Timeout. Fresh Deliveries. And Beauty in the Salt Marsh.

Lunch time. Papa Osprey is approaching the nest with a big fish. It wriggles in the air. Excitement skyrockets at the nest. Mama Sandy and the oldest chick lead the refrain singers. Fish, fish, fish!

osprey mom and chick await for fish transport Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Fish! Fish! Fish!

Shortly thereafter Papa Stanley lands with the fish. It’s still fighting for its freedom. The handover to Sandy is going to be tricky. If the fish falls onto the ground it’ll be uneatable. A teachable moment for the first born.

male osprey brings in a fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The fish is still struggling to get free…oldest chick looks on in amazement…

Sandy places her talons firmly on the fish. Stanley leaves immediately. Lunch delivery is complete.

male osprey leaves the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Stanley leaves after lunch drop-off…

Sandy moves the fish several times. And finally parks it right next to the smallest chick. Like she always does.

female osprey struggles with a fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
When are we gonna eat, Mama?

The smallest chick is going to be fed first. But the big brother (yes, I think the oldest is a boy) doesn’t like that at all. He jumps onto his little sister’s (yes, I think it’s probably a girl) back and ruffles it up.

oldest osprey chick attacks the youngest chick Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Oldest chick is angry and ruffles the smallest chick…

That doesn’t go down well with Mama Sandy. She calmly cleans up the fish, but doesn’t allow the badly behaving chick to touch it. Instead, the little sister gets the finest piece of fish fillet I’ve seen around here. All for herself.

smalles osprey chick gets the biggest bite Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The little sister get a big fillet of fish. And a  feather on her back is standing right up.

Then she feeds the middle chick (probably a boy, not quite sure yet). And takes a few bites herself. And finally, after about 40 minutes, the first born gets to eat whatever is left. Talk about teaching manners to your kids. And it looks like the timeout in “quiet corner” did the trick.

female osprey feeding the chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The middle chick gets fed next. Big brother still on timeout in the corner.

Today I managed to wake up early and went for a longish walk at around sunrise.

sunrise over the clearwater bay Florida
Pre-dawn on the bay side.

It was quiet and peaceful around the salt marsh. Only me and the birds.

sunrise in the salt mars Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sunrise at the salt marsh.

And there was lots of beauty to go around. I spotted many birds in the midst of getting their breakfast. Or just doing their morning meditation.

blue heron at sunrise Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Great Blue Heron doing his morning meditation…at the far end of the salt marsh.
a roseate spoonbill Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Roseate Spoonbill says good morning…
snowy egret hunting at sunrise Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A juvenile Snowy Egret getting breakfast…
tricolored heron hunting Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Tri-colored Heron hunting at sunrise…

I thought (so little I know) that the Osprey family had already eaten breakfast. They seemed relaxed, so maybe Sandy had gotten them an appetizer much earlier in the morning.

a female osprey with her chick Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy and the middle chick say good morning…

After saying hello to them I continued my walk. But suddenly sensed something was different. I looked back at the nest and saw Papa Stanley had arrived with a fish. Breakfast was in full swing in the Osprey household.

Osprey family breakfast Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley stays for a while after delivering breakfast…

And for once Stanley had decided he’d stay for a while with his family. He talked to his kids, scanned the environment and then left after a few minutes.

male osprey leaves after delivering breakfast Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley leaves for another fishing trip on the ocean…

He flew towards the ocean. Maybe finally getting his own breakfast. I took a short one minute video clip one morning while the chicks were eating, and added the Moorhen taking his bath this morning.  Be warned though, it’s truly clumsy as I’m definitely not a videographer. But I thought some of you might still enjoy seeing them “live”.  You’ll notice that the oldest chick is still last in the line. In the second take only his tail feathers are visible when the two others are fed by Sandy. But I have to say he took it with stride. Maybe he’s learned his lesson.

I also think we need to name the chicks soon. Looking forward to some creative suggestions! The winner(s) will receive a prize. Bumble suggested his book, and I agreed.

I walked home through the beach. It was still very quiet. And very cloudy, to Florida standards, of course.

BEACH AFTER SUNRISE EARLY MORNING Sand Key Clearwater Florida
Walking along the beach just after sunrise.

That’s all for this week from the salt marsh. I wish you all a wonderful weekend and Happy Memorial Day to friends in the US.  Be good now and travel safely.

Bird Sanctuary. A Hospital, Rehab Facility and Last Resort Home for Injured Birds.

One day last week I was driving south along the beach and decided to make a stop at a bird sanctuary. A Ranger at our park, who is also a bird rescuer, had told me about this bird hospital/rehabilitation center and “last resort” home for injured birds. She had recently taken a Barn Owl fledgling there from our park to be nursed back to health and rehabilitated until it could manage in the wild on its own.

