2,000’ over Pony Pasture in a light plane

29 July, 2018            2,000’ over Pony Pasture in a light plane

Thursday afternoon (7/26) my flight instructor John and I decided to fly to Chesterfield County Airport (KFCI) for the first time. It was a perfect day for flying and according to my log book, my landing there was my ninety-first. It was a good one and looked like I’d been practicing. Some days I do better than others.

Anyway, we flew back right toward Pony Pasture. I asked John if he’d take the controls when we got in the vicinity and I took a couple of pictures with my phone. I’ll put them a bit further down the page.

Snake-o-phobes beware – I took another picture of what I presume is the same Rough Green Snake I saw last week. It was in the same park in what I believe was the same bush. It wasn’t as cooperative photographically but I did get one cool quick picture of it sticking its tongue out. That picture will be toward the bottom of the post.

But here’s Turner – who has never been flying. Evelyn took this picture just after Turner got a bath Thursday. Turner does not take the world seriously:

Turner does not take himself seriously. Photo credit to Evelyn. She brings out Turner’s inner silliness

This is Turner with Mackey this morning, waiting eagerly for me to pick up their leashes so we could go to the river. If Turner is awake and not eating (or mugging for the camera), he always has a tennis ball. He has to drop it before I open the door, which he knows, but he holds it until the last possible minute:

They know it’s Sunday and they know we’re going hiking at the river

I took advantage of the great weather yesterday and rode over twenty-five miles, my longest ride since mid-April. When I got home my neighbor invited me over for a cold drink and we sat in the backyard with his chickens. They are in every way amiable, not to mention generous. After inspecting me for a few moments they wandered about cleaning up the yard. There are only six in this picture (look closely) but a seventh was still in the coop. Laying another egg to send home with me! They were so thoughtful and generous:

Perfect company – quiet, unobtrusive – and they give you eggs!

So generous! 

Eggs yum!

I saw a bunch of deer in the woods at Pony Pasture this morning. At least four but I suspect there were more. I also suspect one that disappeared early was a buck. But I didn’t get his picture. I did get this pretty girl. I was taking a few early pictures while she stared straight at me. I had, as always, all three dogs. Then she started walking toward us! But this was the only reasonable image I got:

Watching ahead, listening behind

Evelyn’s carefully tended flowers have been taking advantage of the rain and humidity. This morning we had three full gardenia blossoms on the same plant, each the size of a baseball. I could do a solid blog post just of gardenia pictures. Alas, I’m only including one:

That is what a happy flower looks like

The roses are equally beautiful, only their fragrance is more subtle.  But when a flower looks this spectacular, smell is not the first thing you think of:

What words would you use?!

And our nasturtiums are flourishing as much as or more than the other two:

Another product of Evelyn’s House of Happy Flowers

Our massive elderberry bushes on the side of the house are beginning to produce, but the birds keep things trimmed back. Here’s a recent partially ripened cluster:

Elderberries – some green, some ripe, some eaten by birds

Here’s another picture of what I presume is the same Rough Green Snake, but with its tongue sticking out – remarkable:

Isn’t that just remarkable?

Oops – one thing – I was driving west on Patterson Avenue just before Three Chopt Road. I looked up on a cell phone tower and saw two Red-tails! Most times when I get “doubles” it’s in a predictable spot where I’ve been seeing them for years. But this was the first time I’d ever seen a hawk there! And there were two at once! I parked the car, of course. I didn’t have a ton of time so I couldn’t get in position for favorable light. But here’s an image of the pair:

Male (up high) female (down low) Red-tails overlooking The Village Shopping Center

Now a few pics from flying Thursday. First, before pre-flight, my current favorite aircraft, a Cessna 172R, tail number N9525V:

Our chariot awaits. Look at that beautiful sky.

