Readers’ wildlife photos

Pete Moulton is a crack wildlife photographer, takes some really good shots of birds, and is a dab hand with insects as well. These photos regularly appear on his Facebook page, where in the comments I beg and grovel to be allowed to post the photos.  After I’ve pleaded for a while, and posted photos of myself importuning him for his pictures, he relents, for he’s busy. And so today we have a set of Pete’s bird and insect photos that he sent a few days ago (indented captions are his). It was worth the wait.

Here at long last are a few pix for you. It’s been a tough fall for me, as we’ve been moving our warehouse from one location to another, and the process necessitated moving twice(!). Still, I’ve managed to get in some shutter time, and even have a few pix that you and your readers might find interesting, or even aesthetically pleasing.
Let’s start with this one, partly because it isn’t very recent and wasn’t taken here in Arizona. It’s here because it’d been several years between my last North American (north of Mexico) life bird, and this guy. It’s a Tufted Flycatcatcher (Mitrephanes phaeocercus), which spent the summer and early fall in Carr Cañon in the Huachuca Mountains. The Arizona bird was too far away for photography, and unapproachable, so this image is from Costa Rica.
Everybody seems to like owls, so here’s a Burrowing Owl, Athene cunicularia, from a local park where artificial burrows have been provided for owls displaced by road construction. I’d intended to go to that park last Friday, but the afternoon light wouldn’t have done me or the owls any favors, so this is a pic from the same park a couple of years ago that I found hiding among unprocessed images.
Another owl, but one which is much rarer in my area: a Northern Saw-whet OwlAegolius acadicus,  in Gilbert the last week of November. It may still be there for all anyone knows, but roosting in more secret spots. My favorite owl, and one I see all too rarely.
Once upon a time, birders were very scarce, and I learned early on that photographs were the ‘gold standard’ for identification of rarities. That’s still my main approach, and it’s turned out to be very useful, as more rare birds than usual have come through the Phoenix area during this fall’s migration season. Here’s a doc shot of one of them: a female Surf Scoter (Melanitta perspicillata), also in Gilbert. Not the most colorful of birds, but a new one for my Arizona state list, so that’s exciting.
I haven’t forgotten the bugs this year. This is a potter wasp, which the good folks at have kindly advised me is Eumenes bollii (apparently no vernacular name) from along the Rio Salado north of Mesa in October.
 I went back to the Rio Salado a week later, and found this Great Purple HairstreakAtlides halesus. It’s always a pleasure to see and photograph one of these, because they spend most of their lives high enough above ground that they’re difficult to see. In the fall, however, nectar sources are scarce and the hairstreaks will come down closer to the ground to feed. This little stand of jimmyweed was well past its prime blooming season, but was still the only game in town for nectar-feeders, and was doing a land-office business.
JAC: Notice the false head markings on the hindwing, which are likely to have evolved to distract a predator’s attention from the real head, so that the predator (probably a bird) may strike at the wrong end of the insect, allowing it to escape:
 This Palmer’s Metalmark (Apodemia palmeri)was feeding less than a meter from the hairstreak. Metalmarks (Riodinidae) are named for the metallic markings on the dorsal surfaces of the wings, but Palmer’s lacks these.


  1. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    One word :


    One … punctuation (what’s the singular of punctuation?):


    …. ^^^^ THAT is my argument to remain anonymous as ThyroidPlanet.

  2. Andrea Kenner
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 9:31 am | Permalink

    Beautiful! Thank you!

  3. Terry Sheldon
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Lovely stuff. Thank you for sharing your work with us!

  4. Posted January 2, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Marvelous! In addition to the beauty and sharpness of your bird subjects, I also very much covet the exceptionally lovely bokeh in your backgrounds. So the pictures provide two things to enjoy.

    Hairstreaks often enhance the false head by scissoring their wings up and down, so the little tails on the wings wiggle like antennae. Clever little deceivers!

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted January 2, 2018 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      TIL what “bokeh” means.

      There’s a word for everything I tell ya!

      • Posted January 2, 2018 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        Bokeh (pronounced “bo-kay” is a Japanese word for the soft and blended out of focus backgrounds that can appear in pictures. It can be a beautiful thing in its own right; a thing sought and valued in photography.

  5. Glenda Palmer
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Wonderful. Thank you for sharing. I sent these beauties on.

  6. rickflick
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I can imagine the excitement of spotting the Tufted Flycatcher this side of the border.

    • Pete Moulton
      Posted January 4, 2018 at 1:38 pm | Permalink

      You know it!Especially since it was my first new North American (north of Mexico) bird in nearly seven years.

      • Diane G.
        Posted January 6, 2018 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

        What’s your NA life list total, Pete? I’d guess at least 600?

        (Oh, and super photos, of course!)

        • Pete Moulton
          Posted January 8, 2018 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

          Thank you, Diane! The Tufted Flycatcher was #593 for NA north of Mexico. I’m not the hardcore lister/twitcher I used to be, but I still keep the list because old habits are hard to break. LOL

          • Diane G.
            Posted January 9, 2018 at 10:43 am | Permalink

            Aha, I was very close! Congrats!

            (My list’s only somewhere around 470, largely because I didn’t get serious about it till I was in my 60’s, darn it. What got me going again, actually, was the advent of relatively simple cams that allowed even amateurs like me to get decent pics of birds–huge help with ID’ing, among other satisfactions.)

  7. Posted January 2, 2018 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    Awesome photos. Love the owls and the wasp.

  8. Posted January 2, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    Thank you so much. Gorgeous. Love the taste of summer here.

    Eumenes are pretty common but fascinating, and with a lot of species. In one of my next lives, I’m going to study them in detail.

    I’m going out on a limb here, but from what one entomologist told me once (and I can’t quickly find a reference), males have curved antennae. So you photographed a male (and it’s seems the only gender I can find). While trying to document this fact, I found out why they are curved:

    “The male was nibbling gently on the back of the female’s thorax the whole time. And he also kept up a steady tapping rhythm (~~90/min) with his antennae on hers, either both at once or alternating left and right sides. The male has a little extra orange hook tip on each antenna. When I looked at the photos, I discovered that, with each tap, he was hooking that tip under her antenna.”

    Thank you, again.

  9. Andy Lowry
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Arizona is a great place for seeing birds. One day last week, up here in Prescott, there were three Western Bluebirds and a Cedar Waxwing at the water bowl. Looks like I’m going to have to invest in a camera.

    Thanks for the photos, Mr. Moulton!

  10. Posted January 2, 2018 at 2:14 pm | Permalink

    Breathtaking work, Peter. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Mark R.
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

    Wow, these are terrific. Thanks for the beautiful images.

  12. Mark Joseph
    Posted January 2, 2018 at 9:46 pm | Permalink

    Loved the photos, especially the flycatcher and the wasp.


  13. Pete Moulton
    Posted January 4, 2018 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    Thank you all for your nice comments!

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