A house trailer, a jon boat and a blue flame

25 April, 2021 A house trailer, a jon boat and a blue flame

I wrote a little blurb at the end of this blog post – it’s worth checking out. If you know my siblings, ask them which parts are true.

I go through blog titles and subjects all week. I almost titled this one “Heard not seen/ seen not heard.” Barred owls were calling back and forth our entire hike today but I never even glimpsed one. But a herd of deer crossed the path directly in front of us, and they made less noise than a flower growing. And a Great Blue Heron strutted down the creek beside us, and it was even quieter than the deer. 

A few pics, then read the story – it’ll be a little surprise, a fun one. 

It’s never a mistake to begin a blog post with a picture of a bluebird. I took this picture after we got back from the river today!: 

Always grateful to look out and see a bluebird:

Primary colors are well-represented on our feeders. I won’t post a cardinal today; I could take practically an infinite number. They are among our most regular visitors. Yesterday I had six male goldfinches on the feeder at one time! I’d put up a picture but it would just look like half a dozen startlingly yellow dots. Here’s a lone male from yesterday just before noon:  

Probably thought the feeder was too crowded

These birds aren’t giving me a break! Every time I wrap up my blog post draft, another beauty lands out there in the sun. This handsome male Red-bellied woodpecker stopped in a few minutes ago for suet:

Male Red-bellied woodpecker snacking on suet

April is a happy month (it appears) for birds. Probably frantic too as they avoid predators and feed hungry babies. This Brown thrasher took a quick break out front yesterday: 

Brown thrasher staying above it all (for the moment)

It’s easier to think of animals being happy than it is of plants. But if plants have emotions, this azalea in our backyard certainly looks cheerful: 

If plants can be happy, this is the way they look:

I scrolled down to my notes andI have some from earlier this week about a lone crow aggressively harassing a lone red-tailed hawk. So my breezy mention a few sentences back about April being happy for birds is not true for all of them. Here’s a picture from Friday: 

Agitated crow trying to agitate the hawk (mostly unsuccessfully)

Here’s a picture of Dash in the kitchen yesterday. Dash is everything that agitation is not:  

Dash – the opposite of agitation

I almost forgot to include the seen-not-heard pictures! So before I sign off, a mammal and a bird you can see at Pony Pasture, but only rarely hear: 

Unhurried and unworried
Same caption as previous picture

Enjoy the following story! And come back next week! All best, 

Jay 

= = = = = = = 

A house trailer, a jon boat and a blue flame

It didn’t take long for our parents to meet the local moonshiners when we bought our cabin in the Shenandoah Valley in the mid-1970’s. We were new up there, but our parents were engaging and befriended the locals in no time. Mom and dad were a youthful fortyish. 

They learned about a guy named Big Pat, because by report he weighed five hundred pounds. He lived in a house trailer near the edge of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. I don’t know if dad met Pat before, but once dad brought me with him to pick up a jug of moonshine. 

Our parents were as flexible as parents could be, but they had two rigid rules at the cabin:  

  1. No television 
  2. No telephone 

So I don’t know how dad figured all this out. Maybe on his Citizens Band (CB) radio but I doubt it. Reception was terrible in the mountains. 

Dad and I showed up at Big Pat’s trailer one day and went up the little wooden stairs on the side and knocked and were told to come on in. It smelled musty from being so close to the river but it was clean. Pat was seated on the low end of a faded  blue cloth sofa. By all appearances, the reports of his weight could have been an underestimate. If someone said he’d weighed six hundred or seven hundred pounds, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable. He had a television but it wasn’t on. 

I don’t recall much detail – they just chatted. 

I just – after I typed the period after the word “chatted” – looked up something I wrote about dad after he died in late 2012. The post was called Terrific whistlers and was primarily about dad. These are the final sentences of that post: “Dad just automatically assumed – because it’s true – that everyone has hidden gifts. And when he met you, he’d love to hear about yours. Because that was how he learned. You might not even think about your hidden gifts, but if you spoke with my Dad a while, you’d start talking about them. What a gift that was – Dad’s eagerness and ability to learn from everyone he met.

