At a loss for words

17 June, 2018            At a loss for words

Primarily because I’m at a loss for pictures. I almost called this one “It’s easy to distinguish between genders” but you’ll have to admit that doesn’t roll right off the tongue. Some animals – think mallards – have vastly different appearances between the two genders. Other animals – think Canada Geese – it’s impossible. They can tell – obviously – but us (or at least me) not so much. Enough (too much) drivel.

I got a Red-tail Monday morning at Freeman High School on the floodlights overlooking the baseball field. But its back is to the camera so I didn’t use it. Almost precisely twenty-four hours later, the same bird or its mate was closer to my house (75 yards away) in better light:

Red-tail glaring in the glaring sunlight

Before I took that picture I’d stopped at the Tuckahoe YMCA to tell my friends why I hadn’t been there since before Memorial Day. I’d broken my hand Memorial Day Sunday (May 27) and I hadn’t visited the Y in over two weeks. That just never happens. Anyway, I stopped by and two male Red-winged blackbirds were carrying on in front of the Y. My pictures of the males were marginal, but I got my first ever decent image of a female. Boy it’s easy to distinguish between genders of Red-winged blackbirds. Here’s a female I saw Wednesday:

Female Red-winged Blackbird on a cat tail:

Again this picture of a male is marginal, but if you’ve never seen the two, what a difference. It’s iconic to see Red-winged blackbirds on cat tails. It seems like whenever one is around, you can find the other. In the summer, anyway: 

Male Red-winged Blackbird. Again with the iconic cat tail:

I hope I’m not overdoing the gardenia pictures. To call the smell “intoxicating” is not a stretch, so maybe that’s why I keep putting up pictures. The first step is admitting I have a problem: 

It looks like whipped cream, like real whipped cream if you make it yourself. My amazement (and gratitude) never fades:

I know (as previously mentioned) that I return to the same themes too often. I apologize to those who are fed up with pictures of our cat Dash:

Take it from an experienced slacker – this is what we do:

I did get a few Red-tailed hawks this week, as noted above, but I got even more Red-shouldered hawks. Here is one from Thursday, Flag Day, my late parents’ 60th wedding anniversary, perched above my sunroof over a friend’s driveway:

Red-shouldered hawk. It flew beside me then landed on this branch.

Here is another Red-shouldered hawk the following morning, but ten miles away – it’s not the same bird or its mate or offspring:

Red-shoulder on a roof:

I am not so talented a photographer I can make a tadpole in poor light look good. But I got a few images at Cheswick Park that I believe are worth including here. Here’s one with I think a snail behind it. I also think this is a bullfrog tadpole.

But I’m no expert:   

Tadpole on its way to becoming a frog:

Evelyn is my editor so normally I can let myself off the hook with errors. But she’s traveling this weekend so I have to accept responsibility this week. She’ll be home tomorrow, thank goodness. Her nasturtiums are in enthusiastic bloom as they (and we) await her return:

Happy, happy nasturtiums. We’ll ALL be even happier when she gets home tomorrow!

Summer officially begins Thursday (6/21) morning at 6:07 EDT. We’ll continue to get flowers as the days simultaneously heat up and shorten, but they’ll flower with less and less enthusiasm. Here’s a magnolia from Saturday:

Magnolia not fifty feet from where I took the picture of the Red-shoulder on a branch:

Have a great week! Come back next week for the first blog post of Summer, 2018! And Happy Father’s Day!

All best,


PS I almost missed this. Today’s Father’s Day and on Friday I got a middling image of my Dad’s favorite bird, an Eastern Bluebird. I hesitate to speak for my late Dad, especially when all my brothers and sisters (I’m pretty sure) will read this. I love to take pictures, but I’m not a perfectionist. I believe you could apply that exact description to my Dad and photography. To my Dad (and me) about a lot of things – love to do it, but not a perfectionist. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”: 

Eastern Bluebird Friday at Deep Run Park:



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, Gardenias, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to At a loss for words

  1. Tony Gentry says:

    Jay, sorry to read that you broke your hand. Has not, I see, affected your brilliant eye and steady camera hand – I think your picture essays are some of my favorite reading always, and this post really touched me. Though we have magnolias in my neighborhood, they always remind me of my time in New Orleans when the whole French Quarter would seem abloom with them in April, and the poignant remembrance of your dad says so much about the son he’d be so proud of. Thank you.

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