We are Flying! But Are We Ever Gonna Eat?

The Osprey chick caught me completely off guard! She really did. Last Tuesday when I took my “birding” camera on the morning walk with Dylan, she was still a nestling. We walked past the nest and nothing much was up. The chick was alone in the nest, I guessed Mama Sandy had gone to run some errands after breakfast. Osprey moms do that from the time the chicks are 5-6 weeks old.

osprey chick ud62Right when we were leaving Sandy came back and gave us a friendly look. I think she has now accepted Dylan as a part of this paparazzo’s entourage.

mama osprey gets something to the nest ud61We saw many smaller birds, like this Northern Mockingbird who lives at the marsh.

northern mocking bird ud62And a Brown-headed Cowbird, who doesn’t love dogs very much. I can tell from the sharp warning calls as soon as Dylan approaches.

brown-headed cowbird ud62A Great-tailed Grackle sang for us from a lamp-post along the walkway.

Boat-tailed Gragle ud62And the Mourning Dove sat on the driveway fence checking us out, just like she does almost every morning.

Mourning dove in the morning ud62So late yesterday morning, after all the necessary morning chores, I set out by myself to check the beach and the developments at the salt marsh. I took my new camera with me and shot some macros in the garden before heading to the beach. This girl needs to get acquainted with her new gear.

bee macro ud61I got my first tiny insect, a bee in the White Bird of Paradise flower, but he didn’t care to look into the camera. And a couple of flowers and buds too, of course.

garden flower macro ud62

flower bud macro 2 ud62

new leaf opening 2 macro

flower bud macro ud62I still have tons to learn, and have to start carrying the heavier camera and the lenses to experiment with macros and other more advanced types of shots. I’m sure I will get a hang of it by time.

Our beach was quiet. Idyllic, if I may say. But the public beach just off the salt marsh was already buzzing with activity.

our beach on Sand Key ud62All kinds of fun stuff was going on in the water and in the air. This is one of the busiest weekends of the year around here.

parasailing ud62But the salt marsh was serene as always. I walked directly towards the Osprey nest. On my way I saw a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. He had caught something big, maybe a crab, and didn’t quite know what to do with it. It could be that he hadn’t been successful during his night shift and grabbed the biggest piece available for brunch.

yellow-crowned night heron was hunting ud62I heard Mama Sandy’s alarm calls, and again didn’t see anything threatening in the air. But just as I arrived to the East-end of the marsh, something big flew by me. Yes, you guessed it. The younger Great Blue Heron made his entrance and landed right below the Osprey nest.

young great blue heron ud62 He has grown to a big handsome bird, and hopefully his manners have improved. But Sandy didn’t take any chances. She immediately flew down and swooped by this fellow. Just to make a point. It all happened in a couple of seconds and I only caught her when she landed back in the nest.

mama osprey returns to chick ud62The chick was taking notes. Then I realized that apparently their brunch was late. The chick was fairly vocal about it.

I hadn’t noticed Papa Stanley fly by with a fish, but when both the chick and Sandy were asking for fish and looking in the direction of the woods on the other side of the trail, I thought I’d better  investigate. And soon I found him in a pine tree with a big fish.

papa osprey with a fish 2 UD62Stanley was soaking wet and had just started to eat the head of the fish.  He looked in the direction of the nest where the chick was hurrying him along. And briefly checked on me too.

papa osprey with a fish ud62I walked back to the nest, took some portraits of the two ladies and waited with them. But still no fish delivery.

portrait of mama osprey ud62

osprey chick 2 ud62

mama osprey and chick waiting for fish ud62So finally I decided to go back home not to be late for my own lunch date. Just when I reached the street and looked back towards the nest, I saw the chick take off! She had fledged in the last few days! She flew a round high over the bay and also took a swing over the woods where Stanley was working on the fish. Sandy sat alone in the nest and watched her. Proud mama.

mama osprey watches chick flying ud62I decided to wait right there to see the chick come back to the nest. In a couple of minutes she approached. It looked like she might miss the nest.

osprey chick approaches the nest ud62Sandy got ready for action, but luckily the chick could work her wings and steer onto the edge of the nest.

osprey chick landing ud62.jpgAnd she landed safely next to Sandy.

ocprey chick is back in the nest ud62She got some motherly advice from Sandy right away. I wish I would’ve understood what was said. But I’m sure it was something wise.

mama osprey advises osprey chick 2 ud62I had witnessed one of the chick’s first flights. And now I had to run home. I hope friends in the US are having a nice long weekend. All of us at the marsh wish everyone a wonderful week ahead. Thanks coming along on this long Memorial Day weekend walk.

After the Storm at the Salt Marsh.

