My Quest for a Forever Home.

I found what I was in search for. I know, it’s a spoiler. But I couldn’t possibly be sitting here at mom’s laptop writing to you if I was still pursuing my quest, could I ? Truth to be told, mom picked me up from my foster home on Friday, April 1. Almost six months ago now. But I can assure you I’m not an April Fools’ Day joke.  I’m a survivor.

dylan-when-he-was-found
Photo from March 2016 courtesy of Constanza Bryant, Florida Poodle Rescue.

You see, I was abandoned by my first family. I lived on the streets. And it was hard. Although I became good at sniffing for food people had thrown on the ground, I was always hungry. I could smell a half eaten chicken leg or a piece of hamburger bread from 50 yards,  but such treasures were few and far between. I lost a lot of weight. It was not obvious because my hair grew so long. If anything I looked fat. No hair cuts, no baths and no love do that to you. But it was even worse with water. Fresh water is something you take for granted when you have a home. I learned the hard way that it doesn’t rain in the spring in Florida. Finding even a small pool of dirty water was a challenge. I learned to get by with very little of it, mostly licking the trickles that reached the street when people watered their lawns. Recycled water. Not too good for you.

I can’t tell you how long I lived on the streets. I lost count of the days. And the long nights. I hardly slept because it was not safe. I had to stay alert. So I slept only for a few moments here and there when I collapsed of exhaustion.

dylan-in-march-2016
Photo from March 2016 courtesy of Constanza Bryant, Florida Poodle Rescue.

And I was looking for my family all the time. My mission was keeping me alive. I ran towards young couples pushing baby strollers. If they let me close, I would gently sniff at the baby’s toes. But it was always some other baby. I couldn’t find my family. I had always believed I was part of the family. Obviously I was wrong. They were gone and had left me behind. I had no idea what I had done to deserve this, but there I was. Homeless. I was so sad.

Then one day a car stopped next to me. It was not the car I used to ride in and hang out from the back window my ears flapping in the wind. Not my car. And I had learned to avoid cars. But the man was friendly so I finally agreed to ride with him. A milestone. My new journey had started. Hospital stay. Food. Water. Love. Florida Poodle Rescue. A foster family – and more love. I was grateful to have a home, but still grieving the loss of my family, if that makes sense.

About a week later, mom knocked on the door. She came with a friend…to visit me! I knew right away she was my mom. That’s called intuition. I jumped onto her lap. I’m not sure if I even thanked my foster family well enough for all the love they gave me, I was so eager to go with mom. And like magic ~ I found myself in her car. I remember sitting in the back seat with her kind friend. Mom kept telling me we would go home to dad. It took a couple of hours, but she was right. I’m home now.

dylan-april-6-bI’m always with mom in her office when she works. Or blogs. I can make my bed of the old blanket on the sofa, redesigning it until I’m comfortable. Sometimes I just chill on the floor next to her desk.

dylan-3-ud82I’m an avid reader, and sometimes mom lets me browse other blogs too. Nothing short of amazing. So much interesting stuff!

dylan-at-computer-2-ud82But I’ll tell you what I love the most. Going for long walks! The faster we walk, the better. But running is the best, of course. You see, I’m mom’s personal trainer.  And I take my work seriously. She really needs her exercise. At least three miles a day. Sometimes even four or five, if I can trick her.

dylan-in-the-parkAnd she’d better take her work seriously too. I appreciate my rewards, ever so small. Be it a couple of baby carrots or a piece of my favorite cookie. Even a tooth cleaning treat will do. Mom, give it to me already!

dylan-1-ud82I have developed many new tricks to test on mom and dad. Some of them work, some don’t. I’ve noticed a few more tricks work on dad. But that’s another story. See you later. Be good now.

With love, Dylan (or maybe I should say Bob Dylan, but that’s also another story)

Hello World! Reporting Live from the Seabird Sanctuary.

