Readers’ wildlife photos

July 9, 2022 • 8:00 am

Saturday is a day to collect singletons and doubleton photos. The photographer’s captions are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

From Christopher Moss, an olive-sided flycatcher:

Taken through a window, but finally I managed it! There’s a pair of these birds, Contopus cooperi, feeding and likely nesting near the house on this side of the pond. They wake me up about 5 am if the windows are open, with their “Quick! Three beers!” call. They fly from side to side of the house, picking up some juicy insect along the way. Now that the dragonflies are out, they have easy pickings. When I go down to my record-cleaning machines (don’t ask unless a vinyl fanatic!) in the basement I sometimes see one of them perched on something close to the windows. So I set up the Nikon D850 and the 400mm lens on a tripod, saying to myself that one day things would coincide. And so they did.

From Garry VanGelderen:

Attached are two photos of ospreys (Pandion haliaetus) that I took some time in May at the Wye Marsh Wildlife Centre near Midland, Ontario.

From Norman Gilinsky, photos labeled “Trigger warning: Irresistible cuteness!”

Here we have a tiny baby bunny, an Eastern Cottontail Rabbit (Sylvilagus floridanus) from my yard in Washington State. No, this ball of fur was not displaced from somewhere in the east. Cottontails were introduced here in Washington State in the 1930’s and—not surprisingly given their propensity to reproduce—now thrive here. I don’t believe that they have displaced any native rabbits here, at least in the Seattle area where I live. The cuteness of this baby rabbit is undeniable. I hope it survives, but life for these babies can be difficult as they are often viciously tormented by crows in ways that are hard to watch.

When I asked Norm if the mother was still around, he responded:

The probable mom is still around, but by this point (it appears to me from watching several litters grow up this spring) the mom is not providing much care. The bunny was not afraid of me until I got within about six inches of it, so it was barely aware that photographers can be dangerous. The bunnies grow up very quickly.

Hummingbirds from Emilio d’Alise, with tentative IDs

Broad-tailed hummingbird [Selasphorus platycercus], immature male

2014 Hummingbirds,

Rufous hummingbird [Selasphorus rufus]:

2014 Hummingbirds,

Your guess:

2014 Hummingbirds,

Virginia landscapes from reader Lorraine (more to come).

View of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Fairy Stone State Park, Stuart, VA

Forest Hill Lake:

From Andrew Berry, a photo that I just got this morning.

From a couple of days ago in Colorado.  Once, early morning, I had made it to a decent altitude (~13K’) in the hills above Leadville, CO, clouds moved in on the back of a stiff chill breeze.  The tops were obscured.   Shortly, however, after reaching a peak, with the early morning sun competing with the low cloud, my shadow was flung off the edge of the mountain on to the bank of cloud.  Photo below, a Brocken spectre materialized.  This is a relatively unusual phenomenon (I’d never seen it before, but often heard accounts of it) whereby the shadow-on-cloud generates a rainbow-hewed halo. Cool effect.   It makes me look like a New Age Jesus!\

The rainbow circle is called a “glory.”

And the site of the photo:

Photo taken on the cloud-obscured left hand peak below, Horseshoe Mountain, 13,898 ft.  Mt. Sheridan to the right.

Winter has just begun!

December 21, 2021 • 9:59 am

Yes, when this post goes up at 10:59 a.m. Eastern U.S. time, Winter in the Northern Hemisphere has just begun.  I thought it would be a good winter, but it looks like we’re in for another long bout of social distancing, mask wearing, people avoidance, and maybe even another jab.  I hope to still go to Antarctica in March, and if that doesn’t happen I’ll be bummed.

A quick explanation of the solstice: because the Earth orbits the Sun but its axis of rotation is tilted at a constant angle, this is the day when the Northern Hemisphere is farthest from the Sun, while the Southern Hemisphere is closest. That’s why it’s the beginning of Summer below the equator and the beginning of Winter here (just that slight tilt makes all the difference in weather and light). It’s the shortest day of the year for us, and the longest day of the year below the equator.  This diagram explains both the light and temperature phenomena.

Will it be a good winter (either for you or the world) or a bad one?  A dumb poll:

Will it be a good winter or a bad one

View Results

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Readers’ wildlife photos

December 26, 2020 • 8:00 am

Again I appeal to readers to send in their good wildlife photos. I can go about ten days, but then will run out.

For Boxing Day we have some cloud and weather photos from Phil Loubere; one has a rainbow that I declare is our symbol of hope for 2021. Phil’s captions is indented; click on the photos to enlarge them.

Attached are some weather photos. They were all taken from my home outside of Nashville during our torrid summers, when towering thunderstorm clouds are common, and close to sunset when the light effects can be spectacular.  The rainbow photo has a near-full moon in the background.

Hurricane Dorian from space

September 1, 2019 • 12:21 pm

Here’s an almost real-time view of Hurricane Dorian (just an hour from before I posted this) from the International Space Station. The storm, now a Category 5, is battering the hell out of the Bahamas. It looks peaceful from up there, but on the ground the winds are fierce. Here’s part of the YouTube summary of the NASA video:

Cameras outside the International Space Station captured views September 1 of Hurricane Dorian from 260 miles in altitude at 12:16 p.m. Eastern time as it churned over the Atlantic Ocean over the northern Bahamas. The storm, which is moving in a westerly direction with sustained winds of 180 miles an hour, is a dangerous Category 5 hurricane, carrying the strongest winds in recorded history for the northwestern Bahamas.


h/t: Michael

Hurricane Florence

September 10, 2018 • 1:00 pm

by Grania

If this is likely to be in your path, please do everything you can to get to safety. It’s estimated it could make U.S. landfall late Thursday or early Friday, but might in the Carolinas as early as Wednesday night.

