I’ve been upstaged!

11 March, 2018            I’ve been upstaged!

My friend Sam got a better raptor picture than any I’ve gotten this year! Have a look:

Barred owl Monday afternoon at Pony Pasture – perfect light, perfect picture. Great job Sam!

I’ve been working on a-raptor-a-week this whole year – today is the end of the tenth week – and been successful each week. I’ve gotten a couple of cool images, including a Bald Eagle on January 1, a couple of accipiters, and a couple of Red-tails holding fresh caught squirrels. But nothing to write home about. Then Monday afternoon Sam and I were hiking at Pony Pasture and we heard the familiar sounds of a Barred Owl near where the pipe crosses the creek. If you’ve never heard one, check it out here: Barred Owl sounds. If you hear something that sounds owl-like at Pony Pasture, it’s generally a Barred owl.

We looked across the creek and saw a person watching one with binoculars but we couldn’t see it. She crossed on the pipe and told us where it was. We had the dogs, so we went down, crossed on the bridge then came back up. Sam lay on the ground to keep steady and he took one shot – like he was using film or something – and it was that one. Better than anything I did all day. He was in the right place at the right time. That light vanished when I pointed the camera.

This was the river at 3:40 that day. We started taking owl pictures at 5:05:  

James River at Pony Pasture – my Safe Space

I’ve gotten a few shadowy pictures of Red-tails near my house this week. If Sam hadn’t gotten that Barred Owl I’d probably use one. But they’re such poor quality compared to that owl!

I did get a nice mockingbird Wednesday at Hollywood Cemetery. When they pose, as they occasionally do, they photograph well. I took this picture out of the driver’s side window of my car, the perfect urban blind:

Does this bird look like it’s modeling? I don’t know what else it was doing. Warming up. Digesting. Something.

I was also at the river for a bit on Thursday. I see buffleheads every time I’m there now; every photographic experience (for me) is the same with them. They’re never too near or too far – they seem to ignore people more than almost any other bird. They just stay out there in the middle of the river, constantly. I snapped a frame Thursday when one was flying:

Bufflehead flying. I’ve seen 10,000 or more in my life – and never once on land. Or in a tree. Only flying or swimming. 

I had my “big pack” of dogs at the river today – five dogs. They can be a handful, but were cooperative and amiable this morning. I took a bunch of pictures, but none that I really loved. This is from my phone; I put it up on instagram so it also went on facebook. This is close to the 1 / 4 mark – all the way down the riverbank until just before the creek:

Lola on the left with her back to us. Mackey is black, Yuki is white. Turner is the brown dog second-to-right, and Luna is all the way on the right.

As my friend Holly – who lives in Hawaii no less – wrote when she saw this on Facebook “That must surely be what heaven looks like!” In my opinion that is heaven! The James River at Pony Pasture on a Sunday morning with five dogs – it can’t be improved! Unless maybe with six dogs… hmm… .  

After our hike we dropped Yuki off at Ariel’s house. Then Mackey and Turner and I took Lola and Luna to their house and dropped them off. So we’re driving home – we have less than two miles to go – we pass the Tuckahoe Shopping Center and then Tuckahoe Elementary School and I see a Red-shouldered Hawk perched on a wire next to the road. Red-shoulders sit and wait for a long time, so I came back and parked and got out and took this shot:

Red-shouldered hawk watches me from a wire on Forest Avenue

For perspective – and if you want to look up the location – I took a step backward and snapped this image. Look closely on the wire just to the left of the letter “F” in the word “Forest” on the street sign. See the hawk sitting right there? That’s how they look in urban environments. You can pass right by and not notice them:

See the hawk? Just to the left of the “F” in “Forest”? Above the “r” in “Paris”?

I suspect it won’t snow tomorrow, or if it does snow, it won’t amount to much. If it does, we’ll be ready. If not, we’ll be ready when the first cold Canadian cold fronts blow down in the Autumn. Our friend Tim Drake at Drake’s Lawn Care Service ((804) 837-1555) has been selling us firewood since I moved to this house in 2001. Not to mention helping out with our yard when we’ve needed it! This will keep the house warm for a while:  This will hopefully be enough to keep us warm through the snow tomorrow. Thanks Tim!

Anyway, that’s it for today, the final day of the tenth week of 2018. Have an excellent week – and come back next 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, Dogs, firewood, Fun, James River, mockingbirds, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Rivers and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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