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.
And 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.
We 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.
We 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.
We 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.
We 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.
The 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.
The tree trimming undertaken by the park personnel a few weeks earlier made it possible to park the truck right next to the nest.
I 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.
We 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.
It was exciting to watch, but we could not see much in the pitch black night.
The 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.
On 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.
Up 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.
Dylan 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.
We did not walk around the marsh, but caught this Great Egret greeting the rising sun right next to the new nest.
When 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.
Once 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!
Later 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.
The marsh was busy. The Mayor was there again. And the Reddish Egret entertained me with his hunting dance.
The 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.
Operation 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.