Baptism by Fire. And More Drama from around the Salt Marsh.

I heard an osprey cry. And it didn’t come from the nest. I looked around and couldn’t believe my eyes. Right there in front of me, in the shade under a tree, was Lofty. The oldest of the three Osprey chicks. The day before he’d flown only from one side of the nest to the other.

Oldest osprey nestling practices flying Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty flies from one end of the nest to the other on Wednesday…

And now he was on the ground. Next to a busy road in the park. Being harassed by several black birds.

Osprey fledgling on the ground Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty on the ground right in front of me on Thursday…

Such a beautiful bird. But why was he on the ground? Was he injured? Was he resting after his first flight? Right at that moment Lofty looked at me, flapped his wings and flew up over the salt marsh. Tightly followed by his tormentors.

osprey fledgling chased by grackles Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty flies around the salt marsh chased by his harassers…

I’d call that baptism by fire. He flew several rounds around the salt marsh, even over the nest, and cried. He didn’t attempt to land. But Mama Sandy communicated with him. I guess she advised him to fly towards the ocean.

osprey fledgling in flight over the nest Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty flies over the nest and communicates with Sandy…

And that’s what he did. His harassers didn’t follow. He disappeared over the Gulf of Mexico. That was the last I saw of him.

osprey fledgling in flight Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty flies towards the ocean at the other end of the marsh…

Until several hours later. Looking with my binoculars from our terrace, I saw he was back in the nest with his two siblings, Aspire and little Sindile. Having dinner. All was good. That was last night.

dinner time in osprey family Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Dinner in the Osprey family…

This morning I was curious to see if he would be in the nest. But wasn’t prepared for what I came to witness.

It was a gorgeous morning, almost clear skies, light winds and low humidity. Walking from the beach towards the nest, I was greeted by a Roseate Spoonbill and a Snowy Egret, both enjoying the peace of the morning.

roseate spoonbill in the morning Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Roseate Spoonbill checks out the early visitor…
snowy egret in the morning Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
A Snowy Egret checks out her breakfast options…

Approaching the nest, I could see Mama Sandy there with two sleepy chicks, Aspire and Sindile. The breakfast was over.

 an osprey nestling Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Sindile lifts up her head…

Suddenly Lofty flew in. I later understood he came to tell Aspire it’s time to fly. They had a short dialogue. Mama Sandy just listened. Sindile closed her eyes.

dialogue between osprey chicks Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty tells Aspire it’s time to fly…
dialogue between osprey chicks Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Aspire gives her arguments…

Shortly thereafter Aspire flapped her wings vigorously (I’m assuming for now that Lofty is a boy and both Aspire and Sindile are girls…that might change later). But she didn’t fly. Lofty got beaten right on his head in the process, but took it in stride. He wanted to go flying with Aspire, and proceeded to demonstrate how easy it was. The rest is in this two and a half  minute video clip (Lofty is the one to the left, Aspire is in the middle and little Sindile on the right). It’s wobbly and noisy, but I think a few of you might still enjoy it.

Aprire was also attacked by several black birds, just like Lofty yesterday. She flew a few rounds around the marsh. And even considered landing in the nest, but changed her mind. Her baptism by fire. Finally she shook them off and flew with Lofty towards the bay.

osprey fledgling is attacked by a grackle Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
A Raven attacks Aspire right after she left the nest…
an osprey fledgling is harassed by back birds Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Aspire is chased by black birds… and flies over the nest.
two osprey fledglings fly together Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty and Aspire fly together towards the bay…

You may wonder if Papa Stanley is still around providing for his family. You bet he is. One morning earlier this week, I was walking in the park just after sunrise. And there he was. Making a quick breakfast delivery. Came in, handed the fish over to Sandy, said hi to the chicks, and left.

male osprey brings a fish Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley brings in fish for breakfast…
Fish transport is complete by male osprey Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
The fish is now with Mama Sandy, Stanley says hi to the kids and flies away…

Very soon he’ll have one additional task. To teach the chicks how to fish. Lofty and Aspire will be coming back to the nest for food at least a couple more weeks, after which they’ll be good enough fliers to start learning how to fish for themselves. When they’re not successful, they’ll come back to the nest and wait for food brought in by both Sandy and Stanley.

osprey fledgling's first flight Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Aspire in flight today…

The chicks typically follow the male on fishing trips to learn how to spot, evaluate the size and dive for the fish. While an Osprey can carry a fish twice their own weight (record in the bird world!) they may drown if they put their talons firmly on a fish that’s too heavy. So Stanley, and Sandy too, have one more important teaching role once the three chicks become confident fliers.

I hope to catch glimpses of them carrying a fish at some point, but for now all eyes will be on little Sindile. It looks to me she’ll take her time before she fledges. But I’ve been wrong before.