Gulf beach at Indian Rocks, Florida

This sanctuary sits right on the beach in a beautiful setting with lots of tall trees and tropical plants.

a bird sanctuary

I was surprised to see many healthy birds also hanging around on the beach and in the gardens on the sanctuary grounds. I saw Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Black Skimmers, Great Blue Herons, Black-crowned Night Herons, Brown Pelicans, and Black Vultures. Maybe they had friends or family living in this home, or maybe they just felt safe there with other birds.

a black skimmer on the beach, Indian Rocks , FloridaBlue Heron on the beach a brown pelican Floridasnowy egret Floridaa black-crowned night heron Floridaan old american black vulture Florida

The sanctuary has a bird hospital, a building where the injured “patients” brought here for care and rehabilitation are housed. Most of those birds would heal, be rehabilitated and then released back to the wild.  And therefore should not get too accustomed to people – no visits allowed. The birds are brought here with many kinds of injuries, most common being injuries to the wings, legs, bill or eyes. Many caused by close contact with human operated machines, such as boat propellers. If their injuries are so bad that they will not be able to manage in the wild although otherwise healed, they have a home here for life. Like these White Pelicans.

an injured white pelican two injured white pelicans play with a stick two white pelicans play in the pool Many of them seemed to be quite happy and playful despite their permanent injuries. Some were playing with sticks, others were swimming, and yet others were incubating eggs.

brown pelican mom sits on the eggs

The babies born here will be released back into the wild when they are ready to leave their parents, and have been trained to manage independently.

But I have to tell you the story of two Blue Jays. They share a little apartment here, just the two of them. They have no external injuries. But they had been raised by humans as pets, and then just left on their own – to die. They are now adults, but have no idea how to live in the wild. One of them (below) would meow like a cat.  I’m not kidding.

blue jay raised by humans and abandoned

They have been trained, but it’s clear they will never be able to live in the wild. They don’t know how to get food. They have also left the sanctuary twice by themselves, but returned “home” both times. I don’t want to put in print what I think of people who take wild baby birds as pets, and then just abandon them.

The majority of the permanent residents are seabirds: pelicans, gulls and different kinds of herons and egrets, but there are also a few owls and hawks. This beautiful Great Horned Owl has a wing injury and is no longer able to fly.

an injured great-horned owl

I’m happy there’s a place where injured birds from a quite wide area are taken care of, and that most of them are actually rehabilitated back into life in the wild.

Thanks for coming along and have a great day.

Empty Fridge. Life Lessons. And Romantic News from the Salt Marsh.

Mama Osprey’s fridge has been empty many times this week. The chicks are growing fast and have an endless appetite. Like teenagers usually do. When the meal time is over, all that’s left for Mama Sandy can be some shreds of a fish tail.

fame osprey feeding her chicks Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
A shred of a fish tail remains for Sandy’s lunch.

I’m no longer wondering why female ospreys lose 15% of their body weight during the nesting season. Sandy is a good example of a mom who always puts her chicks first. Male ospreys lose about 10% of their weight too. I guess the fish heads are not that filling. When the chicks were smaller, Stanley either waited in the nest until everyone had eaten or came back for the remaining tail. More recently he’s stopped waiting, and he doesn’t bother to come back to check for any leftovers. He knows there won’t be any.

male osprey leaves the nest Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Stanley leaves after his drop-off.

It’s been very hot this week, more like July-August temperatures. Luckily all three chicks are now big enough to be able to cool themselves. Sandy is still often protecting them from the hottest afternoon sun with her wings half-spread out. And the chicks are fluffing themselves up to let the sea breeze cool their skin.

Female osprey and an osprey chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy and one of the chicks managing the heat last weekend.

The chicks are also learning the skill of watching for any dangers. The oldest one, in particular, often sits upright and helps Sandy to scan the skies. And s/he is also able to eat directly from the fish now, once the smaller siblings have been fed.

Female osprey with a chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy checks out Tiny and one of the chicks scans the sky.

