Ecclesiastes – there is a season – Turn! Turn! Turn!

18 March, 2018           Ecclesiastes – there is a season – Turn! Turn! Turn!

Today is the final Sunday of winter. Spring officially begins Tuesday at 12:15 PM EDT when the sun crosses the equator from south to north. I don’t know enough about the Old Testament Book of Ecclesiastes to address it knowledgeably. But Pete Seeger based a song on it in the late 1950’s and The Byrds covered it in 1965. The seasons are always turning, but today is officially “winter” and a week from today will be officially “spring” and if you spend time outdoors, you’ll see both. And if you’re in Richmond, Virginia, they’re currently predicting snow on Wednesday – the first full day of Spring! We’ll see.

Speaking of snow in Richmond, I took this picture of a Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus) perched outside my office window in driving snow on Monday of this week:  

Northern Flicker in the snow

Tuesday was pretty but I didn’t get a ton of good pictures. Wednesday I got my first osprey of 2018! The inexorable advance of the season. Now I’m guaranteed a raptor a week between now and at least August. There will be at least one osprey on that nest until the chicks fledge (the eggs haven’t even been laid yet) in the summer. But this is across Parham Road from the West End Assembly of God, one power line tower south (toward the river) of the parking lot. This was one of a pair; the other one was flying around above: 

1st Parham Road osprey of 2018:

Raptors included in my “raptor-a-week” project include Red-tailed hawks, Red-shouldered hawks, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, and Barred Owls. There is a small but non-zero chance I’ll get a Great Horned Owl and/or an American Kestrel. I could also go downtown and try to “get” a Peregrine Falcon – we have them in downtown Richmond – but it’s unlikely.

I got a Red-shouldered hawk earlier in the morning the same day I got the osprey (Wednesday). It was early in the morning and I wasn’t in photography mode and the hawk was a bit ruffled too but it was my first raptor of the week:

Neither the hawk or I were ready for this shot. Possibly should have skipped it. But it was my first raptor of the week.

I got another Red-shouldered hawk close to my house the next day. It was sitting on a wire. I had my bike on my car and this hawk wasn’t real comfortable when I stopped near it. This isn’t an awful image though:

Red-shouldered hawks seem comfortable on low perches

Looking at that bird – and other Red-shoulders I’ve seen – I had a sudden realization about the hunting habits of Red-shouldered hawks (RSH’s) v. Red-tailed hawks (RTH’s). 90% of the RSH’s I’ve seen have been low – 20 or 30 feet above the ground. Usually on neighborhood power lines or phone lines.  90% of the RTH’s I’ve seen have been high – 80 to 100 feet above the ground. Usually on electric towers or cell phone towers. I have never – in all these  years, with all this photography – seen it the other way around. So they  must not compete.

On Saint Patrick’s Day – as luck would have it – a Mockingbird “posed” for quite a while on my feeders. I was typing or reading or something and snapped a few images. The suet and the scruffy pole make an inelegant background, but Mockingbirds are in my opinion elegant. They’re rewarding to photograph, though I’m not 100% certain why that’s the case:

Sharp looking bird, inelegant background

Our hyacinths have been above the ground for some time as the season turns, turns, turns, turns. I took this picture beside our driveway this morning at 10:30 – but you really need to smell a hyacinth to fully appreciate it:

Hyacinth gleaming and fragrant beside our driveway this morning

Today also, remarkably, I got a red-tail on our way home from the river near the Westbury Pharmacy: 

1st Red-tail of a 2 Red-tail day – this one near the Westbury Apothecary

Then went riding at West Creek and on the way home one flew across Patterson Avenue and landed in a tree next to the driveway at the Tuckahoe YMCA. This pair had an offspring get hit by a car on Patterson Avenue and killed last year; I’m glad they’ve seen fit to try this spot again. It’s a good environment:

2nd Red-tail of the day – at the Tuckahoe YMCA

I’m watching the lilacs as the season turns, turns, turns again. Ours will bloom in mid-April; every year their fragrance reminds me of Walt Whitman’s When Lilacs last in the dooryard bloom’d. It’s heartbreaking because it’s Whitman’s experience of stepping outdoors the moment he’d heard Lincoln had been assassinated (15 April, 1865) and smelling lilacs. And lilacs and Lincoln’s assassination became inextricably linked in his mind. In the poem Whitman also writes about Hermit Thrushes; this is the passage:

In the swamp in secluded recesses,

A shy and hidden bird is warbling a song.

Solitary the thrush

The hermit withdrawn to himself, avoiding the settlements,

Sings by himself a song. (lines 18–22)

I was thinking about hermit thrushes before I left the house this morning, and one popped out on the edge of the parking lot at Pony Pasture just as Mackey and Turner and Yuki and I were getting in the car to head home. Keep your eyes out – they’re attractive little birds, but it’s not for nothing they’re called “hermits” – they don’t advertise their presence. Here’s the one we saw this morning:

Hermit thrush at Pony Pasture this morning

I’m also beginning a project at Pony Pasture as soon as the trees leaf out. Black Walnut trees (Juglans nigra) were a favorite of my Dad’s and I’ve always loved walnut wood myself. I’m going to locate a few black walnuts in Pony Pasture and watch them throughout the year. I’m also considering locust trees, and possibly pawpaws and sassafras and redbuds. Of course a sycamore or two, the signature tree of Pony Pasture.

Have an excellent week! 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, Flowers, Fun, hyacinths, James River, mockingbirds, Northern flicker, ospreys, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Ecclesiastes – there is a season – Turn! Turn! Turn!

  1. Jackie says:

    Yay Spring!

    • It won’t come a moment too soon! Of course, here in Richmond they’re calling for cold rain + 1″ – 3″ of snow on the first days of Spring, but “this too shall pass.” There’s warm, pretty weather coming soon!

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