Salt Marsh Gang and the Beach Boys. Live.

This week’s been a busy one. I don’t have the time to write a “proper” update on our friends at the Salt Marsh, so I thought these guys could tell you the latest themselves. They say sorry in advance for the wobbly hand filming them during the last few weeks. Have a great weekend everybody!

Some of the bird song is courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Why I Should Never Get Up before Dawn.

The other day I was startled awake by a dream. I had won exactly $43.2 million on some lottery or another. l soon realized it was just a dream, and that it was still dark outside. The green digits on the alarm clock told me it was 5:50 a.m. great-horned owl ud26Husband was already up, of course, and I could sense a whiff of espresso coming from the kitchen. But he’s an early bird of some sort, and I’m a night owl. As real as they come.

You see, after four years of getting up at exactly 4:15 a.m. to take my regular 7 a.m. flight to Washington D.C. and often beyond, I was done with early mornings. This night owl returned to her natural sleeping patterns as soon as she became her own boss. And her own scheduler. At least seven hours of sleep from early hours of the day until after sunrise. A recipe for a perfect day.

So there I was, my eyes open. Bumble was sleeping sideways in the middle of the bed, snoring. I wanted to go back to sleep, but after just losing over $43 million in a blink, I couldn’t.

Bumble sleeping 2 UD26

I was fully awake. And the smell of coffee soon lured me into the kitchen. Husband looked up from his laptop like he was seeing a ghost, but only said “you’re early”. Quietly. He knows it’s not advisable to start any kind of intellectual exchange with me at that hour.

coffee machines 2 ud26

I could never imagine operating the espresso machine first thing in the morning, so I turned to my faithful Keurig. It knows what I want. And despite having to wake up at this unusual hour, it managed to make me a mug of decent coffee. I walked to my office to enjoy the life affirming brew. And to read some blog posts. Wisely, I didn’t comment on any of them. But I’m sure some early risers among blogging friends lifted an eye brow seeing a “like” from me at that hour.

Soon my world started to turn red. The first rays were coloring the sky above the bay. It was beautiful. A reward for getting up early, I thought.

sunrise over the bay 2 ud26Looking out, I got a brilliant idea. I would surprise Mama Osprey by appearing at sunrise on the bay side where she usually starts her day. So out I went. And met the young Great Blue Heron right at our pool. He’s not shy, as many of you know. He walked around the pool and calmly posed for the camera. I chuckled and shot away. Even considered forgiving him the attacks on the osprey nest last spring. But the light was so dim that of all the photos I took, only this one was salvageable. Later it was obvious to me that the camera has far more settings than the espresso machine. I should remember that for the future.

young blue heron at the pool ud26

Then I walked across the street onto the bay side without an incident. And spotted a huge flock of young Brown Pelicans, I’m guessing forty to fifty, silhouetted against the sun just peeking over the horizon. There was a chaotic flying, diving and eating frenzy all over the bay. I had never seen anything like that and happily shot away. About 160  frames capturing their non-stop action. Against the sun most of the time. It couldn’t be that bad, could it? You guessed it. Yes it could. And it was. Of all the fast action by these wildly entertaining pelicans, only two lame pictures were almost worthy of posting. Most shots were just showing a blur of pelicans on the top of each other, dark silhouettes, or pink water splashing around. But I didn’t know it at the time, of course. I almost never look at my pictures until at home.

pelican diving ud26 pelican at sunrise 2 ud26

So strengthened by having captured such lively action, I walked towards the sailing center. The sun was now looking over the bay from a somewhat higher position.

sunrise on the bay ud26

I heard osprey speak. Looking around I continued walking. And right then my foot found a large hole in the grassy patch I was crossing. A perfect trap. Everything flew around in the air. But only my knees hit the ground.  My equipment wasn’t broken and my ankle wasn’t badly sprained. Redeeming piece of luck right there. Getting up, I spotted Papa Stanley sitting high up on Marriott’s lower roof behind me. He wasn’t scanning for fish. Instead he had turned to look down on me. Sympathetically.

papa osprey at sunrise ud26

And soon I discovered Mama Sandy too. She was sitting on a wind measurement device at the sailing center. And had also turned around to look at me. I thought they’d both seen my fall and wanted to offer some consolation to this poor night owl with no wings. Or maybe they knew I needed some compassion after looking at my 220 frames from that morning? They didn’t tell.

mama osprey at sunrise ud26

After finding both of them, I decided I’d tried my luck enough for one day, and returned home for a second cup of coffee. Inspecting the results of my worst photo shoot ever, I came to the conclusion that I should never get up before dawn. And try to act normal.

Whether you are an early bird or a night owl, I hope you got up on the right foot.

Vroom, Bang and Upside Down. Under the Rainbow at the Salt Marsh.

It was that time of the year again. Super boat championship races on the Gulf. Practice runs on Friday and Saturday and the races on Sunday. Tens of thousands of spectators, parties everywhere, and fireworks on Saturday night. Engine roar and fireworks bangs just a stone throw from the salt marsh, and my terrace.

