Recalculating. Birds and Drones over the Salt Marsh.

This report from the salt marsh actually covers only the first half of the week, up until Wednesday. But don’t you worry, there’s been a full week’s worth of excitement. As you read this I’ll be traveling. And hoping a little osprey chick would have arrived by the time I’ll be back next week 🙂

female osprey sitting on the eggs
Mama osprey sits on the egg(s) February 21st

That brings me back to my calculations of the “due date”. I have now gone through my pictures from February. And I can say, with a high degree of certainty, that Sandy was incubating on February 21st. She may have laid the first egg on February 20-21. If that is correct, we would expect a hatchling anytime from this weekend to Monday-Tuesday next week.

Mexican Gulf sunset Sand key beach clearwater
Sunset over the Gulf.

Last weekend I took a walk at sunset time. It was a beautiful evening. The salt marsh was quiet, most birds had already gone to their sleeping quarters. The only one still feeding in the shallow waters was a Roseate Spoonbill clad in hot pink breeding colors.

roseate spoobill
A Roseate Spoonbill looks for dinner.

Mama Sandy had eaten her dinner and was sitting on the eggs.  She raised her head to say hi. I didn’t see Papa Stanley. So I went looking for him. And found him in his man cave finishing dinner.

mama osprey at sunset
Mama Osprey sits on the egg(s) at sunset time…the sun no longer reaches the nest.
osprey eating at sunset
Papa Osprey finishes a meal in his still sunny man cave on the other side of the road.

It was getting dark, and I had started my walk home, when I heard a faint humming sound. I looked up and saw a manmade bird, a drone, flying above the park. It was small, but I managed to get a photo when it turned and was lit up by the sunset’s afterglow.

a drone flies over Sand Key park
A drone flies over the park.

From a distance I heard Sandy sound a short alarm. I’m sure Stanley flew right away over to the nest to protect her and the egg(s) from this unfamiliar danger. I’m assuming this was their first time to see such a strange “bird” fly in the skies over the marsh. It certainly was for me. And I can’t say I liked it. I definitely prefer birds made by nature. Like these little fellows.

MOTTLED DUCK COUPLE
A Mottled Duck couple basking in the midday sun.

The beginning of the week was peaceful. Lots of birds in the marsh. Many of them pairing up and working on their nests.

ibis in flight
A White Ibis flies to the bay side.
red-bellied woodpecker in the pine tree
The Red-bellied Woodpecker works in a pine tree close to his condo home.
Boat-tailed Grackle
A Boat-tailed Grackle observes the goings-on in the marsh.
red-winged blackbird
A Red-winged Blackbird is a new resident in the marsh.
a juvenile pied billed grebe
This tiny Pied-billed Grebe lives in the marsh with her mom and dad.

As to Sandy and Stanley, they have spent the week doing what matters most. Family stuff. Protecting the nest, incubating, bathing, preening, exercising, inspecting the egg(s) and feeding. The other day I happened to witness a food transport. Papa Stanley was returning from a fishing trip over the ocean. Delivering a nice fresh fish to Mama Sandy.

papa osprey brings fish to mama
Papa Osprey delivers fresh seafood…a small fish.

They quickly changed shifts. Stanley sat on the eggs and Sandy took the fish and flew off to the  lamp-post close by to enjoy it.

 osprey eats on a lamp-post
Mama Osprey enjoys her food on a nearby lamp-post.

She then returned to the nest and did her pilates balancing on the edge. Stretching her arms and legs in turn. Followed by light flying exercises around the marsh.

mama osprey does her workout
Mama Osprey does her pilates…
Mama Osprey flies around the nest
Mama Osprey flies around the marsh just to get some exercise.

I wish them…and you all a wonderful weekend! I’ll catch up on your blogs next week as soon as I return.

Reporting from the salt marsh on Wednesday, Tiny

 

Wordless Wednesday: Shake Baby, Shake. Frame by Frame.

