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


55 thoughts on “The Egg Thief. And His Punishment.”

    1. A low key weekend will certainly be in order in the salt marsh…and here at home as well 🙂 Thanks Cyndi, have a good one!

  1. Seems like your Ospreys had a scare with that GBH trying to steel the eggs! I can imagine that you were very worried sick! Good ending though! 🙂 Terrific pictures Tiny! 🙂

    1. Thanks H.J. It happened so fast and furious. I worried after the attack was over, but happy that everything seems to be fine. The GBH came less than a foot from the nest…I hope I’ll never see it again, but I learned a lot 🙂

    1. Papa is such a good guy, very good in protecting the nest, and also a great fisherman 🙂 We’ll see him bringing even more fish when the baby/babies arrive.

  2. Whew! My heart was in my throat for the little egg. But I shouldn’t have feared as PO is doing his job like a great papa. 🙂 Wonderful pics as always my friend.

    1. Thanks Jackie. Oh, it was a horrible moment to watch, but boy is Papa effective 🙂 I hope that guy doesn’t do it again…he got his tail feathers pretty messed up.

  3. Oh…Tiny!! I’m so happy the eggs were not stolen. What an amazing piece of nature you bring to us with your photos and your words….I was on the edge of my seat!! Have a super wonderful weekend 🙂 ❤

    1. To tell you the truth, Sylvia, I was quite disappointed in Mr. GBH…would like to think it was someone else, but have the shaky half bird image to prove it was him…and he looked quite beaten up too. I’m monitoring for babies now 🙂

    1. Happy you enjoyed my missing images…my zoom is so huge that it takes a little time to recalibrate after shooting continuously, which the silly me did at the wrong moment…humbling.

  4. You might not have gotten every picture you want, but you got enough to go with a mighty fine story. Interesting that a heron did that. I wouldn’t think they’d take on an osprey, especially one that’s right there on top of the nest. It must have been desperately hungry (or young and stupid) to try that.


    1. I agree with you Nancy. I was quite shocked to see it was a GBH. And similarly impressed with the vigor with which Papa defended the nest. I’ve now seen how the GBH is really staying away from the east end of the marsh where the nest is. Maybe he is young and needed this lesson.

      1. A juvenile would make the most sense and would need the lesson too! It is fortunate to live through the experience. A heron is big, but the ospreys are fierce and no small bird themselves.

        1. That’s true. I would have liked to see what happened when Papa was diving for him, but he was going so low that I couldn’t see the water’s edge for the trees and shrubs.

    1. You can tell that I’m definitely rooting for the Osprey family 🙂 The heron has so much fish right under his nose in the marsh, he can just walk into the water and eat…Baby watch going on!

  5. Oh dear! My stomach was in knots reading this. Imagine how those poor ospreys felt, their young under attack. So glad to hear the egg (s) is/are safe.

    1. I think I was screaming watching this unfold…luckily it was over so quickly. Papa Osprey really let him have it. I’ve never seen him chase and dive after another bird like that. I’m so happy that the baby watch continues.

    1. It was a bit too much drama for me, but I’m happy everything seems to be okay…I’m hoping to spot a little head in about 10-14 days from my terrace 🙂

  6. What amazing photos! It’s awesome how the Papa defended the nest. I don’t know much about birds–but never would have guessed that a Great Blue Heron would attempt to steal eggs. I always thought that they primarily ate fish.

    1. I was very surprised about that as well. The GBH eats fish…and there is plenty to go around in the marsh. So what made this bird go for the eggs is a mystery, but like some friends have said here, it might have been a youngster.

    1. Somehow there is some drama every week…but I’m happy that everything is okay. Glad you liked it, Elena. Have a wonderful week ahead.

  7. What an event to witness but what a relief it was foolish enough to attempt a raid whilst both birds were there to fend it off. I know I should be a grown up but I just can’t help myself… go Stanley, go Stanley! 🙂

    1. You are right, Joanne, very foolish to attack when both parents were in the nest. He was probably a youngster, they do quite silly things 🙂 I’ve already been cheering on Stanley a couple of times since that incident last week.

  8. Tiny, how I LOVE these reports. I am SO relieved that the Osprey family remains safe and I hope that Blue Heron really has learned his lesson and stays away from that nest. Great shots and yes, I so so enjoyed them. What a story you are reporting!! Just wow!! Love, Amy

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