Slacking off never pays

21 November, 2021 Slacking off never pays

Somebody probably told me that in kindergarten or first grade, second grade at the latest. I’ve been told that in some form or other for the past half century-ish. You can teach an old dog new tricks, but I still haven’t learned that slacking off never pays. Here is a selection of the pictures that have piled up in the six weeks (!) since my most “recent” blog post. 

I almost called this post “mostly birds” since as you will learn that would be an equally appropriate title. In six weeks I build up a massive pile of pictures. I have a million favorites. Somehow in late October I went to Pony Pasture on a Friday, though I don’t recall why. I’d just gotten on the trail when I saw a person pointing their cell phone at the creek. I waited politely until they’d moved on then strolled down to see if the object of their interest was still visible. Imagine my delight when I saw this Red-tailed Hawk perched above the pipeline crossing the creek: 

Red-tailed hawk waiting for breakfast to wander by at Pony Pasture

A couple of days earlier this mockingbird posed in the bright sun at Echo Lake Park: 

Mockingbird basking in the morning sun at Echo Lake

To get away from birds (for a moment) I was surprised to see a small buck at Pony Pasture in late October. I was so certain I was looking at a doe, I didn’t even work hard on the pictures. I didn’t realize it was a buck until I got home and saw its antlers. You can see how well it blends in. This was really close to the parking lot. He could definitely see car windshields reflecting sunlight from where he was standing. I’ve seen (years ago) one truly enormous buck in Pony Pasture. There is zero percent chance a buck like that would get out in the open like this so close to the parking lot. Unless it was like one o’clock in the morning. This guy had a little harem of small does with him. He reminded me of a cocky fifteen year old boy squiring his girlfriend around the mall. Hopefully this little dude has some good years ahead of him: 

See his little antlers there?

I took this picture of Turner the same day. I took the picture of Turner at 10:53. I took the picture of the buck at 11:09. In all my years of photography and tens of thousands of shots I have almost literally never used my flash. But I used it that morning and was gratified with the results. I hope you are too: 

Turner was born eager. He hasn’t lost it.

One of the things I love best about Turner is his unrelenting enthusiasm. Turner wakes up looking forward to every single thing that’s going to happen that day, and he goes to sleep looking forward to sleeping. He thinks everything in the world is just the most awesome thing he’s ever seen. He was a little bit lost for a while when Mackey died – probably picking up on Evelyn’s and my grief – but he gradually came out of it. He is always full of wonder. Notice that combining those two words equals “wonderful.” We’re lucky to have him around.

We hiked around a while and we were clear on the other side of the park, headed upstream (west) toward the parking lot. There was a mother deer grazing on the side with two youngsters gamboling around on the side of the trail. The mother vanished into the woods like smoke. The youngsters couldn’t take their eyes off Turner. I had the sense then and I still have it that they would have liked to chase each other around – to frolic – and in another setting it would have worked fine. Not on a pretty autumn Sunday at a busy urban park though. Look at this face though. Such a punim! And look closely – stretch the picture if you’re on a phone. This is a very young buck. See those two little bumps in front of his ears? Mommy will probably be telling him to hit the road soon:  

Turner was standing directly in front of me. This little buck was locked on him. In a fun way.

This picture is junky enough that if it was any other bird I wouldn’t use it. But it’s a Bald Eagle! I still wouldn’t use it if it was out in the wild somewhere in a place I’d expect to find Bald Eagles. This may not make sense if you’re not from Richmond but this bird was ten feet from the road at the corner of Gaskins Road and Ridgefield Parkway. Thousands of cars pass that intersection every day. And this was a few minutes before 10:00 AM on a weekday morning – not exactly prime wildlife viewing time. I would never have glanced in its direction but crows were having a fit and this time of year that invariably means raptor (or housecat). So I turned my camera and there it was. I’ll bet Bald Eagles and Cardinals are two of the most easily recognized birds in the United States: 

Bald Eagle in the heart of a busy suburb. I am so grateful.

I took this picture in the parking lot a few minutes earlier: 

Squirrel the color of an eagle’s head

I’ll do a quick segue away from birds and mammals for a moment. I’m not colorblind but autumn leaves are just not something I find thrilling. But I’ve taken two pictures of leaves purely because of their color since my most recent blog post. Alone (IMO) these pictures aren’t worth a great deal. But (again, IMO) they look cool together: 

Colorful November leaves #1
Colorful November leaves #2

An almost inviolable rule of animal (including bird) photography is “if you can’t photograph the eyes, don’t waste your time.” But this enormous female Cooper’s Hawk swooped over the hood of my car and landed on a branch next to my across-the-street neighbor’s driveway, peering at his bird feeder. Birds don’t drool (that I’m aware of) but if they did, Cooper’s Hawks would drool when they looked at a busy bird feeder. She was so big and so close I had to get this shot: 

Everybody has a hungry hawk:

I also saw an Eastern Phoebe this week at Bryan Park: 

Phoebe at Bryan Park

Wait – I almost left out a crucial (to me) bird. Kingfishers are really, really (for me) hard to photograph. They’re even hard to see, and I hardly ever see them stop. They fly, fly, fly. In almost all birds (think cardinals), if there is an appearance difference between genders, the male is the better looking of the two. Everything in this blog is strictly my opinion, but male Kingfishers are much more muted and less colorful than females. This guy stopped in the shade long enough for me to snap a few images:

Male Belted Kingfisher on a branch

I have other pictures but maybe I’ll get another post up a week from today. Maybe not, but I’m happy with this one. I hope you are! Have an excellent 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 accipiters, Bald eagles, Birds, Bryan Park, Cooper's Hawk, Dogs, Fun, James River, love, mockingbirds, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), squirrels, whitetail deer and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Slacking off never pays

  1. Jackie says:

    Great Pictures! The white squirrel is crazy😳

    • Thank you Jackie! That white squirrel is definitely unusual to see. A reliable source recently told me there are now TWO white squirrels in that park. I’m going to keep my eye open and see if I can photograph them both at the same time. I can hardly wait! Thanks again and have a great day.

  2. e says:

    Love your photos and your comments. Always nice to hear from you Jay. Still miss your mom.

    • Hi Liz! I am SO sorry to take so long to respond to this! It’s always nice to hear from you as well. I hope you and Bill and Ruth and Sarah are doing well. We just had Thanksgiving at Kevin’s house on Thursday. Mom was such a big part of that, and of bringing up Kev’s girls – it was impossible not to think of her then. It was easy to feel her presence there, and dad’s as well. I’m on the board of director for a group called Friendship Circle of Virginia. Tomorrow we’re having an event for the first day of Chanukah. It’s at an ice skating rink. We didn’t have it last year because of the pandemic but we had it the year before. Including a giant menorah on skates. I tasted hamantaschen for the first (but not the last) time and ate many, many latkes. I’m looking forward to tomorrow. Thanks again for the note, please say hello to Bill and the girls, and have a sweet holiday. All best,


  3. Nate says:

    Great pics, thanks. Happy Thanksgiving to you and Evelyn.
    Uh, nice Springsteen ‘reset’…

    • Glad you enjoyed it. According to my blog stats this post got like 127 views or something like that. I suspect you may be the only person who caught the Springsteen reference. And Evelyn proof reads it AND she’s from NJ! Happy Belated Thanksgiving, Merry Early Christmas.

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