Monday Musings: Just Be

blind red-shouldered hawk 3 with frame

She is almost blind. Lives in her little apartment at the sanctuary. She is safe, and well cared for. Now that she cannot manage on her own.

There is some sadness in her. Maybe a fleeting memory of her youth. Soaring high up in the bright blue skies. Carried by the winds over green forests and sparkling seas.

But most of all there is contentment. Quiet enjoyment of life. And appreciation. The light breeze moving her feathers. The sun warming her old bones. And the love of a human, who takes her out on walks, touching her heart. Precious moments to treasure. To just be.

The Record Breaking Fishing Trip. And the Joy of a Bath.

I was still quite far away.  But could see two dark brown spots with white crowns against the early morning bright blue sky. My two favorite Ospreys. I hadn’t spotted Mama Sandy or Papa Stanley for quite a few days, and was getting worried about the nasty wound Sandy had on her leg last week. But there they were, peering down into the bay waters from the roof of Marriott Resort.

mama and papa osprey ud22I was walking closer. Suddenly I saw the one on the lower roof fall straight down. Immediately followed by a loud call from the roof top. It looked like a free fall, wings pointing straight up. I stopped in my tracks, but couldn’t see the surface of the water from where I was. I scanned the sky over the bay. And there it was, against the rising sun, a silhouette of an Osprey flying back on shore with a fish. I took a blind shot. Just as evidence of the fastest catch I’ve witnessed. Ten, maybe fifteen seconds tops.

mama osprey with a fish ud22Now I had to find out who it was. And where the breakfast would be served. Although I was on my way back home after a two and a half mile walk, I turned around and retraced my steps back towards the Sailing Center. Then I saw it.

raven and Mama osprey ud22

An Osprey eating breakfast on a lamp-post quite far away. With a helpful cleaning crew close by. I was too tired to walk all the way to the lamp-post to be on the “right” side of the sun light. So I just zoomed all out. And saw it was Sandy. Her wound was still faintly visible, but healing well. What a relief!

Happy after seeing her lightning fast dive, I walked back towards the resort. And found Stanley peering down too. At me.

papa osprey scanning on Marriotts roof ud22

He seemed to enjoy his spot on the top of the world. Instead of taking care of sick Sandy in some secret location, like I had feared. I smiled at the thought, and hoped to catch his breakfast dive. But it soon became clear to me that he was not in a hurry. He was more interested in watching me at the parking lot below than scanning for fish in the bay. So I decided to remove the distraction and walk home. Stanley could get his breakfast. And I could get my second cup of coffee.

Around mid-week I took another walk later in the day, and started at the salt marsh. Lots of Great Egrets were enjoying the quiet afternoon.

great egret reflection ud22two great egrets ud22

And I also spotted both the Mayor and the younger Great Blue Heron.

older blue heron ud22great egret and the young blue heron ud22

Rosa was at home too. She always volunteers a nice pose, doesn’t she? A Black-crowned Night Heron was in deep meditation. Or maybe just thinking of breakfast.

miss rosa ud22blackcrowned Night Heron UD22

From there I walked to the beach. And had the pleasure of the company of an American Oystercather and a few Brown Pelicans.

American oystercatcher ud22

I noticed the high tide had made a temporary swimming pool by building an extra sand bank between the beach and the ocean. I watched a Royal Tern thoroughly enjoy her bath. I prepared a gif image to let her show you how it’s done (if the gif doesn’t play, please click on the image).

tern bath gif

Little later, the sun started her dive into the ocean, offering brilliant colors on the evening sky.

sunset in aug ud22sunset and girl 16x9 ud22I wish everyone a great weekend, and hope T.S. Erica doesn’t invite herself to visit the salt marsh early next week. We don’t want to meet her.

Much love, Tiny

Papa Osprey’s Photo Shoot. And an Illicit Visitor at the Salt Marsh.

