Covert Operations to Distract the Paparazzi

Early this week, I finally had an opportunity to check everything out at the salt marsh. In broad daylight. But that didn’t spare me from bumping into some covert operations. By the osprey couple. The main target of my surveillance.

mama osprey on her break ud113When I arrived at the marsh I found Mama Sandy on one of her regular breaks from incubating. Papa Stanley was sitting on the eggs.

Papa Osprey sits on the eggs ud113

mama osprey 3 ud113She was looking well and happy to air her brooding patches for a while. It’s been over five weeks now, which means she has endless patience and that addition to the family is imminent.

mama osprey returns to the nest ud113She flew back to the nest and immediately sat on the eggs. The shift change was seamless. Thirty seconds tops. Stanley flew away and I saw him dive down into the marsh waters behind some trees and bushes, pick up a fish and fly away to eat it. They almost never fish at the marsh, so I believe this was a surprise maneuver to distract the paparazzi.

papa osprey leaves the nest ud113And he succeeded. No pictures. You just have to take my word for it. As everything was quiet at the nest, I continued my inspection round. The first friend I spotted was the Mayor.

mayor ud113As always, he was keenly surveying the marsh. I’m almost sure he has a nest close by. I have seen him fly with nesting materials only to land in the middle of the marsh. And I’ve caught him  returning there at night. But he keeps his family secrets close to his chest.

And so does the Tri-Colored Heron family. I have figured out that the male likes to hide in the trees below the Osprey nest, while the female practices her yoga whenever she has a break. I spotted the male first.

tri-colored heron ud112A half an hour later, Mrs. was out and about stretching her wings and airing her brooding patches on one of the islets.

tri-colored heron ud113Another couple nesting at the marsh now are Mr. and Mrs. Yellow-Crowned Night Heron. Apparently Mister had been fishing. He was drying his feathers in the sun.

yellow-crowned night heron ud113I also saw my friend Little Blue Heron. I am almost sure she’s not yet mature enough to start a family.

little blue heron ud113The same probably applies to the really tiny Snowy Egret, who was observing the wild world from a tree next to the deep water.

small snowy egret ud113Suddenly I heard Sandy’s alarm call. I looked up and saw another female Osprey circling above the nest.

mama osprey sounds alarm 2 ud113

another female osprey ud113I assumed she was the wife of Stanley’s fishing buddy, Steve. They are nesting on the roof of a high-rise building about one mile south of the marsh. Perhaps she was on a break to stretch her wings and was curious about the trendy furnishings in Sandy’s new home. She was not aggressive in any way and Sandy soon calmed down.

I continued my walk and saw that the Reddish Egret was visiting. He might have been looking for some special bites to take back to the bird island, where I’m assuming he’s nesting right now.

reddish egret 3 ud113Next, I saw a duck that I haven’t seen at the marsh for a couple of years, a male hybrid between Mallard and Florida Mottled Duck. It looked like he was canvassing suitable home sites.

hybrid florida mottled duck ud113He had some completion from Papa Moorhen. Although I think the Moorhens have already rented a home for this nesting season. Mama Moorhen was likely already incubating at this time.

mr moorhen ud113But where were all the smaller birds, you might ask. Oh, they were flitting and flying around in big numbers. The super tiny Sedge Wren was foraging in the grass, hardly visible beneath the leaves.

SEDGE WREN UD113The Blue Jay was flying around singing his monotone song – and moving non-stop.

blue jay 3 ud112The Mockingbird’s song was not boring. He had a large repertoire that I greatly enjoyed.

Mockingbird UD112The European Starling, the Grackle and the Eurasian Collared Dove just sat there admiring the gorgeous spring weather.

european starling UD112

common grackle ud112

mourning dove ud113I had to walk home not knowing whether or not there was a little hatchling in the Osprey nest.

Then, on Thursday afternoon, I was spying on them again…from my terrace. Sorry for the poor picture quality, but it was so windy that I could hardly stand straight and zooming full out, handheld, is quite hazardous in those conditions. Anyway, I caught a moment when Stanley was sitting on the perch and Sandy was incubating – her wings a little bit spread out. Suddenly she got up and started working on something.

osprey couple ud113I can’t be sure of what she was doing. But when I inspected my blurry and shaky shots at length, it sure looked like she could have been feeding (by regurgitating) a newborn chick…or two. But you know my imagination.

mama osprey feeding a second chick 2 maybe ud113

mama osprey feeding maybe 3 ud113Sandy was certainly ‘doing something’ both in front of her and to her side. I have learned that when there is a hatchling,  it still looks like she is incubating. Why? She broods the newly hatched chick(s) for 10 days, initially also incubating still unhatched eggs. Her wings are just slightly spread out at that point. As the minimum incubation time has now passed, we could already have one or two tiny chicks…carefully protected from paparazzi by the parents. Whatever it is, we’ll know soon enough.

parasailing ud113We all wish you a beautiful weekend and week ahead. Fly high.