The Great Horned Owl, Miss Kitty, is alert and follows my movements in front of her little house with keen interest. This owl, whose badly infected wing had to be amputated, has been living at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary for over nine years. She is usually one of the first birds to greet me when I visit. Her closest neighbor is another long-time resident, a Barred Owl. She is huddling deep in thought close to the ceiling of her little row house, and unlike her neighbor she clearly prefers her own company. And I respect that.

Next, I am checking on some of the White Pelicans. They have a large netted home with several swimming pools to enjoy in the summer heat. While autumn is officially here, our temperatures are still hovering in the upper 80s F (around 30C).

white-pelicans-at-scbs-ud81The Brown Pelicans have a home next to their white cousins, and their ‘yard’ is also appointed with several pools. Just chilling around the pool seems to be a favorite activity.

brown-pelican-scbs-ud81Next to the pelicans, two Sandhill Cranes have their large, beautifully decorated home.

two-sandhill-cranes-ud81Some smaller birds, like a juvenile White Ibis and an American Oyster Catcher with a badly injured wing, share the neighboring homes.

juvenile-white-ibis-at-scbs-ud81

wounded-oystervatcher-at-scbs-ud81But to be honest, I came here to see an old friend, the Red Shouldered Hawk. Her name is Isis. I will need to point out that this beautiful bird was named 26 years ago when she first came to this sanctuary with a badly injured eye. She is close to 30 years old now, completely blind in one eye and almost blind in the other. To my delight I discover that her handler has just arrived to take her out for a ‘walk’ in the park. Great! So after greeting the other birds, I walk into a large covered area under the observation tower and find her perched there.

scbs-observation-tower-ud81I love watching her and it is clear that she thoroughly enjoys her open air outing. But I also want to take a few pictures of her. And that proves quite challenging. While the covered area is nice and shadowy,  the sun is very bright right outside of it.

red-shouldered-hawk-at-scbs-ud81Isis is still molting and she is preening diligently to get rid of some old feathers on her wings.

red-shouldered-hawk-molting-scbs-ud81And then she stretches her beautiful wings. I can sense she is dreaming of flying high up in the sky riding a cool current.

red-shouldered-hawk-2-at-scbs-ud81She has had a long, safe and comfortable life here at the sanctuary and it is wonderful, as always, to spend some time with her.

Walking out of the sanctuary I meet two non-residents, an American Black Vulture and a Black-crowned Night Heron. Perhaps they have relatives in rehabilitation here, or maybe they are just waiting for a free meal. I also note that the night heron is strategically positioned to remind visitors of the importance of donating to this unique sanctuary.

american-black-vulture-3-at-scbs-ud81

black-crowned-night-heron-at-scbs-ud81It is lovely to know there is a place where so many injured wild birds can get help. About 15-20 birds daily, or up to 5000 each year, are brought to the Dr. Marie L. Farr Avian Hospital located in this sanctuary. They have varying injuries, for example to their limbs, eyes or bills.

sun-coast-sea-bird-sanctuary-ud81Unfortunately about 90% of those injuries are directly or indirectly attributtable to human activity. After receiving the necessary hospital care, the birds are rehabilitated and then released. The success rate is fairly high, over 80% of the birds who survive the first 24 hours go back to live their lives in the wild. Those who cannot manage to live on their own due to a permanent handicap are provided a forever home here. I am always filled with gratitude thinking of all the volunteers who take care of these birds and keep their homes looking wonderful, and people who donate to keep this sanctuary going.

That’s all for tonight from the Seabird Sanctuary. Next, your reporter will take on the replacement of the osprey nest platform at the salt marsh. We don’t want Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley to move out just because their home falls apart, do we?

We all hope your week is going great.

Juveniles Rule. And Slowly Returning to Normal.

I am not developing an argument here on what ‘normal’ might be or look like. All I know is that our surroundings here at home are slowly starting to look as they used to – before Hermine dumped almost 15 inches/38cms of water on us over five days. The flood waters are almost gone. I say almost because there are still a few pools of water on the beach, in the park and in our garden. And birds love them. Like Snowy Egrets and White Ibis, who were mingling on the beach in large  numbers yesterday.