I guess the permanent residents at the salt marsh are by now used to the volume and the colorful night time lights generated by this annual three day event. Mama Sandy certainly took it all in stride. She was focusing on her fascinating gardening project. There’s even more green in the nest now than three weeks ago when she started planting. It is, indeed, an impressive looking garden.

mama osprey's garden ud25 b

mama osprey proud gardener ud25 b

I’m thinking she might want to create the look and feel of Papa Stanley’s resort. It’s certainly starting to look like that. I have no idea how she does it. But she looks proud of her achievement, don’t you think?

Despite all the hubbub, the marsh has been lively with birds. Lots of white sprinkled with pink, blue and brown.

salt marsh birds ud25 b

The water levels are up again after recent rains that have also given us multiple beautiful rainbows over the bay in the last few days.

rainbow over clearwater bay ud25 b panorama double rainbow ud25 bRosa, the Roseate Spoonbill, and her friends ibis, egrets and herons have enjoyed foraging in the previously dry spots.

roseate spoonbill B ud25 byoungr Great Blue Heron ud25 bblackcrowned night heron juvenile ud25 b

This juvenile Pied-billed Grebe is a newcomer at the salt marsh. I’ve not seen any other family members so I’m thinking this little one must have migrated on its own from up north.

juvenile pied-billed Grebe ud25 b

This past week, I also spotted the Red-bellied Woodpecker again. He has returned from his summer adventures. He was hanging upside down and his red head was moving fast in search of breakfast.  Every now and then he’d interrupt his work to scan for any dangers.

redbellied woodpecker ud25 bHis sweetheart was with him too. She was too shy for a photo shoot, but he posed gladly for a second one.

redbellied woodpecker 2 ud25 bI wondered what they might have thought discovering their old home, the “condo building”, was gone.

Close to the woodpeckers, I spotted a Loggerhead Shrike and a Northern Mockingbird. Both are permanent residents in the forests next to the marsh.

loggerhead shrike ud25 bnorthern mockingbird 3 ud25 b

I had not seen Papa Stanley for days so I decided to walk to his resort, hoping he would be at home. I was lucky. He had just returned after taking a bath.  He shook his wings to get rid of the water, and then spread them out to dry. I was happy to note he seemed to be in great shape.

papa osprey lands at his resort ud25 b

So everybody in the extended salt marsh family is accounted for, and we all wish you a great and safe weekend.

The Lunar Eclipse That Wasn’t. An Adventure into Imagination.

Okay. Last night I was really disappointed. After a fun day spent with friends, I wanted to put the “cherry on the top” by getting a few nice shots of the supermoon that coincided with a rare lunar eclipse. Next time it will occur is 2033, so this would be it, I thought. That was my plan. But as the day progressed the skies got cloudier, and at dinner time it was pouring down. Followed by a thick cloud cover. I went out just before 9 p.m. and could spot the moon every now and then behind passing clouds. I took a few practice shots, like this one, and went back inside.

supermoon 2 sept 27 in cloudsNow equipped with the evidence that the supermoon really was there, I was hoping for some miraculous clearing of the skies. An hour later I went outside again with my equipment. Now I couldn’t even see where the moon was! The cloud cover had gotten much whiter and thicker on the eastern side of the sky. While the western sky, over the ocean, sported clear skies and stars. My eyes were nailed into the skies, and for one spit second I spotted a partial eclipse around 10:40 p.m. I had to accept I couldn’t move the moon westward, and my hope faded as the clock ticked away. Disappointed I returned back inside after 11 p.m. Not one picture. Nil.

So I looked at my pictures of the supermoon that occurred last fall. They were quite nice, but without the rare eclipse.

supermoon last fall 2 oct 9 2014

I decided to swallow my disappointment, and started playing with the partial shots I got earlier in the evening. And created some digital art using many different filters. So here are my pictures of last night’s supermoon. Colorful, and quite rare, eh?

supermoon digital art 1supermoon eclipse in cloudssupermoon art 4

I even recreated the partial lunar eclipse that my artistic eye saw for a split second or so.

supermoon eclipse 2 in clouds

It was fun and soon I forgot my disappointment in the weather gods. May they give us enjoyable weather until the next occurrence in 2033. I hope to post some good pictures then. Hehe. Stay tuned.

I’m sure many photographers will be posting great pictures from last nights heavenly show, like my friend Amy did. I wish you all a super week!

Breakfast on the go. Morning Meditations. And Gardening at the Salt Marsh.

