News from the Salt Marsh. Good. News. Only.

My friend and a great bird photographer, H.J. at Avian 101, and his lovely family came for a short visit earlier this week. H.J. and I walked around the salt marsh talking and snapping pictures. Despite the very dry conditions that had lasted for several weeks, we spotted a few familiar faces. The Mayor was honoring H.J’s visit with his presence for the first time in a month!

Great blue heron Mayor ud71And Mama Osprey flew over the marsh a couple of times. She looked at us, but didn’t stop at the nest.

Mama osprey flies by UD72And Miss Rosa was demonstrating her now famous beauty routine to her friends, the White Ibis.

roeate spoonbill and white ibis ud72.jpgWe also found a few Snowy Egrets playing at a little mud pool amidst tall grass.

snowy egret ud72They had a little friend with them too, a Tri-colored Heron. But it was obvious there were some sandbox issues as he was playing more by himself.

Tricolored heron ud71 (2)

It was difficult to get any picture of him…that is, until he peeked out from the grass, his long neck completely stretched out. Peek-a-boo!

Clouds started to gather and we heard distant rumble when we left the salt marsh to have lunch. As soon as we sat down in the Cuban/Spanish restaurant on the bay side, the heavens opened and we had a torrential downpour with all the trimmings. We enjoyed a nice lunch while nature got a much needed soaking.

It was great to see this lovely family again. Thanks H.J., Lucy and Tyler for stopping by here and for a wonderful lunch! And thank you for bringing the much needed rains:)

I trust H.J.  got some great captures of the Major, Miss Rosa and some of the other residents despite the quiet mood at the time.

columbia restaurant ud72After much more rain overnight, I walked by the marsh the next morning with Dylan and snapped an iPhone picture. What a difference! The water level was up 5-6 inches and  many birds (the white dots are Great and Snowy Egrets) were enjoying the newly acquired freshness.

salt marsh w iphone ud72Around lunch time I went for a walk again. The marsh was still brimming with birds, but many of them had now sought shelter from the sun in the trees and bushes. It was very difficult to get pictures of them, demonstrated by the Little Blue Heron here. She had now turned almost blue from her very white juvenile appearance just a few weeks ago.

Little Blue Heron UD72She had lots of company in the trees close by. Several Night Herons were sleeping nearby, like this juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron.

Juvenile Black-cowned Night HeronI had to almost crawl on the slippery grass to get a glimpse of Miss Rosa between the branches.

Miss Rosa ud72Snowy Egrets were flying back and forth, competing for the best view over the water.

Egret landing ud72

two snowy egrets ud72And the loser was not always happy having to leave the best spot. But who would be?

snowy egret not happy ud72Mama Sandy was back at the nest directing the traffic at and over the marsh. It’s obvious from the disarray of the feathers on her back that she’s still molting. Papa Stanley has not been around lately, I am assuming he took a solo vacation after Lady Cawcaw left the nest. Or a long fishing trip with his pal Steve.

mama osprey at the nest ud72.jpgAfter a while, Miss Rosa got enough of the crowded trees, or maybe she got hungry. She flew down and started looking for food.

Miss Rosa flies away ud72

Miss Rosa roseate spoonbill ud72I left the salt marsh happy for the birds, who now have lots of food in the previously dry mud flats. In the midst of all the distressing news, it is a privilege to be able to lift up one’s spirit in nature. We cannot allow ourselves to get stuck in the darkness.

snowy egret 2 UD72Last, I have some other good news as well. My net shop, Nature Bound Art, is now open at Fine Art America. Unique and hopefully inspiring gifts based on my photos and digital art are now available in many parts of the world. Please check it out.

I hope you will lift your spirits in nature too. Peace.

 

Summer Menu. Or What’s Cooking?

I’m a fairly good cook. Not entirely self-proclaimed. Being a decent cook certainly has its plusses. Friends will happily accept dinner invitations, and nobody orders delivery just before meal time. But it also has its minuses. You see, I love eating out. Hubby might say It’s your birthday, let’s go out. Or maybe it’s Mother’s Day. Or a special meetup with out-of-town friends. That’s about it.

So what does a girl do? She develops an array of effective strategies to get out anyway. This week, for example, I have two lunch appointments in reputable restaurants. Cheers to that.

