When all else fails…

8 December, 2019            When all else fails… 

…open up with a lucky catch on a bluebird: 

Great example of an image I can only get by accident

I could probably set up my camera somehow to make that happen. But I don’t know how to do it. This was pure luck.

I’m not sure if this was the same bird. But it was the same minute, and we were mobbed (if bluebirds can really do that) with bluebirds that day. There’s never a bad day to see a bluebird:

In the same minute, just below that feeder

I’ve been out and about plenty this week but haven’t gotten a million great images. So I’ll slip a few things in this post then close it up and see if more pops up next week. This was Mackey and Turner at Pony Pasture this morning:

Mackey and Turner near shore – the river was “5 feet high and rising”

I also found an old blog with old pictures of Mackey on it. It also has pictures of Pony Pasture from about twelve years ago. I’m going to see if I can blend some into this blog in the non-distant future. But in the somewhat distant past, this is a picture of Mackey when he and Ivory and I were hiking on the Appalachian Trail near I-64 about twelve years ago this Christmas:

Mackey, Appalachian Trail, Christmas, 2007

That’s awesome he was hiking that way twelve years ago and he was still hiking like that today. He LOVES to be outdoors!

This blog post opened with a picture that resulted from the pure luck of my shutter opening at the right time. My shutter opens a lot, so there are a lot more correct times. 10:26 this morning at Pony Pasture. Ring-billed gull (Larus delawarensis):

Looks pretty against that river

Okay – I’m going to wrap this up. These will provide some contrast with the fast moving bluebirds and gulls. I took all four of these this week – in front of our woodstove. I titled this email “no rush”:

“No rush #1”

“No rush #2”

“No rush #3”


“No rush #4”

am in kind of a rush – to put up this blog post! Have an excellent week! All best,

Jay (& Evie & Mackey & Turner & Dash)




Posted in Birds, Dogs, Fun, James River, love, Pony Pasture, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“What else is there?” – there is SO much more! 

8 December, 2019             “What else is there?” – there is SO much more! 

I always like photographing herons in trees. They look like they’re not sure how they got up there.

A couple around my age saw me take some pictures at Pony Pasture this morning. We chatted a few moments and I gave them my blog card. I told them my blog didn’t have any  politics or advertising or religion. The guy laughed a little and said only half-jokingly “what else is there?” I laughed too; those are three subjects I often feel overwhelmed with. Our chat took place moments after Mackey and Turner and I climbed off the rocks and began our hike. We saw (not necessarily in this order) an owl, a flock of seagulls, multiple bluebirds, lots of dogs, a gorgeous blue river, a deer I’m certain was pregnant, beautiful trees, a dozen or more good-natured hikers – we hiked for an hour and a half. No politics! No advertising! No religion! I found a Barred owl (Strix varia) in the same tree I’d seen it a week ago: 

Not everything makes my heart beat faster when I photograph it. But owls always do.

The heron in the top picture was perched up high in a tree. That’s one of my favorite places to photograph Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias). Herons (IMO) don’t look like they belong in trees. All herons (again, IMO) around water appear similar. They all stalk the same way, look around the same way, they wade, etc. But when they sit on a branch twenty or thirty or forty feet off the ground, they look slightly out of their element. I think they look a little bored when they’re standing in the water. But when they’re up in trees they’re paying more attention. I think. 

This deer was 100% aware Mackey and Turner and I were only a few short yards away in the woods. But this deer has seen us in the woods time and time again for years and years and she knows she’s not risking anything by staying where she is. She was chewing her cud with what appeared to be a relaxed and content look on her face. I believe there’s close to a 100% chance she’s pregnant: 

Her appearance is in every way elegant

There were Ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) and Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) on the river from the moment we arrived. Those two are constant winter residents here on the falls at Pony Pasture. They arrive in the vicinity of the first frost and will leave in March or April around the last frost. Gulls you can see around in the summer from time to time, but when those Buffleheads leave in the Spring, they are 100% truly gone. There is 0% chance you’ll see one here in the summer. So get a look now! Ring-billed gulls first: 

Ring-billed gulls on a mid-river rock

This picture is not technically proficient, but it captured something I’ve never seen in all the thousands of buffleheads I’ve photographed over the years. The female is on a rock – and I have never, ever seen that. And the male was staying with her – constantly. I’m not sure what was happening here, but I suspect she was not healthy:

Female bufflehead on rock, male bufflehead clearly being attentive toward her. I never saw either of them leave, or any other ducks come over.

