We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post…

1 February, 2015                       We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post…

…to bring you this slight change of pace. Today’s the first day of February and it’s still winter. By the calendar the first day of Spring is not until mid-March. But keep your eyes peeled this month. The gray, monochrome colors are still around but in Pony Pasture we’ll see the first “non-winter” colors before February ends. Flowering plants are the first “non-winter” colors. Typically those are dandelions, and they pop up at the slightest provocation. But the first “real” flowers will be either daffodils or crocuses. There are reliable clumps of daffodils in a few places in Pony Pasture. And crocuses and snowdrops will appear beneath this sign soon:

The late, great Charlie Slade's  eponymous bridge. Sign soon to be surrounded by cheerful flowers.

The late, great Charlie Slade’s eponymous bridge. Sign soon to be surrounded by cheerful flowers.

I don’t know if many adults have a favorite train engine (some do, I’m sure) but mine is the GE AC6000CW. CSX only has about a hundred of them. Seeing one is sort of like seeing a Bald Eagle – they’re around, but you don’t get to see them very often. I was hiking with a buddy earlier this week when one came around the bend. If you see a CSX locomotive with a three digit number beginning with “6” it’s an AC6000. Here’s the one we saw:

AC6000CW pulling LOTS of grain into Richmond

AC6000CW pulling LOTS of grain into Richmond

I’ve said this before but (in my experience) the single most important factor in photography is light. For a better photographer than me (there are many) I’m sure other factors come into play. But in my case I want lots of light. From where I was looking at that train I was able to turn around and see this handsome Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) perched on a handrail. Beautiful light:

Not very artistic, but that light is so beautiful. And so is the mockingbird.

Not artistic, but that light is so beautiful. And so is the mockingbird.

It’s been gray on a lot of days recently but when the sun comes through it’s bright and crisp. The same day I took that mockingbird picture (Wednesday) I pulled up in front of my house and my front yard was filled with American Robins (Turdus migratorius). I rolled down my window and turned off the car and sat there with my camera. In just a minute or two they were acting as if I wasn’t even there. I couldn’t get a picture of all of the robins in the yard – not even close. But if you look closely in this picture you can count nine. These are “overwintering” robins – they live here year round. I’m always happy to see them:

A small sliver of a yard filled with robins.

A small sliver of a yard filled with robins. It’s hard to pick them out from the leaves. 

Wednesday was just a good day for photography – very clear air all day. I took this picture of the moon from my front yard around 6:30 in the evening:

Moon against a black sky

Moon against a black sky

At that point it was high in the southeastern sky. The current lunar cycle was about 8.5 days old. The true full moon here in Richmond for this cycle comes at 6:10 PM Tuesday evening (February 3). The moon’s “age” – how far along in its cycle – will be 14 days, 9 hours and 55 minutes when it is completely full. It’ll still appear full tomorrow evening and Wednesday evening though. The current weather forecast for Tuesday evening is clear so we’ll probably be able to see it. The moon will begin its climb above the eastern horizon at 5:40 PM Tuesday. Watch for it if you enjoy the full moon.

Thursday afternoon at Pony Pasture I photographed a duck I don’t often see. I saw the first pair of Hooded Mergansers (Lophodytes cucullatus ) I’ve ever seen there. Hooded Mergansers aren’t an extremely rare bird – I just don’t see them very often. I got a lucky shot of a female a few years ago but this is my first male. The quality of these images is embarrassingly poor but I was happy to “catch” them all the same. The males in these pictures are obvious. But if you look closely at each one you can just see the female slightly to his left:

Male hooded merganser (tail of a female just to the left)

Male hooded merganser (tail of a female just to the left)

 

Male merganser strutting his stuff. Female slightly visible on the left.

Male merganser strutting his stuff. Female slightly visible on the left.

I’ll keep my eyes open – hopefully I’ll get better pictures soon.

Here’s a decent picture with pleasant light. Although it’s a perfect example of mid-winter monochrome. There is no color in this picture. I think this is a Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia). Birders, please correct me if necessary:

Poorly identified sparrow - can't even tell you the gender - sorry. I think that's an egg case of some sort below it on the stem.

Poorly identified sparrow – can’t even tell you the gender – sorry. I think that’s an insect egg case of some sort below it on the stem.

I’ll close with one more moon picture. I took the first moon picture in this blog post at 6:23 PM on the 28th. This one I took at 5:23 PM on the 31st. It was 11 days, 9 hours and 8 minutes old:

Moon against a blue sky

Moon against a blue sky

Enough! Enough for me anyway, for this week. I hope you are gratified by the outcome of the Super Bowl, if you are a fan of NFL football. See you in a week,

Jay

PS It was nine years ago (I am dumbfounded) tomorrow that Ivory and Nicky and I drove away from the Starbucks near the Virginia Eye Institute (still my favorite Starbucks) en route Whitehorse, the capital of the Yukon Territory in Canada to volunteer at the 2006 Yukon Quest. Here’s an old blog I kept that trip: yukonmutts

Here’s a picture I took of the guy Mackey is named after; he won the Yukon Quest that year: Lance Mackey

I also spent a couple of days playing around with the dogs at Muktuk Kennel. It’s owned by 25 time (!) Yukon Quest finisher Frank Turner – and that’s who Turner is named after. Here’s a blog post from when I took a hike on a frozen river with some of his puppies. It was 9º Fahrenheit. I still regard it as one of the peak experiences of my life. Please look at this blog post and if you do, please click on the thumbnails of the pictures. They enlarge and are breathtaking: If the reward for virtuous living…

 

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, Fun, James River, moon, Pony Pasture, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Trains and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to We interrupt our regularly scheduled blog post…

  1. Clare T says:

    & the groundhog said 6 more wks of winter – that’s AOK by me……one big snowstorm would be GREAT now that i have a healthy pile of wood, but i’ve noticed there ARE protestors amongst us – pointy green hats (disguised as daffodils) pushing out of the dirt, forsythia teasing me with yellow blooms and the dogwoods making ready by plumping up their buds…….it won’t be long, as Jay said, the robins are in session!

    thanks Jay

    Clare T

    • Hi Clare! I apologize for my delayed reply! Don’t know how accurate the groundhog is, but looks like winter’s making an appearance this week! I brought in a lot of firewood and I have a large stack in the yard so we’ll get through this snow just fine. Yay! Had a nice but VERY cold hike at the river with Mackey and Turner this morning. That wind was something else! Looking forward to getting them down there when it snows. Sorry again for the delayed reply! We look forward to seeing you at the river soon. Enjoy the snow! Have a great day,

      Jay

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 )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ 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