Sunrise Pageant in the Salt Marsh. And a Bombshell.

Last Sunday was my big outdoors day. I was up before dawn and went for a walk to see the natural world wake up to a new day. I was happily surprised to find so many birds up and running at the early hour. It was like watching a pageant right there in the salt marsh. One beauty arriving after another. I invite you to join me.

tricolored heron at sunrise Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
First out was the Tricolored Heron carrying her multi-colored feathers with exquisite beauty…
a great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Great Blue Heron was next….pausing  to showcase the whimsical cut on the back of his suit…
The Snowy Egret on Sand Key Beach Clearwater Florida
The Snowy Egret was walking like a pro, demonstrating her elegant white gown and great posture.
a roseate spoonbill in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Next out was the Roseate Spoonbill in her hot pink dress…something worth reflecting on.
 Little Blue Heron in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Ms. Pink was followed by the Little Blue Heron showcasing her deep purplish-blue dress with sophisticated grace.
a reddish egret in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The pageant file-through  was completed by the Reddish Egret, appropriately clad in striking colors for his upcoming show.

Needless to say, I was delighted by all this natural beauty. But where were the Ospreys?  The answer: still sleeping. It’s wonderful that the exhausted parents got to sleep in on a Sunday morning, isn’t it?

sleeping osprey in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Everyone in the nest is still sleeping…it’s barely daylight.

When I arrived at the nest, Mama Sandy was the only one visible. Slowly she opened her eyes, and soon another sleepy head appeared. Papa Stanley was waking up. It looked like he had slept in the nest, for a change. I observed their morning ritual. Both flexing and preening for a few minutes. Then Sandy started asking for breakfast. And Stanley complied after a short, remarkably quiet discussion. No sign of the kids, they were still sleeping.

osprey couple at sunrise in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Osprey asks Papa to go get breakfast just after 7 a.m.
male osprey leaves for an early morning fishing trip Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley leaves for an early morning fishing trip.

I took another walk at sunset time the same day. I found a late dinner in progress at the nest. Again, I didn’t get to see the chicks.

Dinner at 7:40 p.m. at the osprey nest in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Dinner at 7:40 p.m. Sandy is feeding, but no chicks visible.

So on Monday morning, having my coffee on the terrace, I looked at the nest with binoculars. I blinked. And blinked again. But still saw the same scenario: not two, but three little heads came up when Sandy distributed breakfast. That’s dropping a “bombshell” on me. And a very good one at that. Sandy and Stanley have three chicks!

I didn’t get the opportunity to go see the chicks, who must be about three weeks old by now, until midweek. When I arrived at the nest, lunch was being served. And I got lucky. The table was in plain view from the ground. And I could see all three chicks being fed in turn.

osprey feeding chickSand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy feeds the first chick.
three osprey chicks in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy feeds the middle chick…but you can see all three here.
osprey female feed chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Gimme food! Sandy feeds the last chick.

They are already moving around, and one of them even came close to the edge and looked out into the big, wide world. I’m guessing it was the first born.

A curious osprey chick looks out of the nest in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A curious chick scans its environment.

The kids’ lunch lasted about 40 minutes, and then it was Sandy’s turn to eat. Finally Stanley started collecting what was left of the fish, took it and flew to his man cave to enjoy a late lunch.

male osprey collects the rest of the fish in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Stanley collects his lunch box…
male osprey flies with the rest of the fish after chicks have been fed Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and flies to his man cave, passing right above my head.

This ritual is repeated at least three times a day, maybe four. I hope all three nestlings will thrive, despite the hotter than normal weather. And that we’ll be able to watch their flying lessons in about a month. That should be fun. Here’s a teaser. This is how their only nestling, a girl, fledged last year.

Osprey chick learns to fly on May 13, 2014, almost landing on her mama Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Their chick learns to fly on May 13, 2014, and almost lands on Sandy (I didn’t have my current zoom last year, so the picture is a bit grainy)

That’s all for this week.  The salt marsh gang sends ❤ to all friends, and particularly to those whose week hasn’t been the best.  Tiny

66 thoughts on “Sunrise Pageant in the Salt Marsh. And a Bombshell.”

    1. That was a good surprise! You can imagine how challenging it is to feed them and to protect them from the heat we’re having. I hope our spring weather will return soon 🙂

  1. Ooh, what exciting news! 🙂 (Now, I don’t want to upset their feelings, so I’m just whispering this … but, my goodness, they’re not very attractive when they’re little, are they?? How long do they look grey and scruffy like this?) Look forward to further photos, and good job on the reporting from the salt marsh, Tiny! 🙂

    1. You made me laugh so hard 😀 They are not attractive at all yet, but their feathers have started to grow already. In a couple of weeks they will look much better, then in a month they will look just like mom and dad – only with some white pricks 🙂 And then it’s time to learn to fly. Thanks, Sally!

  2. Great captures Tiny – especially of the familia 🙂
    Can’t wait to see what that reddish egret gets up to next. He can be very entertaining!!

    1. The familia thanks you for your nice comment, Val 🙂 The Reddish Egret is likely have a show soon. He’s been practicing diligently 😉

    1. The show was great, first time I’ve seen so many birds at sunrise. And the Osprey parents had another surprise in store…now I’m keeping my thumbs up that all of them will make it!

  3. Oh, I love your bombshell ending. No wonder Papa was bringing so much food to the table. He has a hungry horde to feed. As for the birds in the salt marsh; their colours are so intense. Utterly beautiful.

    1. Oh, I couldn’t believe my eyes…but you’re right, PO has been hauling in so much food. Even the “baked” fish is gone now. The sunrise colors make everything glow in the salt marsh…and this time there were so many birds around.

    1. Thanks Susan, I’m happy you like the true story of this little…now bigger…Osprey family. They are such wonderful birds.

    1. They really “showed off” last Sunday morning. The Spoonbill is at its most colorful now, at breeding time. The osprey chicks are growing fast and will be more “presentable” in a couple of weeks. I’m just hoping for rain and cooler weather…that would add to the chances that all three will make it.

    1. Thanks Cyndi. Last Sunday morning the birds really did put up a magnificent show…and later I got lucky to actually see all three chicks standing on my bench. The curious one really helped Papa to check the skies, and even looked at me. Good to get acquainted early on 🙂

  4. So many birds, all captured beautifully. Your Osprey pictures make me want to go back and check on the ones at EBF refuge, but maybe they only have eggs at this time, no chicks yet.

    1. Thanks Hien. This osprey couple are among the earliest even here in south-central FL…some others have apparently just hatched. I would love to see pictures of little ospreys from the EBF refuge in time!

  5. So, don’t count your eggs before they hatch? Or something like that?

    Three cheeps, how cute!

    I love all the other bird photos though. If I lived there I would never be indoors, I would be birdwatching all day 🙂

    1. Thanks! Mama didn’t let me count the eggs 😉 And the Hubs is saying I’m out birdwatching all day, but that’s of course not true…

    1. The parents are both proud and busy! The little ones want fish…yesterday! The parade was rare, usually the birds are still sleeping at sunrise. Happy you liked their spring fashions, Sylvia.

    1. Thanks Meg. I didn’t have the time to check on the babies today, but yesterday took a few pics from my terrace and saw all three were being fed. I’m hoping for rain because it’s been unseasonably hot here this past week.

    1. Thank you Jet. I think (from talking to a park ranger yesterday) that this is the first time they have three chicks. I started following this couple last year when they had only one. Three is awesome 🙂

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