Moonlight. Cinderella. And Operation Osprey at the Salt Marsh.

A text message flashed on my screen late on Thursday afternoon. The countdown to replacing the osprey nest platform had begun. Yay! I gathered my two cameras and called my friend Gladys. We arrived at the salt marsh just when the last rays swept over the water. We noticed right away that the Mayor had come to oversee the construction project. As he should.

the older great blue heron mayor ud90.jpgAnd so had the Tri-colored Heron, who appeared quite surprised encountering visitors at this late hour. But tonight he would see something he hasn’t seen before.

tricolored-heron-ud90We walked around the marsh as the sun plunged into the ocean. Dusk arrived fast. We could hardly see a family of White Ibis feeding at the shallow part of the marsh.

white-ibis-ud90We returned to the bay end of the marsh to wait for the contractor’s truck. A Little Blue Heron was relaxing right below the nest. She had no idea what was to come.

little-blue-heron-2-ud90We sat in the swing. We chatted. It was 6 p.m. and no truck in sight. We learned they were heading our way, so we walked onto the road hoping that they would arrive before the gates were set to close at 6:30 p.m. Standing there we suddenly heard something unusual. Hooves. Cinderella and her prince rode past us in a lit carriage. We cheered them on. What a romantic wedding transport.

cinderella-wedding-2-ud90We waited. And suddenly Mama Sandy flew towards the nest. Oh no! She shouldn’t be witnessing this particular project. It could be traumatic. So I shouted to her not to come to the nest – and luckily she flew away.

mama-osprey-flies-by-at-night-2-ud90The moon appeared in the sky and the blue hour soon turned into darkness. That’s when a huge truck turned into the park and into the salt marsh. Phew. Blake and Matt from Powertown had made it with only 15 minutes to spare before nobody could enter the park, only exit.

truck-arrives-ud90The tree trimming undertaken by the park personnel a few weeks earlier made it possible to park the truck right next to the nest.

truck-at-the-nest-ud90I took the last picture of the completely run down nest platform. It had seen many nestlings grow and fledge over the years. But it was time for this Osprey couple to move into a safe, new home for the next nesting season.

last-picture-of-the-old-osprey-nest-ud90We got a first glimpse of their new ‘mansion’ next to the truck, before the lift arm was deployed and Blake went up to remove the old platform.


hard-hat-going-up-to-the-nest-ud90-2It was exciting to watch, but we could not see much in the pitch black night.

at-the-nest-ud90The mosquitoes had now come out in full force. And it was well past the time for Dylan’s nightly walk. So we decided to go back home to take care of dinners, walks and the like. After I came back from our 1.5 mile walk, I went out onto the terrace. It was 7:45 p.m. As you can see the park was pitch black, but work was still going on at the nest.

working on the nest at night ud90.jpgOn Friday morning I was up early. And took a camera with me for Dylan’s morning walk. At the Sailing Center, Cormorants and Anhingas had gathered to greet the misty sunrise.

morning-meeting-ud90Up on a lamp-post opposite the salt marsh, Mama Sandy was inspecting her new mansion from the distance.  When she turned to greet us, I told her to muster the courage to check it out in person sooner rather than later.

mama-osprey-morning-after-ud90Dylan and I walked into the park to check out the new dish. It looked great! Unlike the old platform, it could easily accommodate both parents and 3-4 chicks.

new-osprey-nest-ud90We did not walk around the marsh, but caught this Great Egret greeting the rising sun right next to the new nest.

great-egret-2-ud90When we walked home, I spotted Mama Sandy. She was flying past the nest. She did not go there as yet, but I was sure she would find it very comfortable. Her old ‘furniture’, which (minus some red ants) was carefully carried back into the new nest, should make it feel familiar.

mama-osprey-flies-by-the-nest-ud90Once the nesting season begins, I’m sure Papa Stanley will find the new perch very useful. He no longer needs to find another perch in the woods or on a lamp-post when he wants to stay close by.

