“A calming reminder”

27 June, 2021 “A calming reminder”

“The lives of many animals are constrained by the schemes of men, but the determination in these lives, their traditional pattern of movement, are a calming reminder of a more fundamental order.” – Barry Lopez – as quoted in Karsten Heuer’s Walking the Big Wild: From Yellowstone to the Yukon on the Grizzly Bear’s Trail 

Woodland Box Turtle crossing the trail at Pony Pasture this morning

I photographed that shiny Woodland Box Turtle (Terrapene carolina carolina) just after a brief early summer rain at Pony Pasture this morning. I never saw its eyes but it was healthy and energetic and I put it on the other side of the trail (in the direction it was facing) and it scuttled off into the undergrowth. 

Fern in the sun

Ferns often hide in the shade but this one had its “moment in the sun” when I was passing this week and I caught that  snapshot. 

I was in the same patch of woods a few moments later when this lovely butterfly drifted past and settled obligingly on a nearby leaf. Is it “cheating” to use Google Lens to identify butterflies? “Cheating” is a strong word. According to Google Lens, this is a “Red-spotted Purple” (Limenitis arthemis), sometimes a.ka. “White admiral”: 

Red-spotted purple butterfly

Mackey’s old bones protest when we go for long walks, so I let him stay here in the A/C  while Turner and I went to the river. Even the protests of Mackey’s old bones are “a calming reminder of a more fundamental order,” although a reminder I admit I am not fond of. But it is what it is. Here are Mackey and Turner enjoying the A/C and one another’s company in my office a few minutes ago: 

Mackey and Turner holding things down at the office just now

When it comes to a “calming reminder of a more fundamental order,” you can’t improve on a flowing river. That river’s been doing the same thing the same way since before the great-grandparents of anyone you’ve ever known were born, and it’ll keep doing it when no one will remember any of us. That is calming for me. If Turner thinks about any of this meaningless drivel while we’re hiking (or any other time), he doesn’t dwell on it. He was just happy to be there. So was I! 

Turner is nobody’s idea of a “calming reminder,” but the river is

I just realized I had a slightly (only slightly) more vigorous picture of Mackey. He’s on his bed (he likes it there) but he’s more engaged:

“Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed” as our mother was fond of saying

Turner and I saw a skink near the water’s edge this morning. The tails on five-lined skinks are selected by evolution to detach if a predator grabs it. The rest of the skink goes on its merry way, ideally to pass its genes on to more skinks with detachable tails. This one lost its tail somewhere along the line: 

A skink that lost its tail but escaped with its life

I went on the back porch a few minutes ago (it’s Sunday afternoon) to ask Evelyn a question and she said there was a bunny in the backyard. I took a few shots trying to get (as always) that one that was just right. The search continues. But if you look closely you can see the clover in its mouth: 

Cottontail rabbit with a mouthful of clover

Speaking of brown mammals – not Turner and not that rabbit – Turner and I spent some quality time near this big doe at the river this morning. She knew we were there but kept grazing on the side of the trail. The deer in the park are wise to the ways of hikers and dogs. They’re probably wise to the ways of coyotes too, or the ones passing along their genes are. If you look closely you can see her left front leg is raised; she’s either moving or preparing to move. But she was calm and deliberate the entire time we were in the vicinity: 

Deer about to cross the trail at Pony Pasture this morning

There is irony in the fact that my last blog post was called Two weeks is too long – and that was three weeks ago! I’ve gotten a few pictures I enjoyed during that three week period. I parked my car under a Red-tailed hawk a few weeks ago. I opened my sunroof and took this picture: 

Red-tailed hawk on a branch just above my sunroof

I was hiking in another local park sometime in the past three weeks and there were lots of bluebirds fledging. Here’s a youngster blending into the bark on a hickory tree: 

Recently fledged bluebird clinging to hickory bark

Also, here’s another bird that’s blue – but it’s a Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias): 

Great blue heron wading (and waiting) for its breakfast

I think I’m going to wrap it up for this day and this week and this month. I also think I’m going to put up a blog post next week. We’ll see. A week from today is July 4th, Independence Day 2021. I’m not a “theme” person, but a good theme for Fourth of July 2021 is “Remember the ‘U’ in ‘USA’.” 

