Happy New Year!

1 January, 2017            Happy New Year!

This is the last photograph I took in 2016. I was on Cherokee Road in the western part of the City of Richmond, VA when I took this picture. I was under a power line, facing north across the river, about five hundred yards away. This tower is about three hundred yards upstream of the Willey Bridge:


A nesting pair of Bald Eagles, right here in Richmond – astonishing.

As I wrote to a photographer friend after I took that picture, “My interest in nature is deep and abiding; my interest in photography is only as a means to be more fully involved with nature.

So I go to the river with Mackey and Turner and Yuki earlier; we had a wonderful first hike of 2017. Here they are on the boardwalk: 


My Neapolitan dogs – Turner on the left, Mackey in the middle, Yuki on the right.

I’ve referred to them in the past as “My Neapolitan dogs.” If you’re unacquainted with the term, read it here: Neapolitan 

We get home this afternoon, I sit down and start typing, look up from my keyboard as this Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) swoops down and lands on top of my bird feeder. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says that Cooper’s hawks “are sometimes unwanted guests at bird feeders, looking for an easy meal (but not one of sunflower seeds).” Here’s the hawk:


Cooper’s hawk perched on top of my bird feeders. She’s a bird, and she’s about to feed.

Of course my “real” camera was in the other room; all I had available was my phone. I took three brief, grainy videos. In the first one (4 seconds), the hawk jumps off the feeder and goes down to the ground: Hawk jumps from feeder to ground

In the second video (12 seconds) the hawk wanders around on the ground for a moment then leaps up into the boxwood: Hawk wanders on ground then jumps to bush

In the third and final video (11 seconds) the hawk jumps out of the bush and finishes off its “kill” – but you can’t tell what it is: Hawk jumps back out of the bush

They are unlovely, low quality videos, but I always feel privileged to witness this stuff. I repeat the second sentence of the second paragraph of this post: “My interest in nature is deep and abiding; my interest in photography is only as a means to be more fully involved with nature.” Whatever little bird just got killed and eaten doesn’t feel the same way. But life lives on life.

I’ve never recommended books on this blog, but Evelyn gave me a real winner for Christmas and it’s worth your time. It’s called When Breath Becomes Air by the late Paul Kalanithi. The link above (and this link) are to the New York Times review of the book: NY Times on When Breath Becomes Air. Elle magazine had a review that was equally credible: Elle magazine on When Breath Becomes Air. Elle refers to it as “a profoundly moving, exquisitely observed memoir by a young neurosurgeon faced with a terminal cancer diagnosis who attempts to answer the question What makes a life worth living?” It is a brilliant, brilliant piece of writing. If you too are attempting to answer the question “What makes life worth living?” – even if you’re not – the time you spend with this book will not go to waste.


A couple more pictures – I’m totally satisfied with the eagles at the top plus the Cooper’s Hawk from today. But I’m always happy to have a Red-tail:


Crosses are favorite perches for Red-tails.

And I can never let a week go by without a bluebird:


Bluebird on my feeder earlier in the week. I would not be overjoyed if a hawk got one. But hawks have to eat too.

A red-bellied woodpecker banged into my office window earlier this week. He got his bell rung. He clung to the boxwood for a few minutes and gazed reproachfully at me – as if it was my fault – before he flew off. Another bird who was fortunate the hawk was not around:


Stunned Red-bellied woodpecker

Yesterday (New Year’s Eve) was when I got the two Bald Eagles on the nest. Earlier that day the dogs and I had been to our favorite place:


Freshest air in Richmond

The preceding picture was taken facing west, up the river. I stood in the same spot and faced north, across the river to photograph these gulls:


I always like to catch one coming in for a landing. Sometimes it works, sometimes not so much.

Our friend Ariel gave us this lovely amaryllis for Christmas. When we first got it – I wish I’d taken a picture – it was just a closed up bud. You would never have imagined what it would look like seven short days later. Ariel’s gracious gift and Evelyn’s careful attention produced this vision when we got up this morning: 


Amaryllis from Ariel, encouraged by Evelyn to bloom this morning to begin 2017 with a flourish:

Happy New Year!

Have a great 2017,  


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 Bald eagles, Birds, Cooper's Hawk, Dogs, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-bellied woodpeckers, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Happy New Year!

  1. 110Mabel says:

    Happy New Year! Great way to start it, photos are awesome! XO

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