Hello There! Wanna See Some Birds?

What do you do when you stumble right into a birder’s paradise with a 50mm lens and both your birding lenses are over 200 miles away? Simple! You take pictures with the lens you happen to have on your camera. This happened to me recently when I was visiting my grandies and their parents in North Florida. On that Saturday morning, my 8 years old granddaughter proposed that we’d go to visit the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine. Hmm. I had seen lots of alligators in Everglades and crocodiles in Africa, but thought we’d have a nice time together watching the alligators. So it was a “yes” from me. Little did I know that we would walk into a zoological park with hundreds of wild birds nesting at its outskirts.

bird trees St Augustine UD160Everywhere I looked, I saw trees heavy with numerous nests, babies, juveniles and their parents, some still incubating. I was a kid in the candy store.

birds and babies St Augustine UD160The air traffic was lively with birds still bringing in additional nesting materials.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

And then there were mothers and babies, little chicks and big chicks…some of them luckily a little closer to the path we were walking.

snowy egrets babies ud160

roseate spoonbill with babies ud160

Roseate spoonbill feeds baby ud160

snowy egret mom and baby ud160

young roseate spoonbills ud160And some colorful scenes of residents resolving differences, which is to be expected in such a tightly built neighborhood.

tricolored heron chases a little blue heron ud160Some incubating moms and protective dads ready to fight off any intruders.

snowy egret nesting ud160And a few birds whom I don’t see very often. Like this Cattle Egret inspecting her eggs.

nesting cattle egret ud160And others, who I usually see at the salt marsh…

tricolored heron UD160

adult roseate spoonbill ud160I could have stayed there for days…if I’d had my birding lenses and a tripod. We moved on and there were some exotic birds to see too, like this Scarlet Macaw from South America..scarlet macaw st augustine ud160

the girls ud160…a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo from Australia…

suphur-crested Cockatoo ud160…and the Black Crowned Cranes from Africa. Lots of wonder for the girls, including this girl.

black crowned crane ud160Surprise, surprise…this Alligator Farm also housed alligators and crocodiles of all shapes and sizes. Here just one lazy exemplar enjoying the midday sun.

alligator 2 ud160And there were caravans of ducks and turtles, small and big.

ducks in A F UD160

turtle caravan UD160

a big turtle ud160We thoroughly enjoyed the park, particularly the nesting colonies. And I promised my self never to leave home without one of my long lenses. You never know where the birds might find you.

nesting birds st augustine 16x9 ud160Speaking of home, we had some business to do earlier this week. My photo assistant in particular. We received 21 proposals for names for the osprey chick and the lottery had to be arranged. But it wasn’t the same procedure as last year. On Tuesday night, in the middle of writing a legal report, I decided it was time to have some fun. The names were printed and cut into long strips, suitable for wrapping around exactly 21 yummy treats.

names ud160

treats ud160While I was doing this at my laptop, Dylan parked himself right next to my chair and paid close attention.

Dylan follows the process us160Then I placed the ‘name-wrappped’ treats in Dylan’s toy basket which was doing service as the ‘hat’. As you can see, the names were on the inside so Dylan wouldn’t be able to read them. Just when I was placing them in the ‘hat’ he rushed close, seemingly ready to grab all 21 pieces. But I shouted “not yet” and he dutifully backed off…

treats in the toy basket ud160…for at least one full hour. He wouldn’t touch the treats. When I moved them closer, even put them under his nose and asked him to go ahead, he moved further away.

Dylan and the treat basket 2 ud160He just looked at me as in saying make up your mind mom. We circled around my office for 20 minutes. He wouldn’t pick a treat. Finally I gave up and placed them on his ‘mattress pad’ and put them on the floor …

Dylan does not want treats ud160…he backed further away. Whatever I said or how much I pleaded didn’t matter, he wouldn’t touch the treats. I moved the pad with the treats into the living room. Same story. I was about to give up and pronounce the Osprey chick “Nameless”. But that didn’t sound right. So I poured the ‘name treats’ into my hand and asked him to pick one. I had my camera in the other hand (sorry for the shaky pictures) and finally he came forward…

Dylan picks the winner UD160…and picked one!