Wait! This just in! Equal time for Dash. He just jumped up on the back of the chair. Dash is 17 and he’s skinny and when the A/C is on, all the cold air drops to the floor. So Dash likes to “be above it all”:

Dash watching the world

Have a great week! And a great Fourth! All best, 


Posted in Birds, box turtle, broad-headed skink, cats, Dogs, Emerson, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, Insects, James River, love, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, simplify, skink, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), thoreau, Turtles, walden, whitetail deer, Wildlife Book Club, Wildlife Center of Virginia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Two weeks is too long

6 June, 2021 Two weeks is too long

A few pictures. Mackey’s not strong enough to walk at the river these days, so I’m not down there as often. I went with my old friend Luna this morning though: 

Luna enjoying her Sunday morning stroll. So was I!

Most of our magnolia flowers are faded now – they’re quick – but I took this one next to our driveway two weeks ago: 

Lovely magnolia next to our driveway

Dragonfly from the last day of May: 

Dragonfly with lunch

The Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources (DWR) put on a “virtual 5k” called the Run for the Wild last weekend (5/28-5/30). I did a 5k in Pony Pasture. It was dry when I started out and I posted this picture at 8:00 AM: 

Run for the Wild – 8:00 AM

It was still not raining twenty minutes later when I passed this small buck with his small harem. Nice way to be greeted on a “run for the wild”: 

Small buck watching me on my “Run for the Wild” last week

This was the excellent medallion for the Run for the Wild. Each one is different! It’s so beautiful and it smells like fresh cut wood – one of my favorite smells:

Perfect finisher’s medallion for the Run for the Wild 5k, 2021:

I hadn’t seen a white squirrel in some time but I glimpsed one this week: 

White squirrel at Deep Run

Hard to believe it today, but just two weeks ago it got cold enough for us to need a fire. Dash thinks we always need a fire: 

Hard to believe we could go from this to today’s weather in 2 weeks. But there it is.

Possibly next week I’ll blog more. I hope to see you then! 

All best, 


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Oxtail kolache

23 May, 2021 Oxtail kolache

Kroger sunset Tuesday 5/11/2021, two minutes before sunset: 

That’s not related to an oxtail kolache, but I took it nearby. I snapped that picture (with my phone) from the parking lot of the Kroger at 1510 Eastridge Road close to my house. I bought the oxtail kolache about four hundred yards away as the crow (or any other bird) flies. Evelyn just calls them “Kroger sunsets” because it’s a great place for pictures. I digress, obviously. 

This is related to an oxtail kolache: 

The first time I ever heard (or read) the word “kolache”

Oxtail kolaches and many other delicious creations plus delicious coffee – and fresh squeezed orange juice – and pastries – come from Surrounding Counties about five minutes brisk walk from our house. 8801 Three Chopt Road. 

Today Evelyn and I went there – after Mackey and Turner and I got home from the river. Today I got a cornbread doughnut with oxtail chili (not making that up) and sour cream and chives and it was the perfect meal for a sunny Sunday afternoon in Spring. 

We’ve had Flickers (and many other birds) in our backyard (and in our front yard) this week. More like this season

Northern Flicker in our back garden:

I got started too late again! A couple of pictures then a quick story then maybe I’ll be more organized next week. Quick sprint to the “finish.” I saw a local Red-tail on a tower last week. Red-tails like to soar and use their sharp eyes to see what’s on the ground. But any pilot can look at that sky and tell you it’s a “low ceiling.” Probably at around four thousand feet (or lower) you’d be in a cloud and not be able to see the ground. So this male set up on the tower for a while: 

Red-tailed hawk with his head almost in the clouds:

Plus what’s likely to be a Red-tail snack if it doesn’t dive underground quick. Which it reliably does. This chipmunk (probably there’s more than one) is helping us clean up the spilled bird seed: 

If it’s ever easy to be a chipmunk, that’s what it looks like:

I almost titled this blog post “I should get out more.” I’ve thought about this story but never “wrote” it. I’ll jot it down briefly. 