Mackey and Turner and I are still getting used to hiking without Yuki. He’s real big and real white and has a strong presence, but he’s so easygoing he doesn’t really change the essential nature of the hike. He’s interested in the same things we are. We’re looking forward to seeing him again! Here’s Mackey and Turner at the river this morning: 

Mackey and Turner before the sun got on them

I was at Pony Pasture yesterday with Lola and Luna: 

Luna (left) and Lola on the riverbank yesterday morning

I almost left his out! Maybe because it’s not Christmas yet. But look at Evie’s Christmas Cactus! I took this yesterday afternoon at 3:00. I’ll get her to photograph it for next week – she’s a much better plant photographer than I am: 

Christmas cactus glowing

Plus – on the subject of “what else is there?” after politics, advertising and religion – I went flying for over six hours Thursday in a Cessna 172RG. The “RG” means “Retractable Gear.” Most Cessna 172’s have fixed landing gear; it’s always in position to take off or land. But it creates a lot of drag and slows the plane down and burns more fuel. We were going on a long trip – 284 miles each way – and the 172RG goes about 30 mph faster than a conventional 172. We flew to Lee County Airport (0VG) deep in the southwestern tip of Virginia. Here is the plane we flew. This was at Virginia Highlands Airport (KVJI): 

Our plane Thursday at Virginia Highlands Airport

Here’s the sign at Lee County airport, our incredibly far destination: 

My goal achieved!

Virginia has around thirty or forty relatively small airports, similar in size to Lee County. All of them have two runways, which really means you can take off going either direction on the same strip of runway. This airport’s runway numbers are “7/25”, which means one runway (#7) faces 70º on the compass, or just a little bit north of east. Runway 25 is the opposite of that, 180º around, facing 250º on the compass – almost directly west, but slightly south. You take off and land with the wind blowing toward you – you get more lift that way and gain altitude quicker. In this picture, we’d taken off on runway 25, starting at the far end of the runway. We lifted off and flew and climbed for a couple miles past the end of the runway. We gradually turned 180º as we continued to climb. I took this picture out of the left side as we flew back past. We were slightly over 3,000 feet when I took this picture (I took a picture of the instruments too) and climbing at about 700 feet per minute: 

Departing from Lee County Aiport

We flew over miles and miles and miles of woods. I mentioned to my instructor that there wasn’t much down there. He said “there’s coal.” I hadn’t thought of that. Presumably there’s coal under here. 6,500′ above Tazewell: 

This is what you see. No politics, no religion, no advertising

From time to time you see small communities or schools or factories or farms. We were flying between 6,000 and 8,000 feet high, usually going a little over a hundred miles per hour. Everything has a distinct look; you can tell right away what you’re seeing. I did not expect to see this, but the moment it came into view I knew it was a prison. Here’s a picture I took Thursday at 2:05 PM as we flew over USP Lee in Pennington Gap, VA: 

USP Lee from 7,500 feet

The first two sentences of the wikipedia entry about USP Lee say “The United States Penitentiary, Lee (USP Lee) is a high-security United States federal prison for male inmates in Virginia. It is operated by the Federal Bureau of Prisons, a division of the United States Department of Justice.” No shoplifters at USP Lee. That’s a great place to not be inside. 

If you’re reading this from inside USP Lee, I hope they’re letting you out soon. If you’re not reading this from inside USP Lee – I hope you’re not – have a great week! And come back next week! 

All best, 


Posted in Birds, buffleheads, Cessna 172, coffee, Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, James River, kofp, love, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

It’s whoo, whoo, whoo you know 

1 December, 2019            It’s whoo, whoo, whoo you know 

Pony Pasture Barred Owl yesterday. Thank you for the tip!