Dylan picks the winning name ud160I was going to remove the ‘name ribbon’ from his mouth, but he did that very aptly himself. And I could see Jackie P. at the end of the ribbon when it landed on the rug. When he retreated, the name of the new Osprey girl came in full view: Bubbette by Jackie P. from To Breathe is to Write!

jackies ticket ud160

the winning ticket ud160Congrats to you, dear Jackie! The beach towel will be on its way next week. I am sure it will arrive in time for summer weather in Canada. I love that whimsical name. This osprey girl is very energetic and bubbly 🙂 So… let me present to you Miss Bubbette as captured on Wednesday night on our evening walk. Both her parents were in the nest with her…

Bubbette with parents UD160…but she wasn’t shy to do her flying exercises. Sandy ducked as her wings swept back and forth right above her head. You go girl!

Bubbette wingersizes UD160This weekend my assistant and I will start our fledging watch. We’ll bring you the breaking news as soon as she is airborne. Sorry for the oversized post and thanks for visiting. Miss Bubbette and the rest of us wish you a wonderful weekend.

 

Papa Osprey’s Fake Wings. And a Flying Mattress Delivery.

It’s good to be away, particularly if you can spend some quality time with your grandkids. And then happen to stumble on a bird photographer’s paradise. But that’s for the next post. Here only one picture of last weekend’s adventures. As a ‘teaser’.

nesting birds st augustine ud160But first things first. News from a place where I belong.  There have been some new developments at the salt marsh since we last spoke, and a quick update might be called for. The youngest member of the Osprey Family is now over seven weeks old. Dylan and I went to check on her yesterday morning and arrived at the nest right after the family breakfast. Papa Stanley was sitting in the nest with the chick but Mama Sandy was nowhere to be seen.

papa osprey and the chick ud160Stanley greeted us with a friendly nod, but the little one was busy observing the skies. Then she realized it was time for her daily exercise routine. Stanley suddenly got wings sprinkled with white feathers, typical for osprey chicks. Those ‘fake’ wings made me smile.

papa ospreys fake wings ud160The chick should be fledging in less than two weeks and I was happy to see her ‘wingersize’ vigorously. That’s when Sandy’s head popped up from the back of the nest and I realized she had been there all along. She was busy working on something.

osprey family ud160Soon Stanley decided it was time to retreat onto the perch. Or maybe he just wanted to show the chick how it’s done. Actually flying.

papa osprey flies to the perch ud160And Sandy decided it was time to run errands. She flew away in the direction of the bay.

mama osprey flies away ud160The chick was alone in the nest, but under tight supervision by Stanley on the perch. She was looking into the distance after Sandy.

osprey chick ud160And I was focusing on taking pictures of her. Suddenly I felt something fly right over my head! And a second later Sandy landed on the nest. With a new mattress for the chick. Lightning fast express delivery. No lines at the mattress shop as the whole trip took less than two minutes.

mattress delivery by mama osprey ud160I was not the only one taken by surprise. Typical Sandy, always fast and efficient. When she wants something she goes and gets it.

mama osprey returns ud160She landed in the middle of the nest, right on the spot where she wanted to place the mattress. Then she had a mother-daughter moment with the chick. Nothing needed to be said.

mama osprey and the chick ud160But the chick understood mama would like to see some more exercising…and she went for another set of wing flaps. She still looks quite tentative in her movements and stands with her legs wide apart. She’ll need several practice sessions a day if she’s going to fledge in the week after next.

osprey chick flexes her wings ud160She is  a beautiful osprey girl and she’ll need a name. So Dylan and I will do the ‘same procedure as last year’ and have a lottery. The prize will hopefully be worth putting on your thinking hat: a 60″/152 cm round beach/picnic towel featuring Sandy and Stanley. And the drawing itself, to be conducted by Dylan on May 15th, promises to be exciting…and super fast. We’re talking about treats here.

Mama and Papa Osprey beach towel UD160

Rest assured that the names already submitted by some of you are safely in the hat. Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend. We hope to hear from you. Much love.

It’s a Girl! And Other Breaking News from the Salt Marsh.