She is a very good gardener, Mama Sandy. She “planted” some greens in the nest about 10 days ago, and they are still green, in fact in great condition as of this morning. And standing tall despite some breezy days in between.

female osprey babysitting the decorated nest.I’d like to know her secret, but she’s tight-lipped, as always. She and Papa Stanley are still molting, but start to look more put together day by day. They both even posed for a portrait photo last weekend.

female osprey sand key park clearwater floridamale osprey sand key park clearwater floridaSandy in the nest and Stanley close by at his resort. But he didn’t look as representable this morning when I caught him coming fresh from the bay with his carry out.

male osprey caught a fish sand key park clearwater floridaI took a swing to the bay side and saw a beautiful Great Egret in the middle of his morning meditation, and several Brown Pelicans flying back and forth in search of breakfast. They seemed to be quite successful.

great egret at clearwater bay floridabrown pelican takes off clearwater floridapelican eating a fish clearwater bay floridaWalking back to the salt marsh, I spotted a Northern Mockingbird. I love their brilliant medley performances, and have smiled many times  at their Osprey imitations. But she didn’t sing for me today. She had something else on her mind.

northern mockingbird sand key park clearwater floridaI stopped to have a gulp of water and saw this little fellow in a tree right behind me. He looked at me suspiciously when I raised my camera, and then ran away.

squirrel sand key park clearwater floridaThe migrating birds have not yet arrived in any big numbers, but the salt marsh was spotted with white birds, lots of Snowy Egrets and White Ibis.

ibis and snowy egret hunting sand key park clearwater floridaI also saw a new juvenile Night Heron busy grooming herself, and an Anhinga stretching out on a branch.

juvenile night heron sand key park clearwater floridaanhinga sand key park clearwater floridaFor those of you, who’ll wonder about the Mayor, I can tell he was there too. But it seemed he was taking an after-breakfast-nap in the high grass, so I didn’t get a picture of him this time. I walked home through the beach and the trail was surrounded by wild flowers, brilliant colors from yellow to purple to pink.

beach wild flowers ud 24wild flowers 2 on the beach ud25The beach was lively, as usual, but I’ll just leave you with a couple more pictures. A Sandwich Tern, who shows us how best to get breakfast on the go. Just dip your bill into the water in mid-flight and you’re good to go.

gull eating on the fly sand key clearwater floridaAnd a Oystercather who was half asleep and let me walk fairly close to take his portrait.

oystercatcher sand key clearwater floridaWith that, I’ll wish you all a wonderful upcoming weekend. Cheers from all friends at the salt marsh ~

Behind the Grid. In the Bird Sanctuary.

In the bird sanctuary many of the injured or otherwise handicapped birds live in enclosures. Behind the grid. Like these two Blue Jays, siblings brought up by humans since they were nestlings. And then abandoned. They don’t know they are birds, and cannot manage in the wild despite best rehabilitation efforts. They always return to their little row house in the sanctuary. It’s home.

two blue jays scbsThe Seabird Sanctuary here on Florida’s west coast is the largest non-profit wild bird hospital/sanctuary in the US.  On average, 15-20 injured birds are brought into their medical facility on a daily basis, and up to 5,000 are admitted annually. Unfortunately about 90% of their injuries are related to human activity.

snowy egrets SCBS

Luckily most of these birds (over 80%) only stay here for a little while. First in the hospital and then, if required, in observation and rehabilitation. Once healed, they are released back into the wild, usually in the same area where they were found. All baby birds born in the facility are also released into the wild as soon as they have gained independence.

young great blue heron SCBSBut quite a number of birds have injuries that make it impossible for them to live in the wild. They’ve lost parts of their wings and can no longer fly, they are blind or partly blind, or have injuries to their bill so they can no longer fetch food. Birds with a permanent handicap are offered a forever home here, or in another reputable facility.  Like these pelicans who enjoy splashing in the many small swimming pools. Or just floating around on a lazy afternoon.

pelican bath SCBS GThe oldest permanent resident is a Red-shouldered Hawk. She is blind in one eye, and almost blind in the other. She is over 20 years old, and has called this sanctuary home for quite a while. She lives in her little studio apartment, but is also able to enjoy the park and the beach thanks to a volunteer, who comes and takes her for regular outings.

Red-shouldered hawk scbsred-shouldered hawk on outing scbsThe day of my latest visit her human friend had just arrived. She turned around towards the back door in anticipation of her walk. barred owl SCBS G2And it was a great outing. The weather was fabulous, and I could see how much this old hawk enjoyed it.

Among the residents there are also two owls. They have wing and eye injuries, but are well taken care of here.The Barred Owl insisted on sitting in the attic so I only got a shaky portrait of him. But the Great-horned Owl was very curious about me (or the camera?) and posed nicely for a picture.

great-horned owl 2 SCBSThere are many other residents, like this Cormorant, who all have large and remarkably clean enclosures.

cormorant at scbsIn the surrounding park, I found other birds, old and young, who call the sanctuary home. Like this old Black-crowned Night Heron who was waiting for lunch time right in front of the hospital building when I arrived. And this buffed up youngster on the roof of the education center.

old black-crowned night heron at scbsjuvenile blackcrowned night heron An old American Vulture also hangs around in the park. He might be a former patient, who just feels comfortable staying close by.

american black vulture at SCBS I have made it a habit to visit this sanctuary every now and then. Just to offer little support as I don’t have the time to volunteer. They depend solely on donations, and you can imagine the amount of food that is needed here on a daily basis. And medicine, medical supplies, materials for the “homes” and equipment to keep the place clean and comfortable. Wonderful work by staff, volunteers and caring donors.

I wish you all a great week ahead.

This post is also my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge “Grid”. You can find other responses here.


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