My friends and their dog were walking out of the woods yesterday just as Mackey and Turner and I were walking into the woods. M and T and I were headed for the riverbank, but my friends told me they’d seen an owl not long ago in a tree above the trail. They gave me detailed instructions and I walked back and looked up and there it was! I smiled when I saw it. If someone at Kroger was telling me where to find the cinnamon (for example) and said “halfway up aisle 7 at shoulder height” I’d forget practically before I even turned around. But the directions to this owl were arcane and complex and involved a lot of “turn when you see the big sycamore” and “where the trail goes around a really wide puddle” and “remember where that raccoon used to live in the hollow tree?” and “look up to your right for a bunch of ivy” – and on and on like that. And I found it as easily as I could find my own house. Sometimes I think my memory is slipping, when the truth is I’m just choosing to not pay attention. Oops. 

I had the rare privilege of walking dogs twice at Pony Pasture yesterday (Saturday). The forecast for today was sloppy so I got them out yesterday. I got my old friends Lola and Luna out on the rocks at Pony Pasture around 10:15: 

Lola (left) and Luna at the river yesterday morning:

The river was 4.3 feet deep yesterday, that is a very, very nice depth. Mackey and Turner and I returned at 1:30: 

Turner (left) and Mackey in the same spot, three hours later

Our buddy Yuki is on a holiday (and beyond) road trip and may not return until Spring. We’ll miss him! Fortunately the river will continue to do what rivers do. It’s flowing now and it’ll keep flowing until Yuki returns, and beyond.

I photographed two Red-shouldered Hawks Monday morning, but unfortunately neither image was wonderful. But, in the interest of “not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good,” here’s one that came out okay. Maybe next week will be better (or not), but this is pretty:

Red-shouldered Hawk in Witness Protection Program:

I caught a glimpse or two of the white squirrel earlier this week. I’ll stop photographing it sooner or later. But here’s one from Monday. I like the backlighting on the tail: 

White squirrel with the sun behind it

We are seeing many pairs of bluebirds on our feeders currently. This one was out in the rain earlier this afternoon. Their colors aren’t bright in December, and the light is poor, and it’s wet, but I believe this is a male: 

The opposite of lying in front of the fire:

I’m not loaded with pictures (or energy) today so I’m going to close up with a picture of Dash. His head was about four feet from the woodstove. The thermometer on top of the woodstove – not making this up – said ~650ºF. You never see Dash move. Here’s the thermometer: 

This temperature keeps Dash at about 4.5′ away:

But when the stove gets down to ~300º (usually just before I wake up in the morning) Dash is practically lying underneath it. It’s occurred to me that his distance from the stove correlates precisely with the temperature. It’s unusual for it to go higher than 700º but if it does, he’s real far away. He stays in the living room – the stove is a cat magnet – but far away. Stove at ~650º, Dash roughly 4.5 feet away: 

Have you ever? This cat does not know the meaning of the word “shame.”

Dash always looks like he’s just had a big Thanksgiving meal! I hope yours was great! 

All best, 


Posted in Birds, Dogs, Fun, James River, love, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), squirrels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Dogtown Dance Theatre” – how could I say no? 

24 November, 2019            “Dogtown Dance Theatre” – how could I say no? 

Long zoom iphone image of my favorite costume of the evening: 


LOVE YOUR SELF” – that was my favorite thing, right from the start. What a perfect holiday message! What a perfect message for any time!

The picture below was from early in the show – the  younger kids came out first:

Joyful, joyful energy – what a treasure!

There were several groups – they all got together at the end:

Most of the people from the show. They were in such high spirits, it was infectious. I’m glad I was there!

Dogtown Dance Theatre presented an energetic holiday show yesterday evening.  Richmond Urban Dance put on a show called A Christmas Mixtape. On Dogtown’s website it said “Join us for a special performance featuring a compilation of dances set to favorite pieces of music by various artists of Christmas’ past, present and future.” But that sounds so dry. If you’d been there and described it to someone later, you would’ve expressed yourself differently. You would use words like “joyful“ and “ecstatic” and “engaging” and “vigorous” and “cheerful” and “bright” and so much fun! Evelyn and friends and I went and it was in every way entertaining. It was fast moving and energetic and warm-hearted and warm – the perfect place to spend a cold rainy late November evening. Check out their schedule! Catch another show at Dogtown – you won’t regret it. 