It’s been a busy two weeks since we last checked on the Osprey Family. The week after my last update, Dylan and I went by the nest late one evening, but it was really windy and Mama Sandy was covering the chick. Nothing to be seen. Other than the waxing moon. Presented here for evidence.

evening moon ud159Yesterday, after I had returned from my latest work trip on Friday night, we went to the salt marsh twice. We found the Osprey Family all gathered in the nest for some late-morning family time.

Osprey family ud159Papa Stanley took a nap on the perch, but his sleep was interrupted by Sandy reminding him it was time to fetch lunch. And that’s when I saw it. The chick is a girl! She looks just like her mom, with a ‘necklace’ already at six weeks of age. She had grown beautiful feathers and was as alert as ever.

all three ospreys in the nest ud159Stanley is quite funny. He never leaves on a fishing trip right away when Sandy asks for food. He  flew down from his perch and parked himself in the nest for a while. Sandy continued her “we-want-fish-fish” song and the little one chimed in a couple of times. It was obvious she had learned to talk.

papa mama and osprey chick ud159Finally Stanley glanced at his watch and saw it was lunch time. He left for his 3rd fishing trip of the day. Both females observed his departure. Better late than never, they seemed to think. And then they settled side by side to observe the life at the marsh. Sandy soon nodded off, but the chick was watching her environment. Perhaps already dreaming of flying.

sandy and osprey chick ud159She could see the ‘Clown’ down below. He was playing peek-a-boo with the chick.

reddish egret 2 UD159

reddish egret ud159And little further away Papa Moorhen was inspecting his territory.

mr moorhen ud159We went home before Stanley returned. But when we walked back in the evening it was like we never left. Stanley had a newly caught fish. He was eating the head on ‘his’ lamp-post, like he always does before he gives the fish to Sandy.

papa osprey has dinner ud159But then I discovered an Osprey flying high above the street. It was Sandy.

mama osprey in flight ud159So who was with the chick? Nobody! She was lying low in the nest all by herself while mama was stretching her wings and flying around just for the fun of it. Now that the chick is six weeks old, Sandy is free to do just that…and even go fishing should she feel for it.

osprey chick alone in the nest ud159After a few minutes of pre-dinner exercise Sandy returned to her chick. She was watching the setting sun and waiting for Stanley to drop off the fish.

mama osprey at sunset ud159We walked to the dog park passing right below the nest and discovered several familiar faces. Harry the trouble-maker, the younger Great Blue Heron, was hiding in the high grass.

younger GBH UD159He didn’t want to be seen and I soon understood why. The Mayor was marching around at the beach end of the marsh.

GBH the Mayor ud159Usually there’s not enough space for the two of them at the marsh, but this time Harry was not spotted. A Yellow-crowned Night Heron could see both of them from his sun-soaked islet, but he didn’t tell.

night heron UD159Dylan sat down as in waiting for some drama to occur, but there was none. A Mourning Dove sat on a branch just above my assistant and enjoyed the peace of the evening.

Dylan at sunset ud159

Mourning Dove ud159We went to the dog park and when we returned the sun was setting over the salt marsh.

salt marsh at sunset 2 UD159It was almost dark, but we saw some movement in the water. Miss Rosa was out and about getting her late night snack. I didn’t think the light would be enough to get anything but a pink blob, but in one picture you can actually see her. A little.

miss rosa ud159Soon there was only the full moon.

full moon april 28 ud159 I’m sure that Dylan, keeping with the tradition, will invite you all to provide name suggestions for the new osprey girl and reveal the lottery prize in the next post 🙂 Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful week.

 

Sshhh…Mama and Baby Are Sleeping.