On Saturday, Sandy was still in the watching mode. She perched very close to the nest and observed it intently, but she didn’t go there. Then this morning – voilà! She had convinced herself that the new ‘mansion’ was safe – and all hers. The best sight ever!

mama-osprey-on-the-perch-ud90Later this morning I took a walk at the salt marsh. Sandy was still there, visibly happy for the new perch and her new home. Soon she flew away, and I heard her tell all about their new home to Stanley. There was a lively discussion in the sky above the bay. Perhaps they were planning for additional furnishings. And trips to Home Depot by Stanley.

mama-osprey-at-the-new-nest-ud90The marsh was busy. The Mayor was there again. And the Reddish Egret entertained me with his hunting dance.



reddish-egret-hunts-ud90The smaller wading birds were back too. I spotted the Little Blue Heron in deep thought. And the Tri-colored Heron was happily hunting around. Everything was in good order.


tri-colored-heron-ud90Operation Osprey was a great success. I want to express my sincere thanks to Duke Energy  for their generous grant and all others who contributed to funding this project, including Sand Key residents, blogging friends, and Sheraton Sand Key Resort. My thanks also go to Kathy, the Chief Ranger at Sand Key Park, and her staff for all the tree trimming that was necessary to make this project possible. And to my friend Gladys for her help on the fundraising and always being there despite the fact that mosquitoes liked her more than they liked me. Last but not least, my thanks go to Barb at Clearwater Audubon Society and to Steve, Blake and Matt at Powertown Line Construction for making this all happen.

We all wish you a peaceful week ahead.

85 thoughts on “Moonlight. Cinderella. And Operation Osprey at the Salt Marsh.”

    1. I am so happy for the nest too. Last season I was not sure the old platform would hold up…now they have a safe home when the nesting season starts here in FL late December/early January. I’m glad you enjoyed the report.

    1. Thanks Val! This was an adventure in moonlight. So happy we could pull it off in time, and happy that Sandy has started to sit there in the mornings, just as she did at the old nest 🙂

  1. Fantastic news!! I’ve been excitedly waiting for this post, Helen. When I read your words that Sandy was perched at her new mansion…..well, my eyes watered. I am overwhelmed with joy for Sandy, Stanley…..and you! Your grit and determination did not waiver, and your success will benefit Osprey for many years to come. 🙂 I, too, want to thank all those you thanked for their wonderful efforts as well. Kudos to Blake and Matt for their endurance through the night.

    There is peace and prosperity again at the Salt Marsh. YAY!

    1. Yes, this was in works for quite some time, the old nest had lost half of its supports, big sections of the bottom net were missing and the nails at the corners were getting loose. But with help of everybody we pulled it through in time! I was then anxiously waiting for Sandy to “own” her new home – and now she does!! She was very careful though…observing it for two days 🙂 But now she is coming and going and seems to love the perch. I am so grateful for all who helped in various ways, and to Blake & Matt who worked diligently into the night! You are like a godmother to this couple – thank you Donna!

    1. I am sure this nest dish will meet their specifications. This is the type of dish now used for all Osprey nests in Florida. I am confident Sandy knows how to secure the furniture in place. She is a great home builder and usually starts before Stanley even comes to the nest 🙂

    1. I was waiting for the moment Mama would go to the new nest…so relieved yesterday when she did. This morning Dylan and I saw her on a lamp-post, she looked at us – and flew to her perch at the nest. It was like she knew I’d like to see her there 🙂

  2. Moonlight magic, hooray! So glad Sandy likes her new home! Sitting there on her perch, she looks as if she’s planning how best to arrange the furniture. 🙂 Great work getting the old platform replaced!

    1. Yes, that was true moonlight magic! Sandy will have lots of fun redecorating her home. She is very particular about material choices so I expect Stanley to go out several times to find certain type of ‘furniture’ – and if he doesn’t, Sandy will go get it herself 😀

    1. Sandy definitely approves! This morning she was perching on a lamp-post next to the sailing center and after she saw me and Dylan, she flew right away to her new perch at the nest – and we went to greet her there 🙂

  3. It’s exciting to see how this has unfolded Helen and that patience and perseverance from you and many others has resulted in success. Great team work from everyone and great pictures of your salt marsh family. 🌻🌿🌕

    1. It was truly a team effort! And I am so happy we got it done before Sandy starts bringing in new ‘furniture’ in December. She always starts by designing the nest and then brings a few things herself before she’s putting Stanley to work in January after the proposal 😀

  4. This is the best news ever!! So happy for the Osprey couple and their new (rather plush) home!! Well done Helen 🙂

    1. It was a bit unnerving when she decided to observe the nest for two days 🙂 But now she has taken possession of her new home. This morning she flew there too and stayed for over two hours.

