Readers’ wildlife photos

Reader Doug Hayes sends us some “backyard” birds. Doug’s notes are indented:

Just a few of the birds I have photographed in my Richmond, Virginia neighborhood (and surrounding area):
Black capped chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), photographed in Forest Hill Park just a couple of blocks from my house.
Blue jay (Cynocitta cristata), also in Forest Hill Park. They usually hang out in the more wooded areas of the city and zip through the trees like blue laser beams. This one is probably a male, as he was gathering nesting material. Male jays do the heavy lifting and the female actually builds the nest.
Carolina wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) About the size of a sparrow, these little guys have been turning up in large numbers lately.
Gray catbird (Dumetella carolinensis) Large numbers of these birds have recently moved into the neighborhood. They are trying to build nests in the same area as the cardinals. The cardinals are not having it though, and you can see both the male and female chasing the catbirds away from their territory all day long. This catbird is eating blackberries which are growing near the cardinal’s tree, adding to their irritation.
Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) This particular bird has been hanging out at the lake in Forest Hill Park for the last three years catching the bass, catfish and eels. He or she (it is hard to tell male and female herons apart) is fairly acclimated to people being around and I once actually saw it approach a fisherman who had reeled in a nice sized catfish (catch and release fishing is allowed in the park).
Northern mockingbird (Mimus polyglottos) If you walk into this little angry bird’s territory, he will follow you at a distance. If you get too close, he will dive bomb you until you retreat.
Red-bellied woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus) One of several species of woodpecker that lives in and around the city. This one was photographed at the Dutch Gap wildlife reserve in nearby Chesterfield County. Dutch Gap is a great place for birders. At least five species of ducks live there along with hawks, herons, eagles, egrets and too many small birds to list.


  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 8:35 am | Permalink

    Some really nice photos…

  2. Bernard Grossman
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    Nice pictures. Are you certain that the bird labeled “Black-capped Chickadee” isn’t a Carolina Chickadee. The territories of these two overlap here and it’s very hard to separate them visually. It’s best done by call.

    • Paul Matthews
      Posted June 4, 2020 at 10:29 am | Permalink

      I live in Ottawa, Canada, where we don’t get Carolina Chickadees, but my in-laws live in Newark, Delaware, which we visit often. The common chickadee there is Carolina (with, as I understand it, black-caps sometimes showing up in the winter). Given that Richmond is south of Newark I would expect the chickadees to be Carolinas. Very tough to tell the two species apart, though. The whistled song is the best way but birds in the overlap zone can apparently learn the “wrong” song!

      Thanks for the photos.

  3. Posted June 4, 2020 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    Very good pictures. I should probably look out for cat birds, since I keep hearing birds that sound like cats.

    • Posted June 4, 2020 at 11:07 am | Permalink

      They make a single note descending mewing sound (almost like a caw; but more catlike).

      They also make a wild and crazy thrush call sometimes (they are a thrush). My son recorded this in William O’Brien State Park, MN:

      We have them nesting in either our yard or a neighbor’s yard every summer.

  4. Posted June 4, 2020 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    That photo of the red-bellied woodpecker is an absolute work of art!

  5. Posted June 4, 2020 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    Nice photos, thanks!

  6. rickflick
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 11:36 am | Permalink

    The mockingbird is Mimus polyglottos, which sounds like it is good at translating languages. Catbirds can do some of that too. Years ago a catbird near the house picked up the ring of our phone through open windows. Throughout the day we’d hear the phone ringing and not know if it was a real call or the mimic in the bushes.

  7. Debra Coplan
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 12:59 pm | Permalink

    Wonderful photos! Thank you!

  8. boudiccadylis
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    The pictures are great. Makes me very envious as those birds have been in the past at my feeders. Now I’m plagued by starlings and their babies literally pushing out the other birds. Occasionally a hairy or red breasted woodpecker pushes but it doesn’t last long.

    Does anyone remember the eagle owl babies and when that was on the blog. If like to see them as they’ve grown.

  9. Mark R.
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

    Nice photos. Blue jays on the East coast are a lot prettier imo then their West coast cousins. I assume they are as feisty as ours, being corvids and all. And you already have ripe blackberries? Your growing season starts a lot earlier than ours.

    • Posted June 5, 2020 at 8:16 am | Permalink

      The photo does not do justice to the intense blue color of the jay. They are quite skittish and normally fly away as soon as they spot you. This guy must have found the ideal nesting material spot, returning every few minutes to gather mud, leaves and twigs even though I was less than ten feet away. He would look directly at me, but must have decided I was harmless and kept up with his work.

  10. hectorburleeives
    Posted June 4, 2020 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    Mockingbirds — the Trumpkins of the bird world, always angry about something. Nevertheless, they are fearless and tireless in their springtime vocalizing, which is simply stunning in its variety.

  11. Posted June 4, 2020 at 8:28 pm | Permalink

    Gorgeous birds, gorgeous photos, Doug. Thank you!

  12. Posted June 7, 2020 at 9:26 pm | Permalink

    I’m sad that we almost never see blue jays here in the Chicago area, or at least I don’t and others I’ve talked to have noticed it as well. Might be because of the same disease that got many of our crows, West Nile. The disease has had a pretty devastating effect on the population of both birds. Thanks for the nice pictures.

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