Snowy Egret at flood water pool ud80.jpg

snowy-egret-and-white-ibis-ud80And juveniles of all sorts were playing and feeding in the shallow pools. Like these two juvenile White Ibis. One of them was quite white already, while his little sister was still much more brown than white.

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juvenile-white-ibis-ud80Another juvenile, a Black Skimmer, who had already left his parents was practicing skimming in one of the shallow pools.

juvenile-black-skimmer-ud80The juvenile Royal Tern pestering his mom was quite entertaining. Although his poor mom might have disagreed. She tried to show him how to catch food items in the shallow water, but he was not interested. He wanted to be fed.

baby-royal-term-pestering-his-mama-ud80

baby-and-mama-royal-tern-ud80Walking into the salt marsh, I noticed the water levels were down and the bird count was up. Despite the fact that the mosquito count was down only a bit, I decided to see who had returned. And right away saw the younger Great Blue Heron. After hanging around for over two years now, I think he has earned to be named. I will call him Henry. He was balancing high up in the cypress tree surveying the marsh. Possibly trying to find out whether or not the Mayor was present.

young-blue-heron-ud80He wasn’t. So Henry decided it was safe to fly down and start hunting at the far end of the marsh, a spot usually reserved for the Mayor.

young-blue-heron-in-flight-ud80

young-blue-heron-lands-ud80A Great Egret was also scanning the marsh from the top of a tree in the middle of the marsh. He might have been counting his relatives, who were many but difficult to spot in the high grass.

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great egret and snowy egret ud80.jpg

great-egret-ud80The only smaller wading bird present, in addition to Snowy Egrets, was a beautiful Tri-colored Heron. She was fishing at the shallow side of the marsh that had already dried up quite a bit. But she was still more than knee-deep in the water.

tricolored-heron-ud80But the Moorhens and Mottled Ducks were present in big numbers. The ducklings born here last spring had returned and were swimming in a nice formation – all ten of them. Juveniles definitely ruled the day🙂

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ten-ducklings-ud80I finished my walk at the Osprey nest. Mama Sandy was having her brunch and checked on me between the bites. I wanted to tell her that on Sunday, I would be visiting again – with the contractor who will be repairing or replacing (if required) the nest. But I let her eat in peace.

mama-osprey-eats-lunch-ud80I didn’t see Papa Stanley, but I know he is around as I saw him just the previous day. He flew low over our garden and tipped his wings to me and Dylan. Instead I spotted a Red-bellied Woodpecker on my way home. He was showcasing his reddish belly.

redbellied-woodpecker-2-ud80But that was not all. Approaching home, I saw a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk fly past me towards our garden.

hawk-ud80I decided to see if I could spot her again and walked around among the trees where I thought she might have landed. And I found her! She was sitting in a dense tree – on our neighbor’s side. It was an awkward spot to try to ‘shoot’ her. Sun right in my eyes, a thick, high hedge on one side and a large ditch with some remaining flood water on the other. I tried to balance on my toes so I could get a clear shot of her, but this is the best I could get. What a beautiful bird.

juvenile-red-shouldered-hawk-ud80She flew away to continue her hunt, and I spotted another bird in a tree right above me. A Black-crowned Night Heron had settled there to sleep for the day and I inadvertently woke him up.

black-crowned-night-heron-ud80Luckily he didn’t seem to be angry. I was happy to find so many of my feathered friends. I concluded that things are slowly returning to normal around here, but unfortunately the damage assessments still continue elsewhere not too far from here.

We all wish you a very happy weekend. Peace.

Living on the Edge. Of the Salt Marsh.

