Readers’ wildlife photographs

Today we begin with some photos by Stephan Barnard, who’s been absent from this page for a while. His notes are indented:

The first is of a Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus), not unlike some others I’ve sent.

The second is a Solitary Sandpiper (Tringa solitaria), a photo that would otherwise be unremarkable except that it’s the first one I’ve seen. They look very similar to Lesser Yellowlegs (Tringa flavipes), which I see here, but there was something different about it that caught my eye. It seemed out of place.

“Of the world’s 85 sandpiper species, only the Solitary Sandpiper and the Green Sandpiper of Eurasia routinely lay eggs in tree nests instead of on the ground.” —allaboutbirds

Yet another Rufous Hummingbird (Selasphorus rufus) in flight.

And a turtle from Andrew Lowry:

This is a Sonoran Desert Tortoise (Gopherus morafkai) that I moved out of a road near Wickenburg, Arizona. The photo with the boot is to show scale; that’s a (men’s) size 9. The road is frequently traveled by trucks hauling rock, so I had to take action. There’s a trick to moving a tortoise– if they’re startled, they’ll empty their bladder, which can lead to death via dehydration. They have to be lifted slowly and gently and not too high off the ground. The dry state of the boot shows that I was successful. 😉

JAC: Spiffy ostrich cowboy boot!

And from Tim Anderson in Australia, some astronomy apparatus:

This picture is not wildlife, though the observatory may help one day in locating life on some distant exoplanet. This is the CSIRO radio telescope outside of Parkes, NSW. It is one of the glories of Australian science. The black strip on the dish’s surface is a leftover from the movie “The Dish”, which celebrates (with some historical liberties) the observatory’s role in transmitting video imagery of Neil Armstrong’s first walk on the Moon in 1969. It is a lovely movie and I recommend it (the black strip involved a game of cricket). On a personal note, I worked very briefly at the observatory in the mid-1980s.


  1. Posted August 29, 2017 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    Great photos all around.

    Thanks Tim A. for the shot of “The Dish”. I love that movie and we watch it regularly!

    I think the sound track would get the PCC(E) seal of approval as well!

    • Posted August 30, 2017 at 1:29 am | Permalink

      I remember watching Neil Armstrong’s moonwalk on a TV in my classroom when I was 13 years old. The images in the movie of people absorbed in what was happening is very real.

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 30, 2017 at 2:22 am | Permalink

        Several years ago my astronomy club screened The Dish and it was a hoot! Thanks for the reminder–now that I remember it I must watch it again. 🙂

        I watched the moonwalk at summer camp as a college student…”absorbed” doesn’t begin to capture it… 😉

        Thanks for the pic submission and the memories.

  2. rickflick
    Posted August 29, 2017 at 8:00 am | Permalink

    You can see the extraordinary detail in the hummingbird feathers. Isn’t that amazing? It’s truly a beautiful, tiny creature. Without high speed photography, we wouldn’t be able to see this. I’m guessing the shutter speed would have to be over 2000th of a second.

    • Stephen Barnard
      Posted August 29, 2017 at 8:12 am | Permalink

      When I shoot hummingbirds in flight (in natural light) I use shutter priority at 1/8000 sec. It’s the only use of shutter priority I’ve found so far.

      • Posted August 29, 2017 at 9:39 am | Permalink


      • rickflick
        Posted August 29, 2017 at 10:01 am | Permalink

        8000! I’ve never used 1/8000 for anything. But, I’ll give it a try.

        • Stephen Barnard
          Posted August 29, 2017 at 10:23 am | Permalink

          1/8000 can stop the motion when the wings are fully extended, either up or down, as in the first photo. In the second photo the head is tack sharp but the wings are motion blurred and the tail is out of focus. I think it adds some dynamism to the photo.

          I shoot these from my back deck, with feeders set up in strategic locations to get good light. I’m using a Canon 500mm f4 lens, positioned as close as it will focus, mounted on a sturdy tripod with a gimbal head. At 1/8000 sec hand-held would work, but the lens is too heavy to hold up for extended periods.

          • rickflick
            Posted August 29, 2017 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

            You should be, and undoubtedly are, very pleased with your capability. The equipment is of exceptional quality, and that will make a difference when you get to the point that that difference means a lot – which I guess you could say is when you’re deep in the plumage. I just bought a Vortex spotting scope to see if I could get in close to water birds and such. It should be a fun adventure.

            • Diane G.
              Posted August 30, 2017 at 2:24 am | Permalink

              I so need a spotting scope! Enjoy it, rick!

            • Diane G.
              Posted August 30, 2017 at 2:34 am | Permalink

              Even with the right equipment, it takes great skill and effort to capture hummingbirds in flight as well as Stephen does. Kudos, Stephen! And I agree about the blurred wing/dynamism. Interesting about only being able to stop the motion when the wings are fully extended–makes perfect sense, now that you mention it. I’ll be noticing these things in other hummer pics, now.

      • David Coxill
        Posted August 29, 2017 at 2:55 pm | Permalink

        Hi ,just been looking at a website called Neatorama ,there is a a photo and video clip with 30 Hummingbirds sharing a bath ,is it real or a fake?.