I haven’t spotted Papa Stanley making a fish transport since last Sunday. But that’s not so strange because his visits to the nest now are all about dropping off the fish, which only takes a few seconds.  I’m sure he’s still there. In any case Mama Sandy has started to fetch food too. It’s common for osprey moms go back to work as soon as the kids are big enough to be left alone for a while. There’s a need to complement what dad brings in.

female osprey returns to her chicks Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy returns to the nest from one of her short outings. The oldest chick was in charge :)

This morning Sandy totally surprised me. And I think she surprised the chicks too.  I heard the youngest chick ask for fish. She stretched herself up, looked over to the shallow part of the marsh. And off she went. I was taking a picture of the chicks alone in the nest – and whoops, she was back! With a fish. It took maybe about 30 seconds for her to pick up the fish from the water. I have never seen her fishing right there. Needless to say I was impressed.  Here’s the sequence of Mama Sandy going to the neighborhood seven eleven.

female osprey with osprey chicks Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy stretches up and watches intently…
female osprey with chicks Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Then she just flies out … down into the marsh.
osprey chicks waiting for female osprey to return Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
The two oldest ones watch her, but the youngest one is just asking for fish.
female osprey is back with a fish Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy is back with a fish…
female osprey got a large fish Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
…and it’s a fairly big one.

Sandy started feeding them right away. Less than two hours later I checked on them from home with my binoculars and they were eating again. Stanley must have brought another fish right after they finished the first one :)

Otherwise everything is good around the salt marsh. The Red-winged Blackbird has made himself home and is busy singing his songs in one tree or another. I love to see him, but wouldn’t pay to download his songs.

redwinged blackbird 3 UD6
A Red-winged Blackbird sings to his heart’s delight.

The Nanday Parakeet couple still lives happily in their condo apartment. The balcony and the patio perch come to good use in the heat.

nanday parakeet in her nest Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
A Nanday Parakeet on her balcony (I’m guessing it’s the female)…
nanday parakeet Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
…and her hubby on their perch patio.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is still there, but no longer alone.  He’s gotten hitched! It was impossible to persuade both of them to sit together and pose for the camera. I had to merge two pictures to show you how they play.

Red-bellied Woodpecker couple Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
The Red-bellied Woodpecker couple close to their home.

And the Moorhen chicks continue to grow. I’ve spotted them on most of my walks this week exploring their surroundings with mom and dad.

A Moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
One of the Moorhen chicks came out of the grass to explore a bit further.

That’s all from the Salt Marsh News for this week. I hope you’re learning good life lessons too, and that your week is going great.

WPC Forces of Nature: The Many Faces of Storms (9 Images)

This weeks DP Photo Challenge is “Forces of Nature”. Living close to the ocean and the intracoastal waters, I’ve snapped a few pictures of storms over the last few years. I find it fascinating how the light changes with the atmospherics of the storms. Here are a few images I’ve selected for this challenge.

storm over the bay WPC
The skies darken before the storm, but light is always there behind the clouds…
bay storm skies WPC
…even when “storm dogs” run wild in the skies…
…a window of light suddenly opens in the wall of rain over the ocean…
storm approaching the beach WPC
… and light acquires a mysterious quality when a storm approaches from the ocean…
stormy ocean waves WPC
..at other times there’s plenty of light, but the ocean is so angry it’s difficult to stand upright…
...and sometimes it rain so hard you can't go out to shoot anything at all...
…and many times there’s practically no light …and you can’t go out to shoot anything at all…
rainbow WPC
Then a rainbow shows up in the sky after the storm…
...and the birds get a rainwater bath on the flooded beach.
…and the birds get a bath in a newly formed “lake” on the flooded beach. The storm is over.

You can find other responses to the challenge here. Have a wonderful week. May your skies be sunny and bright.

Sunrise Walk with Mother

Found a little bird at sunrise today

And I saw you, Mother, in a mythical way

So young, vibrant and full of life

Just few short months before you left

Us children, by cancer’s theft.

*

The little bird sang a beautiful song

And I heard your voice, no longer so strong

“My children, I love you”

That was your last Mother’s Day

The next morning took you away.

*

The little bird looked right at me

And I felt you, Mother, warm esprit

I told you we grew up missing you 

But made it through life, somehow

You are a great grandma now.

*

The little bird took in the morning’s calm

And I sensed you around, a soothing balm

My eyes welled up with gratitude

I picked a flower thinking of you

And the little bird flew its way too.

Happy mothers day

Epilogue:  I was working on the third verse of this poem when a small bird came to sit on the lounger just outside the glass doors to my office.  It was just like the bird I saw in the park at sunrise. It looked straight into the room. Then it flew to the glass door itself, hung onto the vertical glass surface with its little feet for a few seconds, and looked in again before it flew away. Quite magical.

Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers!

Parenting Preteens. Exercise Regimens. And More Babies in the Salt Marsh.

I want to start this weeks update by showing you the bigger picture of the salt marsh and the eastern (bay side) part of the park where all the adventures of the Osprey family and other feathered friends take place. So here you have the “theatre of operations” :)

The bigger picture of the
The bigger picture of the salt marsh ~ click to enlarge.

And while we are on the pictures I took last weekend, you can also see the nest from above. It’s getting somewhat crowded.

ospey nest from above Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Osprey family pictured from above.