All best, 


Wait – one more picture – this deer was not in their “normal” spot and I would have walked right past her this morning at Pony Pasture. But Turner practically dragged me into the woods. There was a little herd back there but this was the best I could do:

Deer peer

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I should get out more

I read the paper a lot – I always have. The most attention grabbing (usually the most unpleasant) headlines are front and center. I’m a naturally positive person and I don’t get the sense of being worn down. It wears on me though. My work slowed down a lot at the beginning of the pandemic. For me, that was mid-March of last year. I stopped working with a person I’ve been working with for ten years. We spend three mornings each week together. Pre-pandemic, we’d go to Whole Foods for coffee one of those days. My first day back with him was May 10 of this year. The following day we returned to Whole Foods. We knew they were selling coffee but not  allowing indoor seating. So we went in to get our coffee and they remembered us from last year! I had the distinct impression they’d missed us as much as we’d missed them. That is a very, very warm feeling. You can’t have that happen and feel jaded at the same time – those sensations are mutually incompatible. 

He uses a wheelchair so we’re a little bit more noticeable than we’d otherwise be. We took our coffees and went outside and sat at a table with an umbrella over it. We enjoyed the day and our coffee and each other’s company. And every person – several while we sat there – stopped to greet us and chat for a moment or two. The person I was there with is named David. While we were having our coffee, one of my across the street neighbors parked to get groceries. Her name is Betsy and I’ve known her (and her son David) for fifteen years. She came over and I introduced her to David – she has a son named David too – and they had a nice chat. 

After we finished our coffee we had some time on our hands so we walked around West Broad Village. There was construction tape blocking the sidewalk at one point. A construction worker came out and lifted the tape up for us so we could go past. 

So we were out for a little over an hour. We interacted with probably ten or twelve different people. Except for Betsy and the folks at the coffee counter at Whole Foods, we’d met zero of them before. And they were all nice. Not perfunctory-obligatory nice but “go out of your way” nice or “do a little extra” nice. I’m struggling to capture this more precisely, but I’m sure you understand what I mean. Everybody knows what it feels like to be kind. It’s its own reward. The person you’re kind to feels good, and you feel good because you were kind. It’s the definition of “win-win.” 

I called this “I should get out more” because when I don’t get out, I don’t have those experiences. I had to get out to have an experience like that. I should get out  more!   

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Posted in Birds, Flowers, Fun, James River, love, newfaze, Northern flicker, People, raptors, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), sunsets, whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Flowers and birds and dogs, oh my! 

9 May, 2021 Flowers and birds and dogs, oh my! 

And Happy Mother’s Day! Evelyn as always has our yard brimming with spectacular roses. Here’s a beauty: 

Nothing says “Happy Mother’s Day!” like Evelyn’s breathtaking roses

I think a lot of moms (and dads and siblings et al) also love bluebirds. I mean, who doesn’t?: 

What’s not to love? Happy Mother’s Day!

There is still no shortage of flowers at the river. The spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana) I saw at the river this morning was lighter than last week, but no less fresh and vigorous: 

Spiderwort – with my phone – no filter or retouch. Amazing.

If you click on that spiderwort link up there, you can read that “Spiderworts are so named because the angular leaf arrangement suggests a squatting spider.” Is it just me? A “squatting spider”? That is an arcane reference. 

Speaking of bird lovers, Dash is a dedicated fan. He practices self-hypnosis before he begins bird watching for the day:  

Cat zen

I have a picture that some mothers won’t care for, unless they were born in my family or married someone who was. Mom was open minded (IMO) about wild animals in general, even if they were scaly or not somehow snuggly in the conventional sense. Her insatiable curiosity was a perfect complement to my dad’s, but she was mostly interested in people She would have loved this skink though. I saw this Broad-headed skink (Plestiodon laticeps) at Pony Pasture a week ago yesterday: 

Broad-headed skink (Plestiodon laticeps) last week at Pony Pasture

Mackey is slowing down a whole, whole lot, so our hikes are few and brief and I haven’t gotten a million pictures. But we couldn’t resist this spectacular Mother’s Day at Pony Pasture. A kind person named Clint (who was there with his wife and well-mannered children; I could see she was a terrific mother) agreed to take our picture at the water’s edge. Thank you Clint! And Happy Mother’s Day to your wife! 

Thank you for the picture Clint!

Have an excellent week! Come back next week! I should be here! 