Fish Trouble for the Tern Couple. A Photo Story.

I spotted this Royal Tern couple on the beach in the middle of all the spring break activity – and just couldn’t leave their story for my next post. I hope you enjoy.

tern couple 1 UD114
You brought this fish for me, right?
tern couple 2 ud114
Go on, give it to me!
tern couple 3 ud114
Hey, I’m waiting…
tern couple 4 ud114
I mean it…give me the fish already!
tern couple 5 ud114
…I’m waiting…don’t make me angry…
tern couple 6b ud114
NOOO! What you doing? I want my fish!
tern couple 7 ud114
Ha! You won’t get away from me…
tern couple 8 ud114
Okay…we can sit and sulk here at the water’s edge … until I get my fish.

 

Nightly Adventures. And Some Spying Activities.

On the last evening of ‘winter time’, Saturday last week, Dylan and I headed towards the dog park for the first time in almost two weeks. My foot had finally healed and Dylan had overcome his tummy troubles caused by the anesthesia earlier in the week. I carried my smaller camera just in case I’d be able to capture a few moody twilight pictures. Although the sunset still colored the sky in the south-west over the bay, the almost full moon was already high up on the sky.

almost full moon 2 ud112Arriving at the salt marsh, we saw Papa Stanley fly away from the nest. Perhaps after giving Mama Sandy, who was patiently sitting on the eggs, a good night kiss.

mama osprey in the dusk 2 ud112Otherwise the marsh looked deserted for the night. Suddenly I spotted something bright and familiar behind the bushes. Miss Rosa, whom I hadn’t seen for several weeks, was out and about having a late night snack. I was happy to see her even if I couldn’t get a clear shot.

miss rosa hiding ud112There were no other dogs at the park, but Dylan wanted to run around for a bit. It was getting so dark I could hardly see him, but I got this funny picture of him ‘flying’ past me across the grass. Obviously I had not set my camera properly.

dylan at thye dog park ud112The park is not lit at night and the gate was about to close when we headed back towards the street. We could see Sandy’s head sticking up from the nest right next to the perch.

osprey nest at disk ud112I’m sure she was already sleeping. Suddenly something big flew low past us. First I thought it was a Night Heron as I have sometimes spotted them this late at night. But this bird was much bigger. I took a shot when I saw him between the bushes.

older gbh the mayor in flight ud112It was the Mayor, the older and larger Great Blue Heron. No doubt about it. Hmm. My old suspicion that he might have a nest in the middle of the marsh came to mind again. Why would he otherwise visit the marsh at nightfall?

We walked home through the darkening bay side. It was peaceful despite the fact that the ongoing spring break had brought thousands of visitors to our area.

bay after sunset 3 ud112Then this week hit me with tons of work. But I kept on spying on Sandy and Stanley from our terrace from time to time. During the windy cool spell earlier in the week, Sandy was sitting tight with her head against the wind and I hardly saw her moving. Yesterday afternoon the temperatures reached balmy 62 F/17 C and I spotted Stanley on the perch looking at Sandy who was sitting on the eggs.

mama and papa osprey at the nest ud112Suddenly Sandy got up and checked on the eggs for quite a while. Maybe she was turning them to keep them evenly heated. You see, she can feel the temperature of the eggs through the receptors in her brooding patches.  Once she was up and moving around, I tried to peek into the nest cup with my zoom. It is surprisingly deep. Even enlarging my pictures by 200% and lightening them, it was impossible to see how many eggs she has. In one picture, I thought I saw three, but can’t be sure. You know my lively imagination. But we will know soon enough, in just a few days, how many eggs will hatch.

Sandy checks on the eggs ud112Then last night, Dylan and I went to the dog park again to celebrate that my busy work week was coming to a close. The sun was still up over the ocean, painting the skies and our garden in flaming colors. What a difference one hour makes!

sunset over the Gulf ud112

sunset tonight ud112The bay was basking in the glow as well. And we found a Great Egret fishing next to the Sailing Center.

the bay at sunset tonight 2 ud112.jpg

Great egret at night ud112And two American Oyster Catchers were having their dinner on the top of the rocks bared by the low tide.

two Oyster catchers ud112Part of the salt marsh was still basking in the last rays of sun, here seen through one of my usual hideouts. And Dylan had a few friends to run with at the park.

saltmarsh at sunset ud112I am hoping to get in a long walk this weekend to catch up with the latest ‘gossip’ at the marsh and its surroundings. And to catch up on your blogs as well.

