Our photographers have provided an intriguing mix of new images this month. We have David Pattyn’s intimate studies of great crested grebes, Jiri Lochman’s rare images of Australia’s lesser known marsupials, some great macro work from Alex Hyde and Stephen Dalton. There is also varied material from the Americas, spanning the plains of Canada, the coastal reserves of Mexico and the endemic species of the Galapagos. Tony Wu, Claudio Contreras, David Fleetham and Shane Gross add some fascinating new behavioural material on fish and marine life around the world. Watch out too for a fresh takes on urban foxes and badgers…
David Pattyn – Family Life on the Water
Dutch nature conservation organisation Brabants Landschap permitted David to leave a floating hide in Valkenhorst, one of their more restricted nature reserves. Having been there for quite some time, the birds became oblivious to its presence, so David was able to photograph the intimate life of great crested grebes raising their young without disturbing them.
‘It might sound easy, but in order not to disturb the birds, I entered the hide at night and waited, hoping for good light and that the birds would get close enough; two conditions which do not often happen!’
Jiri Lochman – Bandicoots, Bettongs, Pygmy Possoms and Potoroos
Jiri and Marie Lochman have been photographing Australian endemics since the 1980’s. We have a fabulous new selection of marsupial images as part of the highlights gallery,
Jiri Lochman – The Tale of the Bilby
One of many endangered Australian marsupials, the Greater Bilby (Macrotis lagotis) has disappeared from most of its former distribution range. It used to be found in all mainland states, inhabiting large swathes of arid and semiarid Australia. Nowadays, it naturally survives only in scattered populations in the hearts of the deserts in Western Australia, the Northern Territory and a tiny part of south-western Queensland. Although it can be viewed in several nocturnal houses in Australian zoos and wildlife parks, photographs of truly wild Bilbies are very rare. This photograph was taken in Little Sandy Desert, off the Canning Stock Route; one of the least accessible parts of Western Australia.
In early 1980, slightly over a year after we arrived in Australia, my partner Marie and I were heading to a town called Windorah in south-western Queensland in search for the Bilbies. When we were making enquiries there about Bilbies, most people had never heard of the bilby, never mind where to find one! Since then, this attitude has changed dramatically, not only in the rest of the world, but also in the Australian outback. When we came back in 2006, we found that the town of Windorah now has the Bilby, as its faunal emblem. (below left)
Jiri Lochman – Pollen Thief
Although it is one of the more common, small marsupials, the Western Pygmy-possum (Cercartetus concinus) is not easy to photograph in situ in the wild. It is a very fast, strictly nocturnal climber on shrubs and trees, and is smaller than the house mouse. The majority of the photographs are of captive, or otherwise handled Pygmy-possums frequently showing signs of stress this has caused. I was therefore very pleased to capture this little fellow, feeding on a Grevillea flower, completely oblivious to my presence. This image is even interesting from a botanical point of view, as it shows the Pygmy-possum harvesting pollen from the pollen-presenter, and hence exposing this important pollinator of native plants in a role of the pollen thief. Pollen-presenter is a unique feature of proteaceous plants evolved as a mechanism of self-pollination avoidance. I am pretty sure that this might be the only image depicting this behaviour in existence. (above centre & right)
Matthew Maran – City Foxes
Late Night Shop (above) – This shot was moment of luck as I followed the vixen on her nightly territory patrol. I’d seen her pass many times, but never actually enter the shop so I had to react quickly when she did. I know this fox very well and she is always full of surprises; for me this picture shows the opportunistic behaviour urban foxes exhibit in order to survive.
Sleeping on the Streets (above left) – This photo scared many people when I posted it on my social media feeds, but the streets where this fox lay are thankfully very quiet. It may have chosen this spot due to the tarmac holding some heat on a chilly night. Sadly, many foxes die on the roads in the UK and most foxes don’t make it beyond 20 months.
Vixen & Cubs (above right) – During the lockdown, I was thankful to still be able to work at the vixen’s den site which was just 10 minutes’ walk from my house. That year, she’d placed it within reach of my telephoto lens so I was able to capture some wonderful moments of tenderness.
Tui De Roy – Not Just a Pair of Pretty Feet
Everybody who visits Galapagos falls in love with the charismatic boobies and their endearing courtship displays that often centre around their large and colourful webbed feet. As a result, most of the photos that result from this photographer’s infatuation are bright, bold close-ups. Blue feet, red feet: stunning! So instead, I’ve been concentrating for years on catching these attractive seabirds within the context to their wider, often harsh, environment. Blue-footed boobies nest on the ground, and this pair had chosen a small flat spot overlooking the famous blowhole on Española Island, which erupts like a geyser when the tide and swells are just right. But on sunny days this scene was simply too contrast-y, so the low, gloomy skies here helped emphasise the whiteness of the sea spray as well as the vivid colours of the birds’ feet and endemic sea purslane around them. The red-footed booby instead nests in trees. When this bird came to investigate a red mangrove above a crystal clear, deep tidepool in search of a nesting spot, I saw the perfect shot I’d been looking for.
