Finally got to fly again (and more)

5 December, 2021 Finally got to fly again (and more)

I flew most of the day Tuesday. Viruses don’t affect a plane’s ability to fly, but my schedule was disrupted by the pandemic so I took a break. I finally called out to my old friends at Heart of Virginia Aviation in Hanover (KOFP) and set up some time with a plane and an instructor. I was fortunate to fly with an excellent instructor named Dwayne; I’m looking forward to flying with him again. He took this picture of me at Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), about fifty miles west of Baltimore: 

Stopped for lunch in Frederick, MD, picture courtesy of my flight instructor Dwayne Gill

My plan was to land in four states that day; Maryland was the last one unless you count going home to Hanover. We had a few glitches getting in the air at Hanover that morning. We started out in a Tecnam P92 Eaglet which is really, really light. There was a strong, gusty wind blowing straight across the runway – anathema for really light planes. But fortunately we had the opportunity to switch from a light plane to a heavier one. When I began flying in 2017 I flew in a Cessna 172 and one was available so away we went. That’s me standing in front of it in that picture. Our first stop (our second state) was around a hundred miles north at KMRB in Martinsburg, WV. We just landed then taxied around and took off again. From Martinsburg, WV we headed to our third airport and state, W05 in Gettysburg, PA. The runway in Martinsburg was a relatively massive 8,800 feet. Gettysburg was our shortest runway of the day at 3,100 feet. Hanover (where I fly from) is 5,200 feet. Not a lot happens at Gettysburg airport. We did a U-turn at the end of the runway, taxied back up to the top, did another U-turn, took off and left. 

To backtrack a few airports, just before we got into the Martinsburg airport airspace we flew over the twisty Shenandoah River: 

Shenandoah River meandering beneath my left wing strut in WV:

I should have put all these in order, but I didn’t. After we took off from Gettysburg we flew to our fourth state, Frederick, MD. That’s where we took the picture of me with the plane – the picture that opens this blog post. The folks at the Frederick airport lent us a car (almost all small airports do this) and went out for lunch at a nice little place called Belle’s Sports Bar and Grill. For some reason I erred and had a cheeseburger (I love cheeseburgers); I was foolish to pass up a crabcake when I was in Maryland. I’ll go back again and I won’t make the same mistake twice. 

I have seen wildlife since my last blog post. I thought Buffleheads showed up closer to Halloween; I’ve been watching for them for some time. I finally saw a little flock when I was hiking on November 26, a.k.a. the day after Thanksgiving, a.k.a. Black Friday. This little male was causing a little commotion mid stream. He may be taking off or landing but he also may be strutting his stuff for the females on the water just ahead of and behind him: 

I think he was showing off. But he may have just been happy. They’re not mutually exclusive.

I don’t know what this bluebird was doing; possibly cocking his handsome little head to avoid the glare of the sun: 

Bluebird getting a new perspective

I see a lot of Great Blue Herons in Richmond – they’re all around if you pay attention. Unless I’m fortunate enough to see one with a fish or a frog or a crayfish in its mouth (that’s rare for me) my pictures are disappointingly similar. I liked this one gazing through the branches. Looking at the lens of my camera; 

Great Blue Heron peering through the branches

I rarely rarely rarely see Cooper’s hawks. I love seeing them but they are among the most elusive local raptors. In my decades of hawk watching I have never seen one on a high perch. That territory has been (in my experience) the sole province of Red-tailed hawks. But I looked up on a tower near our house just after lunch on Thursday and saw a long tail hanging down. That is the giveaway clue of a Cooper’s hawk – they’re the only local raptor  that has a long tail. I zoomed in too much on this one (I was overenthusiastic) and lost a little image quality. But it’s a Cooper’s hawk. They’re fantastic birds: 

All my decades of hawk watching, this is the first time I’ve ever seen a Cooper’s Hawk on a high perch

I almost forgot! Turner and Yuki and I had a close encounter with a female Pileated woodpecker at Pony Pasture this morning. I photographed her for eleven delightful minutes before we walked away; she was still tap tap tapping away looking for insects. I always share pictures I like with my family. One of my siblings said that was a “nice clear picture.” I said (you can take this to the bank if you’re doing outdoor photography) “short distance + bright light = 100% success.” You can’t always control for those two variables but if you get them both, you get a good picture, every single time: 

One of the most accommodating Pileated woodpeckers I’ve ever encountered

Yikes – I almost left off one of my favorite pictures. Yuki’s owner lives near us; she has a son who lives in Utah. He knows a lot about reptiles and amphibians – infinitely more than I do. He went hiking with Turner and Yuki and me a week ago today. Although for some reason it feels like a century ago. Anyway, he knows how to find reptiles and amphibians. He spotted a promising looking rotten log (it’s possible you never even knew such a thing existed) and rolled it over to reveal this Marbled Salamander: 

Thank you Hunter! Marbled salamander at Pony Pasture

As always, I’m running way too late. The sun was just setting as I walked out of Hanover airport to go home Tuesday. 

Goodnight from Hanover Airport!

Have a great 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, Birds, Bryan Park, buffleheads, Cessna 172, Cooper's Hawk, Endurance, Fun, James River, kofp, love, newfaze, People, Pileated Woodpecker, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), sunsets, Tecnam and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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