Child Care Issues. And Other Interesting Dynamics in the Osprey Family.

It was almost lunch time. Lofty, the oldest chick, was in charge at the nest. Mama Sandy had left for a fishing trip to complement what Papa Stanley brings in. Teenagers have a bottomless appetite, as we all know.

osprey chick leaves for somr flight practice Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Aspire leaves for some flight practice…

Aspire, the middle chick who fledged late last week, decided she needed another practice flight around the salt marsh. But Lofty stayed with Sindile. It was heartwarming to see how this little sister found comfort in big brother’s company. When nasty black birds flew over the nest chasing Aspire, she gradually moved closer and closer to her brother.

smallest osprey chick with her big brother Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty looks after his little sister, who looks at the black birds and decides she doesn’t like them…very much.

Aspire flew around for about five minutes before she got tired of being harassed and decided to return to the nest. But that was easier said than done.

newly fledged osprey chick on a practice flight Florida
Aspire on her practice flight…

You see, landing seems to be the trickiest part in this whole flying business. The two newly fledged chicks tend to come in far too high. Unlike their parents who often fly just above or below the nest level and then effortlessly hop on to the edge. Just see how Aspire corrected her coordinates when approaching the nest.

osprey chick landing Florida
Oops…I’m not gonna hit the nest…
osprey chick lands Florida
…need to swing my legs to the right…
oprey chick lands to the nest Florida
…I should be okay now…thanks for cheering guys.

And finally landed. After lots of flapping and encouraging cheers from her siblings. Soon thereafter Sandy returned from her fishing trip with fresh lunch. And Sindile broke into a joyful song: mama brought a fish, mama…

female osprey brings in fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy arrives with fresh fish.

And then they were eating in turn, from the oldest to the youngest. That brings me to this morning. I took an early walk around the salt marsh, but was not early enough to see Papa Stanley’s breakfast delivery. Since all the chicks now eat directly from the fish, Mama Sandy had left to get her own breakfast. This is how it went when they had breakfast without Sandy’s supervision – a short 1 minute clip with the inventive title – beakfast 🙂 but it takes too long to process it again.

Sandy took her time. Probably eating her own fish somewhere close by. I heard some osprey communications and the chicks responded. So I walked around in the park to see if I could find her. I didn’t. But guess who I found keeping an eye on the chicks. You guessed it, Papa Stanley. He was perching on a lamp pole on the bay side. With a clear line of sight to the nest.

mal osprey keeps an eye on the nest Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Stanley watches the chicks.

While Sandy took a longer break, he was watching the kids so that any sudden threats could be swiftly addressed. Like the possibility of a new attack by the Great Blue Heron, who returned to the marsh after a longish absence following his confrontation with Sandy. This couple never ceases to amaze me. They have it all figured out.

Great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Great Blue Heron is back.

While all three chicks are still living at home, Sindile is yet to fledge. She has definitely become braver and more assertive of her rights in the nest. And I’ve seen her finally exercising her wings.  Yesterday, I checked on them with my binoculars and saw Sindile was almost a foot in the air! I’m quite confident she’s going to fledge in the next few days.

osprey chick Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sindile in deep thought…

And I can’t pass on the Roseate Spoonbill. She posed for me again this morning. As in sending greetings to her faithful fans.

roseate spoonbill Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Roseate Spoonbill says hi to her fans 🙂

And next to her, a couple of juvenile Mottled Ducks were examining the salt marsh on their own. I’m sure they were from the brood I spotted about seven weeks ago.  And now they were about 2/3 of the size of their parents. How fast they all grow up!

2 juvenile mottled ducks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Two juvenile Mottled Ducks explore the marsh by themselves

That’s all from the salt marsh this week. Have a wonderful weekend. I’m looking forward to enjoying the company of my own offspring this weekend 🙂