The sun was barely up on my first day home after the trip when I stepped out in the garden. Without even a cup of coffee. I just had to go see my feathered friends before starting a busy day. And he was right there. The Little Blue Heron, in a shady spot under the palm trees.

little blue heron in our garden ud21It was wonderful to be welcomed home by one of my friends from the salt marsh. The beach was quiet. And the rainwater “lake” was gone.

sunrise beach ud21The salt marsh looked fresh and misty. And I saw the water levels were almost back to normal. Little islets stuck up from the water, just as they used to.

sunrise at salt marsh ud21Most birds were still in their sleeping quarters, but Mama Sandy was already having her breakfast at the nest. She had a nasty wound on her left leg, but looked okay otherwise.

mama osprey with a fish ud21When I came closer, she greeted me in her typical straight forward, but friendly manner. I thought she even smiled.

mama osprey at the nest UD21I found the young Great Blue Heron (GBH) close to the osprey nest, as often is the case. He didn’t bother to look at me. He might be familiar with my view on his attacks on the nest earlier this year.

young blue heronThe Tri-colored Heron, who had temporarily moved elsewhere during the floods, was back home. She was happily hunting for her breakfast in the shallow waters.

tricolored heron ud21And just when I was about to leave, Rosa, the Roseate Spoonbill flew in. It’s always nice to see her. And it looks like she might think the same about me 🙂

roseate spoonbill landing ud21roseate spoonbill Rosa ud21I continued my walk to the bay side, and marveled at the European Starlings greeting the sun on a lamp-post next to the park.

starling family at sunrise ud21I decided to check if Papa Stanley would be at his resort. He was at home. Still sleeping when I arrived.

papa osprey sleeping ud21He soon discovered me and decided to pose for a photo shoot. A rare treat, and so very kind of him.

papa ospey says hi ud21papa osprey in his resort ud21papa osprey portraIT 2 UD21papa osprey portrait ud21I thought he was quite handsome. That was a great home-coming.

I got another opportunity to get out for a quick walk this morning. I discovered that the “beach lake” had reemerged after yesterday’s short, but intense storm. Many birds were enjoying rainwater baths and the special menu the fresh waters had to offer.

more rainwater and birds on the beach ud21snowy egret 2 ud21theyoung great blue heron ud21black skimmer drinking fresh water ud21juvenile black skimmer sleeping ud21And some, like this juvenile Black Skimmer, were just plain tired of all the excitement.

While the young GBH was frolicking at the “beach lake”, the older one, the Mayor, was back in charge at the salt marsh.

mayor great blue heronI bet he was not happy to see this illicit fisherman trying to capture the fish that belongs to the residents. I was not happy either.

fisherman at salt marsh ud21I wished Sandy had been at the nest and given him a small lesson. But luckily, as soon as I started walking towards the park HQ, he packed his gear and left. Once he was gone, I came back to greet the Great and Snowy Egrets who were enjoying the sunshine in large numbers, and then walked back home.

great egret on the top ud21So much excitement, as always, at the salt marsh. Thank you for coming along. We all wish you a wonderful weekend!

A Short Hike along St. John’s River

Just a brief post to say hi. I’m back home and trying to catch up on all the wonderful posts you, my friends, have produced while I was away. I had a whirlwind trip, but managed to get in a couple of hours of hiking on Saturday in the Timucuan Ecological & Historical Preserve along the St. John’s River in North Florida.

preserve jungle jaxThis huge and very interesting preserve represents one of the last unspoiled coastal wetlands on the Atlantic Coast. It would have required at least a full day or two to properly experience the beauty of its salt marshes, coastal dunes, and hardwood hammocks.

drift wood on the beach in jax

And to explore 6000 years of human history within it boundaries.  This preserve  marks the place where one of the Timucuan tribes met the first French explorers in 1562.  Sadly, this meeting, and the French and Spanish settlers that soon followed, represented the beginning of the end of the longstanding Timucuan culture.

native american hut jax

The preserve also houses an exhibit of Fort Carolina originally built by the first French settlers on the river bank.

