Readers’ wildlife photos

Today’s photos are a batch from Colin Franks, whose infrequent but wonderful contributions are much appreciated. (His website is here, his Instagram site here, and Facebook page here). The IDs, indented, are his; click photos to enlarge. The fourth picture from the bottom asks you to identify a species of scaup.

Western Grebe, Aechmophorus occidentalis:

Yellow-headed Blackbird, Xanthocephalus xanthocephalus:

Tree Swallow, Tachycineta bicolor:

Chukar, Alectoris chukar:


Red-necked Grebe, Podiceps grisegena:


Great Grey Owl, Strix nebulosa:


Scaup (Quiz: Lesser or Greater?)  Aythya affinis or marila?

Horned GrebesPodiceps auritus:


Ruddy Duck, Oxyura jamaicensis:

Common LoonGavia immer [JAC: note the chicks!]


  1. Merilee
    Posted July 4, 2018 at 8:33 am | Permalink

    Glorious photos, Colin!

  2. Posted July 4, 2018 at 8:56 am | Permalink

    That loon with chicks is an amazing pic!

    • Posted July 4, 2018 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      Agreed. I thought loons had monocular vision, but this one appears to have binocular vision.

  3. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted July 4, 2018 at 9:15 am | Permalink

    First rate! I am going to propose the greater scaup.

    • Marlene Zuk
      Posted July 4, 2018 at 9:27 am | Permalink

      Me too. I vaguely remember the mnemonic of “Greater, green” for scaup head color as a way to distinguish them, and this one looks greenish at least on my computer. Luckily there are only two species here, since the other one is purplish and that doesn’t work with lesser (or anything else).

  4. BJ
    Posted July 4, 2018 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Absolutely stunning! Thank you, Colin.

  5. eheffa
    Posted July 4, 2018 at 10:48 am | Permalink

    Fantastic, intimate portraits all…

    Great work Colin.


  6. Posted July 4, 2018 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Lovely loon photo! (And all the rest, of course.)

    • JoanL
      Posted July 4, 2018 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

      Oh yes, the loon especially.

  7. ladyatheist
    Posted July 4, 2018 at 2:55 pm | Permalink


  8. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 4, 2018 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    Absolutely wonderful photos! Very enjoyable viewing indeed.

  9. ploubere
    Posted July 4, 2018 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

    Excellent work. As always, I admire the patience it takes to get such photos.

  10. rickflick
    Posted July 4, 2018 at 7:20 pm | Permalink

    Great show. The scaup should be greater since it has a nail at the tip of it’s bill.

    • Paul Matthews
      Posted July 4, 2018 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

      Lesser also has a nail at the end of its bill, though it tends to be smaller. Deciding whether a particular duck is Lesser or Greater Scaup is often very difficult. Head shape is usually the best clue, with Lesser having a peak at the rear of its crown due to a small crest, whereas the Greater has the high point of its crown further forward. Telling them apart this way doesn’t work when the bird is alert and craning its neck, like the duck in the photo, because Lesser will sleek its crown feathers down. On very sunny days adult male Greaters in “good” plumage will usually shown green iridescence on the head, whereas Lesser males show dark purply, but iridescence can be deceiving.

      I see lots of Lesser Scaup and a few Greater Scaup every year, the latter usually only in the fall. It’s nice when the two species are together–identification becomes a lot easier! For what it’s worth I think the bird in the photo is a Lesser, but I’m not 100% sure.

      The main thing is that the photos are truly superb.

  11. Melanie
    Posted July 5, 2018 at 12:20 am | Permalink

    Everyone has used up the good adjectives! So, I will just say I’m blown away, and very grateful. Thanks!

  12. Colin
    Posted July 5, 2018 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the kind words all!

  13. Posted July 13, 2018 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful photos Colin! That loon! Whew! 🙂

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