Unforeseen circumstances

21 December, 2014        Unforeseen circumstances

When I began this blog post earlier this week, the title was “I cannot tell a lie…”. It was about the fact that I haven’t taken all the pictures on this blog post. So let me put that first part in here:

= = = = = = = = =

I cannot tell a lie…

…I haven’t taken all the pictures on this blog post! I’ve mentioned my friend Ethan in the past – he took the unforgettable photograph of a Northern Water Snake (Nerodia sipedon). If you like snakes or great outdoor photography, look at that picture in my April 27 post from this year Guest photographer!

We’ve spent a lot of time at Bryan Park recently but this week we made a return to Pony Pasture. Ethan and I are both fond of Buffleheads (Bucephala albeola) and there are more at Pony Pasture this December than there have been in years. Bigger flocks and more flocks. When we see something that stays around for a while, Ethan and I pass the camera back and forth so we can both practice. We’ve taken lots of pictures of Buffleheads. The pictures all look pretty similar because nearly every Bufflehead we see is in the same position – about fifty feet offshore, floating on the water. Sometimes they fly, but not for long. I have never seen one on shore or on a rock or in a tree. Amazing.

The first bird we photographed was once again a male Pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). He wasn’t very accommodating about posing for this shot, but it’s not bad:

A handsome male Pileated woodpecker, this time at Pony Pasture, close to the edge of the river

A handsome male Pileated woodpecker, this time at Pony Pasture, close to the edge of the river

We were headed back up the trail toward the parking lot when we slowed down because we saw some unusual movement on the side of the trail. This little guy (possibly gal) was peering out at us. A raccoon (Procyon lotor). As it turned out, the raccoon was on one side of the trail and a trashcan was on the other. And we were in the middle. I suspect we interrupted its dinner plans. But no matter – we left, but the trashcan stayed. Cute pose:

Cute! And probably hungry.

Cute! And probably hungry.

I’m slowly building (and modifying) my “PPFF” (Pony Pasture Flora and Fauna) page. It began as a single page but I’ve divided it in two, a dedicated page for Flora (plants, think “Florist”) and a dedicated page for Fauna (think “fawn”). I’ll add a bit from time to time. The research has been fascinating, and I’m learning new things every week. I’ve been hiking at Pony Pasture for nearly fifteen years. Anyone who has ever been down that main trail from the parking lot has seen the enormous, enormous vines on the right side of the trail, hanging from a huge tree. Maybe I’ll take a picture of Mackey and Turner with them, or my bike or my phone so you’ll get an idea of the scale. They’re easily as thick as my calf, perhaps my thigh. Anyway, I learned while researching this that they’re wild grape vines. I believe there are three different varieties in Virginia and they’re difficult (for me) to tell apart. Especially when there are no leaves or grapes. But I choose to believe this one is Riverbank Grape (Vitis riparia) because of its location. Check this thing out:

Massive grape vine, massive ash tree

Massive grape vine, massive ash tree

My information source says that’s a white ash tree (Fraxinus americana).  I’m guessing it’s a white ash but possibly it’s a green ash. I’ll have to wait until the leaves come out in the spring to determine more accurately.

= = = = = = = = = = =

Then earlier today my friend Pat called and asked if I wanted to go for a quick flight with him and his son – today! As in, I had to hurry up and get going! I’m not a pilot and I can’t fly any time I want so I said yes. I didn’t have to be to his house for a couple of hours so Mackey and Turner and I raced to Pony Pasture and had a quick hike. We saw deer! I know a spot where we can find them regularly now – this is a repeat performance by the deer and I can tell they like this spot. I was going to write more – a lot more – about Pony Pasture today. Although I write about it incessantly. And I’ve gathered a lot more data for my “PPFF/Every Living Thing” project. But that can wait for another time.

Here are the deer we saw. This is just two of them; I think there were three and maybe even four or five. But one thing about whitetail deer in hardwood forests in autumn or winter – they are nearly invisible. So see (or don’t see) for yourself. I’ve trimmed this picture way down – this is about a quarter of the original image. The rest was just more brown and a bit of green. In this picture in the bottom center you can see one deer’s face clearly – black nose, eyes, ears. You have to pay closer attention to see the one behind it – behind the tree. The deer is facing to the right in the picture, and you can see its tail to the left. Another unusual thing is you hardly see them any better when they move – they’re still practically invisible. Remarkable:

See the nose and two eyes at the bottom? And the tail and body behind that?

See the nose and two eyes at the bottom? And the tail and body behind that?

I took the last picture at Pony Pasture at 9:53 AM (according to my camera). That was in the woods, we probably weren’t back to the car until 10:15 or so. We hurried home and I gave snacks to the dogs and they went to sleep and I left for Pat’s. And we went to Williamsburg Jamestown Airport (JGG) and met Daniel. We flew the same plane as last time (I went flying yesterday!), a Cessna 172 Skyhawk, N256GP. Today we flew to Hummel Field W75 in Topping, VA, which if like me you never heard of it is in Middlesex County, VA, hard on the south bank of the Rappahannock River just before it enters the lower Chesapeake Bay.

I’m later than I’d planned to be so let me put up a few pictures and close this up. First, our view from the restaurant – Merroir Tasting Room:

It was difficult, but someone had to do it.

It was difficult, but someone had to do it.

Second a view of my plate:

See preceding caption

See preceding caption

Late addition – gulls outside the restaurant: 

This seems like a more appropriate place for seagulls than a rock at Pony Pasture

This seems like a more appropriate place for seagulls than a rock at Pony Pasture

And fun planes – an RV-7 kit plane with a 200 HP engine:

RV7 - another very fun looking little plane

RV7 – another very fun looking little plane

And a Lancair Legacy: 

A Lancair Legacy. That is an extremely sporty little plane.

A Lancair Legacy. That is an extremely sporty little plane.

And a 1970 Cessna 337F Super Skymaster with a Marine Corps logo:

A 1970 Cessna 337F Super Skymaster. With a push prop and a pull prop! And two engines!

A 1970 Cessna 337F Super Skymaster. With a push prop and a pull prop! And two engines! And a Marine Corps insignia!

Enough for this week! More next week! Have a great week!

All best,

Jay

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.
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4 Responses to Unforeseen circumstances

  1. Pingback: PP Fauna | NEWFAZE

  2. Pingback: PP Flora | NEWFAZE

  3. Pingback: You’re only as good as your last gig… | NEWFAZE

  4. Pingback: EVERY time’s a charm! | NEWFAZE

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