Have a wonderful weekend. Peace.

I’m Not Spoiled. But I’ve Trained Mom Very Well.

Donk-glonk-thud. That was not the sound of a piece of cheese falling on the kitchen floor or dad opening the lid of his Greek yoghurt. No, this was something else. I had not yet figured out what that noise could be when I heard mom yelling. *&#@! And she doesn’t yell. Or even raise her voice. Not normally. Alarm bells went off and I rushed into the kitchen. I found mom sitting on the floor holding her right foot, or rather the toes of her right foot. Doggy 2 ud111And I got it. One of the noisy machines she’s been using had fallen on her toes. Poor mom. That’s what you get when you don’t listen. I had told her it was completely unnecessary to clean the house. She could have been massaging my ears instead and nothing like this would’ve ever happened. But I didn’t say I told you so. I just couldn’t. Instead I gave her a lick right on the cheek.

Anyway, she’s not been the only one suffering. Since last week, my walks have been cut short. Initially I could only get out onto the yard. To sniff the same trees over and over. That was boring. Eventually we walked on the sidewalk and I could read some of my newspapers in the grass. But then mom started limping and we had to turn around. After half a mile! And not one trip to the doggy park in the last 10 days.

I was living in the hope that I could skip my grooming appointment. But no such luck. I like my groomer a lot, but I don’t like the cutting, washing and drying. Luckily mom sat and waited for me. She was busy shooting the new dog paintings on the walls of the Grooming Shop.

But I have to admit, it always feels nice when it’s over. The clean smell is good. So coming home, I thought the worst was over. And it was – for a few days. We had family and friends visiting. I was basking in all the attention and enjoying frequent tummy rubs. All was good until early this morning, when mom told me I would need to see my doctor to get my teeth cleaned. And to get my shots. Not good news. I didn’t even want to look at mom after she told me this. Why would I need to go through such an ordeal? Why me?

dylan before tooth cleaning ud111Somehow mom managed to get me into her car and off we went. On empty stomach and all.

I have to confess I don’t remember much of today. I only remember the nice staff at the vet’s office before I fell asleep. It seems I was sleeping for a long while. But I can’t say I’m feeling rested. Or great. I’m groggy and I’m hungry. And my mouth hurts. I hope mom will make me a soft Crème de poulet for dinner. After going through all this I’ve earned something special, don’t you think?

Dylan after anesthesia ud111In fact, I’m still so confused that I don’t even want to jump up on my favorite sofa. I might fail. And that would be embarrassing. I’m just laying down on the hand-me-down bed in mom’s office.  No pictures please. I know this too shall pass.

I want to leave you all with a quote I found at my groomer’s. Something I want to encourage you to ponder. It just might have a useful message. I will discuss this with mom more in-depth when I feel better. And she is back to our normal routines. Hopefully tomorrow.

quote 3 ud111Much love, Dylan

A Good Match. Definitely.

Mid-morning on Saturday, Mama Sandy was sitting on the egg(s) her eyes closed. I assumed she had her breakfast soon after sunrise, and was now taking a nap in the sunshine. While she was sleeping, I was observing several smaller birds busy looking for food in the grass near the nest. A beautiful Mourning Dove tried to decide whether or not to trust me.

mourning-dove-2-ud109And a Northern Mockingbird decided that a fat worm was worth the risk of staying close by.

northern-mockingbird-ud109 Then I saw several tiny birds, Pine Warblers I thought, playing around in a cypress tree. They were moving very fast and almost impossible to spot high up in a tree.

pine-warbler-male-ud109That’s when I sensed that something was up at the osprey nest. Papa Stanley was on incoming.

papa-osprey-flying-into-the-nest-ud109And he didn’t come empty-handed. He had been fishing and brought a whole fish to Sandy. A small mid-morning surprise, which Sandy gratefully accepted.

sandy-gets-the-fish-ud109The fish changed hands. Stanley inspected the egg(s) and started his incubation shift. Sandy flew up on the perch to enjoy her meal.

papa-osprey-inspects-the-eggs-ud109

papa-osprey-incubates-ud109That was a smooth shift change, less than a minute. Not one word was said, both knew exactly how this was done. They are such a good match for each other, Sandy and Stanley.

