Readers’ wildlife photos

As always, I beseech thee to send in thy photos, as I can always use more.

We have some more birdies today, and yes, some ice. The first set of three bird pics come from reader Joe McClain of Williamsburg, Virginia (yay!), who writes this:

I was a bit under the weather on New Year’s Day, so I did plenty of sitting at the kitchen table with a cup of something hot at hand. At some point, I went and got my camera. Here are a few photos of visitors to the feeder outside my kitchen window. I keep the suet going, which attracts woodpeckers. During my camera vigil, I didn’t see a red-bellied (Melaptes carolinus), which is odd, as this species is the most common woodpecker in my yard.

I did get a yellow-bellied sapsucker (Sphyrapicius varius), whose common name often seems to kindle hilarity among the non-birding public. There is one shot of the sapsucker looking right at the camera. There was some author (I think it was Robert Benchley) who disliked the view of a bird looking straight at him. Weird.



Northern flickers regularly nest in a tree cavity in my front yard, and I can see the hole from my bedroom window. It’s not breeding season of course, but I think the two Colaptes auratus in my tree are this year’s nestmates. Could be the parents of course. Here’s a solo photo of a flicker looking devious.


The next photos come from Diana MacPherson, with her notes:

Here are some photos I took this morning [February 12] of some members of a flock of American Robins (Turdus migrators) who haven’t migrated. There are well over 20 birds in this flock that has been hanging around my house.

Members of a Non-Migrating Flock of American Robins (Turdus migratorius):


American Robin (Turdus migratorius) that Didn’t Migrate:

American Robin (Turdus migratorius) that Didn't Migrate


Reader Dick K. sent a video, with these notes:

I have a 30-second video, shot by a friend with his cell phone, showing a dozen or so hummingbirds jockeying for position on a 6-station feeder.  They look like a swarm of Kamikazes, or a Star Wars attack on the evil mothership, so it has some interest.

Finally, reader Karen Bartelt sent some lovely photos of ice. Her notes:

Not exactly wildlife, but definitely nature.  As I was crossing a creek before the last thaw, I noticed these lovely patterns of ice in several places where the water could freeze slowly.  Thought maybe you could use one or two of these to augment a day’s photos.






  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Is that how you tell if a robin migrated – it is fat? I have heard people say robins are confused by global warming and that’s why they are seen in snow.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 18, 2017 at 9:18 am | Permalink

      No they aren’t fat, they are puffed up because it was a really cold day well below freezing. I can tell they aren’t migrated because they aren’t supposed to be here in the winter. They usually don’t show up until April or May.

      • ThyroidPlanet
        Posted February 18, 2017 at 10:18 am | Permalink

        does non-migration mean anything as to climate shift? Do the birds feel warmer so they stay?…

        It sounds not entirely to be a result of climate change.

        • Diana MacPherson
          Posted February 18, 2017 at 10:58 am | Permalink

          I don’t think it’s to do with warmth of the birds but if they can stay and find food.

  2. Randy schenck
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 7:46 am | Permalink

    Lots of good bird pictures today. What is the deal with the Robins staying through the winter? Is it similar to the local geese that never learn migration or something else? Sure would mean a change of diet.

    • Randy schenck
      Posted February 18, 2017 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      A quick look at google would seem to indicate they must have the fruit diet available up there for winter.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 18, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      Could be that they have a food supply (‘thanks, Diana!), so why burn all that energy to be a Robin that Migrates? As the weather warms they can get dibs on building a nest at the best site before the other Robins return.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 18, 2017 at 9:22 am | Permalink

      There are often some berries left over from the warmer months that they will need to complete with starlings for. I have a bunch of apple trees where I’ve seen them so they may eat the old apples that have fallen to the ground in the Fall. I’ve seen/heard them other years in the bit of forest at work while walking to my car but I’ve not seen them is such large flocks.

      Robins get a strong instinct to migrate, probably like any migratory bird. My parents raised a robin that had fallen out of his nest when his siblings and mother were killed by a cat. The robin suddenly got an urge to leave, flew into the house and chirped as if to say good-bye, then flew off forever. I have a theory that the robins start to migrate and go a bit further south then decide to come back bit by bit.

  3. Kevin
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    Nice ice crystals. It’s not clear to me what causes them to freeze like that.

  4. Ken Phelps
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Love the ice.

  5. ajlowry
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    If a bird’s beak is pointing your way, are they looking at you? I think that would mean they’re NOT looking at you, given how their eyes are situated.

    I’ve never seen a sapsucker; what a delightful little bird!

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted February 18, 2017 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

      ajlowry If it’s a close bird of prey it’s definitely looking at you – no mistake! OTOH birds can’t move their eyeballs which explains their peculiar head movements. Many birds focus on distant objects laterally with monocular vision & will thus orientate sideways to maximise visual resolution – unlike us [the reverse of us actually] visual resolution is twice as good with sideways monocular vision than forward binocular vision.

    • nicky
      Posted February 18, 2017 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      Birds have, unlike us, two maculae per eye. They can see perfectly well in front of them.
      Moreover, if you project a light circle onto e.g. a raptor’s face you see 2 perfectly round half circles on their corneas, which shouts “selection!”, methinks.
      We humans may have good vision for a mammal, but compared to birds we are rank amateurs.

  6. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I enjoy the pictures, as always. Having a bird look at you is a bit startling. Like gazing into the face of the Cretaceous.

  7. Merilee
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 9:01 am | Permalink

    Particularly love the ice crystals, Karen. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Posted February 18, 2017 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Besides the cat features, this wildlife series is my favorite part of the blog. But how does one submit photos? I have searched everywhere for any email address. It has to be somewhere, because people do submit things to you. Thank you.

    • Posted February 18, 2017 at 9:30 am | Permalink

      Jus click “research interests” in the upper right corner of the page, and that will take you to my University website, which gives an email address to use.

  9. rickflick
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    Ice crystals form similarly in the ground litter along the trail though our woods(NY). But, they grow vertically, lifting dead leaves and forming a crunchy layer of debris a couple of inches deep.

  10. Diana MacPherson
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Those are some neat looking ice crystals!

  11. Blue
    Posted February 18, 2017 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Lovely ice and birds, Ms Bartelt and Mr McClain !

    Ice and bird just this 18 February 2017 Iowa morning, too ? NO! on the ice and YES! on the migratory bird … …

    I just hung out on the clothesline my SECOND load — just bedsheets and bath towels; but it is soooo, so warming that all ‘ll be fully dried by late afternoon … … today !

    And whilst I was out there ? As I hung, this — — sang its song; and he, as darlingly colorful as Cornell Lab’s pix of him, flew to hither and yon’s backyard tree branches just as if summery as ever.

    Strange and worrisome, actually. I mean gorgeous, and the sheets tonight’ll smell wondrously; but but but what, truly, does this mean: Iowa in mid – February with orioles … … already back ? and with no (insect pupae -) sterilizing temperatures almost all wintertime – long either ?!

    re Mr Frost’s ‘Fire and Ice’ — during this current administration, during critical climate change concerns, during Worldwide refugees’ gravities — of what “I know enough of hate,” then “for destruction ice is also great and would suffice,” not ?


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