Yesterday I was standing on the edge of my terrace watching a helicopter fly very low over the salt marsh and the park. Its flight pattern was crazy, heart-quickening. It would rise up fast, make a sharp turn over the bay or the Clearwater pass followed by a wild descent until it almost touched the ground.

helicopter-turning-ud79

mosquito-control-helicopter-ud79What was going on? I zoomed in and found the answer. It was a mosquito control helicopter from the county dropping larvicide in the many still flooded areas of the park. Part of the county’s efforts to prevent the Zika virus from spreading through local transmission.

mosquito-control-patrol-ud79It landed once and park personnel came forth to load several bags of (probably) granulated larvicide onboard.

helicopter-taking-off-16x9-ud79It’s been ten days since the torrential downpours from Hermine started, and although the flood water levels have been going down, both the beach and the park are still flooded (picture as of yesterday morning, today it looks a bit better).

flooding-after-hermine-ud79The whole park where the salt marsh is located is “closed until further notice due to effects after TS Hermine”. I had to read that out loud to Dylan, who insisted we go to the doggy park.

salt-marsh-flooding-after-hermine-ud79Very few birds have been present. I assumed it was because of the high water levels in the marsh would not allow them to feed, but it’s probably also due to the fact that bird blood is much preferred to human blood by mosquitoes. I learned this today from an article. My experience would have led me to a different conclusion.

You see, I had decided to take a walk on the beach and planned to visit the salt marsh too. Knowing that the beach entrances to the park would still be flooded, I was planning to ‘slink in’ to the salt marsh from the street.  Through the narrow opening between the stone wall and the closed gate. I was sure Tiny could get in through there when nobody was watching. That was the plan.

birds-at-the-beach-lake-ud79I walked through our back garden onto the board walk. And as I had anticipated the path to the beach had now dried up enough to allow me to walk there with my sturdy walking shoes. So I did. That’s when I was attacked by zillions of mosquitoes. Zillions. I’m not exaggerating. I had put on mosquito repellant on my ankles, arms, neck and nose, but they tried to bite me through my clothing. Twentynine of them hanging onto my crop jeans almost threw me crazy. I didn’t stop to zoom in on those fellows, so you have to take my word for it. Instead I ran to the water’s edge where a sea breeze drove most of them off. And on my way I stumbled upon a sand castle built by some brave little soul after the storm.

sand-castle-ud79The beach itself was lively. Only me and another woman, but hundreds of birds. Most of them were enjoying the now much more shallow floodwater lake between the beach and the salt marsh. The air traffic to and from the ‘lake’ was heavy, mostly Royal Terns and Black Skimmers.

royal-tern-2-in-flight-2-ud79

black-skimmer-in-flight-ud79And there were plenty of newly arrived shore birds at the water’s edge, Sanderlings, Willets and Ruddy Turnstones.

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willet-on-the-beach-ud79

ruddy-turnstone-ud79It was wonderful to see all of them again. And the Black Skimmer community was large. Beautiful juveniles and adults.

juvenile-black-skimmer-ud79

black-skimmer-talking-ud79Some juveniles were still hanging onto their parents – with resulting loud arguments and corresponding dramatics.

black-skimmer-juvenile-and-mom-ud79When leaving the beach I decided to run for my life through the soft, party wet path occupied by an army of aggressive mosquitoes. And arriving back to our garden, I had had enough of them. The planned ‘slinking in’ to the salt marsh would need to wait. Probably until they open the gates again. There is a reason for everything.

I wish you all a wonderful, mosquito-free weekend.

 

Baths and Mirrors. Open and Closed.

The salt marsh is still closed after the flooding from Hurricane Hermine. Only the birds can fly in there at the moment. But it appears  almost deserted (looking out from my terrace) apart from a few Ibis foraging in the grass and a couple of large Wood Storks. The water levels are still too high for ‘normal sized’ wading birds to find food. Even the ‘lake’ formed by the heavy rains on the beach is still too deep for the birds to enjoy it. Or for me to walk through there to the salt marsh. So yesterday I visited the bay side with Dylan. That beach is open.

willet-taking-a-bath-ud78I found a couple of birds bathing in the puddles formed on the beach, a Willet and a Royal Tern.

tern-bath-ud78And a bit further on the bay, a Brown Pelican was enjoying a refreshing bath.

pelican-bird-bathing-3-ud78As I am not able to get any new pictures of other feathered friends at the moment, I thought I would dig in my archives for some images for this week’s photo challenge. It is all about reflections. And I found a handful of pictures presenting the salt marsh and some of its residents – in the mirror.

