Brothers and sisters

26 July, 2015                  Brothers and sisters

I’m not used to having guests! But thanks to Evie, I’m starting to like it! Last week, Evelyn’s sister Jackie was here – it was Ev’s birthday and we celebrated a lot. This week, my brother Shane was here – and we celebrated again! Shane’s lovely wife Kristin was with him – and Evelyn threw a mini-shower for her! I’m civil and polite and an adequate conversationalist, but the finer points of entertaining continue to elude me, even at my advanced age! Thank goodness for the observation of the late Dr. Rule, my counseling teacher in grad school. I can practically hear his voice:  “Your strengths lie in other areas.” Evelyn’s strengths lie in other areas and in the area of gracious entertaining. Cooking too!

I feel bad that I took essentially zero pictures while Shane and Kristin and Tara were here. Of course they were only here for eighteen hours, and it was dark for half of those, but still.

The title for the first draft of this post was “A new obsession – THAT’S all I need”. Here’s the picture that inspired it:

Osprey on a power pole

Osprey on a power pole

That’s an osprey! Two miles from my house! With a nest! Incredible. I was driving home Wednesday afternoon, looking at the tops of power poles. There are birds of prey all over town now and they love to sit on power poles. I’ve been (in case perhaps you’ve missed this) somewhat Red-tailed Hawk focused (possibly obsessed) this spring and summer. I realized that was an osprey, pulled into a parking lot and started snapping pictures. A moment later it flew across the street toward me – and landed in a nest! I haven’t gotten a picture I like on the nest yet, but here’s a low quality shot; you’ll get the idea –

Two ospreys on a nest; I think that's a cell phone tower.

Two ospreys on a nest; I think that’s a cell phone tower.

Ev and I took Mackey and Turner to Pony Pasture Saturday because we knew we might not make it down for our Sunday hike. Ev was hiking in front of us and as she rounded a corner she said “Look at this huge fungus!”. It was enormous – and, as always, I had to add a prop to show the scale. Another obsession. Here is the fungus with my iphone on it: 

A fungus, an iphone, a mystery guest

A fungus, an iphone, a mystery guest

There’s a fungus at that spot every summer. I’ve only noticed it before when it’s been aged. Now it’s fresh and new. This is kind of cool. Here’s a blog post from October, 2012 – of the same fungus – with my 2012 iphone in it! Look how old and worn out this fungus looks in October compared with how fresh and new it looks in the picture above (taken in July). So I guess that’s the approximate life cycle of at least that particular fungus. It appears suddenly in July and I believe it will be gone entirely by November. I’ll watch it. It’s on my regular route. I don’t know what eats it. Turtles maybe or who knows. Here’s the post with that fungus and my 2012 iphone – it’s the first picture on the post: Taper time! And more! 

Anyway – I know some of my sharp-eyed viewers immediately noticed what I missed at first. If, like me, you were less perceptive than you might’ve been, I draw your attention to the lower left hand corner of my iphone. Dark blob. Here’s a closeup:

Southern leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus)

Southern leopard frog (Lithobates sphenocephalus

Amazing. And speaking of sharp-eyed viewers – I posted it on Facebook and a sharp-eyed viewer there (thanks Franklin!) corrected me when I wrote “Did you see the little toad to the left? ” Franklin (a Camp Waredaca alumnus, naturally) responded “I see the leopard FROG.” Oy. They should have named it Camp Knowitall. Everybody in my family went there, so that would obviously be the perfect name! They could also have called it Camp Environmentallyaware. Also Franklin’s Facebook catch saved me from being called out here on my blog by my expert identifiers Betsy, Kim, Katie, Lynda, et al. I make plenty of errors but people catch them quick! Thanks again Franklin! And he did go on to say that his catch was a “consequence of having a huge fan base admiring your work.” My friend Ari from grad school (I think that was last year) wrote “Jay…your pics are for the gods…always a pleasure.” My pics are a result of my incredible good fortune to spend lots of time in such a wonderful place!  