Start by shaking off all anger. So it doesn’t poison your being.
Then shake off your fears. So that love can come to your heart.
Then shake off your fears. So love can come to your heart.
reddish egret shaking off water Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Next, shake off all your worries. They won’t do you any good.
Next shake off all remaining negativity. So you make room for positive thoughts.
Then shake off any remaining negativity. So you make room for positive energy.
osprey shaking off water Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Next, shake away and leave behind old baggage. It will just weigh you down.
snovy egret shaking off water Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
And finally, shake some more to get rid of any lingering doubts. So you can go on trusting life.
Time for a happy dance on a lamp-post? Shake baby, shake 🙂

 

Detective Work and a New Condo Building. In the Salt Marsh.

No baby news as yet for the Osprey Family.  Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley are still sitting tight on the egg(s), taking turns. Sandy sits from sunset until sunrise, then gets a nice break after breakfast for bath and exercise.

female osprey drying herself Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Osprey does her morning exercises. She has specialized in greeting me her head upside down   🙂

She also gets a short break in the afternoon, and a last long one just after dinner before sunset. The shift change is quick and smooth, well practiced by now.

shift change for incubating ospreys Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Shift change, Mama Osprey goes back to sit on the egg(s) after her morning break…
shift change for incubating ospreys Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…Papa osprey leaves for his break…
male osprey leaves the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and to get the next meal.

Just a little later this day, on my way home, I found him on Marriott’s roof looking for fish in the bay, but also checking on Mama every now and then. It’s quite far from the nest, but I’m sure he could both see and hear her.

osprey on the roof of sand key Marriott resort
Papa Osprey’s lookout on the roof of Marriott Resort.

But I’ve seen some indications that hatching is imminent. Sandy gets up, exercises a bit and inspects the egg(s), which she hasn’t done before. She’s counting the days, I’m sure.

Mama osprey checks on the eggs Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Osprey checks on the egg(s)…

And Stanley has moved his perch closer to the nest. Last few days I’ve found him on a lamp-post just south of the park border and only 30 feet from the nest. I took this picture of him on St. Patrick’s Day through some thick trees. He was sleepy after eating the head of the fish and was just guarding it until Sandy would tell him she wants to eat.

osprey sleeping with a half eaten fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…while Papa is sleeping with full crop on his lamp-post.

A wonderful little couple. But has their week been just peace and quiet? Of course not. Osprey Steve has flown by a few times, but heeded the warnings and disappeared quickly. Maybe he’s finally learning. But that’s not the case with the Great Blue Heron who attacked the nest couple of weeks ago. He did it again.

young great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The culprit, a young Great Blue Heron is hiding close to some tall grass.

This time I had just left to go home and had reached the opposite end of the marsh when I saw a Great Blue Heron fly right over me from the beach towards the nest. I saw Papa Osprey intercepting him in the air about ten feet from the nest. I scrambled with my camera that I had already shut off and placed in my bag. And saw a wild chase over the salt marsh. The culprit was fleeing and Papa was chasing him. I managed to get them both in one of my wild shots from very far. You can see Stanley coming back towards the marsh and the Blue Heron flying over the marsh trying to find a hiding place.

Papa Osprey (on the upper left) chases the Great Blue Heron (on the right)

I just had to return and do some detective work. I couldn’t believe the culprit was the resident Great Blue Heron, whom I had named the Mayor of the Marsh, and seen around for the whole year. And I was right. Little detective work sometimes pays off. There were two Great Blue Herons in the marsh! The youngster (pictured above) who just flew in and attacked the nest, and the older gentleman. He was watching the drama from a small islet, and I had not seen him earlier. That explains a lot.

great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Mayor of the Marsh checks on the residents…

I have one more funny thing to report.  You remember the old palm trunk where Papa Stanley has his man cave penthouse? Now that he’s moved closer to the nest and is not using it much, it has become a very busy condo building for nesting birds.

nanday parakeet Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Nanday Parakeet couple has the upper unit…
european starling
A couple of European Starlings have the middle unit…
redbellied woodpecker in his nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and a Red-bellied Woodpecker has the lower unit on the other side of the trunk.
Two residents are on their balconies, the woodpecker is obviously on his way out to run some errands.

Oh, I almost forgot. The Green Heron, whom I haven’t seen for months, returned to the marsh just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

green heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Green Heron is back home!

That’s all for this week. Unless there are breaking news. I hope your week has been great so far.

