Wind, Love and Diverging Agendas at the Salt Marsh.

It’s winter in Florida. 39 F (4 C) with strong winds made me dig for my 25 years old, lined bomber jacket. It’s known to keep me warm whatever the knots on the ocean. And soon after sunrise today it was exactly what I needed. I wanted to take a quick walk to see how my friends at the salt marsh were dealing with the cold and the wind.

rough seas ud46I couldn’t walk there through the beach as the wind was kicking up a sand storm. Fine sand doesn’t mix well with my gear, or my hair for that matter. So I quickly zoomed out to get a picture of the rough seas, and then decided for the bay side.

a palm tree in the wind ud46The palm trees were bending in the wind, their “hair” flying wild. I thought the marsh residents would all be in hiding, just like the people seemed to be. But I was wrong. The salt marsh was anything but quiet. Just when I arrived Mama Sandy flew into the nest where Stanley was waiting.

mama osprey flew into the nest ud46Then they perched there together, their heads facing the wind, most of the time.

papa and mama osprey in the nest ud46Sandy might already be pregnant. Last year she laid eggs around February 21st, but this year I’m thinking it might happen earlier.

mama osprey preening ud46Sandy took advantage of the wind to get her feathers clean and beautiful. Her agenda was all about love. And Stanley didn’t disappoint.

Mam and papa osprey mating 2 ud46Maybe when I’ll return from my trip in two weeks time I’ll find them incubating. That would be exciting.

I continued my walk and found more romantic agendas. Two Great Egrets were taking shelter in the bushes below the Osprey nest. Both in breeding plumage. Long looks were exchanged, beautifying was going on and courting was definitely on the agenda.

great egret 2 ud46

great egret in breeding plumage ud46Did you know that in addition to the long plumes, a patch on the face of these birds turns neon green for the breeding season? That is clearly visible on the male above, and on the flying bird in the featured image. I think that’s quite cool.

There were several other birds in the vicinity, like Night Herons and Snowy Egrets, but they were deep in the bushes seeking shelter from the wind. This little Tri-colored Heron had dared to step out into the sun. He had only one agenda. To get warm.

tricolored heron ud46But sometimes the agendas collide even for birds. And some fighting ensues. Like for these young Great Egrets. After a loud exchange and some aerial acrobatics, the loser left and flew away over the dog park.

Two great egrets ud46

great egret flies away ud46Maybe it was about this young lady, who was approached by the young Great Blue Heron.

younger great blue heron and a great egret ud46He was talking to her, and it looked like he was fishing for votes in a bid to take over the Mayor’s Office. The Mayor himself was a bit further out warming himself in the sun, and didn’t notice this youngster with a devious agenda.

great blue heron ud46Walking back from the beach end of the marsh, I spotted a beautiful female Belted Kingfisher. She was exactly where I had first seen the male last Sunday. Maybe they have a nest building agenda? That would be nice. New residents are always welcome.

belted kingfisher ud46Just when I was leaving the marsh, I found my friend, the young Muscovy Duck. He was airing his colorful feathers, but kept an eye on me at the same time.

Muscovy Duck ud46That was it for today. And for the next couple of weeks. In the meantime I’m hoping to capture at least one tiny bird of a different origin. Or maybe a lion. If I’m really lucky. I’ll try to peek into the blogging world whenever time and connectivity allows for such a luxury.

Thank you for coming along! Have a great week everyone.

 

Nest Takeover. And Nanday Chatter at the Salt Marsh.

