Hunching Party. And a Mystery Bird over the Salt Marsh.

Girl making a snowman digital artI hope all friends are warm, safe and dry after the blizzard and coastal flooding that hit so many states here in the US this weekend. We had gale force winds from the ocean for two days and Florida winter temperatures in the 30s, but today things are much calmer, winds only at 10-15 mph, sun and pale blue skies.

winter beach JAN ud44I finally got a chance to go check on my feathered friends at the salt marsh. And wanted to give you a quick update on the state of affairs before the work week swallows me again.

Many birds were out and about braving the cool weather. A real hunching party. Everybody was puffed up, like these White Ibis taking in the sunshine.

white ibis ud44Just when I arrived at the osprey nest,  Papa Stanley flew in with soft materials for the nest cup. In preparation for egg laying.

papa osprey brings nest materials ud44Mama Sandy seemed pleased and put it carefully in place in the middle of the nest. And then they just sat there together warming up after the cold night. The nest platform held through the storm again, which is a a good sign considering that it now seems impossible to do any repairs until after the nesting season. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it holds until summer.

papa and mama osprey at the nest ud44I spotted several juvenile Night Herons seeking shelter in the bushes under the osprey nest, some were awake, some asleep.

juvenile night heron ud44

another juvenile night heron ud44A Snowy Egret was huddling there too, airing her beautiful plumage in the breeze. And for the first time in weeks, I found a Tricolored Heron.

snowy agret ud44This slender heron was almost unrecognizable hunching there all puffed up.

tri-colored heron UD44I had just spotted the young Muscovy Duck, when I heard a loud discussion at the other end of the marsh.

muscovy duck ud44Based on the dialect I heard, it was between two Great Blue Herons. You guessed it, the Mayor and the youngster. When I glanced over there, I saw that the young GBH had occupied the Mayor’s Office. He clearly harbors aspirations to take over. But the Mayor didn’t like it. The impostor got chased away. He flew up to a tall cypress and settled at the top to consider his options. Sandy and Stanley were not delighted to see him either. Stanley gave a sharp warning call.

young great blue heron flees ud44When I came closer, I saw the Mayor was still very upset, probably thinking what his next step should be.

great blue heron mayor ud44He didn’t settle in his office for long, instead he flew to an islet closest to the group of trees where the youngster was. To keep an eye on his rival. Wise move.

mayor great blue heron ud44This season promises to be interesting. The youngster has not mellowed, if anything he seems to be challenging everyone.

Walking away from the drama, I spotted a Wood Stork. He was separated from his friends who were huddling in the bushes a bit away. They were not willing to pose for a photo.

woodstork ud44But the Great Egret was. He had witnessed the high-pitched discussion between the Blue Herons, and seemed happy that the peace had returned.

great egret in breeding plumage ud44I decided to walk home on the bay side. Leaving the salt marsh, I noticed a sweet juvenile Snowy Egret bravely exploring the marsh on her own.

juvenile snowy egret ud44The bay shore was almost empty. Some pelicans were fishing on the bay and another Great Egret was hunching in the sun next to the sailing club pier.

great egret ud44That’s when I saw the Turkey Vulture circling overhead. I snapped a couple of pictures of him at our driveway.

turkey vulture 2 ud44The surprise came when I looked at my pictures at home. Look carefully. Do you see anything strange? He has the letters HAX on his right wing, doesn’t he? I had to look at all my pictures to believe that marking really was there. I have no idea what that could be. Do you?

I wish you all a good week ahead. Take care.



73 thoughts on “Hunching Party. And a Mystery Bird over the Salt Marsh.”

    1. It was quite a bit smaller than a condor would be, and I understand those condors were tagged with numbers and not letters. I think this is something more mundane 🙂 I might have found the origin of this particular bird/tagging (Kennedy Space Center Turkey Vulture project that tagged 250 TVs with patagial tags that had a three letter combination, and were attached to the right wing) but I am still waiting for confirmation. I would have loved it to be a condor from California 🙂

    1. I did lots of research last night and it might be a bird from the Kennedy Space Center Turkey Vulture project that tagged 250 TVs with patagial tags that had a three letter combination, and were attached to the right wing. Still waiting for confirmation.

    1. Thanks Nancy, I looked at it, but they had numbers. It might be a bird fro the Kennedy Space Center Turkey Vulture project that tagged 250 TVs with patagial tags that had a three letter combination, and were attached to the right wing. I wrote to them but still waiting for confirmation.