All best, 


I almost forgot – I had a good dog sitting gig earlier this week (the gig was good and the dog was good). So I got an extra opportunity to hike at the river with a dog! Anyone who’s seen this blog for any length of time will recognize the lovely Luna. She has lots of energy and is almost as enthusiastic as I am about hiking along the James: 

Luna making the river look even prettier than it already does:

Posted in Birds, broad-headed skink, cats, Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, James River, love, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, Rivers, roses, simplify, skink, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A house trailer, a jon boat and a blue flame

25 April, 2021 A house trailer, a jon boat and a blue flame

I wrote a little blurb at the end of this blog post – it’s worth checking out. If you know my siblings, ask them which parts are true.

I go through blog titles and subjects all week. I almost titled this one “Heard not seen/ seen not heard.” Barred owls were calling back and forth our entire hike today but I never even glimpsed one. But a herd of deer crossed the path directly in front of us, and they made less noise than a flower growing. And a Great Blue Heron strutted down the creek beside us, and it was even quieter than the deer. 

A few pics, then read the story – it’ll be a little surprise, a fun one. 

It’s never a mistake to begin a blog post with a picture of a bluebird. I took this picture after we got back from the river today!: 

Always grateful to look out and see a bluebird:

Primary colors are well-represented on our feeders. I won’t post a cardinal today; I could take practically an infinite number. They are among our most regular visitors. Yesterday I had six male goldfinches on the feeder at one time! I’d put up a picture but it would just look like half a dozen startlingly yellow dots. Here’s a lone male from yesterday just before noon:  

Probably thought the feeder was too crowded

These birds aren’t giving me a break! Every time I wrap up my blog post draft, another beauty lands out there in the sun. This handsome male Red-bellied woodpecker stopped in a few minutes ago for suet:

Male Red-bellied woodpecker snacking on suet

April is a happy month (it appears) for birds. Probably frantic too as they avoid predators and feed hungry babies. This Brown thrasher took a quick break out front yesterday: 

Brown thrasher staying above it all (for the moment)

It’s easier to think of animals being happy than it is of plants. But if plants have emotions, this azalea in our backyard certainly looks cheerful: 

If plants can be happy, this is the way they look:

I scrolled down to my notes andI have some from earlier this week about a lone crow aggressively harassing a lone red-tailed hawk. So my breezy mention a few sentences back about April being happy for birds is not true for all of them. Here’s a picture from Friday: 

Agitated crow trying to agitate the hawk (mostly unsuccessfully)

Here’s a picture of Dash in the kitchen yesterday. Dash is everything that agitation is not:  

Dash – the opposite of agitation

I almost forgot to include the seen-not-heard pictures! So before I sign off, a mammal and a bird you can see at Pony Pasture, but only rarely hear: 

Unhurried and unworried
Same caption as previous picture

Enjoy the following story! And come back next week! All best, 


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A house trailer, a jon boat and a blue flame

It didn’t take long for our parents to meet the local moonshiners when we bought our cabin in the Shenandoah Valley in the mid-1970’s. We were new up there, but our parents were engaging and befriended the locals in no time. Mom and dad were a youthful fortyish. 

They learned about a guy named Big Pat, because by report he weighed five hundred pounds. He lived in a house trailer near the edge of the South Fork of the Shenandoah River. I don’t know if dad met Pat before, but once dad brought me with him to pick up a jug of moonshine. 

Our parents were as flexible as parents could be, but they had two rigid rules at the cabin:  

  1. No television 
  2. No telephone 

So I don’t know how dad figured all this out. Maybe on his Citizens Band (CB) radio but I doubt it. Reception was terrible in the mountains. 

Dad and I showed up at Big Pat’s trailer one day and went up the little wooden stairs on the side and knocked and were told to come on in. It smelled musty from being so close to the river but it was clean. Pat was seated on the low end of a faded  blue cloth sofa. By all appearances, the reports of his weight could have been an underestimate. If someone said he’d weighed six hundred or seven hundred pounds, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable. He had a television but it wasn’t on. 

I don’t recall much detail – they just chatted. 

I just – after I typed the period after the word “chatted” – looked up something I wrote about dad after he died in late 2012. The post was called Terrific whistlers and was primarily about dad. These are the final sentences of that post: “Dad just automatically assumed – because it’s true – that everyone has hidden gifts. And when he met you, he’d love to hear about yours. Because that was how he learned. You might not even think about your hidden gifts, but if you spoke with my Dad a while, you’d start talking about them. What a gift that was – Dad’s eagerness and ability to learn from everyone he met.