Happy hour 3 ud71To tell you the truth, deep inside I love cooking. But I’m not into following recipes. I find it boring. Following a recipe leaves no room for creativity. It also requires all kinds of measuring devices and detailed mathematical conversion skills. And I’m a big picture person. So that’s not for me. But don’t get me wrong, I love reading recipes from all over the world. They give me ideas.

flounder fillets ud71Anyway, last night I invented a new dish, suitably light for hot summer evenings. Filet de Flet à crabe. Or flounder fillets topped with a crab meat concoction (a heap of crab meat, one egg, olive oil mayonnaise, a few drops of Worcestershire sauce, lemon juice, mozzarella cheese, breadcrumbs, one poblano pepper, one shallot, black pepper and salt). To be served with spicy baked zucchini, tomatoes and if preferred, some cheese-lemon sauce on the side. After 35 minutes in 400F/200C oven – bon appetite.

filet de flet UD71Everyone will survive and accolades will follow. I know.

Tonight it might be pizza. I like the artistic freedom to throw tasty toppings on a super thin crust. After so many years in Africa, my favorite is the Kilimanjaro. BBQ-alfredo-mustard sauce and extra cheese to remind us of the yellow grass on the surrounding savannah, then small heaps of thinly sliced beef fillet for mini-mountains, topped with snow of feta cheese. A few chopped green bell peppers for bushes and some pineapple chunks for lions lurking around. And mushrooms for other animals. So yummy it requires a long after-dinner walk on the savannah….or at the salt marsh.

So that’s what’s cooking at my place.

island in the bay ud71Figuratively speaking, more things are cooking in the summer heat. Like a meetup with a bird photographer/blogging friend and his family early this week, family visits, photo hikes and overseas travel to cooler latitudes. And also on the summer menu: just relaxing. Recharging mind, body and soul.

What’s cooking at your place? Literally or figuratively.

Free Like an Eagle. A Hike in the Urban Wilderness.

This is Sarge, a five year old female American Bald Eagle. But unlike in the song, or how I pictured her here, she’s not free. Quite the opposite. Sarge can’t fly, and now lives at the Narrows Environmental Education Center in McGough Nature Park. But let me start from beginning.

mcCough nature parl trail ud70This long weekend I suddenly found myself without plans. Our smallest granddaughter woke up with a viral infection and sky-high fever when her family was supposed to drive this way on Saturday.

So yesterday I decided to hike in McGough Nature Park, a jungle-like small park bordering to intracoastal waters south of us. Huge oak trees mix with tall pines, palms and mangroves providing a peaceful spot of wilderness in the middle of the hubbub of this crowded beach weekend.

jungle 2 ud70This park is a safe haven for hundreds of turtles, so I started my hike at the turtle pond. Some turtles were enjoying the sun on the ‘resort deck’ in the middle of the pond.

turtle resort ud70While others preferred to lounge solo on the land or in the water. I thought many of them had beautiful colors. And observing their slow pace of life was calming to the soul. They had no hurry to do anything or to go anywhere. A lesson on “just being”.

turrtle 3 ud70

turtle closeup ud70In the open areas of the park, lots of wild flowers were blooming.

wild flower 2 mcGough ud70

wild flower at McGough ud70But around the forested trails sunlight reached the ground only at a few spots.

McCough trail ud70I could hear an Osprey calling and many birds singing, but it was impossible to spot them high up in the dense forest. I walked towards the intracoastal hoping to find some birds.

nest UD70I walked along the long pier over the water and spotted a pelican just taking off. But all wading birds were hiding from the heat in the dense mangrove forest.

pelican on the intracoastal ud70I stood there in the welcome breeze for a while and observed the busy boat traffic, a sign of families having fun on the water this long weekend.

boat traffic on the intracoastal 2 ud70It had become cloudy and I hurried back through the park to visit the raptors who had their permanent home at the Education Center.

pier McGough nature park ud70Sarge is a newcomer to the park. She was found weak, dehydrated and malnourished in Tennessee a couple of years ago.

sarge ud70After a long rehabilitation at the World Bird Sanctuary near St. Louis, she was deemed non-releasable. She has an irreversible and rare feather disorder. Her feathers are brittle and can break easily. Her molting, unlike for other birds, happens all on one side. That makes balanced flight impossible. Thus she cannot take care of herself in the wild.

Sarge is a beautiful, big bird of about 11 pounds. She came here only in May and is still getting used to her new home. But now she is safe and well cared for, and gets to go on outings in the park once she’s familiarized herself with the new environment.

I found her fascinating. She looked at me, the only visor at the time, and we talked for a while.

american eagle ud70Next to her, some Great-horned Owls had their little home. I thought one of them looked at me a bit suspiciously from the corner of his eye.

great-jorned owl ud70And then there were several hawks, all with different injuries that made life in the wild not an option for them. I thought this Red-shouldered Hawk girl was most beautiful.red-shouldered hawk ud70I stayed with these wonderful raptors until a few fat rain drops started falling and I had to head back home. It was a great hike. I hope you enjoyed it too.

fireworks ud70Happy Independence Day to all friends in the US!