  5. Wonderful news, Helen. Well done to all who joined in to make a difference; so much can be achieved when we have the will and the know-how.
    What a great sight to see Sandy atop the perch. I must confess, I hoped the newness would be acceptable; and yes it is ~ priceless to see.
    As for the Mayor, and all the captures you’ve shared; they too are priceless to see. May we continue to enjoy them through your wonderful photography, Helen, and your infectious enthusiasm. 🙂

    1. Thank you so much for your kind comment, Carolyn. I had quite a bit of anxiety when I saw that Sandy took her time to just ‘observe’ the nest for two days, but now she owns it! This morning Dylan and I saw her on a lamp-post. She greeted us and flew over to the nest. As to the Mayor, I am so happy to see him back at the marsh. His younger rival has kept away…I think he is now residing at the north end of the park at the fishing piers. Thank you for being here my friend ❤

  6. Kudos to you and your feathered friends on the completion of operation Sandy! I really enjoy your photo-stories Helen. 🙂 They bring a smile and sense of hope to me that maybe all is OK or will be with our world. Especially when we pitch in as a community to help others. Thank you for sharing your passion in a joyful way.

    1. Thank you my friend for your kind comment! So many caring people pulled together to get this done! I am very happy for the Osprey couple and relieved that Sandy has approved her new home. Now they have to ‘furnish’ their home and when the time comes in early spring, they can have three ‘kids’ without fearing somebody will fall out 😀

  7. Congratulations Tiny! your hard work has paid off and produced the new nest landing, what a wonderful effort my friend. I hope the local news people are coming to report this achievement as an example of what a community can do when someone cares enough. I like that they put the perch for Papa, I have noticed how the males sit guarding and watching the nest nearby. Have a wonderful week!

    1. No ‘coverage’ of the event, but that’s okay. We all know how we worked together and achieved something good. Papa will love the perch (Mama loves it already as she is ‘minding’ the nest) come the nesting season. He has been perching in a tree nearby or on the closest lamp-post, but now he can stay really close when he wants to 🙂 Thank you my friend and have a wonderful rest of the week.

    1. It’s not a silly question my friend. There are two explanations. The first is that this company (and all others who do this kind of work) is first and foremost a power restoration company. They just returned from the Carolinas after helping people there to get the power back after Hurricane Matthew. They do this kind of work after they have finished their normal work – and this truck was coming from fairly far away in heavy traffic. So it took longer than expected. The second thing is that Mama Sandy has been ‘babysitting’ the nest in the mornings and sometimes she has come back and stayed up to sunset time. It would not have been good to encounter her at the nest. So this timing worked perfectly 🙂

  8. Perfect!!! It is so wonderful, Tiny. I’m so happy the transition went well 🙂 I also think you need to be thanked for all you did to get the new home purchased and installed!! AND for all the wonderful photos you share with us…I love your style!! Have a wonderful week, Helen ♡

    1. It went really well, but it was a bit unnerving to wait and see if Sandy would “own” her new home. Now she knows it’s all hers. She was there for hours today, looking quite happy. Thank you for being here and for your kind comment, Lorrie ❤

  9. What wonderful news! I’m so glad Operation Osprey went off without a hitch and am looking forward to following Stanley & Sandy as they raise the next generation of ospreys on their brand new mansion!

    1. I am so happy they now have a safe home, quite a plush mansion in fact. In 2015, when they had three chick the old nest was far too small, Stanley had to almost “throw” in the fish because there was no place to land 🙂 Now that will not be a problem.

  10. Congratulations – well done you and everyone involved – the platform looks absolutely fantastic. How fabulous Stanley will be able to sit so close now to his family. Am so looking forward to seeing next season’s family photos!

    1. Thanks Joanne! After two days of examining her new home, Sandy found it was made to her specifications. Can’t wait to see Stanley come there too, but that will only happen after the ‘proposal’ – probably early January. Then the refurnishing will begin and Stanley will need to make many trips to ‘home depot’ 😉

      1. It’s so exciting!!!
        Oh, and I forgot to mention before… that first photo of the trip-coloured Heron looks as if he’s channeling his “inner” emu – love it!😂

  11. This is the best news I have had in a week. The new home is very stylish and practical. It’s fun to think that even an osprey home can be redesigned and refined. Mama Sandy will be the envy of the osprey community. 🙂

    1. You will remember how particular Sandy is in selecting ‘furniture’ – I’m already ‘seeing’ Stanley shuttling back and forth with samples 🙂

  12. Thank you Sylvia! It is great they got their new home in time! And it is big enough even if they decide to have triplets 🙂 I hope you feel even better now. XX

  13. Fantastic news Helen! I am so impressed and inspired by your story over the past few weeks of replacing the osprey platform and all the community activity, fundraising, and logistical planning it took. To see the final results here was a real treat. And what a joy it must have been when you saw Sandy finally coming in to the new home. Excellent photos, as always. Great post!