This week has been sunny and warm, until today. And it’s been busy. Exacerbated by my laptop’s moody behavior. On its fourth birthday, it decided to go on strike. Not to work at all. I had to use all my tech wiz skills to wake it up. Since then it’s been misbehaving to the point I ordered a new one. And have to set it up later today. But before I say goodbye to this old blogging veteran, I want to give you a short update from the salt marsh. I’m asking it to cooperate for one last time.

osprey family portrait 2 april 14 ud158Finally yesterday, my assistant and I had an opportunity to get out and check on the osprey chick. We arrived soon after the family brunch. Papa Stanley was still on the perch, guarding his little family from intruders. The baby was sleeping and Mama Sandy nodded off for a while as well. She shielded her baby from the sun and the wind that was already picking up.

mama osprey and chick ud158But soon Stanley saw a danger in the skies (beyond my horizon) and sounded frequent loud warnings.

papa osprey sounds an alarm ud158The chick woke up and peered out from behind the baby gate with its head lowered. Sandy became alert too, but nobody came close to the nest.

mama osprey and baby ud158The salt marsh appeared deserted. The only other bird present was the Reddish Egret. And he was completely absorbed in his hunting dance.

reddish egret ud158At sunset time Dylan took me for another walk. He loves to walk on the bayside and look down to the water. I don’t mind such a detour because I often spot birds enjoying the low tide next to the sea wall. And we were lucky. Two Oystercatchers were looking for supper.

two Oyster catchers ud158And a bit further away, a Great Egret was enjoying the last rays of the day.

great egret on the bay side ud158The sun was still up when we reached the salt marsh. We found the younger Great Blue Heron, aka Henry the Troublemaker, on his usual spot staring at the osprey nest.

young great blue heron ud158And a beautiful Snowy Egret was looking for her evening meal. And checking us out.

snowy egret at sunset ud158A Yellow-crowned Night Heron had woken up to get his breakfast. He was planning his hunt on the little islet that also serves as the Mayor’s office. The Mayor was nowhere to be seen.

yellow-crowned night heron ud158When we approached the Osprey nest we heard the typical whistles of the Red-winged Blackbird. Finally I spotted one smack in the middle of the marsh.

redwinged blackbird male UD158Then Dylan alerted me to a lovely Mourning Dove walking right on our path. It was not eager to meet us and hurried away.

mourning dove ud158We found Stanley on his guard post. He nodded a friendly good evening to us. But Sandy was hunkering down over the baby and we could only see a few feathers sticking up.

Papa osprey at sunset ud158Just before dark we finally reached the dog park and my assistant got a well deserved rest after walking around the marsh and running back and forth at the park.

Dylan at sunset ud158When we returned to go home it was already dark. Stanley had gone to his sleeping quarters, but we saw Sandy in the nest beautifully silhouetted against the sunset’s after-glow.

mama osprey at dusk ud158This afternoon the skies darkened and the storms arrived. Right now I can hardly see the osprey nest from my terrace through the heavy rains. Gray walls of water are swept sideways by the strong winds. I went out quickly and took one picture. Sandy had placed her baby in the nest cup and was shielding it from the elements with her wings. Even her head was down. Possibly to reassure the baby that this too shall pass. She knows her stuff.

sandy in the storm Ud158With that we wish you a great week ahead and hope it will be sunny and bright. Thank you for visiting.

The Paparazzi and the Baby.

As many of you know, Mr. Dylan and I have been stalking the Osprey Family for first baby pictures for a couple of weeks now. Yesterday at lunch time we finally succeeded. Dylan’s persistence to go to the dog park, for first time since my work trip this past week, paid off. We are all smiles.

osprey family with chick ud157When we arrived at the marsh, Stanley had just brought in a fish. Sandy was eating and feeding the chick, whose little head was sticking up in front of her. Stanley decided to fly up to the perch to have a better overview. He often stays at the nest or close by when Sandy is feeding. The provider and guardian that he is.

Papa osprey flies to the perch ud157

papa osprey flies UD157Sandy continued eating and feeding, but soon told Stanley that more was needed. You better go fishing again, she told him with determination. But Stanley stayed put.

Mama osprey asks for more fish ud157We went to the dog park. When we returned Stanley had left. I wondered whether he had gone fishing or just to chill out a bit in his man cave. We walked around the marsh and spotted Miss Rosa.

miss rosa ud157For the first time this season she was there in the middle of the day, beautiful as ever.

roseate spoonbill ud157At the far end of the marsh, we also spotted the older Great Blue Heron. He was walking confidently, his head high, inspecting the marsh. He is a tall, handsome bird. And, indeed, a great Mayor.

the mayor ud157Of course there were some smaller birds flitting around as well. We spotted several European Starlings…

european starling ud157…and a very skittish Blue Jay. One look at the paparazzi and he was gone.

