2015 Countdown: 20 Favorite Wildlife Photos

I have to admit, I think 2014 was the high-water mark of my wildlife photography. A diverse array of amphibians, reptiles, birds, and mammals that best-represent North America adorned that post, and it was one of my proudest achievements.

While 2015 didn’t turn into the same sort of safari, I did manage to see some unique and interesting animals while traveling about.  So now in the long and proud tradition of year-end countdowns, I thought I’d mark the end of 2015 with one of my own. This series is “20 Favorite Wildlife Photos.” Out of all the animals I managed to photograph this year, I like these shots the best.

#20:  Surprise Puppies (Carnivora: Canidae: Canis lupus)
Location: Rural road near El Coscollar, Spain
Date: September 13, 2015
White not exactly wildlife, puppies that run up to you in the middle of nowhere certainly seem like wildlife. This particular moment was meaningful to me in two ways. First, these puppies bore a strong resemblance to my dearly-departed dog Moose. Second, in my mind at the time I imagined they brought a significant message to me personally. My mother had passed away several months earlier. In the tumult that followed, I felt like their appearance from nowhere was something like a sign from my mom, there resembling my beloved and also-departed dog, to tell me everything would be okay. This moment was kind of strange and kind of comforting, and one of my favorite experiences of the year.

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Surprise puppies! These little guys came running up to us at some random stop in the middle of nowhere near El Coscollar, Spain on 09/13/2015.

#19:  American White Pelican (Pelecaniformes: Pelecanidae: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos)
Location: Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge near Tulelake, California
Date: July 26, 2015
While driving around what seemed like one of the hottest, driest environments of North America during the summer, the last thing my wife and I expected to see was a lake lined with lush greenery and abundant waterfowl. The lakes and birds surrounding Tulelake, California proved to be a welcome oasis in an otherwise parched landscape.

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American White Pelican (Pelecanidae: Pelecaniformes: Pelecanus erythrorhynchos) photographed 07/26/2015 at Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, California.

#18:  Iberian mantis (order Mantodea)
Location: Footbridge in Torla, Spain
Date: September 13, 2015
Although everyone in North America likely knows of the ubiquitous praying mantis, there are actually over 2400 species in this insect order across the globe. Chances are this individual my wife and I found in Spain was of a different species, but we couldn’t figure out exactly what that was.

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Praying mantis in Torla, Spain. Photographed 09/13/2015 outside Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido (Ordesa Valley and Lost Mountain National Park).

#17:  Sand Dollar (order Clypeasteroida)
Location: Pacific beach in Puerto Peñasco, Mexico
Date: June 11, 2015
I think everyone has encountered a sand dollar shell in a classroom at some point in their lives. Familiarity with this organism is one thing, but it’s slightly more interesting to find the remains of one of these echinoderms on an actual beach.

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Sand dollar shell photographed 06/11/2015 near Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.

#16:  Ichneumon Wasp (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae)
Location: Oak Openings Preserve Metropark near Swanton, Ohio
Date: May 17, 2015
While relatively unremarkable in appearance, there are probably over 100,000 species of ichneumon wasps to be found around the globe. These fascinating wasps are novel in that they are parasitoids of other insects. They lay their eggs on them, allowing their young to devour their hosts as they nourish themselves on their way to adulthood.

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Ichneumon wasp (Hymenoptera: Ichneumonidae: Vulgichneumon brevicinctor) photographed 05/17/2015 at Oak Openings Preserve Metropark near Swanton, OH.

#15:  Spanish Bird of Prey (order Accipitriformes)
Location: Rural road near Asque, Spain
Date: September 13, 2015
Red-tailed hawks, kestrels, peregrine falcons, and bald eagles are commonly found across North America, but I wasn’t sure what this particular Spanish bird of prey was.

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Bird of prey at Parque Natural de la Sierra y Cañones de Guara (Natural Park of the Mountains and Canyons of Guara). Photographed 09/13/2015 near Asque, Spain.

#14:  Hermit Crab (0rder Decapoda)
Location: Tidepool near Puerto Peñasco, Mexico
Date: June 11, 2015
Hermit crabs are a common fixture of home aquariums, but it’s even more fascinating to see one in the wild in a Pacific tidepool.

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Hermit crab in a snail shell. Photographed 06/11/2015 near Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.

#13:  Spanish Butterfly (0rder Lepidoptera)
Location: Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido (National Park of Ordesa Valley and Lost Mountain) near Torla, Spain.
Date: September 13, 2015
When my wife and I visited National Park of Ordesa Valley and Lost Mountain in Spain, we didn’t realize we were supposed to reserve a private trip into the park. As a result we were limited to the fringes of this natural wonder, but that didn’t stop us from finding some intriguing things on the margins as a consolation prize.

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Butterfly at Parque Nacional de Ordesa y Monte Perdido (Ordesa Valley and Lost Mountain National Park) photographed 09/13/2015 near Torla, Spain.

#12:  Ground Squirrel (Rodentia: Sciuridae)
Location: Crater Lake National Park, Oregon
Date: July 26, 2015
Although diminutive and relatively unremarkable, there’s always something charming about a little ground squirrel in its native habitat.

