“I can’t complain but sometimes I still do”

21 January, 2018            “I can’t complain but sometimes I still do”

That line is from Joe Walsh’s 1978 song Life’s Been Good from the album But Seriously, Folks. An accipiter – either a Cooper’s Hawk (Accipiter cooperii) or a Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus) landed above us on a branch at the river this morning. This is the image I got:

Pony Pasture accipiter

I was “complaining” (the voice inside my head was complaining) that I cut off the tail in that picture. Instead of being grateful I got it at all, which I’m thrilled – that is always a difficult bird for me – I was complaining (in my head again). The line (in the song) that follows the line I used for the title of this post is “Life’s been good to me so far.” Speaking of life being good to me (and to many others), this was the river this morning, half an hour before I photographed that accipiter: 

Our incomparable James River this morning, about 5 casual minutes’ hike from the main parking lot:

I have a vague goal – I’ve possibly mentioned – of photographing a minimum of one raptor per week in 2018. Just to see if I can do it. All in the City of Richmond/Henrico County area. Today (Sunday, 21 January, 2018) wraps up the third week and I’m three for three. On Monday (1/15) I photographed two Red-shouldered Hawks plus a Red-tailed hawk, plus I passed up two other nice Red-shoulders – they were everywhere Monday. It’ll be interesting to see if I can get a raptor each week for fifty-two consecutive weeks.

Red-shouldered Hawk Monday afternoon (see below for location):

This is where that bird was perched: 

The hawk is perched in the top of a tree near the center of this image – it’s a dot:

You have to look closely at this picture – it’s tiny – but you can see where that hawk is sitting. It’s only about the size of the “8” next to the word “Riverside” on the green sign. It’s on a branch precisely in the center of the picture, just below the top. Imagine if a football was in the top of one of those trees. That’s what you’re looking for. But don’t drive yourself crazy – if I didn’t know it was there, I might not be able to find it. 

I’ve been trying to get a good Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis ) picture for Evelyn and I’ve been mostly unsuccessful (but I can’t complain). I went back through my pictures this week and found this one from Thursday – I can’t believe this was only three days ago – in our front yard. Today Evelyn and my niece Cappy and our friend Ariel and I had lunch outside. Pardon this digression but a week ago I posted a picture of Mackey and Turner and me standing on the frozen James River. Remarkable. Anyway, I wish the bird’s face had been in sun rather than shadow but so it goes. Sorry you can’t see the dark eyes that give its name. This one has a seed in its mouth:

Dark-eyed Junco. Astounding I took that picture 3 days ago, and we ate lunch outside today.


I stumbled into an indistinct (moderately) image of two Great black-backed Gulls (Larus marinus), described by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology as “The king of the Atlantic waterfront.” I’m not in love with this image, but it has interesting features. First, you can see the size of “The king of the Atlantic waterfront” relative to the average sized Ring-billed Gull (Larus delawarensis ) – it’s enormous. Another interesting feature is the opportunity to compare the two Great black-backed Gulls – there’s an adult (left) and an immature (right). I’m not certain how to age the immatures; that picture quality is too poor to determine. But they have a distinct “juvenile” color pattern and an equally distinct “first winter” color pattern. I’m not sure which this is. Have a look:

1 Mature & 1 immature Great Black-backed gulls, + innumerable Ring-billed gulls

I’m going to put this blog post to be then put my self to bed at a reasonable hour. Have an excellent week!

All best,


PS If anyone cares to enlighten me about that accipiter, I’d love to know more. A, is it a Cooper’s Hawk or a Sharp-shinned Hawk and why. B, is it a male or a female and why. I’ve photographed female Cooper’s Hawks; they’re too huge to be anything else. I’ve photographed male Sharp-shinned Hawks; they’re too petite to be anything else. But there’s a size overlap between male Cooper’s Hawks (medium-sized) and female Sharp-shinned Hawks (medium-sized) and I can’t distinguish breed by size. This bird was approximately the size of a crow – in between. Please enlighten me if you know more. And have a great 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 accipiters, Birds, Fun, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Rivers and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to  “I can’t complain but sometimes I still do”

  1. Jackie says:

    The pictures are great, more so enjoyed
    because you’re outdoors! Love the the winter and all it’s beauty. Seasons don’t end 😎

    • Thanks Jackie! It was great to be out there – I made it out again today! I think it’s going to turn cold again (feel like January) but that’s fine. I’m even ready for a bit more snow! Thanks again and have a great day,


  2. Jay – try posting the bird in Birding VA or Beaks, Bills & Butterflies or Great Backyard Birds on Facebook. All are helpful in IDing birds. And if you find out, please share result in your next blog!

    • Thank you Cindy, I’ll check them out. There’s a specific Facebook group called “Hawk ID” that’s pretty good at this stuff. Hopefully I’ll get to it during the week. I’ll post the result if I do! Thanks again for the note and have a great day,


  3. Bob Parker says:

    Hi Jay,
    Another excellent blog, as usual…
    I think the hawk is a male Coopers. In fact, it may even be a relatively young one given that it doesn’t seem to have it’s true adult colors yet.. Why Coopers, mainly the rounded tail which is a giveaway to me. Of course, I could be wrong as I often am.
    Don’t know if you take the RTD, but there was an article by the bird guy, yesterday, with pictures of a Sharpie and a Red-Shoulder. Interesting piece.
    Another comment on our responses about the pileated last week. What I was talking about is immediately after the bird flicks the dark spot off. It appears to quickly stick it’s tongue out and lick at the wound. I’m wondering if it’s getting the sap.
    All the best,

    • Hi Bob,
      And thanks for the note. Young male Cooper’s is certainly a possibility. I thought the location was odd for an accipiter – maybe it was looking for a spot. Thanks for the tip about the RTD article too – I just found it – “Flyways and Byways: About the time of Richmond’s first winter snowfall, backyard birdlife surged” by Jerry Uhlman. Those two birds would clear out some backyard rodents and small birds. With that Pileated, I thought a piece of bark fell on the gash the woodpecker had just made. Then he flicked it off with his tongue. He could be getting sap – maybe needed the moisture – but I’m not certain. Thanks again for the note! Have a great day,


  4. Pingback: Slim Pickens | NEWFAZE

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