Monday Musings: Between the Storms

Fresh air tingles on my skin. I smell the rain drops still lingering on the grass.  Vibrant green.  Perky. Reaching up and up.  Stretching toward the little bubbles of white in the blue. Respectfully. In silence.

Waking up. Living fully. Present here. Growing with every ray of sun. I breathe. I feel the trees inhale and exhale. I hear the birds sing. I see the face of the wind. And I touch Life. Briefly. Quietly. Between the storms.

new lakes in the salt marsh ud18

Playing with Fire. Chilling out. Vacation Time at the Salt Marsh.

It’s a little bit of a summer lull at the salt marsh right now. Residents watch visitors come and go. The older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor, welcomes everyone with open arms.

Great Blue Heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Mayor welcomes you!

And Mama Osprey takes the little excitement there might be with a grain of salt. It’s her vacation time. She observes everything from her “watch tower” with dignity, takes baths in the bay, dives for fish, eats and enjoys life.

Female Osprey watches the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy observes Tiny and dries herself after a bath.

She is not the least provoked by the younger Great Blue Heron. You know, the one who repeatedly attacked her home last spring, and has now made it a habit to hunt right below the nest.

Young Great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The younger Great Blue Heron hunts close to the Osprey nest.

The other day he even played with fire. He flew low above the nest and settled on a tree top very close to Mama Sandy. Flexed his wings and stared right at her.

young great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and flies to the top of a tree to watch the nest.

But Sandy didn’t care to participate in a staring competition.  She was more interested in watching Sindile, who was flying by the nest again. This time she was on her own.

female osprey Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…but Sandy turns her head and watches Sindile…
young osprey in flight Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…who flies over the park.

Sandy spends some time at the nest every day making sure others don’t get silly ideas.  Like hoping the property had been vacated. Or was offered for vacation rental.

Papa Stanley has moved back to the same resort he favored last fall, on the top of an old palm trunk.

male osprey Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley enjoys life at his resort.

He sits there like a king, and monitors the air traffic between the beach and the bay. And keeps an eye on Sandy, of course.

So life has settled into a summer slumber at the salt marsh. The ten ducklings hang out with other ducklings.  They are all in their teens, and prefer to chill out together at various corners of the waterways.

young Mottled Ducks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Young Mottled Ducks chill out together.

The Egrets and Herons come for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Or just to check out who’s there and what’s trending.

great egret and snowy egret Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Great Egret and a Snowy Egret check out the ducklings’ get-together with great interest.
tricolored heron hunting Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Tri-colored Heron is looking at the menu…
black crowned night heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and a Black-crowned Night Heron, who should be getting his daily sleep,  is fully awake at lunch time.

Last night I spotted a few familiar dinner quests. And even had an exchange with the Roseate Spoonbill.

roseate spoonbill at sunset Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Hi! Is that you Tiny?
roseate spoonbill at sunset Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
I said HELLO Tiny!
roseate spoonbill Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Oops, sorry.  That was too loud. I didn’t mean to be rude…
roseate spoonbill sleeping at sunset Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…but if you excuse me, I’m very sleepy.

On the bay side, Sandy was basking in the last rays of the setting sun. Her crop was full after a quick dinner, but she was not yet dry. She shook her feathers and then greeted me quietly.

wet female osprey shakes herself Sand Key Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy shakes herself to get rid of water after a dinner dive…
female osprey at sunset Sand Park Clearwater Florida
…and says hi.

I continued to the bay shore. A Brown Pelican waived good night while flying to his night quarters. And a White Ibis was considering an evening bath. She was not-so-white anymore after the day’s adventures.

brown pelican at sunset Sand Key Clearwater Florida
A Brown Pelican waves good night…
White ibis at sunset Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…a formerly White Ibis prepares for an evening bath. Hopefully.

While the sun rises over the bay, it sets over the ocean. I walked home through the beach, and saw the sunset wouldn’t disappoint. Mother Nature’s art at its best.

Sunset on the Gulf Sand Key Clearwater Florida
Sunset on the Gulf.

I hope your week’s been going well. Have a peaceful rest of the week.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Half and Half (8 Images)

This week’s DP photo challenge is “Half and Half”. It leaves room for quite a bit of creativity in the interpretation. I like that. Many things in life are half and half. Even today is half rain, half shine. Different from the day last winter, when the view from my terrace was half fog, half sky.

