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!

54 thoughts on “After the Big Rains. Long Lineup to the Smorgasbord.”

  1. What delightful captures – may they have wind beneath their wings and you have the sun upon your shoulders as you enjoy your weekend of bird watching as the salt marsh returns to its former glory! 🙂

    1. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many different birds or so many of one kind as the first half of this week. The last photo was more luck than skill 😳. Thanks Sylvia!

        1. I have to remember that! Just back home last night and the marsh looks more “normal” now…also with fewer birds, only the permanent residents 🙂

    1. I’d love to be outside all the time, but have to discipline myself and just look out on the marsh from my office window. Watching and photographing birds doesn’t pay the bills 🙂

  2. oh my goodness, what a complete and utter joy! Your photos are exquisite, as always, Tiny, and your marsh looks like heaven on earth post-storm. I love that capture of the parent and juv skimmer because the juvenile doesn’t even look like a skimmer, except for that wonderfully crazy bill. And I’m always enjoying any of your spoonbill photos.

    1. Thank you Jet! The Skimmer juveniles have a dark/white pattern, the older ones are darker and the younger ones who are still learning to fly are more whitish. We had so many spoonbills visiting after the rains, now only Rosa, the resident, remains. I came back from travels last night and had to check the marsh at sunrise this morning 🙂

  3. I would have gone crazy with all the birds that you have now! I love it! Great shots Tiny! Have a great weekend! 🙂 ❤

    1. I know. It was wonderful to see such an abundance of birds. I think many of them normally reside on a “bird island” in the bay. I was traveling and just came back last night…and had to check the marsh early today…now back to “normal” 🙂

  4. Another wonderful post Tiny. I love your terns and skimmers. It is good to see the fast recovery of the birdlife from the storms. I notice more have been hitting your country this week. Thanks again I love your work!

    1. Thank you for your kind comment! The birdlife recovered immediately after the rains stopped, and we had so many visitors, probably from a bird island that is located in the bay. Now everything is back to normal. I came back home from travels last night and checked the marsh early this morning. The water levels are back at normal, residents enjoy peace and quiet now that the visitors are gone 🙂

  5. It looks as if you are in paradise after the rains as well, enjoying getting out among all your bird friends and soaking up all the beach has to offer. The photos of the Royal Terns really caught my eye ~ shot from a great perspective and such a regal birds. Wonderful post and writing.

    1. Thanks for your kind comment, Randall. I like to observe and “shoot” the Royal Terns. They are regal, and also expressive in a quiet way, apart from the juveniles who are quite funny and argumentative 🙂

  6. Such great shots, Tiny! I especially love the one of the lineup with so many different birds together. Your photos always remind me that I should spend more time at the beach … which is only 10 minutes away! I rarely take photos or go birding at the shore, for some reason.

    1. Thank you! I loved the lineups at the rainwater pools. They are now all gone, and the marsh only has its permanent crew. But the beach seems to remain quite busy. You should go to the shore sometimes, maybe you’d be surprised by the variety of birds you’ll find!

  7. How wonderful to see so many fabulous visitors to your area! I loved all the photos, especially the diving ducklings and the rows of egrets! Great job, Tiny, once again. I hope your trip is going well.

    1. Thank you Amy! I came back last night, all went well. First thing this morning, even before my coffee, I went to check out the salt marsh. Everything there is back to normal, water levels are down and the huge number of visitors have returned home (I think they came from a “bird island” in the bay). Now our old friends are happily enjoying peace and quiet 🙂

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