Sanctuaries and Sunsets.

In the afternoon of Easter Sunday, I went to see the birds at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary again. Here are a few portraits of the resident birds, some of whom by now are old friends, like the Red-Shouldered Hawk, the Great-Horned Owl and his house mate, the Barred Owl.

red-shouldered hawk ud121

great-horned owl ud121

barred owl ud121The birds that are most represented among the permanent residents are the pelicans, both the White Pelicans and the Brown Pelicans. They tend to get hurt by human activity on the water. This warm day several of them were bathing in the many pools, large and small placed everywhere in their aviaries. Or preening to look their Sunday best.

brown pelican bathing ud121

white pelican closeup ud121

brown pelican closeup ud121

brown pelican preens ud121My friend the American Oyster Catcher was there too, and appeared to be doing better than last time I saw it.

american pyster catcher closeup ud121On this Sunday, several other birds were visiting their relatives at the sanctuary, like these American Black vultures.

american black vulture 2 ud121

american black vulture ud121I also counted more than 50 nests high in the trees around the sanctuary. I believe birds feel this is a protected zone and are confident building nests in the trees around the park. Here a mama pelican peers down from her nest high up in a tall tree, and a Black-Crowned Night Heron nods off at her nest.

mama pelican in the nest 2 ud121

black-crowned night heron sleeping ud121It was a wonderful, life-affirming visit, as always.

sanctuary ud121If only the earth would be a sanctuary for all its inhabitants.

At mid-week, I enjoyed a great sunset walk on the beach with our son, who was on a business trip here on the Gulf coast.

catamaran at sunset April 18 ud121The sunset was as beautiful as ever. Shore birds were running around at the water’s edge and little sand crabs hurried into their homes for the night.

a willet at sunset ud121.jpg

sand crab UD121The sun disappeared into the ocean leaving a soft glow on the skies. I thought about the beautiful Irish blessing “May every sunset hold more peace.”

sunset April 18 16x9 UD121With that thought I wish you all a wonderful weekend. I will be traveling to spend time with the youngest generation of our family. It always gives me hope. Just like the Osprey chicks.

Surprises. And Almost a Heart Attack.

It started innocently enough. On Tuesday afternoon, just around dinner time, husband asked me if I had seen ‘the birds’, aka the Osprey family. My nose had been clued to the computer all day, so I went onto the terrace with my binoculars and my super zoom. And almost got a heart attack. The Osprey nest was empty! I mean, no adults around. A little head was sticking up from the nursery. What an earth had happened?

empty nest ud119I waited. No parent came back. And suddenly the first-born got very anxious, flexed its tiny featherless wings and screamed from the bottom of its lungs. Ma-ma!  The second-born lifted up its head as well. They were alarmed.

two osprey chicks alone in the nest ud119Then, after several minutes, one of the parents landed on the perch. It was impossible to tell which one. I assumed it was Papa Stanley because Mama Sandy would have landed in the nest. All kinds of thoughts flew through my mind on what might have happened to Sandy. You see, normally she would not leave the chicks alone before they are six weeks old, and these chicks were hardly three weeks old last Tuesday.

a parent is back ud119Right after finishing my dinner I checked on the nest again. Someone was feeding the chicks! It looked like Sandy. And – surprise, surprise – she had three chicks in front of her! The two older chicks are bigger and ‘darker’ and the youngest chick (in the middle) is still very small and much lighter in color. That was a much nicer surprise.

mama osprey feeds three chicks 4 ud119But I couldn’t be sure it was Sandy until I saw her much closer – from the ground. So out we went, Dylan and I. He knew his mom was on a mission and sat down every time I took pictures.

Dylan at sunset ud120It was late in the day, almost 7:30 p.m., but I was able to confirm Sandy was back with her chicks. That was a great relief.

mama osprey 2 ud120Perhaps Sandy had gotten tired of waiting for dinner and had decided to go fishing herself. For a change. And in the process almost gave me a heart attack.

That evening I was treated to yet another nice surprise. Miss Rosa was back! I had not seen her in about six weeks, and it was great to see was fine, beautiful as ever. Perhaps she too was on a ‘mommy break’ from nesting activities on the bird island in the bay.

miss rosa at sunset ud120And the Mayor was there patrolling the waters, as always.

the mayor at sunset ud120And just before the darkness fell, I spotted a Red-winged Backbird. I know he is nesting at the marsh right now, just like last year.

red-winged blackbird at sunset ud120On the bay side, walking back home, we saw a Willet utilizing the low tide to get herself some supper.

willet ud120Yesterday morning I took a quick walk around the marsh, mostly to check on the Osprey chicks. The whole family was gathered. Sandy was feeding the chicks, who had grown a lot since Tuesday.