About half of these images are newer, the other half older. Almost half of you may have seen about half of them before. But because my hard disk is only working half and half since Friday, I can’t process brand new ones right now. I’m expecting a whole new hard disk to arrive at half week. I wish everyone a great week ahead, may there be nothing half and half about it.

You can find other responses to this challenge here.

golder hour on the Gulf
The golden hour on the Gulf.  Half sky, half ocean.
juvenile backcrowned night heron half and half
A juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron. Half adult, half baby.
A crater lake in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Half crater, half lake.
A crater lake in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Half crater, half lake.
tri-colored heron portrait half and half
A Tri-colored Heron. Half in the picture, half outside the picture. Half sharp, half blurred.
two little boys on the beach
Two little boys on the beach. Half winter, half summer. One visitor, one local.
beach sunrise half and half
Sunrise on the beach. Half sand, half sky.
bumble half and half
Bumble. Half dog, half human. Or so he thinks.

Juvenile Sightings. Familiar Faces. And Death in the Salt Marsh.

I met this adorable Royal Tern fledgling on the only walk I’ve managed to take between all the thunderstorms and ordinary downpours this week. She looked at me curiously, then decided to demonstrate her newly acquired flying skills. She flew right onto the water’s edge, where quite impressive waves came crashing in. Her mom flew there too, probably to keep an eye on her.juvenile Royal Tern 2 UD 16Arriving at the salt marsh, I saw a flock of young ducklings on a little islet. I tried to get down to the water through some dense bushes and trees…and discovered I’m not that tiny. I scared them off with all the rustling of the dry palm leaves. Once they were on the water I counted them. Seven. Then I saw another three ducklings swimming off from a neighboring islet. The alarm bells had gone off there too. If, indeed, these were the same ten ducklings I’d discovered in April, then all of them had survived their first three months. That would make the salt marsh an exceptionally safe place for bird babies. mama mottled duck with 10 chicks UD3ten ducklings about three months old now UD16Soon they all disappeared together into an area of high grass where I thought their nest had been. That was a treat!

I continued my walk towards the Osprey nest. Mama Sandy was there. Her head was turned towards the skies and she was talking to someone up in the air.Mama Osprey watches Papa and Sindile UD16I looked up too and saw two Ospreys flying above the nest. I recognized Papa Stanley immediately, but who was the other one? I could see it was a young osprey with whitish edging to its flying feathers. Likely one of the chicks, but which one?papa osprey and sindile UD16Sandy and the two of them communicated back and forth as they circled over the salt marsh. I wished I’d taken osprey speak as an extra curricular activity back in school. I had no idea what they said. But it must have been something important. As soon as the two disappeared from sight, Mama Sandy took off and flew after them.

mama osprey flies after papa UD16After this exciting encounter I continued my walk. And spotted another familiar face. The young Night Heron I’ve seen on my recent walks was hiding in a tree next to the deep water.

juvenile night heron ud16She looked too cute, with baby hairs on her head standing right up. My hair was almost standing up too when I heard the loud noises. Unfamiliar. Definitely manmade. I turned around to witness the death of a huge palm tree close to the park entrance. I noticed the hard hats had also removed another dead palm tree I had shot a picture of some time back.death of a palm tree 2 ud16I was marveling about this park and the good care it gets, when I spotted something very much alive. A dragonfly. It was resting on a broken branch, enjoying the temporary pleasure of bright sunshine. Just long enough for me to snap a picture.dragonfly 2 UD16Walking towards the beach along the Northern side of the salt marsh, I found the tiniest Moorhen chick I’ve ever seen. She was struggling in the grass with her huge feet, flapping her little wings-to-be for balance, and finally came down to the water where her mom was waiting.moorhen chick 2 UD16moorhen chick UD16Walking home through the beach I spotted more young birds. Mr. Willet was teaching foraging skills to his two juveniles. Mrs. Willet was taking a walk nearby. Just another ordinary family in Mother Nature’s village. Much like us, I mused.willet in breeding plumage UD16I came home just before the storm dragons started dancing in the skies again, in line with the weather pattern we’ve been seeing so far this week.storm clouds UD16It was a good time to do some detective work based on the pictures I have on the three Osprey chicks in flight. I came to the fairly reliable conclusion that the young Osprey flying with Stanley had been Sindile, the youngest chick who left the nest only two weeks ago. Yay!