Even in November (maybe especially in November) I spend more time outdoors than in. This is an image I enjoy:

Red-shouldered hawk at Bryan Park Thursday, with matching background:

That Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) is from Bryan Park Thursday. A lot of what is written about hawks and other raptors portrays them as bold and noble. They appear that way to us, or they do to me anyway. They’re obviously (again, to me, anyway) great looking birds. My primary (and usually my secondary) source for researching birds for this blog is the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. You won’t find a more precise source of birding information. Here’s what they say about Red-shouldered hawks: “While a Red-shouldered Hawk was observed chasing a Great Horned Owl, its mate took a young owl out of its nest and ate it.” There is no nobility – it’s all about the calories. 

True story about the Red-shouldered Hawk stealing the young owl out of the nest and eating it. To learn that hawks steal baby owls from their nests and eat them, look on the Cornell Lab website under “Cool Facts.” Great Horned Owls obviously don’t read that website. 

Half an hour before I saw that hawk I saw a handful of Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus) on the lake. Hooded Mergansers also eat living beings, as it says under Cornell’s “basic description.” Their exact words are that it eats “fish, crayfish, and other food, seizing it in their thin, serrated bills.” Compared to the hawk eating the owl, that seems like nothing at all. It’s interesting (maybe it’s just me) that we feel real sad about a bird eating a baby bird, but we don’t even blink when we read about a bird eating a fish or a crayfish. Here’s a male Hooded Merganser from Thursday: 

Male Hooded Merganser from Bryan Park Thursday

I had Mackey and Turner with me there and got a couple of pictures but didn’t like the way they turned out. Now (I just looked at a few other images from that day) I realize I could have made a nice image with them. I took this picture from the causeway/dam that divides the two lakes: 

Upper Young’s Pond – Bryan Park

Of course I took Mackey and Turner to Pony Pasture with me this morning. We’re getting down there moderately (but not extremely) early but the sunrise is getting later every morning. That will stop a week from Friday (incredibly) and sunrise will get earlier again. But the sun wasn’t shining on the river rocks yet when we got down there at a little after 9:00. Mackey’s face was pure black – it’s a blob. But we took a real long walk with lots of breaks, and they were still energetic when we got back to the rapids 1.5+ hours later. So we hopped back down to the rocks and took a couple pictures in nicer light. Yuki was at the airport picking up a friend (human) so it was just my two boys and me. 

Mackey and Turner this morning after our 1.5 hour hike

Mackey stands and Turner lies down, but it’s not due to Mackey being less tired. Mackey’s old hips are pretty sore and he won’t lie down unless he knows I’m going to stop for a while.

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


Posted in Birds, Bryan Park, Dogs, Dogtown Dance Theatre, Fun, James River, love, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Richmond Urban Dance, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shortcut at the finish line

17 November, 2019            Shortcut at the finish line

The two people with medals just ran 13 miles! In UNDER two hours!

The two people wearing medals in this picture are my brother Shane’s wife Kristin and my brother Kevin. The picture was taken a few minutes after Kristin and Kevin both finished the Richmond Half Marathon in under two hours

Also shown are my brother Shane, my nieces Phoebe and Teagan, my nephew Wesson and me. A kind stranger took this picture; I wish I’d asked his first name. It’s always nice to meet a new person. The two youngest folks in this picture were feeling the cold a little more than we were but they were troopers. And they recovered quick! 

Also note the CSX coal train heading east behind us. If we’d all looked to our left, we could see the spot where my friend Clark and I look for trains nearly every week. Clark and I were down there Wednesday afternoon around 1:30. This locomotive, CSX #3082, a GE ES44AC, was pulling an identical train in the same direction, three days earlier: 

GE ES44AC pulling coal at Brown’s Island Wednesday

So the top picture (family) has the river just a couple hundred yards behind all of us. The second picture (locomotive on tracks) is even closer to the river. Those pictures were close to the river downtown, but Mackey and Turner and Yuki and I were out on the river this morning at 9:00: 

There is no place I would rather be on a Sunday morning.

