“All true living is face to face” – Albert Schweitzer

11 November, 2018            “All true living is face to face.” – Albert Schweitzer

My brother Kevin and my brother Shane’s wife Kristin both finished the Anthem Richmond Marathon half marathon yesterday. Over seven thousand people were in the race. And Kristin and Kevin finished twenty-four seconds apart!! That is astounding – I’m sure they never saw each other the whole race. If you’d like to know which one was twenty-four seconds ahead, you’ll have to step up and do some true living and ask them face to face! Or you can be a computer nerd like me and google it.

Shane and Kristin and Wesson and Teagan and Tara stayed at Kevin and Jenny’s house in Doswell, but they came to town and had pizza with Evelyn and me and Mackey and Turner and our friend Ariel and her dog Yuki. Who you  may recognize as the handsome white German Shepherd who goes to Pony Pasture with us on Sunday mornings. It was hard to wrangle those seven people and four dogs to get a picture, but here’s one attempt:

Yuki on the left, then Shane, Kristin with Teagan on her lap, Ariel with wings spread, Evie, Wesson, me, Turner, Mackey – but no Tara! oops! Later. 


That picture is of most of the humans and dogs that were here yesterday evening. Shane set the camera up with the timer to get all of us at once. Wesson (on my lap) pressed the timer button and sprinted back just before shutter clicked. He’s the quickest and the most nimble and he threaded his way through the dog and furniture maze in the nick of time. Just like his mom Kristin and his uncle Kevin, that guy is fast

I recently finished a book called The Library Book by Susan Orlean. At one point she’s speaking with a librarian and he says  “Well, my hero is Albert Schweitzer. He said, ‘All true living takes place face to face.’” That line really jumped out at me. Even more when Shane and Kristin and their family and our friend Ariel and all those dogs were here yesterday – face to face! 

A friend just posted a perceptive (IMO) observation on her instagram page. It had a pretty picture with it, but not as pretty as this one. I’m going to post the picture (taken at 11:00 this morning at Pony Pasture) and use her quote for the caption: 

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” – Van Gogh


 We hiked nearly four miles this morning. It was so beautiful and cool and fresh, none of us wanted to stop. We crossed Charlie’s Bridge at one point; I asked the dogs to stop for a minute so I could take this picture: 

Mackey, Turner and Yuki on Charlie’s Bridge


Mackey knew Charlie but I don’t think the other two ever met him. Charlie was a serious dog guy and that scene would have made him real, real happy. Fortunately I’m also a serious dog guy and that scene makes me real, real happy!

The place my love of nature most often helps me find beauty is hawk hunting on my travels around the Richmond area. A Red-shouldered hawk nests near the place I work in Glen Allen every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning. I don’t get this bird (or its mate) every week, but it’s generally a reliable bird. I apologize that this picture has a little smudge in it. I got a crisper picture of this same bird (or its mate) Monday morning but it’s sitting on a building and not a branch. I shoot tons of raptor pictures on man-made structures, but give me a perch in a tree any day:

Wednesday morning Red-shouldered hawk in Glen Allen

  That (Wednesday) was a three-hawk day. I took the preceding picture at 9:00 AM. I left Glen Allen a few minutes later and was driving east on Patterson Avenue near St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church at 10627 Patterson. There is also a moderately reliable Red-tail that perches above the swamp across the street. I pull into St. Bart’s parking lot, walk to the edge of Patterson Avenue and photograph the bird perched on a snag just over the guardrail: 

Red-tailed hawk beside Patterson Avenue (same morning)


Wednesday was a good day for hawks. I went home after photographing this Red-tail and did a bunch of work at home. Later in the day – still Wednesday – I looked across the street at the powerline near Freeman High School and saw this male Red-tail keeping his eye on the area: 

Male Red-tail on the power line tower at Freeman High School


I took a “pano” at the river this morning. I haven’t had a ton of success getting these to work in the blog, but let me give it another whirl here: 

Pony Pasture Panorama – this morning around 11:00:


I voted Tuesday; I hope you also made it to the polls. 

Before I forget – one more picture from yesterday’s small collection. Tara was hidden in the last picture; Shane’s holding her here: 

Tara got left out of the first picture – here she is! In Shane’s lap! 