So dad’s just hanging out with this quarter ton man in his house trailer by the river. Some money must have changed hands, or not, but we finally left, and went a different direction than we’d come in, and there was a mildewed jon boat upside down on cinder blocks. Dad went to the stern and lifted up a little and pulled out a clear glass one gallon jug filled with what appeared to be water. And we left. 

Mom of course knew all about what was going on, but we all did. To the extent teenage and pre-teens could understand any of this. 

And I recall mom and dad talking very enthusiastically about the moonshine with each other and with all of us. And dad said – he could get childishly enthusiastic about nearly anything at nearly any age – he said “Watch this!” as he touched a wooden strike-anywhere match to a bottle cap he’d filled with moonshine. And a blue flame in roughly the shape of a Hershey’s Kiss floated above the bottle cap as we stared in fascination. 

They always kept the jug in the old yellow used refrigerator they’d bought at an auction. We had dogs and cats and kids up there all the time, and one year my dad shot a rattlesnake that was coiled near our front stoop. We skinned it and my mom insisted on baking it or frying it or something. I’ll write about that another time. I’m writing about it now because they cut the head off the rattlesnake and kept it in a Gerber™ Baby Food jar filled with moonshine. Sealed it with black electrical tape. 
It was on a shelf in our bathroom at the cabin (there was only one) always. It wouldn’t be correct so say it had a “place of honor” – but it never left. It was still there when we cleaned out the cabin to sell it thirty years later.  

Posted in Birds, cats, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, love, moonshine, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-bellied woodpeckers, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Shenandoah River, Shenandoah Valey, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), thoreau, Trains, whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Flower power! 

18 April, 2021 Flower power! 

A friend described my blog to a newcomer as having “lots of pictures of flowers.” If we’d had the same exchange in January she would have described it differently, but it’s April. Lots of flowers. This beauty is a Virginia Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana): 

Spiderwort at the river this morning:

I took that picture at (naturally) Pony Pasture today around noon. There were a lot of flowers blooming this morning. Evelyn’s out of town so I don’t have ID’s! I could email around and ask for help – my sister Katie is always generous with her assistance – but I just want to post this. I’ll put the pictures up, and if someone tells me what they are (Evelyn or Katie or any other knowledgeable person) I will go back and ID the picture and credit the person who helps out. These are pretty. I saw them ~15 minutes before I saw the spiderwort: 

Lovely white flower

I’m not as familiar with the seasonal variations of Virginia Bluebells as I should be, but I think it’s getting late in the year for them. 

Bluebells – it’s getting (I think) late in the season:

A pretty flower from this morning:

If you forget it’s still Spring, go to Pony Pasture and be reminded
Please refer to caption in preceding picture:

Flowers in the spring and summer, but dogs fifty-two weeks a year: 

They lie down more often late in the hike:

Some of these may be invasive – they’re confusing and there are lookalikes. But some are beautiful natives. I’m not sure which this is: 

Bright! I hope not invasive:

Well, I’m off to a late start today, and I haven’t eaten dinner! So let me get a few pictures in here and finish this up. Come back next week! And have a great week! 

Another bright unidentified flower from this morning

I saw some (I think) wild azaleas this week (speaking of “flower power”): 

Wild azalea (I think)

I saw these two cormorants the same day. I don’t know why one has its beak open. I also – it’s amazing I’m still learning about these birds – I also didn’t think about (I should have) – how big their feet are. Check these out: 

Who knew “Bigfoot” was really a cormorant!

Since this is a post about (primarily) flowers, and it’s April, and this is Virginia, I could hardly put this up without a picture of the Virginia State Flower (and tree), the American Dogwood: 

April in central Virginia simply has no rival. Dogwoods.

That’s it! For today! Have a great week, and come back next week! 