So dad’s just hanging out with this quarter ton man in his house trailer by the river. Some money must have changed hands, or not, but we finally left, and went a different direction than we’d come in, and there was a mildewed jon boat upside down on cinder blocks. Dad went to the stern and lifted up a little and pulled out a clear glass one gallon jug filled with what appeared to be water. And we left. 

Mom of course knew all about what was going on, but we all did. To the extent teenage and pre-teens could understand any of this. 

And I recall mom and dad talking very enthusiastically about the moonshine with each other and with all of us. And dad said – he could get childishly enthusiastic about nearly anything at nearly any age – he said “Watch this!” as he touched a wooden strike-anywhere match to a bottle cap he’d filled with moonshine. And a blue flame in roughly the shape of a Hershey’s Kiss floated above the bottle cap as we stared in fascination. 

They always kept the jug in the old yellow used refrigerator they’d bought at an auction. We had dogs and cats and kids up there all the time, and one year my dad shot a rattlesnake that was coiled near our front stoop. We skinned it and my mom insisted on baking it or frying it or something. I’ll write about that another time. I’m writing about it now because they cut the head off the rattlesnake and kept it in a Gerber™ Baby Food jar filled with moonshine. Sealed it with black electrical tape. 
It was on a shelf in our bathroom at the cabin (there was only one) always. It wouldn’t be correct so say it had a “place of honor” – but it never left. It was still there when we cleaned out the cabin to sell it thirty years later.  

Posted in Birds, cats, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, James River, love, moonshine, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Red-bellied woodpeckers, Red-tailed hawks, Rivers, Shenandoah River, Shenandoah Valey, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), thoreau, Trains, whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Flower power! 

18 April, 2021 Flower power! 

A friend described my blog to a newcomer as having “lots of pictures of flowers.” If we’d had the same exchange in January she would have described it differently, but it’s April. Lots of flowers. This beauty is a Virginia Spiderwort (Tradescantia virginiana): 

Spiderwort at the river this morning:

I took that picture at (naturally) Pony Pasture today around noon. There were a lot of flowers blooming this morning. Evelyn’s out of town so I don’t have ID’s! I could email around and ask for help – my sister Katie is always generous with her assistance – but I just want to post this. I’ll put the pictures up, and if someone tells me what they are (Evelyn or Katie or any other knowledgeable person) I will go back and ID the picture and credit the person who helps out. These are pretty. I saw them ~15 minutes before I saw the spiderwort: 

Lovely white flower

I’m not as familiar with the seasonal variations of Virginia Bluebells as I should be, but I think it’s getting late in the year for them. 

Bluebells – it’s getting (I think) late in the season:

A pretty flower from this morning:

If you forget it’s still Spring, go to Pony Pasture and be reminded
Please refer to caption in preceding picture:

Flowers in the spring and summer, but dogs fifty-two weeks a year: 

They lie down more often late in the hike:

Some of these may be invasive – they’re confusing and there are lookalikes. But some are beautiful natives. I’m not sure which this is: 

Bright! I hope not invasive:

Well, I’m off to a late start today, and I haven’t eaten dinner! So let me get a few pictures in here and finish this up. Come back next week! And have a great week! 

Another bright unidentified flower from this morning

I saw some (I think) wild azaleas this week (speaking of “flower power”): 

Wild azalea (I think)

I saw these two cormorants the same day. I don’t know why one has its beak open. I also – it’s amazing I’m still learning about these birds – I also didn’t think about (I should have) – how big their feet are. Check these out: 

Who knew “Bigfoot” was really a cormorant!

Since this is a post about (primarily) flowers, and it’s April, and this is Virginia, I could hardly put this up without a picture of the Virginia State Flower (and tree), the American Dogwood: 

April in central Virginia simply has no rival. Dogwoods.

That’s it! For today! Have a great week, and come back next week! 