fort in jax

We didn’t have the time to reach the wetlands where I could have found birds to “shoot”, but I could hear them everywhere in the jungle-like forest.

ecological preserve jax

The only bird I managed to capture on this short hike was a Turkey Vulture who enjoyed the winds above the river.

turkey vulture 2 jax

Stopping along the river we spotted several schools of dolphins, most of them too far out for me to get a picture.

dolphins in st johns river jax

The preserve also has ongoing ecological research projects in the many different types of habitats it houses. We stumbled upon one of the vegetation projects on our hike through the maritime hammock.

ecological project jax

It was a compact hike, but gave me a taste of what this preserve has to offer. I hope to return one day with better time to explore the beauty of its habitats, and its birds, properly.

st johns river 4 jax

I hope your week is going great. Get out and enjoy nature! Tiny – here leaning on a “twin” tree in the hardwood hammock.

Hiking in North FL

After the Big Rains. Long Lineup to the Smorgasbord.

Okay. The relentless storms are over. But I don’t even know how to begin to tell the story of the delightful bird invasion we’ve had around here this past week. The fresh water pooled up on the beach during the rains has been like a magnet for the shorebirds, particularly Black Skimmers and terns, among them many juveniles. They’ve been foraging in whatever little is left of the “beach lake”. (Click on the pictures for larger versions)

Terns and black skimmers Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaMany Black Skimmer parents have been encouraging their teenagers to start flying. That’s been quite amusing to watch. Like this mom and her baby. Mom nudged the baby asking her to practice flying. But she’d only flex her wings halfheartedly. While her pop, a few feet away, would dig in the sand impatiently, and “bark” at her to go up in the air already.

black skimmer mom and baby Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridablack skimmer Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Florida

And the beach has been swarming with Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns and gulls. Some practicing synchronized preening. Others fishing. And yet others arguing with their parents.

terns Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridaroyal terns preening Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaRoyal Tern diving Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridaroyal tern divig Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridaroyal tern caught a fish Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridaroyal tern mom and juvenile Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaAnd the tiny Sanderlings have brought their whole extended family to enjoy the beach.

sanderlings Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaWhere they were mixing with Willets and American Oystercathers. So many birds!

young willet Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaAmerican oystercatcher Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaAnd for the first time ever, I’ve spotted a baby Ruddy Turnstone. She was tentatively examining the beach with her mom fairly close by.

juvenile Ruddy Turnstone Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaThe same has been true for the park next to the salt marsh. Long lines to the smorgasbord at shallow ditches still filled with fresh rainwater. Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Spoonbills, Ibis, Night Herons, you name it. All sharing the rare treat of fresh water.

egrets foraging in flood waters Sand Key Park, Clearwater, Floridasnowy egret and roseate spoonbill Sand Key Park, Clearwater, Floridajuvenile white ibis Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaAt the salt marsh, Mama Sandy has taken charge. I guess the Mayor is on vacation as I haven’t seen him since last week.

female osprey Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaSandy has been sitting at the front edge of the nest following the developments with a keen eye. For the most part things have been going smoothly, but I noticed some competition about great scanning posts among the many egrets. At least forty of them.

salt marsh birds Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaSandy also kept an eye on the skies. And when I followed her line of sight, I saw a Red-shouldered Hawk flying high above the marsh.

redshouldered hawk Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaI was hoping the hawk didn’t spot the ducklings performing synchronized diving in the deep waters.

mottled ducklings diving Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaRosa, the resident Roseate Spoonbill, had not cared to venture out of the marsh to see her cousins feeding in the remaining floodwaters elsewhere in the park. She was at home, in the shade under the osprey nest as usual.

roseate spoonbill Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaI hope you enjoyed the many birds saying hello to us here on the beach and at the salt marsh. I’m flying away too for a few days (this is a scheduled post). I’ll try to stay in touch on my mobile devices. In any case I’ll catch up early next week.

terns on the beach Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaI wish you all a wonderful weekend. Remember to enjoy what nature has to offer. Fly high!