This is where I sit. I had just climbed in, hadn’t even put the key in the ignition. I regret now I didn’t take a picture of it while my instructor was flying during the time we went over Pony Pasture. But this is what it looks like on the ground before you start the engine:

The view from my seat (just under the left wing in the preceding picture)

So, as I said, we flew to Chesterfield and landed the plane and taxied off the runway, all that. Then we taxied back up to the top of the runway, made our departure announcement and took off. We headed back toward the river, and I spoke some with John about Pony Pasture. He’d seen my blog and said we’ll pass over it on the way home. As we drew near, he offered to take the controls while I took pictures. When we passed over – directly over the Pasture itself – we were going just over a hundred mph and we were lower than 2,000 feet. So it comes up real fast and disappears almost as quick. The picture below is the view   looking upriver. Near the top of the picture, just to the right of the plane’s strut, you can make out the Huguenot Bridge crossing the river. Downstream from that you can clearly see the Williams Island Dam, a.k.a. the “z-dam.” You can see Williams Island, the train tracks, everything. This was really fun:

Pony Pasture is on the bottom on the left – you can see a few dams and bridges

I had a flight-tracking app running on my iphone during the whole flight. This is a screenshot from what must have been really close to the time I took that picture. You can see the golf course, the trails at Pony Pasture, everything. And if you look at the data on the bottom you can see “IAS” or “Indicated Airspeed” (106 knots or 122 mph). The “HDG” is our heading of 29º, or a little bit east of north. “MSL” is “Mean Sea Level” or how high we were about sea level – in this case, 1,866 feet. This was our path over Pony Pasture and across the river:

Where we flew north across the river Thursday. See the field at Pony Pasture below?

Anyway. Overloading another blog post – have a great week! Come back next week! 

All best, 

Jay 

Posted in Birds, Cessna 172, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, Gardenias, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, roses, whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Rags to riches

22 July, 2018 Rags to riches

I need to warn people who have an irrational fear of snakes (ophidiophobes) that there is a snake picture after the first seven pictures on this blog post. Before you recoil, this snake is worth seeing – it’s bright green, small, non-poisonous, and could even be called cute. Here’s a video from a 1974 Tom T. Hall song called “Sneaky Snake.” It doesn’t have any snake pictures – Sneaky Snake – Tom T. Hall

I started out real slow this week. Monday morning I got a gardenia just beginning to open at 6:00 AM. In hindsight, I should have seen it as a symbol of a week beginning to blossom:

A gardenia begins as the week begins – 6:00 Monday morning

Three hours later I got a Red-tail at Henrico Fire Station 13:

They are not always in a graceful and/or intimidating posture:

A week beginning with a gardenia at 6:00 AM and a Red-tail at 9:00 AM can’t legitimately be referred to as “rags,” but neither of those two subjects are big surprises. They’re sublime and spectacular, but also, at this time of year, somewhat predictable.  

Tuesday I got this bluebird picture. Also a bit run-of-the-mill but still, it’s a bluebird:

Any day I see a bluebird is a good day

I could put young bluebird pictures – I might at some point – but they’re not real attractive. At this stage of their development they’re quite adolescent in appearance and manner. One good thing about that is they are assertive to the starlings. Starlings overwhelm the feeders on occasion and it’s good to see another bird give them pause. Especially when it’s a thuggish young bluebird.

Also Tuesday, thanks to Evelyn’s sharp eye, I got a picture of a young skink on our front stoop. Evelyn stopped working on the gardenias and nasturtiums and the rest of our lovely yard to point out this attractive little lizard. I wish I’d had something for scale – a quarter would have been superb. But alas. Have a look:

Young skink. See the blue tail? It’s a ruse, to throw off predators. They grab that first, and it breaks off, and the skink scampers away

I’m on a regular schedule flying Tuesdays and Thursdays but the plane has been in the shop this week so we didn’t get to fly. The weather is looking questionable next week, but we’ll deal with that then.

I am aware that I overdo the Red-tails on here, and the Red-shoulders when I can. But I enjoy searching for them, and I enjoy the focus that the photography experience brings. I don’t think of two things at once when I’m photographing – I only think about what I’m doing. And the unblinking calm of most raptors lends itself to that sensation. This big girl was sitting in the sun over the swamp across from St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church on Patterson Avenue Wednesday morning:

You cannot beat that light. Plus a branch is a much nicer perch than a powerline.