osprey family ud120I could only see two of them, but it doesn’t mean that the last-born wasn’t there. The first-born and the middle chick are almost the same size, born only a day apart, while the last chick was probably born two days after the middle chick.  At this time in their development four days make a huge difference.

osprey chicks siblings ud120The oldest chick is just over three weeks old now and has already learned a lot, like mimicking Sandy when she sounded a warning to a pelican flying over the nest.

pelican in flight ud117

mama osprey and chick sound alarm ud120I had to smile. It has also discovered its wings and is trying to flex them a bit already. In the picture below, Sandy is probably feeding the little one, whom she wisely keeps a bit separated from the two older ones. I am hoping the tiny last-born will survive. Its chances to fledge are statistically only about 38%. But then, Sandy is an exceptional mother and Stanley is a great provider.

older chick has discovered his wings ud120When walking quickly around the marsh, I got a fourth surprise. Henry, the mischievous young Great Blue Heron, who used to attack the Osprey nest in 2015, was back. He is still much smaller than the Mayor, and was keenly watching the nest from the north side of the marsh. Not again, I thought.

the younger blue heron ud120I was trying to move closer to get a clear shot when I heard heavy wing beats. The Mayor was approaching, fast. I was so surprised that I didn’t even get a clear picture of him chasing away young Henry. But here is the end tail of that action.

major chasing ud120Happy being firmly in charge of the city again, the Mayor settled at the far end of the marsh.

major ud120Everything was good again. When I left to go home, the courting Mottled Duck couple cruised the calm waters just below the Osprey nest.

mottled duck couple ud120We all wish you Happy Easter.

Travels. And Homecoming Gifts.

My work trip to the nation’s capital last week was like jumping on a treadmill that was moving at an ever-increasing speed.

dc national mall ud116The approaching spring was evident, but so was the stress level. Luckily Dylan has trained me well so I could keep up with the people buzzing on the streets.

washington monument ud116I managed to run fast, sit in countless meetings and accomplish my mission. But it felt good when I was finally on my way back home.

reagan airport at sunset ud116The darkening city after sunset looked deceptively peaceful from the skies.

sunset over washington dc ud116It took a couple of days of dipping my toes into the serenity here at home before I felt the last traces of stress leaving my body. But I knew where the medicine cabinet was. At the salt marsh. Dylan and I went for a walk there late on Saturday – after I had spotted two tiny chicks in the nest from our terrace. The sun had already set when we walked the south side of the marsh right below the Osprey nest. I was breathing peace. Papa Stanley sat on the perch, and while he’s usually not tolerating people who walk there, he didn’t say a peep when Dylan and I admired him…and the moon. He just nodded his greeting.

papa osprey and the moon ud117

moon ud117Then, finally, this morning, I took a long walk at the salt marsh. And boy, did I feel welcomed by all! The first thing I spotted, even before reaching the park, was the Little Blue Heron. He was confidently balancing on the wooden fence.

little blue heron ud117And when I looked up, I saw Papa Stanley returning to the nest with a brand new mattress for the babies.

Papa osprey went shopping ud117

papa osprey comes home ud117Mama Sandy was shielding the babies from the sun, and paparazzi, but soon she got up and started making the bed.  And reinforcing the security of the nest.

mama osprey working ud117Then she sat down again and realized it was lunch time. She asked Stanley, in no uncertain terms, to go fishing. Right now.

mama osprey wants fish ud117He obliged, and I walked around the marsh to say hello to the residents who happened to be at home. First I spotted a visitor from the bay side, a Cormorant, close to the nest.

cormorant ud117.jpgAnd then I saw the older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor. He was standing in the shallow water and shaking his feathers. It looks more and more likely that he has a nest at the marsh. You see, last year during the nesting season I hardly saw him, and now he is present every time I visit, including late at night. He even posed for a portrait as soon as he had settled in his office.

mayor is wet ud117

the mayor great blue heron ud117It’s always reassuring to see him. To my delight I saw that the “Clown”, aka the Reddish Egret, was there too. He was faithful to his manners and put up a show in the middle of the marsh. I tried to tell him to come closer, but somehow he preferred the waters far away.

reddish egret 2 ud117

reddish egret 1 ud117But then I finally realized why he stayed right there. Silly me. He had an admirer! A beautiful, shy lady was observing him from an islet closer to me…straight line of sight.

another reddish egret ud117Hmm. Maybe something’s going on there. I continued my walk and spotted a Great Egret walking on the east fence. Look at that neck!

great egret in our garden ud117And her smaller cousin, a Snowy Egret was walking in the water nearby in her beautiful breeding plumage.

snowy egret ud117Papa Moorhen was minding his own business, or perhaps he was looking for some good bites to take back to Mama in the nest.

papa morrhen ud117Arriving back to the Osprey nest, I noticed some White Ibis foraging in the grass.

