Mama Osprey is Sad. On Mother’s Day.

Returning from our South Florida vacation last weekend, I looked out towards the Osprey nest from my terrace expecting to see two rowdy chicks. The nest was deadly quiet. And no Mama Sandy in sight. That in itself was not alarming because Osprey moms go fishing after the chicks are six weeks old. But there was no movement at all.

After a couple of hours, at sunset time, Dylan and I walked through the marsh. I could see Sandy had returned. Taking a picture from the far end of the marsh, I could see her next to two small ‘heaps’ that could have been chicks. But they did not move.

Mama osprey at sunset w two heaps ud124After a brief visit to the dog park, we walked closer to the nest as the sun was going down. Papa Stanley had arrived with a fish for supper.

papa osprey brought a fish at sunset ud124He had settled on the perch instead of giving the fish to Sandy like he always does. And I didn’t hear the typical frenzied song ‘gimme fish’. I didn’t hear anything. Something was terribly wrong. Sandy remained where she had been, next to the smaller ‘heap’. She was not interested in eating. I was wondering what could have happened to the two healthy chicks I had seen just a few days before we left on our trip early in the week. An attack by a large bird, like a Great Horned Owl, who also nests somewhere in the park or a Bald Eagle, who nests on the other side of the bay? Or the younger Great Blue Heron, who had attacked the nest previously? Or perhaps something large hitting the nest in the violent storm that had passed through on Friday night and left huge amounts of debris on the ground everywhere? Or an illness? I had thousand questions, but there were no answers.

mama osprey is grieving ud124Early in the week, when I checked on the nest, Sandy remained at about the same spot. It seemed as if she was grieving. I felt sad and was afraid she might have lost or was about to lose both her chicks to some tragic event or illness while I was away. I had not wanted (read: dared) to take any pictures from my terrace, but that night at sunset time, I finally did.grieving mama osprey ud124

I could see a chick with its head up. One was still alive! I could also see something right next to Sandy that could have been the remains of the other chick. It was difficult to tell. The next day I observed the nest often from my terrace worrying the other chick might also die because it didn’t move about. Finally I saw some wing movements. Not vigorous flapping, as could be expected of a chick of 6+ weeks, but a slow stretch of a wing. That was a sign I had been waiting for. One chick was alive, seemingly recovering. It was still not moving around the nest like they normally do, but stretching a wing was definitely a good sign. Then on Wednesday, I saw the chick was eating. Not fed by Sandy anymore, but eating directly from the fish. Another good sign. I went out to the marsh to try to spot the chick.

mama osprey and the remaining chick ud124The chick held a low profile while I was close by, but from the street, far away between the big trees, I captured it asking for more fish. It had not grown much while I was away, but it had recovered! I was grateful it was not the worst case scenario I had feared.

Yesterday I went out again. From afar I could see the little family of three at the nest.

osprey family ud124When I arrived at the marsh, Stanley had left.  Sandy flew up to the perch to give the chick plenty of room to exercise and preen. And it did.

mama osprey flies up to the perch 2 ud124.jpg

osprey chick flexes her wings ud124Then it started ‘working’, perhaps making the nest more comfortable to move around. I am hoping that the chick will now recover fully from whatever happened, grow and start flying lessons in the next two weeks.

Osprey chick works on the nest 124Knowing the chick was well on the mend, I walked around the marsh and this time paid attention to all the other residents too. The gorgeous Miss Rosa was there. First she foraged in the shallows, then sat down on a little islet to straighten up her hot pink dress – and finally flew away to the inner parts of the park.