I left them and took a walk around the marsh. It was fairly quiet. I am sure most residents were either at their nests in the middle of the marsh where nobody could see them or on the small ‘bird island’ in the bay. However, I spotted the ‘yoga bird’ again. She was in a secretive pose, hidden behind her wing for a while, but then I saw it was the Tri-colored Heron.

tricolored-heron-does-yoga-ud109

tricolored-heron-ud109And, as usual, the Little Blue Heron was present too. He was looking for food in the shallow part of the marsh.

little-blue-heron-2-ud109At the beach-end of the marsh I spotted a visitor. First I thought it was an American Bittern, but concluded it might have been a juvenile Green Heron. They tend to be very ‘streaky’ on their chest.

juvenile-green-heron-ud109There were several Ibis around and a few Night Herons were sleeping in the bushes.

yellow-crowned-night-heron-ud109Walking back towards the osprey nest, I saw the Mayor fly in. He settled next to the water management installation, but kept off of it. I think he knows how to read.

gbh-ud109I saw Sandy had eaten her fish, but was still on her break. Just then, almost exactly 30 minutes from the time she received the fish, she flew back to the nest to relieve Stanley.

mama-osprey-leaves-the-perch-1-ud109

mama-osprey-leaves-the-perch-3-ud109The second shift change was as efficient as the first one.  One up, side by side, one down. Done.

shift-change-at-osprey-nest-ud109Sandy was back incubating and Stanley flew away. Walking home by the bay side, I discovered he had parked himself on the wind device at the Sailing Center. Ready for the next fishing trip.

papa-osprey-at-sailing-center-ud109I also spotted a remarkable 12-person row-boat on the bay. First I thought there were several boats next to each other, but realized it was all one boat. A strange-looking ‘installation’. I have never seen anything like this before, have you?

row-boat-on-the-bay-ud109Last night Dylan wanted to go to the dog park and we passed by the osprey nest coming home in the dusk. From far I saw Stanley returning to the nest. He sat down on the perch, perhaps ready for a short night shift. It was cloudy and almost dark, but I shot one picture towards the osprey nest from the foot path we followed. As the night fell, papa was sitting right there with mama.

salt-marsh-at-dusk-4x6-ud109We all wish you a wonderful week. Stay positive.

 

Breaking News. Of the Good Kind.

But hold on for a minute. The breaking news will follow in the next segment – after our reporter, embedded at the salt marsh, gives you the back story. No commercial breaks or partisan views. Promise.

I was exhausted when I returned from my ‘fully loaded’ work trip to the big city up north. I carried one of my cameras all the time, but couldn’t get a breather to focus my mind on anything but work. Zero pictures. So right after returning home, I took a walk at the salt marsh. I realized how lucky I am having this small enclave of nature one block away from home.

salt-marsh-morning-ud107Arriving there, I saw things were lively at the Osprey family home. Papa Stanley brought a fish to Sandy, who had been busy decorating the nursery in the middle of the nest.

papa-osprey-brings-fish-ud107She took the fish, and I thought she would fly away to enjoy it. Like she had when I last saw her before my trip.

mama-osprey-takes-the-fish-ud107But this time she stayed at the nest. Just flew up onto the perch to eat her lunch. When you are close to the time, you better not go too far from home. She new that.

mama-osprey-takes-the-fish-ud107

mama-osprey-eats-the-fish-ud107I left Sandy to enjoy her fish and walked around the marsh to check on the other residents. The Mayor, the older Great Blue Heron, was standing guard right below the osprey nest. It seems to be his new favorite spot.

great-blue-heron-ud107And the Reddish Egret was hunting nearby, his long red hair flowing with his movements.

reddish-egret-ud107I noticed the Mourning Doves had returned. Several of them were foraging in the grass and flying around in the trees.

mourning-dove-ud107And the ducks were back too. A family of three Mottled Ducks was enjoying a pool of water next to the rest area in the park. They usually nest at the salt marsh and I was delighted to see them.

two-males-and-one-female-mottled-duck-ud107I am hoping to spot new little ducklings in June, like I did last year.

mottled duck mom with 7 ducklings ud65I continued my walk and saw another permanent resident, the Little Blue Heron. He was looking for something to eat in the grass, and was not shy when I approached. We have no trust issues. As far as he’s concerned, media is all good.

little-blue-heron-ud107Another old friend was present too. The Tri-colored Heron was busy doing bird yoga. And showing off her beautiful colors. I took that as a hint. It’s high time for me to start improving my flexibility 🙂

bird-yoga-by-tricolored-heron-ud107Walking back towards the osprey nest, I spotted Sandy returning from her perch – via a short exercise round. She had finished eating and probably knew that opportunities for after-lunch exercise would be limited in the weeks and months to come.

