Flooding. Deserted Salt Marsh. And the Mayor’s Speech.

After 21 straight days of storms that dumped over 20 inches of rain on us, I’m happy to report we’re seeing the sun again here on the west coast of the “sunshine state”. When the rain finally stopped on Monday afternoon, I went to check out the flooding. And to see if I could spot any of my feathered friends.

beach and park flooding after the storms sand key clearwater florida

The beach and all the trails to the park were flooded. The new “Beach Lake” was even bigger than last week. As the rain had stopped, some boys tried to play ball at the shallow end of it. Lots of splashing.

playing ball on the flooded beach sand key clearwater florida

It was still gloomy, but the sun tried to show its face from under a hefty cloud cover. I didn’t want to repeat my wading exercise from last week, so I walked to the salt marsh on the street and the partly flooded walkways. The only bird I found on the usually lively bay shore was this Willet bathing in the floodwaters.

a willet bathing in flood water bay side sand key clearwater florida

And I spotted Papa Osprey. He was perched on a lamp-post far away, shaking his feathers and looking quite disheveled.

male osprey on a lamp post sand key clearwater florida

Entering the park, I saw flooding everywhere. All low-lying areas were under water, and the doggy park just north of the salt marsh had become a water feature for the birds.

flooding in the park sand key clearwater floridadoggy park under water sand key clearwater florida

Otherwise the salt marsh was deserted.  I walked around looking for my friends, water sloshing around my boots. The only birds I could find, in addition to those at the doggy park, were the young Great Blue Heron and Mama Sandy.  The heron was walking in the high grass, and Sandy was roosting at the nest. She was clearly tired of the rains. Just like me.great blue heron inspects the marsh sand key clearwater floridafemale osprey perching at her nest Sand Key park Clearwater FloridaThe water level in the marsh was too high for many of the birds to hunt there…and still rising. So they had evacuated.

salt marsh under water Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Yesterday afternoon, after three days of sunshine, I went back there to check how things were progressing. The flood waters in the park had receded considerably, but the marsh was brimming with water, and the beach was still flooded.

To my delight, I found that many residents had returned. The old Great Blue Heron, the Mayor, was surveying his little village at the west end of the marsh. He was addressing the community. Saying it was safe to return, I gathered.

great blue heron inspects the marsh Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

I had to laugh when I saw the crowd on the fence of the doggy park. They were listening to the Mayor while trying to dry up in the sun. The park was too soggy for the dogs to come back, so it was a safe place to roost.

egrets and ibis perching on the fence in the dog park Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Egrets and Ibis were perching on trees and bushes in big numbers. Like white dots sprinkled all over the marsh. And the Roseate Spoonbill was enjoying some shade at her usual spot below the osprey nest. She kindly agreed to a photo shoot.

birds in the salt marsh after the storms Sand Key park Clearwater Floridaa roseate spoonbill Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

The young Night Heron was back too, drying his feathers next to the deep water. It looks like he’s become a permanent resident. Decided the salt marsh was a safe place to grow up.

juvenile night heronSand Key park Clearwater Florida

The tiny Tricolored Heron surveyed the water levels at the east end of the marsh, looking a bit anxious. She probably understood it’d be some time before she could go hunting there again. The grassy little pools where she’d normally go fishing were now part of the “lake”. Full of big, scary fish.

tricolored heron on a stormy day Sand Key park Clearwater Floridafish in the salt marsh Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

The Mottled Ducks were happily cruising the waters, and so were the Moorhen families. With kids of all ages.

moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Floridamoorhen chick and a juvenile moorhen Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

And Mama Sandy was perched in her “watch tower”, monitoring the busy air traffic between the bay and the beach. I saw the young Great Blue Heron fly over the nest, and heard Sandy give a stiff warning. She has no tolerance for fools who’ve attacked her nest.

female osprey Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Before going home, I had to check on Papa Stanley too. He was back in his resort, looking much more put together. And really paying attention to me. I felt tiny under such scrutiny.

male osprey Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Life at the salt marsh is slowly returning to normal.  We all wish you a wonderful weekend and thank you for coming to see us. Much appreciated. Just like the sunshine.