Reporting from the salt marsh, Tiny

Spring Break. Man Cave Rentals and Guard Duty.

This week has been warm. Spring-like. Birds are courting and building nests. Wild flowers are blooming in the salt marsh. And spring-breakers are everywhere.

spring flowers in salt marsh
Spring flowers are blooming…

The Osprey Family is not taking a spring break.  Sandy and Stanley continue to incubate in shifts. Mama Sandy’s shifts seem to be little longer, and she always takes a bath whenever she gets some time off. Then dries herself in the sun, sits on the egg(s) again and asks Papa to go fishing.

female osprey dries herself Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy shakes off the water after a quick bath…

They seem to have established a regular routine to be interrupted only by Papa Stanley’s guard duty when a potential intruder approaches the nest.

male osprey on guard duty Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley warns Steve…

I’m happy to report that the Great Blue Heron has not repeated his attack on the nest. He’s still keeping an admirably low profile at the opposite end of the marsh.

great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mister Great Blue Heron keeps a low profile…

But Steve, the young Osprey, has been around again. Several times. The other day he flew very close to the nest. Papa Stanley’s loud warnings scared even a Mottled Duck who was swimming close by. She literally ran on water 🙂

mottled duck runs on water Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mottled Duck runs on water…

But Steve didn’t give up. He kept circling around the nest. And finally Stanley had no choice but to chase him away in person.

another osprey flies above the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Steve flies above the nest…
male osprey flies out of the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and Papa Stanley decides to chase him away.

Papa Stanley still enjoys his man cave, but spends more time in the nest now. And lets feathery spring-breakers rent his perch from time to time.

male osprey Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Osprey in his man cave
nanday parakeet couple Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Two Nanday Parakeets visiting…

A Red-bellied Woodpecker has been working on his little apartment in the same old palm trunk for a few days now, and today he finally moved in. He appeared to be very pleased with his new home.

red-bellied woodpecker Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Red-bellied Woodpecker builds a home…
Woodpecker builds his nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and inspects the walls…
redbellied woodpecker in his nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Home sweet home…

I’m sure Stanley will be a good neighbor. And a good dad. Maybe already next week if my estimates are about right.

male osprey flies over the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley flies over the nest to check on Mama.

And he definitely is a good hubby. Today, directly after the shift change at noon, he flew away. I’m guessing to take a bath. But he came back shortly and flew over the nest just to check on Mama before going to fetch some fish for lunch.

All is good. The salt marsh gang wishes you all a wonderful weekend.  ❤ Tiny

 

 

 

Wordless Wednesday: Guess Who? Times Five.

yellowcrowned night heron
Guess who’s hiding beneath this umbrella?
yellowcrowned night heron 2 WW
It’s the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, my friend. Did you get it right in the end?
female osprey preens
Guess who’s veiling her beauty with this glamorous hair do?
It's Mama Osprey! She can be funny too...
Mama Osprey! She can be funny too…says peek-a-boo!
reddish egret hunting
Guess who’s disguised behind these blue “sails”?
reddish egret WW
It’s Mr. Showman, who surprises nails! The Reddish Egret…he never fails!
Guess who’s disappeared underneath this “hang glide”?
papa osprey 2 WW
It’s the brave Papa Osprey showing his might! He’s an impressive sight!
snowy egret guess who by tiny WW
Guess who’s taking a bath in her fluffy white gown?
snowy egret sitting in water
It’s Miss Snowy Egret. She loves refreshing baths and has no regret…getting her gown wet!

 

Monday Musings: On Silence

“Let silence take you to the core of life.”

“The quieter you become the more able you are to hear.”

Rumi

 “Are you listening?

Be aware of the silence.

Hear life’s depths revealed.

Watch sources of strength be born.

Be still – be present.”

-Tiny 🙂

The Egg Thief. And His Punishment.

Last Sunday the weather finally warmed up and I’ve been able to take a short walk/jog/run to see my feathered friends in the salt marsh several times. It’s been quite a week. Events from high drama to comedy, and everything in between. But I’ll try to be short.

