Readers’ wildlife photographs

We have bobcats today from reader Debra, who found one found sitting outside her house in California.  She also added another member of the group, her own cat, Woodstock. (Note: I was just reminded that I’d already posted these photos, which were taken with a cellphone in Telluride, Colorado. Well, I’ll leave them up anyway. You can’t see too many bobcats!)




Reader Bob Lundren sends a squadron of leopard tortoises (Stigmochelys pardalis) from Africa, and asks for information about his unusual behavior:

My wife and I spent a couple of weeks traveling in Tanzania in January. The experience was marvelous and resulted in hundreds of the usual photographs of wildebeest and lions and hippos and impalas and zebras and elephants and giraffes and dik diks… One afternoon in the Ngorongoro Conservation Area between Lake Ndutu and Lake Masek we came upon three leopard tortoises engaging in what was apparently untortoise like familial behavior. Our experienced and knowledgeable guide Mussa was very excited by this as were many of his fellow guides. They had never seen this before. The attached photo shows what is apparently an adult being trailed by two youngsters which isn’t supposed to happen. We are wondering if you or your readers might be able to weigh in on this.  Is this indeed rare, and what might they be up to?  The small tortoise immediately behind the leader repeatedly tried to crawl underneath the larger one. ( I have a short video of this, but it seems to be too large to attach to an email even when compressed.)


Stephen Barnard from Idaho sent two pictures of a lovely Marsh Wren (Cistothorus palustris):




  1. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 12, 2015 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    Lovely photos!

    My experience with tortoises is that they are tenacious. It could be that the other two just got it in their mind to follow and so did. They are also curious so it could be that they are just going the same way in pursuit of some smell or sight.

  2. kansaskitty
    Posted April 12, 2015 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    All are fantastic photos! Love Debra’s bobcat photos. I used to live in a very rural area, and one day I looked out on the front porch and there was a bobcat strolling across the porch. I was glad my kitty Pearl didn’t happen to be looking out the screen door right at that time, or something awful could have happened. I’m sure a screen would be no impediment for a hungry bobcat!

    The Marsh Wren is so cute! Great photography by Stephen as usual! I know nothing about tortoises, but glad to see the nice photo. Their behavior does seem unusual!

  3. Randy Schenck
    Posted April 12, 2015 at 8:09 am | Permalink

    I’m afraid that, forgot, already posted might be a sign of the age. But hey, you remembered where the car was so that’s good.

    Those little wrens are all beak. Much different than most others.

  4. quiscalus
    Posted April 12, 2015 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    The only time I’ve ever seen my tortoises (non are S. pardalis) follow another is when it’s a male following a female, but that usually involves shell butting, head bobbing, and vicious biting (yes, most male tortoises are jerks) but never seen three in a row. The females seem to have no interest in one another and if it were two males, they’d be fighting each other. Tortoises are often underestimated, ignored when not being run over by cars (on purpose, usually), but they are (almost) always entertaining and surprising, to me at least.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 13, 2015 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      Me too. I’ve got two Testudo horsfieldii (or Agrionemys horsfieldii, depending on where the taxonomy stands today) and they are a delight to behold, occasionally coming up with a new twist on something even after 15 years of caring for them. (Well, one of them; he is the father of the second, who is therefore a few years younger. Oh, the baby pictures!)

  5. Debbie Coplan
    Posted April 12, 2015 at 10:01 am | Permalink

    Oops-Bobcat was taken by my husband Harry in Telluride, Colorado while on vacation. He used a cellphone.

  6. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted April 12, 2015 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    The two little tortoises might be amorous males. Or mayhaps they were looking for a spot in the shade, as they were reportedly trying to get under the big one.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 13, 2015 at 5:47 am | Permalink

      That may be.

      I strongly doubt they would be offspring, as my understanding was that all tortoises were of the lay ’em & leave ’em persuasion, in which I’m referring to eggs, but that could definitely apply to the sires as well…

    • John Scanlon, FCD
      Posted April 20, 2015 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      The picture reminded me of the chaining of patient males behind a female seen in, e.g. Short-beaked Echidna and Manta Rays; Green Turtles have less patience and pursuit by multiple males can end up in a pancake stack which not rarely results in the female drowning. However, if the following tortoises are adult males, it’s hard to imagine the usual mating position being possible. It’s conceivable that a small male morph could exist with a quite different mating strategy involving getting underneath [why am I thinking of The Tin Drum now?], but I never heard of such a thing in turtles.

  7. Posted April 12, 2015 at 10:19 am | Permalink


  8. Derek Freyberg
    Posted April 12, 2015 at 10:24 am | Permalink

    If it weren’t for the tail and the lack of Dundreary whiskers on Debra’s cat, they could almost be a pair.

  9. Aaron Siek
    Posted April 12, 2015 at 12:01 pm | Permalink

    While walking in California’s Mojave Desert, I have twice been followed about for a short time by a tortoise; each time, it would stop in the shade provided by my shadow when I stopped for a moment. I was abandoned when deep shade provided by a rock face or bush became available, alas. I note that the smaller tortoises in the picture are also walking in the shadow of the larger, so maybe they’re seeking shade, as well? The idea that the smaller torts are amorous males is a good one, too. I’ve kept several species, and males of many species (including the leopard tortoise) are considerably smaller than females, and also very persistent in their affections. (More than one male I’ve kept has even extended those affections to include attempts to mate with shoes, basketballs, other pets, and other objects . . .)

    • Bob Lundgren
      Posted April 12, 2015 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Aaron,
      Based on the behavior we were seeing we speculated that it might be an attempt to mate, but were thrown off by the size differential. Knew that males were smaller, just not that much smaller.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted April 12, 2015 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

      Yes, my tortoise would attempt to mate with shoes & would relentlessly follow bare feet, having fallen in love with your big toe.

    • Diane G.
      Posted April 13, 2015 at 5:49 am | Permalink

      One of my male Russian tortoises frequently humps a rock in his enclosure, which we consider has quite a few attributes of the female–hard, rounded, room temperature…

  10. Mark R.
    Posted April 12, 2015 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    If tortoises could imprint…

    Nice to see the bobcats and cat again.

    Stephen, you noted before that Marsh Wrens are hard to photograph, so kudos to a couple more great shots. I love those little (brown) birds.

    • Posted April 12, 2015 at 7:52 pm | Permalink

      I’d like to second that about the wrens, Stephen. You have a way of bringing out the beauty of even the humblest bird.

  11. Diane G.
    Posted April 13, 2015 at 5:51 am | Permalink

    Really fascinating tortoise behavior, Bob–thanks for submitting that!

    Stephen, wow! What is your secret with marsh wrens?!

  12. Dominic
    Posted April 13, 2015 at 7:25 am | Permalink

    Not as good but last week I bought a second-hand Stephen J Gould book for £2 & only discovered he had signed it when I got home!

    • Dominic
      Posted April 13, 2015 at 7:26 am | Permalink

      Ah – sorry – meant to add that comment to the Darwin Signature!

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