Evelyn still has our plants flowering – in November! I took this picture on Election Day. It’s a Pineapple Sage: 

Pineapple sage blooming in our yard on Election Day, 2018:


I hear a lot – a whole lot – about how spectacular the leaves are in Shenandoah and on Skyline Drive. It’s all true – I’ve seen them every year since I was around thirteen. But remember my friend’s quote from Van Gogh that I used with the river picture up there? I’m going to use it twice this post – it’s the caption for this picture too. I took it at 6:45 Wednesday morning on my way to work: 

“If you truly love nature, you will find beauty everywhere.” – Van Gogh


Speaking of truly loving nature. I ran into a post on a sled dog facebook page this week. I understood the sentiment well: 


That is a good, good, good idea to remember. For snow, but for a lot of other things you might choose to not find joy in. 

I hope you find joy in pictures of my cat Dash, or at least can tolerate them. It’s hard not to take pictures of him sometimes. Here he was Thursday evening. When he’s not eating he wants either the fire or somebody’s lap. There were no laps available at this time: 

When there are no laps immediately available:


I haven’t mentioned flying and my passport this week but I got three new stamps, bringing my total to ten. Only 56 left! That is a lot of stamps. One of the airports we flew to this week was KGVE in Gordonsville. This is a classic old country airport: 

Hangar at KGVE, Gordonsville Municipal Airport 


Every airport has a “Welcome to Virginia” sign:

“Welcome to Virginia” – it greets you wherever you land


I’m getting carried away! Let me close it up. On the Virginia Aviation Ambassadors program web site, there’s a list of places you can find stamps if the airport is unattended. A lot of these small airport don’t have full-time staff, so the stamp is in a mailbox. Here’s the stamp inside at KLKU Louisa County airport: 

Stamp inside at Louisa (KLKU):


Self serve stamp in mailbox plus two spare pencils and a spider egg case

Come back next week! Enjoy yourself! All best,


Posted in Birds, cats, Cessna 172, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Red-tailed hawks, richmond marathon, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Two words about politics: I vote

4 November, 2018            Two words about politics: I vote

If you think our country’s doing well, vote to keep it this way. If you think our country needs change, vote to make it. But don’t be passive. Vote. 

Mackey. Turner and Yuki on the banks of the James River this morning:


Monday morning I saw an unprecedented (for me) three different varieties of hawks in less than an hour. Red-tails (you may be aware) are the raptor I photograph most. I got one of those but I’ll spare you. In second place is Red-shouldered hawks; I got a nice one Monday morning. But at the same time I was photographing the orange striped breast of the Red-shoulder, I rotated my gaze about 180º to the left and saw the white striped breast of what I thought for an instant was a Red-tail. They’re common. But as I looked more carefully I saw the distinctive long tail of a bird hunting accipiter. This was an immature  Cooper’s Hawk

Immature Cooper’s Hawk


I’d planned to fly Tuesday but the plane was having work done and it wasn’t ready. I was bummed that I couldn’t fly but I got to see the engine of a Cessna for the first time – incredible. I took my first flight over a year ago, I’ve flown nearly seventy hours, and never seen an engine! I got to spend a lot of time looking and learning Tuesday though. Here it is with the cover off. They ran it with the cover off too; it is really loud. When you’re flying, you always have your headset on so you don’t even hear it. Quite loud: 

Cessna 172 with the engine cover off


Speaking of flying – I don’t recall if I’ve mentioned – but the FAA is making it more difficult for me to get a license than I’m willing to do. But I can fly as many hours as I want with an instructor, and all the ones I’ve had (three) have been excellent. Flying with an instructor only costs about 35% more than renting the plane solo, so it’s not a huge deal. I’m going to keep flying for a while. 

I don’t have any flying pictures from this week – Tuesday was my only scheduled day. I’ll add a leftover from last week a minute or two after we’d taken off from Ocracoke: 

Climbing out over Ocracoke on a pretty day


The Virginia Department of Aviation (DOAV) has a program called the Virginia Aviation Ambassadors Program. We have 66 airports in Virginia (including Dulles, etc) and each airport has a stamp. When you begin the program, you get a passport. I started on October 4, 2018 at (of course) Hanover County Municipal Airport (KOFP). Here’s my passport: 