All best, 

Jay

Posted in Dogs, dogwood, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, James River, koans, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I dress to match Evelyn’s flowers: 

11 April, 2021 I dress to  match Evelyn’s flowers: 

I don’t have an overwhelming amount of pictures this week (or at least I didn’t when I started) – but I have lots of flowers. I photographed these purple beauties in our front bed yesterday:  

Front yard flowers – sent me scurrying to find a matching hoodie:

I held all my sweatshirts next to it until I found one that matched. I wore it to the river this morning. Evelyn joined us on our hike today, and she took this picture at Pony Pasture 9:32 this morning: 

Evelyn took the picture and planted the flowers; I picked out the hoodie to match:

Ev also has sweet smelling viburnum blooming in our backyard: 

Viburnum in our backyard. So many wonderful smells!

And – since I didn’t put up a blog post last week – I have to include the most recent owl I photographed. This Barred Owl was on the branch at Pony Pasture Easter morning (4/4/2021) at 10:08: 

Barred Owl from Pony Pasture, Easter Sunday (4/4) 2021:

And since I’m putting up owls I saw but didn’t post last week, this is the final decent picture I took of a young Great horned owl from Bryan Park at 10:52 AM on Monday, March 29. Two weeks ago tomorrow: 

One more soon-to-fledge Great Horned Owl from Bryan Park – 3/29/2021:

Evelyn says I just like to say the word “passerine.” I also like to say the word “raptor,” which is the bird I photograph most often. They sit still for much longer, so it’s easier. I got an enjoyable image of a Chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina) the week before last: 

This Chipping Sparrow surely knew it was posing; no photographer could resist this:

I saw another sweet passerine this week, an Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) a few days ago: 

Cute little Phoebe at Three Lakes Park. They were regular visitors at our cabin years ago.

The first time I mentioned redbuds on this blog was precisely ten years ago tomorrow – on April 12, 2011. The name of the blog post was Lots of plants, a few animals, a Special Delivery from Amazon:. It also has a picture of Dash in a cardboard box; as I type these words, he’s snoozing in a chair in front of an open window in the living room. That blog post also has a picture of me with four dogs at Pony Pasture, including Mackey! 

Evelyn has a redbud blooming enthusiastically in our backyard. I took this one at Pony Pasture at 10:22 this morning. It’s the same one as in that decade-old blog post: 

Freshly blooming redbud from Pony Pasture this morning

I’ve been reading a good book recently, an antidote to my bad habit of reading too much bad news. It’s a book called Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think Is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis by a woman named Elin Kelsey. In her author biography it says “Elin Kelsey, PhD, is a leading spokesperson, scholar and educator in the area of evidence-based hope.” I’ll reiterate that last phrase, since it’s the one that matters: “evidence-based hope.” She doesn’t write as a cheerleader or a person of prayer, she writes as a scientist. It’s a reassuring perspective. 

I was hoping to locate a Trout Lily at the river this morning. It’s a favorite Spring “ephemeral” flower of mine but I didn’t find one today. I did find Virginia Bluebells, and the mayapples are just beginning to bloom. Here’s one of each:

Bluebell from a week ago:
May apple flower popped open after the rain at Pony Pasture this morning:

I hope to put up a post next week – and I hope you’ll check it out! 

Meanwhile – I have more flowers from this week I haven’t used! Flowers fade quick this time of year, so let me include them this week. The smell of these fragrant small daffodils is blowing through our open kitchen window:

Sweet smelling and sweet looking daffodils on our kitchen windowsill (as I type these words):

Also, since I opened this blog post with purple flowers, I’ll close it with purple flowers – not quite purple enough to match my hoodie. I photographed our across-the-street neighbor’s wisteria this afternoon just before 2:00. You could hide a couple of garden sheds behind this wall of wisteria. You can smell it from two blocks away:

Our neighbor’s wisteria. April 11, 2021 is an exceptionally good day to be alive.

Have a great week, 

Jay 

Posted in Barred Owls, Birds, Bryan Park, daffodils, Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, Great horned owl, James River, love, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), thoreau | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Finally! A different kind of owl! 

