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.

69 thoughts on “Empty Fridge. Life Lessons. And Romantic News from the Salt Marsh.”

    1. Thank you Stephanie! It’s fascinating, and a privilege, to be able to follow these birds up close. I’m learning so much about them, and from them 🙂

  1. Wow Tiny! Your story and photos are the best! National Geographic standard, I so love your Osprey insights, being able to watch and observe is such a wonderful privilege. The highlight of my new childrens book which I am in the process of publishing focuses on what we can learn from Australian birds for doing life better. You have some great pictures and insights to form a story there and produce your own, just using the Osprey alone. I also love your other pics, the red-bellied woodpecker is quite a handsome bird. Your moorhen chicks look almost the same as our Dusky Moorhen chicks.

    1. Happy you enjoyed the update. I’m so grateful to have all these birds here in our park, right next door. I’ve been following the ospreys for about a year now and have learned so much (and read lots of research and other fact papers/books about them to learn to understand them better). A book might be a good idea…there is so much we can learn. Happy about your book project! I’m sure it’ll be a fascinating book.

  2. Wonderful Photos and story. What good parents Sandy and Stanley are. I hope those teenagers are grateful, but being teenagers, probably not. 😕 Cute photo of the red-bellied woodpecker couple. 🙂

    1. Thanks Sylvia! They are very caring parents, and these are well behaving teenagers. But the other day, I witnessed an argument between Sandy and the oldest chick. Very loud. I wish I knew what all that was about 🙂

    1. Thanks Andy. Yes, the babies are growing so fast. Soon I’ll be able to make a fairly educated guess whether they are boys or girls. And then they’ll fledge and learn to fish for themselves.

    1. Sandy and Stanley are doing a great job. What she did this morning was quite amazing. She decided she wouldn’t wait for Stanley to bring a fish, but went for it herself – without staying away from the kids too long 🙂

  3. So fascinating watching how Sandy and Stanley raise the little ones. 🙂 These are great shots, Tiny. The parakeet and woodpeckers! 🙂 Thank you!!

    1. It is fascinating. They have become like a family to me 🙂 This area is one of the few where there is a feral/wild population of Nanday Parakeets. They are very beautiful, quite loud and not too shy 🙂

  4. The baby osprey seem to grow so fast. No wonder they’re always eating. And it was interesting that the oldest was acting older, too. Love your narrative that goes with the awesome photos! I always chuckle.

    1. Happy you got a chuckle, Cyndi! It seems that the chicks are always hungry, but today they got a brunch at 12:30 p.m., a lunch just before 3 p.m. and then I saw them having dinner at 6:30 p.m. That should make them sleep well tonight 🙂

  5. Fantastic shots of your ospreys and a good story to go along with them. That Red-winged Blackbird was also well captured. I find that bird usually brazen and loud! 🙂

    1. Thanks Hien! I agree that the Red-winged Blackbird is loud, his song is quite out of tune too 🙂 But I haven’t observed them dealing with other birds here around the marsh, so I haven’t seen them being brazen.

    1. It’s hard work for S and S. Almost like humans had to work the land from early morning to late at night to get food on the table, just a few generations ago. And needed to protect themselves from the Vikings and the Scottish 😀

    1. I noticed she’s peeking out much more now when it’s hot than just a week ago, practically hanging out from the French balcony 🙂 Hubby had the privilege to air himself on the perch nearby.

  6. The youngsters have gotten so big! If that heron is stupid enough to come back Sandy is away, he might be in for quite a surprise. Mom & Pop are no longer the only threat to his well-being!


    1. That’s right. The kids are now much more aware of their environment now. But luckily I haven’t seen that young heron around the marsh for a while now. He might be hanging out at the north end of the park with the fishermen 🙂

    1. She is impressive! I love her resourcefulness, caring and courage. I also think (from watching them over last summer/fall) that Mama is a better fisher(wo)man than Papa, but please don’t tell him.