Oh, I thought, now they have abandoned me. I have been buried under a huge project and not made it to the salt marsh for over a week, and now nobody was home. At the first glance, the marsh looked abandoned. Even the Osprey nest was empty.

empty nest ud45No Muscovy Duck and no Moorhens on the water. The sun peeked out and I decided to walk around the marsh. When I reached half way towards the other end, I spotted the Mayor! He was busy in his office on a Sunday, much like me.

great blue heron ud45Then I saw a bird from a distance. It looked like a Kingfisher. But when I raised my camera, it was gone. I looked around and found him – happily taking in the views at the Osprey nest (sorry for the poor quality as I had to shoot against the sun).

kingfisher ud45The Kingfisher was enjoying the big birds’ house! But that adventure came to an abrupt end in a minute. Mama Sandy arrived. She was wet and quite upset.

wet and angry mama osprey ud45And right after, Papa Stanley was there too. Where did they both come from so quickly?

papa osprey arrived ud45Nest occupations don’t last long at the salt marsh. I decided to continue my walk and spotted a cormorant hiding in the high grass.

cormorant ud45Walking back towards the nest, I met a beautiful Mourning Dove. She was busy having lunch in the grass.

mourning dove UD45And then, suddenly, there were more birds. Several Night Herons had come out from the bushes, juveniles and adults.

juvenile yellow-crowned night heron ud45

yellow-crowned night heron ud45And the young Muscovy Duck was back too, on his favorite spot at the water installation.

muscovy duck ud45The Moorhens were back too, and a squirrel was climbing up a palm tree to get a good look at it all. Now things were back in order.

squirrel 2 ud45I went back to say bye to the Osprey couple. They were as handsome as ever. And posed for a joint portrait.

mama osprey and papa oprey ud45Sandy was still wet…and now she was hungry too. She started asking for her lunch fish. Stanley pretended not to hear her. He was unmoved and stared at me instead.

mama osprey asks for fish ud45I was waiting for him to oblige, but couldn’t wait too long. I had to get back home. So, as usual, I walked home on the bayside. Some Brown Pelicans were flying at the distance, and the beautiful Snowy Egret (featured image) was at the same spot as I had found her a week ago. Suddenly I heard Osprey speak. It was Stanley. Probably telling Sandy he would get her a fish after all.

papa osprey flying ud45He settled on Marriott’s roof to scan the bay for fish.

papa osprey snanning for fish ud45But he didn’t stay long. He took off after a few minutes and flew over the bay.

papa osprey goes fishing ud45Finally I could witness his fishing expedition! But no. He flew far off to the south and I lost sight of him. A bit disappointed I walked home. Only to get a nice consolation prize right at our driveway. I heard familiar, loud chatter. Wild Nanday Parakeets were on the move. A family of eight landed on a palm tree right in front of me. All but one of them were busy playing hide and seek and impossible to capture.

nanday parakeet 2 ud45This one friendly individual was curious about me and posed nicely so I could capture her beauty from all angles.

nanday parakeet ud45Happy after seeing my friends had not abandoned me, I came back home. For the next 2-3 months I will not be able to post or read as much as I would like to. I hope all friends will be as understanding as these guys at the salt marsh. I will have some (work related) adventures coming up soon so I’m hoping to bring you a few posts that are a bit different, while still trying to keep up with the excitement of the nesting season at the salt marsh.

Have a great week ahead. Much love from all of us.

 

Hunching Party. And a Mystery Bird over the Salt Marsh.

Girl making a snowman digital artI hope all friends are warm, safe and dry after the blizzard and coastal flooding that hit so many states here in the US this weekend. We had gale force winds from the ocean for two days and Florida winter temperatures in the 30s, but today things are much calmer, winds only at 10-15 mph, sun and pale blue skies.

winter beach JAN ud44I finally got a chance to go check on my feathered friends at the salt marsh. And wanted to give you a quick update on the state of affairs before the work week swallows me again.