28 March, 2021           Finally! A different kind of owl! 

The first owl picture I ever posted in this blog was… a Barred Owl! What a surprise. That was May 15, 2011, in a post called Flora – and some fauna. Since that time – almost ten years ago! – I’ve posted countless owl pictures. Except for one indistinct picture of an adult  Great Horned Owl at Bryan Park two years ago this month, that’s all I’ve ever seen. You can check out that old picture at How can I put this delicately? Or “Praeder-Willi Continues”. Finally this week I saw not one Great Horned Owl but a pair of Great Horned Owls! And four of their offspring on the nest! In daylight! It was in every way thrilling. Here is a picture of the nest. I interpreted this as a glare, but it’s probably not: 

All raptors stare at lenses. I’m positive.

There were two adults moving in and out of the area. This one was snoozing on a branch at the same height as the nest (I estimate around 75’) but around thirty feet away: 

This adult appears to be dozing, but I suspect is acutely aware

I was also gratified to note the return of Bryan Park’s summer resident Purple Martins the same day. Here is an adult male stopped for a moment on top of the center of the three Purple Martin houses: 

Male Purple Martin gleaming in the Spring sun

Spring officially began here in Richmond a week ago yesterday. There is migration and nest building and flower blooming and egg laying and egg hatching happening 24/7. There’s a good chance this cormorant is a year round resident, but I liked this picture of it taking off at Bryan Park the same day I saw the owls and the Purple Martins: 

Cormorant taking off at Bryan Park

I nearly forgot! I went back to see the owls again Tuesday – and saw a heron take off! 

Heron takes flight at Bryan Park

I was at Deep Run this week; I regularly see a lone grebe on one of the lakes there. This one didn’t take off, it just ruffled its feathers to get them all in place, but I like the way it goes with that cormorant picture and the heron picture: 

Everybody is “springing” into flight!

This female bluebird landed on my feeder this afternoon. I’d just focused on her when she leapt up. Perhaps all these birds are “springing” into the air: 

Female bluebird leaps into flight:

This Northern Flicker didn’t mesh with the “springing into the air” theme but I hadn’t seen one in some time, so I’m glad they’re a spring visitor: 

Flicker clutching suet:

I’m not certain how long it’s been since I’ve seen a white squirrel at Deep Run, but it’s been some time. I hear a lot about them – they always seem to have “just left” – but they’ve eluded me. They’re always a treat: 

Finally got to see a white squirrel again:

It’s also been quite some time since I’ve seen deer at Pony Pasture. They never left, I just didn’t see them. There were four (possibly) more in their predictable spot south of Charlie’s Bridge yesterday. This pretty girl was standing quietly in the sunlight. Look directly between her eyes – there is a fly perched there. I’m sure winter is difficult for deer, but at least they don’t have to put up with flies for a few months. Another sign of Spring:  

Look closely – there’s a fly right between her eyes

The deer are entirely unconcerned with the dogs. I suspect in the history of that park, no dog has ever crossed the fence that borders the trail there. I’ve seen deer graze and chew their cud in that spot when the dogs are less than fifty yards away: 

I call this one “deergazers.” They really want to do some herding!

Have a great week! Next time I post to this blog it will be April! April 4 to be precise, Easter. Today is Palm Sunday and the first day of Passover. It’s also a great day to be alive! 

Come back next week, all best, 

Jay

PS Bonus picture – my camera clicked Monday and caught a young Great Horned Owl mid-yawn:  

Sleepy young Great Horned Owl mid-yawn:
Posted in Birds, Bryan Park, Dogs, Emerson, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, Great horned owl, Insects, James River, love, newfaze, Northern flicker, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), squirrels, thoreau, whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Riot on Westbury Drive

21 March, 2021 Riot on Westbury Drive

I have all the usual miscellany this week. But I was walking Mackey and Turner out to the car this morning to go to the river and I turned around and saw the results of Evelyn’s camellia pruning. I took this picture at 9:20 this morning. This is a camellia riot. If this plant was a person, he or she would be grinning from ear to ear: 

Evelyn’s careful pruning caused our camellia to run riot:

Spring began here in Richmond yesterday at 5:37 AM. I was messing around in the yard yesterday and took a picture of an individual bloom from that plant at 2:55 PM: 

Camellia in our yard on the first day of Spring, 2021:

