Readers’ wildlife photos

We have birds and stars today (don’t forget to send your pictures in!). The first batch comes from reader Darrell Ernst of Vero Beach, Florida. As always, photographers’ notes are indented:

Thought I’d send you some pictures for your consideration for the Reader’s Wildlife Pics. They are a mix of bird images all taken within 25 miles of where we live, many of them within less than a mile.

A Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) resting after capturing a woodpecker. It isn’t the best image—long range, low light and hand-held—but the subject makes up for it a bit. I can’t quite tell but I think the woodpecker is a Red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), or possibly a Red-cockaded woodpecker (Leuconotopicus borealis). When I first took this picture, I didn’t notice that the hawk had a bird. We had been missing a woodpecker that was regularly working on our house and after finally reviewing this picture several days after having taken it we learned why the woodpecker wasn’t around anymore. I was a bit sad, but no hard feelings towards the hawk.

This osprey (Pandion haliaetus) was working on its nest. It would carry in some largish sticks, spend some time arranging things and then take off for more. These birds are hard to get close to. Brianna took these pictures from long range off from a moving boat on an overcast day.

This poor mourning dove (Zenaida macroura) had to put up with me painting the wall right next to the tree it is nesting in. This tree is about 1/2 meter from a wall of our house and its fronds cover a good 2 meters or more of wall area up to about 3 meters high. Painting the wall was a pain in the butt. The tree has 8+ cm spikes all over it that are stout and sharp enough to pierce deeply into human bodies. I had been painting for at least an hour, climbing on the tree, pushing a ladder through it, pushing branches out of the way and the dove never made a sound. I didn’t realize it was there at all until I climbed a ladder to reach the peak of the wall and then looked down. After that I was as careful as I could be to not disturb the dove any more than necessary to complete the work. Unfortunately something got her eggs just a few days later.

Here’s one from Stephen Barnard in Idaho:

Sandhill Cranes (Grus canadensis) onto something good — I’d guess a vole. Junior is growing fast. Last week you posted a photo of them that was taken June 8. This one was taken June 15. What a difference a week makes!

Reader Tim Anderson sent these lovely star pictures from Australia, which I’ve put up large to show detail:

Here is my first attempt at narrowband imaging. This is the Running Chicken Nebula (IC 2944) imaged in Hydrogen alpha, Oxygen III and Sulphur II emission wavelengths. The resulting images were combined in Photoshop and colours assigned according to the “Hubble Palette” (SII assigned to red, Ha to green and OIII to blue).

The Bok Globules (dense, opaque areas of gas embedded in the nebula) are clearly visible.

Technicals: 126mm refracting telescope, ASI1600MM-C monochrome camera, EQ8 mount guided with PHD2, 30 60-second frames each of Ha, OIII and SII, stacked in Nebulosity, post-processed in Photoshop

This is an open star cluster found in the southern skies near the great Carina nebula. The Gem Cluster (NGC 3293) is adjacent to the NGC 3324 nebula, named for the Chilean poet and Nobel Laureate Gabriela Mistral.


  1. Posted June 20, 2017 at 7:34 am | Permalink

    Hope today is a better day. Love your posts and your thinking. I think the world is better off for having you in it.

    • polly3yr
      Posted June 20, 2017 at 7:54 am | Permalink


  2. Bernie Grossman
    Posted June 20, 2017 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    That’s not a Red-tailed Hawk. The picture is not that good, but it is more likely a Sharp-shinned or Cooper’s Hawk.Field marks here are lack of belly band and presence of reddish striping or spotting of breast.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted June 20, 2017 at 7:49 am | Permalink

      I agree. Also, Red-tailed Hawks rarely prey on birds, while Sharp-shinned and Cooper’s prey almost exclusively on birds.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 20, 2017 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      Yes, I see it now. Thanks for the correction. Going by size I’m pretty sure it is a Cooper’s Hawk. It was a fairly large bird, noticeably larger than a crow.

  3. Michael Fisher
    Posted June 20, 2017 at 7:45 am | Permalink

    Are you in a better mood today Prof CC[e]?

  4. Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:28 am | Permalink

    Good pictures! Thanks to everyone for sharing.

  5. Stacey Scarce
    Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    That is a Red-bellied woodpecker, look closely at face. The shot is great.

    • darrelle
      Posted June 21, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Thank you. Most of the pictures that get taken in our family are by my daughter, but that one was taken by me. Because of this picture it has become a joke among the family that you can tell my pictures apart from my daughter’s (she’s 13) simply by picking out the bad ones!

      I admit, there is some truth to that.

  6. Debbie Coplan
    Posted June 20, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    Wonderful post! Thank you to all!

  7. jeffery
    Posted June 20, 2017 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Never too late to learn something new: it had never occurred to me that Sandhill Cranes might eat voles; I guess, like herons, they’ll eat anything they can catch (domestic chickens LOVE mice!).

  8. rickflick
    Posted June 20, 2017 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    The mourning dove has a striking blue eye ring. It gives it a contemplative look. I’m not surprise that it allowed you to bang it around quite a bit. It was meditating.

  9. ploubere
    Posted June 20, 2017 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful star photos, Tim!

  10. Posted June 21, 2017 at 12:25 am | Permalink

    the growing on vole,
    an Osprey with sticks,
    a woodies demise,
    a dove with no chicks(?)

    stars in my eyes.

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