A Yellow Northern Cardinal

"Yesterday, Charlie Stephenson provided me with the opportunity to photograph the most captivating cardinal in Alabaster, Alabama," writes Jeremy Black in sharing with us his shot of an extraordinarily rare Northern cardinal that Charlie had seen and videotaped earlier and agreed to help Jeremy find. "This yellow cardinal displays a rare mutation that causes the metabolic process to produce a different type of pigment than the typical red coloration. According to a biologist from Auburn University, this mutation is so rare that only one is seen each year in the United States."

Has any of you ever been lucky enough to see or photograph a Northern cardinal with this rare coloration? Let us know (photos welcome, of course). Many thanks to Jeremy for sharing his stunning photo and to Charlie for both her sharp birding eye and her generosity in helping Charlie. FYI, there is a species of bird that's actually called the yellow cardinal, but it's neotropical and lives in South America. —Craig Neff and Pamelia Markwood

Birds of Costa Rica and Panama

“This summer I was fortunate enough to spend one month in Costa Rica followed by one month in Panama," writes John David Curlis in sharing the wonderful photos in the slide show below. "When I wasn’t assisting with teaching [tropical ecology] or conducting research [on lizards], I spent just about every waking minute looking for birds. As you might expect, it’s not hard to find some truly amazing ones down there in the tropics. Here’s a sampling of some of my favorites—hope you enjoy!"

We've put John David's identifications of the birds in the caption with each shot. Species include everything from a Lesson's motmot and a great curassow to a golden-hooded tanager, a purple-throated mountain-gem and a fasciated antstrike. What a treat to see them. Many thanks, John David.

Roseate Spoonbills in South Carolina

Once victims of their own beauty—plume hunters nearly eradicated them from the U.S. more than a century ago in the fashion-driven slaughter of wading birds that eventually led to the founding of the Audubon Society—roseate spoonbills have rebounded along the Southeast and Gulf coasts. though they're still a threatened species in Florida. They hunt for crustaceans, some of which provide the pigment for their pink plumage, by swinging their heads side-to-side in shallow waters. Many thanks to Lisa Barnes for sharing these wonderful photos with us from Huntington Beach State Park in South Carolina. (Take note of the wood stork, itself a threatened species, wading with a spoonbill in one of the photos.) 

A Thrush from Bangladesh

Recently we were excited to receive the first photo shared with us from Bangladesh, a densely-populated, Iowa-sized country that was known as East Pakistan before it won its independence from Pakistan in 1971. Today it is home to 160 million people, more than 460 bird species and 89 types of mammals, of which 31 are endangered, critically endangered or vulnerable. “This is a photograph of an orange-headed thrush that I took in Dhaka, Bangladesh last year," writes Ihtisham Kabir in sharing his beautiful shot. "It is fairly common, but not easily visible because it stays in the underbrush.”

Photo of orange-headed thrush shared with The Naturalist's Notebook by Ihtisham Kabir in Bangladesh

Photo of orange-headed thrush shared with The Naturalist's Notebook by Ihtisham Kabir in Bangladesh

Learning about nature in other countries is not just fascinating, but also important in coming to understand the astounding but threatened diversity of life on Earth, a home that we share—or rather, need to learn how to share—with an estimated 8.7 million other uniquely evolved, irreplaceable species of flora and fauna. It's uplifting to find people on the other side of the planet who love nature and science as we do. "We have other birds such as masked finfoot and Indian skimmers," Ihtisham adds. "I will send you photos once in a while.... Love your page."

Zebras at the Waterhole

“Three's a crowd," writes Karen Blackwood of Eagle Eye Safaris in sharing her photo with us from Kruger National Park in South Africa. "As prey animals, zebra are always wary at waterholes. They can't see much with their heads down, nor can they smell predators while drinking. Slaking their thirst is a leap of faith, but there's always one keeping watch, helping to keep the herd-mates safe. Please take a look in full screen for details you might miss at a glance, and we hope you enjoy them as much as we did!" Anyone else seen a zebra in the wild? Thanks, Karen.

Photo by Karen Blackwood at Kruger National Park in South Africa

Photo by Karen Blackwood at Kruger National Park in South Africa