Late last night I was reading and watching TV in bed when I heard a strange rumbling noise. I didn’t recognize it. When it continued and the light started to flicker,  I went to the window and peeked out. And immediately saw where the sound came from. A full fledged storm raged outside, probably the strongest one we’ve seen this year. Strong winds made the rain fall horizontally and palm trees bend heavily, their “hair” flying sideways.

mama protecting the chick in rain storm UD3The hen mother that I am, I was immediately thinking of Mama Sandy and the chick in the nest. They would lay flat, their heads pointing against the wind. The chick would be leaning to her mother tightly, or even lay partially under her, like in this picture from last year. I couldn’t see them, of course. It was pitch black over the salt marsh. I was hoping that Papa Stanley and all the other birds residing at the salt marsh were in safe shelters. The storm lasted for about an hour, and I made a mental note to go check on them in the morning.

sunrise on the bay ud61We woke up to an almost cloudless sky. From my windows I could see the Osprey nest was still intact despite two of the four supports being loose. When I opened the blinds in my office, I saw Papa Stanley fly right past the window towards the ocean – going on a fishing trip, I assumed. Needless to say I was happy to see him.

So after Dylan had taken me for a walk, and I had enjoyed a cup of coffee, I went out to see how everything and everybody had fared the short but fierce storm. The ground was full of palm debris, but the first thing I saw arriving at the salt marsh was Sandy and the chick happily in the nest. Yay!

mama osprey and chick waiting for brunch ud61Sandy was asking for fish. It seemed Stanley had not yet returned from his fishing expedition. And Sandy was also making a series of alarm calls. I looked around and did not see any reason for alarm. It occurred to me that she might have done that to get Stanley’s attention. Bad thought. She would never do that. And then I saw the young Great Blue Heron hiding in the high grass very close to the nest. Too close for Sandy to be comfortable.

younger great blue heron ud61To my delight I found many permanent residents at home. The great Egret was watching his village from on the beach end of the marsh.

great egret ud61The juvenile Little Blue Heron, who is growing fast, had found a hunting companion, a Tri-colored Heron.

little blue heron juvenile ud61They were happily foraging in the shallow pools formed by the heavy rains over the mud flats. I saw hundreds, if not thousands of fish fry swim around in those brand new pools. These two birds had a blast.

tri-colored heron ud61And so did the Reddish Egret. He caught a bigger fish at the shallow end of the marsh.

reddish egret caught a fish UD61The “resort island” was occupied by a Snowy Egret and a couple of blue-eyed White Ibis. They seemed to enjoy the freshness brought by the rains. No pollen blanket floating on the water.

snowy egret ud61

two ibis ud61Just when I was crawling my way up from the natural “hide” close to the little island, I discovered Papa Stanley was finally flying in with a fish. I missed the fish, of course, as he had just landed when I could stand up and shoot a picture from the distance.

papa osprey arrives with sunday brunch ud61Walking towards the nest again, I saw that even the Night Heron couple had made it through the storm.

another night heron ud61

yellow-crowned night heron ud61The fish Staley brought must have been a big one because he stayed in the nest and all three started having their brunch together.

osprey family ud61The chick is eating by herself now, and was done first. She was looking happy having both her parents in the nest for brunch. And so was I.

after sunday brunch the osprey family ud61All was well. And with those good news, I wish you all a wonderful weekend and a great week ahead. I hope that you too can make it out to enjoy the nature.

 

Face it! Birds Have Expressive Faces Too.

Papa Osprey’s expressive face is definitely one of my favorites! Here he’s watching me watching him. He tilts his head slightly, curious about the long black tube pointing at him. Click. Click.

Miss Rosa, the Roseate Spoonbill, has a photogenic face. Despite her very long spoon-like bill. And I think she knows it. Always poses happily for the camera.

roseate spoonbill FACEForaging birds often have that highly focused expression on their face. It’s necessary to focus all their attention on finding that one delicious piece of food. Here exemplified by the gracious Tri-colored Heron.

tri-colored heron FACEAnd the Little Blue Heron. Look at those eyes! Nothing can escape that stare.

portrait of little blue heron FACEThe reddish Egret often has a his clown face on, particularly when starting his hunting show. But don’t get fooled, he’s highly concentrated on his mission.

reddish egret all buffed up FACEWhen these birds catch a fish, or three, they show a happy face! Demonstrated here by the Great Egret.

great egret with three fish FACEThe Red-bellied Woodpecker has her sharp pecking tool embedded in a surprisingly soft face.

female red-bellied woodpecker FACEBut I can’t say the same about the Snowy Egret, especially when she has an itch right under her chin. Her face shows determination. Away with the itch. Scratch. Scratch.

snowy egret FACEThe Green Heron has a shy face. He looks away when noticing he’s observed. And pretends he’s nowhere to be seen.

green heron portrait FACEBirds, too, can have an old face. Scarred by life and full of wrinkles. Like this old American Black Vulture.

an old american tblack vulture FACEAnd they can have a face of a curious teenager. Just check out this young Muscovy Duck who has yet to learn to fly.

muscovy duck FACEAnd birds can have a face that shows contentment. Everything they need is right here. Right now. This is aptly demonstrated by the Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Here captured in the morning, after what I believe was a successful hunting session the previous night.

yellowcrowned night heron FACEI will have to end this “Faces from the Salt Marsh- series” by showcasing Mama Osprey. Her dancing face is as beautiful as her flowing dress 🙂

mama osprey FACEThe “salt marsh gang” wishes you all a pleasant week. You can find other interesting faces here.

