Every living thing – the seasons

11 January, 2015               Every living thing – the seasons

Welcome to NEWFAZE! I’d like to thank the Friends of the James River Park (FoJRP) for thoughtfully including my blog in their most recent newsletter. Here is a link to their current newsletter: FoJRP Newsletter. If you’d like to see the specific article they wrote about this blog (forgive my over-enthusiasm; I can’t tell you how exciting this is) click on this link: EVERY LIVING THING – THE PREQUEL.

If you’re new to this blog, thanks for stopping by. I hope you enjoy it and return frequently. And forward it to your friends!

I’m continually revising and updating my “Every living thing” project. The record of revisions and updates can always be followed by clicking on the “PPFF” link in the black bar at the top of this page. “PPFF” stands for “Pony Pasture Flora and Fauna.” When you click on that link it will take you to another page. That page has a link to “Pony Pasture Flora” (plants, think “florist”) and  “Pony Pasture Fauna” (think living things that are not plants – deer, dragonflies, turtles, everything else.) It’s constantly evolving, and will be for a minimum of one year. 

Important – if you know of a plant or animal (or insect or any other living thing) at Pony Pasture – if you’ve seen it – and want it included here, let me know. Scroll down to the very bottom of this post and put it in the comments section. I reply to every comment. Or 95% of them anyway, I lose track a time or two. I only include things in the blog that I photograph. So help me find it! I’ve been told by reputable sources that there are both Cedar waxwings (Bombycilla cedrorum) and Northern Flickers (Colaptes auratus) in Pony Pasture. And this morning I saw either a  Golden-crowned Kinglet (Regulus satrapa) or a Vireo of some sort or possibly some type of warbler – but couldn’t get my lens on it. So watch for those.


I’m talking (typing) too much. Let me put in a picture then write a bit more. Winter is great for photographing birds because the leaves are mostly gone and it lets in more light. Which makes better pictures. This is a male Downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) I saw at Pony Pasture Thursday morning:

Handsome male Downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

Handsome male Downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)

As an aside, I believe Downy woodpeckers are the smallest in North America. And I’ve seen before – in that same grove – many a Pileated woodpecker (Dryocopus pileatus). The largest woodpecker in North America. If I ever get both in the same picture – which I will now try to do – you’ll see it in this space. 

It takes a year (at least) to do the full “Every living thing” project because there are always different animals in the park. It’s January and there are Buffleheads everywhere on the river, all the time. Six months from now the nearest Bufflehead will be a thousand miles north. There is not a turtle to be seen in Pony Pasture in January. Six months from now there will be hundreds – probably thousands. And although the same plants (mostly) are at Pony Pasture year round, there are no flowers in January.

So to photograph “every living thing,” you have to be there in every month of the year. Preferably every week. And in January you have to keep your camera inside your coat to keep the battery from freezing. Keeping your camera battery from freezing so you can post pictures on your blog. If you’ve been trying to find a previously undiscovered First World Problem, your search is over. But it was 10º and crystal clear when I woke up Thursday morning and that may be my favorite photography weather.

Here’s another picture from earlier this week – an American robin (Turdus migratorious). “American robins” are the ones you always see – that’s just their official name. There are also European robins but not here. American robins may be the most abundant bird in the world, although I’ve heard that about Red-winged blackbirds (Agelaius phoeniceus ) as well. Robin with chest puffed out to keep warm:

Robin warming up in the sun

Robin warming up in the sun

This morning (Sunday) at Pony Pasture a few crows stopped in a tree on the river’s edge. Believe it or not (see preceding paragraph) their official name is “American crow” (Corvus brachyrhynchos). Normally when I see crows at Pony Pasture it’s a mob of them harassing a hawk or an owl. This group was more staid:

Crow in the sun

Crow in the sun (with blurry branches, sorry)

 I’ve also put a lot (perhaps too many) pictures of Ring-billed gulls (Larus delawarensis) on this blog. But they’re easy to photograph and they’re attractive birds:

Ring-billed gull. I have a hard time shooting at a low angle on the water. But the bird looks great.

Ring-billed gull. I have a hard time with light when I’m shooting at a low angle on the water. But the bird looks great.

This is an appropriate space (see preceding photograph) to correct a misconception recently spread about me by the otherwise precise FoJRP. The gracious person who did the writeup about me in their newsletter referred to me as a “photographer.” I believe it’s more accurate (though long-winded) to say I’m a “person who takes pictures.” Because when I’m at Pony Pasture, I’m hiking or walking dogs or riding a bicycle and carrying a camera. Photographers (Lynda Richardson, Rich Young, etc.) take much better pictures than I do. I’m just out there a lot. With a mediocre camera. But I’m not afraid to use it. 

Last week (Happy New Year!, 4 January, 2015) I photographed and wrote about some of the plants that are invasive species at Pony Pasture. My friend Betsy, who has been traipsing around that park since before I even knew it existed, is helping me with identification. She’s helping me ID all plants, not just invasive species. But in January, other than evergreens and our beautiful sycamores, there aren’t a lot of plants that are obvious. At least to me. But one of the reasons these species are so invasive is they’re hard to kill. And winter doesn’t kill them either. So I’ve researched invasive species this week and compiled a few informative links if you’re inclined to learn more. This is a terrific article out of Virginia Wildlife Magazine: The Aliens Have Landed

Here’s another site called Weeds Gone Wild

This little flower may or may not be invasive. And it is not from Pony Pasture – it’s growing under my (south-facing) wood pile. But I took this picture a week ago today and any flower blooming like this in January deserves to be seen:

It was very tiny. But what a cheerful sight in January.

It was very tiny. But what a cheerful sight in January.

I editorialized last week and I stay away from editorializing on this blog. Because all editorializing bores me. And my moral dilemmas have no place here either. The problem is – honeysuckle may be my favorite flower in the world. For looks and for smell. And I’m not as fond of the appearance of multiflora rose and of privet, but that might round out my top three favorite smells on this planet. Well, chocolate chip cookies baking and bread baking, but I mean outdoor smells. Honeysuckle and multiflora and privet are all invasive species. And they smell so delicious, all I want to do is stand there and breathe. They’ll be on here in a couple of months when they’re blooming. My conflict is they’re invasive but I love to smell them. Also – ponies were invasive here at some point. So Pony Pasture is named after an invasive species! Hmm. Try that one on for size. Back to a less controversial subject. 

Stepping out of the car this morning at Pony Pasture, the trees and bushes were filled with bluebirds. I’ve never seen them near the parking lot. It is just amazing how many bluebirds are in Pony Pasture these days. Amazing and gratifying. I didn’t get any pictures this morning, but this one was on the river bank Thursday morning drinking like it was his own private bowl:

Gulping ice water

Gulping ice water

Down the hatch

Down the hatch

Then he hopped up on a snag and gave me the eye: 

Checking me out from a safer vantage point

Checking me out from a safer vantage point

 If you tire easily of bluebird pictures, this is the wrong blog for you. I don’t put up a ton of pictures of crows or robins or seagulls but I love bluebirds. 

Have a great week! Come back next week! Pass this along to friends! Offer me your criticism, comments, questions, observations! And thanks for visiting!

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, Flowers, Fun, James River, Pony Pasture, Rivers and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Every living thing – the seasons

  1. Pingback: PP Fauna | NEWFAZE

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s