Commonly beautiful? (Guilty!)

There have been a few topics posted lately about observer wish fulfillment. ‘Dream’ species for your life lists.

Or when you talk to other observers who live where our dream-list species are pretty common. And vice versa.

It makes me wonder.

Whatever it is, some species make lifelong superfans out of us. And the beautiful thing about nature is that the more carefully you observe a living thing, the more beautiful it becomes.

Every living thing today is a design that has been field tested to the extreme. It’s impossible not to feel awed, when you really learn the stories.

And yet…

I suspect I’m not the only one with a photo drive load or two of shots of unquestionably common organisms that you see almost daily. Many, in fact, with the ‘common’ adjective literally part of their, well… common names!

There’s just something continually attractive about certain local and unmistakably common species.

Perhaps it’s a sentimental resonance? The warmth of familiarity?

Cute? Sometimes. Character? A behavioral change? A natural thrill that never wanes?

What’s on your commonly beautiful list?

What ‘common’ local species do you never tire of seeing, or can’t help but take another shot or two when you see them on your observing trips?

I’ll start off with one of mine.

Endlessly mesmerizing, and baffling in their mastery of a niche environment:
Aquarius remigis. Aka, The Common Water Strider.

Now please share some of yours!


Lady beetles… individually marked…each one different…and then I finally got to watch and record one catching and consuming aphids! Easily amused….


I would say any species I see, though I often admire common species without taking photos of them, I spend too much time in one spot, so don’t want to clutter the map with 500 snails from 100x100 square.)
But I like these guys, they’re amazing, no “common” in a name, but as common as it gets.
Peacock Butterfly (here it’s a Day Peacock Eye) which in my home region is everywhere all summer, but can be rarer in other places

False Ladybird (here Scarlet Moldeater)

Dexiosoma caninum that you can see dozens a day, siting on a leaf of their choice, waiting, they’re cool, big and easy to recognise


My son loves the NY plants. He’s grown up in CA and UT, but what got him into nature and the environment was NY, so when we go there (usually once a month), he loves a lot of the most common stuff. I think it’s mainly because it’s not what he grew up seeing, but I’m always shocked at how excited he gets about the most mundane, plentiful and average plants and animals. Gray squirrel? He gasps. Lawn weeds? He is frantic to get a picture.


I personally loves them all, crawling, flying, swimming, running, they are all beautiful to me, but I must admit that this one stole my hearth again and again and again……


I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention great crested grebes. They’re almost everywhere here and the more I see them the more I fall in love.

That said, the prize genuinely goes to the blue tit. They’re sort of Proust’s madeleine, the day I stop smiling when I see one I’ll know I’ve become too cynical.

Finally, a somewhat hypocritical one since I actually don’t have an observation of one: the hummingbird hawkmoth. I don’t think I’ve seen any other common insect trigger curiosity and fascination so readily in people.


I have some trouble with the massive appeal of almost all white furry animals.

Is there an implicit bias against similiar species that are all furry but black?

I think it’s driven by physics. On an all-white animals we still see the eyes and mouth and nose quite clearly. We interpret that as expressive. Not so easy to do with an all black creature.


I have no trouble at all with the massive appeal of all white creature, you might be on to something with your theory but doesn’t matter to me, genuinely loaded with cuteness is an understatement for this hermine


Sandia hairstreak


I think black bears are more appealing than polar bears. I think Great Blue Herons are more beautiful than Great Egrets. (Just some anecdata re bias.)


Northern mockingbirds and Carolina wrens are both pretty drab and very common birds, but they have a lot of subtle beauty and a ton of personality.


Yes, white-favouritism is not a universal bias, just the most popular choice that I’ve observed. And it’s reinforced with marketing and popular creative media choices.

Becoming a naturalist changes a lot of that.

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I agree that black bears are more appealing, but have you ever seen a truly fat just-off-the-ice male polar bear’s rump? It’s hilarious!


White is a colour of purity, naivity, kindness and it stands out, using black in e.g. ads would be clearly worse than using white.

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I can’t get enough of these two… both are VERY common “just outside the door” at my son’s house and my house, so I see them pretty much at will. But the paintbrush is endemic to only a small section of the California Coast.


I find the flower of the common clover to be simply beautiful and often overlooked:


You probably don’t want me uploading all the cultivated roses I have pictures of.


I can’t say I have!

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The European Starling has to be one of the prettiest birds. e.g. If it wasn’t so common people would rave about it.


So do I.

One of the very first macro shots I ever took (cheapy clip-on lens on my phone).