I took that picture at 9:30 in the morning. Only ten minutes earlier, I’d been driving south on Lauderdale Drive and there was a snapping turtle right in the middle of the road. Not a monster, but it would have gotten close to the edges of an 8½” x 11” page. Although I was helping it out of harm’s way, it scolded me – or that’s the way I interpret this expression:

This snapper felt I was unwise to move it out of the road:

It calmed down when I put it under a bush by the side of the road:

It calmed down when it was back on solid ground

So the “rags” at the beginning of the week were beginning to become riches. I don’t get to handle live snapping turtles every day.

Thursday I have more gardenias – they are loving both Evelyn’s attentions and this gentle  weather – and I photographed a blue and orange sky that looked identical to cotton candy. But I don’t like the picture.

Friday, however, was when the riches really began. I was hiking with a friend and for only the second time in my life saw a Northern Rough Greensnake (Opheodrys aestivus)! Have a look:

Northern Rough Greensnake

Yesterday it rained all day and I didn’t get any pictures, but I did have my longest swim since before I broke my hand in May. It was a big relief. Long swims are always a big relief.

Today at Pony Pasture was when the real “riches” showed up. It rained all morning so we picked up Yuki a little late and headed to the river. The weather was still uncertain and there was no one on the riverbank near the parking lot. We hadn’t been down at that near section recently but ventured down this morning. And saw a bunch of young Barn Swallows on a rock! I have never seen this! Always joyful:

Young barn swallows on a mid river rock at Pony Pasture today

Those were the first  pictures we took – just out of the car – and it was already 12:15! The sky was still a bit threatening but the temperature was pleasant and we headed downriver. We were just getting ready to cross the creek on the big bridge and a couple was walking down the trail. They said they’d just seen a large owl up near the pipeline. I’ve struck out on Barred Owls almost completely in 2018 (except for one Sam and I got in the Spring) but I decided to hike up that way and have a look. I was in the area and didn’t see anything but heard the hiss/screech of a young Barred Owl who believes its parents should feed it. I kept looking and kept not finding, but the owl kept hissing until I got my lens on it. I clicked the first time at 1:00. I got a handful of marginal shots then it flew closer! The leaves are at 100% leafiness right now, and I got a few decent clicks, but nothing I love. Then it flew about twenty feet across the creek, still in plain sight, still hissing. I kept taking pictures. Once it got across the creek, it just stayed. We hiked up to Charlie’s Bridge then checked for deer on the other side of the creek. No deer. So we hiked back down to where the owl was – and it was still there! I took pictures – for forty minutes! Here’s a picture of it contemplating the creek at midday:

First year Barred Owl contemplates the creek

Then we headed down the river.

We got to the northeast corner of the park (on the riverbank across the creek from Willow Oaks Country Club) and took a little break. Mackey and Turner and Yuki took it all in:

All is right with the world

We wound our way back toward the parking lot. And at 2:30 we heard that same hissing from the Barred Owl, and there it was! Again! Same spot! Here’s what is happening, if you’re interested. I’m reasonably certain this hypothesis is correct. Plenty of readers are more knowledgeable than me; I welcome your corrections. But this is a Barred Owl that hatched this year. Its parents fed it all the time when it was on the nest. As it matured and grew stronger it began venturing out on its own. But the parents kept bringing it food. Every day they bring a little less. I think this morning they left this youngster on a perfect perch – I could have caught a crayfish or frog or turtle or snake there. And the parents are thinking “we’ll let it get hungrier and hungrier, and eventually something will make a wrong move and this youngster will kill its first meal. Problem solved.” Here’s an image from that second round:

Sleepy young owl dozing off in the afternoon

I also took three videos of the owl. Some folks might need to take Dramamine when they watch my videos, but I keep the shaking to a minimum. This first one  shows the distance to the dogs – the owl was directly above them:

This is the same owl, yawning:

The final video is 30 seconds long. Just at 28 seconds you can hear the young owl’s hiss:

And that’s all for this week! Come back next week!

