Mama Osprey is a Tough Cookie. And Other Breaking News from the Salt Marsh.

He came closer. Walked nonchalantly in the direction of the Osprey nest. Glanced up a few times along his long bill.  A sharp warning cut the air.  The rebellious teenager he is, the young Blue Heron ignored it. And started crossing the last piece of shallow water still separating him from the islet housing the nest.

Great Blue Heron juvenile Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The young Great Blue Heron approaches the nest.

Another warning. This time it was much longer, building up to a wavering squeal reverberating in the air. Mama Sandy was alarmed. Papa Stanley was out on the ocean fetching lunch, and she was alone in the nest with her three chicks.

Female Osprey in the nest with her chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy keeps an eye on the approaching youngster.

She was serious. She wouldn’t tolerate yet another attack on the nest. But the young heron wouldn’t take her word for it. He came closer and closer. He had now reached the islet where the nest pole is located. He flexed his wings, but was not yet quite airborne when Sandy whizzed down from the nest. Her talons stretched out in front of her for a direct hit.

female osprey prevents an attack on the nest by blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy’s preemptive strike.
blue heron on the ground Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The young Blue Heron on the ground after his confrontation with Sandy…
young blue heron gets up
…and he slowly gets up…
blue heron stretches up
…stretches himself …
blue heron flying away Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and flies away.

It was a lightning fast attack. The youngster went down to cover his head. When he finally got up, the feathers on his crown were messed up. He stretched himself up and immediately flew to the far end of the marsh. I have no idea how many times this youngster has attacked the nest, but I have witnessed two such occasions previously. Mama Sandy didn’t want to take the chance of needing to defend the nest up in the air, putting the chicks at risk.  So she warned him twice, with no effect, and then took preemptive action. And after returning to her chicks, she continued to keep an eye on the young heron at the other end of the marsh.

female osprey with her chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
After Sandy’s return, the nestlings help her scan for the young Blue Heron.

It’s funny how all other birds, like the two Great Egrets and the Reddish Egret pictured here just seconds before the attack, can walk and hunt close to, and even right under, the nest causing no alarm. This one individual’s bad behavior has gotten him banned from the vicinity of the Osprey family. I wonder if he’ll ever learn.

Two great egrets and a reddish egret Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
These three were fishing close to the nest just seconds before the strike. Note how fast the Reddish Egret moved away from the scene…he’s nowhere to be seen in the pictures above. Just rings on the water remained  🙂

Soon after the dust had settled, Papa Stanley arrived with a fat fish. He had already eaten the head, as he usually does with a big fish, and gave the best parts to Sandy and the chicks.

male osprey brings in a big fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Lunch arrives!

Sandy told him all about the attack straightaway. No secrets between the two of them. And then she took the fish and started feeding the chicks. Everything was back to normal. The chicks are growing fast and their appetite requires Stanley to catch a big fish, or go fishing twice for each meal to feed the whole family. I’ve seen him just leave the whole fish to Sandy and go right back onto the ocean or the bay.

A few days back, I also checked on the residents of the condo building. Everybody was fine. The Nanday Parakeet flew from his balcony onto his favorite pine branch to greet me. The European Starling was at home, and the Red-bellied Woodpecker was shopping for food in the huge supermarket just next to his apartment.

nanday parakeet Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Nanday Parakeet lifts his foot in a greeting.
eauropean starling Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The European Starling enjoys nice weather on her balcony.
red-bellied woodpecker Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Red-bellied Woodpecker looks for food right next to his apartment.

One evening I visited the salt marsh again at sunset time. The Osprey kids were already sleeping, and I guess Stanley had gone somewhere to eat the leftovers from the family dinner. Mama Sandy sat at the edge of the nest and took in the calm of the evening. This is what she saw from her vantage point.

female ospey at sunset Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy just before sunset.
Sunset at the salt marsh…
sunset Sand Key Beach Clearwater Florida
…and over the ocean.

That’s all for this week from the salt marsh. Wishing you all happiness in the month of May. Peace, Tiny

66 thoughts on “Mama Osprey is a Tough Cookie. And Other Breaking News from the Salt Marsh.”

    1. Your are right, Takami, she’s not to be messed with. But she was very patient with this young Heron, who has done bad things before. She warned him twice, and then waited until he was about to fly up to the nest. The whole thing was over in two seconds! Mama has my admiration 🙂

    1. Thank you, Carol. These stories unfold right in front of my eyes while I’m walking/jogging in the park getting my exercise. The more I observe the more fascinated I become with nature, so amazing.

  1. What a story, with photos for evidence and a good ending. I am amazed at how you managed to capture all these moments. You must have a lot of patience in addition to your photographic skills. By the way, the ospreys in our area are still incubating, at least as of two days ago.

    1. I was not sure what I had captured until I came home and saw the sequence. I was about to leave, but thought something was odd when Sandy sounded the first warning as I could not see any threat in the skies. Then when she sounded the long alarm and looked right down at the Blue Heron, I saw it was the same young one as before, and started watching the drama unfold. The ospreys in your area probably began their nesting season 5-6 weeks later than these early ones here in FL. I’m sure you’ll see little ones soon 🙂

  2. What a wonderful eye witness you are! Nature has many stories and you find some of the best ones in the Salt Marsh…drama and sweetness! Love how the offspring are growing, too. And beautiful sunsets!