Multitasking to the max: Weather reporter solves Rubik’s cube while giving the forecast

June 14, 2018 • 2:00 pm
This woman has got it going on. Look how well she delivers the weather report while solving a Rubik’s cube. I am sure that even if I could solve the puzzle (and I haven’t tried), I couldn’t do it while delivering a coherent report. The YouTube notes say this:
Reporter Lauren Olesky with Florida news station WPEC proved she can multi-task like few others, delivering her Friday weather report while also solving a Rubik’s Cube.

Sundogs and halos!

December 10, 2017 • 2:30 pm

Here’s a lovely Sun halo from December 1 sent to me by Matthew Cobb (be sure to click on the arrow to see the video). You can see why such phenomena were once taken to be evidence for God or the supernatural.

What causes these things? Wikipedia says this:

The ice crystals responsible for halos are typically suspended in cirrus or cirrostratus clouds high (5–10 km, or 3–6 miles) in the upper troposphere, but in cold weather they can also float near the ground, in which case they are referred to as diamond dust. The particular shape and orientation of the crystals are responsible for the type of halo observed. Light is reflected and refracted by the ice crystals and may split up into colors because of dispersion. The crystals behave like prisms and mirrors, refracting and reflecting light between their faces, sending shafts of light in particular directions.

And here’s a 22-degree halo seen from Annapurna Base Camp. I’d love to see something like this:

Wikipedia‘s explanation:

Among the best-known halos is the 22° halo, often just called “halo”, which appears as a large ring around the Sun or Moon with a radius of about 22° (roughly the width of an outstretched hand at arm’s length).

But what’s really amazing is this from EarthSky (my emphasis):

These clouds contain millions of tiny ice crystals. The halos you see are caused by both refraction, or splitting of light, and also by reflection, or glints of light from these ice crystals. The crystals have to be oriented and positioned just so with respect to your eye, in order for the halo to appear.

That’s why, like rainbows, halos around the sun – or moon – are personal. Everyone sees their own particular halo, made by their own particular ice crystals, which are different from the ice crystals making the halo of the person standing next to you.

Here’s a longer video of the event at the top, courtesy of reader Vera:

Readers’ wildlife photos

October 17, 2017 • 8:00 am

We have a two-part post today. The first is not about wildlife, but about Hurricane Ophelia that is besieging the west coast of Ireland. Its effects are being felt all over the UK, though. Matthew reported that the skies in Manchester were dark and the sun looked red.  Here’s a report from London by reader Mark Jones, whose words are indented.

I thought you might like these. Yesterday Hurricane Ophelia dragged some Saharan dust up across the UK, giving some typical London scenes an eerie orange glow. I was visiting Hampstead in N London expecting the forecasted blue skies. Everyone was discombobulated!

This is Hampstead Heath (home of a great pub, the Spaniards Inn):

The stately home is Kenwood House on the north side of Hampstead Heath, dating originally from the early 17th century.

The Hampstead street is Streatley Place.

And Stephen Barnard of Idaho sent some “funny photos”. The descriptions are his:

1. Going green. [He apparently bought a Tesla.]

2. Experimenting with fish-eye photography. Spot the net.

3. Great Blue Heron [Ardea herodias] caught a vole. Natural selection.

4. Hitch with crazy eyes, mid shake after cooling off in the creek.

5. Check out this move, ladies! Sandhill cranes [Antigone canadensis]:

More sprites, as well as blue jets and elves

October 10, 2017 • 5:31 pm

This lovely four-minute video was posted by NASA just today, and was found by reader Vera. It shows not only the red sprites described in the previous post, but also “blue jets” and “elves’. These “transient luminous events”, or TLEs, appear to be a mystery. They’re defined by as given below; they’re clearly very short electromagnetic events that are hard to study since they’re so quick:

Red sprites appear high in the atmosphere, usually 25 to 55 miles above thunderstorms, with tendril-like structures that extend downward as far as 25 miles. They usually are associated with positively charged cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.

Atmospheric researchers have discovered that sprites are common above the decaying portion of large mesoscale convective systems but are rare above supercell thunderstorms.

Sprites are thought to occur due to ionization of the upper atmosphere above terrestrial lightning strikes. When a positively charged lightning bolt strikes the ground, it leaves the top of the thunderstorm negatively charged. When enough electric potential builds up, a discharge results in the form of a red sprite.

It is possible to see red sprites with the naked eye, but special video and photography equipment, coupled with elevated observation stations, increase the likelihood of observing the beautiful scarlet flashes.

Blue jets are a visual phenomenon that propel upward from active thunderstorms. They can extend up to 12 miles from the top of the thundercloud, though they are not necessarily associated with a specific cloud-to-ground lightning strike. Atmospheric research indicates that blue jets only last one-tenth of a second, making them difficult to see with the naked eye. Scientists are still unsure as to what causes blue jets and how they form.

Elves are electromagnetic pulses generated by lightning strikes. Elves is an acronym for Emission of Light and Very Low Frequency Perturbations Due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources. They look like doughnut-shaped flashes that spread laterally up to 186 miles. Atmospheric research indicates the brightness of elves is closely related to the peak current in a return lightning stroke (the movement of charges from the ground to the cloud), and that elves may be the most dominant type of TLEs in the atmosphere.

Clearly there are a number of mysteries about what’s going on, even in our own atmosphere, but what fun would science be if we understood everything?