It’s funny – now – but it was way colder at Brown’s Island yesterday after the race than it was right on the water this morning. Mainly because of the wind – it was whipping across the river and the island yesterday and gusting around the buildings downtown and it was real hard to stay warm. But this morning at the river out there on those rocks it was real still, and the cold wasn’t awful. The river in that picture was 4.07’ deep, a tolerable and enjoyable level. 

I never saw the white squirrel this week, but I saw plenty of gray squirrels, both at Deep Run and here. And at Pony Pasture. This one is from Deep Run. I named the file (so I could find it) “1sq.jpg.” Which called to mind my mother and father (mostly my mother) and the way they and their dogs would act around squirrels. Mom and Dad had bird feeders on their back deck, and a picture window looking out on it. I don’t know who got more excited about squirrels – my mother and father (mostly my mother) or their dogs. But when a squirrel would come up on the deck, their dogs would get very, very excited. So would mom and dad – especially guess who. And mom would say – for years – in an exaggerated stage whisper “Mike – an SQ!” On the theory that if you pronounced the entire word, the dog would do something impulsive and unpredictable, possibly even crash through the picture window in an attempt to capture the squirrel. The “SQ.” I didn’t even have Mackey and Turner with me when I spotted this one: 

“SQ” in pretty light Monday at Deep Run

I got a handful of birds this week, but nothing I was thrilled with. This Red-shouldered hawk was glowing nicely in the morning sun Wednesday at around 8:00: 

Red-shouldered hawk warming up in the cold morning sun

I get up at 5:00 Wednesday mornings and eat and go to work then work until 9:00 AM. I go from there to the pool and swim for a little over half an hour. I come home and have something to eat then go back to work for a few more hours. This time of year the woodstove is burning 24/7 and by 7:00 PM I am about done. I lay down in front of the fire and Ev took this picture. I’m not sure where Turner is. When you’re tired, anyplace is comfortable: 

Warm woodstoves are irresistible on cold damp days

I need to write about this book, I recently finished it and it was a pleasure from start to finish. Arthur C Brooks was even handed and non-partisan in a manner that has become  very difficult (at least for me) to find lately. Here’s a link to the goodreads (not Amazon) page for Love Your Enemies: How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt by Arthur C. Brooks. It’s a refreshing read. Here’s the cover:  

Love Your Enemies – How Decent People Can Save America from the Culture of Contempt – Arthur C. Brooks, 2019

Shane and Kristin were not our enemies before, and I hope they’re still not. But Evelyn and I (it was Evelyn’s idea) gave Wesson this priceless gift Saturday. It obviously (to the unaided eye) didn’t have any moving parts or wires or lights or batteries, so Wesson wasn’t quite certain what it was. I reassured him – I said “this is going to change your life.” Unless they hid it from him and hoped he forgot about it, Kristin and Shane may be questioning our taste in gifts for four year old boys. But you just can’t improve on this. This is in the picture dictionary next to “timeless classic”: 

Evelyn’s thoughtful gift for Wesson. They just grow up too fast, don’t they? SMH

I just got to the end of this and read my notes and forgot – until this very moment – why I titled this “Shortcut at the finish line.” Hanging around the finish line of a big race like that is a shortcut to feeling great – you just can’t help it. You totally don’t have to run the race, although you get a lot bigger dose if you train for it. But everything at the finish line is triumph – you just can’t avoid it. There was a full marathon (26.2 miles) plus a half marathon plus an 8k (about five miles) all the same day. Well over ten thousand total finishers. Plus add their families and friends who come to see them finish. Every single person is happy. There’s pain and there’s tiredness and there’s blisters and shivering and hunger and thirst and all that but there’s undiluted triumph – it’s everywhere, it’s unavoidable – and it gets in the air and you can’t avoid it. It goes away. The race ends. But that joyful borderline ecstasy is real, real difficult to find for free anywhere, but it’s there. At the finish line. Check it out! And come back next week! 

