Readers’ wildlife photographs

Today’s a day to display singleton photos and others that are sent in a few at a time. The indented bits are the readers’ commentaries:

Reader Cliff Moser sends a picture of a fearsome caterpillar. But it’s really quite a common one:

I’ve attached a single photo of one of 4 large tomato hornworms [Manduca quinquemaculata] found and dispatched from my Berkeley, California garden. I’m hoping to find one with parasitic braconid wasp cocoons and will send if and when I spot one.the photo has a little forced perspective, making it appear more mothra-like than it actually was.

Cliff Moser hornworm

These giants eventually undergo metamorphosis, turning into the beautiful five-spotted hawkmoth (picture from What’s That Bug?):


Reader Tim Anderson in Oz sends us a bird famous for its camouflage:

This is a mature tawny frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) resting in a backyard tree in suburban Brisbane, Queensland. This individual regularly spends the entire day more or less stationary until dusk, when it flies off to begin its night’s hunting. It is completely oblivious to the humans beetling about nearby, only occasionally swivelling its head to peer at us. It is about 40cm from beak to tail tip. Frogmouths are fairly common, even in urban areas, and are closely related to nightjars, but in this case was rather easy to spot.

Tawny Frogmouth Tim Anderson

From Stephen Barnard in Idaho:

Western Toad (Anaxyrus boreas). I think this is the only amphibian photo I’ve sent you.



Doris Fromage sent an email headed “Vulture sinuses this time!”

My dear husband just got a new camera!  We live on a hill, and our avocado orchard spreads out down the hillside below us.  Various large carnivorous birds/raptors tend to soar around our property, often virtually at eye level or even below.  Here is a turkey vulture! Cathartes aura is its interesting name, which means “cleansing breeze” in Latin, which I find hilarious given that they are carrion scavengers. What I like best about this picture is that we can see straight through the nares to blue sky on the other side, thus clearing up any lingering questions about the structure of a turkey buzzard’s nostrils!
Doris Fromage
JAC: I’ve added a close-up of the head lest you have any doubts:
Screen Shot 2016-08-14 at 2.09.40 AM

And a “spot the ___” from reader Michelle Pearce:

Too easy? Fork-tailed drongo, banana beak (hornbill), and mongoose in Kruger National Park.

Michelle Pearce

And reader Randy Schenck in Iowa is nice to his animals. These photos were sent in May:

We are into the nesting time for birds so they need more feeding now.  Many might think they only need to feed in winter but not so.  To determine if you have Baltimore Orioles (Icterus galbula) around the area just cut an orange in half and hang it on a feeder.  It is like magic to the Oriole.  I will look for nests later as the female Oriole builds a very interesting nest.


We have many rose-breasted grosbeaks (Pheucticus ludovicianus) around and again, if you feed the birds you will soon find out how many are in your area.


You can identify this one, also sent by Randy:

Randy Schenck


  1. humanity777
    Posted August 14, 2016 at 7:33 am | Permalink

    Critters at their best.

  2. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted August 14, 2016 at 8:57 am | Permalink

    Thank you, all. That carried me through two cinnamon rolls this morning.

    Cliff, some of the larvae that you had might have been parasitized. They can look pretty healthy right up to the end.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 14, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      I got through a butter tart!

    • Posted September 1, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Mark, I’ve pulled some hornworms off in the past and fed them tomato cuttings waiting for the parasitic pupae to emerge -only to be rewarded by a fat, inert pale green hornworm looking for some soil to spend some quality transformation time. This time, opted instead for a pair of scissors over the compost heap.

  3. Diana MacPherson
    Posted August 14, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

    I used to feed the Orioles oranges as well. We don’t have as many around here anymore or perhaps they leave early as I typically see them in early Spring and by late summer I don’t see them anymore.

    • Christopher
      Posted August 14, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      Audubon sells a great oriole feeder for under $10 that has a place for nectar, grape jelly, and an orange that has proven quite popular in my neck of the ‘burbs.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted August 14, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

        Grape jelly! Orioles eat that?! I’m imagining orioles with grape all around their beaks.

  4. rickflick
    Posted August 14, 2016 at 10:18 am | Permalink

    I just love the frogmouth. A true wonder of camouflage.

  5. Richard Bond
    Posted August 14, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    I have just finished reading The Thief at the End of the World by Joe Jackson. It tells about a rather accident-prone explorer called Henry Wickham, who was largely responsible for introducing the growing of rubber to Asia. During his time in South America, he suffered frequent bouts of various fevers. At his worst times, turkey vultures would perch close to him, waiting for him to die. They could be scared off by his colleagues by catching one, pulling two feathers from its tail, and passing them through the nares to form a huge mustache. Seeing this apparition, all of the vultures would take flight.

  6. Christopher
    Posted August 14, 2016 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    I admit that, while I do enjoy eating tomatoes, I really plant them to attract hornworm caterpillars, although this never seems to work. They seem to be attracted only to gardens where people fear their arrival. I planted hollyhocks to attract hollyhock weevils…they haven’t shown up either.

    I did get some cabbage white caterpillars from my sister’s mustard greens, and two of them had been parasitized by a braconid. They just pupated Friday. I’ve got pics but they probably are not up to the same standards as the usual readers’ photos.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted August 14, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

      I love weevils! I should plant some weevil friendly plants!

      I like how the hornworm caterpillars make that rattling sound when disturbed. Awwww that’s adorable, you’re trying to frighten me! 😀

      • Christopher
        Posted August 14, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        My sunflowers did attract some cocklebur weevils, Rhodobaenus quinquepunctatus, which are quite beautiful orange and black little buggers. I know most people hate weevils since they can be quite destructive, but they are the most adorable, goofy, and charming beetles ever.

  7. jeffery
    Posted August 14, 2016 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    I found one of these hawkmoths that had just emerged from its cocoon on a post in my garden a few years ago: I picked it up (its wings were not yet unfurled) and, much to my surprise, a thin jet of fluid squirted out of its abdomen clear back over my shoulder! A chemical defense of some sort, no doubt, although it may be the “fright” aspect of the jet that is the “defense”, rather than any noxious chemical involved. Good thing I didn’t have it pointed at my eyes, else I might have found out!

  8. Richard Portman
    Posted August 15, 2016 at 8:43 pm | Permalink

    Thanks again for more great photos. Around here, Manduca sexta and look-alikes also can be devestating to Datura, Tomatillos, and Chillis.

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