Life lives on lives/more than I could swallow

19 December, 2021 Life lives on lives/more than I could swallow

Cormorant at Three Lakes Park with an enormous catfish in its mouth

I was hiking with a friend at Three Lakes Park in Henrico County last week when I saw this Double-crested Cormorant (Nannopterum auritum) trying to get this catfish in position to swallow. I presume. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology says that cormorants “are experts at diving to catch small fish.” That particular cormorant didn’t get the memo about “small” fish. 

Here’s another picture of the same cormorant with the same fish: 

Same cormorant, same day. same incredible catfish

I watched for some time; I never saw the cormorant consume the fish. It’s the beginning of mating season. It’s possible that was an extravagant display of fishing prowess in hopes of attracting a comely female cormorant. But I am far from an expert on cormorant behavior. 

I’m not an expert on Red-tailed hawk behavior either, but I was gratified to see this pair perched on the cross at Grove Avenue Baptist Church: 

Pair of Red-tailed hawks getting an early start on nesting season – Grove Avenue Baptist Church

The light is nice now and a lot of leaves are down. I saw this Red-shouldered hawk at Bryan Park:

Red-shouldered hawk on a sunny mid-December morning at Bryan Park:

We’re getting a few hard cold snaps now – the shortest day of the year is the day after tomorrow (Tuesday, 12/21/2021). About ten days ago it was bitter cold in the morning and I was fortunate to see this bluebird facing the rising sun with his feathers puffed out to stay warm: 

Puffed out facing the sun on a cold December morning

A white squirrel almost within sight of that bluebird. Fur is pretty warm but the squirrel is not toasting in the sun: 

White (not albino) squirrel gobbling up an acorn to stay warm:

Two years ago I helped out with horseback riding with Friendship Circle of Virginia. We skipped it last year because of the pandemic but we were masked up and at it again this year. They had a mask inspector make sure we had enough masks: 

Inspecting masks for safety’s sake:

My sisters have been dedicated horseback riders their entire lives. My involvement with horseback riding extends to walking along beside horses to make sure unsteady people don’t fall off. This pretty girl’s name was Buttercup. No one fell off of her while I walked alongside!: 

Buttercup had been standing out in the cold rain before coming inside to help out. She was a sweetheart!

I spent about half the time walking alongside Buttercup and the other half alongside Cloud. They were easygoing, tolerant horses. Winston Churchill once said “The outside of a horse is good for the inside of a person.” I started working with people with disabilities on horseback really, really early in my career – twenty-five years ago or more. I’ve walked with dozens and dozens of people on horseback, and many of the people are entirely non verbal and have little or no muscle control. But literally one hundred percent – every person I’ve ever done this with – relaxes when they’re riding. Maybe because the horses are warm, or because they’re peaceful, or because it gets people out of wheelchairs and up above everybody else – I don’t know what it is. But people always calm down when they’re riding. I spent more time with Cloud than I did with Buttercup; no one fell off of her either: 

I spent more time walking with Cloud than any other horse; I wish I’d gotten a picture of her at work:

Here’s the banner for Friendship Circle, hanging up outside the barn: 

Friendship Circle banner today at Mesa Vista Farm:

Wait! I almost signed off without a picture of perhaps the most charming hostess of the entire event. This was the diminutive and graceful Tinker Bell. If you squint, you can just barely see her gossamer wings. The wikipedia entry says that “Her speech consists of the sounds of a tinkling bell, which is understandable only to those familiar with the language of the fairies.” If you can see her wings in this picture, you would have been able to understand her speech:

Tinker Bell – see her little wings? You should have heard what she was saying. So kind!

Have a great week! Come back next week! I just realized – Saturday is Christmas! Merry Christmas if you’re of that persuasion. If not, have an outstanding December 25th! 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 Life lives on lives/more than I could swallow

  1. Liz Adams says:

    Is Tinker Bell some sort of pig? Merry Christmas you and the entire McLaughlin clan.

  2. Hi Liz! Yes, Tinker Bell is (I am moderately certain) a miniature pot-bellied pig. She’s ~1.5 years old and I think if she was a true pig she’s be much larger. She had a very kind disposition.
    The group I was working with out there is called Friendship Circle of Virginia. I’ve been a member their board of directors for a couple of years. Did I already mention that? You click on that link up there if you’re unaware of them – it’s a great group. Thanks for the note, say hi to Bill and the girls and have a great day,


    PS I’ll pass your Christmas greetings on to Katie and Sheila and Kevin and Shane. We’re all sort of scattered around at the moment but I think we’re getting together on the 26th or the 27th just to have some family time.

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