All best, 


Posted in Birds, Dogs, Endurance, Fun, James River, love, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, richmond marathon, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), squirrels, Trains | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Memorable refusals // That tapioca, though 

10 November, 2019            Memorable refusals // That tapioca, though 

People with classic autism have difficulty expressing emotions clearly. But they’re good at deciphering other people’s moods, and they imitate the expressions others use to communicate their own feelings. I’ve heard some memorable instances in the years I’ve worked with people with autism. I’ll relate a handful of them at the end of this post. 

Also – read several paragraphs down – unrelated to either “memorable refusals” or “tapioca” – about Petersburg’s former “Central Lunatic Asylum.” It was actually called that.

The tapioca is unrelated – I just had some today and included it here (below) because it was so good. And so unexpected.

But I got a pretty Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus) half a mile from my house on the way to the river this morning. I will always use a nice Red-shouldered hawk picture when they appear: 

Red-shouldered hawk at 7:56 this morning

Also – in wildlife news from today (birds specifically) I saw my first Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) of the winter season at Pony Pasture just before 9:00 this AM. I’d expected them closer to Halloween but they’re a pleasant sight whenever they appear. Summer is really, truly over for sure when the first Buffleheads arrive in the Fall, and Spring is 100% imminent when the last ones fly off the river in late Winter. Their arrival/departure dates (here in Richmond) are consistently within a few days of the first autumn frost and the last Spring frost. This pair was one of a dozen. That flock will get bigger and bigger between now and the end of December. It is really difficult (for me) to get close to them. The male is on the left: 

Bufflehead pair at Pony Pasture this morning

Plus Evelyn and I had brunch today at the Farmer’s Market Bistro in Petersburg, VA in the Historic Farmer’s Market Building, 9 E. Old Street. Here are pictures I took of the outside then the inside: 

Outside the Farmer’s Market in Petersburg today

Inside that building looking up (when I wasn’t looking at my food):

So I looked it up online. The original structure was built 1878 – 1879. I think this is the third incarnation of it. I found four old black and white pictures of it on the Library of Congress web site. I didn’t investigate as completely as I should have. But this picture is black-and-white and it shows the building with horses and buggies pulled up outside. Here’s the link: Old Market House. The picture is mildly interesting, but more interesting still was the text beneath it. Click on the link and read it yourself, but this is what the first paragraph says: “The dummy line begins at the western terminus of the electric line and runs out to the Central Lunatic Asylum.” My best guess is “the dummy line” is a dead end railroad or trolley track. As far as the “Central Lunatic Asylum” I suspect that refers to what is currently called Central State Hospital in Dinwiddie. I went on their web site a couple minutes ago and clicked on “about.” You can click that link and read it too if you want. In the “about” section I scrolled down to “the early years” and read this second paragraph. Cut-and-pasted in here: “In December 1869, a former Confederate Facility, known as Howard’s Grove Hospital, was designated as a mental health hospital for African-Americans. The name was later changed to Central Lunatic Asylum. In June 1870, the General Assembly passed an act incorporating the Central Lunatic Asylum as an organized state institution. When the Commonwealth of Virginia assumed ownership, there were “123 insane persons and 100 paupers, not insane” housed at the asylum.” I learn the most unexpected things when I research this blog. “Paupers, not insane.” Who even knew. 

I’m a terrible food photographer. But boy do I know how to eat. I think the bacon might have been the best I’ve ever eaten – and I’ve eaten a lot of bacon. It tasted like an actual pig, which is how bacon is supposed to taste. Add hash browns, fried chicken, omg, check this out: 

Best bacon I’ve ever eaten. Awesome hash browns too. And the remains of omg fried chicken.

And that tapioca – do not even get me started. It is so, so, so good. Smooth and creamy and cold and sweet-but-not-too-sweet and it’s perfect with black coffee. Do you eat tapioca? Do you get the opportunity? Run down to Petersburg and have some of this – preferably with coffee: 

Tapioca on the left. Almost like ice cream only not as cold, and with “pearls.” Try some if you haven’t.

