Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Kurt Helf sent some photos and captions (the latter indented):

This past spring the family and I went to Destin, FL for my daughter’s last cheerleading competition.  I visited Gulf Islands National Seashore and took the first two snaps. These smooth goose barnacles (Lepas anatifera) had colonized a long piece of wood drifting in the Gulf of Mexico and met their doom when they washed up on shore and dried out.

The weather was mostly stormy with high surf and so the beach had the usual crop of hydrozoans washing up on shore: Portuguese Man O’ War (Physalia physalis) and By-the-Wind Sailors (Vellela vellela). The former can be quite beautiful but I wouldn’t want to encounter one in the water!

I found Mr Eastern Box Turtle (I assume Terrapene carolina carolina) just around the corner from where the cheer competition was taking place.

Spider on Web: I was having my morning cuppa on the patio yesterday and I noticed this web reflecting the early morning light.  I have no idea what species this is.

The hermit crabs were numerous and all seemed to favor using the shells of this unknown (to me) marine snail.  This is the thinstripe hermit crab (Clibanarius vittatus). Note the barnacles on the shell.

Reader Peter in Iowa found a weird squirrel, which he calls “a squirrel with lemur leanings”. His notes:

I distribute sunflower seed every morning for any passing rodent or bird , and consequently we have quite a lot of gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) in our yard (in east-central Iowa). Most of them are indistinguishable gray ones, but we’ve had a number of melanistic individuals, ranging from charcoal-gray to black. We even had a couple of black ones with vivid orange tails. However, this week we have a new visitor, with markings I had not seen before – rings on its tail! Photos attached.

Jerry: Is this striping or some kind of fur loss?

And from Stephen Barnard, sunset from his property in Idaho, taken last night:


  1. LB
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 8:37 am | Permalink

    Great photos, as always. That landscape by Stephen Barnard is breathtaking! Thank you!

    • Glenda
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 12:09 pm | Permalink


  2. rickflick
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:00 am | Permalink

    I’m impressed by the variety of colorful creatures on Florida beaches, but most of them could cause a person some damage.
    I think the squirrel must have raccoons in her ancestry.
    That’s not just another sunset picture, is it.

  3. Kevin
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    Poor barnacles.

    Great pic Stephen. I have your last one on my phone. I will add this one to my iPad.

  4. Phil Rounds
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink


  5. Stephen Barnard
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    The barley is doing very well. I think it’s the best looking crop in the valley. If we can get to harvest without a hail storm it might actually be profitable.

    • Mark R.
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

      Who do you sell it to…farmers? brewers?

      • Stephen Barnard
        Posted July 9, 2017 at 1:56 pm | Permalink


        • Mark R.
          Posted July 9, 2017 at 4:02 pm | Permalink


  6. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 9:55 am | Permalink

    I like the look tortoises and turtles seem to always have on their faces. Just very neutral. You wouldn’t think it, but they can change those expressions occasionally. Their faces take on the experessions of guinea pigs who often look very neutral as well.

    I think the squirrel is getting mange in the tail. I often see it start there with chipmunks and squirrels.

    • Posted July 9, 2017 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      I’ve seen squirrels with mangy tails, but this one looks perfectly healthy. Its tail really does have alternating bands of different shades of gray, like a tabby cat.

  7. Christopher
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 10:03 am | Permalink

    I believe, asked on the location of the find, that your box turtle is a Florida box turtle, Terrapene carolina bauri , a subspecies that is found in or around wetland, swamps, marshes, and the like in Florida and a part of Georgia. I’ve never had the joy of seeing one in person. If they are similar in appearance to my own local ornate box turtle, Terrepene ornata. There’s also the Gulf Coast box turtle, T.carolina major, which looks more like the Eastern box turtle, T. carolina carolina. I’m not good with id’s if I’ve never personally seen a species and all of my books are boxed up for moving, so take my comment with a grain of salt. Either way, I’m envious of your little encounter. Nerd that I am, if I won the lottery I would travel around to see all the Chelonian species and subspecies in their habitat (where safe) in person. Thanks for sharing.