I went down to the river for a few minutes Monday afternoon. Buffleheads are still around. They’ll be headed north soon: 

Buffleheads at Pony Pasture Monday:

I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks that Barred Owls and Buffleheads are on roughly the same schedule. Buffleheads appear in late October or early November, roughly at the first frost. I learned that many years ago. And I looked back over my blogs and my pictures and that’s when Barred Owls first show up. They’re around until roughly the end of March or the beginning of April – the last frost. I read this about Barred Owls under “Cool facts” on the Cornell Lab all about birds page: “Barred Owls don’t migrate, and they don’t even move around very much. Of 158 birds that were banded and then found later, none had moved farther than 6 miles away.” So they’re around. But they must change behavior. Anyway, one was down there this morning, hooting to its mate who sounded like it was ~¼ mile upstream: 

Barred Owl on the first full day of Spring, 2021:

Since I started out with “flowers bailing me out” (those camellias though!), I will continue in that vein, since yesterday was the first day of Spring, 2021. I photographed this hyacinth on the edge of our driveway yesterday afternoon around 4:30: 

The inevitability of Spring. Next to our driveway.

Maybe I’ve put a photograph on here before – perhaps as recently as last week – but I’m enjoying the Pine Warblers (Setophaga pinus) that have been showing up on my feeders. Cute little birds that in the past I have probably mistaken for goldfinches: 

Pine warblers are regulars, at least for the time being

I got to spend some time with my old friend Luna this weekend. We did a few walks around her neighborhood, but of course the highlight was Pony Pasture this morning. Definitely the highlight for me, and I sense it was the highlight for Luna too. A kind person named Jackie took our picture. 

Thank you Jackie! Mackey, Turner, Yuki, Luna and me at Pony Pasture this morning

What’s not to love? Thank you Jackie! 

Have a great  first week of Spring, 

Jay

Posted in Barred Owls, Birds, buffleheads, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, hyacinths, James River, love, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The flowers are finally bailing me out

14 March, 2021 The flowers are finally bailing me out

The ospreys just started bailing me out too, but I didn’t find out about them until an hour ago. The light was nice and they’re active – extremely active – but they caught me by surprise and I didn’t have time for good photographs. Next week for sure. 

Monday afternoon at lunch time I saw the first daffodil of 2021 in our yard. At least in central Virginia, few things are more synonymous with Spring than the first daffodils: 

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, this one says “Spring” 1,000 times

I’ll see bluebirds on my feeders tomorrow morning first thing – they must be building a nest close by. There is never a bad time to see a bluebird. But I am especially joyful when I’m hiking and I get to see one in the woods. I like the background: 

They’re here year round. But what a treat for Spring:

More flowers bailing me out: 

The daffodils on the side of the driveway are petite

Most of my life – until early in my blogging “career” – I knew a lot about Red-tailed hawks and close to zero about other raptors. I think sometimes back then I’d see a Red-shouldered hawk – it’s an easy mistake if you’re not paying attention – and think it was a Red-tailed hawk. But once I became aware of their existence, I began seeing them constantly. I saw one this week but was unable to get good light. But I love their color: 

That glare threw off my focus

I may as well continue with flowers bailing me out. First hyacinths from next to our driveway: 

When I recruit flowers to help with my blog, I pull out all the stops

More daffodils? Is this too many? I think that “too many daffodils” is one of those imaginary concepts like “too much chocolate”: 

Thanks to Evelyn and photosynthesis, we have daffodils inside and out:

Speaking of other things you can’t apply the idea of “too much” to, here’s a picture of Turner (brown), Mackey (black) and Yuki (none of the above) standing happily near the edge of the James River in Pony Pasture yesterday morning a bit before lunch: 

Best boys in the best place

Even after all these months – seventeen in a row now – I’m not sure what happens next with the Barred Owls I see in Pony Pasture. I think – I think – that soon they’ll become more active with parenting duties and spend less time lounging (probably digesting) on this branch. But I saw one yesterday on our hike. It was preening itself enthusiastically, a behavior I had not yet witnessed. Always fun to see them do something new: 

Owl preening at Pony Pasture yesterday. You can see its right eye if you look closely.