All best,

Jay

 

Posted in Birds, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, Gardenias, James River, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Turtles | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Just pictures

15 July, 2018            Just pictures

That’s not entirely true – I’ll add a bit of text. But not much this week.

This week I got a “double” on Red-tails Monday, then two “double” Red-tails on Friday. None were award winning. But this was in adequate light:

Second pair of Red-tails in one day – unprecedented, at least for me

This is a pair I got on Monday:

Double Red-tail image, West End, Monday morning – note backlit spiderweb too

I first photographed a Red-tail on this blog in May of 2015. Since that time, I have no idea how many Red-tail pictures I’ve put up. Dozens and scores. But it occurred to me for the first time last week – I’m a quick study – why I only see “doubles” at certain times of the year. Like now. When there are eggs on the nest, the adults will never leave it unattended. So you’ll never get a double – one will always be on the nest. Red-tails in central Virginia are at the top of the food chain – nothing will kill a healthy adult. But when they’re still eggs or still young, they are vulnerable. Raccoons, cats, crows, all manner of animals will come after them. But this time of year the babies are either gone or are big enough to defend themselves – and the parents are flying around. Posing for pictures.

They’re wild, though. These gardenias, for the other hand, continue to perfume our home and yard with Evelyn’s constant attention. I put this one on instagram with the hashtag “omgardenia”:

#omgardenia – Courtesy of Evelyn! 

I swam with my splint on Monday morning but they took it off for good late Monday. Tuesday I took my first bike ride since May – what a treat. Swam again Wednesday – with no splint – and rode Thursday. Long hike Friday, another ride Saturday, another hike today. I’m grateful to return to unfettered movement.

Also Tuesday I went flying, my first time with my arm unencumbered since May. Thursday we flew again, this time for my first trip to Charlottesville Airport. My “home” airport (KOFP in Hanover) has a 5,000 foot runway, which is incredibly long for a Cessna 172. The Charlottesville runway is 2,000 feet longer! A really large (twin-engine) passenger jet landed while we were on the ground. Remarkable.

Here’s a picture my instructor took with my phone a few minutes before we landed. On the location it says “Barboursville” which is a few miles northeast of the airport:

A lot of glare flying west in the evening, but still fun. Thanks for the lesson and the picture John!

I’m going to close up here. First a picture of Mackey and Turner and Yuki when they let me know there were deer in the woods at Pony Pasture this morning. Mackey and Yuki letting me know, anyway; Turner is over it:

Mackey and Yuki look worthy of being called sentinels. Turner, not so much.

These pictures are embarrassingly bad, and if there were no antlers I wouldn’t bother. Here’s the first picture to get oriented:

Small herd of deer peering through the foliage. Base of antlers barely visible on left hand deer.

You can see the antlers here – but not much else:

Here you can see the antlers but not much else. So it goes with summer photography.

I’ll close with a hungry young bluebird on my feeder this afternoon:

This is every baby bird picture:

Have a great week! All best,

Jay 

Posted in Birds, Cessna 172, Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, Gardenias, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Where do I start?

8 July, 2018            Where do I start?

Northeastern tip of Pony Pasture:

I’ll start at the river, the mighty James River, at Pony Pasture, this morning, with dogs – what better place? And with what better company? 

This was a mile or two upriver, just when we arrived: 

Once again, words fail. Heaven does not need to be an improvement – this is fine the way it is.

I was practically standing on their leashes when I took the preceding picture: 

Ready to hike

We dropped Yuki off at his house on our way home. Evelyn and I had dinner on the back porch. Turner and Mackey and Dash joined is for this “after” picture:

That’s the way dogs are supposed to look after a great hike. That’s the way cats always look. 

I almost started with an “oldie” – a picture I took in June of last year from the parking lot of the Kroger on Ridge Road in Henrico, VA

I took this picture from a grocery store parking lot! In Henrico Country! (last year)

I was thinking about clouds and sunsets after I went on my first two short “cross-country” flights this week. My instructor and I flew about 35 miles to KXSA (Tappahannock-Essex County Airport). We just did a few touch-and-goes but it’s still really exciting to actually fly to a different place. Hopefully we’ll go a bit farther afield this coming week. This was our plane:

Pre-pre-flight (the wings and tail are still tied down)

Mea culpa – no raptor last week – could have gotten an osprey but it’s shooting fish in a barrel. So that’s the second week in 2018 that I have not photographed a raptor. This week I didn’t get one every single day, but I came close. I just don’t know what happened the week before. I was checking all of their usual haunts.

