Sunrise Walk with Surprises. Both Good and Bad.

This morning I woke up to a glorious pre-dawn glow. I felt I needed exercise and decided to head out for a walk. While it was still cool. That’s a relative term here in Florida, of course.

Clearwater Bay Florida before sunrise
Pre-dawn sky over the bay.

This first morning after the July 4th weekend, I wanted to check on the birds after all the fireworks on the beach and around the bay on Saturday, and even on Sunday. I was hoping my feathered friends had been huddling in the salt marsh during the festivities, and not flying in the path of any of the hundreds of “rockets” reaching for the skies.

july 4 fireworks clearwater florida
July 4th fireworks over the bay.

The salt marsh was quiet and serene. Just me and a few birds. And the sun trying to peek over the horizon, while the moon was still hanging on high up in the sky.

sunrise at the salt marsh Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Sun peeks over the horizon at the salt marsh…
vaning moon at sunrise Sand key Clearwater Florida
…but the moon lingers on…

Many of the residents were sleeping in their hidden night quarters, but the Great Blue Heron was already patrolling the shallow waters.

great blue heron at sunrise Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Great Blue Heron is an early bird…

And so were the Florida Mottled Ducks. I think these might’ve been juveniles from the brood I spotted in April.

two mottled ducks at sunrise Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and so are the young ducks.

I also spotted a bird that I couldn’t identify. My friend H.J. thinks it might be a Mississippi Kite – thank you!

Loggerhead Shrike
Loggerhead Shrike

Seeing the empty nest reminded me that I thought I’d seen Mama and Papa Osprey flying together on Saturday afternoon. I’d had my binoculars and made a positive ID on both.

empty osprey nest sand key park clearwater florida
The empty Osprey nest, now barebones after the storm mid June.

I decided to walk onto the bayside to see if I could find them. I walked past the Sailing Center where Papa Stanley used to have his feeding perch when Sindile was still in the nest. He was not there.

sunrise on the bay at the sailing center sand key clearwater Florida
Sunrise on the bay…

I admired the bay basking in newly acquired sunlight, when I spotted Mama Sandy on a lamp-post close to the sea wall! She’d gone away when the two older chicks left the nest, about three weeks ago. I’d been right when I saw the two of them. She was back!

female osprey with a fish at sunrise sand key clearwater florida
Mama osprey is back! I missed to check what she was looking at…maybe it was Papa flying by.

She was turned towards the rising sun, drying her still wet feathers, and eating a big fish with great appetite. And she didn’t look like she’d been on vacation. Her crop looked empty, and she had lost even more weight from the time I last saw her. She may have followed the chicks and been teaching them how to fish…getting very little food for herself.

female osprey eats fish at sunrise sand key clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy at sunrise, still wet after her breakfast dive.

Now she was back to keep an eye on the nest, exactly like last year. I left her eating breakfast and walked across the marsh back to the beach.

sunrise sky on Sand Key beach clearwater florida
Early sunrise sky as seen from the beach.

In addition to many gulls, I spotted a Ruddy Turnstone, and a Willet. Both were running back and forth at the water’s edge, busy getting breakfast.

ruddy turnstone on sand key beach Clearwater Florida
A Ruddy Turnstone on the beach.
willet on sand key beach at sunrise clearwater florida
A Willet in the waves.

But I also found something left behind by much bigger, and supposedly wiser, bipeds.

fireworks paraphernalia left behind on the beach clearwater florida
Fireworks paraphernalia left on the beach…

TNT Dark Revenge. Very close to a clearly marked Sea Turtle nest. Frustrating, and dark indeed. I’m just hoping the bangs didn’t disturb the 100+ eggs recently laid there by Mama Sea Turtle.

sea turtle nest on the beach clearwater florida
…next to a marked Sea Turtle nest.

Mother Nature is amazing, but her caretakers not always so. Luckily She is quite resilient. Constantly producing new life for us to enjoy. Like this blue-eyed juvenile Ibis and these fluffy Moorhen babies, both spotted over the weekend.

 juvenile ibis sand key park clearwater florida
A juvenile Ibis.
moorhen chicks and mom sand key park clearwater florida
Moorhen chicks listen attentively to their Mama.

Thanks for coming along. Have a great rest of the week.

63 thoughts on “Sunrise Walk with Surprises. Both Good and Bad.”

