Parenting Preteens. Exercise Regimens. And More Babies in the Salt Marsh.

I want to start this weeks update by showing you the bigger picture of the salt marsh and the eastern (bay side) part of the park where all the adventures of the Osprey family and other feathered friends take place. So here you have the “theatre of operations” 🙂

The bigger picture of the
The bigger picture of the salt marsh ~ click to enlarge.

And while we are on the pictures I took last weekend, you can also see the nest from above. It’s getting somewhat crowded.

ospey nest from above Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Osprey family pictured from above.

The chicks are growing fast. They resemble their parents more and more. I have to say I admire the parenting skills of this couple. Sandy has protected the youngest chick and ensured s/he gets a fair share of the food. And she’s taught all three kids patience and great manners. There are no signs of the usual sibling rivalry, no fighting or picking on each other.

Female osprey feeds the smallest chick at sunrise in  Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy feeds the youngest chick at sunrise today. Papa Stanley must have made a pre-dawn fishing trip and is now taking a well deserved nap.

Stanley brings in fish after fish all day long and participates actively in the upbringing of their offspring. Like any modern dad. And both of them are highly skilled in protecting the nest, as you’ve seen.

male osprey brings a fish into the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Stanley brings in a fish, head already eaten as usual.

One day I witnessed a quiet discussion between the parents while the chicks were napping.  Or more like a monologue by Sandy. Stanley didn’t say much. He was in the listening mode. I didn’t understand all of it, but it ended up by Sandy asking him to go fetch afternoon snacks.

osprey couple in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy asks for afternoon snacks.

Stanley obliged. He flew towards the ocean at exactly 2 p.m. And came back 17 minutes later with a shiny fish. Is that a record or what! He flew over the nest to show it to Sandy before taking it to his man cave for initial cleanup.

Male osprey goes fishing and comes back with a fish in 17 minutes Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Stanley flies towards the ocean and returns 17 minutes later with a fish.

The first-born chick has already started “wingersizing”. That means s/he may fledge within 10-14 days. The middle chick will not be far behind, and the youngest probably a few days after that. I made a short gif image for you to see how it’s done (sorry for the camera movement, I don’t usually carry my tripod on these short walks).

First born osprey chick exercises his/her wings by Tiny lessonsblog
First born chick exercises his/her wings by Tiny (click to see the exercise, repeats only three times).

Sandy now also leaves the nest a bit more often, but only for a minute or two, to bring in some reinforcements to the nest. Note how flat the chicks are lying in the nest while she’s gone.

female osprey brings new reinforcements to the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy brings in additional railing materials.

Luckily there hasn’t been any drama to witness this week. But I have some good news. In addition to the ten ducklings, there are three tiny Moorhen chicks in the salt marsh! I spotted them on a swim with Mrs. Moorhen yesterday.

Moorhen with her chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mrs. Moorhen with her three chicks.
a Moorhen chick Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Help! Where are you mommy?

They are tiny black fluff balls with red markings and really big feet. One of these days I hope to spot them walking in the grass so you can see for yourself. I’ve also tried to see if I could find the ten ducklings again, but instead of them coming out, I spotted these two dragonflies enjoying the sunshine just above their nest.

dragonfly Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A purple dragonfly…
dragonfly Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and a blue one.

The other day I also saw something funny I think you might enjoy. A juvenile Great Egret was exercising with a Mottled Duck. One, two, three, four. Repeat. This routine attracted another duck onto the scene. Perhaps also wanting to participate.

Young Great egret exercising with a Mottled Duck by tinylessonsblog
Young Great Egret exercising with a Mottled Duck (click to see the exercise, repeats only three times).

That’s all for this week from the salt marsh. Remember to keep moving, exercise is good for us too 😀