Either a janitor or a thief, apprehended by dogs

12 November, 2017            Either a janitor or a thief, apprehended by dogs

Friday night when I walked Mackey and Turner they bolted off the front porch and stampeded the bushes on the north side of the house. They instantly located the object of their interest. It may have been a janitor cleaning up spilled bird seed, or it may have been a thief. Either way, after it sprinted for a few minutes, it keeled over like it was dead. This is a fully alive and healthy:

A healthy, fully alive, untouched opossum, busted stealing (or cleaning up) bird seed, now “playing possum”

That is a “common opossum” or “Virginia opossum,” Didelphis virginiana. Mackey and Turner and I took a fifteen minute walk around the neighborhood and when we got home, no more opossum. Vanished without a trace. Probably grabbed another mouthful of bird seed before it disappeared.

Gray squirrels (Sciurus carolinensis) compete with the chipmunks to eat a lot of spilled bird seed during the day. But they don’t photograph well on the ground. This one was munching a snack on a lichen encrusted branch at Deep Run Park in Henrico earlier this week:    

Eastern gray squirrel on a branch at Deep Run Park

Thursday I was at the river with the boys (stop me if you’ve heard that before) and we went  to the water near the main parking lot. There was a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) ten or twelve feet away. Nothing in the wild wastes energy, and this bird judged we weren’t a threat, so it looked at us then resumed its normal heron activity:

Great Blue Heron at Pony Pasture. They never look cheerful.

I took a fifteen second video. The heron is wading from left to right, at one point almost floating in the water. I would love to have a video of it spearing a fish, but no such luck. You can hear the river and the breeze and bit of camera noise and that’s all. For me it would be a mistake to wear earphones at the river – there is too much to hear:

The first hard freeze of the season arrived in our area early Saturday morning. I am astounded how predictably Buffleheads arrive on the first freeze. I was certain I’d see some today, and was looking forward to it. I didn’t predict seeing my first perched Bald Eagle of the season. But there was a dark shape in a tree on the southeastern tip of Williams Island, overlooking the rapids and stretch of flatwater. I put my window down as I rolled to a stop and put my flashers on. Look up next time you’re in that area; we’ll see them regularly in the coming months. Hopefully I’ll get better images soon:

Mid-river Bald Eagle at Pony Pasture, watching the November sun creep up

The Buffleheads appeared as expected. I took a sub-stellar picture, as expected. But I’m always happy and grateful when they appear. I watch everything down there, all year long. I watch the trees, the leaves, the birds, the insects, sun, sky, water, everything. All of the changes appear gradually, around the edges, making themselves known bit by bit. Buffleheads are the exception. There are zero Buffleheads – not so much as a feather – from early Spring to early Autumn. Then one day – the day of the first frost – they all just appear. And they will be on the river 100% of days between now and early Spring. It’s fitting that they’re black and white. Here’s a flock of roughly twenty. Males have black heads with a huge white segment – around a third of the head. The heads on females are almost entirely black except for a white stripe that I am positive was the inspiration for the Nike “swoosh”. Here’s a picture  of that trademark: Now see if you can identify the females in this flock:  

First flock of Buffleheads I’ve seen on the James since April:

I’ll get a better picture of a female next week. I also took a fifteen second video of the flock. It might make you a little seasick, but you get an idea of the size of the flock. It has a lot more than twenty ducks:  

I got a picture of the dogs out in the light for a change today. I called it “Don’t try this at home” because walking those five at one time is a challenging juggling act. They were easier than usual today – I think they all liked the weather. Left to right this is Yuki, Mackey, Lola, Luna and Turner:

Don’t try this at home. Unless you have a Mackey and a Yuki to keep everybody organized and calm.

When we got to the parking lot a Red-shouldered hawk (Buteo lineatus) was wheeling low over the parking lot, screaming. I looked up and saw a dark shape in a tree in the middle of the parking lot. I thought it was the hawk’s mate, or another intruding Red-shoulder. When I focused my camera on it, I was surprised to see not a Red-shouldered hawk but a Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis). I’d never seen that much antagonism between the two. I’ll watch more closely in the future:

Red-tailed hawk perched in a tree directly in the center of the parking lot at Pony Pasture

When I came up the front steps after we got home, there was a male Downy woodpecker (Picoides pubescens) on the suet feeder. I still had my camera around my neck and the light was good, so have a look:

Male Downy woodpecker eating suet in front of my house this afternoon

Brief video too – closer and brighter and steadier than my river videos:

To reiterate – I am not a photographer. I spend a lot of time outdoors and normally have an inexpensive camera within easy reach. When I see stuff I think is interesting, I photograph it, if possible. And I put my favorites on this blog. Anybody who takes as many pictures as I do will get as many or more interesting ones.

Meanwhile – thank you for stopping in – and come back next week – and have an outstanding 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 Bald eagles, Birds, buffleheads, Dogs, Downy woodpecker, Fun, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), squirrels and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Either a janitor or a thief, apprehended by dogs

  1. Jackie says:

    Yuck first picture not good😘

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