    1. Mama is slim for sure. Now she’s going to eat herself to her normal weight 🙂 Let’s hope the sea turtle eggs are buried deep enough not to be disturbed.

  1. Humans never cease to amaze me at their stupidity and uncaring of nature. But, nature is strong and resilient, it does and will last much longer than humans. Thank the goddess. ❤

    1. Nature is resilient, indeed. But the uncaring frustrates me…people who’ve lost the connection to what is around them. It’s remarkable how several new research studies have found the beneficial effects of nature on our health and well being. We should learn to preserve it better ❤

  2. The cycles of nature beautifully captured. Human beings are always messing things up. Let us support her in regaining balance now and in future generations 🙂
    The juvenile ibis is a cutie!

    1. I’m on with it, Val 🙂 I saw the young ibis two weeks ago, then brown all over, now almost white with light blue juvenile eyes. Happy you enjoyed my captures.

    1. Thank you Randall. Starting a day early, with time to take a walk, is a treat for this night owl. It was a gorgeous morning, felt like nature was in the hugging mode.

    1. It was a great walk nature showing it best face, until I saw the trash and figured those were remnants of the loudest bangs I heard on Saturday night. Thanks Nancy.

  3. Than you for letting us know Mama Sandy is back, hope she has time to take care of herself. Beautiful photos here, love the sun dawn sky capture. Thank you, Tiny!

    1. Mama Sandy will have the rest of the summer and the fall to just take care of herself. She’ll be in great shape come winter and the next nesting season. I’m curious to see if she’ll do any repairs to the nest as much of the upper layer blew away in the storm mid June. Happy you liked the photos, Amy. Thank you!

  4. Absolutely wonderful post Tiny, I love your story telling and your stunning pics, especially your moon. I thought as I watched your empty Osprey nest that maybe you were experiencing ’empty-nest-syndrome’, but when Mama returned it was really her that was missing the family, and remembering how it was. Love the clarity of your pics, and your little Kite, looks a little like our Kookaburra. Thanks again for a lovely treat, I always enjoy from you.

    1. Thank you so much for your encouraging comment. Last year, little after Mama returned to the area, she started to spend some time in the nest quite frequently. She would use it as her feeding perch, and even make some repairs. I’m curious to see what she’ll do this year. The moon was amazing…and I’m happy it came out okay without my tripod. I’m going to try to take more pics of the smaller birds, of which many live in the salt marsh 🙂

    1. Thank you Susan. I’m a night owl, so getting up in time to take a walk before starting my day, is a treat for me too.

  5. Thank you for the gorgeous views and updated on the Salt Marsh. I too, feel compelled to apologise to Mother Nature on behalf of all humans, for the mess many of us make… :/

    1. That’s a beautifully expressed sentiment, Takami. That’s how I feel too. Luckily the salt marsh and the park itself is a protected area, where the natural habitat is being restored. The birds can feel quite safe there.

  6. A very lovely walk, Tiny. It is saddening, though, to find that humans are still so thoughtless. Your pix, as ever, are wonderful. That shot of the moon is especially breathtaking.

    1. Thank you Tish. Happy you enjoyed the display Mother Nature offered yesterday morning. The moon was truly gorgeous on the sunrise sky. Unfortunately some humans don’t think ‘further than their nose’ as we say at home.

    1. It’s particularly damaging when people shoot up fireworks from anywhere they like. There were hundreds, if not thousands, private fireworks shooting up, in addition to the city’s own, well managed one from over the water.

    1. Thank you! Mother Nature showed her beautiful face yesterday morning. Such a contrast to the stupid things some people do.

  7. It’s a shame about the litterbugs – I’ll never understand how people can be so lazy and short-sighted… But still there is much beauty left on this planet in spite of us. I enjoy your bird pictures so very much and thank you for sharing them!!! I hope Mama Sandy has a chance to put on some weight now…

    1. Oh, there is so much beauty left! We just need to get collectively better in taking care of it. I’m sure Mama will fish, eat and sleep now that her chicks are all grown up 🙂 Happy you like the stories from the salt marsh.

  8. What a walk with so many birds and other things to photograph, and I am a little bit envious. 🙂 Were there any sand flies or mosquitoes to bother you? Around here they are everywhere and have severely limited my excursions.