    1. Thanks Cyndi. Nature weaves together the most amazing stories. My eyes have just become little better by time in seeing them. And they see the nestlings growing really fast 🙂 If my calculations are correct, they will fledge around late May.

    1. I think this one takes the record 🙂 I’m now thinking Mama’s injury the previous week could have been caused by this fellow, and not the storm. That’s a possibility. In any case, she was great 🙂

  3. We are woman hear us roar – otherwise prepare to have your feathers ruffled! What great tactics as she was more than fair but like a typical teenager “knew better”. You’d like to think he’d learnt his lesson but…

    1. That’s right, Joanne! She roared pretty well…after having lots of patience with this young fellow. But it’s amazing he isn’t learning…when everybody else lives in peace.

  4. You’re becoming a seasoned reporter Tiny, your post is pretty good and illustrated by terrific photos! 🙂

  5. And here I thought that heron was just young. Not sure Sandy can do much about stupid. How many more times does he have to learn that lesson!!


    1. I agree! A Park Ranger just told me that “this has been a successful nest” ~ meaning Sandy and Stanley have little one(s) every year and take good care of them. She’s a bird rescuer too and sees lots of nests around this region.

    1. This is the third time I’ve seen something like this, and the first time I’ve captured it 🙂 Happy you liked the coverage, Kathy!

  6. It so moving to see how mama Sandy and Papa Stanley taking care of their young kids… What a diligent work you have done! How lucky we are to get to see… Can’t thank you enough for sharing it with us, Tiny!

    1. The trials and triumphs of this little family remind us that we’re all here together. Thanks for following their story, Amy.

  7. their mom is selfless, she’s practical and caring, she seems to have endless patience, she even put up with all that mess of the blue heron that he can make! she’s a mom in countless ways, as only a mother can be 🙂

    1. Yes, she is a “model mom” and gives her all for the three kids. She was very patient with this young fellow, but told him “enough is enough”. I saw that blue heron today as well, he stayed far from the nest at the opposite end of the marsh 🙂 Hauskaa vappua!

  8. Oh Tiny I thoroughly enjoyed your captivating osprey/GB heron tussle. Terrific photos, commentary, and observations. I loved seeing the GB heron’s crown feathers messed up! And the fish in the male’s talons. And the female coming in for the heron with talons outstretched. Fabulous. 😀

    1. This week there was so much drama to report…the young heron fellow is such a nuisance. Today on my short run, I saw him diving down and scaring a young Great Heron…at the opposite end of the marsh from the osprey nest. He seems to remember what happened, but I know he has a short memory 🙂 Thanks for your great comment.

    1. The little ones start to look a like mom and dad now, but too soon to tell whether they are boys or girls. In a month they should be flying! Thanks Susan.

  9. What a wonderful post Tiny, such great shots into the Osprey aerie, it looks like a constructed nesting box. Here in Oz the Osprey pile their sticks up on the top of power poles. All beautiful bird shots, and presented in an interesting way. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Thanks! We have some of these manmade nest boxes here. The birds just fill it up with branches and sticks, and dry sea algae for the nest cup. And renovate it each nesting season. Since they don’t migrate, Mama stayed in the vicinity of the nest most of the year, keeping an eye on it. Happy you came to peek into their world!

  10. Such a great life on the marsh ~ an incredible look into the ‘bird’s life’ and the third shot with Sandy’s preemptive strike ~ awesome. Cheers to a great weekend.

    1. Seeing the ‘bird’s life’ through this couple is quite fascinating. Makes the oneness of everything very palpable to me. I was able to capture the strike only because I’ve learned to understand their communications a bit better and could look for the threat she was ‘talking’ about. Thanks Randall, have a beautiful Sunday.

  11. Mama certainly is one tough cookie. Those chicks are safe when she’s around, and she keeps a close eye out for danger. What a naughty GBH! I hope he learned his lesson. Gorgeous photos, Tiny. I really enjoyed seeing the other residents. 🙂

    1. That young GBH learned his lesson…for a few days. Unfortunately he has a very short memory. I discovered yesterday that the Woodpecker is engaged, saw him going into the nest with his bride 🙂

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Susan. I haven’t given that any thought as yet, but it’s encouraging many friends think this family’s story would be book worthy.

  12. This story made for a perfect break in my morning. What a fantastic Sunday read. I’m taking a break from digging in the garden. You have definitely learned to read this whole marsh so well! Momma is quite the protector! And really daddy is quite the man in bringing home the bacon! Your posts always set my mood to calm and peace. Thank you for the lovely distraction. One that I look forward to! Peace Tiny! Koko

    1. Thanks so much, Koko! These parents will be happy when I tell them…I talk to them sometimes when nobody else is around 🙂 Daddy is a great fisherman, yesterday he took 17 minutes to bring home afternoon snacks. Have a wonderful day! Tiny

      1. There are days where the only conversation I have is with my pets! Daddy osprey is a good bird! 17 minutes is faster than I can make dinner! Day here is wonderful! Thank you T! 🙂

    1. The older Great Blue Heron who is around a lot too, never attacks the nest. This is a young one, still much smaller than the older adult, and he’s done it twice when I have been there. I couldn’t believe my eyes. Both Mama and Papa keep an eye on his movements very carefully now.

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