Flowers and dogs and birds, oh my

27 February, 2014    Flowers and dogs and birds, oh my

And trains too, it’s been a while for trains. I’m not overjoyed with these pictures either but what the heck. I’ll get better pictures soon. I always hope to get better pictures soon, no matter what I’m photographing. In better photography news, I’ll be getting a new camera soon. I haven’t completely decided yet. But in a couple of months.

Meanwhile, my last post was on 11 February, and since then it’s snowed! A lot! A lot for here, anyway. And since it’s only late February, I would be unsurprised to see more snow. I was out and about before it snowed and I enjoyed how excited everyone seemed to be, everywhere I went. A lot of anticipation, a lot of smiling faces, a lot of people talking about the same subject – that’s always fun. The dogs and I got out in it the first morning. Mackey headed out on the rocks the moment we got to the river:

Mackey exploring the snowy river's edge

Mackey exploring the snowy river’s edge

Turner has two settings: 1) Wildly enthusiastic, 2) Asleep. He chose Setting 1 for this fine snowy morning at the river:

Not letting sleeping dogs lie:

Not letting sleeping dogs lie:

Red-bellied woodpeckers are thriving this winter. We saw this one at PP the same morning. I wouldn’t say this one was thriving; the snow had gotten damp and he was looking bedraggled:

Red-bellied and damp-bellied

Red-bellied and damp-bellied

There are a lot of cormorants around now too. They are in a sense striking because they’re large and they normally hang around in big flocks. But they always strike me as greasy and thuggish. A reflection of my personal biases, no doubt. This one is handsome. Possibly even elegant:

Possibly somewhat majestic. Enjoying the rising sun.

Possibly somewhat majestic. Enjoying the rising sun.

Often when I don’t care for a person it’s because I don’t understand them. Possibly that’s the case with cormorants – I don’t understand them. When I use words like “greasy” or “thuggish” I’m not considering the possibility of a captivating cormorant personality. This one appears to have recently told or heard a hilarious joke, so perhaps I’m missing something:

The most expressive cormorant I've encountered:

The most expressive cormorant I’ve encountered:

I took another picture of a ring billed gull the same day. Here’s a nice specimen:

Ring-billed gull, floating high in the water

Ring-billed gull, floating high in the water. They photograph well, don’t they? 

A couple of posts ago (Veering slightly, 2 February, 2014) I included a picture of a flying gull and ID’d it as “a ring-necked gull.” My sharp-eyed friend Kim is a long time and loyal blog reader (and professional wildlife illustrator, go figure) and she pointed out that was a Ring-billed gull, not a ring-necked gull. She went on to note that we do in fact have Ring-necked ducks at PP, though they’re not as numerous as the gulls. I even took a decent picture of one just about a year ago. You can see it in this blog post from March of 2013: Bliss.

Crows have been easy to photograph this month as well. It must be because the leaves are off the trees. Few people consider crows beautiful, but they have a certain stately elegance. When they’re alone and polite:

Alone, polite, even stately in all black:

Alone, polite, even stately in all black:

This one too was alone, but whatever it was saying, it doesn’t look polite. In my opinion. Or perhaps, like the cormorant, this is an expression of mirth. Interpret as you see fit:



I’ve seen more Red-bellied woodpeckers this year than I’ve ever seen. They’re very noisy too. I saw this one at Bryan Park:

Red-bellied woodpecker in Bryan Park

Red-bellied woodpecker in Bryan Park (female) 

This is a smaller one from PP:

Small and graceful

Small and graceful (male)

That’s a good demonstration of how you tell a male from a female. The first picture on this blog plus the one directly above are both males – see how their heads are red over the tops of their eyes and all the way to the base of their beaks? The one two pictures above this is a female. Look around her eye – all grey. They’re nice birds to watch.

The forecast for Richmond is for a low of 18º tonight (!) but I’m already seeing the first flowers at PP, in the little bed at the north end of “Charlie’s Bridge.” There are some pretty orange-yellow crocuses and some sort of bright yellow ground cover flowers that I’ll find in other parts of the park when the sun begins to hit just right:

Warm, bright crocus

Warm, bright crocus

Cheerful ground cover

Cheerful ground cover

I opened with a bird and there are lots of birds on this post and I’m going to close with one. But first, a CSX locomotive, since I haven’t put up a picture of one in a while. This is far below the quality I like, but it’ll do. This is an ES44AC, the main coal-hauler I see here in Richmond. #549 is just behind it, an AC44CW, a little bit older and perhaps a little bit less environmentally friendly. “ES” stands for “Evolution Series” which means they emit less pollution. I was with my buddy Clark and we couldn’t see what was behind the locomotives, but it is always coal. We leave there and get on the expressway and cross the river a mile or so upstream on the Powhite Parkway (Route 76) bridge. Today as always we drove over the back end of that train, sitting on the tracks beside the river. Here’s the front:

ES44 followed by an AC44

ES44 followed by an AC44

And since I opened with a bird I’ll close with one, this time a bright male cardinal from Pony Pasture. Because most people enjoy cardinals:

Handsome guy

Handsome guy

Sunday (2 March) will be the three year anniversary of this blog! I hope to put up an anniversary post. So, until then, or until my next post, have a great day and all best,


About Jay McLaughlin

I am a rehabilitation counselor. I have many friends with autism and traumatic brain injuries. They help me learn new things constantly. I hike with dogs at the James River in Richmond - a lot. I've completed an Iron distance triathlon a year for 11 years. My most recent was in Wilmington, NC in November, 2013. I currently compete in mid-distance triathlons. And work and hike and take pictures and write and eat.
This entry was posted in Birds, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, Rivers, Trains. Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Flowers and dogs and birds, oh my

  1. Gilpin Brown says:

    I always love your posts, jay, and especially the photos – you’re getting better all the time.

    • Thanks Gilpin! Coming from as talented a photographer as you are, that is certainly a compliment. It may just appear that I’m getting better because the leaves are down and there is more light, which = better photos. But thank you! I got a few good shots today and yesterday that I’ll be posting soon. No raptors unfortunately but hopefully I’ll be seeing them again before the trees leaf out.

      Have a great day,


  2. evzakyoga says:

    Excellent photos, especially that cackling cormorant! It gives me a whole new perspective on those fellows. Fun, fun post as always. xo

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it! That cormorant was certainly unusual. They normally seem so dour, it was nice to see one smile. Or at least to interpret that unusual expression as a smile. Thanks for the comment and/or compliment! Have a great day, xoxo,


  3. Pingback: PP Fauna | NEWFAZE

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