Empty Fridge. Life Lessons. And Romantic News from the Salt Marsh.

Mama Osprey’s fridge has been empty many times this week. The chicks are growing fast and have an endless appetite. Like teenagers usually do. When the meal time is over, all that’s left for Mama Sandy can be some shreds of a fish tail.

fame osprey feeding her chicks Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
A shred of a fish tail remains for Sandy’s lunch.

I’m no longer wondering why female ospreys lose 15% of their body weight during the nesting season. Sandy is a good example of a mom who always puts her chicks first. Male ospreys lose about 10% of their weight too. I guess the fish heads are not that filling. When the chicks were smaller, Stanley either waited in the nest until everyone had eaten or came back for the remaining tail. More recently he’s stopped waiting, and he doesn’t bother to come back to check for any leftovers. He knows there won’t be any.

male osprey leaves the nest Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Stanley leaves after his drop-off.

It’s been very hot this week, more like July-August temperatures. Luckily all three chicks are now big enough to be able to cool themselves. Sandy is still often protecting them from the hottest afternoon sun with her wings half-spread out. And the chicks are fluffing themselves up to let the sea breeze cool their skin.

Female osprey and an osprey chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy and one of the chicks managing the heat last weekend.

The chicks are also learning the skill of watching for any dangers. The oldest one, in particular, often sits upright and helps Sandy to scan the skies. And s/he is also able to eat directly from the fish now, once the smaller siblings have been fed.

Female osprey with a chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy checks out Tiny and one of the chicks scans the sky.

I haven’t spotted Papa Stanley making a fish transport since last Sunday. But that’s not so strange because his visits to the nest now are all about dropping off the fish, which only takes a few seconds.  I’m sure he’s still there. In any case Mama Sandy has started to fetch food too. It’s common for osprey moms go back to work as soon as the kids are big enough to be left alone for a while. There’s a need to complement what dad brings in.

female osprey returns to her chicks Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy returns to the nest from one of her short outings. The oldest chick was in charge 🙂

This morning Sandy totally surprised me. And I think she surprised the chicks too.  I heard the youngest chick ask for fish. She stretched herself up, looked over to the shallow part of the marsh. And off she went. I was taking a picture of the chicks alone in the nest – and whoops, she was back! With a fish. It took maybe about 30 seconds for her to pick up the fish from the water. I have never seen her fishing right there. Needless to say I was impressed.  Here’s the sequence of Mama Sandy going to the neighborhood seven eleven.

female osprey with osprey chicks Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy stretches up and watches intently…
female osprey with chicks Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Then she just flies out … down into the marsh.
osprey chicks waiting for female osprey to return Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
The two oldest ones watch her, but the youngest one is just asking for fish.
female osprey is back with a fish Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy is back with a fish…
female osprey got a large fish Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
…and it’s a fairly big one.

Sandy started feeding them right away. Less than two hours later I checked on them from home with my binoculars and they were eating again. Stanley must have brought another fish right after they finished the first one 🙂

Otherwise everything is good around the salt marsh. The Red-winged Blackbird has made himself home and is busy singing his songs in one tree or another. I love to see him, but wouldn’t pay to download his songs.

redwinged blackbird 3 UD6
A Red-winged Blackbird sings to his heart’s delight.

The Nanday Parakeet couple still lives happily in their condo apartment. The balcony and the patio perch come to good use in the heat.

nanday parakeet in her nest Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
A Nanday Parakeet on her balcony (I’m guessing it’s the female)…
nanday parakeet Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
…and her hubby on their perch patio.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is still there, but no longer alone.  He’s gotten hitched! It was impossible to persuade both of them to sit together and pose for the camera. I had to merge two pictures to show you how they play.

Red-bellied Woodpecker couple Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
The Red-bellied Woodpecker couple close to their home.

And the Moorhen chicks continue to grow. I’ve spotted them on most of my walks this week exploring their surroundings with mom and dad.

A Moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
One of the Moorhen chicks came out of the grass to explore a bit further.

That’s all from the Salt Marsh News for this week. I hope you’re learning good life lessons too, and that your week is going great.