My Virginia Aviation Ambassador Program passport









I’ve landed at and gotten stamps from seven of Virginia’s 66 airports. It’ll take me a while to finish the remaining 59. You’re allowed to drive to airports and get a stamp if flying is not a good choice for you; I may not fly to Dulles. Or Reagan. We’ll see. Here is the inside of my passport showing my stamps from Tangier (KTGI) on October 23 and Blacksburg (KBCB) on October 13:

Two of the seven stamps I’ve accumulated so far








As I mentioned earlier, I’ve flown nearly seventy hours and have around 120 takeoffs and landings. I’m competent at both. I’m improving on my navigation skills with every flight. Communicating on the radio with Air Traffic Control is the most difficult for me, but I’m slowly picking it up. All of my current hours are in a Cessna 172. When I get up to 100 hours – in December or January, depending on the weather – I’ll probably start learning to fly a Tecnam P92 Eaglet. After I’ve gained proficiency with that plane – maybe after 25 hours or so – I’ll see about flying a twin-engined Tecnam P2006T. But that will all happen in 2019. For the rest of 2018 I’m going to fly a little less but work on getting more stamps in my passport. 

This is our proposed path for our next flight – next time the weather’s clear enough to fly for a few hours and my instructor and I and a plane are all available at once. As I said, I currently have seven stamps in my passport. This flight will add five more.  We start in Hanover (KOFP) then fly to Orange County (KOMH) then an 8 mile hop to Gordonsville (KGVE). Another quick hop to Louisa (KLKU) then down to Chesterfield (KFCI). Then to Petersburg (KPTB) then home. Our literal plan is for me to do all of the takeoffs, landings, flying, navigation and radios. I’m not making this up – my instructor is going to sit on the taxiway with the plane while I run in, get a stamp and come back out. Fun!: 

5 stamp flight plan
























Meanwhile – flowers. Maybe a few more this week – we all hope – but outdoor flowers will be finished for 2018 soon. A pair of Evelyn’s incomparable nasturtiums and a pair of the Y’s breathtaking roses – enjoy! 

Evelyn’s wonderful nasturtiums (1)



Evelyn’s wonderful nasturtiums (2)


The YMCA’s incomparable roses (1)


The YMCA’s incomparable roses (2)



























VOTE! And come back next week! 

All best, 


Posted in accipiters, Birds, Cessna 172, Cooper's Hawk, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, roses, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Out to lunch” or “god spelled backwards”

28 October, 2018            “Out to lunch” or “god spelled backwards”

On final approach at runway 06 at W95 (Ocracoke Island Airport)


Pano of Tangier Island airport (KTGI) on Tuesday


I’m working on some cross country flying plus navigation and this has been a lovely week. I took the top picture when we were on our fifteen mile final approach to Ocracoke Island airport, known to the FAA as “W95.” We were close at that point, maybe a mile away, 300 feet off the ground and going around 65 knots (75 mph). We walked about ten minutes to Howard’s Pub and I had crab cakes for lunch. For the second time this week! The first time I had crabcakes for lunch was Tuesday; we went back to Tangier and had lunch at Lorraine’s. I’m a native Marylander, so if someone asked me which I liked better – North Carolina (Ocracoke) or Virginia (Tangier) crabcakes I’d say “Maryland.” But they we both fresh and outstanding and I’d eat either of them again in a minute.

I  had my “big pack” at Pony Pasture this morning, Mackey and Turner and Yuki and Lola and Luna. It was Sunday and I looked at them and they looked like a little congregation and I thought “god spelled backwards!” – here they are:  

‘god’ spelled backwards:


There was a frost this week, but Ev’s nasturtiums must have mistaken it for fertilizer – they’re still going full strength. Orange was Dad’s favorite color (and the color of the collar Ev got for Mackey). Yellow was Mom’s favorite color (and the color of the collar Ev got for Turner). Ev also planted some yellow nasturtiums and some orange nasturtiums and several with this delightful blend of the two: 

Cheerful yellow and orange nasturtiums in mid-October


The same time I was out looking at the nasturtiums – before I brought my camera out – I looked up and there were three Red-tails circling over our house! I’ve never seen three red-tails at once before (except for babies on a nest) in my life! I went in and got my camera but only in time to get this sub par image of two of them:

Two of the three Red-tails circling above my driveway Monday morning:


I haven’t gotten a train picture I’ve enjoyed recently, but my buddy Clark and I were down at Brown’s Island Wednesday and there was a long CSX coal train parked on the southern track. You can’t see all of them on this image but there were four locomotives on this train. You need a lot of power (four locomotives) to pull the weight of all that coal, but you really need the power to stop all that weight when you’re coming down a mountain. Always impressive:

“Front four” on a long coal train Wednesday


In other flying adventures this week – or, more precisely, combined with the adventure I had Tuesday – there was a fully functioning and restored Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress at Hanover airport! I took this picture with my phone:

Boeing (yes, that Boeing) B-17 Flying Fortress at Hanover airport this week. It flew in and flew out!