This week I “got” both an osprey and a Red-shouldered hawk on Monday. Tuesday I got a Red-tail near my house. Wednesday (7/4, Independence Day) I would have liked to be more in the patriotic spirit and  photographed a Bald Eagle. But I was feeling more independent than that and got a Red-tail on the cell tower near Henrico Fire Station 13. This is that same “red-headed red-tail” I’ve photographed here before. Station 13 is at the corner of Lauderdale and Church Road. I would have cropped this picture more but I left in some detail on the left side. If you zoom in carefully on that panel (it’s a brand new addition) on the left center of the image you can read the words “Lauderdale beta.” I always stumble across the oddest stuff when I’m editing images:

Red-headed Red-tailed hawk in center; “Lauderdale beta” on left

If you’re thinking “this is the time when he usually writes ‘I’m starting to run out of gas,’” you’re thinking correctly. Evelyn continues to grow incomparable gardenias:

Snowflakes of the lower world – each different, each perfect

And incomparable nasturtiums:

We never had these when I was growing up. But Dad would have remarked about them every single day. He always noticed everything. 

My week was a bit busier than usual and my hand is still in a splint so I can’t decompress the way I normally do (swimming and cycling). So Friday I was under a bit more stress than I’m accustomed to and I was driving near Freeman HS when I saw two Red-tails on a cell phone tower. I immediately pulled in the parking lot and took a not-great picture. But it always calms me down. Double Red-tails are not easy to get:

Double Red-tail pics are like magic to me. Male top left, female bottom center

I’ve mentioned previously I participate in an online book club at the Wildlife Center of Virginia. The book we’re currently reading is Voyage of the Turtle: In Pursuit of the Earth’s Last Dinosaur by Carl Safina. At one point Mr. Safina is talking about photographing and counting ocean going turtles and he says “Among wildlife biologists – just as with indigenous hunting peoples – the company of wild animals produces a deep sense of well-being and connection that feels spiritual.” The company of wild animals always “produces a deep sense of well-being” with me, and I felt it – with a palpable sense of relief – when I took that picture.

Anyway, now I officially am out of gas. Have an excellent week! Come back next week! All best,

Jay

Posted in Birds, Cessna 172, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, Gardenias, James River, koans, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), sunsets, Wildlife Book Club, Wildlife Center of Virginia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The best mosquito repellent

1 July, 2018            The best mosquito repellent

Box turtle at Pony Pasture yesterday

Watch this video I took of him. It’s ~30 seconds long and it’s a nice video. The woodsy background noises are an added treat: 

 

Turtles aren’t the best mosquito repellent – as far as I know – I was just happy we encountered one yesterday. And that it was so cooperative. It’s hard (in my experience) to get them to hang around for a while like that. Then saunter off in such nice visibility.

The best mosquito repellent is to keep moving. If you stop to – this is purely hypothetical – photograph a turtle, you will get all ate up. Barred owls are even worse – you have to sit real still for a real long time. You owl photographers must be using some good repellent, because nobody walks and takes quality Barred Owl pictures at the same time. Great work all of you.

A few other pictures from this week, but I haven’t gotten out as much as I’m used to. I still  have the splint on my hand for at least another week. It’s hot to wear plus typing is a challenge.

Here’s an Eastern Towhee from my front yard:

Eastern Towhee outside my window. I’m getting more looks, but no great images – yet.