The chicks are growing fast. They resemble their parents more and more. I have to say I admire the parenting skills of this couple. Sandy has protected the youngest chick and ensured s/he gets a fair share of the food. And she’s taught all three kids patience and great manners. There are no signs of the usual sibling rivalry, no fighting or picking on each other.

Female osprey feeds the smallest chick at sunrise in  Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy feeds the youngest chick at sunrise today. Papa Stanley must have made a pre-dawn fishing trip and is now taking a well deserved nap.

Stanley brings in fish after fish all day long and participates actively in the upbringing of their offspring. Like any modern dad. And both of them are highly skilled in protecting the nest, as you’ve seen.

male osprey brings a fish into the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Stanley brings in a fish, head already eaten as usual.

One day I witnessed a quiet discussion between the parents while the chicks were napping.  Or more like a monologue by Sandy. Stanley didn’t say much. He was in the listening mode. I didn’t understand all of it, but it ended up by Sandy asking him to go fetch afternoon snacks.

osprey couple in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy asks for afternoon snacks.

Stanley obliged. He flew towards the ocean at exactly 2 p.m. And came back 17 minutes later with a shiny fish. Is that a record or what! He flew over the nest to show it to Sandy before taking it to his man cave for initial cleanup.

Male osprey goes fishing and comes back with a fish in 17 minutes Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Stanley flies towards the ocean and returns 17 minutes later with a fish.

The first-born chick has already started “wingersizing”. That means s/he may fledge within 10-14 days. The middle chick will not be far behind, and the youngest probably a few days after that. I made a short gif image for you to see how it’s done (sorry for the camera movement, I don’t usually carry my tripod on these short walks).

First born osprey chick exercises his/her wings by Tiny lessonsblog
First born chick exercises his/her wings by Tiny (click to see the exercise, repeats only three times).

Sandy now also leaves the nest a bit more often, but only for a minute or two, to bring in some reinforcements to the nest. Note how flat the chicks are lying in the nest while she’s gone.

female osprey brings new reinforcements to the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy brings in additional railing materials.

Luckily there hasn’t been any drama to witness this week. But I have some good news. In addition to the ten ducklings, there are three tiny Moorhen chicks in the salt marsh! I spotted them on a swim with Mrs. Moorhen yesterday.

Moorhen with her chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mrs. Moorhen with her three chicks.
a Moorhen chick Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Help! Where are you mommy?

They are tiny black fluff balls with red markings and really big feet. One of these days I hope to spot them walking in the grass so you can see for yourself. I’ve also tried to see if I could find the ten ducklings again, but instead of them coming out, I spotted these two dragonflies enjoying the sunshine just above their nest.

dragonfly Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A purple dragonfly…
dragonfly Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and a blue one.

The other day I also saw something funny I think you might enjoy. A juvenile Great Egret was exercising with a Mottled Duck. One, two, three, four. Repeat. This routine attracted another duck onto the scene. Perhaps also wanting to participate.

Young Great egret exercising with a Mottled Duck by tinylessonsblog
Young Great Egret exercising with a Mottled Duck (click to see the exercise, repeats only three times).

That’s all for this week from the salt marsh. Remember to keep moving, exercise is good for us too :-D

Turtle Heaven. And Raptor Rescue in McGough Nature Park.

Yesterday a friend of mine (thanks Gladys!) introduced me to a Nature Park that I had no idea existed right along a route I drive several times a week. Practically right under my nose.

McGough Nature Park
McGough Nature Park

The McGough Nature Park is also known as a “turtle park” because it houses 150-200 turtles of various sub-species at any given time. When we arrived, some of them were enjoying the sunshine at the pond.

A few of the turtles enjoying the sun on land.
A few of the turtles enjoying the sun on land.

This park also provides a home for rescued raptors, who cannot manage on their own in the wild due to injuries they have sustained. We saw five birds there at the moment, if I remember correctly.

Two Barred Owls.

One of these owls had an eye injury, and the other had a debilitating wing injury. They were not able to fly, but had gotten a home here in the park’s Nature Center.

A Red-shouldered Hawk.

This Red-shouldered Hawk had injured her right wing so badly that part of it had to be surgically removed.

After saying hello to the rescued raptors in the Nature Center, we walked the beautiful trail through the pine, oak, palm and mangrove forest. Please come along.

trees in McGough Nature Parklean on me McGough Nature ParkBoardwalk in McGough Nature Parkmagroves at McGough Nature ParkOak trees in McGough Nature Parkwild flower in McGough Nature Parktrees 2 in McGough Nature Park

I hope you enjoyed the short walk in this park, and the gorgeous spring weather :)

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