I hope you enjoyed this short walk between the downpours. Have a great rest of the week.

 

Silent Sunday: Flying License. And Other Fishy Stuff.

royal tern mom and child Sand Key Beach Florida
Oh, there he is again. So handsome.
His wings are so strong…and he’s looking at me…
royal tern mom and juvenile Sand Key Beach Florida
Mom, can I go out with him?
Mom and juvenile royal tern Sand Key Beach Florida
No Sweetie, you’ve just fledged. You still need to get your flying license….. But I know how to fly, mom! You know I do!
royal tern flying Sand Key Beach Florida
There he’s flying! I bet he’s a good fisherman…
royal tern mom and juvenile Sand Key Beach Florida
Mom, you’re such a relic…I’ll need to exercise my wings anyway! And he’s so cute…Pleeease!
royal tern mom and juvenile Sand Key Beach Florida
You promised ..WOW…he’s coming back with a fish…
royal tern has a fish Sand Key Beach Florida
…and it’s a big one! Mom, look at him!
royal tern mom and juvenile Sand Key Beach Florida
Okay Sweetie, maybe you can go fly with him soon. But first you have to get your flying license. And show me you can fly safely without distractions. You just go take your bath now!

Royal tern swimming

Empty Nesters Are Enjoying Themselves. And the Mayor of the Marsh Is Back.

This week’s been hot, and I’ve been busy. Since my sunrise walk on Monday, I only went to see my feathered friends around the salt marsh today at lunch time. But wanted to say a quick hello before the end of the week. So you know I’m still alive and well, and looking forward to catching up on your blogs over the weekend.

Mama and Papa Osprey are empty nesters since ten days, as many of you know. But they are staying close to each other, which is a bit unusual for Osprey once the nesting season is over.  They’re perching on the bay side – featured image taken from my terrace on Wednesday night at sunset. Or flying together and chatting. Last night when it was too dark for a photo shoot, but not for my new binoculars, I spotted them perching at the Sailing Center. Each at the top of a sailing boat mast, next to each other. That was too cute.

female osprey at the nest with full crop Sand Key Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy uses the nest as her feeding and resting perch. Today her crop was really full.

Mama Sandy has been at the nest several times since she came back to the area last weekend. Today she was perching there again. Her crop was really full. She must have eaten a huge fish for lunch. Finally she has time to take care of herself.

And I spotted Stanley too. He was still planning what to have for lunch. Scanning for fish high up on the roof of Marriott Resort on the bay side. That’s one of his favorite spots. Excellent visibility into the clear water below. The fish he craves for is likely to be his.

male osprey scans for fish on a hotel roof Sand Key Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley checks his lunch options at the corner of Marriott’s roof.

At the salt marsh, the “Mayor” is back! Some of you may remember the older Great Blue Heron who keeps order among the moorhens, egrets, ducks, other herons, the many ibis families and all the smaller birds.

GBH UD15
The “Mayor” surveys his community.

Not that he needs to work hard. This is usually a well-mannered crowd. There are plenty of nice spots at this resort, and the smorgasbord in the shallow waters has something for everyone.

mottled duck Sand Key Clearwater Florida
A female Mottled Duck enjoys a nice spot in the grass.
juvenile ibis Sand Key Clearwater Florida
The young ibis is still around, now foraging on his own.
moorhen family with four chicks Sand Key Clearwater Florida
All four Moorhen chicks are out and about.
great egret ibis and mottled ducks Sand Key Clearwater Florida
Great Egret, Ibis and two Mottled Ducks share a small islet.
A Blue Jay forages in the grass.

That’s all I have for this week. I’m still working on the recap of the nesting season. Mama Sandy’s calendar is full of scribbles about all kinds of drama and other happenings, so it’s a bit like detective work to get it all correctly :)

We all wish you a wonderful weekend. Peace.

Sunrise Walk with Surprises. Both Good and Bad.

