Breakfast in Bed. Now It’s Official.

Yesterday morning I lifted my eyes from the vector graphics on a complex analysis I was doing for work, and glanced out from my office window towards the Osprey nest. Did I overdo it at my computer and had double vision? I saw two white heads in the nest. I went to fetch my birding binoculars, then my camera…and yay! No double vision, but two Ospreys in the nest.

mama and papa osprey in the nest first time ud39Sandy was half asleep with a partially eaten fish in her talons, and Stanley was in protection mode at the front of the nest. It must have been an early breakfast-in-bed proposal scenario. Sandy had finally gotten her gift! The nesting season 2016 had officially started. And I just had to get out there. Right then. So I left my work, gathered my stuff and jogged straight to the salt marsh.

mama osprey sleeps papa osprey watches ud39And there they were, the love birds. Sandy was still sleeping and Stanley was still checking the environment, including me.  I liked what I saw.

While I was standing close to the nest, I noticed a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron. She was standing on the water installation and staring down into the water, all puffed up.

juvenile yellow-crowned night heron ud39And that’s when I saw them. Two tarpons, 2-3 feet long, were swimming close to the surface of the deep water below the nest.

tarpon in salt marsh ud39They looked huge in that small body of water. Far too much for the young Night Heron, and even for the Ospreys. But then everything is relative. Tarpons can grow to a length of 8 feet and weigh up to 280 pounds. These two fellows captured Stanley’s interest too. He glanced down at them, and then looked at me as in saying these guys are far too big, right?

papa osprey looks down at fish ud39He knows he can carry a fish up to two times his own weight, which would be about 3.5-4.4 pounds. And these were much bigger.

Everybody else noticed them too. Daddy Night Heron stared down into the water from his perch in a nearby tree.

yellow-crowned Night Heron ud39A Snowy Egret on a lower branch got really upset, and gave a loud warning when one of the tarpons jumped up from the water at the shallow end of the pond.

snowy egret is really upset ud39So did Miss Rosa. She had been sleeping and was woken up by all the commotion. She ran further away from the water.

roseate spoonbill shouting ud39The one seemingly not bothered by the appearance of the two visitors was the Mayor. He was back from his Christmas holiday, surveying the marsh leisurely next to his favorite islet.

great blue heron Mayor ud39A large flock of White Ibis was foraging further out in the park. They were not bothered either.

a flock of white ibis ud39After quickly walking around the marsh, I  approached the deep end again. Peace had now returned. Miss Rosa had calmed down, and so had the Snowy Egret.  He was busy cleaning his gorgeous plumage.

roseate spoonbill ud39snowy egret ud39The juvenile Night Heron was still looking a bit wary, but her daddy had already fallen back to sleep.

older juvenile yellow-crowned night heron ud39But Mama Sandy had woken up. She was working on her big fish again.

mama osprey eats papa osprey watches ud39Moorhens were back cruising the deep water, and life had assumed its normal peaceful ways at the salt marsh, on one of the last days of the year.

mama moorhen reflection ud39I returned to my work confident that the new year will bring many new adventures. Happy New Year to everyone! And thank you for being here. Much love, Tiny & co.

 

Christmas Morning at the Salt Marsh. But Don’t Come without a Gift. Please.

The Christmas morning was beautiful. Little on the warm side. Okay, we were probably one of the warmest places in the country. No jacket required, not even in church. Late morning everybody was heading to the beach, including Santa.

christmas morning on the beach I got out too,  for a much needed walk. A solitary break from cooking and eating. And eating again. I took the shortcut through our garden to the beach and then to the salt marsh.

gardenIt was very peaceful. You see, the park was actually closed. No cars coming in. The birds were not many either. A couple of Great Egrets, a few White Ibis, Moorhens and several Night Herons sleeping in the bushes.

great egret white ibis and moorhen ud38

This juvenile was the only one agreeable to a photo shoot. Albeit half-heartedly.

juvenile yellow-crowned night heron christmas ud38

When I arrived to the east end of the marsh, the Osprey nest was empty. But I enjoyed the company of the “duckies” who have pretty much reserved the deep water for themselves. A young Moorhen came up on land and was quite funny walking the “plank” with his big feet.

moorhenmoorhen

Soon the Ibis also wanted to show me his style, balancing on the edge of the installation that regulates the ocean water coming into the marsh.white ibis The young Muscovy duck was resting further out, at the corner of the same installation. He lifted his head to acknowledge me, but didn’t move.

muscovy duck christmas portrait

I was admiring the little Grebe, who seems to have made the marsh her home, when Mama Sandy flew into her nest.