    1. Thank you Jet for your kind comment! I am so happy we got the nest done in good time before the nesting season. It will be a good home for Osreys for a long time to come. I was so relieved when Sandy came to perch at the nest. She usually starts rebuilding it sometime around/after Christmas, even before Stanley will propose to her 🙂

  14. The amount of activity that goes on at the Salt Marsh is informative and helpful for poeople to see how vital a Marsh is to the entire Eco system.
    Vivid colours in the birds! How delightful to see the new nest, I’m so glad to see and hear that everything worked out.
    The Salt Marsh has become a place we are all involved in thanks to your tireless efforts, Helen.

    1. I am happy you enjoyed this post, Genie. The new nest is safe and will last for a long time. The marsh is indeed important and I am glad it is a protected preservation area for the birds as well as the many trees. It is an oasis of peace for everyone.

  15. Happy to read positive progress to support their lives! Congratulations!!
    Is Mama Sandy an eagle? I am not good at bird species. I saw a similar bird at our neighborhood park. She/he is a new resident of our park (it’s been three months)..

    1. Mama Sandy is an Osprey (could be called fish hawk). Ospreys are a bit smaller than eagles, and they only eat fish. They are the best ‘fishermen’ among birds and can dive feet first 1 meter down into the water to catch their fish, which can be up to two times their own weight (only bird able to do that). They also marry for life, although the male has to propose every year 😀 I saw Mana Sandy even today, perching at the new nest…so happy about that.

      1. Thank you for the info. Mama Sandy is certainly a beauty! I hope I will be able to capture a picture of the Osprey in our park. I haven’t seen her in the past few days 😦 I hope she is not moving somewhere else..

        1. I think your Osprey may have migrated south for the winter – until March/April. They can take an occasional cold spell and even snow flurries, but they will not survive a cold winter. Florida and Texas (and countries south of us) host many wintering Ospreys from the northern states. Our Sandy and Stanley are ‘non-migratory’ Ospreys and they live here year around.

  16. LOVE your shot of the super moon, Tiny!!! I was riveted with this story and was just so relieved when Mama accepted her new home. Truly heart warming story, one which gives my heart such a lift knowing that there really are people who care about Mother and all Wild Beings. Beautiful pictures and thank you so much for sharing this most important event!! ❤

    1. Happy you had the time to visit, Amy! This truly was the most important event at the salt marsh for a long time, and a real team effort by people who care. But funny it happened after dark – made it challenging to document the excitement. I saw Mama Sandy again this afternoon from my terrace – she was happily perching at the new nest, and I saw she had already rearranged her ‘furniture’ 🙂 Mother is full of miracles, small and big. Have a wonderful weekend dear friend ❤

    1. Thank you Otto. “Shooting” at night is not my forte, have not practiced enough, but I was happy I got a few shots I could use. But above all, I am happy our Osprey couple has a safe home now.

    1. It was more complicated than what I first thought – permissions, accessibility, fundraising, proposal and finally the work itself. But I am so happy every time I see Sandy perching at the new nest. Thanks for being here, Amy!

  17. Quite amazing really, how quickly she was willing to try out the new digs. Congratulations to you for seeing the results of your amazing commitment Helen! The salt marsh residents are fortunate to have you watching out for them.

    1. I am just happy we could work fast to provide a safe home for the osprey couple for the nesting season that will start late December/early January. Now she has some time to get used to it, and I have noticed she has already rearranged some ‘furniture’. Thanks for your kind comment, Tina.

  18. Simply fabulous photos, Helen. You know this whole story of replacing the platform would make a great story for ‘Cricket Magazine’. From what I remember they often feature real life reportage stories. Or it could be fictionalized for Spider Mag – seen through the eyes of a park ranger’s child perhaps.

    1. Thanks Tish! I will look into these magazines again. When I last looked, I was too busy, but now I have a much smaller project at work and more time. Have a great week ahead.

    1. Happy you enjoyed the “works”, Skip. I am so happy for the new nest, and Mama Osprey “babysits” it every morning like she did with the old nest.

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