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Ground squirrel in a meadow near Sun Notch. Photographed 07/26/2015 at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.

#11:  Little White Crab (order Decapoda)
Location: Tidepool near Puerto Peñasco, Mexico
Date: June 11, 2015
Although almost unnoticeable in the tidepools of the Gulf of California, these little white crabs seemed to know exactly what they were doing.

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Tiny crab and snail shells in a tide pool. Photographed 06/11/2015 near Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.

#10:  Sea Lions (Carnivora: Otariidae)
Location: Mouth of the Quillayute River, Washington
Date: April 19, 2015
The misty mouth of the Quillayute River shrouded this location in mystery, right up until we first heard and then saw the abundant sea lions roaming around this aquatic landscape.

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Sea lions near the mouth of the Quillayute River. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

#9:  Shrimp or Lobster Larva (Crustacea)
Location: Tidepool near Puerto Peñasco, Mexico
Date: June 12, 2015
We weren’t sure if these were shrimp or lobster larvae, but their abundant numbers in the warm waters of the Gulf of California were really impressive.

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Larva of a shrimp or lobster. Photographed 06/12/2015 near Puerto Peñasco, Mexico.

#8:  Varied Thrush (Passeriformes: Turdidae: Ixoreus naevius)
Location: Olympic National Park, Washington
Date: April 19, 2015
Songbirds appear everywhere throughout the United States, but once in a while you take notice of one that looks a little different than anything else you’ve seen.

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Varied Thrush (Passeriformes: Turdidae: Ixoreus naevius) photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

#7:  Common Mergansers (Anseriformes: Anatidae: Mergus merganser)
Location: Olympic National Park, Washington
Date: April 18, 2015
While out on the edge of Crescent Lake at Olympic National Park in Washington, my wife and I found these two little shorebirds shaking their tailfeathers clean after a dip in the water.

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Common Mergansers (Anseriformes: Anatidae: Mergus merganser) along Lake Crescent. Photographed 04/18/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

#6:  Bald Eagle (Accipitriformes: Accipitridae: Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
Location: Olympic National Park, Washington
Date: April 19, 2015
Although once critically endangered due to the effects of the pesticide DDT, today bald eagles can be found in many states throughout the country.

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Bald eagle near the mouth of the Quillayute River. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

#5:  Roosevelt Elk (Artiodactyla: Cervidae: Cervus canadensis roosevelti)
Location: Hoh Rainforest at Olympic National Park, Washington
Date: April 19, 2015
Although elk are making a big comeback throughout much of the American west, an appearance is still something to behold.

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Roosevelt elk in the Hoh Rainforest. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

#4:  Black-Tailed Deer Fawn (Artiodactyla: Cervidae: Odocoileus hemionus)
Location: Foot of the Sol Duc Falls Trail, Olympic National Park, Washington
Date: April 19, 2015
Mule deer are the more laid-back western cousins of the jumpy white-tailed deer of the American east. Adults and even fawns of these black-tailed deer are typically at ease even when approached by curious tourists.

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Columbian black-tailed deer fawn near Sol Duc. Photographed 04/19/2015 at Olympic National Park, WA.

#3:  Gray Whale (Cetartiodactyla: Eschrichtiidae: Eschrichtius robustus)
Location: Puget Sound, Washington
Date: April 18, 2015
I didn’t get to see one of these gigantic beasts jump from the water, but merely being in their presence was something to remember.

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Gray whale (Cetacea: Eschrichtiidae: Eschrichtius robustus) photographed 04/18/2015 in Puget Sound, WA.

#2:  Steller Sea Lions (Carnivora: Otariidae: Eumetopias jubatus)
Location: Puget Sound, Washington
Date: April 18, 2015
I’ve seen California sea lions along the Pacific coast, but Steller sea lions were even more impressive.

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Steller sea lions (Carnivora: Otariidae: Eumetopias jubatus) photographed 04/18/2015 in Puget Sound, WA.

#1:  Purple Sailor (Anthomedusae: Porpitidae: Vellela vellela)
Location: Rialto Beach at Olympic National Park, Washington
Date: April 19, 2015
Although relatively small, these little animals were fascinating in their own right. Rarely seen near shore, a rare current had washed thousands of them on shore along the beaches of Washington during a visit.

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Purple sailor (Anthomedusae: Porpitidae: Vellela vellela) washed up on Rialto Beach at Olympic National Park, WA. Photographed 04/19/2014.

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About Jeremy Sell

Science and nature nerd.
This entry was posted in Culture, Ecology, Entomology, Environment, General, Invertebrate Zoology, National Parks, Vertebrate Zoology and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to 2015 Countdown: 20 Favorite Wildlife Photos

  1. Your images tell a story of a pretty amazing journey in 2015…May 2016 be a great year for you.

    Like

  2. A great range of creatures. Quite an experience.

    Like

  3. Miriam says:

    Great photos. All of them but I particularly love the squirrel and the sea lions.

    Like

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