I took this picture Thursday morning before I preflighted the plane:

The smell of alcohol


See those puddles underneath? I was under there checking the gas (one of the fuel tanks is on the bottom) and I smelled alcohol. The plane had frost on it overnight – which adds too much weight – so they spray rubbing alcohol on it to melt the frost. Who even knew? Do you ever see on the news during real cold weather at a big airport, they spray the wings with vapor? That’s alcohol, but that’s for giant passenger planes. We spray the same thing, only out of the same thing you use to maybe spray weed killer on dandelions. Holds a gallon or two. Crazy stuff you learn. 

Hopefully blog followers are not tired of pictures of our worried, anxious, fearful, insecure cat Dash:

I took one of these on Monday and one yesterday. He alternates between this and eating and the litterbox. His days are uncomplicated:

Worry #1:


Worry #2:
















I was flipping through pictures on my phone and just as I saw the picture of Dash I saw another image. I work with a guy who has extreme anxiety problems secondary to a severe traumatic brain injury he survived many years ago. He has this reminder over his desk:

I don’t know what thought Dash chooses. But it’s totally the right choice.

Take it from Dash and choose the right thought this week. And come back next week! All best,


Posted in Birds, cats, Cessna 172, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, outer banks, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

A tale of two rivers

21 October, 2018            A tale of two rivers

James River at Pony Pasture in Richmond this morning. I hope you got outdoors!




Turner, Yuki and Mackey suggesting I do less photography and more hiking

No deer or buffleheads yet but I believe they’ll appear soon, as Hemingway put it, “gradually then suddenly.” There were lots of deer tracks on the riverbank this morning; there have been few before now. I also believe the buffleheads arrive on the first frost. I think that’s past but I didn’t see any buffleheads today. Probably next week.

Ernest (my flying instructor) and I took another long cross country this week – we flew to Blue Ridge Regional Airport (KMTV) in Martinsville, VA. While we were there we had lunch at Simply Suzanne’s Cafe (right in the airport) which was worth the trip by itself. The desserts looked spectacular but the lunch was so generous and delicious I was afraid we’d gain too much weight to take off! I took this pano at the airport:

Blue Ridge Regional Airport on a wonderful October day


I wish I’d taken more time and gotten a better picture of this gorgeous Pitts Special Biplane but this is pretty neat. I even got to talk to the pilot but we were just about to take off so our conversation was brief. Check this out:

Pitts high performance biplane. Gorgeous.


I got a million hawk pictures this week, although all Red-tails again and no Red-shoulders. I hear a Red-shoulder in western Henrico many mornings and often glimpse it in the shade but I haven’t gotten any pictures of it recently. Here’s a Red-tail:

Red-tail at Freeman HS


The “two rivers” I referred to in the title were the James River (top picture) and the South Fork of the Shenandoah River in Page County, where Kevin and I have a little piece of property we inherited from our Mom. There was a property owner’s meeting this weekend so I headed up there with Mackey and Turner. I spent part of the morning at the meeting then hiked with the dogs. Here they are near the river:

Mackey and Turner barely visible on the edge of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River yesterday


Looking back in this blog, I see I wrote a very similar entry a year ago. You can take a look at Shenandoah Gap. I posted it on October 22, 2017 – a year ago tomorrow. That blog post (if you’re interested) mentions Dad and me being pallbearers at an old friend’s funeral up there many years ago. I couldn’t find her tombstone last year, but I located it this year on the way home. And it had the date she died, so I found it in my journal – it was from June of 1999. Here’s an excerpt from my journal entry. Possibly in a future blog post I’ll elaborate on some or all of these stories. For now, just read and use your imagination:

“…[her] casket was open when I got there, and it was weird to see her lying there. Dad commented it was the longest he’d ever seen her with her mouth closed.