What better way to end a blog  post than with a Barred Owl! Have a great week, see you (hopefully!) next Sunday. 

All best, 

Jay 

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This blog is TEN YEARS OLD!

7 March, 2021 This blog is TEN YEARS OLD! 

Mackey and Roux – Pony Pasture – March 3, 2011

That’s the first picture ever on this blog – on March 3, 2011. Ten years ago this week! Roux belonged to a person who lived with me back then, but she’s been gone for a long time. Mackey, on the other hand, was at the river this morning (though not early) with me and Turner and Yuki. Yuki wasn’t even born when that picture was taken, and Turner was probably not a year old. Mackey was already almost four! 

The river was low when I took that picture – probably below four feet. This morning it was around nine feet, or I would have recreated that picture. I’ll do it in another week or two when the water goes down some. Here’s the picture I took of Turner, Mackey, and Yuki at the river’s edge just before noon today: 

Only Mackey (center) was here a decade ago:

We met a photographer named Diego on our hike this morning, and I asked if he’d mind photographing the four of us. Thank you Diego!:

Me, Yuki, Turner and Mackey at Pony Pasture this morning. Thank you for taking the picture Diego!

Ten years ago I knew much less than I do today. Now I know where to find owls! Or at least I do for the time being – they could vanish. I photographed an owl down there Monday (March 1) marking the seventeenth consecutive month of seeing owls perched on the same exact branch. I photographed it again today at 11:51. This is from this morning: 

Barred owl soaking up the sun at Pony Pasture this morning

I was trying to decide if I would use Monday’s picture or today’s picture so I compared to see which one worked better. The sun was out today and Monday was gloomy and overcast, so I chose today’s picture. As I looked more closely at Monday’s picture, I realized the camera angle and the place where the owl was perched were nearly identical on the two days. Here is Monday’s picture. The sky is the color of watered down milk, but the pattern of the branches behind the owl is nearly identical: 

Owl on the same branch with the same branches behind it!

I took the owl picture Monday around 11:30. I hiked around awhile in an unsuccessful search for salamanders and deer, but I did come across this Red-shouldered hawk perched above the creek. Notice the watered down milk color of the sky: 

Red-shouldered hawk at Pony Pasture, same day

They mowed the big back field – the “pasture” – at Pony Pasture this week. I’ll bet it was muddy! But it needed to be cut down. This is such a different look. Rapunzel-gets-a-crewcut: 

Pony Pasture got a buzz cut. By June this will be up to my shoulders. I’ll post a picture.

I’ll post a companion picture to that image in June. What is ankle high in March will be shoulder high in June. The only things added will be water and sunlight. It’s science but it sure works like magic.  

I’m going to wrap up the photography and jot down a few notes. But come back next week! I’ve never seen a picture of a mockingbird looking like this. I rarely see mockingbirds on my feeders at all: 

Mockingbird with a seed partway in its open mouth. Never saw that before.

Have a great week! Come back next week! All best, 

Jay 

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My mom and dad were both alive and healthy and engaging when I began this blog. Ten years ago. My brother Shane was single. My dog Ivory was still a great hiker. Now my mom and dad are both dead and my brother Shane has a beautiful wife and a handsome son and a lovely daughter. Ivory died of really old age a few months after this blog started. The river, at least as far as I can discern, has accepted it all. I’d never gone flying before I began this blog; now I’ve flown over a hundred hours. I’ll fly again after the pandemic calms down a little more. The river just flows, flows, flows. Pandemics, presidential elections, parents, dogs, days, owls, flowers, snow, flying lessons, Fourth of July, it’s a good place to be calm. It’s a good place to return to when I’m not calm. It’s good to remember. I’m glad it’s there! I’m enjoying blogging. Maybe another ten years! Meanwhile, I’ll try to make it next week

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The flowers haven’t bailed me out!