Many birds were out and about braving the cool weather. A real hunching party. Everybody was puffed up, like these White Ibis taking in the sunshine.

white ibis ud44Just when I arrived at the osprey nest,  Papa Stanley flew in with soft materials for the nest cup. In preparation for egg laying.

papa osprey brings nest materials ud44Mama Sandy seemed pleased and put it carefully in place in the middle of the nest. And then they just sat there together warming up after the cold night. The nest platform held through the storm again, which is a a good sign considering that it now seems impossible to do any repairs until after the nesting season. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it holds until summer.

papa and mama osprey at the nest ud44I spotted several juvenile Night Herons seeking shelter in the bushes under the osprey nest, some were awake, some asleep.

juvenile night heron ud44

another juvenile night heron ud44A Snowy Egret was huddling there too, airing her beautiful plumage in the breeze. And for the first time in weeks, I found a Tricolored Heron.

snowy agret ud44This slender heron was almost unrecognizable hunching there all puffed up.

tri-colored heron UD44I had just spotted the young Muscovy Duck, when I heard a loud discussion at the other end of the marsh.

muscovy duck ud44Based on the dialect I heard, it was between two Great Blue Herons. You guessed it, the Mayor and the youngster. When I glanced over there, I saw that the young GBH had occupied the Mayor’s Office. He clearly harbors aspirations to take over. But the Mayor didn’t like it. The impostor got chased away. He flew up to a tall cypress and settled at the top to consider his options. Sandy and Stanley were not delighted to see him either. Stanley gave a sharp warning call.

young great blue heron flees ud44When I came closer, I saw the Mayor was still very upset, probably thinking what his next step should be.

great blue heron mayor ud44He didn’t settle in his office for long, instead he flew to an islet closest to the group of trees where the youngster was. To keep an eye on his rival. Wise move.

mayor great blue heron ud44This season promises to be interesting. The youngster has not mellowed, if anything he seems to be challenging everyone.

Walking away from the drama, I spotted a Wood Stork. He was separated from his friends who were huddling in the bushes a bit away. They were not willing to pose for a photo.

woodstork ud44But the Great Egret was. He had witnessed the high-pitched discussion between the Blue Herons, and seemed happy that the peace had returned.

great egret in breeding plumage ud44I decided to walk home on the bay side. Leaving the salt marsh, I noticed a sweet juvenile Snowy Egret bravely exploring the marsh on her own.

juvenile snowy egret ud44The bay shore was almost empty. Some pelicans were fishing on the bay and another Great Egret was hunching in the sun next to the sailing club pier.

great egret ud44That’s when I saw the Turkey Vulture circling overhead. I snapped a couple of pictures of him at our driveway.

turkey vulture 2 ud44The surprise came when I looked at my pictures at home. Look carefully. Do you see anything strange? He has the letters HAX on his right wing, doesn’t he? I had to look at all my pictures to believe that marking really was there. I have no idea what that could be. Do you?

I wish you all a good week ahead. Take care.

 

 

Love is Blooming. And Now I’m Really Worried.

When I came home earlier this week, I saw what I had been waiting for. The sky dance. It is the annual ritual Papa Stanley performs for Mama Sandy before they start their big “nestoration” project. I admired the dance from my terrace, but came to the conclusion it was impossible to document. For me, that is. Stanley soared high up over the nest in undulating flight. At the top of the undulation, he hovered briefly and then dove down his wings drawn in. This lasted probably 15-20 minutes, but I only had my camera for the last five minutes. I captured him in the middle of the flight, including when he briefly glanced at me, and again when he was almost on the ground close to the nest.

Male osprey in flightpapa ospreys sky dance 3 ud43papa osprey comes back to the nest ud43It was fascinating to watch, and I noted it happened exactly on the same day as last year. A proposal every year. That’s love. And from that point on they have been busy rebuilding the completely bare nest. I have been busy with work too, and only seen their building project from my windows. Until yesterday.

sunrise 2 ud43I had planned to sleep in, but woke up at sunrise. I went out on the terrace to have my coffee and to capture the atmosphere of the early hour. In addition to a beautiful sunrise, I saw an Osprey in the nest. I took one quick handheld shot – and saw the progress. Did you know that Osprey can build a nest as fast as 7-10 days? And these guys had been busy as you can see. So after finishing my coffee, I went out to see my friends for the first time in ten (!!) days.

papa osprey at the nest ud43.jpgThe first bird I spotted was a male Red-bellied Woodpecker. He was enjoying his breakfast on the shade side (of course) of a bent palm tree just outside our garden.