Blue jay in the grass UD157When we approached the osprey nest again, we noticed that the little one had moved closer to the edge. Unfortunately we had to ‘shoot’ almost right into the sun, but you can see that the chick seems curious about the outer world already. At less than three weeks of age. A future explorer for sure.

osprey chick ud157The baby had also discovered its little wings and was flapping them right in mama’s face.

mama osprey and the chick ud157The paparazzi are almost sure that there is only one chick this year. But they have been proven wrong before. What we know for sure is that this little chick is alert and energetic. It’s not yet ready for beauty competitions, but will be very soon. Its feathers will grow out and its eyes will turn from dark to beautiful bright orange. With these happy thoughts we said our goodbyes and walked home.

papa osprey arrives with fish UD157Reaching our front yard we saw, from a block away, that Staley was landing on his usual lamp-post with a new fish. Two fishing trips in about 90 minutes! No wonder the poor man looks a bit exhausted.

Much love from the paparazzi, the Mayor, Miss Rosa and the Osprey Family.

Sunrise, Sunset and All the Birds in Between.

This time of the year it’s a bit easier for this night owl to get up and witness the sunrise. The silent hour when nature is waking up brings incredible colors over the bay and beautiful reflections in the clouds over the ocean. Peace reigns.

sunrise on the ocean UD156Creatures living in harmony with nature start their day. Some sit and enjoy the sunrise, others get on with breakfast preparations.

birds at sunrise all varieties UD156Papa Stanley returns from his first fishing trip of the day, one of many to come …

papa osprey brings a fish UD156A few minutes later, he nods off on the lamp-post just outside the marsh border. As we know, taking care of babies is quite tiring for the parents. He has eaten the fish head and takes a short nap before bringing the meaty parts of the fish to Mama Sandy and the kids.

papa osprey sleeping with a fish UD156And so the day has started. Late morning yesterday, when Dylan and I were spying on the osprey family from our terrace, we finally spotted a little chick! Or perhaps two? The first born should be almost two weeks old now. Here is the first grainy family picture of 2018. We hope for better ones soon.

first osprey family portrait 2018 ud156Throughout the day many other birds made appearances. My assistant and I went on a short walk in another park nearby and spotted a Limpkin, a Double Crested Cormorant and a couple of White Ibis.

Limpkin ud156

cormorant ud156

two Ibis ud156We also found two different blackbirds…

red-winged blackbird ud156

blackbird UD156…and a few turtles enjoying the water and the mild spring weather.

turtle ud156

turtle swimming ud156Later on, around sunset time, we walked through the bay side to the salt marsh and discovered a beautiful Snowy Egret enjoying the low tide and the last rays of sun.

snowy egret ud156We noticed that Sandy was on her dinner break at their usual lamp-post table. She had left Stanley to look after the kids.

papa osprey at the nest ud156We also spotted Ms. Rosa! Long time no see. There was just about enough light to see that she still looks great.

Roseate spoonbill at sunset ud156She forageed around the shallow water as we watched her. Then ended up posing for another picture with Mr. Blue-winged Teal.

a blue-winged teal and a roseate spoonbill UD156The younger GBH was watching the osprey nest, as he had been for the past few nights. But Stanley seemed relaxed. He might know the youngster has now grown up and adopted better manners. The latter was evidenced by a short nod in our direction.

younger Great Blue Heron at sunset UD156Before we knew it the sun had gone down and the marsh filled with shadows. We saw some movement in the bushes but it was too dark for pictures.

dog park trees at sunset UD156

salt marsh 2 at sunset ud156We enjoyed the peace of the evening for a while on ‘my’ bench. When we finally wanted to leave, the park gate had already closed. We had to use our secret escape path out of the park. Dylan led the way in the moonlight. He had done this before.

full moon ud156Thank you for visiting us between the sunrise and the sunset. And Happy Easter to all who celebrate! I leave you with my one of my favorite sunset pictures from our beach. Sail well into the new week.

sailboat at sunset UD156

%d bloggers like this: