Search and Rescue. And Storms over the Salt Marsh.

Wishes do come true. Erica, the tropical storm, died last Saturday. But she left a large blob of moisture churning on the Gulf. And that brought strong storms over our area late last week and early this week. The “beach lake” was reborn, and there are some fresh water pools in the park around the salt marsh. But luckily no bad flooding.

Early in the week, I managed to get in a couple of walks just before the storms rolled in. While the bay bathed in sunshine under blue skies both mornings, the storm clouds were gathering on the ocean.

Clearwater BayMama Sandy hasn’t visited the nest much lately, but I’ve usually found her somewhere on the bay side. One of these mornings she was having breakfast on a lamp-post, but keeping a keen eye on the skies at the same time. She seemed to be in a hurry.

Female Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaFemale Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaYou see, she was aware of Papa Stanley circling high in the skies with another Osprey. First I thought his pal Steve might have returned, but then managed to get a couple of pictures that proved me wrong. It was a juvenile! Likely one of their chicks, but it was impossible to tell for sure which one. I was betting on Lofty.

Juvenile Osprey Sand Key Clearwater Florida Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaAfter finishing her breakfast Sandy joined them over the bay. She was talking non stop. Maybe she was telling them to focus on getting breakfast before the storms would roll in. Who knows. But Stanley obliged.

Female Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaI noticed (from very far) that he flew back to Marriott and took up a scanning position on the lower roof.

Male Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaI also saw a woodpecker family on the bay side. It might have been the same couple of Red-bellied Woodpeckers who nested in the demolished “condo building”. Now there was a new juvenile in the family.

redbellied woodpecker Sand Key Clearwater FloridaAnd since I also had my eye on the sky, I decided to leave a proper visit to the salt marsh for later. And soon was happy I did. An impressive thunderstorm rolled in.

The next morning I found only Sandy. She had decided to borrow Stanley’s resort to keep an eye on the approaching storms. And on me. That penthouse has the best views. Stanley may have embarked on a fishing trip little further out. Perhaps a father and son outing with Lofty.

Female Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaI decided to tempt my fate and visit the salt marsh. But it was practically deserted. There was an eerie silence. No bird song, no nothing. The birds had already gone to their rain shelters in anticipation of the storm. The only one seemingly still around was the young GBH. His head stuck up from the high grass as he peered towards the ocean.

young great blue heron Sand Key Clearwater FloridaThen I heard Papa Moorhen.  I spotted him hauling heavy materials to reinforce the family home. Last-minute preparations for the impending storm.

moorhen repairing nest

Just before I reached the beach, I almost stumbled on a young Sandwich Tern. She was laying in the grass next to the trail. She looked away when I approached, but didn’t move. I thought it was odd for her to be there alone when all the other birds had sought shelter. I snapped a couple of pictures of her, and then ran (yes, ran) home through the flooded beach.

rainbow over the ocean Sand Key Clearwater FloridaIt was already raining on the ocean so I decided to take a shortcut through some trees and bushes into our garden. But failed to jump all the way over the ditch, or rather a newly formed four-foot wide “river”.  My old hiking shoes got a through soaking, but luckily I didn’t land on my tummy in the water. Then the first fat rain drops fell on me. The storm was upon us.

Once safely inside, I sat down at my laptop, had my second cup of coffee, and looked at the pictures. This is what I saw.

sandwich ternThe little tern had a fishing hook sticking out of her mouth. And it had also pierced her throat. She couldn’t even close her beak, and must’ve been in terrible pain. I hadn’t noticed the hook when I saw her, and now she was out there in the storm badly injured by human activity.storm over salt marsh Sand Key Clearwater FloridaTo make a long story short, I reached my friend, the Ranger, on the phone. She is also a bird rescuer. I told her about the little tern and where she’d been when I spotted her. The Ranger went out to look for her. About fifteen minutes later I got a call from her. The little tern had been found and was on her way to the vet. The Ranger told me she’d seen fishing hooks in birds many times, but never one so badly tangled into the skin.

little tern So there would be a small surgery, and maybe some recuperation time at the sanctuary. But this little tern would make it. Yay!

On that happy note I wish you all a great weekend ahead.