  7. The proud parents have a noticeable loss of weight due to the amount of energy necessary to fish so often and eat less than usual. The brood is very demanding for food at that age. But in general they look pretty strong and big, a few more days and they’ll be eager to follow the parents everywhere! Nice report Tiny, excellent shots! Thanks! 🙂

    1. Very demanding indeed! I’m happy that the 3rd one has made it (when often they don’t, even this year it happened in some other nests here around). Soon they’ll be fledging. Thanks H.J. 🙂

    1. Thanks Susan. I’m learning a lot too, every time I go there and observe the birds. And I’m so happy I’m able to share what I learn.

    1. Yes, everyone is fine despite the hotter than usual weather and some occasional storms. Everyone says “hi” to you, Takami 🙂

  8. I am stunned at how fast these chicks have grown, Tiny!! Wow!!! Absolutely fantastic pictures, all I really enjoyed! The Osprey family is just so incredible to watch at how dedicated they are to their young. I have watched Robins feed their young, and it is non-stop. I wouldn’t be surprised if they too lost body weight. How powerful Mother Nature is!!! Thank you for the update. Love, Amy ❤

    1. Happy you enjoyed the update, Amy! The osprey family is exceptional, a truly “successful” nest as the rangers put it, meaning that every year Sandy and Stanley are raising their kids successfully to become independent youngsters. It’s so great to be able to observe them and share the observations. Mother Nature never ceases to amaze. Love, Tiny ❤

      1. Mother never ceases to amaze me either, Tiny! There is a side to Her that I would rather not see, only the strong survive. On my walk yesterday, I found I tiny baby bird laying in the road, dead. I with great tenderness, picked him up, carrying him to the grass, and there, gently laid him down under a big leaf, saying a prayer as I did. I’m so happy ALL babies in the Osprey family are healthy!!!

        1. That’s a difficult part for me too. Earlier today I visited a bird sanctuary, that also has a hospital for injured birds. It’s good there are a few places here and there that take care of birds that are not “perfect” or strong. The birds that heal enough to manage by themselves are released back to the wild, and those that do not heal completely get a “forever home” there.

          1. With a Loving and open Heart, it doesn’t get easier, Tiny, yet when we accept this is what IS, it helps. Music to my ears knowing there are people who really care. Thank you for telling me!

  9. Thanks for the comprehensive report of life down at the salt marsh. The osprey family is fascinating and so important we understand the cycle of life, keeping the waterways healthy so fish can live to feed the birds.

    1. Oh, it really is important for us to take much better care of the environment entrusted to us. I couldn’t agree with you more. Just came back from a visit to a bird sanctuary on the sun coast…most of the injuries to the birds there, both at the hospital and in the “home” were caused by man, in one way or another.

    1. Yes, nature is amazing! I can only capture a small fraction of their moments, but even that gives some insights into their fascinating world ~ so much simpler and straight forward than ours 🙂

  10. Oh Tiny how I enjoyed your post full of life and verve! All the chicks are growing so quickly, and it’s humbling and inspiring to watch parent birds working so very hard to keep their chicks fed. Your photos are lovely. 😀

    1. Thanks for your kind words, Jet. These birds are a daily inspiration for those of us who live close by, and it’s wonderful to be able to share their story. And it’s humbling, indeed, to watch them take care of their young. So much sacrifice and intuition involved…I’m in awe and I tell that to Mama every now and then 😀

  11. a time of growth and change…adolescence is a particularly hard time for the young ones, but not easy for the parents either. can you see any sibling rivalry? tiny dear, just by reading and looking at your images, i realise i’ve already learned a lot. thank you ❤

    1. I saw an incident of sibling rivalry once when they were very small, and Mama put a stop to it immediately. She started protecting the youngest – kuopus 🙂 and made sure s/he was always well fed. Now the two big siblings are protective of the smallest one rather than teasing it. Often the smallest one doesn’t make it, but this one has! Happy you’re learning something too, Sirpa ❤

  12. I always feel like I am a part of your walk ….they are getting more beautiful, Sandy and Stanley are great parents, the lessons they could teach humans…
    your photographs are sealed with smiles within them, ones that will be carried all day
    Thank you Tiny, I enjoyed your walk and I appreciate being taken along with you
    Have a Great week
    Take Care…You Matter…

    1. I’m so glad you came along to see our friends, Maryrose! These parents can, indeed, teach us humans many things 🙂 Have a wonderful week ❤

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