Commotion. Surprises. And Demolitions at the Salt Marsh.

Sindile, the youngest of the three Osprey chicks, was alone and asking for fish. She was also the only one in the Osprey family I had seen in the nest (looking with binoculars from my terrace) since my return home. Nobody came to keep her company even at night.

Osprey fledgling in her nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sindile was in the nest asking for fish…

I found her two siblings each perched on their own lamp-post on a parking lot, just outside the park boundary and fairly close to the nest. I was happy to see for myself that the chicks had made it through the storm that hit our area while I was away.

But the signs of the storm were still visible. Decorations, railings and loose sticks had been blown off the nest. Palm fronds and other debris from trees and bushes were scattered throughout the park. Only the immediate area around the salt marsh and the trails had been cleaned up. You may remember the old palm trunk (aka the condo building) that used to house Papa Stanley’s man cave, and homes for the Nanday Parakeets, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and European Starlings. It was now laying on the ground, demolished by the storm. Luckily the little ones living there had already fledged.

an old palm trunk taken down by the storms Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The condo building had been demolished by the storm…

After locating all three chicks, I wanted to find Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley. And I was lucky. Sandy had parked herself on a street light a quarter-mile north of the salt marsh, and Stanley was on his usual spot in front of the Sailing Center on the bay side. They were both still wet after recent fishing trips.

mama osprey on her perch Sand Key Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy was drying herself on a street light…
Papa Stanley said hi from his perch close to the nest…

It was great to have found all of them in good health. Lofty and Aspire fledged about three weeks ago. They are now following Sandy and Stanley on fishing trips and learning to dive for fish by themselves. An adult Osprey catches a fish in one out of four dives, on average. Sometimes the success rate is as high as 70%. I believe Sandy belongs to that champion category. I’ve seen her come back with a fish in three, five and seven minutes! One time she went fishing right there in the salt marsh and brought home a fish in 30 seconds 🙂 Stanley usually takes closer to the average of 12 minutes. But for the chicks fishing is a tricky business. And they have to master this unique skill in 4-5 weeks after fledging. Their lives will depend on it.

an osprey fledgling in the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sindile was chilling in the nest…waiting for food.

I’ve been worried about little Sindile. She was born about a week after the other two, but had not fledged when I left on my trip early last week. And there she was, perched on the edge of the now bare nest. I spent some time with her and then decided to walk to the other end of the marsh. I wanted to see if I could spot any of the other residents. And I did.

great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The young Great Blue Heron was at home, drying himself after a fishing trip…
a snowy egret juvenile Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A juvenile Snowy Egret still had some baby hair on her head…
reddish egret fishing Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Reddish Egret was fishing, but this was a young one, not the older “showman” with a long, red hippie hair…
tri-colored heron hunting Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Tri-colored Heron was also looking for food…
great egret Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Great Egret scanned for fish too…

I was happy my feathered friends had weathered the storm well. I spotted most of the usual suspects, apart from the Spoonbill. To my delight I also saw two Black Skimmers at work in the salt marsh.

black skimmer skimming Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Black Skimmer was skimming the surface with her longer lower bill…
…and left a long trail in the water.

They prefer to skim on the ocean or on the bay, so it was a treat to see them in action right there. I was watching them when I heard some commotion at the osprey nest in the other end of the marsh. I raised my camera and started shooting. Sorry for the quality as I had to shoot right against the sun and crop these images heavily. But at least you can see what happened. Life is not easy for the youngest chick.

male osprey brought a fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley had brought a fish to Sindile, and Aspire wanted it too…
osprey chick lands in the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…she landed just behind Stanley…
osprey chick tries to push the male osrey off the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and it looked like she was trying to push Stanley away…
a scuffle ensues between the osprey chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sindile tried to eat fast…and Stanley flew away…
Osprey chick has taken the fish from her sibling Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
As soon as Stanley left, Aspire got the fish (in her right talons) and Sindile resigned.

I felt for Sindile, and hoped she had managed to keep at least a small piece for herself. I started walking back towards the nest. And the next that I knew, Lofty landed in the nest. He wanted to inspect if there was anything left of the fish.

an osprey chick lands in the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty landed in the nest and Sindile hunched to protect  herself…
osprey chicks scuffle over a fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…they scuffled for a few seconds…
osprey chick in the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and Sindile was left alone in the nest.

