A few thousand words

3 April, 2016            A few thousand words

Not really – only about 750. The title is based on the expression “a picture is worth a thousand words.” If you’re in central Virginia and it’s early spring and you spend some time outdoors with a camera, you’re better off taking pictures more and talking less.

I am a member of the Wildlife Center of Virginia, located west of Charlottesville, not far from Humpback Rocks. Every other month they host an online book club and this month’s selection is The Wilderness World of John Muir. I knew who John Muir was but I hadn’t read much. This book is superb. Here’s a paragraph I just read; you’ll get a sense why I’m enjoying it so much: “Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.” I probably would never have heard of that book if the book club hadn’t assigned it. Perfect timing!

Anyway, I’m not yet able to write like John Muir, but I have a nifty digital camera. And no shortage of cheerful images. So allow me to post more pictures this week and write a bit less – and look forward to next week!

My friend Ethan and I had a couple of nice hikes at Bryan Park this week. Almost as soon as we got into the park this squirrel hopped up the side of a tree, dove in and turned around and peered back out at us:

Watching from a safe place:

Watching from a safe place:

There are brand new baby squirrels – they have an unmistakable gangly look – running all over that park. There are huge oak trees near the northeast corner of the park. That entrance is on Bryan Park Avenue, immediately west of Hermitage Road. We generally see Red-tailed hawks in that section of the park, but there were none that day. We walked farther in, toward Shelter 2 and the Nature Preserve. We typically see Red-shouldered hawks rather than Red-tails in that area, and it happened again Monday. This one perched in a tree and watched us as we crept closer and closer – Red-shoulders aren’t easily startled:

Looking for squirrels on the outside of trees:

Looking for squirrels on the outside of trees:

On the same hike, as we got deeper in the park, we saw our first Five-lined skink (Plestiodon fasciatus) of 2016:

Five-lined skink

Five-lined skink

It was a spectacular day at Bryan Park, and we came across a dogwood blooming in the middle of the forest – my favorite place to find dogwoods:

Bright dogwood in the woods in Bryan Park

Bright dogwood in the woods in Bryan Park

I took a hike or two at Pony Pasture with the dogs this week. The deer are spreading out – I think fawns are being born or are about to be born. But the usual small herd was passing the mid-morning on Thursday (3/31) in their usual spot near Charlie’s Bridge. This big doe was watching Mackey and Turner and me. But she was disinclined to leave, and that  always makes me happy:

They watch. Calmly.

They watch. Calmly.

Trout lilies (Erythronium americanum) are a pretty sight this time of year at Pony Pasture. But you’d better get out there quick – they’re called an “ephemeral,” which means they’re only out for a couple of weeks. Here’s one I saw a few minutes before I saw that deer:

Trout lily at Pony Pasture

Trout lily at Pony Pasture

Virginia Bluebells (Mertensia virginica) stay around a bit longer, and they’re much more widespread at Pony Pasture. What a pretty flower this is: 

Gorgeous Pony Pasture bluebell

Gorgeous Pony Pasture bluebell

Last but certainly not least (maybe least in image quality) is an osprey I photographed Wednesday afternoon across Parham Road from the West End Assembly of God. There are two extremely active nests easily visible from the parking lot. They’re even more easily visible if you cross Parham Road and go up on the power line road. The osprey nests are on the power line towers:

Suburban osprey on Parham Road

Suburban osprey on Parham Road

I hiked on Friday with another buddy of mine at Deep Run Park in western Henrico, a park I haven’t explored a great deal. It wasn’t a gorgeous day, but we were rewarded with at least one gorgeous image, this breathtaking female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail (Papilio glaucus). If you’re ever looking at them, it’s easy to tell the females from the males. The females (like this beauty) have blue on their hindwings; the males have black only :

Female Eastern Swallowtail. I'm speechless.

Female Eastern Swallowtail. I’m speechless.

Have a great week! Until next week,

Jay

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, Bryan Park, Flowers, Fun, Insects, James River, ospreys, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), squirrels, whitetail deer and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to A few thousand words

  1. Jean Yerian says:

    Jay, we saw the first red-shouldered hawk in our cul-de-sac yesterday after church. This one flew to and briefly perched on a tree. This summer I’m going to try birdwatching in Canada. I got a North American field guide for my birthday and I’m eager to see what I can do with it in Ontario.

  2. Hi Jean! I’m seeing lots more red-shouldered hawks recently, I suppose it’s the time of year. There’s a great app called “Merlin Bird ID.” It asks: 1. location, 2. date, 3. size, 4. color and 5. activity of the bird you saw. Answering those 5 questions narrows it down to the sensible choices, it’s quite helpful. Also, log onto this and you’ll find more North American ornithological data than you can wade through in three lifetimes: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/bna/ . TONS of fascinating info. Have fun birding Ontario!

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