Feeling sluggish

12 April, 2015 Feeling sluggish

When I began my Every living thing section in December of last year, I documented many of the most beautiful animals and plants in Pony Pasture. This morning I got my first… slug:

Terrestrial gastropod mollusc. AKA slug.

Terrestrial gastropod mollusc. AKA slug.

As of today, all I can tell you is that’s a slug. Embarrassingly, that’s all I can tell you. It’s a living thing. It’s an animal, not a plant. I first thought they were insects; they’re not. They’re terrestrial gastropod molluscs. Sycamore trees and Whitetail deer, the signature flora and fauna of Pony Pasture, you can’t miss. When you get down to slugs, it’s getting a little challenging to identify. I’ll get to it though. 

Here’s a member of Pony Pasture Fauna that is easier to identify. And it’s a first for my list and blog page! Vocabulary and a warning first. The vocabulary word is “ophidophobia,” or fear of snakes, “possibly the most common subcategory of herpetophobia, or fear of reptiles.” To give ophidophobes a moment to avert their eyes, I’ll first post a less anxiety producing reptile photograph – and another first for this blog. What the heck, a new (for some) vocabulary word too – the bottom of a turtle’s shell is called a plastron and I got a picture of one on Monday!

Plastron. Remarkable.

Plastron. Remarkable.

We’re more used to seeing the top, or carapace. This is what the rest of the as-yet-unidentified turtle looked like. I believe it’s a male, based on his long claws. My friend Kim was surprised I was able to catch him. We surmised he must have been moving slow due to the still cool weather. Pony Pasture is on the south bank of the James River. The south bank stays cooler longer than the north bank. In Chinese philosophy, when you learn about “yin and yang,” the “yin” is represented by the south bank of rivers because it gets less sunlight. Not that that has anything to do with turtles. But the south bank gets less sun so the turtles warm up slower – so you can catch them! Here’s the rest of the turtle:

Male turtle (long claws) slowly warming up on the south bank of the river.

Male turtle (long claws) slowly warming up on the south bank of the river. His carapace appears to be resting on his forehead. That’s of course just an illusion. 


When I was looking for that definition I found an old favorite poem of my Dad’s, which I will include here for all of our edification (another favorite word of Dad’s):

The turtle lives ‘twixt plated decks

Which practically conceal its sex

I think it clever of the turtle

In such a fix to be so fertile.

-Ogden Nash

Dad liked to quote Ogden Nash. More on that in a future blog post.

Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica) are blooming: 

Virginia bluebells

Virginia bluebells

May apple plants are out; the “apples” themselves are not visible yet. Soon, though:

May apple

May apple

Another perennial favorite of mine is beginning to appear, pawpaws (asimina triloba). As summer wears on, they will leaf out and dominate the understory at Pony Pasture. Currently they’re just brown buds:

Pawpaw buds

Pawpaw buds

I’m embarrassed again (though not so embarrassed I won’t post it) to put up yet another picture of an unidentified plant. A moss, this time. They’re budding and this is such a pretty picture: 

That's moss!

That’s moss!

Isn’t it remarkable that’s moss? I’m finding so many examples of things that look so different in a photograph as to become nearly unrecognizable. It’s fun. 

Anyway, snakeophobes, a.k.a. ophidophobes, I warned you, this is where the rubber meets the road. In a manner of speaking. This is a snake so harmless it’s actually beneficial. That’s true of most snakes. But this is (I believe) a Northern Black Racer. But I have not yet received confirmation so Kim or Betsy or Katie or whoever, put a comment on here or shoot me a note and I’ll correct it. Hope you can do it from the head only although I have body pictures if you need one: 

Snake preparing for a swim

Snake preparing for a swim

It was about three feet long and slender, and the water there was ten feet wide and a couple of feet deep. And that snake went straight into the water and swam to the other side like it was part fish. 

Two more quick pictures then it’s off to bed – got started much too late. The first is a fiddlehead fern. But “fiddlehead” is not a type of fern. It’s a growth stage. This is a Christmas fern or something I have not identified, but this is referred to as its “fiddlehead” stage. You can see why: 

Fiddlehead fern. I am continually amazed and delighted at how gorgeous this all is.

Fiddlehead fern. I am continually amazed and delighted at how gorgeous this all is.

Very late in the hike, nearly within sight of Charlie’s Bridge, I always check for deer and they’re nearly always there. Today was no exception. It gets leafier every day and more difficult to see. There was at least one doe in there. Possibly more; I only saw this one beauty. I played around and got some shots but none worthy of publication. But see what you think of this one. They are effortlessly (in my opinion) graceful and elegant animals. They blend in so beautifully with their surroundings. This is her elbows. I love this picture. And I hope you have a great week:

Nice elbows. She is a natural beauty.

Nice elbows. She is a natural beauty.

See you next week, 




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

9 Responses to Feeling sluggish

  1. Gilpin Brown says:

    More GREAT photos, Jay. Thanks

  2. Justin Smith says:

    Why would the south bank of a river get less sun?

    • Hi Justin, Great to hear from you! South banks of rivers and north sides of mountains get less sun in the Northern Hemisphere. Here in Richmond we’re at ~37º N latitude. So the sun rises (roughly) in the E and sets roughly in the W. It travels an arc to our south. So the south bank of the river is more shaded and the north bank gets more sun. It sounds counterintuitive at first but after you think about it for a minute it makes sense. The concept of yin and yang is closely identified with that.

      Have a great day,


    • Hi again Justin! I apologize for not writing more clearly. It’s not about the trees. Picture a ditch running straight through a field from west to east. That represents the river. The sun rises at the east end of the ditch. As it climbs through the April sky, it stays to the south, since here in Virginia we’re ~37º of latitude north of the equator. Its rays shine across the ditch – and hit the bank that’s in the north. And the south bank stays shaded. Because the sun is behind it. If you visualize it for a few minutes I guarantee you’ll have an “aha” moment. It’s a counterintuitive but fascinating concept.

      Talk with you soon,


  3. Katie Phalen says:

    Those are her hocks, which would be ankles on a human. Her elbows are in front, a little above where the front leg hits the belly line. Everything looks different on a quadruped. When I heard your tibia was broken, back in the day, I thought you had broken your thighbone. That’s what happens when you learn anatomy on animals.

    I can’t tell from the photo, but would suspect that is a black rat snake. Most racers would have vanished in way less than the time it took you to get it in your viewfinder. They are there, and then they’re…not. But if it was cold enough, maybe.

    • Thank you! She certainly has lovely hocks. I suppose it wouldn’t be called “nice gams” on a human – more like “a well turned ankle.” My tibia AND my fibula were broken. Of course so were my radius and my ulna. Which couldn’t have helped ease the confusion.

      I’m going to email another picture of the snake to Kim and I’ll send one to you too. That head shot was the most striking picture visually (which is why it made the cut for the blog) but perhaps not the best for ID purposes.

      My friend Betsy just ID’d four more flowers for me so I’m going to spend some of this rainy April day seeing if I have some picture of them. Cutleaf toothwart, Star chickweed, Garlic mustard and Woodland phlox. She tells me there are also Blue-gray Gnatcatchers and White-eyed Vireos. I just missed a Vireo the other day and I’m still working on a Gnatcatcher as well. Those tiny songbirds are getting harder and harder to see as the trees leaf out.

      Anyway, thanks for the help with ungulate lower extremity anatomy and with herpetology.

      Talk with you soon,


  4. Pingback: Fascinating / boring | 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