Have a wonderful weekend. Fly free like a bird.

72 thoughts on “Baptism by Fire. And More Drama from around the Salt Marsh.”

  1. Those nasty black birds like to attack what they think are weaker birds. I’ve seen it happen a lot. Good for the kids though on their flying! Getting so big so fast! 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend my friend! ❤
    (I still owe you an email!)

    1. I almost got a heart attack when I saw Lofty on the ground, but I guess he didn’t know first how to land back in the nest, and needed to rest. And I didn’t like it a bit that the black birds were attacking both fledglings as soon as they were out of the nest, but they did well. Everyone was back at the nest this evening for dinner. I checked 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend too, my friend ❤

    1. Yes, their wings are impressive! And that strength makes it possible for them to fly with a fish double their own weight.

    1. It was the most exciting event I’ve witnessed around the salt marsh! I loved to watch when Lofty almost pushed his sister to fly this morning. It worked.

    1. I’m very happy you liked it, Hien. I loved to see how they both fledged within 24 hours, and the dynamics between the two just before Aspire flew off for the first time, was so interesting to watch.

    1. I feel proud of them, yes 🙂 But Lofty almost gave me a heart attack when I found him there on the ground yesterday afternoon. Everyone was back in the nest for dinner tonight. Of course I had to check 😀

    1. Thanks Judy. It feels like a great privilege to be able to follow this Osprey family. There’s so much intuitive wisdom in how they do things.

  2. I’m so in wow with this series. of course, I said that before. Those black birds are nasty! So glad she shook them off!! Kids are growing fast. Awesome video. Thank you so much, Tiny! 🙂

    1. What I liked yesterday when the birds were attacking Aspire was that Lofty came back for his sister to show her that flying over a water body will shake them off. He’d just learned that the day before himself. Happy you like to follow them, I do too 😀

    1. The two first ones fledged within 24 hours, and the big brother was so funny when he tried to get his sister to fly…and he succeeded. Now we have the smallest one to watch…and hopefully some fishing lessons 🙂

    1. No sushi for me either, so we don’t need to learn to fish 🙂 Lofty was so funny when he came to get her sis for a flight, and then he came back to get her over the water when the birds were chasing her. There is a tender side to Lofty 🙂

  3. I’m absolutely gobsmacked at how quickly they have taken to flying – well two out of three at least but those ravens! Seriously, what is wrong with them? Why is it they always have to be the playground bullies? Fabulous captures and how thrilling for you to be there during all this. Am so excited for you! 🙂

    1. You are right, it was thrilling! Those ravens never try to bully Sandy or Stanley, but of course they attack a fledgling who’s just left the nest. Cowards. Lofty came back when sis was chased to show her to fly towards water where these guys wouldn’t follow, he’s a quick learner. Now we just need to get Sindile in the air 😀

      1. I find it astounding how quickly the learn, albeit out of necessity I’m sure but still, Mother Nature never ceases to amaze me!

        1. That’s right! It’s amazing. I just went to check on them with my binoculars, and saw both older chicks do short practice rounds over the marsh and then confidently land back in the nest 🙂

    1. Oh yes! She was completely calm, just advised both fledglings to fly out of the marsh area and onto the water where these birds won’t go. She didn’t move a feather to fly to help them…they had to learn to get rid of the black birds by themselves. The more I see of Sandy, the more I admire her skills.

    1. Thanks Susan. Happy you liked it. I have never before taken videos, but try to get more practice as they can be a good way to show some fast moving developments.

    1. This is the time for the Osprey family when it all comes to fruition…the chicks learn more and more skills and become independent juveniles. I feel grateful to be able to follow them up close, and share what I see. So happy you like it as well, Elena.

  4. Wow, how EXCITING!!! And so fortuitous that you were there to capture the BIG MOMENT when Aspire took flight! I loved the video and enjoyed it immensely! I will be so sad when this adventure comes to an end. I guess we have a couple more weeks at least to look forward to!

    I was thinking of you last night. I subscribed to this magazine called Outdoor Photographer. I don’t know why – I may as well have subscribed to Latin Quarterly, that’s how little I understand what is written in this magazine (reminding me that I am NOT a photographer LOL). Anyway, there is this most amazing photo in it of an osprey bringing food to the nest. It was taken at Fort De Soto Park, FL by Sandy Scott last year (March 2014). The osprey pair there are named Fleck and Jewel by the locals. Anyway, it was an interesting little article and a great photo and reminded me of you and the adventures of Stanley and Sandy.

    Have a blessed weekend. I look forward to hearing more from the salt marsh.

