Fortunately, I don’t have to choose

10 September, 2017            Fortunately, I don’t have to choose

When seasons wane and new ones begin, I always feel the new season is my favorite. I remember Spring wrapping up in late June and thinking “Summer is my favorite!” Fourth of July, corn on the cob, birthdays, I love it all. As I watch summer birds disappear from  the river and autumn birds arrive, I’m already thinking “Autumn is my favorite!” Fortunately, I don’t have to choose between seasons. I enjoy the four-way tie.

Normally I put these photos in chronological order, beginning with pictures I took early in the week. I took a few nice ones, but I took this one this morning at 11:00 and I like the color. This happens to me all the time at the river. I’ll stare so intently at one beautiful scene, I’ll miss something else. As you look at this dazzling moth (unless it’s a dazzling butterfly) and the glow of the flowers, look directly below the moth and there’s not one but two bees. One at the bottom and one less distinct in between. A cheerful sight:

It’s hard to look at this and not smile

Back to the beginning of the week – this is from Monday – possibly on the same flowers. It could easily be the same bee:

More flowers, more insects – more beauty

I need to learn more about this plant. I believe it is some form of clematis. There is a native clematis and an invasive clematis. This one looks nice and smells nice, but that’s true of many native plants as well as invasive ones. If anyone knows specifics, I’d love to learn more:

Clematis at Pony Pasture

On Wednesday (9/7) near the CSX tracks downtown, I saw my first Osage orange of 2017. I was surprised and gratified to discover it – I wasn’t expecting it until October or November. Next week I’ll use something for scale, because it’s hard to get a feel for how big these are. Not quite as big as a softball but much bigger than a baseball:

First osage orange I’ve seen in 2017

So, anyway, Thursday. Certain predictable red-tails in certain predictable spots help me feel a certain predictable calm, and I make a point to visit them when I’m in the area. My camera is always in my car. The cell phone tower in the Westbury Apothecary parking lot is a reliable spot for Red-tails, and I photographed one on Thursday (9/7) at 5:00 PM. It wasn’t until I looked at this picture on the computer a few hours later that I saw the damage to its tail. I’m not certain what’s happening here – I’m open to suggestions. Note carefully also the two streamers coming off the tail:

Red-tail on cell phone tower 1/2 mile from my house. Note damage to tail, and 2 streamers:

I returned Saturday afternoon at 1:00 – it’s not even half a mile from my house. So this is the same bird, forty-four hours later:

Same red-tail as above, forty-four hours later:

It still has those streamers. I’m not sure what’s happening here. I’ll keep an eye on it. My friend Kim is a wildlife rehabilitator and she works with raptors and feels certain the bird will groom those feathers out. 

This morning I saw my first Bald Eagle at Pony Pasture in some time. It tuned me in more sharply on the change in season than any other natural phenomena. Recently, the sky above the rapids at Pony Pasture has been filled with ospreys. If there were available fish, the ospreys were catching them – that’s all they eat. Eagles love fish too, but they’re not committed to them the way ospreys are. They could never compete with the ospreys. But ospreys near Pony Pasture have vanished, or at least I’m not seeing or hearing any. It’s time for ospreys to head for South America, and they’re gone. Leaving more fish for the eagles.

This was a long shot, and the trees are so leafy, it’s difficult to see. If I hadn’t seen the eagle fly in there, I’d have never known. This was this morning at 10:00:

See the eagle hidden right in the center of the picture?

The next picture will give you an idea of how I set up to photograph that eagle. See the big mound in the bottom-center of this picture, at the edge of the riverbank? I was leaning my camera on that to steady it while I focused on the eagle all the way across the river:

That hump – in the center – I was steadying my camera on that. Aiming across the river. 

There were still pawpaws at the river this morning – a lot. I’m not sure what eats them besides me. But something must – they are so delicious and there are so many of them. They taste best right there on the river bank. You can smell the river and feel the wind and hear all the riverbank sounds, the crickets, the leaves, the water, the breeze, it is in every way a feast. Here’s a picture I took this morning – with a raccoon footprint in between. Since raccoon feet are referred to as paws, the caption for this was inevitable:

Pawpaws with raccoon pawprint in the middle, plus deer hoofprint at lower right

Snap back to civilization – I’ll close with a picture of Dash snoozing in the tea tray in the living room. This is an animal who has zero concept of the word “stress”:

Dash is a cool cat, but he always finds a way to stay warm

I hope your week brings you zero concept of the word “stress”! If you experience some,  spend an hour or so near the river – it’ll fix you right up.

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 Bald eagles, Birds, cats, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, Insects, James River, koans, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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