First Sunday of autumn

27 September, 2020            First Sunday of autumn 

First deer of the season on the first Sunday of autumn:

I’d been swimming for half an hour Thursday morning at 9:30 when autumn officially began here in Richmond. This morning – five days later almost to the minute – I saw my first whitetail deer of the season at Pony Pasture

You cannot feel anxiety and look at a deer at the same time. Anxiety and deer are mutually exclusive.

I photographed a Brown headed nuthatch on my feeder yesterday morning. My favorite thing about Brown headed nuthatches is, before I saw one at my feeder, I never knew such a bird existed! It’s one thing to have never seen a bird before, but I never knew it existed! It’s so exciting to learn about a new bird. That’s as much a reflection of my ignorance as it is anything else, but I’ve seen a lot of nuthatches for a lot of years – probably at least forty years before my first brown headed nuthatch. I’m grateful for the opportunity! 

Brown-headed nuthatch yesterday, headed for a tree to hatch that nut

Red-bellied woodpeckers were less of a surprise for me, but they photograph well and I always like to see them on my feeders. I have learned to distinguish genders in woodpeckers since I put my feeders out. This is a male. See how the red color goes all the way to the front of his head? Females have a red streak that extends two thirds of the way up the back of their heads: 

They know the bird seed’s not there for decoration. He has a big seed in his mouth.

I wish the light had been better and I’d been closer (cameras love more light and being closer to the subject) but I always love seeing Red-tailed hawks. I saw the nuthatch and the woodpecker around 11:00 yesterday morning. I photographed this hawk two blocks from my house at 4:00 PM the same day:

There are no vegetarian Red-tailed hawks. They like to eat small live mammals, often in a single bite.

I saw a skink at Deep Run Park in western Henrico this week. We have a warm couple of days coming up, but soon the skinks will vanish for what remains of 2020. They’ll appear again in the Spring next year – they’re as reliable as the change in day length: 

Late season skink – the last of 2020?

Speaking of being animals that crawl, the milkweed Evelyn planted is crawling (it really is literally crawling) with Monarch Butterfly caterpillars. They generously turn the leaves into a substance that enhances the soil. It’s like magic. I don’t know how much longer they’ll be around either – maybe they leave with the skinks. Here’s one from today: 

Monarch butterfly caterpillar (and a smaller one just below) this afternoon in front of my office window

I always get the caterpillars and occasionally a bird or two, but I don’t include Evelyn’s Beautyberries (Callicarpa americana) often enough. All this stuff is fleeting – it’s just as ephemeral as Trout Lilies in the Spring. Beautyberries will leave with the skinks and monarch butterfly caterpillars. But Buffleheads will show up on the river soon – all this stuff follows predictable patterns: 

Well-named Beautyberries

The gardenias in our yard are currently on sabbatical; I expect their return soon, possibly by next week. But this week I was picking up a delicious meal for Evelyn and me at Fresca on Addison in the Fan. If you want to smell or see some gardenias, these are always (in season) growing along the north (away from the river) side of West Cary street between Addison and Davis. The sight and smell of gardenias just does not ever get old: 

Urban gardenia

When I posted a photograph of honeysuckle last week I learned my niece Aileen is also fond of honeysuckle. So I’m not just posting these for my own selfish interest! Enjoy: 

Honeysuckle – what’s not to love? (Except that it’s invasive)

Deer at Pony Pasture have seen so many dogs so often – especially mine – that they don’t waste their energy running away. When I took the pictures at the top of this post it was 9:30 this morning and we were on a trail deep in the woods, far from the river. This picture was an hour plus later, a few minutes before we returned to the car: 

Three handsome boys at the edge of the James River this fine first Sunday of autumn:

Have a great 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, brown-headed nuthatch, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, Gardenias, honeysuckle, Insects, James River, love, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-bellied woodpeckers, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), whitetail deer and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to First Sunday of autumn

  1. Dennis says:

    Hello Jay, Could I use one of your photos of Tangier Island Airport for an article I’m writing for an aviation magazine? It’s hard to find a good image of that remote place. You can contact me at: denniskjohnson@hotmail.com Thanks

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