Grebe female osprey arrives at the nest

After saying hello, she settled on the back edge of the nest and scanned the skies. Looking up, I didn’t see anything interesting.

female osprey at the nest

And she scanned the ground too. Two unleashed dogs came running with their owner. When outside the dog park, dogs must be on leash. But I don’t think they knew how to read. It’s a pity that their human didn’t  either.

Mama Sandy continued to stare at the sky, and suddenly she gave a sharp, loud warning. I saw the young Great Blue Heron approaching the nest with his landing gear already down.

great blue heron 2 ud38But Sandy was adamant he wasn’t welcome.  Full stop. So he picked up his legs and flew towards the bay side. Soon after that I saw Papa Stanley fly high up in the sky, not far from the nest.

male osprey in flightAnd he was coming close. Very close. He was about to land, but Sandy told him not to come to the nest. Not without the customary gift!

female osprey is upset See, that’s a clear message. You don’t arrive empty-handed. Stanley changed his mind in the last minute. Sandy knows what she wants. And he knows very well he needs to bring a gift to be allowed into the nest.  So he flew towards the bay. This courting is getting serious.

male osprey not allowed at the nest Soon after Stanley disappeared from sight, Sandy flew away too. Maybe to check on him.

female osprey

When I walked out from the park, I spotted the Northern Mockingbird again. He lives somewhere close to the wooden fence of the park. He was in deep thought. Very serious. Maybe he’s been following the Osprey saga, and was pondering where to find a mate of his own.

northern mockingbird 2 ud38

Just before arriving home, I saw Sandy and Stanley flying together very far over the bay. It looked like she would get her gift. Sooner or later. Stanley had already caught a fish. I didn’t get a good picture of the two of them as they flew so far apart, but I’ll share what I’ve got so you’ll see I’m not kidding. He clearly has a fish. In less than ten minutes. There’s hope for this romance.

male osprey with fish and a female osprey

With that continuing excitement at the salt marsh, I wish you all a great Boxing Day! Peace.

 

Can I See Your ID, Please? Mysteries at Salt Marsh Holiday Gathering.

Yesterday afternoon I finally got to visit our feathered friends at the salt marsh. And walked right into a Holiday gathering! Or more precisely, to the nap sequence of the party. You see, in the avian world napping after a festive meal is allowed, even encouraged. It is totally okay for the guests to doze off for a while. No eyebrows raised.

roseate spoonbill snowy egret tri-colored heron Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridawood stork Sand Key, Clearwater, Florida three wood storks Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridayellow-crowned Night Heron Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaEven Mama Sandy was nodding off at the nest with a half eaten fish in her talons.

mama osprey is sleeping Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaSome of the birds soon woke up, maybe sensing a paparazzo lurking around in the bushes.

four wood storks Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridatri-colored heron Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaOr to listen to the Great Egret’s Christmas address on peace for humanity. He didn’t need any loudspeakers delivering his compassionate message. I guess he was acting for the older Blue Heron, the Mayor, who was absent. Maybe visiting relatives for the Holidays.

great egret Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridagreat egret Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaRosa opened one eye to check on me. And Sandy woke up to attend to her fish, and to say hi.

roseate spoonbill Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridafemale osprey at the nest with a fish Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaWhile large families of Wood Storks, egrets, and herons gathered in the west wing of the marsh, the waters of the east wing were reserved for the duckies. The young Muscovy Duck, in his holiday outfit,  was mingling with his friends, the Moorhens. And the little Pied-billed Grebe didn’t seem to be bothered by the crowds.

muscovy duck Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridajuvenile moorhen Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridapied billed grebe Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaJust when I was leaving to look for Papa Stanley, I discovered the Loggerhead Shrike,  the only song bird that also is a raptor, and is commonly known as the “butcher bird”. He was having a party of his own. Struggling with his pray high up in a palm tree.

butcher bird loggerhead shrike with a frog Sand Key, Clearwater, Florida

But that was only the beginning. I left the holiday decorated salt marsh. And was in for a mystery or two of my own.

salt marsh Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaI walked over to Papa Stanley’s favorite perch. He was not there. But I saw two Osprey’s perched on lamp-posts on the bridge leading to the next barrier island. I decided I needed extra exercise and started walking onto the bridge.

The first Osprey was a young female. She also had a fish. To see her ID, which is the “necklace” on her breast, I had to shoot almost against the sun.

another female osprey Sand Key, Clearwater, Florida

Seeing the almost diamond-shaped markings on her breast, I remembered the only chick Sandy and Stanley had two years ago. I used to call her Diamond, just because of the shape of her markings. Could it be that she had returned to the place of her birth? This beautiful lady wouldn’t tell, but it’s a distinct possibility.