  1. I would say it’s a condor also, the way the wing feathers are spread. I did a search but couldn’t find where condors were tagged with letters and not numbers. Interesting. It is saying HAX, I don’t see numbers. But yes, I would still report it. That’s pretty cool. 🙂

    1. It was quite a bit smaller than a condor. I think I might have found the origin of the bird. It might be from the Kennedy Space Center Turkey Vulture project that tagged 250 TVs with patagial tags that had a three letter combination, and were attached to the right wing. I wrote to them and now waiting for confirmation 🙂

      1. Oh great! I searched for a while online last night, but really couldn’t find anything. It’s hard to tell the size by a picture. But it’s so cool you saw it and got a picture!

    1. Thanks Kathy. It might be a bird from Kennedy Space Center Turkey Vulture project that tagged 250 TVs with patagial tags that had a three letter combination, and were attached to the right wing…but still waiting for confirmation.

    1. I was so happy to see everyone was fine. But I’m afraid it’s not a condor, it was quite a bit smaller, just like a Turkey Vulture. But I may have found the origin of this bird. It might be from the Kennedy Space Center Turkey Vulture project that tagged 250 TVs with patagial tags that had a three letter combination, and were attached to the right wing. It might be a “scape bird” 🙂 but still waiting for confirmation.

    1. Thank you Susan. I now know it is a patagial tag, and the bird many be from the Kennedy Space Center Turkey Vulture project. They tagged 250 TVs with patagial tags that had a three letter combination, and were attached to the right wing. I’m still waiting for confirmation on this “space bird”.

    1. Thank you dear Isabella. It would be amazing if it was a condor, but I’m afraid it’s not as it was smaller, just the size of the Turkey Vulture. It might be a bird from the Kennedy Space Center Turkey Vulture project that tagged 250 TVs with patagial tags that had a three letter combination, and were attached to the right wing. It might be a “space bird” 🙂 but I’m still waiting for confirmation.

  2. I guess the eastern USA is hogging all the snow and cold – we here in Switzerland are definitely feeling the global warming this winter! wouldn’t mind a bit cooler too. but not the blizzard stuff you got! always enjoy your beautiful bird pictures and stories.

    1. Yes, this blizzard was really a powerful one north of us on the east coast. We had high winds and cool even here in Florida. This morning still only 4C, but the sun warmed it up quickly and now we have 17C. The troops from the salt marsh say thank you for visiting 🙂

    1. Thanks for your kind comment, Stephanie. I’ve learned to know the individual birds who live there full time. It’s fun to observe their community and how it works, and to see the young ones born there grow up. There is a “bird island” not too far on the bay (only accessible by boat) where many of these birds spend part of their time, like the Roseate Spoonbill and some of the smaller herons whom I haven’t seen for a few weeks.


  3. I am glad the bad weather has not affected your salt marsh friends too badly. I love your photos,The egrets and herons look so majestic, especially beautiful in breeding plumage. I found an article on tagging turkey vultures
    you may have already seen this. Don’t know if it helps, but it appears there has been a radio tagging migration project. Your Muscovy is quite brilliant. I always love your posts and the way you present it, I feel I am coming to know your birds as if they were like the ones I have here such as Butchy my Butcherbird friend who bathes in the dogs drinking water each day and visits and sings to me each day several times a day. Tomorrow is Australia Day and we get a holiday, I am hoping to check out a vulcanic reef if the weather is good, but it is wet at the moment. We are getting ourselves ready for a trip down south to Tasmania next week, where there are some very special and rare birds we have not seen yet. Have a wonderful week Tiny and keep warm my dear friend:-)

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, my dear friend. I had seen the article on tagged TVs, but they were all tagged with numbers. I still think this bird flying around here was tagged by the Space Center project in 2009-2010 as they used a three letter combination. That project was going on for 5 years, and must have ended now as nobody has responded to me.
      We are much warmer now, 18-21 C yesterday and today, but that will be temporary. Another cold front is on its way. I wish you great explorations in Tasmania! And hope you get many gifts of rare birds 🙂

      1. Thanks so much Tiny, glad you have had a break from the weather, yes we are trying to work out what clothes to take as weather down there is unpredictable, but yes, thanks for your kind and warm well wishes my dear friend, enjoy the rest of the week, I am still getting my next post ready as we had a public holiday yesterday, but we had a wonderful birding experience which will feature next:-)

  4. Really happy to hear the Mama and Papa Osprey’s nest is intact after those gusty winds! And I had to chuckle at the youngster’s maneuvering. Looks like they have his antics covered.

    1. I am now more optimistic about their nest holding up until everyone is out of there in July. The youngster is something else! But as you say, they all seem to know how to handle him 🙂

    1. That little bird, not taller than about 30 cm, was so sweet. She looked at me and then decided I was safe to be around. Thank you for your kind comment Hariod.