I got a white squirrel (I still think the only white squirrel) at Deep Run this week. But no stellar images. A gray squirrel posed for a few minutes in better light. I knew exactly what this squirrel was doing, since I was wearing shorts and doing the same thing – trying to stay in the sun. It was really cold and the wind was whipping off that lake: 

Gray squirrel keeping warm in the sun on a blustery morning

I got to spend some time with a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) at Bryan Park this week. For some reason my heart is never in these Great Blue Heron images. I always enjoy seeing them, but images I enjoy are rare. My favorites are when I photograph them in trees. That’s always an unusual image. This one is adequate: 

Great blue heron stalking something at Bryan Park this week

Speaking of adequate – this bluebird perched on my feeder Tuesday and watched me while I photographed it:

Bluebird holding its head just so, so I could capture its best angle

Facebook offers up a lot of old crap regularly and I delete it in short order and try to keep it from happening again. But Friday morning (11/8) it put in a ten year old (that day) picture of my mom and me that my dad took. It was at the finish line of the Beach2Battleship Iron Distance Triathlon in Wilmington, NC in 2009. 2009 was my seventh Ironman finish in seven years. I would continue doing an Ironman a year through 2013 when I finished my eleventh and final (at least for the time being) Iron distance race. I’ll keep doing the short ones for the foreseeable future. Here’s mom (RIP) and me ten years ago, photographed by dad (RIP): 

Screenshot of a Facebook image of mom (RIP) & me from 10 years ago, taken by dad (RIP)

I’m going to finish up there on the picture part and include a little writing here. And come back next week! All best, 


Wait! I got a picture of Mackey and Turner and Yuki at the river at Pony Pasture at 8:30 this morning: 

Mackey, Yuki and Turner on our wonderful James River this morning

= = = = = = = = = = = 

Memorable refusals

People with real classic autism have a difficult time expressing their emotions clearly. For many years I’ve offered options to people I work with, and been refused in unusual terms. I wrote several of these about seven years ago in a blog post called Echolalia

Years and years ago I was walking at Pony Pasture with a young man who has true classic autism. He likes to be outdoors walking around (or at least doesn’t complain about it) so we do that a lot. He can mutter short sentences about what he wants to do or not do, but he only says things he’s heard before. He’s never known who the president is – or what a president is – or even the name of this country. But he’s charming and likeable and never – ever – whines or complains. On the day were walking in Pony Pasture, a person was coming toward us walking a large, clean, friendly dog on a leash. My friend and I stopped and the person walked up to us and smiled and said “Do you want to pet the dog?” My friend stood ramrod straight and clenched his fists tightly at his sides and shouted “It’s not gonna’ happen!” That’s effective communication! 

A year or so later I was working with another young man with autism. His parents were going through a contentious divorce and I know he’d heard some memorable expressions of frustration. He loves to watch trains from nearly anywhere, and so do I. This particular day we were deciding whether we’d watch them from Brown’s Island or from a hill in the park at Maymont. I knew he wanted to go to Brown’s Island (you can get really close to the trains, which he loves) but I wanted to go to Maymont since we were pressed for time. He’d indicated clearly he wanted to go to Brown’s Island, but I told him we were going to Maymont instead. He leaned forward and furrowed his brow and said “Lord God JESUS!” 

I worked for several years with a guy named Thomas who was in elementary school. He didn’t seem to have even a vague idea of how to make his emotions clear, but his parents and the staff at his school were working hard to help him understand and communicate his emotions. We used to swim at a big outdoor pool in the summer and he never even wanted to get out of the water – he was free and happy all the time when he was swimming. One day we’d done about half our usual swim when I told him we’d have to get out early since he had to go to a doctor’s appointment. He stopped in mid-splash and frowned in a complete caricature of a frown you might normally expect to see on the face of a person his age. Every feature of it was overdone, from the downturned corners of his mouth to his downcast eyes to his knitted brow. He wasn’t sure if I understood how he was feeling, so he immediately informed me: “Thomas is making a sad face.” 

These guys – and most of the other folks I work with – are honest. They don’t say one thing while they’re thinking another. I never wonder where I stand with these guys – they always tell me, in clear, unmistakable language. It may be the thing I love most about my work. Everybody’s so honest 100% of the time, they spoil me! I am so grateful. 

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Posted in Birds, Bryan Park, buffleheads, Dogs, Endurance, Fun, James River, love, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

My editor is out of town! 