The first one is from spring of 2014, when Mama Osprey had hung a fish to bake in the sun. Remember that? You can see it dangling from a blue rope under the nest upside down, reflected in the water.

osprey nest reflection sunrise UD78.jpgThen I found images of the Great Egret, the Snowy Egret, the young Great Blue Heron…and Miss Rosa. All these are taken around sunrise early in the morning, when the marsh waters usually are calm like a mirror.

great-egret-reflection-at-sunrise-ud78

snowy-egret-reflection-at-sunrise-ud78

young-blue-heron-ud78

roseate-spoonbill-at-sunrise-ud78Some of you may have noticed the baby-like chubbiness of the young Great Blue Heron🙂 He sure looks a bit more adult-like today.

I hope Hermine was more lenient in other areas it visited on its way up the east coast. And I hope to be able to get into the salt marsh late in the week or next weekend to check on the residents. Best wishes for a great week to all of you.

 

In Hermine’s Arms. Wet and Windy.

No, Hurricane Hermine did not make a landfall here in central Gulf Coast. But being on the east side of the storm brewing on the ocean we came to experience the worst weather in its feeder bands. Relentless downpours and tropical storm force winds from Wednesday until this afternoon. And it’s not quite over as yet. We are fine, just now surrounded by much more water than I have ever seen here. The beach has only a narrow strip of sand before the ‘lakes’ take over. All the paths to the salt marsh are heavily flooded too. And our garden has an extra pond where I usually walk Dylan at midday.

flooded lake on the beach from Hermine UD77

flooded beach hermine UD77

hermine extra lake UD77But there has been lots of drama in our area. Rescues from sinking cars, flooded streets, homes and businesses, a hospital evacuation and house fires. A storm surge in some places north of us reached 12 feet, while ours was only 2-3 feet. Luckily no lives were lost.

hermine damage channel 8 ud77It was difficult to stay inside for over two days. Apart from some challenging bathroom breaks for Dylan. The cabin fever set in. I had gone to the terrace a couple of times during short breaks in the rain to take pictures of the ocean, the salt marsh and the bay .

hermine at the jetty UD77

hermine bay ud77And I had tried to take a few pictures from inside as well. With varying degrees of success🙂

rain and the bay Hermine UD77

hermine on the bay rain ud77So late this morning when the rain did let up for a couple of hours, I went out with my camera. I wanted to check on the flooding and the waves pounding the beach. Or so I thought.

hermine winds UD77I walked through our back garden and among lots of debris from palm trees, I found our resident Northern Mockingbird.

northern mocking bird UD77Then I steered towards our ‘board walk’, which leads to the beach. It was not under water, but I could see ‘lakes’ on both sides, normally dry land.

extra lake from hermine UD77

flooding from hermine UD77And when I arrived at the end of the walk, I discovered the path to the beach was flooded. Much more water than my rain boots would take.

hermine flooded path UD77So I ended up shooting the waves from our board walk. The wind was still measuring at over 30 miles or 50 kilometers per hour. It was difficult to stay upright. Even the flood waters had noticeable waves.

hermain on the ocean UD77

hermine gulls and waves UD77

6 foot waves Hermine UD77The waves were still about 6 feet high and a group of terns was taking shelter at the narrow sand bank separating the ocean from the flood waters. Soon it started to rain again and I had to run inside. In the coziness of our living room I looked out towards the bay. Perfecting the art of staying inside😉

hermine from inside 2 UD77I have not yet been able to visit the salt marsh due to the heavy flooding, but I hope to do so later on this Labor Day weekend. The only bird I have seen from my terrace is Mama Osprey. She was checking on the nest this afternoon. The water levels are currently too high for the wading birds to walk there, but I’m hoping for a rush as soon as the waters recede a bit. Happy weekend to all of you.

She’s Baaack! Papa Osprey’s Welcome Gift. And a Storm Brewing.

