Recognizing individuals

6 December, 2020 Recognizing individuals

“Every scientific study is improved if you can recognize individuals”

“‘Every scientific study is improved if you can recognize individuals,’ she (Marie Auger-Méthé) said.” – Narwhals: Arctic Whales in a Melting World, Todd McLeish 

I can’t tell these owls apart – yet. I’ll learn to. 

I’ve mentioned in previous posts I’m a member of the Wildlife Center of Virginia Online Book Club. Our next meeting is Tuesday evening (day after tomorrow) at 7:00 PM and we’re reading the narwhal book. I loved every single page – one of my favorite books in recent memory. I learned a ton. A lot of things jumped out at me, but that line in particular. I always look at those owls as identical even though they’re not. Scientifically is my favorite way of looking at nature, and I know I need to be able to distinguish between those two lovely animals. Soon enough. 

Every time I start one of these blog posts late (it’s late) I wince and say “next week I need to start earlier!” But alas. Here I am. This pretty little bluebird dropped in on my front feeder Tuesday: 

Bluebird in bright sun

This was the moon Monday evening at 9:45. Both apps I use (World Clock and Sun Surveyor) identified it as 99.5% full. World Clock called that “waning gibbous” (just past full) and Sun Surveyor still called it “full.” Looking up at it in the sky you would have said it was full, but technically (and mathematically) it wasn’t: 

Moments-past-full moon Monday evening:

Here’s World Clock (first): 

Followed by Sun Surveyor: 

I saw a Red-shouldered hawk at Bryan Park this week. It was passing through and didn’t “pose” and give me an easy look. But it’s nice to see them in the woods from time to time: 

I never tire of raptors. That intensity is unmatched.

My friend Tim brings me the excellent firewood that heats our home – and this week he brought us eggs! He also cuts grass in the summer and cleans gutters (yay) and is an excellent family man. He’s been bringing me firewood for many years. I’m still cutting my own grass though – so far. Thanks again for the firewood and eggs Tim!: 

Firewood and fresh eggs – thanks Tim!

Our local Red-tails are still paired up. I got this picture Friday when I was almost home. That’s the female on the right and the male on the left. The breeze is out of the south, blowing his head feathers backwards – that’s the white spot. Both of their bodies are oriented toward the breeze so all they have to do is spread their wings and jump and they’ll be airborne. They won’t even need to flap their wings. I can’t tell but it looks like there’s a blood spot on the left side of the female’s (the right hand bird’s) breast. I wonder if she killed something recently: 

Red-tail pair a block from my house

I usually (IIRC) see my first buffleheads of the season around Halloween. I’ve been watching for them this year but didn’t see them until today. They are synonymous with winter on the falls for the James: 

Buffleheads bobbing along in a mild flood this morning

The river was around twelve feet deep when we were hiking today; often it’s at five or six feet or lower. We came around a corner and the trail was under ~3” of water for a hundred feet or more, so we had to go “overland” or “bushwhacking” – it was a jungle out there! 

Lots of surprise detours this morning:

A kind stranger took this picture exactly 60 minutes earlier, in a much more accessible section of the park. I need to start asking these kind photographers for their first names! They are always so friendly. You could not ask for three better ambassadors than Mackey, Turner and Yuki:  

The river’s edge came to us this fine December morning

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.
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2 Responses to Recognizing individuals

  1. Rob Martin says:

    Nice job. So relaxing! 😌

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