And yet another of Evelyn’s award-winning gardenias. Every time I smell one, it wins the Grand Prize in the “smells other than chocolate chip cookies” category:

Another of Ev’s gardenias. Maybe next week I’ll use one of her pictures – she grows them and photographs them well

Rose of Sharon has zero scent (I’m sort of sure) and they tend a bit toward being weedy, but I’ve been fond of them since I was but a wee lad. We have a big one in the northwest corner of our backyard:

Rose of Sharon gracing our backyard

That’s all I’m going to post this week – it’s been slow. 2018 is half over – enjoy the first week of the second half! All best,

Jay

Posted in box turtle, Flowers, Fun, Gardenias, James River, Pony Pasture, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), Turtles | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Time stops

24 June, 2018            Time stops 

That bird knows it’s being watched. First time I’ve ever looked down at a Red-tail

When I get this close to skittish wild animals, time stops. Or it feels like it does anyway. Deer are skittish but they’re also herd animals and thus predictable. Plus they’re mammals. They can’t fly. But I always feel like Red-tailed hawks are the wildest animals I ever see; they usually leave the moment I look at them. I couldn’t believe how still this bird was. While I was ten feet away: 

Same bird only a few minutes earlier. First time I’ve ever had the pleasure of being this close

I was on one side of a suburban street and he (I’m relatively certain this is a male) was on the other. And as you can see from the top picture, fully aware of my presence. He was drinking out of a little puddle.

“Time stops” because the first thing I do is say “thanks” in my head. It’s partly directed toward the bird (or deer or snake or whatever) but it’s also “thanks” that I’m even able to have this singular experience. The reason (in my own case) that it feels like “time stops” is because I’m not thinking about what’s next. Or what happened this morning or what will happen later today. I’m thinking about what my lens is pointed toward. Because I know it won’t be there long – it could leave before I get my lens cap off. I love that experience. You can’t will it to happen – it either happens or it doesn’t. Each time is a treasure. And you can’t predict it’s going to happen – we were on a busy suburban street at 3:00 on a weekday afternoon! On the first day of summer, as it happened.

Earlier in the week I saw this Red-shouldered hawk in Glen Allen. Not quite as close but still always fun:

West End Red-shouldered hawk

 

I went to meet a new friend in Richmond this week. This guy’s family wants me to start getting him out of the house and spending some time with him and helping him socialize a bit more. While I was walking from his house to my car I saw this address in front of a person’s house:

A good reminder. For all of us.

Evelyn has charmed our big gardenia into budding practically non stop. This one is from Wednesday but there are two more fat buds opening up as I type. They’ll be spectacular tomorrow morning. They are loving this rain.

A falconer I read described the scent of her hawk as “peppery.” Gardenias do not smell like hawks.

So Thursday – 6/21 – was the first day of summer. How cool is this for the first day of summer – I got the cast off my hand first thing in the morning and I got a removable splint. Much less cumbersome. And I text my flight instructor (John) and he says “let’s fly at 5:00 tonight!” I was anxious about my ability to fly but he was confident so it rubbed off on me. Meanwhile – still first day of summer – I was dog-sitting so I went over to check on the dogs. And that’s when I got the Red-tail picture! Less than a mile from the University of Richmond!

Anyway, I got out to the airport to pre-flight the plane and the weather was beginning to deteriorate. I don’t encourage or discourage – I trust John’s judgment. He knew I wanted to fly, so he said let’s just pre-flight the plane and we’ll start flying. If the weather looks too bad we’ll land. Once we got off the ground it began to clear up some so we flew for almost an hour. And I thought I wouldn’t be able to fly at all! It was great. John took this picture of me after we landed. First day of summer, 2018:

Thanks for the lesson and the encouragement and the photograph John!

I’m tired (again) so I’m going to put in a few miscellaneous images and go to bed. It’s been a long time – for some reason – since I’ve had a bluebird on my feeder. I got one yesterday finally:

Grateful when a bluebird returns to my feeder

Also almost forgot – I got a pretty lone flower with a pretty insect at Pony Pasture this morning. This was the only white flower I saw – I have no idea how it got there. A pollinator found it easily:

This was a luck shot. I have no idea what this flower was doing in that spot. And with such a cool looking insect. 