All best, 


Posted in Dogs, dogwood, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, James River, koans, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I dress to match Evelyn’s flowers: 

11 April, 2021 I dress to  match Evelyn’s flowers: 

I don’t have an overwhelming amount of pictures this week (or at least I didn’t when I started) – but I have lots of flowers. I photographed these purple beauties in our front bed yesterday:  

Front yard flowers – sent me scurrying to find a matching hoodie:

I held all my sweatshirts next to it until I found one that matched. I wore it to the river this morning. Evelyn joined us on our hike today, and she took this picture at Pony Pasture 9:32 this morning: 

Evelyn took the picture and planted the flowers; I picked out the hoodie to match:

Ev also has sweet smelling viburnum blooming in our backyard: 

Viburnum in our backyard. So many wonderful smells!

And – since I didn’t put up a blog post last week – I have to include the most recent owl I photographed. This Barred Owl was on the branch at Pony Pasture Easter morning (4/4/2021) at 10:08: 

Barred Owl from Pony Pasture, Easter Sunday (4/4) 2021:

And since I’m putting up owls I saw but didn’t post last week, this is the final decent picture I took of a young Great horned owl from Bryan Park at 10:52 AM on Monday, March 29. Two weeks ago tomorrow: 

One more soon-to-fledge Great Horned Owl from Bryan Park – 3/29/2021:

Evelyn says I just like to say the word “passerine.” I also like to say the word “raptor,” which is the bird I photograph most often. They sit still for much longer, so it’s easier. I got an enjoyable image of a Chipping sparrow (Spizella passerina) the week before last: 

This Chipping Sparrow surely knew it was posing; no photographer could resist this:

I saw another sweet passerine this week, an Eastern Phoebe (Sayornis phoebe) a few days ago: 

Cute little Phoebe at Three Lakes Park. They were regular visitors at our cabin years ago.

The first time I mentioned redbuds on this blog was precisely ten years ago tomorrow – on April 12, 2011. The name of the blog post was Lots of plants, a few animals, a Special Delivery from Amazon:. It also has a picture of Dash in a cardboard box; as I type these words, he’s snoozing in a chair in front of an open window in the living room. That blog post also has a picture of me with four dogs at Pony Pasture, including Mackey! 

Evelyn has a redbud blooming enthusiastically in our backyard. I took this one at Pony Pasture at 10:22 this morning. It’s the same one as in that decade-old blog post: 

Freshly blooming redbud from Pony Pasture this morning

I’ve been reading a good book recently, an antidote to my bad habit of reading too much bad news. It’s a book called Hope Matters: Why Changing the Way We Think Is Critical to Solving the Environmental Crisis by a woman named Elin Kelsey. In her author biography it says “Elin Kelsey, PhD, is a leading spokesperson, scholar and educator in the area of evidence-based hope.” I’ll reiterate that last phrase, since it’s the one that matters: “evidence-based hope.” She doesn’t write as a cheerleader or a person of prayer, she writes as a scientist. It’s a reassuring perspective. 

I was hoping to locate a Trout Lily at the river this morning. It’s a favorite Spring “ephemeral” flower of mine but I didn’t find one today. I did find Virginia Bluebells, and the mayapples are just beginning to bloom. Here’s one of each:

Bluebell from a week ago:
May apple flower popped open after the rain at Pony Pasture this morning:

I hope to put up a post next week – and I hope you’ll check it out! 

Meanwhile – I have more flowers from this week I haven’t used! Flowers fade quick this time of year, so let me include them this week. The smell of these fragrant small daffodils is blowing through our open kitchen window:

Sweet smelling and sweet looking daffodils on our kitchen windowsill (as I type these words):

Also, since I opened this blog post with purple flowers, I’ll close it with purple flowers – not quite purple enough to match my hoodie. I photographed our across-the-street neighbor’s wisteria this afternoon just before 2:00. You could hide a couple of garden sheds behind this wall of wisteria. You can smell it from two blocks away:

Our neighbor’s wisteria. April 11, 2021 is an exceptionally good day to be alive.

Have a great week, 


Posted in Barred Owls, Birds, Bryan Park, daffodils, Dogs, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, Great horned owl, James River, love, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), thoreau | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Finally! A different kind of owl! 