male red-bellied woodpecker ud43Next I found Mama Sandy eating a fish on a lamp-post close to the park. I was wondering why she didn’t eat at the nest.

mama osprey eats her fish ud43Once at the salt marsh, I understood. Stanley had given her the fish, and she had decided to have her breakfast in relative privacy. Stanley was minding the nest. He was working too. On the redesign stuff. And kept a keen eye on Sandy.

papa osprey working ud43papa osprey is minding the nest ud43I said hi to him, and then walked around the marsh to check who was there at this early hour. Right under the nest, in his usual “bedroom”, I found my friend, the juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron. He had nodded off, drying his wings in the morning sun.

juvenile yellow-crowned night heron ud43Close by, I found the young Muscovy Duck. It looks like he’s been hired as a body guard by the Moorhens. They seem to spend lots of time together.

muscovy duck defends the moorhens ud43When I reached the other end of the marsh, I spotted the Mayor. He was in his office on the little islet, as always. Checking things out. I thought he was quite photogenic in the early morning sun.

great blue heron ud43great blue heron 2 ud43A young Great Egret was busy hunting and didn’t pay any attention to me. But I admired her reflection.

great egret fishing ud43That’s when I saw Mama Sandy flying back to the nest. She had finished her breakfast and wanted to spend some time with hubby.

mama osprey in flight ud43mama osprey and papa osprey at the nest ud43They were too cute. I sat down on “my” bench to watch these love birds. And that’s when I realized what I was seeing. This.

osprey nest in need of repairs ud43The nest platform is falling apart. I had seen signs of that already earlier. The nails come out at a couple of corners, and the net at the bottom is in bad shape. I had talked to the park service staff several months ago about the need to do repairs at off-season. They told me the nest was built by boy scouts and they would need to repair it. I even offered to pay for the repairs, but nothing has happened. Such things don’t seem to be in anyone’s job description. And now it’s much worse. The whole platform is unstable. I worry that we might have real drama, or even a tragedy, at the salt marsh this nesting season if nothing is done.

Just when I sat there in deep thought,  Stanley decided to leave. And I did too.

papa osprey leaves the nest 2 ud43I would go home and write to the Audubon Society hoping that they could come up with something useful they or I can do. The Osprey family needs emergency repairs. Yesterday.

I walked home on the bay side and saw three more birds, a beautiful Snowy Egret in breeding plumage, a curious Willet and an Oyster Catcher.

snowy egret in breeding plumagewillet 2 ud43oyester catcher ud43And found where Stanley had flown. He was at his favorite outlook spot on Marriott’s roof. His breakfast was already a bit late, so he scanned for fish in the bay. But also kept an eye on Sandy in the nest.

papa osprey looks at mama ud43sand key osprey nest  2 ud43I wonder if he is also worried. And, like me, hoping someone will care. Such is life, full of ups and downs. For all creatures on this earth. Love, Tiny

UPDATE: This morning we’re experiencing heavy storms with 35-40 mile winds. TG the nest platform is still in place. I just saw Papa Stanley struggle against the wind to check on the nest – or on Mama Sandy? It was extremely difficult for him to fly, he went almost upside down a couple of times and was thrown sharply up and down by the gusts. I hope to spot both of them later this afternoon when the storms are expected to subside.

Mysteries in the Fog. Big Guns. And Other Adventures on Amelia Island.

“Look farmor”! For those uninitiated in Swedish language the latter stands for grandma. “There’s a big bird, take a picture”! That was my fellow photographer, aged 5, pointing at the foggy skies. As you can see, I followed her advice. A Brown Pelican was indeed flying in the mist over the ocean scanning for fish. Unfortunately it was not successful, but who would’ve been? The fog effectively merged the sky and the white hats on the ocean.

pelican in the fogDespite the fog and the wind, our trip to Little Talbot Island, one of the few undeveloped barrier islands in North Florida, was one of discovery. We had a wonderful, energetic “guide”, aged less than 2, who picked up some of the small treasures in the sand for closer examination.

our little guideAnd pointed out a few big ones. Like this mysterious palm trunk that had spent a considerable time traveling in the ocean. It had to be investigated.

palm trunk drift wood We also spotted a lone soul on the ocean braving the wind and the rough seas. And a gull keeping an eye on him.

wave runner at LTI beach gull flying on LTI beach On a sunny day, this beautiful beach would probably have been very busy, but we had it all for ourselves. Apart from a couple of Western Sandpipers.