        • Diane G.
          Posted August 30, 2017 at 2:28 am | Permalink

          Without having seen the clip–if your question is whether such density is possible, yes it is, depending on your location and amenities. I’ve seen similar numbers of hummers at feeding stations in Costa Rica.

          This despite the fact that hummers are famously antagonistic toward each other!

  3. Posted August 29, 2017 at 8:47 am | Permalink

    Excellent pictures! I did not know that about desert tortoise bladders.

    • Diane G.
      Posted August 30, 2017 at 2:38 am | Permalink

      Me neither. 🙂 I did know that amphibians and reptiles tend to do the whole bladder-evacuation thing–from personal experience–but had not thought about the dehydration risk to desert dwellers. (Come on, natural selection, let’s get to work on this… 😉 )

  4. David Coxill
    Posted August 29, 2017 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    In CA it is against the law to even touch tortoises for that very reason .
    Is it true that people who work on the surface of the dish can get microwaved if they are not careful?.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 29, 2017 at 6:19 pm | Permalink

      Is it true that people who work on the surface of the dish can get microwaved if they are not careful?.

      Try working it through. You have a system which detects the difference between background noise and a signal nano- or pico-watts more powerful, and you think that the designers would accidentally or deliberately construct feeds that would pump kilowatts of similar frequency radiation at people. The sideband emission alone would fry the receivers by a factor of millions. It’s like trying to examine the ignition of a match head using a battlefield nuke (~DPRK yeild) for illumination.
      In the early 2000s, a radio telescope had a problem with picking up stray radiation from a faulty microwave oven in a staff canteen several buildings away from the detectors. The detectors noticed the leak ; the staff didn’t.
      I wonder how big a dish you would need to boil coffee using the microwave background? Would you be able to fit it into the Solar System? (Optionally including the Oort Cloud.)

      • Posted August 30, 2017 at 12:35 am | Permalink

        When I worked in CSIRO, one of the radioastronomers told me that the entire amount of radiation sensed by the dish in 25 years of operation would light a torch bulb for about one-tenth of a second.

        Also, I think the anecdote about the microwave oven came from the CSIRO observatory – but itr might be a common event for radio telescopes. CSIRO requests that you turn off your mobile phone if you visit The Dish.

        Certainly Australia’s military radar installations play merry hell with CSIRO measurements even though they are thousands of kilometres away.

        • Stephen Barnard
          Posted August 30, 2017 at 12:47 am | Permalink

          “Torch” is one of those non-American English words I love. In American English you’d say “flashlight bulb”. In the US a torch is something used fend off zombies or light up a neofascist parade.

          • Posted August 30, 2017 at 1:12 am | Permalink

            Like “see you in a fortnight” . . . US people meet this with puzzled expressions.

            • Diane G.
              Posted August 30, 2017 at 2:43 am | Permalink

              Hey! I’d guess the majority of WEIT readers are well-read/traveled enough to know about the Brit “torch” and the meaning of fortnight. Just as everyone else knows scores of Americanisms whether they want to or not. 😀

          • Posted August 30, 2017 at 3:31 am | Permalink

            On the subject of different usage, as a Brit I’m pleased to see Andrew Lowry use “tortoise” for the land-based reptile. In British English a turtle is always water-based.

        • gravelinspector-Aidan
          Posted September 1, 2017 at 4:52 am | Permalink

          I think it – the whole genre of terrors of radiation from microwave ovens – is just an extension of the general fear of “radiation”. As if we don’t have a significant variation in daily dose from where we live, how our homes are built, what the local geology is, and our altitude. As it is, airlines are running close to having to put radiation monitoring tags on the uniforms of their cabin crew on “over the pole” routes because of the increased radiation dose at altitude.
          People’s fear and disgust reflexes are not good guides to how to manage radiation risks. Calculation is required.

  5. Mark R.
    Posted August 29, 2017 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

    Very nice photos; really liked the light captured on the CSIRO. And I think Andrew was just trying to show off his nice ostrich cowboy boots to Jerry. Just kidding. 😉

    • Posted August 30, 2017 at 1:24 am | Permalink

      If you ever visit Australia, put The Dish on you visiting list. To see it working inspires awe.

      Here’s an interesting factoid: the dish is not clamped to its mount, it just sits in place with the effect of gravity (which is why the operators “stow” the dish if the wind gets above 15 kilometres per hour).

      In the movie, a wind storm threatens to stop the observatory from being able to swing into line with the Moon. When the NASA representative asks if the wind load has ever been tested, the operator says says “There’s a thousand tons above that azimuth track. Frankly, I don’t want to know.”

      • Diane G.
        Posted August 30, 2017 at 2:45 am | Permalink


        And thanks for the fun fact.

  6. Taskin
    Posted August 29, 2017 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Lovely pics today. I never get tired of hummingbird photos, so cool!

  7. Diane G.
    Posted August 30, 2017 at 2:47 am | Permalink

    Stephen, thanks for the nesting factoid about the Solitary Sandpiper. I’m embarrassed that I wasn’t aware of that!

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