mama-osprey-returns-to-the-nest-ud107When I arrived back to the nest, Stanley was working on rearranging the soft materials around the nest cup. Papa putting the last touches on the nursery. Something was definitely in the making.

papa-osprey-builds-the-nest-ud107When I left them, the parents-to-be were perching side by side in the nest. A handsome couple, I thought.

mama-and-papa-osprey-in-the-nest-2-ud107I walked home on the bay side and spotted this Anhinga drying her feathers in the sun.

anhinga-ud105Then, looking out towards the nest from our terrace this morning, I saw something was different. Eggs had been laid last night. Sandy was incubating. Hatchlings expected in 35 to 40 days. Yay!

sitting-on-the-eggs-mama-and-papa-osprey-ud107You can see the design of the nest is centered on the nursery in the middle of the open floor plan. I hope you’ll also notice the soothing, earth-toned color scheme and the subtle decorations. All natural materials apart from the small piece of blue nylon rope, hardly visible next to the edge. It has followed the family from their old home into the new. Sandy’s favorite color.

mama-osprey-sitting-on-the-eggs-feb18-ud107In the next few months, you will see more of these ‘soft’ pictures, when I’ll zoom into the nest from a block away. It is the only way we can follow what’s happening in the nursery.

Thanks for visiting the Osprey family and our other friends at the marsh. I hope you enjoyed the breaking news. We all wish you a peaceful weekend and a good week ahead.

Be Calm. And Enjoy Life as It Unfolds.

More than anything, I’m saying this to myself as I am facing a work trip packed with back-to-back meetings. I’m not used to such speed anymore. I’m more like the turtles I spotted at McCough Nature Park on Saturday. They just enjoy life in the present moment, lapping the sunshine. They have no hurry to do anything in particular. They accept what is and go with the flow. Or don’t go anywhere at all. A few lessons for me right there.

turtles-ud108While at this beautiful park, I also said hi to Sarge, the Bald Eagle. She has a rare feather disorder and is not able to fly. She now lives in the small Raptor Sanctuary in the park. She was undergoing tests to determine why her feathers are brittle and grow curly instead of straight. The cause could be environmental or genetic. And if it is environmental, it is important for the whole Bald Eagle population to pinpoint the exact substance that may have caused this disorder.

sarge-the-bald-eagle-ud108Sarge’s home is adjacent to a few other raptors, owls and hawks. One of the Great-horned Owls was about and about with his handler.

greathorned-owl-ud108After I had greeted all the raptors and chatted with staff, my journey continued to the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary. I couldn’t believe my luck when I arrived there exactly at the same time as Sheila’s handler. Sheila is the old Red-shouldered Hawk, whom I have met a few times in the last two years.

Sheila was happy to get out for a walk with her handler in the gorgeous winter weather. She flexed her wings vigorously before she settled down to enjoy the sunshine. She is almost blind, with very weak sight in one eye.

sheila-red-shouldered-hawk-with-her-handler-ud108When I talked to her she turned her head and looked towards me. I always enjoy her company. Walking back from the beach side where Sheila was perching, I spotted a Brown Pelican. She was doing bird yoga in the pool.

pelican-yoga-ud108This particular pose lasted for a while, and right afterwards she took a vigorous bath.

brown-pelican-bathing-ud108I walked to greet an old friend, an American Oyster Cather, who has a serious wing injury. It was great to see that she seemed to have more energy now than a few months ago when I first saw her.

american-oyster-catcher-ud-108As always, many completely healthy birds were drawn to the peace – and food – at the sanctuary. There were several American Black Vultures hanging around the hospital building. Maybe visiting their two relatives, who live here permanently.

american-black-vulture-ud108A few Black-crowned Night Herons were around too. One was busy drinking from the water fountain next to the raptor homes.

black-crowned-night-heron-ud1-8And many Brown Pelicans had made their nests in the high trees around the sanctuary. I counted 11 (!) pelican nests. The mothers-to-be were already sitting on the eggs and the males were bringing in complementary nesting materials. Or just hanging around.

papa-pelican-brings-nest-materials-ud108

male-pelican-at-the-nest-ud108Before I leave the sanctuary, I always greet the Great-horned Owl, one of the permanent residents here. He is very curious about me and the camera, and always poses nicely for a picture in his neat and clean little home. He has accepted what happened to him, a serious wing injury, and seems to enjoy every day given to him.

great-horned-owl-scbs-feb-11-ud108I was delighted to see how well the birds and their environment in this sanctuary are taken care of by the new management, all the volunteers and the medical staff who work in the hospital. They had just released several birds into the wild last week, and those who cannot manage on their own have pleasant and clean forever homes here.

On this happy note, I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day!

two-turtles-ud108

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