Me and my Mama. And a Flight School at the Salt Marsh.

The chick closed her eyes and snuggled close to her Mama. Mama Sandy has been sad lately. She’s been grieving. Staying a lot in the corner of the nest where I now know the little chick’s earthly remains rest. The big chick is about 6 weeks old now, alert and following everything around her with healthy curiosity. I think it’s a she, but I might change my mind in the next couple of weeks.

salt marsh ud60 6x9I haven’t been taking Dylan on walks at the salt this past week. The poor guy still has to wear his cone. His vet told us to keep it on until Monday’s check-up. Needless to say Dylan is not a happy camper. He feels just fine, but the cone prevents him from doing so many essential things. Such as eating properly from his bowl or reading his daily newspaper in the grass. It’s like I would be trying to read the morning paper without my reading glasses. Not fun.

So today I decided to take a solo walk to check on our friends. It was lunch time and quite hot. I anticipated the marsh would be fairly quiet as birds tend to seek shelter from the midday sun. But I was happy to see many palm trees in full bloom.

palm flowers ud60

another flowering palm tree ud60When I arrived at the Osprey nest the chick was snuggling close to Sandy. Like taking care of her Mama. Then she started preening. And Sandy discovered I was there. We said our customary hellos.

mama osprey and osprey chick preening UD60After ten minutes of diligently cleaning herself, the chick settled down and started to check out her environment, including me.

osprey chick ud60

osprey chick 6 weeks old ud60She is a beautiful young Osprey now, and it will take only a couple of more weeks, if that, before she’ll be flying. I walked around the marsh and saw the young Great Blue Heron at the other end of the marsh. He didn’t dare to come close to the nest, which was probably good for his wellbeing. Mama Sandy was keeping an eye on him.

young great blue heron ud60I also spotted my newest friend, the juvenile Little Blue Heron foraging in the shade of some bushes. She is turning more blue every week, which unlike for us humans, is a good thing for a Little Blue Heron. She seems to be doing great.

juvenile little blue heron ud60Walking back towards the nest I saw two Florida Mottled Ducks tanning themselves in the midday sun.

two Florida Mottled Ducks ud60When I reached the nest again, I spotted the Reddish Egret. It was too hot to perform tricks, I guess, as he was just checking the marsh in quiet contemplation.

reddish egret ud60But the Osprey chick was not quiet. She had started her “getting-ready-to-fly routine” up in the nest. I made a short GIF so you can see all her elaborate moves. This young lady will take off soon!

osprey chick wingersizing may 14 2016Down in the pond this new routine didn’t go unnoticed. The Reddish Egret turned and followed the chick’s performance with great interest.

reddish egret looks at the nest ud60I left the salt marsh with mixed feelings. Sad that nature had decided there would be only one chick in the Osprey family this year, but happy knowing this young bird would have great odds to make it to maturity. Sandy and Stanley would feed her for a long time after she fledges, and take her on countless fishing trips to make sure she knows how to catch a fish before she leaves the nest towards the end of June or early July.

Waking home, I was delighted to find new palm flowers on my route, the White Bird of Paradise was in full bloom.

white bird of paradise flower ud60Thanks for coming along. I wish you all a peaceful weekend and a great week ahead.

Mama Osprey’s Little Wingman. And Danger Lurking.

Happy Mother’s Day to Mama Sandy! Being a mother is wonderful, but also exhausting and full of trials. Mama Sandy knows. She looks weary. I am not sure this picture shows two chicks, but this is the closest I’ve come this week to confirm that there still are two of them.

weary Mama Osprey and 2 chicks ud59But that doesn’t mean that the younger chick didn’t survive. S/he could just be in the middle of the nest and not yet looking out much. And even in the next picture s/he could be right in front of Sandy’s head.

osprey chick ud59The bigger chick is certainly thriving. S/he is wingersizing already. That long, out-stretched wing belongs to him/her!

This morning I took a solo walk to check on them. See, Dylan is not allowed to take long walks until next Thursday. He had surgery to repair a Cherry Eye in his left eye, which is still red. He has a cone to protect his eye, and is on three medications. Needless to say he doesn’t appreciate his current restrictions.

