Readers’ wildlife photos

Send in those photos, folks: this is an Official Plea™ from Professor Ceiling Cat (Emeritus).

Today we have two batches of photos; the first is by reader Gregory Zoinerowich, an professor of entomology at Kansas State University. His notes are indented:

I  had been out experimenting with a new camera, so attached are some photos for your consideration. The first two, the butterfly and the snake, were taken at the Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve, near Strong City, Kansas. This preserve is almost 11,000 acres and has a number of public hiking trails, plus a herd of bison.

The butterfly is a variegated fritillary (Euptoieta claudia) on woolly verbena (Verbena stricta). It was pretty windy and the butterflies were very flighty, so this was my best shot.

The garter snake was swimming through a water-filled bison wallow, and periodically poked its head down into the mud. My herpetologist colleague said it was probably hunting small frogs.

The next two photos were taken on my deck, a megachilid bee on butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), and a Japanese beetle (Popillia japonica) on basil. Although the Japanese beetle is a pest, they are quite pretty. Both the butterfly weed and the basil draw in a number of pollinators in the form of butterflies, many different bees, and many flies.

The last photo was taken with my iPhone, and is the nest of brown thrasher (Toxostoma rufum) deep in a bush alongside my driveway. Every time I walk by the bush, the thrasher gives me a verbal thrashing.

And some bird parasitism contributed by reader John Riegsecker. Note that the maternal instinct of the yellowthroat overrides the clear indication that this is not her chick—or even her species! That’s how nest parasites make their living. Of course it would be to the foster parent’s genetic advantage to recognize and reject the cowbird, as feeding it is expensive and consumes time it could use to build a new nest, but apparently the genetic variation for recognition and rejection doesn’t exist. This kind of parasitism shows that natural selection isn’t perfect!

Attached are three photos for your Readers’ Wildlife Photos of a Common Yellowthroat (Geothlypis trichas) feeding a Cowbird chick. [JAC: probably the Brown-headed CowbirdMolothrus ater].



  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted July 17, 2017 at 8:05 am | Permalink

    I sent a blue tailed skink a few months ago – resend?

    Also please do your best to keep my observation notes as anonymous as possible …

  2. Blue
    Posted July 17, 2017 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Any idea, Dr Zoinerowich or your herpetology
    colleague, of the bagazillion species of
    Thamnophis this particular serpent be ?

    Curious text in re its noms ! Maybe she or he
    got its fill up o’ morning (weekly ? biweekly
    ? ) frogginess !

    ‘Tis a l o o o o n g and mighty pretty one !


    • GregZ
      Posted July 17, 2017 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      No idea on the species, I was quite pleased with myself to identify it as a garter snake. It was one of the longest I’ve seen.

  3. Posted July 17, 2017 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    Very good! I have seen that Frittilaries seem to really prefer violet flowers like this one. And I totally agree that Japanese beetles are very pretty– though a dang nuisance.

  4. rickflick
    Posted July 17, 2017 at 8:40 am | Permalink

    I’ve never been to the Tallgrass Preserve, but it sounds like a great place to see nature. Where the deer and the buffalo roam. Nice variety of images. The camera should be a keeper.

    I have to feel sorry for the poor little yellowthroat.

  5. busterggi
    Posted July 17, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink

    Yep, seen sparrows working themselves to exhaustion trying to keep up w/ cowbird chicks.

  6. Karen Bartelt
    Posted July 17, 2017 at 9:54 am | Permalink

    Cowbird chick. Sad.

  7. Mark R.
    Posted July 17, 2017 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Nice photos today.

    I wonder if there is some species, somewhere, that would adapt a mechanism of chick recognition. Perhaps there is such a species and no one has discovered it. I’m obviously feeling sorry for the duped Yellowthroat.

  8. Posted July 17, 2017 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

    In the parasitism by one species on another as in this case. Is it because it is usually not the same breeding parent(s) every breeding season but is randomized?. Natural selection does not work as a group so does not get the ‘chance’ to alter behaviour, not enough pressure on individuals and could it be used as an argument against group selection?
    Natuall selection is perfect in its consistency but naybe not in outcomes but for who it could be ásked.

  9. gouparchery
    Posted July 17, 2017 at 8:59 pm | Permalink

    i love tshid photo

  10. Bob Scott Placier
    Posted July 21, 2017 at 11:09 am | Permalink

    A bit late for my post. Just wanted to note that the Common Yellowthroat is a male, not female as captioned. Typically after fledging, in many passerine species, the male and female split the brood, each sex feeding about half the young until they can fend for themselves. Of course in this case the female may be feeding another cowbird chick!

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