On Monday, the Osprey family’s peaceful life was interrupted by a lightning fast attack by an egg thief. It was the most dangerous event I have witnessed, and also one of the most humbling moments for my bird photography. I missed the main action:  Papa Osprey fighting off a direct attack on the nest. Such is life, I have so much more to learn about these birds. But I’ll tell you the story anyway.

an osprey couple in the nest Sand key park Clearwater Florida
Mama Osprey talks to Papa…

I was standing and watching Mama Sandy sitting on the egg(s) and Papa Stanley keeping her company. She was talking to him. Suddenly Stanley started flexing his wings. Silly me thought he was getting ready to fly out. So I zoomed in and started shooting. Little did I know that from right behind me a big bird was approaching the nest. I should’ve understood something serious was up. See for yourself.

osprey sees a danger approaching at the Sand kay nest Clearwater Florida osprey sees a danger approaching at the Sand kay nest Clearwater Florida osprey sees a danger approaching at the Sand kay nest Clearwater Florida osprey sees a danger approaching at the Sand kay nest Clearwater FloridaPapa Stanley turned around and in the next half second I saw a big bird above my head flying right towards the nest. Mama Sandy was already pressed tight over the egg(s)…not visible from the ground.

The next one second was crucial. While trying to refocus my camera, I saw a fight in the air just a feet or two above the next. Papa Osprey was defending the nest against the intruder with his talons and the intruder was attacking Papa with his bill. I didn’t even register what bird it was, only that it was much bigger than Papa Stanley. I got a shaky picture of papa and half of the bird 🙂 just below the nest where the intruder fled. Papa was right on his tail. Mama screamed. I think I might have too.

male osprey dives chasing an intruder
Papa Stanley dives down repeatedly at the far end of the marsh…

While the attack was thwarted in one second, Papa was chasing the egg thief over the salt marsh for several minutes. He was diving down repeatedly and I couldn’t see what was going on. Mama Sandy sat up in the nest and watched the drama.

female osprey in the nest
Mama Osprey watches the chase…

Finally after about 10 minutes Stanley returned to the nest to ensure Mama and the egg(s) were fine.  And it’s my understanding they were.

male osprey returns to the nest sand key park clearwater florida
Papa flies right up to the nest after he’s satisfied the threat is over…
male osprey flies into the nest sand key park clearwater florida
…and checks on Mama and the egg(s)

Now I looked at my picture of the half bird. I saw it was a Great Blue Heron.  On my way home I found him at the very opposite end of the marsh. It looked like he got his butt kicked pretty good by Papa Osprey. I hope he learned his lesson.

great blue heron sand key park cleaarwater florida
The culprit, a Great Blue Heron, got his feathers messed up…

The rest of the week has been rather fun. Sandy and Stanley have been taking turns in incubating the egg(s).  It seems that Sandy gets at least two long breaks every day, maybe more.

male osprey sits on the eggs while female dries herself sand key park clearwater florida
Papa Osprey sits on the egg(s) while Mama dries herself…

And now it’ll be only a couple of weeks before there should be a hatchling!

Papa Stanley still goes to his man cave to eat. He seems to be eating the head and the tail of the fish, giving Sandy the best part. He’s a good hubby and dad.

male osprey eats on his perch sand key park clearwater florida
Papa enjoys lunch in his man cave… with a white feather sticking up from his wing…

One day I saw him eating there, and the next day there was a colorful visitor borrowing his perch, a Nanday Parakeet, again. Stanley flew somewhere else close by to finish his fish.

nanday parakeet in sand key park clearwater florida
A Nanday Parakeet borrows Papa Osprey’s perch…

To tell you the truth, there were two visitors. A Red-bellied Woodpecker was hard at work to find food in the same dead palm trunk.

A red-bellied Woodpecker in sand key park clearwater florida
A Red-bellied Woodpecker looking for food…

Back in the marsh, many birds have been showing off their fishing skills, the most expressive being the Reddish Egret. He is the showman of the marsh, but that’s another story altogether.

tricolored geron gets a fish sand key park clearwater florida
A Tricolored Heron caught a fish…
reddish egret hunting in sandkey park clearwater florida
A Reddish Egret performs a traditional hunting dance…

I can tell you the Great Blue Heron has been keeping a very low profile. Staying at the other end of the marsh every day.

I wish you all a great weekend. Reporting from the salt marsh, Tiny