The funeral was kind of draggy and dull and meaningless; I should have gotten up there and told some really good stories about her. Like bringing that frozen kitten back to life, or making elderberry wine, or only being able to walk for thirteen steps, or making butter that tasted like onions. Her casket was heavy.”

I’m fortunate to cross paths with fascinating people more often than seems statistically probable. But she always stands out in my memory. She is unusual on a much different level than I normally encounter. I learned a lot from her.

I took this picture yesterday with my phone. To paraphrase Mark Twain regarding burial sites, “very few of the living complain, and none of the others.” My old friend MV says when you’re on long road trips, cemeteries are the best place to walk dogs. This one certainly is:

Dead people couldn’t care less where they are. But for living people, this place is awesome.


Man that trip brought back some good, fun stories from my youth. And young adulthood. I’ll jot some down and insert one or two on this blog but not this week. I ate a lot of watercress out of the creek (not the river), just like when we were growing up.

Here’s Mackey and Turner on the edge of a field at the edge of our property. One of my brothers or sisters will have to weigh in on this; we called it either “Comer’s field” or “Austin’s field.” It had an old stone house foundation in it and Dad and I used to hunt crows from there when I was growing up. Hunt for crows is more precise; we went through the motions but never saw any. We wore camouflage or blaze orange, depending on the time of year. We had little folding camouflaged stools. Dad had a Remington 870 12 gauge and I had a Harrington and Richardson single shot 20 gauge. We had wooden crow calls and we used them enthusiastically but I don’t think the crows heard us. It was so, so, so much fun. I’m always startled looking back and finding out just how much my Dad knew about so many odd things. He’d never hunted in his life before he took us hunting.

M&T near a field where Dad & I hunted. The stone foundation was at the edge of the woods just above Mackey’s back

Once years ago an introverted college buddy of mine named Nate spent the day with my Mom and Dad and me at the Maple Festival in Highland County, VA. It was a long and excellent day and at the end we got in our car and headed back to Richmond and Mom and Dad headed back to Bridgewater. As soon as we got in Nate said “I think your Dad just started reading the entire internet for the second time.” That was one of the things about Dad – he could hold up his end of an interesting conversation about anything. I never knew how he learned all this stuff. This was way before there was an internet. He read and read and read and read some more. Any subject. Never seemed to forget a thing. Anyway.

Here’s a kookaburra and a koala bear his dad brought back from the Pacific when he was in the Navy. Dad’s father was born in 1896:

A koala (L) and a kookaburra my Dad’s dad brought back from Australia in the 1930’s


A moon shot then I’m out of here – I need to start doing these things during the week! All best,


Oops – changed my mind – I stumbled across a shaded but not horrible picture of a bluebird I saw at Deep Run Friday: 

Uncharacteristically reclusive Bluebird at Deep Run Friday:

Posted in Birds, Cessna 172, Dogs, Fun, James River, Peppermint bark, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Shenandoah River, Shenandoah Valey, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The struggle (the flying lesson struggle) is real

14 October, 2018            The struggle (the flying lesson struggle) is real

Wesson and me early yesterday afternoon at KBCB. Photo credit to my brother Shane. Thanks Wesson and Shane and Ernest!


I’m kidding, of course, about the “struggle” part – flying is a blast, 100% of the time.

My brother Shane took that top picture with me holding his son – my incomparable nephew – Wesson. Shane also took all pictures of the plane in flight. Plus hosted Ernest and me on short notice! 

Flying was extra  fun yesterday when my instructor Ernest and I took my first long cross-country (“XC”) flight. Our plan was to depart from our “home” airport (KOFP, Hanover County Municipal Airport) and fly down to KBCB (Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport) near my brother Shane’s house. Where my excellent sister-in-law Kristin of course also lives, the mother of my outstanding nephew Wesson and his lovely sister Teagan. I hoped I’d get to see all four of them but it was nap time and I only got to see Wesson and Shane. Wesson skipped his nap so he could come watch Ernest and me land! Wesson was relaxed and easygoing, much more than I am when I skip my nap.