    1. It was wonderful to see how Lofty came to get his sister to fly…how he took the wing beatings, showed her how to do it and then was right in her face 🙂 I was like nailed to the ground watching them…and I will miss them too when the nest becomes empty. I’m guessing in early July when all the chicks have learned to fish for themselves. They will not migrate, but are likely to move away from this area somewhere else in Florida. And come back to this area when they are ready to nest.

      Thanks also for the reminder to take a trip to Fort de Soto Park. It’s not far from here and I’ve been there once before but at that time I was not interested in photography. That park is huge and had a wonderfully rich wildlife. Have a blessed weekend too, Amy.

  5. Amazing! And in comparison, look how humans coddle our young. A little more trial by fire might be a good thing for young humans too. Builds character. 🙂

    1. I think we’re are overly protective sometimes. Sandy relies on the nature to do its trick and won’t fly to help the kids when she knows they need to learn those skills. She advised, but that’s it 🙂

    1. Thanks Nancy for the introduction! You may have introduced her blog, but in that case I’ve missed it. Fantastic pictures of all kinds of fuzz balls 🙂 Really enjoyed my visit to Tina’s blog and will visit more.

  6. TINY!!! I am stunned how fast these babies grew. How I absolutely adored this post, and I thank you SO much for taking the time to document all you did and then put it together for us. To see these majestic birds so close and the way you capture them so clearly, is such a glorious treat. I SO ENJOYED this post!!!!
    I don’t know if you want to say what part of Florida you live in, but my brother who lives in NC is down around Fort Lauderale on a job. I would Love for you and he to meet, if it is OK with both of you. He is really lonely, living in a motel for 2 weeks, then he flies home, then back again to continue this job. Let me know. If it is better for you, please email me. Love and (((HUGS))) Amy ❤

    1. Hi Amy! I’m very happy you came along to celebrate the fledging of the two oldest chicks! It was such a thrill to see them take flight, although Lofty scared me when I found him on the ground. But luckily he was just resting and had not managed to go back to the nest. The most difficult part for them seems to be the landing 🙂
      I’ll send you an email. Have a wonderful weekend & many hugs, Tiny ❤

  7. Tiny this was such a treat, thanks so much for sharing. I have enjoyed watching the chicks grow up, and then to see these photos of them so much bigger was a pure delight. The video was really heartwarming and I heard myself gasp nervously a few times. Strength, courage, learning, failing, growing — it’s all here, and I enjoyed it immensely. 😀

    1. Thank you for your beautiful comment, Jet. Your last sentence pretty much sums it up! The firstborn scared the breath out of me when he had landed on the ground. I didn’t know what to make of it, but I now think he had not managed to land in the nest, was tired and needed to rest. I was worried for him, and so relieved when he was back at dinner time 🙂 Both fledglings still spend lots of time in the nest between practice flights. And one of them always stays with the smallest one when Mama is away. It’s so heartwarming to watch them 😀

    1. Thank you Lorrie! You made me smile too 🙂 The winners of the naming competition were announced in the previous post… you will get a card with all three chicks ID’d ~ as a small memory of his nesting season, if you care to receive one 😀 Have a blessed weekend my friend.

      1. I will check out that post…I could tell I missed something 😉 I enjoyed this so much and honor your ability to capture all that you did and display it with such love!! I would love a card. Thanks, Tiny ❤ Blessed Sunday!

  8. Beautiful images. I wish I lived near a salt marsh, so much bird life happens at them. I see osprey (I enjoyed your story) here as well, but you get such a larger variety of birds.

    1. Thanks Donna. I’m so happy and grateful to have the salt marsh only one block away, even if very small, it attracts a great variety of birds, including migrating “crowds”.

  9. Another visually stunning post Tiny, I so enjoy seeing these birds being raised, and you do such a great job of capture and presentation, thanks so much!

    1. I’m happy you enjoy their true story. Nature is so fascinating in its wisdom. In about a month they’ll be independent and enjoy life on their own terms, I just hope they learn enough to thrive the rest of their lives.

    1. Thanks so much Susan! Nature is the best source of beauty and inspiration, we just need to pause and observe. I try to tell these illustrated stories, you capture that beauty so well in your exquisite photographs.

    1. I thought Lofty was so funny first taking the wing beating in stride and then jumping in front of Aspire. Like saying common now 🙂 The little one is not yet there. I guess she felt she didn’t have much room to practice her wings, but now that they are out flying she should get on it…

  10. You are such a great storyteller! As a result, I had it all envisioned in my head before the video, but I really enjoyed the sounds and scenery as much as the the flights. Really having fun with all of this, including your gorgeous photos!

    1. Happy you enjoyed their flight practice, Cyndi! I went back today and they were eating lunch, all three and Mama. Little Sindile is starting to practice her wings too now 🙂

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