Mistaking eagles for vultures made me eat crow

1 November, 2020 Mistaking eagles for vultures made me eat crow 

Monday (10/26/2020) I looked at a pair of Black Vultures (Coragyps atratus) on a cell phone tower near Kroger. They’re common so I ignored them. Went shopping, came back out, they were still there. I leaned against my car – in the parking lot of Kroger – and snapped a few images then went home. Left my camera in the car, I take pictures all week. Five days later I brought my camera in the house and transferred my low value Black Vulture pictures to my computer. This is what overconfidence gives you – here are the Black vultures: 

Bald Eagle at KROGER!
It was a pair or Bald Eagles – at Kroger – but I didn’t pay attention 😦

So Mister Big Shot Birder mistook one of the most identifiable birds on this planet for a vulture! It was a pair of Bald Eagles! Here is my location relative to theirs. If you live in Richmond, you may recognize this area. There is zero in this area that resembles the habitat of an alpha raptor like a Bald Eagle. Perhaps that’s associated with my reason for not recognizing them. Nuts. I could have walked across the street and taken precise up-close shots. Oy. Here’s the area: 

Location where I was parked (upper part of picture) and where the eagles were (bottom center). SMH.

I’d like to say I learned from my mistake, but I’ve not-learned from a lot of mistakes. I  confidently predict I won’t learn from this one either. Life goes on. 

My friend Pat and his dog Luna (she’s been on many of my blog posts) met Mackey and Turner and me at Pony Pasture for our hike this morning. Yuki stayed warm and dry at home. It was 50º and raining when we parked at 8:45-ish. The river was still coming down (it probably still is) from a 15+ foot flood. The low trails were a mess. But the JRPS crew was already in there cleaning up! They all say hello, they are so nice. And our park is gorgeous even after a fifteen foot flood! 

Anyway, it was pretty miserable, so we chose an abbreviated route. I know a short way that takes us near a good owl spot and a good deer spot then gets us back to the car before getting soaked fully saturated. The owl spot comes first (~0.5 mile from the car) but no luck. The deer spot is ~0.8 miles from the car. There are still tons of leaves on the trees so I couldn’t get the whole herd in one frame. I clicked the shutter at 9:33 AM: 

About half the deer herd Pat and Luna and Mackey and Turner and I saw this morning

I count four in that picture – three heads and one rump. But there were at least eight in that herd, and possibly ten or more. I’m always encouraged – about the world and about photography – by encounters with wildlife. I’m currently reading a really beautiful book for the Wildlife Center of Virginia Online Book Club. If you’d like to learn a bit about it, this is the book: Narwhals: Arctic Whales in a Melting World by Todd McLeish. I just love it. But I digress. So we headed back in the direction of the car and I said let’s take a little detour and go back through the higher likelihood owl area. At 11:13 AM I took this picture: 

Barred owl in the rain watching humans and dogs in the rain

= = = = = = = = = = = 

I’m a quarter of the way through the Narwhal book. Close to the beginning, Mr. McLeish writes “Wildlife encounters are moving experiences for me, leaving me both stimulated and calm and providing an almost spiritual awareness of the natural world.” That is absolutely a 100% flawless description of what happens when I’m in the woods with wildlife – especially with owls. “Both stimulated and calm” with “an almost spiritual awareness.” It is entirely palpable. It’s almost a physical sensation. It’s like an out-of-body experience, if there is such a thing. Over the years I’ve gotten to the point where I crave it, and I work hard to get in situations where I feel it. I’m grateful for the opportunity. 

= = = = = = = = = = =

Tuesday coming home from somewhere I saw a single well-lit Red tail on a tower near my house. I pulled over and saw work trucks unloading at the base of the tower. As they were unloading, a second Red tail was landing. I tried to get a picture but they both took off. They flew right over my car (very high over my car) and landed on the tower immediately south of the one I’d first seen them on. I went east one block, turned south for a block, then turned west again and looked up – and there they were. It still throws me off that the female (the right hand bird here) is the larger bird. But anyway, as with the eagles, raptors are pairing off: 

Male Red-tail on left, female right. They can’t soar when it’s overcast. Can’t see the ground.

Tuesday I was down in the Fan and gardenias are still blooming! On October 27! I should have gone down there today and see if there is a November bloom. It wouldn’t surprise me. Or not anymore than I am already surprised to see one on October 27. But check this out: 

Gardenia blooming in the last week of October. That is astonishing. Next to a sidewalk in the Fan!

I was going to close with that gardenia. But Ev (possibly I’ve mentioned this before) gets us all manner of excellent produce from AgriBerry Farm Fruit CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Every week we pick up a fresh basket of whatever is in season. Ev is a connoisseur of apples (and about a million other foods) and she gets apples that are out of this world. I pulled one out of the basket today and it still had a leaf on it! I was overjoyed. It’s easy (easy for me, anyway) to just grab an apple and munch away at it and I may even (I often do) think about how great it tastes and how enjoyable the texture is. But I had to see one with a leaf stuck to it to remind me it actually came from a tree. Have a great week! All best, 

Jay 

[[I have to insert this addendum, because it happened this instant, and you can’t make this stuff up. I’m writing about an apple with a leaf on it because I’m so pleased to be reminded apples do in fact grow on trees. True story – my phone tried to auto capitalize the word “apple” and make it into a brand name. I’m glad I was paying attention. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. Don’t forget to vote!]]

An apple with a leaf on it!

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.
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