Shane took this picture at 1:10 PM, just seconds before we touched down. My flaps are all the way down (30º) and we’re probably going around 50 knots or 57 mph. Ernest keeps a watchful eye on me but I’ve done over a hundred landings and I’m moderately competent: 

Moments before landing at Blacksburg on Saturday. I’m actually flying! Thanks again for the picture Shane:








90 minutes later, taking off to head home:







Here’s the sign in front of the airport: 

KBCB – Virginia Tech Montgomery Executive Airport


We flew at 8,500’ for most of the flight so I got to take a handful of pictures from the plane. This is Smith Mountain Lake. On my phone’s GPS it says “Huddleston” which I see is east of the lake. The next pictures say “Moneta” which is still east of the lake but closer. Have a look:

Smith Mountain Lake from 8,500 feet (1.6 miles!):


We were only on the ground in Blacksburg for around an hour and a half. Shane and Wesson took Ernest and me out for a sandwich then Shane took all of us on a tour of his fascinating workplace, the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI).

Virginia Tech Transportation Institute – Advancing Transportation through Innovation – Shane carrying Wesson


Well, a few more typical (read: predictable) blog post pictures before I sign off. Monday I had a fantastic breakfast before (and after) my early morning work and went straight to the pool and swam a mile. A bicycling friend of mine (Pat) offered to meet me for an early afternoon ride and we rode (possibly ill-advisedly, in hindsight) forty-five miles! It was an outstanding ride though. Monday evening I took Mackey and Turner for a five kilometer walk to finish off my “triathlon.” When Pat and I used to do long rides regularly, we’d ride out to Owens Creek Corner Store [[1534 Owens Creek Rd, Mineral, VA 23117]], so we did that ride. It’s 24 miles out there and 21 miles back. Here’s a picture of the store. It’s not beautiful but they have great stuff like peanuts and m&m’s and Gatorade and water and Mountain Dew and Starbucks Doubleshots, all the hi tech foods you want to help you make that long ride back. The store:

Owens Creek Corner Store, my bike on the right, Pat’s on the left. This place is an oasis on a long ride:


Here’s a picture a bit more beautiful. Evelyn’s loving attention ensures her roses continue to thrive. Check this out – I took this on Wednesday. That’s a rose and that was October 10!:  

Another of Evelyn’s roses. Every time I think they can’t get more beautiful, they get more beautiful.


Obviously I’m not going to let a week go by without a raptor picture. It’s always a prize for me to get a “double” red-tail. This is one of the highest likelihood spots for double Red-tails, the cross on top of Discovery United Methodist Church in the far West End:

Watching like a hawk:


I noted last week that I’d been reading a book called Man’s Search for Meaning by a man named Viktor Frankl. I hadn’t quite finished the book when I put up the blog post. I later read the afterword and the person who wrote it quoted Dr. Frankl saying “I do not forget any good deed done to me, and I do not carry a grudge for a bad one.” And I thought what a great motto that makes. Not always achievable, but a worthy goal.

We had our first fire of the season after I came home from my big adventure yesterday, and Dash took immediate advantage. I’ll sign off with a picture of him renewing his acquaintance with the woodstove. I hope you can be this relaxed at some point this week! All best,


Dash is under the spell of the woodstove. Believe me, it’s a powerful spell:


This just in. Dash later found the fire too exhausting, so he had to jump up on “his” chair to recover: 

Dash recovering from the exhausting effort of warming his old bones by the fire:



Posted in Birds, cats, Cessna 172, Flowers, Fun, People, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, roses, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

When there’s nothing to say… 

7 October, 2018             When there’s nothing to say… 

…it’s better not to say anything. No brilliant revelations or images this week, just the usual. Hawks (of course) and the moon more than a few times. And a couple of books since I’m thin on content this week. Here are the books I’ve been reading this week.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia Wildlife Book Club meets online on the first Tuesday of every other month. Tuesday of this week we read Zooburbia: Meditations on the Wild Animals Among Us by Tai Moses. It’s not my all time favorite book but it was adequate:  

Zooburbia – Tai Moses

I’ve also been rereading (and finished this week) an old favorite from Viktor Frankl called Man’s Search for Meaning. Viktor Frankl died at 92 years old in 1997. He was a psychiatrist and a prisoner at Auschwitz and Dachau until he was liberated by Allied forces in 1945. He went on to become a psychiatrist again as well as a writer and a teacher and in his spare time he took flying lessons! Some of the people I work with struggle with this subject, and I struggle with it myself from time to time. A refresher is always good:

Man’s Search for Meaning – Viktor Frankl

The third book I’ve been reading is A Love Letter to the Planet by Thich Nhat Hanh. If your mind is not at rest, as mine is occasionally not, read anything Thich Nhat Hanh ever wrote – he is a wildly prolific author, and easy to read. The book I mention here is only about twenty pages long, so you can get through it quickly. His style and content is not for everyone, but it is gratifying for me 100% of the time:

A Love Letter to the Planet – Thich Nhat Hanh

If I only blogged about hawks, this would have been a big week – I photographed one or more than one nearly every day. This one appeared the first time I was driving after sunrise Monday morning. This was at Westhampton Memorial and Cremation Park at 9:25:

Adult female Red-tailed hawk at Westhampton Memorial & Cremation Park on Monday, 10/1/2018:

This moon was right behind her and I tried to combine the images but it didn’t work. I’ve been lucky with that a time or two in the past but it is really not a shot you can plan for. You always know when and where the moon is, but sometimes it’s cloudy, and often it’s night, and most of the time there’s no hawk around! Anyway. This was the moon at 9:40 AM Monday:

Waning gibbous moon, 60% full, less than 24 hrs prior to “third quarter”:

This was the moon about 25.5 hours later at 11:10 AM Tuesday:

25 hours later, the difference is slight but detectable:

That same day at 11:00 a pair of Red-tails surprised me as they passed high over my house. You can hardly tell this is a hawk at all, but the clouds look pretty behind it: 

Lone Red-tail soaring in the center of this image; I like the texture of the clouds:

For people who aren’t into hawks, I apologize. The fall migration is on and there are hawks everywhere. This one was perched on the cross at Discovery United Methodist Church Monday morning: 

Like cats, hawks are “obligate carnivores.” That means they only eat meat. That gaze does not look apathetic:

Red Bellied Woodpeckers probably eat lots of insects too. But they’re not averse to a little feeder time: 

Hawks won’t eat bird seed. Woodpeckers will:

I flew on Thursday, though not as effortlessly as any of the birds photographed here (or anywhere) do. We just practiced maneuvers; we’re planning on some longer flights this month. I’m learning to talk with Air Traffic Control on the radio while I’m flying, which is incredibly hard. Believe me – flying at a few thousand feet at 100 mph on a pretty day – even takeoffs and landings – is not really difficult. I’ve got about fifty hours piloting the plane and way over 100 landings and I’m competent. But doing that while talking to and listening to an air traffic controller is quite difficult. But it’s the next step in my evolution as a pilot. Here’s the plane I flew Thursday: 

“Cessna 9754 Foxtrot” – that’s how I identify myself to Air Traffic Control

Friday morning on my way home from work I saw three separate Red-tails! The first was on the cell phone tower behind Fire Station 13 in western Henrico County. It was a male. I got his picture at 9:15. As the hawk flies it’s I suspect around 750 yards to the cross at Discovery United Methodist Church (DUMC). The female was there. I got her picture at 9:18. And when I got home there was yet another Red-tail on the power line tower near Freeman High School, almost within sight of my house. This one was a male and I got his picture at 9:35. The light was bleak all morning and none of the photographs were great but you can get closest to the one at DUMC, plus you can choose the side you want. Plus she was a female so she’s around a third larger than a male, which makes it easier to get a good image: 

Female Red-tail perched on the cross at Discovery United Methodist Church

Forgive me for overdoing it on the hawks! And come back next week! All best, 


PS – Reading addendum: Thich Nhat Hanh comes with my unqualified recommendation; everything he writes is wonderful. But the tone and pace and subject matter is not for everyone. I first read Thich Nhat Hanh ten years ago when I was dog and cat sitting for a dog named Marta and a cat named Cole. I was lying on the floor and Cole was sitting on my chest purring and I didn’t want to get up. I reached over to a bookshelf and pulled a slim purple volume called The Miracle of Mindfulness: An Introduction to the Practice of Meditation by Thich Nhat Hanh from the bottom shelf. Cole fell asleep and I was in no rush so I just lay there reading. It was life-changing for me. I bought my own copy and I’ve been reading Thich Nhat Hanh ever since. The way I read it, it was more about paying attention than it was about meditation. But whatever works. It’s a fast read – try it out if you’re so inclined. 

