We’ll floss that bridge when we come to it 

19 January, 2020            We’ll floss that bridge when we come to it 

For the eighth consecutive week I was able to photograph these owls. I wish I’d gotten a better image but this is what’s there. I will never not photograph an owl. It is never not a treat. It is always a deeply peaceful moment: 

I’m transfixed, every time I see this. I lose awareness of everything else:

But – we got a bit further down the trail and met a volunteer crew busy cleaning debris and leaf litter out of the spaces between the boards on the big footbridge across the creek. I was showing them the owl picture because 100% of people are interested (or fake like they’re interested) in a picture of a pair of owls. And after they looked at the pictures – they loved them – they said “we’re flossing the bridge!”: 

Volunteers “flossing” a footbridge on a sunny Sunday morning at Pony Pasture

All that crud that gets caught between the boards stops the water from draining and causes the boards to rot. So these awesome folks volunteered to come out to the park on a cold and windy Sunday morning and floss bridges. Of all the things these folks could have done  on a beautiful Sunday morning, they chose to get down on their hands and knees and do genuine dirty work to keep our park in good shape. See why the James River Park System is so awesome? My hat is totally off to those hard working people. 

I took a lot, lot, lot of pictures out on the rocks today, even though the river was moderately high at around six feet. But we took a trailside break after hiking for more than ninety minutes and I like the way Mackey looks in the sunlight. Turner too of course, but black dogs are harder to photograph:  

Mackey and Turner resting near the river’s edge this morning

This is the most miserable light imaginable (close to it, anyway) but it’s an important (IMO) picture so I’m including it. While I’m not in love with the quality, I’m thrilled with the content, because this is clearly a mated pair of adult Red-tailed hawks. They were sitting on the power line just one block south of Freeman High School in Henrico County. I’m sure I’ll see more of these two, and in better light, as the winter and spring progress, and hopefully their young in a couple of months. Always exciting: 

Technically yucky, but it is huge luck (IMO) to locate a Red-tail pair together in January

I don’t get a million pictures of Tufted Titmice (Baeolophus bicolor) but this one perched obligingly for long enough to click yesterday afternoon:  

I wonder what an angry Tufted titmouse looks like? Hard to imagine.

There were other birds on the feeder when I took this; I cropped out a ton. But this was the first Brown-headed Nuthatch I’d seen in some time and they always make me smile: 

Brown-headed nuthatch – a bird I never knew existed before last year

I liked this odd angle of a male (relatively certain I have the gender ID correct) Red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus): 

Red-bellied woodpecker hunkered down on the feeder

I’ve seen a lot of Hooded Mergansers this year, but never gotten a good look in good light. I caught up with this pair earlier in the week. The male came out okay but I never got a solid look (with my camera) at the female. Hopefully next time: 

Hooded merganser pair this week

One of my many talented nieces was in the 16th annual Monument City Classic Volleyball Tournament at the Greater Richmond Convention Center downtown near the Coliseum this weekend. Yesterday was the first day and it’s going today and tomorrow as well. 3,600 players! I got to spend a little time down there yesterday: 

3,600 players, 3 days, countless games, incredible organization

There are raptors everywhere this week; I see multiple birds every day. Wednesday morning I saw one in Glen Allen, then another a few minutes later in the swamp off Patterson Avenue then a third on the spire of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints at 5600 Monument Avenue. I never got images I like; I was grateful the owls cooperated this morning. But here’s Red-tail from the swamp Wednesday morning: 

Red-tailed hawk in the swamp off Patterson Avenue

Come back next week! Please! And have a great week! Please! 

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, Dogs, Fun, James River, love, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-bellied woodpeckers, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to We’ll floss that bridge when we come to it 

  1. Greg Velzy says:

    The “Bridge Flossing” project was through JROC (the James River Outdoor Coalition). There are over 110 bridge and boardwalk structures in the JRPS that need this TLC. We know that Park staff have more important tasks to handle so we took this on. For over 20 years we have supported the JRPS and it’s staff through these type of volunteer projects. We listen to and speak for the active park user. Always looking for improvement ideas, then making them happen. Join and help us! http://www.JROC.net

    • Thank you for helping those hard working Park staff with these thankless jobs. With 110 bridge and boardwalk structures that need this TLC I’m sure you keep a crew busy 52 weeks/ year. The park looks great! Thank you for the help!

  2. Bob Parker says:

    Hi Jay,
    Another great blob, as usual.
    Several comments: Liked the discussion of the red-tails. Co-incidentally, I saw two this AM flying around in what I would call a matting dance. It’s that time of the year.
    I’ve never seen a brown-headed nut hatch. I understand they are all over the UofR campus. They seem to prefer pine forests to deciduous. I suppose I need to spend time over there with my binoculars.
    Yep, it’s a male red-bellied. My first thought was the red didn’t go all the way to the beak so it must be a female. On checking my book I see that I am wrong.
    Finally, your blog lets me know that it’s time to floss my deck. Never thought about that. Sometimes you learn some surprising stuff where you don’t expect it….
    Take care,

    • Great to hear from you as always Bob. This is definitely “mating dance” time for Red-tails. They usually do that this time of year – except when the clouds are too low to fly, like they were when I took that picture.
      Those brown-headed nuthatches are unobtrusive, but they’re the kind of bird that, once you’ve seen it, you begin to see it a lot more.
      Thanks for the verification on the red-bellied. Other males I’ve seen were more clearly identifiable but this one was a bit less clear.
      And glad you remembered it’s time to floss your deck! That’s one of those terms I’d never heard before but now that I have heard it, I’ll never forget it.
      Thanks for the note and have a great day,


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