28 February, 2021 The flowers haven’t bailed me out! 

I keep hoping for a burst of color from the flowers but I’m getting ahead of myself. There are a handful of daffodils blooming – I’ll put one here – but no profusion yet. I keep hoping to have a colorful blog post full of shiny blooms but it’s still too early. And gloomy! It was gloomy when I photographed this handsome dude – see his wet feathers? – but I can’t look at a guy like this and think “gloomy”: 

I never feel blue when I look at a bluebird

That picture was from today – there has not been an ungloomy instant today in Richmond. There are at least two pair of bluebirds coming to my feeders – perhaps more. I saw two females at the same time Friday. Here is one of them: 

Female bluebird

This week I became aware of a course from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology called The Wonderful World of Owls. If you click on that link you get a free preview. The course was not free, but it had five lessons and twenty topics and they estimate three hours for completion. It has sixteen videos that are each around four or five minutes long. I learned a lot. Of course they had owls from all over the world, but owls are such an unusual group of birds, they share many similarities. One thing I learned is that owls mate for life and are monogamous, but they only stay together during breeding and nesting season. They live apart for the rest of the year. Since I took this picture on Thursday (2/25/2021) it must still be breeding season: 

Owl pair on a non-gloomy day

I stand corrected – by my own photography. It hasn’t been gloomy all week. Here are two pictures of the moon I took on Tuesday, 2/23/2021. The first one is from 5:16 PM 

Moon Tuesday at 5:16 PM

I have two apps that show moon data. Here is what they showed at that time:

 

Same day, 10:03 PM: 

Moon Tuesday at 10:03 PM:

I also stand corrected here – a flower at Pony Pasture did bail me out! It was far away in the woods but I got my lens on this daffodil, not far from where I often photograph deer: 

Daffodil glowing in the woods at Pony Pasture on Thursday, 2/25/2021

I also stand corrected here – this time re: gloominess. The bright red tail of this Red tailed hawk is in sharp contrast to the crisp blue February sky: 

Red tailed hawks are well named:

Here’s a picture of Dash on a chair in the living room Thursday morning: 

Dash is living right, and that’s all there is to it

I got a quick glimpse of a brown-headed nuthatch yesterday – a favorite songbird since I only became aware of its existence in the last year or so:

Brown headed nuthatch, what a treasure:

And a chickadee the day before: 

Chickadee:

Well, let me close of course with Mackey and Turner at the river Thursday. And have a great week!: 

They smile more when we walk:

All best, 

Jay

Stop the presses! There are, of course, no presses. But I’d considered an idea earlier then thrown it out then now (at 8:45 PM) decided to include it.

= = = = = = = = = = =

It’s a pleasant sentiment, but if you live a while and get close to some people, you’ll learn there are days when this idea is trite. If I’m just being whiny, I just need to get over it. At this point in my life, more often than not, I can keep choosing joy every day. Sometimes you just can’t. Fortunately, human beings are mind-bogglingly resilient, and when we’re mentally healthy, we can choose joy again – evolution has selected us for it.

That quote appeared in my photos – I don’t know how it ended up in there, in the middle of all the dogs and river and receipts and flowers and birds and all that. But there it was. I must have done a screen shot.

I hadn’t thought of Henri Nouwen in years – possibly decades. But I was swamped with anger in the early years after my accident – you’d hardly even have recognized me – and I was grabbing every life ring that came along. I’d write it down if I thought it would help me keep my head above water. I handle most emotions pretty well, even negative ones, but I really, really, really do not do well with anger. I don’t know how I came across this – I just remember almost palpable relief – a physical sensation – when I read this. From my journal, around 1995:

“Forgiveness is the name of love practiced among people who love poorly.  The hard truth is that all of us love poorly.  We need to forgive and be forgiven every day, every hour —  unceasingly.  That is the great work of love among the fellowship of the weak that is the human family.”  – Henri Nouwen 

I didn’t plan this section – I conceived and wrote it from the first = = = = = to the last = = = = = practically without looking up from my computer. It came to mind. I’m looking forward to March! All best,

Jay

= = = = = = = = = = =

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These keep getting shorter and shorter!

21 February, 2021 These keep getting shorter and shorter!

I will be uncharacteristically brief. If I hadn’t had the always-wonderful experience of seeing an owl yesterday, I might have skipped this week. So an owl and a couple other items. 