Tony Wu – Something Fishy Going On
A male fat greenling guarding his eggs, tenderly tending to the purple cluster. What he doesn’t know is that the eggs belong to an all-female hybrid species that produces all-female clones; the female relies on the male to protect and tend to the eggs despite the fact that the eggs have no genetic link to the unsuspecting ‘father’. This is an example of hemiclonal reproduction.
All Tucked In – I could not have planned for this image and almost couldn’t believe the little scene in front of me as I slowly finned along, my drysuit protecting me from the chilly BC water. The position of the beautiful cabezon fish and algae is, of course, mere chance, but as I shivered I couldn’t help but wonder if the fish, all tucked in, felt cozy under the covers. (below left)
A Tree-Climbing Crab – A tree falls in the ocean. Northern kelp crabs seize the opportunity to get up in the water column to feed. I see an opportunity to get my camera well underneath the animal and photograph her against the blue sky and passing moon jelly. (above centre)
The Walking Dead – I was warned the salmon may look a little…worn out by this time of year. They weren’t kidding. While I understand this is part of the natural cycle of life for salmon, to return to where they were born to procreate and then die, feeding the forest in the process, I couldn’t help but feel bad for them, desperately trying to spawn while their bodies break down. (above right)
A Price Worth Paying? The vivid colours and abstract shapes below may look beautiful, but they are signs of change…
Climate change is giving the farmers of Saskatchewan’s prairies a longer growing season. But it comes at a price. Less precipitation. This salt lake in southern Saskatchewan, like many lakes and ponds in the area, is drying up.
Focus on the Little Things
A tiny globular springtail is picked out by the low morning light on a fallen autumn leaf, the wet surface shimmering like glass. Many gardeners feel the need to sweep away the autumn leaves but I always make sure to leave a few scattered on the lawn as they are great places to find and photograph springtails. They are able to spring into the air to escape danger by means of their ‘furca’, which is rapidly extended from under the abdomen. This image was shot for a project I’m working on called EarthBound, all about soil health and its impact on biodiversity and human communities. (below left)
Rainbow Web – With the camera at a very precise angle to the sun, the silk of the web refracted the light into a rainbow of coloured bands. From most other angles the silk was hardly visible at all. (below centre)
Snail Trails – Whilst walking over a railway bridge, I stooped to examine the intricate feeding trails from Common Snails (Helix aspersa) grazing algae growing on an area of black paint. The rows of chitinous, recurved teeth (the cuticula, part of the radula) leave a distinctive zigzag pattern. Passers by looked a little perplexed when I set up my tripod! (below right)
Sand Abstract – There is a real magic to the compositions revealed in the intertidal zone at low tide, their transience making them all the more precious when discovered. The complex weave of trails seen here were created by Edible Periwinkles (Littorina littorea), displacing the thin layer of sand that had accumulated on the rock, as they grazed on algae. (below left)
Hidden in Plain Sight – A Peppered Moth (Biston betularia), superbly camouflaged on a lichen-encrusted Birch trunk. Giving insects a sense of place and environment by making them small in the frame is something I greatly enjoy doing in my photography. (below right)
The Hunter becomes the Hunted – This is a picture of spider wasp belong to Pompilidae family. They are specialist in hunting spiders. Thus, they got their common name. They do not eat spiders which they hunt. They sting spiders and pour specific amount of venom which paralyze the spider. They don’t kill the spider. Most of the times they cut off all the limbs of the spider for ease in carrying. They take the spiders to their burrow and lay eggs on the body of the spider. When the eggs hatch, the larva would feed on the spider which would be still alive. I took this picture in Buxa tiger reserve. (above left)
Killer Fungus – This is an unfortunate daddy long legs, infected by cordyceps fungus. Cordyceps are deadly fungi for insects. Tiny spores of the fungus travel by air. If a spore falls on the body of insects, it starts its life cycle. It gets into the body of the insect and disables the insect’s ability to move on its own will. Controlled by the fungus, the infected insect finds a secluded place and stays there. The fungus completes its life cycle using the body of the insect as food and in the last stage, it develops fruiting bodies which disperse more spores into the air.
I found the body of the daddy long leg in a garden near my house. The white fruiting body of the fungus looked beautiful to me. I used a back-light to highlight the fruiting body of the fungus. (above centre)
Tiny Invaders – This is a parasitic wasp belonging to the Eucharitid family. They are known to infect ants. These wasps find a place near an ant colony and lay eggs on leaves. When the eggs hatch, the larva would come out and wait for an ant. When an ant comes near it, it attaches itself to the body of the ant and enters in the colony. There, it eats the eggs of the ants.
This wasp was tiny. Only 3-4mm in length. It looked beautiful when it was sitting on the leaf. I took this picture in a garden near my house. (above right)