Birds and Bees

Let me tell you ’bout the birds and the bees and the flowers and the trees… and also frogs, turtles, and insects.

They can be pretty hard to identify from just one picture! Even if the picture is well lit and razor sharp.

Camera Shy

Camera Shy, on loan from Renatta

Let’s start with the birds. This pretty bird photo was taken by my Flickr contact Renatta, who is a regular in the EOS Projects group. It’s nice and sharp, with lots of the details that help identify birds. In the photo description, she wrote “I need to pick up a book on the birds of North America so I can learn what this is.” Those who know me well know that I can’t ignore a challenge like that! So I used my usual bird identification sources – and – and still couldn’t figure it out. It took me quite a while longer than I would have liked, but I finally decided it must be a “Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s Race)”. The problem, of course, was that even though this is an excellent photo, I couldn’t see the rump to verify that the warbler was, in fact, yellow-rumped. (It turns out that my Peterson Field Guide – the offline version – would have served me better than the online guides in this case, but of course I never looked there.)

Furry Fly

Bee? Or not a Bee?

Next, on to the bees. Earlier this week I posted this photo, which I thought was a funky-looking bee. Another Flickr contact, Andy, recognized its non-bee status, and pointed me to the sparnopolius confusus page on BugGuide is a place where you can submit your photos of insects, and the experts (volunteers) identify it. If it’s of interest to them, they add it to their database; otherwise they “frass” it (hold it for 30 days and then delete it.) So, I created an account and submitted the photo. It was immediately retagged as possibly being merodon equestris  and moved to the “expert attention” pool. So I went back to the SD card, pulled another photo of the guy (which had been deleted from my hard drive), and decided that merodon equestris is probably right. I’m anxiously waiting to find out whether the photo will be worthy of the BugGuide database.
(Update: this guy has been officially pegged as a “Syrphid Fly”, and has been added to their database. Another photo I submitted a few days ago – of an Ischnura verticalis (“Eastern forktail damselfly”), has been frassed. Guess it wasn’t interesting enough. So, I’m at 50%.)

Once I found out about BugGuide, I used it to also identify this ladybug that I found Monday night at the arboretum. There’s nothing special about it to make it worth submitting to BugGuide, but this is a case of keeping the photo for artistic, rather than scientific, purposes.

Pink Lady Beetle

Pink Lady Beetle

Despite the lyrics quoted up top, I don’t really have much to say about flowers (photos or identification) today, but here are some other tidbits:

  • Trees: While I was out at lunchtime on Wednesday, a friend remarked how useful it would be to have a phone app that could take a picture of a tree and then identify it for you. By weird coincidence, a friend in Texas emailed me that afternoon to say she had found an iPhone/iPad app (still under development for Android) that is a field guide for trees. It doesn’t do the camera part, but that should just be a matter of time!
  • I went to the Lab of Ornithology yesterday to spend some time with a Canon 70-300mm lens that a friend loaned to me. (This is the lens that I’ve identified as my next major photographic purchase!) Near the pond, there was a dad who was pointing out the turtles and frogs to his two small children. He was trying to remember just what kind of frog was making the “guitar twang” sound… so he got on the phone to call his herpetologist friend. No immediate gratification since the friend didn’t answer. This method of identification probably wouldn’t work for most people (although I have a friend of a friend who is a herpetologist!) After I got home I found the frog, simply named “green frog” (rana clamitans) , on this University of Michigan site… it’s much faster to ID by photo than by sound, although both methods are available.
  • To complete this post, I decided it was important to identify the turtle below. It’s an Eastern Painted Turtle, ID’d with the help of the site
Eastern Painted Turtle

Eastern Painted Turtle

Do you have any favorite sites or other methods of nature and wildlife identification? Flowers and mammals would be especially helpful – I especially have problems with things like muskrats and woodchucks.



  1. Pingback: Cornell Flowers « My Life in CNY

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