I’ve mentioned that I’ll post a picture each week of one of the local Red-tails as long as they’re around. They’re so enjoyable to watch. I never tire. I hope none of my blog followers do! Or if they do, I hope they just skip to the next picture! Here’s this week’s Red-tail. Timeout – I just referred back to the title of this post. My brother Kevin (not the brother who was here this weekend) had a birthday Monday! I saw him on Tuesday when I met with him and his family to watch them at a local swim meet. But I took this picture of a Red-tail – of course being harassed by a mockingbird – on Monday, his birthday. Look at this mockingbird scolding the hawk:

The hawk is still watching for a rabbit or a squirrel to run past. What is that mockingbird even DOING!?

The hawk is still watching for a rabbit or a squirrel to run past. What is that mockingbird even DOING!?

I haven’t gotten any spiderweb pictures this year. Now that I’m blogging weekly (and have been for over a year) I’m seeing what sorts of plants and animals turn up at what times of the year. Like with the fungus. And there are months – seasons – when there are zero spiderwebs. But I took this one yesterday:

I wonder how they do that? Look how perfect. Shiny and symmetrical.

I wonder how they do that? Look how perfect. Shiny and symmetrical.

I already know some larger-scale seasonal patterns for what shows up when. I know the first Bufflehead flocks will land on the river somewhere around the first frost, and the last ones will take flight at the last frost. Here in Henrico/Richmond, we’re in USDA Plant Hardiness Zone 7a. That means our approximate first frost is October 22 and the last frost is April 15. I enjoy becoming more aware of these patterns. That’s part of what drives my curiosity about these hawks. I’ve never seen them “up close” so regularly my entire life. Suddenly they’re here and I can observe them nearly any time I choose. It’s a treat. 

Here’s an unusual (to me) fact about buffleheads. In the six months they’re here, I’ll see them every time I go to the river – fifty times minimum. And every single time they will be either: a. flying or b. on the water. They’ll never be on a rock. Never on a branch. Never on the shore. Funny ducks. 

If you’d asked me a year ago how long roses last, I would have had zero idea. Now that Evelyn lives here, my roses have an unfair advantage – Evelyn takes care of them. Look at this picture I took when we got home from our abbreviated river jaunt this morning:

Just spectacular. And it's nearly August!

Just spectacular. And it’s nearly August!

I haven’t posted a picture of the river itself recently; my favorite photography spot has been crowded. I’ve been avoiding it in favor of other more thinly attended areas of the park. But Kristin and Shane and Tara had a long drive ahead and we all went to the river a bit early this morning. And I got a picture! Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of people or dogs – only the river:

What is not to love? Who could look at that and not relax? It's a joy every time I'm there. It's even a joy when I'm not there!

What is not to love? Who could look at that and not relax? It’s a joy every time I’m there. It’s even a joy when I’m not there!

My friend and neighbor Lee plus some of the helpful guys from Pleasants plus my brother Shane all pitched in this week to help me get my Oregon Scientific Weather Station fully operable this week. But that is the story of another obsession. Getting me in touch with my inner Rainman. Here’s a screenshot from my weather station. Thank you so much to Lee and Shane and Pleasants! More on another post. But here’s the home screen: 

Makes it difficult to look people in the eye and say "Seriously - I'm not a nerd!"

Makes it difficult to look people in the eye and say “Seriously – I’m not a nerd!”

I have to sign off thanking Evelyn for turning our home into a place people enjoy visiting. And thanking Jackie and Kristin and Shane and Tara for helping me learn how fun it is to have visitors. I’d almost forgotten! Drop by any time! And have a great week!

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, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, fungus, James River, People, Pony Pasture, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Spiders and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Brothers and sisters

  1. Jackie says:

    I miss it ! Had the best te ever! Can’t wait to come back. XO

  2. Jean Yerian says:

    Jay, one of the things I so admire in you is that you “overflow” with the joy of learning each day. There have been many challenging — yes, even bad — times in your life, but you still blossom with love of life. Your posts are delightful musings of new awareness, new passion, wonderfully grounded in family, in things familiar. I am so honored that our paths crossed. Hope to see you this fall, when John and I return from a long trip out west, spreading his parents’ ashes at Long’s Peak in Colorado and poking around west of the Mississippi as the PYEB (Peterson-Yerian Expeditionary Brigade)!

  3. Thank you Jean! I have the great good fortune of many, many opportunities to learn and see new things. And to be aware of them! The best gift my parents ever gave me. I hope you and John have a great trip out west. And we look forward to seeing you back here in the west END in a couple of months! Let us know when you guys are back here in the Old Dominion and we can get together. Safe travels, see you soon,


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