Fierce baby!

15 May, 2016            Fierce baby!

Fierce baby!

Fierce baby!


That baby is not fierce at all!

That baby is not fierce at all!

My brother Shane is the father of the handsome young man on the left. My sister Katie is the mother of the pretty young lady on the right. Shane was the talented photographer. 

On the top is a baby red-tailed hawk or “eyas.” When I showed it to my sister she said “Fierce baby!” Evelyn said “That would make a great blog title!” So there you go – that’s how blog titles happen. Meanwhile, today my niece and I visited my nephew (her cousin) in Blacksburg – he is not a fierce baby! The opposite, really – he’s as sweet and kind and cheerful a young man as you’d ever have the good fortune to meet. He’s nine months old, so you’d think he might have already grown jaded and cynical, especially given our current acrimonious political climate. But, buddha-like, he smiles and nods his little head and accepts it all, and stays firmly grounded in the present. I’ll take my role models where I find them, thank you very much. Evelyn stayed here and relaxed and worked on the house (and bought a giant and fragrant gardenia, yay) while my niece Aileen and I (and of course Mackey and Turner) drove to Blacksburg yesterday and came home today. 

Advance notice to snake non-lovers – there’s a snake picture at the bottom of this post!

The “fierce baby” that inspired this post has been more active and more visible all week. Soon – I’m not sure how soon, but soon – it’ll fledge, and there’ll be no more baby red-tail hawk pictures or videos. But I took the above picture Monday. Here’s one of the whole family from Tuesday. The father is on the right; he’s facing away:

Red-tail family - mother on the left, baby in the middle, father on the right - back to the camera.

Red-tail family – mother on the left, baby in the middle, father on the right – back to the camera.

I turned around and photographed this bluejay on a wire; they are the incessant enemies of the red-tails:

Bluejay taking a quick break from harassing red-tails.

Bluejay taking a quick break from harassing red-tails.

I am fascinated watching the red-tail eyas mature and develop. It’s a rare opportunity. I took this picture the following day; this is the baby hawk (eyas) peering over the top of the nest:

I love how aware they are. Raptors do not have any attention deficit.

I love how aware they are. Raptors do not have any attention deficit.

Thursday I got a brief video of the baby. It’s not award-winning, but you know precisely what you’re looking at, and it’s rare to see this sort of thing. I’ve been watching and photographing that nest since late April. I took my first identifiable baby hawk pictures early this month. And I haven’t gotten tired of it yet. Here’s the video I took on Thursday. It’s around thirteen seconds long:

Here are a few timely hawk pictures for Sunday. The hawks with the baby in the above photographs and video are (as I’ve written in the past) Red-tailed hawks (Buteo jamaicensis). It’s the most common hawk in North America, by a significant margin. But there is no shortage of Red-shouldered hawks (Buteo lineatus) in our area either. Both are “buteos” and dine primarily on mammals, anything from a mouse or a shrew up to a squirrel or rabbit. But they’re opportunistic eaters (that’s why they’re so common) and if they’re hungry (and have families to feed) they eat lizards and frogs and snakes and birds and any other small game that makes the mistake of turning its back at a poorly chosen moment.

If I had a better sense of humor I could come up with a great joke about preying and praying but it escapes me at the moment. I took the first picture at around 9:30 AM on Monday, May 9 at Parham Road Baptist Church at 2101 North Parham Road here in Richmond:

Red-shouldered hawk on a cross

Red-shouldered hawk perched on a cross

I took this picture around 3:00 PM on Friday, May 13 at Staples Mill Road Baptist Church at 10101 Staples Mill Rd. in Glen Allen:

Different Red-shouldered hawk perched on a different cross on a different church on a different day.

Different Red-shouldered hawk perched on a different cross on a different church on a different day.

Birds aren’t the only exciting and beautiful reason to go outdoors in central Virginia in May. This honeysuckle was blooming (and smelling like the smell-dictionary definition of “Spring”) in Deep Run Park Friday morning:

This is what Spring smells like:

This is what Spring smells like:

My friend Ethan is an avid outdoorsman with a keen eye. He’s practicing his photography and it improves all the time. He helps me find the hawks when they’re hiding, and he always sees snakes. He took a picture of a Northern Water Snake at Bryan Park two years ago that will make your eyes pop out. If you enjoy either snakes or excellent photography, look at that post here: Guest photographer!. Here’s another picture he took of a water snake in nearly the same spot, two years later. It’s scratching its chin on this thorny branch, probably beginning to shed:

bryan snake03

Northern Water Snake, thoughtfully scratching its chin

I’ll finish this post with a brighter image – although the picture of my niece and nephew at the top of this post is my favorite picture of the week. Month. Year. The time stamp on the picture of Aileen and Wesson and me is 11:00 AM today. This goldfinch was eating sunflower seeds on the same porch rail fifteen minutes earlier:

Goldfinch glowing on a cool May morning.

Goldfinch glowing on a cool May morning.

Have a great week! Enjoy! All best,


Oops! I almost forgot! I took a picture of one of my favorite damselflies this week, the beautifully named and beautiful Ebony Jewelwing (Calopteryx maculata).  This was at Deep Run Park: 

Ebony Jewelwing at Deep Run Park

Ebony Jewelwing at Deep Run Park


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.
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2 Responses to Fierce baby!

  1. Bob says:

    Hi Jay,
    Another great blog, as usual….
    Now, tongue firmly in cheek, I have to ask questions. After seeing the two hawks on crosses, do you think these A-predators are actually Christians? And, if so, which denomination? I’m thinking not Episcopalians, they are too laid back…
    Take care,
    Bob Parker

    • After pondering this at length, and passing another hawk on a cross this morning, the answer came to me as if from on high, you may say – they are awaiting The Raptor Rapture. When I realized that, it was a forehead slapping moment. How could it have been so obvious and it took me so long to realize it? Mystery solved, though, or at least this one is.

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