  5. Stunning captures, what variety, Helen! Isn’t it amazing when you watch the same birds on a daily basis that you actually learn their habits & antics, who’s boss, and of course there’s always a ‘teenager’ that’s got to get everyone in a tizzy & disrupt the peace! 🙂

    1. I wanted to mention too, very interested in the HAX marking on your bird. I spent a few minutes google searching and didn’t find anything. But this is so cool, I want to know what it means!

      1. Oh, I might have found his origin. This Turkey Vulture might be a “space bird” from the Kennedy Space Center Project that tagged 250 Turkey Vultures with patagial tags of three letters in 2009-10. Still waiting for confirmation.

        1. Cool! How neat is that!! I once thought I had spotted an Osprey with an antenna for a GPS transmitter strapped to him, I contacted a specialist to identify. Silly me, it was a pinfeather but at f irst glance they really thought it was an antenna too. I’ve also photographed ducks and seen bands on their legs but never got a close enough photo to submit the info.

    2. Thank you Donna! It is wonderful to learn to know the birds who live and nest there all the time. That teenager was silly to attack the osprey nest several times (when I happened to be there) last year, and always got his butt kicked. It went to the point that Mama intercepted him in the air when he was flying towards the nest, and Papa fought him off in the air just above the nest. I was hoping he’d mature in the off-season, but it doesn’t look like that 🙂

    1. This might be a bird from the Kennedy Space Center project that tagged Turkey Vultures 2009-2010 with wing tags just like this, with a combination of three letters. I’m waiting for confirmation on this “space bird”.

  6. Beautiful images – yes, I saw the HAX letters on your strange. I hope it meant to monitor the birds population as mentioned by previous will be sad if it was something harmful for the bird..well captured!!

    1. I did some research and now think this is a Turkey Vulture tagged by the Kennedy Center Space Center project in 2009-2010. They used these wing tags with three letters. Still waiting for confirmation on whether this is one of their birds.

    1. Thank you, Jet, for your visit and kind comment. I looked at this link, but my impression is that these “teevees” were tagged with numbers and not letters. The only project that I have found using a tree letter combination was the Space Center one. It seems that they only followed these birds for five years (until 2014) and may have moved on because nobody has responded to my query so far. But this bird is still happily flying around 🙂

  7. Tiny, that bird is tagged as many have said here but for exactly what I do not know. What an exciting post and it does seem we are in for a very interesting Spring. Almost every bird was huddled and OH did I feel sorry for them. I hope as of this writing it has warmed up in your corner of the world. Take care, my friend. I too have such a busy work week (again!) Love, Amy ❤

    1. Thank you dear Amy for your visit! I know how busy you too are. I took on a huge project in November and now have difficult to make time for blogging/reading, and even for photography. When I get to go to the salt marsh it feels like a vacation 😀 I haven’t heard back from the Space Center Project, it seem it has wound down already, but I am almost sure this bird was tagged by them in 2009-10 as they seem to be the only ones who tagged “teevees” with a three letter combo. Much love ❤ Tiny

  8. Seems like we humans aren’t the only ones with the occasional rebellious youngster. I’m curious to see how the elders will deal with young one’s challenges in the coming season.

    I wonder what the HAX stands for, too…

    1. It will be an interesting season. That rebellious youngster is capable of causing some head aches 🙂 I think HAX was just a letter code given to this bird, but it could have been a name given to it too.

  9. Great sleuthing, reporting and photographs Helen! Loved the little egret – she will be a beauty.that you heron is going to be an issue though. I think he needs a girlfriend closer to Tampa! Glad to have you back in my reader again 🐥

    1. Hi Val! Yes, a girlfriend somewhere up the intracoastal would be good for the young man. I’ve been so bogged down with work (and will be for a couple more months) that it’s been difficult to get time for sleuthing…hopefully today 🙂

    1. I still think this bird was from the 2009-2010 “space project”. They marked Turkey Vultures with a three letter combination. Thanks for you visit, Elena.

    1. Thank you Sylvia, it might be “their” bird, as I have not received any reply from the Kennedy Space Center project that also tagged vultures with three letter wing tags on their right wing. I will try this one and see if they recognize this bird 🙂

  10. A mystery bird?That sums up my curiosity,dear Tiny.Glad to read that all is back to normal after the furious attacks of this nasty storm.I have noticed that always after the storm comes a calm … ,even in our lives.It was wonderful to see that all your salt marsh friends had survived the storm and they had started the hunching party.Loved all your photos with the lovely characters and their breeding plumage on.Nice to see the happy couple tidying up their “home” and amazed by the enormous mystery bird on the wing!The Turkey Vulture tagged with the funny letters.HAX was a mystery and still is,but I think you are right about what it is.All your blogging friends kindly gave you their “light”,but you kept saying that this one was tagged with letters.Beautiful post with a touch of drama (with the impostor) and of course with suspense!Enjoy your trip ~ Happy weekend 🙂 xxx

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