Readers’ wildlife photographs

We have a melange of photos today (don’t forget to send yours in!).  The first shows a lovely bird, and is contributed by reader Don Breden:

Here’s a rose-breasted grosbeak [Pheucticus ludovicianus] visiting the deck on a rainy Mother’s Day . . .
Such a beautiful bird and a fine songster, too.  The ornithologist at the Fairbanks Museum in nearby St. Johnsbury, Ruth Crane, used to say that the rose-breasted sounds like a robin who’s had singing lessons.
You can listen to several songs of this species here.
From Roger Latour:
This larva is of the species Papilio cresphontes, the giant swallowtail. It is a new species in Southern Quebec, having found its way north recently from the USA.
Having seen an adult lazily flying above a trail and noticing the prickly ash, I decided to have a look around and found a larva. In natural light the beast is not easily spotted, and when you do it looks like a fat bird dropping. The forest was dark, even by the path where the common prickly-ash (Zanthoxylum americanum) is usually found. I had to use the flash to get these close-up pictures.
The female will pretty much lay its eggs only on these bushes (over here, anyway). We are lucky to have this small tree species and that the swallowtail has found it!

Parc Île Bizard Grand porte-queue Parc-nature du Bois-de-l’Île-Bizard

When I asked Roger if these might not also be snake mimics (a case of double mimicry), he replied:

Yes it has been suggested, to vipers specifically: “Does defensive posture increase mimetic fidelity of caterpillars with eyespots to their putative snake models?” (free PDF)

And from Stephen Barnard in Idaho (this is Matthew Cobb’s favorite bird):

Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica). This bird was extremely trusting: my dogs were running around right by the pole it was perched on.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted May 16, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink


    People – which Sibley should I get?! Or what is YOUR favorite?

    • rickflick
      Posted May 16, 2017 at 8:49 am | Permalink

      I like the Sibley Birds second edition. It’s heavy though and I don’t take it on hikes. For a field guide you might want to get the Eastern or Western version second edition, or another small guide. The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior is wonderful too – use it as a reference not a field guide. I also have Sibley Bird Basics which is good for someone just getting started.

      • darrelle
        Posted May 16, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

        If it is available in digital form you can take it with you anywhere on your phone. My current phone, which is not top end by any standard, accepts up to 1 terabyte micro SD cards. Which aren’t even made. But they do make them at least 1/4 terabyte. In any case, plenty of storage and plenty of computing power in a phone these days.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted May 17, 2017 at 6:13 am | Permalink

          Hi everyone who responded about the Sibley’s – thank you! My library has these things, I’ll report back perhaps on another RWP someday.

        • ThyroidPlanet
          Posted May 25, 2017 at 1:41 pm | Permalink

          I got a pile of Sibley books from the library – and just in time to witness a – best I can tell – Cooper’s Hawk swooping to get a poor little rabbit right in the yard! The rabbit survived. Also heard caw-ing, but clearly, was a crow, out of sight…

          anywho, looks like any edition is good for my purposes, but maybe 2003 might be best…

          thank you!

          • rickflick
            Posted May 25, 2017 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

            Edition issue: The Sibley Guide to Birds second edition was recommended by reviewers because it has a more complete listing and improved image quality.

  2. Posted May 16, 2017 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    amazing pics. Well done.. Nice to share them for others to appreciate. I love photography but birds? Nope! cannot do.. thanks Eve

  3. Posted May 16, 2017 at 8:04 am | Permalink

    Very good, everyone.
    The giant swallowtail caterpillar is an incredible bird dropping mimic in its earlier instars, where it goes for the wet ‘n juicy kind of bird poo. But it transitions to the appearance that we see here once it gets larger.

  4. Posted May 16, 2017 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    When did Stephen switch from bird pictures with a camera to pictures with a microscope?

  5. littleboybrew
    Posted May 16, 2017 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    That barn swallow staring me down, I can imagine a T Rex looking at me as dinner.

    • DrBrydon
      Posted May 16, 2017 at 9:29 am | Permalink

      I was thinking he was saying, “Is there something you want to say to me!?” Great pix.

  6. darrelle
    Posted May 16, 2017 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    I’ve never seen any of these animals in real life. One of the several reasons I enjoy RWP. Keep ’em coming.

  7. Bill Morrison
    Posted May 16, 2017 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    Plant garden rue (Ruta graveolens) and your garden may get visited by giant swallowtails. I observed this in southern Pennsylvania as well as in northern Vermont, USA. Citrus trees, which are in the rue family, attract them too. The Golden Guide to Butterflies and Moths says that the “caterpillars are known as Orange Dogs or Orange Puppies”. The giant swallowtail must be sniffing out a compound sent forth from various rue family members.

  8. busterggi
    Posted May 16, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

    I have got to start painting my sparrows.

  9. Karen Ziege Bartelt
    Posted May 16, 2017 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    Lovely grosbeak. I wonder where ours are…

  10. Mark R.
    Posted May 16, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    Love the photos. Thanks!

  11. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted June 3, 2017 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    To all who made suggestions about the Sibley books : THANK YOU!

    Thanks to the public library, I have a slew of bird books, plus – and this is a new dimension- Sibley’s tree book. One day, looks like I’ll sink some cash into one of each.

    Perhaps it shows my age, but birds and trees are things around you every day your whole life. It’s not like exotic wildlife. Yet, you can know practically nothing about them – more to the point, you can _mislead_ yourself to think you _do_ know. “Oh yeah, that’s a maple” or “yeah, that’s just some sparrow or something” – EEEEEGH – WRONG! … it gets more and more interesting and it’s all sitting at your doorstep!

    Sorry to use the editorial “you/your” too much! I of course mean “at least ME”…

    • rickflick
      Posted June 3, 2017 at 6:33 am | Permalink

      Most of the series can be picked up second hand for a song…a bird song of course.

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