Posted in Birds, Cessna 172, Fun, moon, raptors, Red-bellied woodpeckers, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Wildlife Book Club, Wildlife Center of Virginia | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sort of like a road trip…

30 September, 2018            Sort of like a road trip

…except we flew

Tuesday my instructor Ernest and I flew to Tangier Island Airport (KTGI) because you can’t get there by car. You can take a boat to KTGI or you can fly but that’s it. Unless you’re a really awesome swimmer. We flew in our trusty 1997 Cessna 172R, N9754F. Here she is Tuesday afternoon at 1:51 PM as I was walking out to do her preflight inspection. Both her wings and tail are tied down; this is how we leave the planes after we land:

N9754F before takeoff Tuesday: 

In August of 2014, my friend Pat’s son Daniel flew the three of us to Tangier. We flew in a Cessna 172 that time as well; you can see it if you look at my old blog post. You can also see pictures I took that time; I was flying as a passenger so I got to take more in-flight pictures, including our flight out to and landing at KTGI: I went flying yesterday!

I took a lot of pictures on the island that day as well.

Tuesday I used my phone to take a lot of pictures on the island too. When we were leaving, I took off but Ernest flew circles so we could gain altitude over the island and I took a few images. Last time (according to my blog post) I took 120 pictures during the trip. Here is a selection from this trip. My favorite is the one at the top of this post, a panorama of the airport. Our plane is in the center. I took that picture at 6:01 PM, just a few minutes before we took off.

If you go to Tangier, you see cats. They’re everywhere. There were none around the runway, fortunately. I’m sure many were shy, but not all. This one walked right up and introduced itself:

First time we’d ever met. The cat just walked up and said hello. In its cat manner: 

Look at this sky. Notice the cat at the top of the ramp:

Feast your eyes on that sky and those tombstones and masts and the cat in the center of the image: 

We had lunch at the Fisherman’s Corner Restaurant, about ten minutes walk from where we tied up the plane. I don’t recall what Ernest had, except he shared some crab dip with  me that was out of this world. I got a steamed shrimp appetizer and a soft shelled crab sandwich; it was a treasure. I still have a hard time wrapping my head around leaving my house after lunch, flying to these “far away places” and getting home in time for dinner. We’d had a longer flight planned (to the south) but the weather wasn’t good down there so we diverted to Tangier. Great diversion!

Here are a couple of pictures I took while Ernest was circling the plane and gaining altitude before we flew back to Hanover:

About 1,500′ over the island. See the runway down there? 

3 minutes later – and 1,500 feet higher: 

Anyway, I can’t resist (of course) a couple of hawks. As I was walking out the door of my morning job Monday, a Red-shouldered hawk flew directly toward me, swooped up and landed on the entranceway peak just above my head. I turned around and took this picture:

Hawks ignore us (I’m moderately certain) but this one swooped directly toward me Monday morning and landed directly above my head. Posed while I took this picture: 

Two days later there was a Red-tailed hawk, in much better light, a stone’s throw (literally) from my house. I had to walk to take this but it’s real close:

See what a difference nice light makes? Plus, compare breast colors between these two. That’s how you tell a Red-shoulder (top picture) from a Red-tail (this picture) 

I took all three dogs to the river this morning but it was nearly fourteen feet deep and most of the trails were underwater. We walked for half an hour or so but we headed back before I took a picture of all three together. But Yuki was my copilot on the drive home, and he doesn’t look too unhappy about leaving early. I took this picture just as we started back:

Spend more time with dogs. You’ll get happier right away. Check out this handsome, happy boy: 

Evelyn and I had late lunch/early dinner at our favorite restaurant Fresca on Addison yesterday. In nice weather we walk from there to Bev’s Ice Cream in Carytown for dessert and yesterday was spectacular. As you walk west late in the day the sun shines brightly on those south facing walls (on your right) and the plants love the sun. There were gardenias – incredibly – plus these passion flowers. Take a look at the bee on here:

Bee on a passion flower

One more picture (at least). I was hiking with my buddy Kendall at Deep Run Friday and we saw this highway safety orange fungus growing alongside the path:

Dad loved to say “there’s a fungus among us.” Mom and I loved to eat mushrooms but Dad always called them “toadstools.” He wouldn’t have been able to resist commenting on this orange beauty: 

More next week! I hope! Have an excellent week,


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