  8. busterggi
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    Convergent evolution of squirrels & raccoons?

  9. Mark R.
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 12:52 pm | Permalink

    Lovely photos today…always appreciate a turtle or tortoise. Thanks.

  10. jeffery
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 1:29 pm | Permalink

    Stephen’s photo has what I call a, “Maxfield Parrish sky”…..

    • busterggi
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 7:55 pm | Permalink

      Always glad to hear from another MP fan – the local art museum has several of his works.

  11. Michael Fisher
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    The first pic in this link is of what the author, Deb Platt of Ohio, calls a ‘ring tailed’ eastern gray squirrel [Sciurus carolinensis] – the tail looks healthy to me. Plenty of squirrels at the link, with many different coats on, so take a butchers.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      I also see via google that the ring-tailed ground squirrel [Notocitellus annulatus], family Sciuridae. Is a thing. Tails very distinctly ringed so I suppose the ‘switch’ for ring-tailedness is across much of squirreldom 🙂

    • Diane G.
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:02 am | Permalink

      Thanks for the added bits of information.

      Cool find, Peter!

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:05 am | Permalink

        Thank you Ms. Diane

  12. Lars
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    I believe that should be Mrs. Box turtle – the adult males have scarlet irises, and the females brown, which appears to be the case here.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      Imagine calling “Ms Box Turtle”, “Mr. Box Turtle” then look at the picture. See, she looks a bit miffed.

      • Lars
        Posted July 9, 2017 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

        Rightly so.
        But then, they always tend to look a bit miffed.

  13. claudia baker
    Posted July 9, 2017 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    The sunset picture!!!! Holy Moly.

    Love all the rest too.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted July 9, 2017 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

      A word about the sunset photos. This photo is an HDR (high dynamic range) image. It’s a composite of three exposures separated by +/- 1/3 stop. Some people have an antipathy toward HDR photos. They can be weird and overdone — actually hard to look at. I try to use the least exposure range I can get away with, and mute the sometimes excessive color saturation that comes out of the compositing process. The impression of the photo is as close as I can get to what I was seeing, but a little exaggerated in a Maxfield Parrish kind of way.

      I’ve seen a lot of gray squirrels, but never before one with a ringed tail. Very cool.

      • claudia baker
        Posted July 9, 2017 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

        I love it.

      • Diane G.
        Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:06 am | Permalink

        I think HDR is a cool technique, though it always stands out to me; I like that photography is as much an art as a science.

        Stunning, Stephen!

  14. Posted July 9, 2017 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

    Late to the party, as i was out all day in the woods.
    The spider is an orchard spider, Leucauge venusta. Though small, they are strikingly beautiful, and I see from the skyward angle that you have discovered they build their orb webs pretty much on the horizontal.

  15. Posted July 9, 2017 at 10:56 pm | Permalink

    That’s some shot from Idaho!
    and nice to met Mr Box Turtle, the hermit crab looks like its on crushed ice not sand…

  16. Diane G.
    Posted July 10, 2017 at 1:09 am | Permalink

    Kurt, thanks for the set of out-of-the-ordinary subjects–very captivating!

    Are there any warnings on the beach when the Portuguese Man O’ Wars (Men O’ War?) are around?

    • Kurt Lewis Helf
      Posted July 10, 2017 at 8:11 am | Permalink

      Yes, there are different colored flags flown for various surf conditions. Purple indicates dangerous marine life and that is usually accompanied by a red flag for high surf/strong currents.

      • Diane G.
        Posted July 11, 2017 at 12:59 am | Permalink

        Ah, thanks. I saw a similar system on South Padre Island, TX, a few years ago. I wasn’t smart enough to figure out just what sorts of dangerous marine life they referred to.

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