Readers’ wildlife photos

We have a potpourri today. First, photos from Margaret Shofner, who says this about the Virginia opossum (Didelphis virginiana):

The whole world loves cat food. We get possums and raccoons when I forget to bring in the porch kitties’ food. We live in a small town in north-central Texas. I’m rarely without a lap cat, and sometimes three.

From reader Tim Anderson in Australia:

This image is of the globular star cluster NGC6809, also known as Messier 55. The cluster lies in the Sagittarius constellation and is approximately 100 light years across.

Imaged in narrowband (Hydrogen Alpha, Oxygen III and Sulphur II) with a monochrome camera and a 110mm refracting telescope. Thirty 60-second images in each emission band, stacked and combined to form the final image.

From reader Lorraine, photos by her friend Doug Hayes:

Here are some more photos by Doug Hayes. The dragonflies and turtles were photographed this morning [August 26] at Forest Hill Park in Richmond, VA. The turtles look like a combination of painted turtles (Chrysemys picta picta) and red-eared sliders (Trachemys scripta elegans), but I could be wrong as I’m not a biologist.

The bee with the lotus appears to be a bumblebee of some kind, possibly Bombus lapidarius. A friend of mine thinks the orange on its behind is from the pollen sacs but I’m not sure. Maybe one of your readers can clarify.

Does anybody know the species here?

And from me:

Original photo “art” by PCC(E). What, pray tell, is this plant?  I found it sodden and squashed on the sidewalk after a heavy rain the night before last.



  1. Posted August 30, 2018 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    The squished plant looks to me like a Coleus, though I suppose it is more likely to be some edible plant bought in a grocery store and dropped accidentally…

  2. darrelle
    Posted August 30, 2018 at 7:40 am | Permalink

    I’m not very savvy about plants but the leaves make me think it might be something related to basil and mint. Except the stem is pretty stout.

  3. Mark Shields
    Posted August 30, 2018 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    The dragonfly is a male Blue Dasher.

    • scruffycookie
      Posted August 30, 2018 at 6:15 pm | Permalink

      Thank you for the identification. Much appreciated!

  4. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 30, 2018 at 7:48 am | Permalink

    Great possum pic & possum pic [reveal]! S/he ain’t playing possum though so I’m guessing this possum must have met those two kitties before & has them marked down as wimps.

    • David Coxill
      Posted August 30, 2018 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

      I would like to know what happened next .

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 30, 2018 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

        Me too. I’m guessing as per Lurker111 comment #8

  5. rickflick
    Posted August 30, 2018 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    These fine images run the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime. When I read that M55 is 100 light years across, I tried to imagine what that means. I couldn’t. Too damn big. But checking Andromeda – 220K, and the Milky Way – 100K, it’s really a little guy. Still, it’s hard to give meaning to such numbers. You wouldn’t want to walk it in your bare feet.
    The last image makes me think someone didn’t want to finish their vegetables.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted August 30, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      The diameter also means that if our planet was orbiting a star on one edge of the cluster, then our first radio transmissions would just now be reaching stars on the opposite side of the cluster.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 30, 2018 at 8:10 am | Permalink

        That depends. Globular clusters don’t have defined edges – there are stars gravitationally bound to the M55 cluster, but much further out than 50 ly. There are a couple of different conventions for how to measure their diameters.

        • rickflick
          Posted August 30, 2018 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

          A light year hear, a light year there, pretty soon you’re talking about real distance.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted August 30, 2018 at 8:03 am | Permalink

      Many of these globular clusters orbit their parent galaxy in the ‘wrong’ direction. Strange objects.

      • rickflick
        Posted August 30, 2018 at 10:14 pm | Permalink

        That would suggest they are captured by the parent rather than originated with the parent. N’est-ce pas?

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted August 31, 2018 at 12:01 am | Permalink

          See this flickr pic rick flick 🙂 :-
          We are in the yellow disk around halfway out from the centre
          Nearly everything in this yellow disc orbits around the centre in the same direction & bobs up & down as it goes around like fairground horses. Orbits are more or less circular.
          The angry red sphere in the middle has stars whizzing around the middle every which way in mostly oval orbits
          Then there’s the Halo where the M55 globular cluster lives – this is where the oldest stars hang out & thus they are metal poor. These stars are as randomly orientated orbitally as the ones in the red sphere & they also have mainly oval orbits.

          Angry bees

          The M55 stars are old & metal poor. What this means in terms of Milky Way evolution is up for debate – there are 200 [?] globular clusters in the Halo of the Milky Way & they’re all metal poor & old I think
          There’s a different type of globular cluster living in the angry red sphere – they are metal rich I think
          Only the yellow disc is ordered – the rest is Paris or Athens rush hour in a heavy smog

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted August 31, 2018 at 12:08 am | Permalink

          PS Astronomers are weird – by “metal” or “metallic” they mean ALL elements except hydrogen & helium.

  6. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted August 30, 2018 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    The bee is carrying a large load of pollen in its pollen sacs / pollen baskets. The baskets are a comb of long hairs that project across its broadened hind legs.

    • scruffycookie
      Posted August 30, 2018 at 8:23 am | Permalink

      Thank you! My friend will be happy to know she was right about the bee. 🙂

  7. Cicely berglund
    Posted August 30, 2018 at 8:12 am | Permalink


  8. Lurker111
    Posted August 30, 2018 at 8:26 am | Permalink

    Some years back I set out some traps for rats that had nested along the edges of our house. Before finally catching the pair, I managed to trap a possum (these were humane traps). Of course, looking at it one way, possums are some of the world’s biggest rats (consider the tail).

    Anyway, the point: Possums have a very woodsy, gamey smell to them. The ones I see in Richmond, Va., tend to have pointier snouts and tails a bit longer than the one in the photo. My Big Orange Kitty once sniffed up to a possum to check it out, and the possum hissed–just once–and made Kitty back off.

  9. Posted August 30, 2018 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    The plant looks like a nettle to me.

  10. Posted August 30, 2018 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

    I posted the photo of a partly squashed sidewalk plant to the Plant Idents Facebook page, which is where I go for identifications that elude me. Answer? Coleus.

    Common house plant in the mint family (Lamiaceae). Most popular cultivated forms have interesting leaves with red, yellow, and green patterns. Yours is pretty plain.

    • mudskipper
      Posted August 30, 2018 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      The square stem is an indicator of the mint family.

  11. Tim Anderson
    Posted August 30, 2018 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

    Many globular clusters are almost as old as the galaxies that host them. Most of them lack much in the way of inter-stellar hydrogen gas (long ago absorbed by the stars as fusion fuel) and also lack fast-burning blue super-giant stars,

    One theory is that they are “failed” dwarf galaxies, collections of material that weren’t large enough to form into a spiral or elliptical object and were eventually absorbed into a passing galaxy such as ours.

  12. Keith Sacra
    Posted August 30, 2018 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Based on the relative size of the possum compared to the cats, it looks like a ‘joey’. (plus, he looks cute too)

    Google says that’s what you call juvenile possums because they are marsupials. Also, I’m from the south, so we call ’em possums, not Opossums.

  13. Matthew North
    Posted August 31, 2018 at 2:19 am | Permalink

    To me, the plant looks like a stinging nettle.

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