Little Talbot Island beach on a foggy winter morningwestern sandpiper Walking back from the beach with a bag full of treasures, the Leap Pad photographer took pictures of the boardwalk and the sand dunes. She already has a well developed eye for discovering interesting items to shoot in the nature.

leap pad photographer little Talbot Island board walk But the excitement was not over yet. Our journey continued to Amelia Island. Despite the dense fog we could enjoy some beautiful views from the car windows.Once on Amelia Island, we drove along the Canopy Road leading to Fort Clinch State Park.

canopy road amelia island Our adventure would continue at this historic fort, built in 1847. It served as a military post during the Civil War, Spanish-American War and World War II.

fort clinch The fort stands on a hill facing open waters. Already the draw bridge and the outer walls were impressive.

fort clinch draw bridge fort clinch outer wallAnd the buildings inside the fort were surrounded by big cannons. Quite a few out of the originally 77 big guns still remained in place.

fort clinch buildings cannons at fort clinch We climbed up to the watch tower ruins through some very narrow, winding iron stairs. Those days they didn’t bother about railings,  and it was more like climbing up inside a chimney, but up we came. On a clear day the view would’ve been fantastic, but now we could hardly distinguish the water from the sky.

view from fort clinch at the wall of fort clinchTo our delight, we could also tour many of the buildings. We found sleeping quarters, dining halls, captains quarters, and a prison. All of which had to be documented by the two photographers. By this time, our guide was out of energy and had to replenish it by taking a short nap.

sleeping quarters fort clinch dining room at fort clinch captains quarters at fort clinch prison cell at fort clinch When we had climbed enough and examined everything, a Union soldier entertained us by playing jolly old melodies on his flute.

union soldier plays flute at fort clinch From the fort, our adventure continued to the historic district of Amelia Island. A  fun and “artsy” place.  Art works were displayed inside and outside the galleries, Christmas decorated shop windows and streets dotted with pirates and birds that didn’t fly away from the photographers. Cool shops where our young photographer and the little guide, now reinvigorated, could try their hand on all kinds of modern inventions. Entertaining indeed.

art in a window art on the ground hist district Amelia Island shop window Amelia Islandpirate Amelia Islandwooden flamingo Amelia IslansBy the time our shopping was done it was getting dark. Our troops were ready for dinner at the seaside. Tired, but happy like the shrimp greeting us outside the restaurant.

the shrimp statue at Amelia IslandThat was a foggy good adventure! Thank you for tagging along.

Murmurations. Occupations. And a Circle at the Salt Marsh.

My goodness! This year got off to a flying start, in more than one respect. The days have flown by until late at night before this girl has hit the pillow. And the Kindle with interesting blog posts has hit the floor. The birds seem to have been equally busy. Like the European Starlings, performing murmurations over the bay (I only caught the tail end of it here) and occupying neighborhood roofs.

murmurationstarlings on the roofOr like this unknown handsome male, who flew repeatedly past my office window and circled over the salt marsh. He certainly made Papa Stanley keep a close eye on Mama Sandy.

young male osprey in flight

During the only walk I’ve managed to take in this week, on Sunday, I found Stanley sitting with his fish on a lamp-post just outside of our garden. He had a straight line of sight to Sandy, who was at the nest.

mama and papa osprey I observed they both seem to be “right handed” as they held the fish in their right foot talons.  But they didn’t actually eat. They were watching the visitor eating his fish on a lamp-post nearby.