    1. Yes, this is a beautiful park/marsh right at my doorstep, one block away. I’m so grateful for it every day. And we don’t have any mosquitoes or sand flies there. I think it’s because we live at the narrow north end of this barrier island and it’s too breezy for them to like it here. We have mosquitoes on the other islands I have visited/hiked on here in the region, and I have to use lots of bug spray to be able to stop and photograph anything.

  9. Your walks are always amazing, I wish I had such views every day.

    I would make myself a human barrier around that toitle nest; they are the bestest of the sea creatures, I think.

    1. Thank you! We locals are very fond of the sea turtles, and everyone is considerate and protective of them and their nests. There’s nothing sweeter than to see these little turtles run for the ocean when they hatch. This past weekend, however, the beach was full of visitors…and there’s always someone disruptive in the crowd…but now the peace is restored 🙂

  10. What gorgeous sunrise photos! It is hard to bear when fireworks scare all of the birds and even more maddening when garbage is left behind after a celebration. Glad Mama Sandy is now feeding herself enough – she sure did lose weight! Hope you have a good week too- I finished Bumble’s story – such a great read with lots of adventures. Thanks again Helen for sharing it! And Bumble too of course 😊.

    1. Thank you Kathy for your kind words! I was amazed to see how thin Mama had become. Not a sign of vacation, but hard work. Now she’ll have all the time in the world to eat and rest. In a couple of months, she look her old happy self again 🙂 Bumble just had his stiches taken out after a surgery to remove skin masses he gets from his medicine, but he’s a trooper and all recovered. He says he’s happy you liked his story!

    1. Thank you Paula! The moon was so beautiful against the blue sunrise sky, I just had to snap a picture. Happy it came out okay although I didn’t have my tripod.

    1. I’m glad too that Sandy has returned. Today she was perching at the nest for a while, just taking it easy. There are many babies and juveniles now at the salt marsh, it’s a delight to watch them. Happy you came along, Susan.

    2. Happy you enjoyed the walk, Susan. It seems that Sandy wants to watch the nest again, like last year. She already did her inspection yesterday 🙂 I also love the young ones, and there are many right now around the marsh.

  11. I enjoyed your photos and salt marsh adventure so much, Tiny. I’m sure it was so satisfying to see your osprey family around! With due respect to your friend and mine, HJ, I wish to kindly correct the Mississippi Kite in your post here, because that is a Loggerhead Shrike, not a Kite. Your photo is really great and the characteristic hook bill is evident. They are a joy to see, aren’t they? 😀

    1. Thanks for enlightening us as to the ID of the “mystery bird”, Jet! I didn’t know this bird, and it seems there are several of them around the marsh now! Now that the osprey chicks have left the nest, I’m happy to spot Mama and Papa occasionally. Today I spotted Papa coming back from the bay with a fish (no camera, of course) and Mama was inspecting the nest yesterday 😀

  12. How very crass and thoughtless some people are! Those fireworks have no place in the salt marsh, let alone leaving their rubbish behind. 😦 I so enjoyed accompanying you on your early morning walk. The juvenile Ibis is so cute. It was great to see Mr. GBH too. Can you please ask him where his cousin who usually lives in my backyard in Boynton Beach has got to? 🙂

    1. I was so disappointed to see that someone was so careless…I just hope the sea turtle eggs are still ok. I could hear the bangs reverberating around the beach. I’ll ask the GBH if he’s aware of the whereabouts of his Boynton Beach cousin, and I’ll let you know 🙂

  13. What a glorious sunrise walk! Thank you for sharing it with us. All your photos are stunning but that final shot of the mother moorhen and her chicks was particularly delightful.

    I share your disgust with humans that don’t pay attention to the fragile world of nature around them. Selfish people leaving their litter to dirty up the environment make me furious! Hopefully the sea turtle nest/eggs were undisturbed.

    1. The Moorhen chicks were listening to their mom when she talked. It was so funny to watch. Two other chicks were with daddy but disappeared quickly in the high grass! There is a sea turtle mom who comes to the same spot every summer to lay her eggs. But since I don’t walk on the beach at night, I have never seen them hatch. Once I went to see the nest in the morning and found it empty with lots of little traces left by the hatchlings when they crawled into the sea.

  14. Love the birds most of all.
    We humans are often so wrapped up on ourselves, we don’t realize or notice that there are “others” (sea turtles in this case) who might be sleeping or need extra special consideration.

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