Now, the next Osprey, almost at the top of the long bridge, must be Stanley, right?

young female ospreySand Key, Clearwater, Florida

Wrong. It was a beautiful, young female. Her eyes were not yet pale yellow, and there were a few white spots at the edge of her wing feathers.  Who was she? I asked kindly, but she wouldn’t show me her ID. Just because her position was such that taking a picture of her breast, standing between the railings on the narrow walkway on the bridge, would’ve been right against the gassing sun. I couldn’t see anything through the viewfinder. But she looked at me like she knew me.

 female osprey Sand Key, Clearwater, Florida

Could it be Aspire, the middle chick from the last nesting season? I thought her face reminded me of Aspire’s.  A little on the round side. Here are a couple of pictures of Aspire from April and May this year. What do you think?

portrait of an osprey chick Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridaosprey chick female 2015 Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaI can not be sure of the identities of these young ladies, but it’s possible that they are Sandy’s and Stanley’s two daughters who came home for the Holidays. Pondering this mystery, I walked down from the bridge. I spotted many more birds on the bay side, Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, Anhingas, gulls and terns, and  the young Blue Heron. Remembering he was sent home from the migration conference earlier in the fall, he had probably decided it was safer to stay away from the gathering at the salt marsh.

young great blue heron Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaPassing Stanley’s resort again, I noticed he’d just returned from a fishing trip. He was eating Red Snapper. Not bad for a holiday meal.

Male osprey eats fish Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridamale osprey eats fish Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaWhat a walk this was, almost 3 miles in two hours, over 40 birds of 19 different species. Talk about a Holiday gathering. We all wish you all Peace, Joy and Love this Holiday Season.

You can find more gatherings here.

Oops! I totally missed it.

Sitting here enjoying a hot after-dinner Christmas glögg.  A Swedish tradition. The spiced raisins and almonds at the bottom of my glass mug taste cinnamon and clover. Delicious. I’m off tonight from this month’s serious work crunch.

terrace christmas lights ud36But it’s already dark and too late to go see the birds at the salt marsh. Haven’t managed to get any such privileged breaks so far this week. No new pictures to share or feathered stories to tell. But since Thursday has (kind of) been my posting day, I thought I’d let it all hang out. We’re among friends, as Ben Huberman put it in his post about this week’s photo challenge: Oops! So here we go. My biggest oops in the history of salt marsh stories.

black-crowned night heron UD36It’s a beautiful day early March this year. Everybody is going about their business as usual. Mama Sandy is sitting on the eggs and Papa Stanley is keeping her company at the nest.

male osprey at the nestAnd I’m keeping company to both of them. Suddenly Stanley stands up. He turns around. Flexes his wings and talons.

papa osprey turns ud36He looks over my head intensely towards the bay behind me.

papa osprey faces the danger ud36I am still only focused on his move and wonder what that excitement is all about. What I don’t see is this (photo taken a few weeks later).

young blue heron coming in ud 36Stanley takes off, staring right above my head. His is talons are ready.

papa osprey faces danger ud36Action! Whatever will happen I’m ready! I see Stanley meeting a big bird in the air, just three feet above the nest. His talons are pounding the attacker. But my camera doesn’t see it. It needes a second or two to reset itself after I’d shot the full sequence. NO! Not now. Please. Come back!

Papa chaces the gbh ud36papa osprey in chase ud36When it finally wakes up after the two longest, most dramatic seconds in the world, it finds Stanley diving down to the marsh for the second time. To teach the silly young man a lesson.

papa osprey dives after the egg thief ud36What an event! Stanley successfully defends Sandy and the eggs in the nest…and I miss it. The trust in my photographic skills gets a bigger dent than the leg and butt of the young culprit.

blue heron the culprit ud36But I recovered. Oops happens. And just a few weeks later, when the eggs had hatched and the little nestlings (who’d grow up to three mighty birds) were in the nest with Sandy, I witnessed another impending attack by the same silly bird. But this time Sandy was on her watch and thwarted his attack before he even got off the ground. And this time my camera didn’t sleep.

mama osprey prevents attack by blue heron ud36blue heron goes down UD36But did the young Blue Heron learn his lesson? That remains to be seen when the nesting season starts again in a few weeks. I hope to get some fresh news for you over the weekend.

I think it’s time for another cup of glögg. You’ll find an impressive collection of oops and disasters here.

Homecoming. And Little Miracles.

