Let somebody else do the heavy lifting!

29 October, 2017            Let somebody else do the heavy lifting! 

Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis) stretching its wings on the cross on top of Discovery United Methodist Church

That’s the one good picture I’ve taken this week. Regarding the title of this post, some readers (assuming I have more than one) may recall a blog post I did in 2014 called “Guest photographer!” I did another in the Spring of this year called “Return of the guest photographer.” Both of those posts had excellent pictures taken by my buddy Ethan. He did the “heavy lifting” for those posts. I hiked with my friend Sam at Pony Pasture one day this week and he spotted and helped photograph the biggest crowd of deer I’ve seen there. So Sam did the heavy lifting (photographically) one day this week. I’ll put it in here in a moment. Then another day this week my friend David photographed a Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) so he did the heavy lifting! I’ve had a light load. 

David and I were walking around in western Henrico this week when a Red-shouldered hawk swooped over our heads and landed in a tall loblolly pine at the edge of the parking lot. I pulled out my phone and snapped a picture so we’d recall it was there. I’ll insert that in a moment. But when the hawk stopped – these birds hunt by sitting still for several minutes – I said “do you want to get my real camera and see if we can get a good picture?” We were right next to my car, so I grabbed the camera and we moved for a better angle. Here’s when we first saw it. 

Red-shouldered hawk, dead center, left side of the trunk ~1/3 of the way down (it’s difficult to see but it’s there). It’s brown:

We went up around the other side and took advantage of the raptor’s calm nature for this image. I gave David this camera and he took this picture: 

Magnificent Red-shouldered hawk photographed by my friend David.

David may be holding out on me, but I think not. To my knowledge, that is the first time in his life he’s ever pointed a camera at a raptor. I’d been photographing hawks for two years and I’d taken a couple of thousand pictures before I could do that. He definitely was in the right place at the right time.

David is a lifelong cat lover. The Wildlife Center of Virginia posted an article today called The Case for Indoor Cats. They also wrote (around lunchtime today) “Happy National Cat Day! Keeping cats indoors keeps a variety of wild animals safe — and indoor cats live much longer too, and who doesn’t want that? Share a photo of your #HappyIndoorCat here!” In addition the hashtag  “#HappyIndoorCat” I tagged it “#songbirdsRsafe”. This is Dash, our #HappyIndoorCat: 

#HappyIndoorCat                    #songbirdsRsafe

It was earlier in the week when I was hiking with Sam at Pony Pasture. Sam did the “heavy lifting” (photographically) in the park. This wasn’t quite the full herd – they were scattered around the edges, and behind – but look at this group. I count eight deer:

I count eight whitetail deer in this image

They were grazing calmly in that picture. That’s how healthy herd animals spend much of their daylight hours. We’d watched them and photographed them, and they watched us, and continued to graze. Sam took a bunch of the pictures and a couple of videos. But I was holding the camera at 5:27 – after we’d been photographing them for fifteen minutes – when someone came up on the other side and they burst into flight and disappeared in the woods. Watch this eighteen second video. For the first ten seconds they just stand around. At the ten second mark it’s like flipping a switch. All eight of them – or more – bolt and leap and sprint out of the right side of the image. It was a treat to see it. Have a look – this one’s worth watching: 

Buffleheads are not in Richmond yet – and neither is the first frost. The trade-off for no buffleheads is continued gardenias. I’ll keep inhaling and photographing gardenias as long as they’re open. The buffleheads will get here when they get here. I took this picture at 8:30 this morning. On October 29th!:

Gardenia opening up on the morning of October 29, 2017. Incredible.

Here’s a picture from two hours later at Pony Pasture. Turner is by no means an adventure-avoidant animal. The opposite, as a matter of fact. But swimming is one form of adventure that’s never interested him. For Mackey (top, the black dog) and Yuki (center the white dog), more water is better. For Turner (bottom, the brown dog) the closest he likes to get to water is a drink from his bowl:

Two hours after the gardenia picture. Mackey (top) Yuki (middle) Turner (bottom)

Turner plays super-hard when he’s in the park. He pulls so steadily and so enthusiastically, my leash arm is slightly longer than my non-leash arm. But when we get home, he likes to pile up his toys and watch the world go by:

A boy and his toys

The gardenias are still beyond compare. That one near the top of this blog post is about two fork lengths away from the screen doors on our back porch – you can smell them all the time. But the days (especially today) are getting shorter and wetter and colder, and Ev cuts some flowers and brings them indoors where we can enjoy them even more:

A treat for my eyes (beautiful), nose (gardenia, obviously) and ears (they’re quiet, my favorite sound)

I’m going to close with (hopefully you’re not exhausted with all of these) a familiar “local” Red-tail. I got my first decent image of a Red-tail in May of 2015. Since then, through reading and photography, I’ve become more familiar than average with Red-tails. As you’ve no doubt noticed. A great deal of their charm for me lies in their predictability. They don’t do things you don’t expect. When I think they’ll show up somewhere, I’m usually correct. And when I’m there with my camera, it’s calm. When I’m pointing, when I’m focusing, when I’m framing, when I’m moving around for the best angle and for the best light – I always feel peaceful. Even when they fly off just when I’m hoping for an image, or when they haven’t been around in a long time, it’s all relaxing. They have an agenda, but it’s simple – pass their DNA on to a new generation. They don’t know that’s their agenda – at least I’m relatively certain they don’t – but it is. They do it by keeping themselves healthy and producing healthy offspring. Perfect for humans too! I hadn’t seen a “Westbury Red-tail” (on the cell phone tower in the Westbury Apothecary parking lot) in a while and I was happy when this one showed up Saturday afternoon. I apologize for the faint blurring; I zoomed in a bit too much. But I like the image:

Westbury redtail

It didn’t occur to me until I put this up, but this is a perfect post to see the difference between a Red-tailed hawk and a Red-shouldered hawk. David took a great shot of a Red-shoulder; look near the top of this post (third picture down). See how the breast of the Red-shoulder has a faint orange wash with scattered white stripes? Compare that with this Red-tail. The Red-tail’s breast is mostly whitish with a couple of brown spots. Coloring in both species is identical for males and females. From the front it’s pretty easy to distinguish the two.   

Have an excellent week! 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 Birds, buffleheads, cats, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, Gardenias, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, roses, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), whitetail deer, Wildlife Center of Virginia and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Let somebody else do the heavy lifting!

  1. Jackie says:


  2. Pat ryan says:

    The deer video shows the definition of light on your feet.

  3. Sheila Wiese says:

    The flowers are gorgeous! What is the red one?

    • Thank you! Speaking for Evelyn of course; those are 100% her doing. The red one is a rose; there’s one blooming in our backyard as I type these words. It’s raining hard now but it’ll be beautiful in the morning. They may still be blooming on November 1!

  4. Peter M says:

    nice pics Jay, I like the picture of your dog with his toys around him

    • Thank you Peter! Turner loves running around at the river, but when he is at home he likes to have as many toys as possible as close as possible. He’s seven years old but he still acts like a little boy – all the time. He’s young at heart! I have never seen a dog wag its tail as much as Turner does. Thanks again for the note and have a great day,


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