Adieu Lady Cawcaw. Hello Summer.

Lady Cawcaw left last Monday. Just like every Osprey chick born at the salt marsh in the past three years, she left exactly one month after fledging. And I haven’t spotted her since. This is the last picture I got of her. She had a full crop and had taken a bath. This beautiful bird was ready to take on the big world outside the salt marsh. I wish her the best! And hope to see her again.

last picture of osprey chick lady cawcaw ud69It looked like the birds were saying their goodbyes to her. The Yellow-crowned Night Heron peered towards the nest.

yellow-crowned night heron ud69The Green Heron was in deep thought. Maybe pondering how fast the time flies. And how fast the kids grow up.

green heron ud69Miss Rosa was on her favorite ‘island’ close to the Osprey nest. She took her customary beauty nap and then walked around looking for food.

roseate spoonbill ud69Life goes on and we all have to eat. That was true also for the Black Skimmer, who was flying around lightning fast and skimming the waters.

Black skimmer ud69The salt marsh feels somehow quieter now in the absence of Lady Cawcaw’s performances. The birds go on with their daily chores, but the action has been more low-key. Maybe they miss her. Or maybe it’s the midsummer heat.

Mama Sandy has been hanging around the nest for a few hours almost every day since Lady Cawcaw left. On Friday I found her eating a big fish.

mama osprey at the nest ud69And Papa Stanley has been around too. They have not gone on vacation this year, like they did last year and the year before. May it be that Lady Cawcaw has stayed somewhere nearby and they are keeping an eye on her?

papa osprey ud69This morning I took another quick walk to see who was at home. The first bird I saw was the Loggerhead Shrike (or butcherbird),  who hasn’t been around for a while. He was scanning for prey.

loggerhead shrike ud69And a Red-winged Blackbird was singing his heart out close to the Osprey nest.

female red-winged blackbird ud69Sandy was babysitting the nest. It’s unusual she does that directly after the nesting season, but she must have her reasons.

mama osprey at the nest ud69She was keeping an eye on the skies as well as on the young Blue Heron who was very close to the nest. He earned a few warning calls. Again.

young great blue heron ud69The Moorhens were out in big numbers. One was doing her beauty routine at a small pond.

moorhen 3 ud69.jpgThe Egrets were well represented too, both big and small.

snowy egret 2 ud69And so were the White Ibis. They had invaded the popular ‘resort island’, and had it all for themselves.

white Ibis ud69But Miss Rosa was represented only by this hot pink marker. Probably left there last night after her evening bath. A feather that was not up to her high standards.

miss rosas feather ud69This is all from the ‘Salt Marsh News’ for tonight. I have a feeling these news will be broadcasted at a more random schedule over the summer. This reporter will take her summer vacation, which involves various travels. She will still post and read. But it will be more like ‘whenever’ until after mid August.

summer beach ud69From all of us to all of you: Thank you for being here, have a wonderful week! Enjoy summer!

 

Curves: Man vs. Nature

Man has created beautiful architectural curves. One prime example is the Dali Museum building in St. Petersburg. It is a curved masterpiece of glass and cement. The large free-form geodesic glass bubble known as the ‘enigma’ is made up of 1,062 triangular pieces of glass.

ud68

dali museum building ud68To add to the curves, the museum garden also boasts a statue of Dali’s curved mustache.

dalis mustache ud68As you can imagine, there are many beautiful curves inside the building as well, but the only example I have been allowed to photograph is this impressive ‘fire horse’. It stands tall right in the entrance lobby, showcasing its many lit curves.

the fire horse at dali museum by tiny ud68But how do the man-made curves compare with the curves created by nature? Like this giraffe on the savannah with its soft curves.

giraffes curves ud68Or this Great Egret with its long, curved neck.

great egret curved neck ud68And how does any manmade curve, however masterfully created, compare with the perfect curve of the rainbow that hangs there, freely suspended in the air over the bay. Just like that.

rainbow over clearwater bay ud68  panoramaAnd not to talk about the celestial ‘buildings’. The sun just about the dive into the ocean. Flawless, well-lit curves.

the curve of the sun at sunset ud68Or the moon laying on its belly in the evening sky. An impeccable curve, even when captured by a mere human on the ground.

The curve of the moon ud68I appreciate all beautiful curves, but I’m sure you can see what inspires me more…what about you?

Persuation Time. And Miss Rosa Steals the Show.