Some of the recent ice storms had damaged the branch the owls normally favor. I was afraid they’d moved. I visited twice this week and no owls either time. I cannot recall the last time I visited on two consecutive days and saw zero owls. I was relieved yesterday when Mackey and Turner and I walked under the branch at 10:45 and saw this: 

Pony Pasture Barred Owl yesterday, between hoots

Just after we walked away it began hooting at its partner, who responded immediately – from very close by. We walked back to have another look but this is the only one we saw.

This picture (below) was right when we arrived, about fifteen or twenty minute before we got to the owl. I like this spot because it’s open and the light is good. But it’s right at the very beginning; Mackey and Turner don’t like to stop moving just a moment after we get out of the car. They shed their hangdog demeanor as soon as we start hiking: 

Mackey and Turner waiting impatiently to begin hiking yesterday

A pair or Red-tailed hawks have been perching on a Dominion power line tower near me regularly. I don’t know where their nest is but I suspect it will have eggs on it soon. I saw this pair (presumably) on this tower (definitely) on Thursday at 12:30. The sky was dreary and gray and in every way February-like. I drove past the same tower again yesterday at 12:30. Their backs were to the sun so the color is not lovely but they are a lovely pair of birds. Patterson Avenue is right behind them; you can see the west wind blowing their feathers from right to left: 

Pair of Red-tails with their backs to the sun near Patterson Avenue yesterday at 12:00

I’ve reviewed some previous years blog posts to see what’s happening in late February, early March. I’m surprised I’ve posted so few flower pictures recently. I expect they’ll be in the blog soon. 

Have a great week! 

All best, 

Jay

Posted in Barred Owls, Birds, Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, James River, love, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The joy of hiking 52 weeks/year

14 February, 2021 The joy of hiking 52 weeks/year 

Long time hikers understand a simple relationship in the park – the worse the weather, the fewer the people. If it’s really messy out, it’s like your own private park. When I arrived just before noon today there were four cars in the parking lot. If this was a pretty Sunday in May there wouldn’t even be four spaces

Tuesday was sloppy weather too. I left the dogs home (today too) but hiked ~1.5 miles in the park. On the first loop I saw a single Barred owl: 

Little did I know this owl’s partner would arrive in a few minutes

I’m looking at that picture on a big clear monitor. It’s very easy to see droplets of water on top of the owl’s head, and on the feathers on the side of its head near its right eye. 

I walked a few more minutes and came across a large crowd of deer. This one gazed at me for a while: 

I’m curious about what she’s thinking. Probably evaluating me as a threat.

I’m currently reading a book called The Thing with Feathers: The Surprising Lives of Birds and What They Reveal About Being Human by Noah Strycker. It’s the next book (for the April meeting) of the Wildlife Center of Virginia Online Book Club. One of the things that book claims is to reveal “why birds do what they do… .” Possibly it’ll give me some insight into why deer do what they do. We’ll see.

On the return loop there was a double owl! A pair on the branch. I took a couple pictures but I used the light so poorly they didn’t come out well. Meanwhile – the birds on my feeder are never far away. And my shoes don’t get muddy! Here’s a handsome male bluebird from yesterday: 

Bluebird yesterday

I don’t have a million pictures today, so let me add one I took one minute after I took that bluebird picture. This cardinal was on the feeder at the same time as that bluebird: 

Cardinal a foot or two away

Soon I’ll get a male goldfinch and add the third primary color. But not today! 

I was thinking about those birds. It’s ~5:15 PM on Sunday and it’s getting dark and it’s going to stay that way for twelve hours. And it’s going to get cold. And those birds live out there. Every night. They really look so delicate but it must be an illusion.

Ah – one more picture. From my dogless hike at Pony Pasture this morning:

Hiking at Pony Pasture this morning

Have a great week, 

Jay

Posted in Barred Owls, Birds, cardinals, Endurance, Fun, ice, James River, love, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), thoreau, whitetail deer, Wildlife Book Club, Wildlife Center of Virginia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment