Readers’ wildlife photographs

Don’t forget to send in your good photos (most people aren’t professionals, but by now you’ll have an idea of the quality of stuff that appears here), as I can always use more. Today’s batch comprises “peeps”, which is what birders call the five smallest sandpipers of North America. The photos were contributed by reader Mike McDowell, and his captions are indented:

Surprise! Fall bird migration is underway! This may seem like comforting news for those of us enduring the present Midwest heatwave, but the humid weather is going to be with us for a while. However, shorebirds are heading out. They’re among the first southbound migratory birds to leave northern Canada for destinations in the southern United States, Central America and beyond. Some shorebird species have already made it to southern Wisconsin from areas as far north as the Arctic Circle.

Last weekend I was searching for tiger beetles on a sandbar along the Wisconsin River and came across a flock of peeps (common birder slang for the 5 smallest shorebird species). These tiny birds are a mere 5 to 6 inches long and weigh 20 to 30 ounces grams, roughly the same size and weight of a House Sparrow.  Anyway, there were around 20 Semipalmated Sandpipers Calidris pusilla and Least Sandpipers Calidris minutilla foraging together for invertebrates in the shallows along the sandbar.

These images were digiscoped with a Nikon mirrorless camera and Swarovski spotting scope.

Semipalmated Sandpiper, Calidris pusilla:




Least Sandpiper, Calidris minutilla:





And here are two from Stephen Barnard in Idaho, who apparently has taken up insect photography and—equally apparently—is good at it:

Honeybee [Apis sp.] with nearly full corbicula [“pollen basket”], pollinating Shasta Daisies [Leucanthemum × superbum]:


Drone fly (Eristalis tenax), introduced from Europe:



  1. Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Wonderful color and detail in these — thank you!

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Yessiree, sandpipers are very cute!

    And… mirrorless cameras. As I lug around my big ‘ol SLR beasty on hot summer days, I often think about those beautiful, thin light but full-featured camera bodies. *Sigh*.

  3. john switzer
    Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    re: sandpipers. Photographer gives weight in ounces. Think he means grams.

    • Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Yep, I’ve fixed it, thanks. A two pound sandpiper doesn’t bear thinking about.

    • Mike McDowell
      Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      Ack! You are correct. Brain f*rt!

  4. rickflick
    Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Stephen, how do you get such depth of field with the small critters?

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:49 am | Permalink


      • rickflick
        Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:56 am | Permalink

        But of course.

        • Stephen Barnard
          Posted July 22, 2016 at 9:12 pm | Permalink

          I checked the metadata. These two photos were shot at f/8. I shot a bunch at f/11, but f/8 came out better.

          The gear was a Canon 5D3, Canon 100mm macro lens, ISO 800, hand held.

          The shutter speed on the bee was 1/3000 and the fly 1/750.

          These pollinating insects are moving around furiously. I probably threw away 100 shots, at least, to get these two.

          Something I’ve noticed, and that is apparent in both photos, is that the bees and flies don’t service the shasta daisy flowers randomly. The work from the outside in — I suppose following a gradient of maturing stamens across the androecium.

          • rickflick
            Posted July 22, 2016 at 10:22 pm | Permalink

            I was going to ask if you had trained them to sit for you. I can see why you took 100 shots. Great pics. Thanks for the info.

  5. Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    These are fabulous photos, Mike and Stephen! They’ve brightened up a dismal day awash with political flotsam and jetsam.

  6. RA
    Posted July 22, 2016 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    In the last photo it’s not Eristalis tenax but another species of Eristalis (unfortunately I don’t know the North American species!). E. tenax has a very wide black facial stripe and two distinct vertical stripes of long hairs in each eye. The hind tibia of E. tenax is also characteristically enlarged and curved, but the hind tibia is not visible in the photo.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted July 22, 2016 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

      I was taking someone’s word for it on the scientific name. I’d very much like to know the true name so I could get some nerdy one-upmanship. 🙂

      • RA
        Posted July 23, 2016 at 7:09 am | Permalink

        You could try to upload the photo on There are experts there that might recognize your Eristalis. 🙂

  7. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted July 22, 2016 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    Thanks also, Stephen, for your pictures. The large syrphids like drone flies one of my favorites b/c their larvae are the so-called ‘rat-tailed maggots’. Dip an net into a nearby pond and you might see the little horrors.

  8. Posted July 22, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink


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