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.

73 thoughts on “Can I See Your ID, Please? Mysteries at Salt Marsh Holiday Gathering.”

    1. Happy you enjoyed the post Stephanie! Kind comments, like yours, make it worthwhile to try to carve out the time for sharing the life and adventures of these wonderful feathery friends.

    1. I hope I’m right in thinking these would be the two girls. I would have loved to see the breast markings of the younger one, but it was impossible. I wish you a wonderful Holiday Season, Kathy!

  1. Wow, what a beautiful holiday post Tiny! I so enjoy your salt marsh community antics. Inspired by your great story telling and superb photography, I will soon be posting my Christmas Special where we had a interesting experience on the mudflats on Saturday. Have a wonderful Christmas and New year also my dear friend!

    1. Happy you liked your visit to the Holiday gathering at the salt marsh, Ashley. It was a magnificent experience, so many birds! And two mystery Ospreys. Looking forward to your Christmas Special, my dear friend 🙂 Wishing you and yours Peace at Christmas and a blessed New Year!

    1. It was funny how the space was divided between the “clans” at this gathering. The duckies had all the deep water next to Mama’s nest for themselves. And the Osprey mystery is still on my mind 🙂

  2. Looks like a great walk, Tiny. We’ve seen lots of Christmas visitors on our lagoon . . . including white pelicans and spoonbills. Always a treat.

    Hope your holiday is warm and wonderful.

    1. That’s a great holiday treat, Nancy! It seems the birds liked the cooler weather we’ve had…but the holidays are expected to be really warm this year. I wish you great holidays as well!

    1. Thanks Kathy! The sun shone through the branches right on the Muscovy Duck (feral population here, originally from South America) and make his otherwise darker colors come out very nice 🙂

    1. I couldn’t be sure about that young female Osprey as I just could not see the markings because of the sun. There was some resemblance to Aspire, and the parents did not sound warning calls for these two which they would do for all “newcomers”. She was very patient with me, and not at all bothered when I stayed right below/behind her with my camera. It was like she was used to seeing me.

  3. Tiny, fascinating post!!! These birds are such a wonder. That one duck with the incredible markings I kept staring at because he didn’t even look real. How Nature in all Her glory with the eternal combinations of colors, markings, shapes, sizes …. amazing amazing amazing!! I SO enjoyed this post as I once again immerse myself in a world that you see every day and that I only dream of. Thank you for sharing and putting together such a complex post!! Love, Amy ❤

    1. Oh I’m so happy you enjoyed this post, Amy! That Muscoky Duck has very beautiful patterns and colors, and they were accentuated by the bright sun shining on him between the branches. Nature is truly amazing, as you say. Every time I go out there (which has been too little lately due to my work pressures) I enjoy the gifts given by Mother. And I am happy when I have the time and the opportunity to share. Since I don’t see snow here, I always enjoy your winter post (but hope no blizzard this year!) and the awakening of nature in the spring that you describe so well. Have a wonderful, joyful Holiday Season, Amy ❤

      1. Your Love of Mother mirrors mine, Tiny, and it excites me to no end to actually know of someone who “gets it”. We haven’t had too much snow yet for my Christmas post I am posting a few pics of snow … the little we had. It’s long been melted since. Merry Christmas to you and your Loved Ones, my dear friend!! If you don’t make it over to Petals tomorrow for my Christmas post, I totally understand!!! BIG (((HUGS))) Amy ❤

        1. Your Christmas post was wonderful! I did a Christmas walk today too, but will post it tomorrow Boxing Day 🙂 I wish you a wonderful Holiday Season, dear Amy! Big hugs to you too my friend ❤ Tiny

    1. Oh, it was a complete surprise visit! I had not seen “Diamond” since July 2014. I’m almost sure it’s her. They always return to the area of their birth when they approach maturity. As to the younger one, I can’t be sure…but she was totally “cool” with me, like “oh, that’s you again”, and not like Osprey’s I see the first time. I’m hoping it was Aspire.

      1. It’s so interesting to me – a novice – that there are such noticeable distinctions between the ospreys. I’m learning a ton, and about ready to step onto our beach here and pick one of the cute little Plovers and call them my family!

  4. Great post Tiny! What a enchanting place you have so near to home. Loved your pictures and interesting report too! Have a wonderful Holiday my dear friend! 🙂 ❤

    1. Thank you H.J.!! It is a very small place, as you know, but now officially part of the “Florida Birding Trail” just because of its popularity with birds. Have the most beautiful Holiday with your family my dear friend 🙂 ❤

  5. To know where to look to see such a great variety of birds in such a short walk shows that there has been a lot of practice. In this case practice has made for a perfect post. (In spite of some magnificent large birds, the duck was the pick of the day for me.)

    1. Thank you. I’m getting little better in finding the birds, that’s true. They all have their favorite hiding places and perches. It’s funny how people can just walk by and not see one single bird, or just see a few. The duck will be happy to be your pick of the day.

    1. Happy you liked their gathering! That shot was a difficult one, as I couldn’t move much being on the bridge between railings. I took it more for ID purposes, and was surprised how nice it turned out 🙂 The young Ospreys return to their area of birth when they approach maturity, so I still think it might be “Diamond” from 2 years ago.

  6. I am reading and re-reading,I roll down,up and down again,I cannot take my eyes off,dear Tiny!What a paradise on earth,this salt marsh place is;and what a big variety of wonderful birds!The way you describe the events that take place there make me love your heros and heroines more.You personify them so convincingly,I think I will hear live dialogues and bird chatting.Nice to get to know more species,you are a great birder!Loved Muscovy’s plumage and I so much enjoyed the beautiful daughters who visited their parents for the holidays!You are such a sweet narrator,a great author with rich sentiments and unending love and care for birds and nature.I think your books will be interesting not only for children but for adults too.Thank you so much for all your warm wishes ~ I send back Love,Peace,Happiness and Joy!Enjoy a wonderful Christmas week 🙂 ❤ xxx

    1. Thank you dear Doda! I am so happy you enjoy the adventures of these magnificent birds, big or small. Yes, you’re right I really love them and care for them. I’m like a hen mother, if I don’t see one of my friends for a while, I get worried and go look for him/her 🙂 I have so much work right now that I don’t get out as often as I used to, but I’ll go to my terrace with binoculars and check on them. Like right now, I can see Mama Sandy perching at the nest, right from my office window. I hope to get the time next spring to make my 2 children’s photobooks available on Amazon at a cheaper price so that they are accessible to more people. I wish you a wonderful Christmas & a very Happy New Year, my friend ❤

      1. I know how you feel and how you miss them when you are away.I have been feeding a big fox family for years now and I have developed a weakness for them.They are very clever animals and very cute especially the cubs when they arrive … end of June.As for your books,that would be lovely to be available on Amazon.Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to You too 🙂 xxx

    1. Thank you Stacey Ann. I am so grateful and feel blessed to be so close to wildlife here on our barrier island. And it is wonderful to be able to share some of it here every now and then.

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