She saw me. Looked twice. And sang a short welcome-home-song for me. Loud. From the heart.

roseate spoonbills welcome song ud35Then she looked at me as in asking whether I liked it. Miss Rosa made me smile. And I felt welcomed back to the salt marsh.

roseate spoonbill 2 ud35I had finally managed to make the time for a walk to check on my feathered friends. And there was no doubt I was back in Florida. The salt marsh was blooming in all possible colors, delicate and bold.

flower ud35 yellow flowers ud35 red flower tree ud35I found the Mayor at his favorite spot on a small islet. He was in deep thought. Maybe pondering about the upcoming holiday party. It’s always a lively event at the salt marsh.

great blue heron ud35I noticed the herons and egrets had already started changing into their festive breeding plumage. Demonstrated here by the Snowy Egret, and the Great Egret little further away.

snowy egret ud35 great egret ud35Mama Sandy was at the nest when I arrived. But she was scanning the  skies where another Osprey was circling high up at a distance. She nodded a brief hello and flew away after a couple of minutes.

mama osprey at the nest ud35I was trying to get a picture of a Yellow-crowned Night Heron, who was hiding in the high grass, and a juvenile resting in the bushes right below the nest, when I heard Osprey speak.

yellow-crowned night heron ud35juvenile night heron UD35I looked up, and saw Sandy fly right over the nest with Stanley following close behind. Courting behavior. And by flying right past the nest, I thought, Sandy gave Stanley a hint about the proposal gift and the customary dance expected to take place shortly. A strategic reminder that the time for Stanley to come back to the nest was getting close. Three weeks tops.

mama and papa osprey fly by the nest ud35They flew together for quite a while and I decided to check who I could find on the bay side. On my way there, I saw this beautiful Northern Mockingird.

northern mockingbird UD35And was offered a demonstration in magic when a leaf on the ground suddenly started walking. One of nature’s little miracles.

walking leaf ud35On the bay side I was greeted by a flock of White Ibis feeding on a patch of grass. And then strolling back and forth on the sea wall.

ibis on the bay side ud35Close by a female Red-bellied Woodpecker was working on a thick palm trunk. Most of the time only half of her body visible.

female red-bellied woodpecker ud35I was just leaving to go home when I spotted Stanley at the Sailing Center. He was not scanning for fish, instead he was staring intently at something in the direction of my home.

papa osprey looks at mama ud35Walking back home, I spotted the object of his interest. Sandy was perching on the holiday decorated lamp-post closest to our driveway. Love is clearly blooming between the two of them. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.

mama osprey ud35When I reached our front yard, I noticed Sandy was watching me. She clearly knows where I live, and I hope she had missed seeing me when I was away. At least a little bit. It will be a privilege to witness their upcoming nest renovation project and hopefully get pictures of the chick(s) when the time comes.

mama odprey looks at me ud35We all wish you a great week. Cheers from the salt marsh ~

 

 

 

The Journey Home. Musings From Above the Clouds.

The sun rises. Cloud “mountains” cast long shadows on the soft cotton fields of the skies. The world below is  waking up to a new day.

sunrise 2 B in the sky FIIt is easy to be present. Right here, right now. At 39,000 feet. Mind calms down. The chatter quiets. I am.

moon and a plane FIThen, pictures of tranquil countryside flash by. Cloudy days with light snowfall.

snow and the lake B fiThe sleeping apple garden getting a white makeover. More to come. Much more by the time winter is over.

apple garden and snow fiSunny days when the sky colors the waters. Like dreams of peace for humanity.

lake at sunrise fisunrise sky reflected FIAnd the short December days of the north, when dusk starts in mid afternoon.

rainy afternoon FIReflections of rain drops and bird houses. Inhabitants long gone. Migrated to southern shores.

bird house in the forest FICockpit announces fair weather, scattered clouds. I look out. A solid blanket of clouds. I smile. London calling.

scattered clouds over London FIAnd so we dive into the soft drifting clouds. Riding through them towards the earth. Saying goodbye to the sun. And hello to the big city. Or so I thought.

sinking into the clouds FIWe circle around and around. Sightseeing from the skies. The big picture. Included in the ticket price.

london from the air 3 FI london from the air 4 FIAnd so the journey home continues. Invigorated by the change of scenery. Serenity for the soul.  Family. The heart-warming smiles and hugs. And the good night kisses generously offered by the dog.

pebbe dog fiFrom one home to another. I arrive just as the sun is diving into the ocean. Familiar and comforting.

sunset 4I wish you all a wonderful upcoming weekend.

An Old Face. Eye Spy.

A face in a birch tree Finland
A face in a birch tree found by my dad in Finland.

I was fascinated by this “face” in an old birch tree. It’s right eye seemed to spy on me whenever I passed the wall where my dad has his tree art collection. I came back to look at it several times during my recent visit. Perhaps expecting it to tell me a story. Reveal what it had spied on while still in the forest. Spill out the secrets. But it remained tight-lipped.

You can find other responses to the weekly photo challenge here.

I wish you a peaceful week.