17 May, 2015 I have eyes but I do not see
I was a few steps from the parking lot at Pony Pasture Tuesday morning (May 12) when I looked at the ground and it was covered with these:
They’re mulberries. I’ve had six plus months of “keen observation” of “every living thing” at Pony Pasture. I’ve walked past that 4” thick tree a hundred times – minimum – and never knew it was there. And I’m looking for stuff! That’s pretty weak. How much other stuff is there? Stuff that’s right in front of me and I still don’t even know it’s there? Crazy. Tons, I’m sure. It’s a process.
Those little fruits come from a mulberry tree (Morus rubra). The ones in the picture are not quite ripe – they’re more of a dark purple when they’re ripe. I found some ripe ones and brushed them off and ate them. They’re delicious. Like blackberries only sweeter. I cannot believe I didn’t know that tree was there. All this time.
I was fortunate later the same day to look across a wide field (at Pony Pasture, of course) and see what I thought was a hawk sitting on a branch. When I zoomed in with my camera I saw it was a deer’s head! Look how pretty:
I sent that picture to my sister Katie in Maryland. She spends a lot of time outdoors, and a lot of time with hoofed mammals. In her case, horses. She looked at the picture and replied, “I see your deer have their summer coats. Ours are holding onto the winter coat very late this year.”
I thought the deer’s face looked slender, but I didn’t think about coat length. But compare its coat to this deer I photographed in February:
The difference is obvious.
Speaking of obvious differences. Toads have begun to appear at Pony Pasture. They’re not always noticeable, but after missing a tree for half a year I’m happy to see anything! I’ve gotten two; one is a decent shot and one is marginal.
I believe this is a Fowler’s Toad (Anaxyrus fowleri) but I wouldn’t bet on it:
I don’t love this shot as much. I had a difficult time getting an angle that felt comfortable. It’s a weird fact for me – with birds or deer or snakes or toads or anything – if I get uncomfortable, whatever I’m photographing gets uncomfortable and I take poor photographs. 100% of the time. It’s a difficult variable to control.
Anyway – I think this is an Eastern American Toad (Anaxyrus americanus):
I may have mentioned in the past that I write these posts at my computer in my office and I have a window 6” to the right of this monitor. The window has a bird feeder on it. Chickadees, Tufted titmice, house finches, sparrows, cardinals, nuthatches, wrens, they go back and forth all day long. About 6:30 Wednesday morning, just as I was shutting off my computer to go to work I looked up and saw this – for the first time in my life:
A Rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus). Incredible. All I had was my phone so the picture quality is weak. But I was happy to “get” a new bird! And a Rose-breasted grosbeak is not a bird you’re likely to mistake for something else. Not subtle!
Here’s a picture with better photo quality. It’s my favorite picture in some time, even though I cut off a couple of millimeters of the tail. This is great light. And a stunning subject, a Barn Swallow (Hirundo rustica), on a wire at Bryan Park Thursday afternoon:
On a website called “Birds of North America” they have profiles of certain birds – not all. I was particularly fond of the quote on the Barn Swallow page:
“One hardly knows what quality to admire most in . . . the Barn Swallow. All the dear associations of life at the old farm come thronging up at sight of him. You think of him somehow as part of the sacred past; yet here he is today as young and as fresh as ever, bubbling over with springtime laughter.“ William L. Dawson, 1923, The Birds of California
When we’d ride the tractor in the summer at Camp in the evenings, Barn Swallows would swirl around us catching flying insects stirred up by the wheels in the grass. Another beautiful form of natural pest control.
Speaking of birds who live off of flying insects, I took a few more Purple Martin shots at Bryan Park this week. They’re always around their houses so it’s not hard to get a lens on them. But it’s hard to get what I think of as an attractive image. But here’s a male perched on the edge of the martin house. Males are darker, a deep gun metal blue:
Females are lighter. This pretty gal is staring straight at me:
This just in! I watch the purple martins at Bryan Park with a friend of mine named Ethan. Ethan and I have had many conversations with a man named Adolph White, who put up all the purple martin houses. He educates us about purple martins whenever we talk with him. Here is an article from the Richmond Times Dispatch about Mr. White and the purple martins of Bryan Park:
Flyways and Byways: Purple martins in good hands at Bryan Park
Ev and I hiked at the river yesterday and we could hear a prothonotary warbler warbling over our heads. The leaf cover is getting dense and it took us some time to locate him. Our efforts paid off; look at this handsome guy. The focus could be sharper (next time) but the color is lovely:
We had Mackey and Turner with us on that hike plus we were walking our friend’s dog Yuki. We stopped by our friend’s house to drop Yuki off on the way home. They have a shelf on the side of the house with an empty flower-pot lying sideways in it and a pair of mourning doves built a nest inside! Yesterday there was one adult and two babies (they’re called “squabs”!) inside. All three gazed peacefully at me while I snapped away. It’s easy to see why doves are a symbol for peace:
And finally, my first honeysuckle of 2015. Honeysuckle is invasive – it’s big time invasive – but I can’t help it. It’s my favorite photosynthetic plant. It’s exuberant. It’s graceful. It smells better than anything I know that is not a chocolate chip cookie. Anything that produces this much beauty and enjoyment with this little effort can only be a good thing:
Have a great week,
Great post, thanks Jay!
Hi Cappy! Glad you enjoyed it! And sorry for the delayed reply! I hope your hike is fantastic. So far we’re having a lovely late Spring here in Richmond. Lots of hawks! And honeysuckle!
Safe travels, much love, talk with you soon,
The first non-horse tenants (or would-be tenants, as they have so far just perched on the center aisle light fixtures) in the new barn are barn swallows.
Hey! Thanks for the note and sorry for my foot-dragging reply! Excellent that you’ve got organic insect control. A bat box and a black snake or two would also help. And a hawk and/or an owl. Toads. Dragonflies. Great to hear you’ve got Barn Swallows though. In my research there are a lot of references to them as good luck, for what that’s worth. But they’re beautiful and give the impression of being cheerful. Enjoy! Take it easy and thanks for the note,