3 November, 2019            My editor is out of town! 

So if there are any errors on this blog post, I won’t be able to blame her. I’ll keep the writing to a minimum! 

I try to get at least one image I really like every week; I’m not always successful. Fortunately this week I heard this Red-shouldered hawk screeching in a loblolly pine at 8:30 Monday morning. The air was so clear and the sky was so blue and the light was so spectacular I started the week off with a pretty one: 

Red shouldered hawk Monday morning. That sky could not possibly be any more blue.

I got a nice Red-tail less than thirty minutes later but it was on a cell phone tower. It’s a much less appealing background than a tall pine tree so I’ll skip it. But this week – on Halloween – I looked up from my desk and saw this handsome guy perched on top of the bird feeder pole outside my office window. Fifteen plus years at this house, feeding birds effectively since Day 1, and I had never seen a Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus) . Until 3:30 in the afternoon on Halloween, 2019. Amazing and beautiful: 

First male Red-winged blackbird I’ve ever photographer here. In 15 years!

Nationwide they’re quite common, and even in central Virginia. But there’s no significant water near here – I’m not sure how he ended up there. But I was happy to see him! Maybe next time he’ll be in nicer light (and I’ll be less flustered!) and I’ll get a better image. I was just happy to see him. 

I saw the white squirrel at Deep Run later on Monday. And again later this week. I’m wondering if there is more than one at Deep Run. If not, this one covers a lot of ground. I’ve seen it across a wide area of the park. Squirrels are gathering nuts everywhere right now. The days are getting shorter and shorter and the average temperature is slowly drifting down. Here’s the white squirrel (or a white squirrel) gathering nuts this week at Deep Run Park and Recreation Center

Crumbs show up a lot more on white

Remember, white squirrels are the same animal as gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis carolinensis), just a different color. This more conventionally hued gray squirrel was gathering nuts this week at Bryan Park

Compare to previous image

I took those two pictures twenty-four hours and twelve miles apart, just random images. But look at the similarity between their poses. This stuff never gets boring.

The gray squirrel link above (should you choose to click on it) is to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries page about gray squirrels. That page says that “The daily movement is mostly within about 200 yards.” I only read that this moment (Sunday afternoon). So next time I’m at Deep Run, I’m going to be peering around to see if I can spot two white squirrels at the same time. We’ll see. 

I also glimpsed a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) on a tall pine this week. On my next picture (this coming week if I’m lucky) I’ll post a clearer image. But they’re nice looking birds and I always smile when I spot one: 

Male Northern Flicker this week.

I just learned (possibly for the second time, or more) that this is a male Northern Flicker. See that black mark below his eye, just at the base of his bill? Females are otherwise identical but don’t have that black mark.

Monday was October 28; it is real, real late in the year (IMO) for a hibiscus to continue flowering. It’s getting much colder now; this may be the end for 2019. But maybe not! This is from Monday. Every one is like a miracle: 

These hibiscuses (is that the correct plural?) are beyond compare

Evelyn tells me roses will keep growing much later. You just can’t get tired (maybe you can; I just can’t get tired) of looking at these. This one is from Tuesday: 

Possibly words don’t fail you; they failed me! OMG:

The river was a little high (just over seven feet deep) this morning, so we couldn’t get out on the rocks. Plus it was super, super muddy – the color of coffee with way too much cream. The four of us stopped for a quick break near the golf course: 

Mackey on the left, Yuki in the middle, Turner on the right next to the muddy James River this morning at Pony Pasture

One hazard (self-imposed hazard) of waiting until Sunday afternoon to put this together is I leave out some images. Here’s a Red-bellied woodpecker chowing down on the feeder yesterday afternoon at 1:00:

Red-bellied woodpeckers are big birds with big appetites

And here is the moon yesterday evening at 8:30 PM (EDT):

5.8 day old moon, waxing crescent, 36% full:

Have an excellent week! Come back next week! Evelyn will be home; the editing will be better. All best, 


Posted in Birds, Bryan Park, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, love, moon, Northern flicker, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-bellied woodpeckers, red-shouldered hawks, Rivers, roses, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), squirrels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments