31 August, 2014    Seasons

Summer doesn’t “officially” end until day and night are of equal length (“equinox”). This year that day is September 23. But here in the United States, summer runs from roughly Memorial Day (it was May 26 this year) through Labor Day (tomorrow). That’s generally when schools are on summer vacation and it’s when outdoor pools are open.


This hasn’t been a dry summer and there is still a lot of green around. A few trees have started to change but most are still green. I’ll be cutting my grass again after I post this. Here in central Virginia I still cut my grass at least through October and I think early November is not unheard of. But in high summer the sun is over the horizon for nearly fifteen hours and the grass grows very enthusiastically. Today the sun will only be up for around thirteen hours and by mid-October it will be down to around eleven. Less sunlight = less photosynthesis = less grass growing = less lawn mowing = yay. The other very exciting season related change for me is I begin using my woodstove for heat. That will begin at night probably in a month. But I’m getting ahead of myself.


There’s still plenty of sunlight for flowers to grow. Which means still plenty of bugs. In this case, bees. Bumblebees, specifically. I haven’t seen as many honeybees this year. Which is faintly in-the-back-of-my-mind disturbing. I’m aware there have been declines. I’ll have to look into it further. And I don’t know if bumblebees make honey! Pardon my ignorance. I will fill that gap in my knowledge soon. I believe they do not make honey.


This picture doesn’t compare to the one I took in my neighbor’s yard while dog sitting in July. That was one of the top photos I’ve ever taken, and I’ve taken a lot. If you missed it, have a look at: Neighbors! This one is a decent picture too, it’s just lacking the neon color from the zinnia as background.


It’s a cool picture of a bumblebee – no doubt about it. And it has an interesting feature in common with the one from the “Neighbors!” blog post – in the picture there’s more detail than in real life! Which at least to me is a bizarre concept. Think about it – the reproduction looks more “real” than the actual object. The fake looks more real than the real. That troubles me, faintly.


What is most unusual (in my mind) about this picture is what else is in the picture in addition to the bumblebee. Which I didn’t even notice until I put it on my computer. Which I would never have known was there if I hadn’t taken this picture. Look it over yourself for just a moment:

I continue to be amazed at how much is happening in this picture

I continue to be amazed at how much is happening in this picture

Besides the bee and the flower, I believe there is a minimum of three other insects or the remains of insects in this picture. You can click on the picture to enlarge it. To the bee’s left you can see what in my opinion is a spittlebug or froghopper. It looks like a small foamy white mass with six black legs sticking out. It’s late in the season for spittlebugs but that is certainly what it appears to be.


Then if you look directly to the bee’s right you can see what appears to be a brown spider or maybe it’s a dead spider or exuvia. But you can’t miss it.


Then go to the very bottom of the bee’s right wingtip and look just to the right. There is a tiny green bug there. My friend Pat said it looks like an aphid which sounds reasonable.


It’s still incredible to me that I was looking at that scene and only saw the bee. So much other stuff going on. It makes me wonder how much other stuff I miss in my life.


I hope you enjoy that bee picture, because photographic pickings have been slim this week.


It was morning at Pony Pasture when I took that bumblebee picture. I went hiking at Bryan Park that afternoon with my friend Ethan. I turned the camera over to him and he took this nice picture of an algae covered turtle sunning on a log. I think this is a Red-eared Slider (Trachemys scripta elegans) but I wouldn’t bet my already-shaky reputation on it. The only turtle I can identify w/o fail is a box turtle and this isn’t that. Great picture though – thanks Ethan!:

Algae covered Red-eared Slider? Possibly?

Algae covered Red-eared Slider? Possibly?

I zoomed in (in my obsessive way) on the turtle’s head. Here is a closeup – you can see the red streaks just behind the eyes. That is not a solid ID but I think it’s a good clue.

Tight closeup of that turtle's head

Tight closeup of that turtle’s head

Great Blue Herons are not my favorite bird but sometimes I get a decent picture. This one is also from Bryan Park that day. I’m always hoping I’ll get a picture of a heron catching a fish or a snake or a turtle but it hasn’t happened yet. Still looking:

Elegant and clumsy in the same bird

Elegant and clumsy in the same bird

Enough creeping-crawling-stinging-swimming-flying things. I’ll close with a couple of flowers. This day-glo yellow flower was brightening up the field at Pony Pasture this morning:

If I were the sun I'd love to shine on flowers like these

If I were the sun I’d love to shine on flowers like these

And this almost artificially pink rose was climbing out of the 100% untamed garden next to my driveway:

So pink it looks like it has a power supply hidden somewhere

So pink it looks like it has a power supply hidden somewhere

Enjoy this little story (hopefully) and come back again next week! Even more hopefully! All best,


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Fun story from my pet therapy days with Ivory

Mackey and Turner and I ran into a couple at Pony Pasture this morning who were hiking with a lovely pair of Borzois. We’d met them before but this was the first time we chatted. As usual I now know the dog’s names but not the people’s. One of the dogs was a gorgeous dark female named Abigail (such a graceful name and such a graceful dog) and the male was lighter colored and his name was Wraith. We spoke some about this and that and the conversation turned to therapy dogs as it often does when I’m in on the conversation. They did some therapy work with one of their dogs too.


Ivory (my old therapy dog, RIP) was the first dog I ever taught to “spell” or at least to give the impression he knew how to spell. All of my dogs do it now. Yours can too; it takes about ten seconds to teach. It’s a parlor trick but it’s a good one. If I say “S-I-T”, Mackey and Turner will sit right away. More often than not, anyway. If they’re right in front of me. They’ll do the same thing if I say “P-I-G” or “B-I-D” but that would spoil the fun.


Ivory loved nothing better than to make people smile and in hindsight I suspect it was him who taught me the trick. It’s perfect for young kids because if they can spell at all, they know how to spell “sit.” Ivory and I were doing pet therapy one day many years (more like a decade) ago on the Pediatric ICU (PICU) at MCV. There was a girl there who was let’s say seven years old. She was sick enough to be in ICU but well enough to be bored. But sick enough that she couldn’t get out of bed. That population is the exact target for pet therapy. Bored kids who are otherwise unable to relieve their boredom. Other than by video games or television which yuck. So we were doing the usual chatter about Ivory and the girl was engaged because pet therapy is a big, big boredom reliever. I told her that Ivory knew how to spell and proceeded to demonstrate (S-I-T!). Her eyes popped wide open like she was part of a comedy act. She stared at Ivory and stared at me and stared at Ivory again. She said “OH. MY. GOSH!!!” She looked at me again and back at Ivory. And said “J-U-M-P!”


Pet therapy’s such a great environment. I’ll bet that was fifteen years ago. That girl’s probably in college now. Ivory’s been gone for over three years. But it still brings a smile to my face. I of course had to quickly explain how Ivory could spell one word but not the other – not yet, anyway.

I hope your week is great.

All best,


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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, People, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Seasons

  1. evzakyoga says:

    Yay! Before I share more, do you want to insert “is” into the second sentence? xo



  2. Certainly! Thank you! See what happens when my favorite editor takes her late-summer sabbatical? The whole enterprise crumbles.

  3. Justin says:

    Winter gives us a reason to have hot chocolate.

  4. Cappy says:

    Possibly my favorite. Great shot of Bee & Friends…great shots in general!

    • I am always happy when someone enjoys any of my blog posts. And I’m glad you enjoy the images I’m posting. If you enjoy them half as much as I enjoy yours, I’ll know I’m doing a great job! Talk with you soon,



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