Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Joe Dickinson is back with some photos from California; his notes are indented.

Here are some photos from a recent trip up to Tomales Bay and Point Reyes, north of San Francisco.  I’ve fleshed them out with some shots from earlier trips to the same area.  A second set will follow shortly.

There were big rafts of scaup ducks, probably greater scaup (Aythya marila) out on the bay

Tule elk (Cervus canadensis nannodes) are found in a refuge at the end of Point Reyes.  I particularly like the cow lying down in a bed of flowers.  The bulls are from another year and at a different season.

Here the best of the “context” shots.  The point has a long, curved ocean beach and, before you reach the elk refuge, a nice trail follows a fresh water seep that is damed behind dunes at the edge of the beach.  We have had a wet spring, so everything was nice and green.

These California poppies (Eschscholzia californica) were among many flowers along that trail.

This, I’m pretty sure, is a garter snake of the genus Thamnophis but I can’t identify the species.

I’m more accustomed to seeing them in fresh water wetlands, but this great blue heron (Ardea herodias) is on a rock in the intertidal zone.



  1. David C
    Posted April 18, 2019 at 8:30 am | Permalink

    Beautiful photographs. The snake is a gophersnake, Pituophis catenifer.

      Posted April 18, 2019 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Thanks, Was going to say it was a gopher snake nut did not know the binominial.

  2. merilee
    Posted April 18, 2019 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Love Point Reyes! Thanks for the photos, Joe.

  3. merilee
    Posted April 18, 2019 at 8:42 am | Permalink

    Love Point Reyes! Thanks for the photos, Joe.

  4. rickflick
    Posted April 18, 2019 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    What a beautiful spot. I’ve got to plan a road trip.

  5. Posted April 18, 2019 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Down by the Lighthouse is a great spot for whale-watching.

  6. Mark R.
    Posted April 18, 2019 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    The California coast is beautiful…I can almost hear the surf and smell the ocean. Those elk have quite the refuge.

  7. Posted April 18, 2019 at 10:57 am | Permalink

    I do like the photo of the cow elk resting among flowers. Those are introduced weedy flowers, apparently radishes (Raphanus sativus) though in California radishes and jointed charlock (R. raphanistrum) are undergoing what grass taxonomist Mary Barkworth has termed despeciation. That is, what seem to be species in the Old World are crossing frequently in the New World, many fertile plants have traits of both forms, and calling them different species isn’t / soon won’t be useful in California.

    • Posted April 18, 2019 at 10:59 am | Permalink

      And the slope densely covered with cheerful yellow flowers is covered with another species of weedy mustard. (Sometimes knowledge is a sad thing.)

      Nice poppy close-up.

    • Posted April 18, 2019 at 11:22 am | Permalink

      Interesting. I did not know that despeciation—speciation in reverse—happens. Does it happen more or less frequently than speciation, I wonder?

      • Posted April 18, 2019 at 11:47 am | Permalink

        The cases we become concerned about involve Old World species transported to the New World, meeting plants they wouldn’t meet before, living in different conditions, and merging together. This is a small subset of evolutionary events.

        I suspect that Dr. Coyne would say the species (or whatever) hadn’t fully speciated. He has a good point. However, as a practical matter we go ahead and name populations as species when it’s clear that gene flow isn’t happening or isn’t happening much between the two species. After all, the ability to breed together is an ancestral trait, and plants sometimes differentiate in several other traits while retaining the ability to interbreed.

        • Posted April 18, 2019 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

          Some outside observer could give species status to different human populations, then observe “despeciation”.

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  1. […] Here is a second set from Tomales Bay/Point Reyes. [JAC: see first set here.] […]

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