Readers’ wildlife photos

Pete Moulton of Arizona has (after much begging and pleading on my part) given us some of his lovely bird photos, with a bonus mammal. His notes are indented:

 Here are some recent shots. It’s been a terrific winter for hummingbirds, with at least 8 species recorded in Arizona through the season, as compared to our more usual 2-3 species.
Juvenile male Rufous Hummingbird )Selasphorus rufus) guarding his flowering bush at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. This little guy arrived at the DBG in October, and he’s been there ever since. Rufous Hummingbirds typically winter in Mexico, but our winter has been unusually mild this year, and that likely accounts for this rare (for Arizona) record. They have the wanderlust, and are the most commonly observed western hummers in eastern North America, particularly at feeders along the Gulf Coast, though they could turn up virtually anywhere.

Juvenile male Calliope Hummingbird (Stellula calliope) in Gilbert. This tiny hummingbird—the smallest species of bird that breeds in North America north of Mexico—has regaled birders and photographers at a local birding hotspot for a couple of months now. All the attention he’s getting doesn’t seem to faze him, and the last time I saw/photographed him, the day which produced this image, as it happens, he actually came out to take a close look at each person standing there, and then returned to an exposed perch for more photo ops. Maybe he’s thinking of returning next winter, and wants to know whether the same folks will come out to greet him. Like the Rufous, he looks a little disheveled because he’s deep in molt.

Adult female Costa’s HummingbirdCalypte costae, in Gilbert. We practiced a bit on this little lady before going in search of the Calliope.

Not many are fond of cormorants in general, but I find them interesting, and always try a few shots when they’re around. This one is a Neotropic Cormorant (Phalacrocorax brasilianus) at Papago Park, only ten minutes’ drive from my home. When I moved to Arizona in the middle 1980s these were quite scarce in the state, but they’ve undergone a massive invasion and population explosion since then, and they’ve shown no sign that this will end anytime soon. A friend up in Toronto tells me that there are 1-2 birds annually in Ontario now, which would’ve been unthinkable 30 years ago.

Double-crested Cormorants (Phalacrocorax auritus) already lived in Arizona when the Neotropics began to invade, and people still have difficulty telling them apart. This is an adult, taken within 10 meters of the previous image, but a week earlier. The different shape and brighter color of the gular sac (the ‘throat pouch’), and the bright yellow-orange bare skin between the eye and bill are useful fieldmarks at close range.

It’s nesting season for the Pied-billed Grebes (Podilymbus podiceps), one of our esteemed host’s favorites, but this year they fooled us. The young stayed deep in a dense growth of cattails until they were nearly full grown. They’re still mostly downy, but had begun to dive independently for food by last Sunday, though they still pester the adults incessantly. Here’s one of the youngsters. Not as close as I’d like, but you take what the birds will allow.

And here’s one of the parents.

Common Gallinules (Gallinula galeata) don’t seem to have begun their nesting yet, and plenty of adults are out and about. This bird was once considered conspecific with the Common Moorhen G. chloropus, but certain morphological characters and DNA analysis have recently reversed the thinking on this merger. The feet are interesting. Although the Gallinules and Coots are very closely related, coots have marvelous feet with lobes on the toes which presumably aid them in swimming, while the gallinules lack the lobes entirely on their very long toes. This doesn’t seem to hamper their swimming, however.

Cactus WrenCampylorhynchus brunneicapillus in the sunrise. Yes, I photograph these whenever possible, and post entirely too many images of them, but the sunrise lighting on this one at the Desert Botanical Garden was special.

Bonus mammal!

And finally a squirrel for those who’ve stuck with me this long, but really prefer the furballs (I see you back there, Diana!). A half-grown Round-tailed Ground Squirrel (Xerospermophilus tereticaudus) at the Desert Botanical Garden. Arizona really does have forests which host ‘real’ squirrels, but what I see in the Sonoran Desert  are all ground squirrels.



  1. Terry Sheldon
    Posted March 7, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    Lovely photos! Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. Posted March 7, 2018 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  3. Posted March 7, 2018 at 8:11 am | Permalink

    Beautiful! Thanks for sharing these Pete and Jerry!

    This is the time of year I am envious of you AZ people!

  4. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted March 7, 2018 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    First rate! Those cormorants look a bit like little Loch Ness monsters.

  5. Colleen Milloy
    Posted March 7, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Beautiful photos! Thanks for sharing. I live in Ontario, Canada, and saw a cormorant a few years ago on a local golf course, I had to come home and consult my bird book because in years of bird watching had never seen one. We only have one species of hummingbird here, Ruby-throated, so wonderful to see others in your photos.

  6. Liz
    Posted March 7, 2018 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Love the sunrise lighting photograph. Beautiful.

  7. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 7, 2018 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Ha ha! Thanks for the shout-out Pete!

  8. cruzrad
    Posted March 7, 2018 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    All wonderful shots, thanks!

  9. Posted March 7, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    Stunning, wonderful…..!

    Especially the cormorant.

    (And whoever named those little guys grebes was having a good day. Or took his 5 year old daughter with him and asked her what they are!)

  10. claudia baker
    Posted March 7, 2018 at 4:18 pm | Permalink

    Lots of cormorants here on Mississippi Lake, outside of Ottawa, Ontario. They are a fairly new addition to the lake, as far as I know.

    Lovely photos!

  11. Posted March 7, 2018 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

    Lovely birds

  12. Diane G.
    Posted March 7, 2018 at 10:13 pm | Permalink

    Great shots, great birds!

    Well, I, for one, like cormorants. But then I don’t fish…

    Cutest ground squirrel ever!

  13. Pete Moulton
    Posted March 8, 2018 at 6:31 am | Permalink

    Thank you, everyone!

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