ wildlife photos

July 8, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos depict spiders, and were taken by regular Tony Eales from Australia. His IDs and captions are indented, and you can enlarge his photos by clicking on them.

First, I’ve mentioned before that my favourite spiders are the ones in the genus Arkys. These spiders are in a small family, Arkyidae, containing only two genera found in Australia, Indonesia, New Guinea and New Caledonia. Some are remarkably colourful, but most are cryptic, often mimicking a small piece of bird droppings.

Recently I found a new species of Arkys for me. I have been searching the literature and I suspect it may be a new species to science as well. This wouldn’t be surprising with such small cryptic spiders.

Here are few views of my find. The “bellows” butt is particularly interesting. I haven’t seen the like on any other spider.

Another recent find is a specimen from the other genus in the Arkyidae family, Demadiana sp. Arkys aren’t generally big spiders, a 12-15mm specimen would be a whopper. Demadiana are generally far smaller still. They are in the 1.5-2.5mm range, and a large one might push 3.5 mm.

Some other reasonably recent finds I’ve made from this family is a juvenile Arkys tuberculatus. These have a distinctive cephalothorax (head) shape in which the tubercules upon which the eyes are placed are very exaggerated. Adults have a large almost ball-like abdomen, giving them their common name of “Blobby Arkys,” but this juvenile is if anything stranger looking.

Another Arkys I found about a year ago is this male of what I think is Arkys alticephala [JAC: also called “high-headed Arkys], but I’m not as sure now and want to try to key it out. The distinctive feature of A. alticephala is the way it holds itself in repose and the single tubercule in the middle of the abdomen carapace. I have, however, recently learned that other, rarer Arkys also have a similar feature, which is why I want to revisit my original identification.

Last, this is one I’ve shown here before, Arkys furcatus [JAC: also called “Mascord’s Pretty Archemorus.”]  However, the first picture I showed was of a subadult who was coloured white. I have since found a juvenile and a full adult with its more typical rust and gold colour.

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

May 20, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s photos come from reader Tony Eales in Queensland. His captions are indented, and you can enlarge the photos by clicking on them.

I recently went on a citizen science weekend called the Cooloola Bioblitz. This consisted of guided survey and collecting, IDing and cataloguing of life within the Cooloola Section of the Great Sandy National Park. There were many teams with different foci and interests. I was with the spider group for the weekend but we were encouraged to photograph and/or collect anything that caught our eye and the results are being uploaded into iNaturalist.

While there’s something to be said for just getting out into nature by yourself =, which I do as often as I can, it’s amazing what many eyes all searching a given area can turn up. I thought I’d share some of my favourite observations.

First is a small species, Araneus transversus, which I have been looking for for some time. They weave a small orb web across the surface fold of a large leaf and sit on the underside of this horizontal web. I gently encouraged it out of the web to take a photo of the hockey-mask looking abdomen.

Next is from my favourite family of spiders, the Australiasian endemic Arkydidae family. Arkys dilatatus, here shown happily consuming a small fly.

Hands down the find of the weekend for me was this undescribed Crab Spider, Phrynarachne sp. While it is well known that this genus is in Australia, so far there are no described species from this location. My son found this specimen which he thought was some bird droppings on a leaf until it, in his words, “suddenly grew legs and started walking”. Not only does this spider look remarkably like bird poo, it also smells really sour and bad, something we never tired of demonstrating to people by opening the vial it was in and inviting them to take a whiff.

We found many of the strange Gasteracantha quadrispinosa. If I have a second favourite group of spiders it is these Gasteracanths. They’re colourful, shiny and spiny.

We spent the better part of half a day searching the grass for a peacock jumping spider species that had been reported here a year ago, well outside of its usual range. Alas, to no avail. But we did go to the sand dunes to look at the Maratus anomalus peacock jumping spiders we knew were there.

The rainforest section was full of these net casting spiders, Menneus sp. The common net casters are also known as ogre-faced spiders for their gigantic forward-facing eyes. Menneus on the other hand have small pin-prick eyes that still seem to do the job, allowing the spiders to drop their net on any passing beetle or other prey item walking past. The net is made of a different type of silk that does not have the sticky globules but is instead woolly. It tangles up all the claws and spines and legs and wings of the prey, holding it fast for wrapping and consumption.

We also came across a few oddballs one doesn’t normally encounter. A strange mite in the family Erythraeidae was uncovered while sifting through leaf litter.

In the rainforest section at night were members of the insect order Archaeognatha or Jumping Bristletails, in the family Meinertellidae. They sat on the trunks of palm trees grazing on lichens under the cover of darkness.

Lastly I saw two interesting Longicorn Beetles, family Cerambycidae.

Phlyctaenodes pustulata was sitting on a leaf during my nightwalk in the rainforest. I don’t know too much about these beetles. The warty elytra is unusual for this family and the huge eyes are presumably for night vision.

The other cerambycid was Uracanthus triangularis. This one I found in the kitchen back at the accommodation. I think it had attached itself to my camera bag when I was out in the field.

 

Readers’ wildlife photos

May 3, 2021 • 8:00 am

Today’s diverse photos come from reader, anthropologist, and photographer Tony Eales from Queensland. You can enlarge his photos by clicking on them, and his captions are indented.

To answer the call for the readers’ wildlife segment and boost the tank I present some of the other critters and one plant that I photographed on my road trip to the tropical north of my state of Queensland.

First is Cosmophasis micarioides, a small jumping spider found throughout eastern Queensland, and highly variable. The mature males all look the same, with stripes of iridescent aquamarine, white and black; indeed all the male Cosmophasis in Australia are variations on that theme. The females are more colourful with patches of red, green, sometimes purple and golden brown. This one is a juvenile, which in the tropical north are the most colourful of all. In South East Asian species these spiders are often colourful wasp mimics. That may be what the juveniles are going for here, but I can’t think of a wasp model offhand.

Ethmostigmus rubripes is the Australian giant centipede. It’s not as big as the giant centipedes I encountered in Borneo, but they’re still very impressive beasts. This one was probably a shade over 160mm. It was very fast and darted about looking to hide from my light. I can imagine it would deliver a very painful bite if one attempted to handle it.

The Peppermint Stick insect (Megacrania batesii) likes to eat the leaves of the many Pandanus trees in north Qeensland. I had seen pictures of them and have always been struck by their odd colouration. They look more like a plastic toy version of green than one that would really help with camouflage.

I’m sad that I didn’t get a good shot of these prehistoric looking Orange-footed Scrub Fowl (Megapodius reinwardt). They were common enough around the gardens of Port Douglas where we were staying. From a distance you could watch them scratching the leaf litter, but they would slip off into the dense plants when approached.

It was great to see these relatively large Southern Spotted Velvet-Geckos (Oedura tryoni) around Eungella National Park. During my lifetime, my home town of Brisbane has been overrun by introduced Asian House Geckos (Hemidactylus frenatus,) displacing the shyer natives and patrolling every outdoor light. It’s hard to describe the happiness of seeing a gecko running around the walls and noticing that it wasn’t one of those intruders.

Real treat for me was to see my first Emperor Gum Moth (Opodiphthera eucalypti). Technically, I have seen the caterpillars, which are spectacular in their own way, but this was my first adult attracted to the lights at a lonely highway rest stop.

I kind of bombed out on my bucket list spiders for this trip, but one long-desired species that I did photograph was the Australian Lichen Huntsman (Pandercetes gracilis). The camouflage is so good I was only able to see it because of the eyeshine. Night hunting Wolf Spiders and Huntsmans have very strong reflective eyeshine, making them easy to find at light with a torch.

It was only because I had stopped to look at the Huntsman that I noticed this other master of camouflage nearby. This is the Northern Spiny Rainforest Katydid (Phricta spinosa). I was on a night walk with my wife and a friend, and this friend and I were exclaiming about how crazy this Katydid looked and my wife, who was standing with her face only a foot or so away from it, was saying “Where? What are you looking at?” When I pointed it out, she yelped and literally jumped back as it was hidden right under her nose.

I also found several of these strange Theridula sp., one of the comb-footed spiders. The photo suffered from my inability to see what I was focussed on because the humidity of the rainforest fogged up my camera viewfinder and my glasses all the time. I didn’t get a single shot that wasn’t focused on the leaf background instead of the spider.

Lastly, the classic shot tourist shot of the Daintree Rainforest includes these beautiful North Queensland Fan Palms (Licuala ramsayi). Sunlight shining through their leaves graces nearly every piece of tourism advertising for world heritage rainforest.