This morning I woke up to a glorious pre-dawn glow. I felt I needed exercise and decided to head out for a walk. While it was still cool. That’s a relative term here in Florida, of course.

Clearwater Bay Florida before sunrise
Pre-dawn sky over the bay.

This first morning after the July 4th weekend, I wanted to check on the birds after all the fireworks on the beach and around the bay on Saturday, and even on Sunday. I was hoping my feathered friends had been huddling in the salt marsh during the festivities, and not flying in the path of any of the hundreds of “rockets” reaching for the skies.

july 4 fireworks clearwater florida
July 4th fireworks over the bay.

The salt marsh was quiet and serene. Just me and a few birds. And the sun trying to peek over the horizon, while the moon was still hanging on high up in the sky.

sunrise at the salt marsh Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Sun peeks over the horizon at the salt marsh…
vaning moon at sunrise Sand key Clearwater Florida
…but the moon lingers on…

Many of the residents were sleeping in their hidden night quarters, but the Great Blue Heron was already patrolling the shallow waters.

great blue heron at sunrise Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Great Blue Heron is an early bird…

And so were the Florida Mottled Ducks. I think these might’ve been juveniles from the brood I spotted in April.

two mottled ducks at sunrise Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and so are the young ducks.

I also spotted a bird that I couldn’t identify. My friend H.J. thinks it might be a Mississippi Kite – thank you!

Mississippi Kite
A Mississippi Kite.

Seeing the empty nest reminded me that I thought I’d seen Mama and Papa Osprey flying together on Saturday afternoon. I’d had my binoculars and made a positive ID on both.

empty osprey nest sand key park clearwater florida
The empty Osprey nest, now barebones after the storm mid June.

I decided to walk onto the bayside to see if I could find them. I walked past the Sailing Center where Papa Stanley used to have his feeding perch when Sindile was still in the nest. He was not there.

sunrise on the bay at the sailing center sand key clearwater Florida
Sunrise on the bay…

I admired the bay basking in newly acquired sunlight, when I spotted Mama Sandy on a lamp-post close to the sea wall! She’d gone away when the two older chicks left the nest, about three weeks ago. I’d been right when I saw the two of them. She was back!

female osprey with a fish at sunrise sand key clearwater florida
Mama osprey is back! I missed to check what she was looking at…maybe it was Papa flying by.

She was turned towards the rising sun, drying her still wet feathers, and eating a big fish with great appetite. And she didn’t look like she’d been on vacation. Her crop looked empty, and she had lost even more weight from the time I last saw her. She may have followed the chicks and been teaching them how to fish…getting very little food for herself.

female osprey eats fish at sunrise sand key clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy at sunrise, still wet after her breakfast dive.

Now she was back to keep an eye on the nest, exactly like last year. I left her eating breakfast and walked across the marsh back to the beach.

sunrise sky on Sand Key beach clearwater florida
Early sunrise sky as seen from the beach.

In addition to many gulls, I spotted a Ruddy Turnstone, and a Willet. Both were running back and forth at the water’s edge, busy getting breakfast.

ruddy turnstone on sand key beach Clearwater Florida
A Ruddy Turnstone on the beach.
willet on sand key beach at sunrise clearwater florida
A Willet in the waves.

But I also found something left behind by much bigger, and supposedly wiser, bipeds.

fireworks paraphernalia left behind on the beach clearwater florida
Fireworks paraphernalia left on the beach…

TNT Dark Revenge. Very close to a clearly marked Sea Turtle nest. Frustrating, and dark indeed. I’m just hoping the bangs didn’t disturb the 100+ eggs recently laid there by Mama Sea Turtle.

sea turtle nest on the beach clearwater florida
…next to a marked Sea Turtle nest.

Mother Nature is amazing, but her caretakers not always so. Luckily She is quite resilient. Constantly producing new life for us to enjoy. Like this blue-eyed juvenile Ibis and these fluffy Moorhen babies, both spotted over the weekend.

 juvenile ibis sand key park clearwater florida
A juvenile Ibis.
moorhen chicks and mom sand key park clearwater florida
Moorhen chicks listen attentively to their Mama.

Thanks for coming along. Have a great rest of the week.

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