Monday: Readers’ wildlife photographs

Whoops—I almost forgot to post this selection of bird photos from three different readers:

Joe Dickinson sent this picture of a black-crowed night heron (Nycticorax nycticorax), taken near the mouth of Aptos Creek, CA (Rio del Mar Beach) in the last couple of days:


From Stephen Barnard we get a female mallard (Anas platyrhynchos) in flight:


as well as a red-tailed hawk (Buteo amaicensis):


And from reader Ed Kroc photos of sandpipers and some information:

First are some photos at the Cluxewe River estuary on northern Vancouver Island of the upper west coast’s favourite sandpiper, the Western Sandpiper (Calidris mauri).  You can see the half-webbing of the feet in the first picture.

I don’t understand the physics well enough to exactly model it, but I hypothesize that this half-webbing makes it easier for these birds to run with the tides where they spend most of their time feeding.  Too much webbing would make it difficult to run fast, but too little and they would lose control on the wet sand.  Some kind of compromise position would seem to confer a selective advantage.  The Semipalmated (meaning “half-webbed”!) Sandpiper shares this trait, as well as the feeding behaviour.  The other BC piper I’ve observed is the Least Sandpiper which actually lacks any substantial webbing; however, these smallest pipers tend to feed further upshore, not quite on the cusp of the surf.

Western Sandpiper1

Wester Sandpiper2

The last picture gives a sense of their wonderful camouflage.  If it wasn’t for the water crashing underfoot, they would blend in perfectly with the rocks, the driftwood, and the kelp.  This particular contradiction* contained twenty-two individuals of three separate species – the Western (C. mauri), Semipalmated (C. pusilla), and a single Least Sandpiper (C. minutilla) – all visible in the photo.

*A “contradiction” is one of the many fanciful names for a group of pipers.




  1. GBJames
    Posted August 18, 2014 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    typo: Black Crowned Night Heron?

    • quiscalus
      Posted August 18, 2014 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

      second minor typo: Buteo jamaicensis instead of amaicensis.

  2. Dominic
    Posted August 18, 2014 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    For those interested this is a pretty recent article on phylogenitics of Scolopacidae (sandpipers et al)
    Rosemary Gibson, Allan Baker
    Multiple gene sequences resolve phylogenetic relationships in the shorebird suborder Scolopaci (Aves: Charadriiformes)
    Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 2012 Volume 64, Issue 1, p.66-72

  3. James Walker
    Posted August 18, 2014 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    How do we submit photos to Professor Ceiling Cat? I don’t see an e-mail address anywhere here.

    • Marella
      Posted August 18, 2014 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      Search for him at the University of Chicago, you will find an email address.

      • James Walker
        Posted August 18, 2014 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        Thanks, I wasn’t sure if he had a separate address reserved for this bl- website 😉

  4. Posted August 18, 2014 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Thank you for posting the lovely photos of wildlife from your readers. They further open our hearts and minds. Words are far from enough in describing your splendid and magnificent posts. Thank you to all… A student forever in biology, animal behaviour, and… life 😉

    • Mark Joseph
      Posted August 18, 2014 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      Second that; love the pictures.

  5. Posted August 18, 2014 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

    Really enjoyed these photos. Thanks again.

  6. microraptor
    Posted August 18, 2014 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

    I think I found a nightjar in that last picture!

  7. Posted August 19, 2014 at 2:31 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on Poplar Culture.

  8. John Scanlon, FCD
    Posted August 19, 2014 at 6:13 am | Permalink

    Beautifully scolloped margins on the hawk’s wings and tail. I’m guessing there’s been selection for more than aerodynamics there.

  9. Diane G.
    Posted August 21, 2014 at 12:08 am | Permalink

    Great shots, everyone!

    Ed, I love the Western SP shots. Such wonderful detail on these fast-moving little guys, and interesting comments as well.

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