while ibis ud117.jpgAnd  suddenly something bright red flew past me. And then something orange swished by. I realized I had spotted the first Northern Cardinal couple at the marsh, ever. Yay!

male cardinal ud117

female cardinal ud117They looked for food in the grass, and I was so focused on them that I didn’t notice Papa Stanley had returned with a fish. He had already given it to Sandy and was sitting on the perch while Sandy was feeding the chicks.

papa osprey ud117So I started to walk home. Happy after seeing so many friends at the marsh, but a bit disappointed because I knew there were at least two chicks in the nest I wasn’t able to see. Reaching the street, I looked at back at the nest. And couldn’t believe my eyes. I spotted two little heads reaching for food!

mama osprey feeds two chicks ud117

Mama osprey feeds two chicks 3 ud117There could very well be three of them because it looked like they were in different places. Time will tell. But I am happy I could see them, and my last shot of the first-born was quite decent.

mama osprey feeds one chick ud117They are not yet pretty, but will be in a few weeks. Whether they are two or three, I hope all of them will survive. Exciting times, indeed.

Thank you for being here. We wish you peace.

 

 

 

Performances and Mysteries.

They flew low in a tight formation over the bay. It was just before sunset. Dylan had insisted I take my camera along for the evening walk. I guess he had seen me glued to my computer and my phone all week, and felt we should take a longer walk. So I complied – and right off the bat we witnessed a spectacular synchronized dive by four Brown Pelicans on the bay.

Pelicans ud115One of them took off immediately and sat down to digest his meal, but the rest stayed on the water to enjoy the soft evening glow.

pelican ud115A lone Oyster Catcher was having his dinner near the sea wall, where the low tide had revealed a rich smorgasbord.

oyster catcher ud115Before we left the bay side, we spotted the younger Great Blue Heron, whom I haven’t seen in a couple of months. He was making plans for the evening under the Sailing Center pier.

younger Great Blue heron ud115When we walked through the marsh towards the dog park, we saw Papa Stanley in a pine tree close to the nest. He spotted us too and nodded his greeting.

papa osprey at sunset ud115He was facing the nest, where Mama Sandy was brooding the chicks basking in the last rays still reaching the salt marsh.

mama osprey in the nest at sunsetDylan spent a few minutes running with his friends at the dog park, including one of his first friends there, Saki.

dylan at doggy park UD115

saki ud115When we walked back past the nest Papa Stanley was there too, drying his feathers and facing the setting sun. Perhaps he had brought home some evening snacks.

sunset mama and papa osprey ud115I have seen from my terrace that Sandy is now brooding the chicks and feeding them small bites of fish. But their new home is  paparazzi-safe. The nest cup is so deep that I have not yet gotten a good picture of the new generation. However, I am concluding from Sandy’s feeding pattern that they have 2-3 babies…about 10-12 days old by now. It’s funny how they always notice me taking pictures from my terrace although I am more than a block away from the nest.

mama and papa osprey tend to chicks ud115Then yesterday I finally had a chance to do a solo walk at the marsh in bright daylight. It was interesting to note that Sandy left the nest twice for a minute or so. When Stanley was there looking after the kids, she flew to the middle of the marsh and brought back something small, holding it very carefully in both her talons.

mama osprey returns first time ud115I have seen this also in previous years and always wondered what it is she brings back to the nest. The fact that Sandy now leaves the nest also tells me the chicks are more than 10 days old. She does not need to brood continuously any more. I just hope to see a little head, or more, soon. After twice leaving and bringing in some mysterious stuff, Sandy left Stanley in charge and went out once more for a short excursion. Perhaps she just wanted some exercise because she came back empty handed.

papa osprey at the nest 2 ud115

mama osprey returns to the nest ud115I walked around the marsh and saw a few friends. The Mayor was back in his office on the tiny islet. It looked like he was firmly in control of this small ‘city’. That was reassuring.

Mayor in his office ud115The Tri-Colored heron was foraging in the shallows – and little later on I saw him catch a small fish.

tri-colored heron ud115The Little Blue Heron was also there with the tiny Snowy Egret. I am thinking these guys are too young to form a family as yet.

little Blue Heron ud115

snowy egret ud115Then I saw Stanley leave the nest. He flew towards the ocean. But in a couple of minutes he returned to the marsh. He didn’t fly to the nest empty-handed, that would’ve been a mistake, instead he settled on a cypress tree far away from the nest.

papa osprey lands to rest ud115He sat there for a few minutes resting, then flew towards the bay. I hope he had better luck there. I saw many other smaller birds on this weekend walk, but those images will need to come in a future post.

sunset 16x9 ud115.jpgI have a short work trip coming up in the beginning of the week and wish you all a wonderful week.

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.

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