28 March, 2021           Finally! A different kind of owl! 

The first owl picture I ever posted in this blog was… a Barred Owl! What a surprise. That was May 15, 2011, in a post called Flora – and some fauna. Since that time – almost ten years ago! – I’ve posted countless owl pictures. Except for one indistinct picture of an adult  Great Horned Owl at Bryan Park two years ago this month, that’s all I’ve ever seen. You can check out that old picture at How can I put this delicately? Or “Praeder-Willi Continues”. Finally this week I saw not one Great Horned Owl but a pair of Great Horned Owls! And four of their offspring on the nest! In daylight! It was in every way thrilling. Here is a picture of the nest. I interpreted this as a glare, but it’s probably not: 

All raptors stare at lenses. I’m positive.

There were two adults moving in and out of the area. This one was snoozing on a branch at the same height as the nest (I estimate around 75’) but around thirty feet away: 

This adult appears to be dozing, but I suspect is acutely aware

I was also gratified to note the return of Bryan Park’s summer resident Purple Martins the same day. Here is an adult male stopped for a moment on top of the center of the three Purple Martin houses: 

Male Purple Martin gleaming in the Spring sun

Spring officially began here in Richmond a week ago yesterday. There is migration and nest building and flower blooming and egg laying and egg hatching happening 24/7. There’s a good chance this cormorant is a year round resident, but I liked this picture of it taking off at Bryan Park the same day I saw the owls and the Purple Martins: 

Cormorant taking off at Bryan Park

I nearly forgot! I went back to see the owls again Tuesday – and saw a heron take off! 

Heron takes flight at Bryan Park

I was at Deep Run this week; I regularly see a lone grebe on one of the lakes there. This one didn’t take off, it just ruffled its feathers to get them all in place, but I like the way it goes with that cormorant picture and the heron picture: 

Everybody is “springing” into flight!

This female bluebird landed on my feeder this afternoon. I’d just focused on her when she leapt up. Perhaps all these birds are “springing” into the air: 

Female bluebird leaps into flight:

This Northern Flicker didn’t mesh with the “springing into the air” theme but I hadn’t seen one in some time, so I’m glad they’re a spring visitor: 

Flicker clutching suet:

I’m not certain how long it’s been since I’ve seen a white squirrel at Deep Run, but it’s been some time. I hear a lot about them – they always seem to have “just left” – but they’ve eluded me. They’re always a treat: 

Finally got to see a white squirrel again:

It’s also been quite some time since I’ve seen deer at Pony Pasture. They never left, I just didn’t see them. There were four (possibly) more in their predictable spot south of Charlie’s Bridge yesterday. This pretty girl was standing quietly in the sunlight. Look directly between her eyes – there is a fly perched there. I’m sure winter is difficult for deer, but at least they don’t have to put up with flies for a few months. Another sign of Spring:  

Look closely – there’s a fly right between her eyes

The deer are entirely unconcerned with the dogs. I suspect in the history of that park, no dog has ever crossed the fence that borders the trail there. I’ve seen deer graze and chew their cud in that spot when the dogs are less than fifty yards away: 

I call this one “deergazers.” They really want to do some herding!

Have a great week! Next time I post to this blog it will be April! April 4 to be precise, Easter. Today is Palm Sunday and the first day of Passover. It’s also a great day to be alive! 

Come back next week, all best, 


PS Bonus picture – my camera clicked Monday and caught a young Great Horned Owl mid-yawn:  

Sleepy young Great Horned Owl mid-yawn:
Posted in Birds, Bryan Park, Dogs, Emerson, Endurance, Flowers, Fun, Great horned owl, Insects, James River, love, newfaze, Northern flicker, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!), squirrels, thoreau, whitetail deer | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Riot on Westbury Drive

21 March, 2021 Riot on Westbury Drive

I have all the usual miscellany this week. But I was walking Mackey and Turner out to the car this morning to go to the river and I turned around and saw the results of Evelyn’s camellia pruning. I took this picture at 9:20 this morning. This is a camellia riot. If this plant was a person, he or she would be grinning from ear to ear: 

Evelyn’s careful pruning caused our camellia to run riot:

Spring began here in Richmond yesterday at 5:37 AM. I was messing around in the yard yesterday and took a picture of an individual bloom from that plant at 2:55 PM: 

Camellia in our yard on the first day of Spring, 2021:

I went down to the river for a few minutes Monday afternoon. Buffleheads are still around. They’ll be headed north soon: 

Buffleheads at Pony Pasture Monday:

I’ve learned over the past couple of weeks that Barred Owls and Buffleheads are on roughly the same schedule. Buffleheads appear in late October or early November, roughly at the first frost. I learned that many years ago. And I looked back over my blogs and my pictures and that’s when Barred Owls first show up. They’re around until roughly the end of March or the beginning of April – the last frost. I read this about Barred Owls under “Cool facts” on the Cornell Lab all about birds page: “Barred Owls don’t migrate, and they don’t even move around very much. Of 158 birds that were banded and then found later, none had moved farther than 6 miles away.” So they’re around. But they must change behavior. Anyway, one was down there this morning, hooting to its mate who sounded like it was ~¼ mile upstream: 

Barred Owl on the first full day of Spring, 2021:

Since I started out with “flowers bailing me out” (those camellias though!), I will continue in that vein, since yesterday was the first day of Spring, 2021. I photographed this hyacinth on the edge of our driveway yesterday afternoon around 4:30: 

The inevitability of Spring. Next to our driveway.

Maybe I’ve put a photograph on here before – perhaps as recently as last week – but I’m enjoying the Pine Warblers (Setophaga pinus) that have been showing up on my feeders. Cute little birds that in the past I have probably mistaken for goldfinches: 

Pine warblers are regulars, at least for the time being

I got to spend some time with my old friend Luna this weekend. We did a few walks around her neighborhood, but of course the highlight was Pony Pasture this morning. Definitely the highlight for me, and I sense it was the highlight for Luna too. A kind person named Jackie took our picture. 

Thank you Jackie! Mackey, Turner, Yuki, Luna and me at Pony Pasture this morning

What’s not to love? Thank you Jackie! 

Have a great  first week of Spring, 


Posted in Barred Owls, Birds, buffleheads, Dogs, Flowers, Fun, hyacinths, James River, love, newfaze, People, Pony Pasture, raptors, Rivers, simplify, Smiles (including "dog smiles"!) | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The flowers are finally bailing me out

14 March, 2021 The flowers are finally bailing me out

The ospreys just started bailing me out too, but I didn’t find out about them until an hour ago. The light was nice and they’re active – extremely active – but they caught me by surprise and I didn’t have time for good photographs. Next week for sure. 

Monday afternoon at lunch time I saw the first daffodil of 2021 in our yard. At least in central Virginia, few things are more synonymous with Spring than the first daffodils: 

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, this one says “Spring” 1,000 times

I’ll see bluebirds on my feeders tomorrow morning first thing – they must be building a nest close by. There is never a bad time to see a bluebird. But I am especially joyful when I’m hiking and I get to see one in the woods. I like the background: 

They’re here year round. But what a treat for Spring:

More flowers bailing me out: 

The daffodils on the side of the driveway are petite

Most of my life – until early in my blogging “career” – I knew a lot about Red-tailed hawks and close to zero about other raptors. I think sometimes back then I’d see a Red-shouldered hawk – it’s an easy mistake if you’re not paying attention – and think it was a Red-tailed hawk. But once I became aware of their existence, I began seeing them constantly. I saw one this week but was unable to get good light. But I love their color: 

That glare threw off my focus

I may as well continue with flowers bailing me out. First hyacinths from next to our driveway: 

When I recruit flowers to help with my blog, I pull out all the stops

More daffodils? Is this too many? I think that “too many daffodils” is one of those imaginary concepts like “too much chocolate”: 

Thanks to Evelyn and photosynthesis, we have daffodils inside and out:

Speaking of other things you can’t apply the idea of “too much” to, here’s a picture of Turner (brown), Mackey (black) and Yuki (none of the above) standing happily near the edge of the James River in Pony Pasture yesterday morning a bit before lunch: 

Best boys in the best place

Even after all these months – seventeen in a row now – I’m not sure what happens next with the Barred Owls I see in Pony Pasture. I think – I think – that soon they’ll become more active with parenting duties and spend less time lounging (probably digesting) on this branch. But I saw one yesterday on our hike. It was preening itself enthusiastically, a behavior I had not yet witnessed. Always fun to see them do something new: 

Owl preening at Pony Pasture yesterday. You can see its right eye if you look closely.

What better way to end a blog  post than with a Barred Owl! Have a great week, see you (hopefully!) next Sunday. 

All best, 


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