Lady Cawcaw is still around. During this busy week I have spotted her eating in the nest at least once every day. I have been hoping she had caught the fish by herself, but now I’m leaning towards it having been supplied by one of her parents. And on Friday I witnessed something rare when observing the nest from my terrace. Mama Sandy was eating her fish in the nest, while Lady Cawcaw was crying to get a piece. Or maybe she was hoping for Papa Stanley to come to her rescue. I thought I could hear “where’s my fish, daddy?” quite clearly.

mama osprey eats in the nest with chick ud67It’s hard to listen to your baby cry, I know. But Sandy may have taken this drastic measure in an attempt to persuade the little lady to come on fishing trips with her or Stanley. And I think it might finally be working.

While Lady Cawcaw seems to have found a better night perch and has not been spending the nights at the nest anymore, she was there when I arrived at the salt marsh yesterday morning.

osprey chick looks at parents ud67She was looking up and I saw Mama Sandy was flying above the marsh.

mama osprey ud67Although her crop didn’t look empty, she immediately started to ask for fish.

osprey chick sees parents ud67No fish was forthcoming, and after a few minutes she flew away. Supposedly to go fishing, but there is also the probability she went to check on her parents’ whereabouts.  I decided to walk around the marsh.  It was lively. Lots of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets around.

great egret ud67

snowy egret at sunrise ud57And Miss Rosa was there too! She was in the middle of her elaborate beauty routine. I took a 30 second instructional clip so you can learn how it’s done.

Another one of my favorite birds was there too, the Reddish Egret. He was also doing his morning routine. But as soon as he saw me, he made sure I noticed what he was up to: fishing.

reddish egret 2 ud67

reddish egret 3 ud67

reddish egret fishing ud67He was fun to watch. He always is. And he knows it.

The Tri-colored Heron didn’t make a big number of his hunting. Actually he was just admiring the view for quite a while.

tri-colored heron ud67A big junk of my walk was taken up by chasing the Black Skimmer around the marsh. That was fun. He was skimming the surface of the small ponds. As soon as I got him in focus, he was in another pond. Two thousand steps later, this the best picture I got.

black skimmer ud67I was marveling about the big feet and the colorful red-green “boots”of the little Moorhen …

papa moorhen ud67…when suddenly a familiar face shot up from the bushes. The young Great Blue Heron looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

young great blue heron ud67.jpgHe decided it was better to move to the other side of the deep water, away from the paparazzo.

young great blue heron flies away ud67

younger great blue heron flies away ud67He landed right below the Osprey nest, where some Red-winged Blackbirds were looking for food scraps.

red-winged blackbirds ud67Their enjoyment of the Osprey B & B was cut short by the return of Lady Cawcaw. As you can see, she has now mastered the same landing technique as her parents, coming from below and against the breeze.

osprey chick returns ud67 b

osprey chick returns 2 ud67 bHowever, she had not yet mastered how to catch a fish. But now she’d been trying. She shook off the excess water at the nest. Bravo!

wet osprey chick ud67I could see Papa Stanley perching high up at the fire station next to the salt marsh. He was wet too. I figured he might have been giving diving lessons to his teen. He might have told her something like this: hover over the water to spot the fish you like, size it carefully so it’s not too big for you, then dive in feet first and your talons stretched out, but don’t dive more than about 3 feet deep! That should do it…shortly.

papa osprey at fire station ud67While I was walking home on the bay side, Stanley passed me, in the air of course. He settled on his favorite spot at the corner of Marriott’s roof and immediately started to scan for fish in the bay. He is a great dad. I wished him Happy Farther’s Day.

papa osprey at Marriott's roof ud67Late in the afternoon, I saw that Lady Cawcaw was eating in the nest. I hoped it was a self-caught dinner.

Thank you for coming along. We all wish you a great week.

A Day by the Sea

Waking up this morning, I smile. 24 brand new hours are before me. – Thich Nhat Hanh

the bay before sunrise UD15The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. – Rumi

sunrise at the beach UD1God gives every bird his worm, but He does not throw it into the nest. –  P. D. James

Willet shore birdWhat will our children do in the morning if they don’t see us fly? – Rumi

sandwich tern flying in the surf in ud67I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes. – Charles Lindbergh

pelican taking off 3 ud25Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it. – Khaled Hosseini

our camp on dolphin island ud67.jpgMay your journey through life be vibrant and full of colorful rainbows. -Harley King

rainbow beach ud67bClouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” – Rabindranath Tagore

sunset ship ud67For most people, we often marvel at the beauty of a sunrise or the magnificence of a full moon, but it is impossible to fathom the magnitude of the universe that surrounds us.       – Richard H. Baker

full moon clearwater floridaThe pure bliss nature will plant in your soul is worth a day spent by the sea. – Tiny

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