young male ospreyThis new fellow might be a young male trying to charm “Diamond”, the young female who paid a visit to Sandy and Stanley around Christmas time. She is probably somewhere not too far from here. But if that’s the case, there’s not much hope for this suitor to get her father’s approval. Stanley was quite vocal about that.

male osprey calling alarm

When I arrived at the salt marsh, I found it to be much like a lively little city.  Lots of Wood Storks, Egrets, Herons and Ibis were mingling on and between the islets. Papa Wood Stork had complete control of his clan, and everybody coexisted peacefully. I have to say the birds do this better than us humans.

wood storks and an ibis portrait of a wood storkwhite ibis

A few ibis were foraging in a neat circle in the shallow waters. Some of them circling clockwise and others counterclockwise, much like we know from human life.

ibis feed in circle

Sandy was still at the nest working on her fat fish, and the Mayor presided over the crowds from his favorite islet.

female osprey with a fisholder great blue heron

The nesting season is clearly approaching. The Egrets are already growing their breeding plumage, and lots of courting was going on.

great egret growing breeding plumagesnowy egret  in breeding plumage

The one seemingly not interested in such adult behaviors was the juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron, who was trying to hide in the grass.

juvenile black-crowned night heron

Pop Yellow-crowned Night Heron seemed uninterested as well. He had a potential partner hiding in the branches of a tree right next to him, but he was fast asleep. Or maybe he was just pretending? Peeking at her with one eye?

yellow-crowned night heron

Suddenly the Mayor decided it was time to change scenery. He flew on the other side of the marsh towards the bay.

great blue heron in flightI decided to follow him to check if that beach would be equally crowded. On my way I spotted the European Starlings again. They had now gathered in a huge tree close to the park entrance.

european starling european starlings

The Mayor acknowledged me with a sidelong glance as soon as I arrived to the beach on the bay side.

great blue heron

That beach was fairly quiet. Only a Double-crested Cormorant and a few Gulls kept him company. I guess he needed some peace and quiet away from the crowds.

double crested cormorant gull Walking home, I spotted another beautiful Snowy Egret, a few Willets, and my faithful friend, the Northern Mockingbird.

snowy egret in breeding plumage Willet northern mockingbird

Bougainvillea blooms greeted me at the corner of our garage when I arrived home from my 3.5 mile walk. Then thinking I would repeat the walk the next day again. But it was not to be.

bougainvillea flower Unfortunately it may take another week or more before I get to see my feathery friends again. I have some travels coming up starting tomorrow morning. I hope your year is off to a good start, and thank you for coming along.

You can find many other circles here.

A Journey into the First Night. On My Terrace.

The last day of the year was coming to an end. Fleeting rays of the setting sun performed their last dance around the tree tops. Dusk started to settle over the salt marsh. And most birds were tucked away in their sleeping quarters.

salt marsh at night fallThe ‘blue hour’ came. Fully booked dinner cruise boats floated from the bay onto the ocean. But at the darkened northwest corner of the park now closed, activity continued all evening long. Until the last hour of the last day of 2015.

clearwater pass and the sand key park at blue hourAs the midnight hour approached, the moon slept on its big tummy on a misty bed over the bay. The Christmas tree at the local hospital on the opposite shore was brightly lit.  Lights were still shining from many windows. For some fellow passengers on this earthly journey, the first night would be greeted in a hospital bed.

And then the ball finally dropped in front of the crowds in the big city. The skies were set alight. Followed by loud kabooms reverberating over the salt marsh.

first night fireworks Star showers fell towards the ocean and the beach. Shapes in bright colors filled the sky.

first night fireworks fireworks And if the salt marsh residents had not covered their eyes and ears with their wings, they did see  a bird looking right down on them from the skies. A symbol of something we all need. Peace.

new year fireworks 2016The Night Herons and Barn Owls were certainly not the only birds awakened by people’s celebration at this first hour of the first night. But luckily it soon became quiet. The moon wiggled out of its misty bed and shone brightly to light up the first night. Once again, a new year was born.

half moonMay 2016 bring us peace and contentment.

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