I didn’t see if Lofty got any fish. But at the end of the scuffle Sindile was alone in the nest. That’s when she surprised me. She spread her wings and took chase. Wow! She had fledged while I was away. And she was fighting back! She probably flew after Lofty just to show him she was angry. She didn’t get to him, but got excellent flying exercise at high speeds for a few minutes.

osprey chick in flight Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sindile flew several rounds above the salt marsh chasing Lofty…
osprey chick lands in the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…then she landed elegantly back in the nest.

All this happened on Tuesday afternoon. I also went to see them quickly yesterday morning. Aspire was in the nest. She was wet, which means she’d been diving for fish. I guess she had chased away Sindile who was perched on a lamp-post nearby.

osprey chick Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Aspire had taken over the nest…
osprey chick perching on a lamp-post Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and Sindile was perched on a lamp-post nearby.

Sindile was looking at Papa Stanley who was flying overhead with big brother Lofty, and a fish. I’m thinking Lofty had followed his Papa on a fishing trip, but didn’t catch anything himself this time.

osprey chick in flight Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty flew with Stanley…
osprey carrying a fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…who was carrying a small fish.

Sandy was drying herself on a lamp-post on the bay side, also watching Lofty and Stanley.

female osprey drying herself Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy was drying herself after breakfast dives.

I’ve noticed that Lofty is not around much any more. I haven’t seen him since that flight yesterday morning. He may have learned to fish well enough to take off on his own. But I’m guessing he’ll not go very far from home, as yet. Aspire will probably stay around at least for another week practicing her fishing skills. And Sindile, the little survivor, maybe two-three more weeks. Then they’ll start their independent lives as young Ospreys, and their fantastic parents get a well deserved vacation.

I hope your week is going great. Love from all of us around the salt marsh.

46 thoughts on “Commotion. Surprises. And Demolitions at the Salt Marsh.”

  1. Wow and wow Tiny! Such insight into nature and the survival of the fittest. We humans (me) become attached and want the best for others merging into the world…. Yet Mother Nature has her own wisdom and rhythm.
    I admit that I feel connected to these ospreys too and their stories through you!
    Right now … I’m thinking – Thank goodness Sindle can fly! There is hope for them all 🙂

    1. Mother Nature has her own wisdom indeed. Following this family so closely has, of course, made me very attached to them and their wellbeing. And they have taught me so much about nature. Right now I’m happy Sindile has fledged and I hope she’ll learn to fish in time to take care of herself. The other two seem to be strong and take for themselves, and both are already learning to dive for fish. Lofty may have left the salt marsh area yesterday to be on his own somewhere not too far from here. He’s such a confident fellow 🙂

  2. Sindle will make it! She’s a strong young one with a temper. She wants to make it, so she will. She’ll come into her own in a few days, you mark my words. 🙂
    I’m glad they all weathered the storms. I was waiting for your update. ❤

    1. I’ll mark your words, Jackie 🙂 I was happy to see Sindile took up the chase, and put up a real scuffle with big brother. She’s getting there, slowly but surely. Have a good evening and let me know when’s the time to get to work 😉 ❤

      1. I think Sindle will be just fine, she’s just the runt so to speak. 🙂 I was going to email you tonight or in the morning. Soon I will send the story to you! 🙂 ❤

  3. I did not know that life would get so complicated in this Osprey family. It may be just normal. Thank you for all this detailed reporting and photos. Those of the Black Skimmers are superb!

    1. I think it’s normal that siblings fight about food when the parents are no longer in the nest and they would have to learn to fish. My thinking is that if parents kept bringing them lots/enough food after they have fledged, there would not be much motivation to learn to fish. The Black Skimmers were a delight to watch!

  4. whew! What a relief the chicks did okay. The storm damage looks bad, so it’s really great that the chicks made it through. Delightful photos, espec. like the skimming skimmers, Tiny. Great post! 😀

  5. Thanks Jet. Apparently lots of “stuff” was flying around during the storm…I was relieved to find everybody safe. The Skimmers are so fast that one can’t really pan and shoot, so I watched their flying pattern and just waited for them to come where I was. That was fun 🙂

  6. Oh whew! All that excitement and drama is hard on a girl’s heart 😊. I was so glad to hear that Sindile has fledged and can show her temper towards her older siblings. Sorry to hear about the condo! Thanks for continuing with the great updates from the Salt Marsh….