Dylan after surgeryAnyway, this morning I heard Mama Sandy give a sharp alarm call several times. I looked up in the sky, but couldn’t see anything flying overhead. At one time she was making herself ready to fly out, but changed her mind at the last moment. I was baffled. What was making her so upset?

mama osprey ready to defend the nest ud59I walked closer to the nest and discovered the reason she was on edge. The young Great Blue Heron was watching the nest intensively from the other side of the deep pond.

young great blue heron ud59After being discovered, he flew across the pond landing almost below the nest. And Sandy gave another sharp warning.

gbh flying ud59

younger great blue heron ud59Sandy was on her toes and ready to defend the nest. Because Papa Stanley didn’t fly in to assist her, I gathered he was out fishing. So I walked around the marsh to see who else was at home. The first one I spotted was the small Tri-colored Heron. She was hunting and didn’t pay much attention to me.

tricolored heron ud59The tiny juvenile Little Blue Heron, whom I saw last week for the first time, was also there. I think she’s made the salt marsh her new home.

juvenile little blue heron ud59On the north side of the marsh, two baby Mottled Ducks were having breakfast. Diving so often that I had a difficulty in capturing both of them up on the surface at the same time.

two ducklings ud59Mr. Mallard was also visiting the marsh for the first time this year. He posed nicely for the camera.

mr mallard ud59Walking further towards the beach end of the marsh, I had to laugh at this Northern Mockingbird.

Mockingbird ud59As soon as I walked by his tree, he started serenading me in advance of Mother’s Day. I took a 30 second video so he can serenade you too. The master of the songbird universe.

Reaching the end of the marsh, my attention was drawn to a Great Egret, who seemed very upset.

great egret ud59He was vocal too, and soon enough I saw why. The young Great Blue Heron was flying right towards him. I guess the GBH had decided he didn’t want to get his butt kicked by Sandy again, and wanted another piece of land to conquer.

young great blue heron ud59The Great Egret flew away, and the young GBH soon was the King of the Hill at the west-end of the marsh.

younger Great Blue Heron ud59I walked back towards the Osprey nest on the south side of the marsh. The only bird I saw there was a Blue Jay. He was moving all the time and gave me a hard time to get a shot.

blue jay ud59While I was occupied with him, I saw Papa Stanley circle around the nest with a fish. Mama Sandy did not say anything so he flew away with the fish. After reaching the nest, I sat down on “my” bench to change the battery in my camera.

mama osprey ud59I could only see Sandy. Then I saw a dark shadow flying over my head. It was Stanley coming back with the fish.

papa osprey brings a fish ud59He landed at the corner of nest. But nobody was hungry. This was around 10 a.m. and I guess Sandy and the chick(s) had just eaten. So he took the fish and flew away, presumably to eat it himself.

papa osprey delivers extra fish ud59

papa osprey flies away w fish ud59I’m sure he’ll need that extra energy as he’s fishing at least four times a day now, and probably eats less than any of them.

It was a gorgeous day and an eventful walk. Reaching our driveway a Mourning Dove was welcoming me home.

mourning dove ud59

With that I wish all mothers and grandmothers a wonderful Mother’s Day tomorrow.

 

 

I picked up on Lucille, started singin’ blues…

B.B. King was one of the music legends featured at this year’s annual Sugar Sand Festival on Clearwater Beach, voted the best beach in the US this year – again. I welcome you to join me for this music themed art tour to discover some great works by sand sculptors from all over the world.

SSF CLW BeachThe skillfully sculpted exhibits featured artists from the 60s and 70s, like Jimi Hendrix…

SSF jimi Hendrix…and Janis Joplin, both with an impressive hair of soft sand.

SSF Janis JoplinSome wild rock bands, like Kiss, were also featured…

SSF Kiss…along with good ol’ bluegrass bands. Such an impressive detail. I could almost hear the banjo playing and feel the foot tapping on the sand.

SSF Bluegrass BandSome classics, like the Glenn Miller Band, were present too.

SSF Glen MillerAnd jazz of course, here represented by the phenomenal Louis Armstrong.

SSF Louis ArmstrongMy visit to this exhibition was just a couple of days after the death of Prince. A sculptor was at work to add him into the parade of musicians who had passed away recently…

SSF Prince…such as David Bowie, here portrayed as Ziggy Stardust.

SSWF David BowieI really liked this whimsical portrait of Bob Marley. It made me smile too.

SSF Bob Marley.jpgAnd I was intrigued by the fine representatives of the first musicians, the troubadours. They put their heart on their sleeve while serenading fine ladies. Sometimes with mixed success, I guess.

SSF TroubadourAll in all it was a very interesting exhibition of sand sculptures. I am full of admiration for the sculptors and how they are able to create something so delicate yet durable out of the sugar soft sand we have here.

You can find other responses to the Weekly Photo Challenge “Admiration” here.