Enough! Goodnight! I hope you have a time-stopping experience this week! All best,  

Jay

Posted in Birds, Cessna 172, Flowers, Fun, Gardenias, Insects, Pony Pasture, raptors, red-shouldered hawks, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

At a loss for words

17 June, 2018            At a loss for words

Primarily because I’m at a loss for pictures. I almost called this one “It’s easy to distinguish between genders” but you’ll have to admit that doesn’t roll right off the tongue. Some animals – think mallards – have vastly different appearances between the two genders. Other animals – think Canada Geese – it’s impossible. They can tell – obviously – but us (or at least me) not so much. Enough (too much) drivel.

I got a Red-tail Monday morning at Freeman High School on the floodlights overlooking the baseball field. But its back is to the camera so I didn’t use it. Almost precisely twenty-four hours later, the same bird or its mate was closer to my house (75 yards away) in better light:

Red-tail glaring in the glaring sunlight

Before I took that picture I’d stopped at the Tuckahoe YMCA to tell my friends why I hadn’t been there since before Memorial Day. I’d broken my hand Memorial Day Sunday (May 27) and I hadn’t visited the Y in over two weeks. That just never happens. Anyway, I stopped by and two male Red-winged blackbirds were carrying on in front of the Y. My pictures of the males were marginal, but I got my first ever decent image of a female. Boy it’s easy to distinguish between genders of Red-winged blackbirds. Here’s a female I saw Wednesday:

Female Red-winged Blackbird on a cat tail:

Again this picture of a male is marginal, but if you’ve never seen the two, what a difference. It’s iconic to see Red-winged blackbirds on cat tails. It seems like whenever one is around, you can find the other. In the summer, anyway: 

Male Red-winged Blackbird. Again with the iconic cat tail:

I hope I’m not overdoing the gardenia pictures. To call the smell “intoxicating” is not a stretch, so maybe that’s why I keep putting up pictures. The first step is admitting I have a problem: 

It looks like whipped cream, like real whipped cream if you make it yourself. My amazement (and gratitude) never fades:

I know (as previously mentioned) that I return to the same themes too often. I apologize to those who are fed up with pictures of our cat Dash:

Take it from an experienced slacker – this is what we do:

I did get a few Red-tailed hawks this week, as noted above, but I got even more Red-shouldered hawks. Here is one from Thursday, Flag Day, my late parents’ 60th wedding anniversary, perched above my sunroof over a friend’s driveway:

Red-shouldered hawk. It flew beside me then landed on this branch.

Here is another Red-shouldered hawk the following morning, but ten miles away – it’s not the same bird or its mate or offspring:

Red-shoulder on a roof:

I am not so talented a photographer I can make a tadpole in poor light look good. But I got a few images at Cheswick Park that I believe are worth including here. Here’s one with I think a snail behind it. I also think this is a bullfrog tadpole.

But I’m no expert:   

Tadpole on its way to becoming a frog:

Evelyn is my editor so normally I can let myself off the hook with errors. But she’s traveling this weekend so I have to accept responsibility this week. She’ll be home tomorrow, thank goodness. Her nasturtiums are in enthusiastic bloom as they (and we) await her return:

Happy, happy nasturtiums. We’ll ALL be even happier when she gets home tomorrow!

Summer officially begins Thursday (6/21) morning at 6:07 EDT. We’ll continue to get flowers as the days simultaneously heat up and shorten, but they’ll flower with less and less enthusiasm. Here’s a magnolia from Saturday:

Magnolia not fifty feet from where I took the picture of the Red-shoulder on a branch:

Have a great week! Come back next week for the first blog post of Summer, 2018! And Happy Father’s Day!

All best,

Jay

PS I almost missed this. Today’s Father’s Day and on Friday I got a middling image of my Dad’s favorite bird, an Eastern Bluebird. I hesitate to speak for my late Dad, especially when all my brothers and sisters (I’m pretty sure) will read this. I love to take pictures, but I’m not a perfectionist. I believe you could apply that exact description to my Dad and photography. To my Dad (and me) about a lot of things – love to do it, but not a perfectionist. “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good”: 

Eastern Bluebird Friday at Deep Run Park:

 

 

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