He stretched it out. The announcement was very loud, perhaps even a bit enthusiastic. The Green Heron had returned to his winter home at the salt marsh while I was gone, and appeared surprised to see me. As I walked closer, he repeated the announcement.

green heron 3 ud76An Anhinga, who was resting down by the water almost right below him, joined the choir. She’s baaack!

anhinga 2 ud76All eyes were on me. Well, almost. Even the Mayor interrupted his hunt, walked closer, nailed his eyes on me and gave me a nod.

older great blue heron ud76The young Mourning Dove checked on me too from her high vantage point. Approvingly, I thought.

mourning dove ud76Miss Rosa was still sleeping in her ‘bedroom’,  heavily curtailed by leafy greens. She opened her eyes. I’m afraid my approach had woken her up.

miss rosa ud76The Reddish Egret, who had been fishing in the shallows nearby, performed his signature dance. Shake, Baby, Shake. What a royal reception!

reddish egret 3 ud76Even two of the ducklings, who had left the salt marsh merely four months ago marching behind their Mama, came to say hi. They had grown a lot. And they had started in diving school. I saw a few more siblings further away.

two juvenile mottled ducks ud76

mottled ducklings diving ud76But not all residents joined the welcome party. The young Great Blue Heron didn’t really care to see me back. We have some history, as some of you will remember. I noticed he might have been in a fight as he had a flap of skin hanging under his chin. I wished him speedy recovery.

younger Blue Heron UD76And the Yellow-crowned Night Heron didn’t pay any attention to me either. But I didn’t take it personally. He might have been hunting all night and was now looking for some peace and quiet.

young yellow-crowned night heron ud76His cousin, the Black-crowned Night Heron, was present too and peeked out from the tall grass. He was simply shy. And soon he flew up into a tree to sleep for the day.

black+crowned night heron ud76I walked to the beach-end of the marsh and found two Great Egrets hunting together. Beautiful.

two great egrets ud76And a little Snowy Egret who was fishing alone. She soon decided to move onto the bay side and took off while I was watching her.

snowy egret ud76

snowy egret in flight ud76I was delighted to see so many feathered friends on my first walk! But where were the Ospreys? The nest was empty – and in great need of repair. Unfortunately the ground is too soft right now to allow a big vehicle to come close to the nest. That will have to wait for a bit longer.

osprey nest ud75I walked around the marsh. Then sat on ‘my’ bench to drink some water. It was hot already. I waited. A squirrel in the tree above came down to check me out.

squirrel ud76I noticed the Anhinga was still there, now drying her wings in the light breeze. And letting her latest catch, the drama of which I had obviously missed,  go down smoothly.

anhinga after breakfast ud76Suddenly I heard friendly osprey speak in the sky. Mama Sandy was flying above the marsh with Papa Stanley. Yes! Both of them were around and seemed to be doing fine.

Mama osprey 2 flies over salt marsh ud76

papa osprey flying with Steve UD76I discovered there was a third Osprey flying with them too. One with slightly orange-colored eyes and white tips on the flying feathers. A juvenile.

juvenile osprey over the nest ud76

a young osprey UD76I looked at all the pictures I snapped of this young Osprey, and while I can’t be absolutely sure, I think it might have been Lady Cawcaw! She was discussing something with her papa. Maybe getting tips on good fishing spots. That’s when Papa Stanley’s gift arrived. A beautiful flight feather came dangling down and landed on the grass just a few feet from where I was standing. I picked it up. And now have this 14 inches long ‘treasure’ in a small vase in my office, his molting gift.

mama ospreys feather ud75While I was watching the Ospreys, Miss Rosa had decided it was time for breakfast. She had come out from her hideout and was looking for food.

roseate spoonbill 2 ud76And the Reddish Egret had recovered from our first meeting and was hunting again with great determination.

reddish egret ud76I was delighted by the reception orchestrated by the salt marsh residents. So many of them were present on that beautiful morning last Saturday.

sunrise over the bay 2 ud76

sunrise on the ocean 16x9 ud76It may take a few days before we see such a glorious sunrise again as we are currently bracing for the impacts from a high grade tropical storm, hopefully not a hurricane, expected to brush our area tomorrow night and Thursday. I am hoping all our feathered friends will find shelter to keep them safe. Greetings from all of us.

 

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