If you're interested in using any of these photographs, please contact me. Send an e-mail to naturalhistoryphotos(at)gmail.com. Thanks!

Saturday, December 16, 2017


A beautiful Ferruginous Hawk (Buteo regalis) soaring over the grassland opposite Lucas Wharf in Bodega Bay today (16 December 2017).

Friday, December 15, 2017

The Force

Black Oystercatchers prying mussels off the rocks at sunset.

May the Force be with you!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Crossed at the tip

I heard and then saw a Red Crossbill (Loxia curvirostra) near the Ren Brown Gallery in Bodega Bay today (14 December 2017).

The crossbill was at the very top of a very tall pine tree, but I managed a few pictures for the record.  Look for the distinctive crossed bill (the upper and lower mandibles cross near the tip), the red and yellow coloration, and the notched tail.

I first wrote about Red Crossbills on 9 December 2012, so review the post called "Nomads" for an introduction to this interesting nomadic finch.

P.S.  I was intrigued by the genus name "Loxia."  It sounds like it might be derived from a Latin word meaning "dislocation."  So I'm guessing that term refers to the unusual crossed bill.

P.P.S.  For anyone interested in call types of Red Crossbillsin the earlier post, I recorded the crossbills and they were identified as Type 3 Red Crossbills.  The bird today sounded similar.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Berry delicious

It's been a busy couple of days, but here are a few pictures of Cedar Waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) from our yard in the late afternoon today (13 December 2017).

A close-up of the red wax-like droplets at the tips of the secondary feathers:

And one image of the flock just after it took off.  When they're feeding, sometimes it's hard to see (or hear) how many waxwings are in the tree.  I'm almost always surprised by how many birds there actually are.  How many do you see in the photo below?  (All of the birds in the photo are waxwings.)

[I counted 46 waxwings.]

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Ultra Violet mystery

On 7 and 8 December 2017, I showed two mystery photos:

If you guessed that this is a type of crustacean (i.e., the group that contains crab, lobster, and shrimp, among other animals), you are correct.  So the next question is, what type of crustacean?

Here's another close-up, revealing a bit more. This animal was ~2.5 cm long.

Meet Betaeus harfordi!   This is a shrimp in a group that is sometimes referred to as "hooded shrimps."  In the second close-up (above), and in the photos below, you can see that the carapace extends up and over and slightly in front of the eyes.

Older summaries about this species describe it as dark purple, blue-black, or deep blue.  The first individual we photographed (above) showed strong purple coloration, but we also looked at a second individual that tended towards the blue side:

Here are the two together so you can compare the colors.  [The photographs below were taken outdoors in natural light, rather than indoors in the lab.]

Betaeus harfordi has an interesting life history.  This shrimp has an obligate association with abalone.  It lives in the mantle cavity of abalone along the West Coast (all eight species).

A shrimp leaves the shelter of the abalone to feed at night, but then returns to its host during the day.  (Interestingly, a shrimp can sense the presence and location of its abalone host chemically!) 

Here are two more photos.  Note the "hood" over the eyes and the interesting claws (with the movable portion of the claw at the bottom):

Many thanks to our colleagues who study abalone for sharing these fascinating symbiotic shrimp!

P.S.  The "harfordi" part of the scientific name refers to William G.W. Harford, director of the California Academy of Sciences from 1876-1886.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

At twilight

Today didn't go quite as planned, so I ran out of time again.  I should be able to pull together the "Ultra Violet mystery" story tomorrow.  

Tonight I'll leave you with a beautiful Pacific Golden-Plover (Pluvialis fulva) on the outer beach at twilight:

Friday, December 8, 2017

Another clue

Well, I need to apologize.  I ran out of time again, but here's another clue to last night's mystery, and I promise to show the entire animal tomorrow!

More soon!