My second favorite smell

12 June, 2016            My second favorite smell

Before Evelyn coaxed these gardenias into indescribably lush blossom next to our front stoop, chocolate chip cookies baking were my favorite smell. Move over chocolate chip cookies – there’s a new sheriff in town:  

Smells better than chocolate chip cookies - available for a limited time only!

Smells better than chocolate chip cookies – available for a limited time only!

There is nothing on this planet that smells like a gardenia. It’s almost like it has calories. Like if you’re kind of hungry and if you smell a gardenia, you can wait a little while longer to eat. It’s a smell that has substance. Also, if you ever smell gardenia soap or gardenia candles or gardenia perfume, then you smell a real gardenia, you will immediately realize what a tepid imitation anything else is. 

Heads up for snake-loathers, there’s a snake picture on this blog post, a northern water snake eating a bluegill. It’s the sixth picture down, just after the Red-tail screaming in the tree. Just so you know. If you dislike snakes or are fond of bluegills, best you avoid the sixth picture. 

This is a rose in our backyard – I took this picture this afternoon – a flawless flower: 

We're reaping the benefits of May's record-setting rain

We continue to reap the benefits of May’s record-setting rain

This magnolia is in bloom next to our driveway: 

Magnolia next to our driveway

Magnolia next to our driveway

This butterfly posed so often and for so long at Pony Pasture this morning, it’s like it was begging me to take its picture: 

So beautfiul

So beautiful

There are a lot of beautiful images to start this blog post – all of the rain the week before last burst everything into bloom. But my sharp-eyed friend Ethan spotted a Northern Water Snake eating what looks like a bluegill earlier in the week at Bryan Park. I snapped a fast picture before the snake swallowed. So if that’s not your thing, skip past this next part. But due to Ethan’s sharp eyes and fast reflexes we did get one shot – and it’s remarkable. First a picture of a Red-tail taken the same day a few minutes later, then an Eastern Phoebe. And finally the snake and the unfortunate bluegill:

Adult Red-tailed hawk at Bryan Park this week

Adult Red-tailed hawk at Bryan Park this week

This phoebe is from Deep Run - not Bryan Park.

This phoebe is from Deep Run – not Bryan Park.

A little bit of the Circle of Life

A brief glimpse of the Circle of Life

The butterfly (above) was from this morning at Pony Pasture, and the rose was from our backyard this afternoon. Also at Pony Pasture this morning we saw this lovely red mushroom. I don’t know what had been eating it. I don’t know what eats mushrooms. Turtles or birds or frogs or toads or snakes or deer, it’s a free-for-all at Pony Pasture. I do know that my late, analytical, precise, scientific father inevitably referred to them as “toadstools.” It’s a nice looking organism:

Toadstool. Mighty fine looking toadstool too.

Toadstool. Mighty fine looking toadstool too, I might add.

Which, I’m sure you’ll agree, is the perfect segue into this Fowler’s Toad we photographed at the river’s edge about a half hour earlier:

Fowler's Toad relaxing by the riverside.

Fowler’s Toad relaxing by the riverside.

Maybe opossums eat mushrooms. Or maybe they eat toads, or possibly both. I’ve just (today) been reading up on opossums and I suspect they eat both. They’re called “generalists;” they’re not picky eaters. My recent uptick in interest about opossums is because today around lunchtime I had my first ever Pony Pasture Possum sighting. The whole encounter was pretty mellow. Mackey discovered it (thank goodness Turner didn’t) and it was a low-key experience. Everything was moving slow in the heat, and I believe this opossum was too: 

Opossum trying to beat the heat at Pony Pasture early this afternoon.

Opossum trying to beat the heat at Pony Pasture early this afternoon.

So – I can hardly believe it – we walked for another five minutes – possibly less – and I heard a strange noise in the trees. I’d seen some beautiful owl photographs Rich Young had taken at Pony Pasture, but didn’t know the precise location. I heard a strange noise when Mackey and Turner and I were walking near the canal so I stopped and looked around until finally I saw this: 

See it panting? Everything was panting. It's incredible.

See it panting? Everything was panting. Birds pant. Who even knew that? It’s incredible.

That’s a young Barred Owl (Strix varia) and it’s panting! I’d located it by listening to it call back and forth to its sibling, also on a branch, about twenty yards down the creek. I tried to take a video that had both of them in it but I couldn’t make it work. I did get a moderately good  picture of the downstream sibling. Look at this one’s feet:

The second owl, also panting. Neat looking feet too.

The second owl, also panting. Neat looking feet too.

Here is the movie (my old shaky style) of the owl panting. I first saw a bird pant last year – a Red-tail, of course, in July. But it still catches me off guard to see a bird pant. I thought that was a mammal only behavior, but no. This is a poor quality video, but it’s only nine seconds long, and you will seen an actual Barred Owl panting. Which you definitely do not see just every day of your life: 

I’m so  overstuffed with pictures this week I’m actually omitting a nice picture of a locomotive I took Wednesday. It was nothing new. I’m also omitting a moderately good picture of a bluebird, but I wasn’t in love with that one either. Non-vibrant colors which, if you’re taking a picture of a bluebird, why even bother. On the same day (Wednesday) I did get a reasonable picture of a mini-colony (part of the much larger colony) of Cliff Swallows perched directly above the railroad tracks:

Subset of a Cliff Swallow colony

Subset of a Cliff Swallow colony. There’s one on the left and one on the right and one poking its beak out of the top-right nest hole. 

Wednesday is also “osprey day” and I did get this one; it’s rewarding to  photograph these beauties. Ospreys only eat fish, so when there’s ice in Virginia, ospreys are not in Virginia. Always a pretty sign of summer. I believe this is a female:

Not panting - calling.

Not panting – she’s calling.

Enough! Possibly too much! Thanks for dropping by. I hope next week’s great too! Have an excellent 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 Birds, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, People, Pony Pasture, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to My second favorite smell

  1. Jackie says:

    Love it! Great pictures , skipped the snake !😳 Flowers are beautiful!

    • Good morning! I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures, except for the snake and unfortunate fish. The flowers are beautiful because of your sister’s magic touch!

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