Readers’ wildlife photographs

Keep the photos coming in, folks.  I’ve got a tank that’s pretty full, but I can always use more snaps. Today’s photos come from reader Mike McDowell, who sends some insects—tiger beetles—that he calls “amazingly cool” (I agree). Here’s his introduction to a series of gorgeous photographs:

Below you’ll find links to this summer’s tiger beetle collection ― it was difficult but enjoyable work!
I photographed the Common Claybank (a lifer for me) and Splendid just today [Sept. 4] at Spring Green Preserve SNA in southern Wisconsin. Some of these beetles were photographed along the Wisconsin River near Sauk City. The Ghost Tiger Beetles were photographed near Buena Vista Grasslands in Portage County. There are 16 tiger beetle species found in Wisconsin, so now I have four left to find and photograph. Three of the remaining ones are found in the northern half of Wisconsin, so it will take some traveling. The Twelve-spotted Tiger Beetle is extremely difficult to find in our state; someone found a few near Appleton this summer, but they were gone the following day.

Mike also sends a quote:

“We know that this interest in tiger beetles is not mystical, but if you talk to tiger beetle aficionados about their hobby, most of them will not be able to explain the source of what the uninitiated may see as a mania.”
― David Pearson, Field Guide to the Tiger Beetles of US & Canada
And the insects:
Common Claybank Tiger BeetleCicindela limbalis:
Splendid Tiger BeetleCicindela splendida: 
Big Sand Tiger BeetleCicindela formosa generosa:
Punctured Tiger BeetleCicindela punctulata punctulata:
Ghost Tiger BeetleEllipsoptera lepida:
Bronzed Tiger BeetleCicindela repanda repanda:
Six-spotted Tiger BeetleCicindela sexguttata:
Festive Tiger Beetle, Cicindela scutellaris lecontei:


  1. Jim Knight
    Posted September 5, 2016 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    EXCELLENT tiger photos!! These are a difficult group to get good snaps of. What is your secret, if I may ask? Thanks for sharing them.

    • Posted September 5, 2016 at 9:55 am | Permalink

      Hi Jim,


      Cool mornings are best, just after the beetles have emerged from their burrows when they’re not quite as fast and alert. The rest is in the approach. The most difficult part is when you’re around 3 to 5 feet away from the beetle. Watch the beetle’s reaction to you. If it turns away or begins to open its elytra, it’s getting ready to take flight. The lower your body is to the ground the less skittish they are, so slowly drop to your knees using very slow and fluid movements. If you move your arms or legs too suddenly, they’ll fly or run. You may have to crawl on the ground for your final approach. To get these portraits, the front of my macro lens has to be around 4 to 8 inches away from the beetle. At this point I’m either on my knees or prone with both elbows on the ground. One hand steadies the camera while the other manipulates the camera. Manual focus works best and I occasionally use a flash with a diffuser. Finding habitat where there are lots of tiger beetles also improves your chances of getting good portraits. Naturally, many approaches result in a practice drill.


      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted September 5, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

        Thanks. That is how I stalk ’em, except for the mornings part. That temporal challenge also explains why I generally suck at getting pictures of Aeschnid dragonflies.

  2. Posted September 5, 2016 at 7:54 am | Permalink

    Seeing these beetles puts in mind of the famous exchange between J B S Haldane and an earnest theologian. The theologian asked Haldane what his studies of nature had taught him about god, and Haldane came straight back with “That he is inordinately fond of beetles”

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted September 5, 2016 at 8:16 am | Permalink

    VERY good!! This woke me right up. Could you explain how you get these pictures? So far I have limited success. Only the six-spotted, which seems a tad more tolerant than the other species I encounter.

  4. darrelle
    Posted September 5, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Beautiful monsters. Or maybe monstrous beauty? I think amazingly cool does hit the nail squarely on the head.

  5. Christopher
    Posted September 5, 2016 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    These are great, and what a great hobby/obsession! I guess I should check which tiger beetles I have near me. I know we have the six-spotted tiger beetles. They’re a constant presence on the hiking trails but only a sick and nearly dead one allowed me to get close enough to catch it without a net. That you could get close enough to take these photos shows either great skill or great technology, or a mixture of both I guess. Thanks for sharing.

  6. Posted September 5, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Those photographs are stunning!

  7. Damien McLeod
    Posted September 5, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    In Coconut Grove, when I a kid, we used to capture night flying Click-Beetles with two glowing eye-like spots on their thorax We called them Fire-Flies, not knowing what real fire-flies looked like, (I don’t know if real fire-flies live in South Florida/Miami area) Today I Googled them and found out they are called Pyrophorus Beetles, but for little kids in Coconut Grove in the 1950’s I think Fire-Flies was a good and appropriate name. I hope little kids are still out there chasing them in the dark all over South Florida!

  8. Glenda from Kelowna
    Posted September 5, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Wonderful shots of these interesting insects. Thanks for sharing.

  9. Posted September 5, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

    Splendid tiger beetles, indeed! I’m a big tiger beetle fan too (well, all beetles, really – guess I’m made in God’s image😉 ).

  10. Leslie
    Posted September 5, 2016 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    So can we expect the Festive Tiger Beetle to be the one who hosts all the beetle
    get-togethers? (I just couldn’t resist).

    Your patience and photographic skills are top notch!

  11. Posted September 5, 2016 at 8:22 pm | Permalink

    Nice shots, I love tiger beetles, sadly I’ve only spotted a few species so far.

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