    1. Sindile would’ve needed boxing gloves on Tuesday 😀 but I’m happy she’s shown some temper and can fly now. I’m hoping she and Aspire will go diving today as it’s really hot…The condo also fell down at the right time, I saw it was empty already before I left. have a great weekend, Kathy!

    1. No she’s not…This Reddish Egret is a newcomer to the salt marsh, very beautiful colors and a calmer demeanor 😉 Have a great weekend Kat!

    1. Yes, the condo is gone now…I saw the Parakeet couple fly in the forest right above it, like on a nostalgic tour. I’m happy too that everyone seems to be well. Have a beautiful weekend, Meg.

  7. Thank you for the latest update from the Salt Marsh. So happy the Osprey family is doing well. The storm must have been very intense 😦 I’m glad to know that you – and all the ‘marsh family’ – are safe.

    1. All our neighbors were telling us about the storm when we came home. We didn’t have any damage, but one neighbor’s patio table flew away and hit a car in the hotel’s parking lot where the Osprey’s are now perching on lamp-posts. So it was intense, but everyone is safe 🙂 Have a great weekend, Takami!

    1. This has been a fascinating nesting season for this Osprey couple. It’s almost at the end now as the chicks will soon be independent and fly away. But I’ll probably continue with sporadic reports from the salt marsh until the next season ~ there’s always something going on there.

    1. Yes, they are doing pretty well…and the kids will now need to get wet learning to dive for their own food. Thanks Elena.

    1. Thanks Celestine. Yes they are doing fine. I’m just hoping for cooler weather for the chicks, out heat index is over 40C right now.

  8. Tiny, your stories about these birds are absolutely stunning!!! I am enthralled by every single one!!! Having no birds like this here, your photos and stories are such a treat for me. I LOVE the image of the trail in the water …. what a shot!!! The art displayed in that is so cool! I didn’t mean to pick one out over the others for all are fantastic, but that one held for me something, I’m not sure what! It spoke “grace” to me. Thank you for putting together another glorious post from the Salt Marsh. Love, Amy ❤

    1. I’m so happy you liked their story, Amy. Means a lot. The Skimmers are creating art on water and I was thrilled to see them in action. Now we just need a little cooling for all the birds as they don’t have A/C…our heat index today is 105 F. Have a wonderful weekend, much love ❤

    1. Happy you enjoyed the story, Susan. Change is inevitable, indeed, and sometimes it’s demonstrated so vividly in the wild. Have a great weekend.

    1. Thanks Nancy. I got a bit carried away…and the post is too long, but probably one of the last ones for this nesting season. Have a great weekend!

  9. Magnificent post as usual Tiny, you are so gifted in your presentation, you need to get into writing children’s books. I love the pic of the skimmer skimming on the water. that is a magic shot. I love all that you do, it is excellent and engaging:-)

    1. Thank you so much for your kind words. I already wrote a book for children and pet people of all ages 😀 and it benefits animal rescue. I am considering writing an Osprey story too, but it’s just a thought for now.

  10. Oh, I was going to comment on the skimmer pics, and then I see where you said they are creating “art on the water”. Perfectly said!

    Love the egret with the fuzzy baby hair 😀

    I am guessing the nest is like that one space on the couch or the back seat of the car; you will fight your siblings to get to it first, even if they try to tempt you by eating their treats in front of you to get you to move 🙂

    1. The skimmers are so rarely in action in the salt marsh so it was great to see them close up. A little spoiler for the next update on the osprey chicks, now there’s no competition about that spot on the couch, little Sindile is the only one left…the two older ones have both moved out now ~ to fish and live on their own 🙂

  11. Wow, Tiny, your opening photo is AH-MAY-ZING!!!! I just love those reflections. That one is a real jaw-dropping photo!

    How sad the condo got creamed in the storm, but I’m glad the babies had all fledged. I’m sure the birds will pick up the pieces of their lives a lot easier than people would! 🙂

    So glad that you found the entire osprey family intact when you returned from your trip. Things are looking good for Sindile and hopefully she will learn to fish soon. It will be sad to see them off on their own, but I’m sure you will find plenty of other interesting things in the salt marsh to report on! I also hope the spoonbill has reappeared.

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