Roseate spoonbill ud124

Roseate spoonbill 2 ud124

Roseate spoonbill in flight ud124What a delightful sight she was! The Mayor was there too, close to his ‘office’. He was keeping a keen eye on Harry, the younger Great Blue Heron.

the great blue heron mayor 2 ud124Harry, who was a really bad boy when he was younger, was hiding in the shadows close to the Osprey nest. I sincerely hoped the drama that had taken place was not caused by him.

young great blue heron ud124When he came out of hiding a bit later, I noticed his tail feathers had been ruffled… but I will not pronounce him guilty because I did not witness anything this time around.

harry the young great blue heron ud124The beautiful Tri-colored Heron was chasing small fish in the shallows.

tri-colored heron ud124And a Snowy Egret was calmly observing life from the edge of the water installation.

snowy egret ud124When I walked further towards the beach, I spotted the Clown, the Reddish Egret. He was fun to watch, as always. His red hair flew from side to side with his sudden movements. Gotcha!reddish egret fishing 1 ud124.jpg

reddish egret fishing 2 ud124The Little Blue Heron tried to imitate his dramatic foraging style. And successfully snapped a lunch bite.

little blue heron ud124Everything was back to normal at the marsh, minus one Osprey chick. But that is life. We will never know what happened, but we can root for the remaining chick. And hope it recovers fully, fledges, learns to fish and becomes a happy, productive member of the Osprey community. That is a wish that we mothers have for our young.

mama osprey and papa oprey mothers day ud124I wish Mama Sandy and all mothers in the readership a Happy Mother’s Day ❤

69 thoughts on “Mama Osprey is Sad. On Mother’s Day.”

  1. Very interesting post! In our area, almost every year I see Osprey nests with at least two parents, and some with young chicks. Then one day, a nest is lifeless, empty. I don’t visit them as often as you do down there, so I can’t guess as to what happened. Maybe there was some similar incident, and the surviving Ospreys perhaps decided to move away.

    1. Sometimes the couple is not successful in producing eggs – or hatchlings, and they leave the nest early. Other times if the chick or chicks die for whatever reason, the parents move away from the nest until the next nesting season. I am now cheering on the remaining chick hoping it will heal completely and fledge soon.

  2. This must have been a hard post for you Helen, as you tried to figure out what was going on. Your mothering instincts are strong! I am so glad there is a healthy chick in the nest.
    Mama Rosa looks magnificent. Makes me wonder if she is a mother too ☺️
    I hope you had a good Mother’s Day 💕

    1. You are right, my friend, it was a very hard post to write…I dragged my feet several days. I am very happy one chick survived and seems to be doing better every day 🙂 Rosa is always stunning and has started to visit the marsh regularly now…maybe she is an ’empty-nester’ already. I would love to see little Rosas visit the marsh too. I had a beautiful Mother’s Day. Thank you, Val ❤

  3. Hoping your Mothers Day was a good day, Helen, in ‘other’ ways… 🙂
    This must have been a shock for you to come home to this sad event; though, uplifting to see one chick surviving. Here’s to a good life for the little one. As you said; this is the hope of all mothers.
    Gorgeous images of other community members! I’m finding myself falling for Miss Rosa. I’m already smitten by The Mayor, and the younger Great Blue Heron (I do hope his ruffled feathers aren’t evidence of a bully). Either way, though, life is to be accepted in all its diversity! And diversity is what you offer, Helen, through your wonderful lens and words…
    xoxoxo

    1. I had a wonderful Mother’s Day in all ‘other’ ways – lots of love! And I see that Mama Sandy has now overcome the tragedy and is back to her old self fussing with her chick. Stanley stays more at the nest and keeps company, particularly as the night falls (maybe something happened at night?). I think Rosa was having babies on the bird island and that they have left the nest now because she comes to the marsh regularly. Such a delight to watch and she is not shy at all. Have a wonderful week, Carolyn. XXX

  4. A reminder life can change in a moment, so grateful one chick has survived whatever trauma came visiting. And as for Miss Rosa – she is looking stunning!

    1. I am happy for the surviving chick too – it seems to get livelier every day. And I think Miss Rosa is an ’empty-nester’ now because she visits the marsh on regular basis. I hope her babies start visiting too 🙂

  5. Sad to read of the loss Tiny, but thankfully there is one to grow and carry on to represent the family. It must have been quite a shock at first, and some relief came on sighting the emergence of the young one. Loved your pics of the saltmarch birds, and always love your great pics of the Reddish Egret. Happy mothers Day to you Tiny!

    1. Yes, the discovery of the quiet nest and the odd behavior of the parents was quite shocking at first. But now the chick seems to have recovered and acts like a chick of soon 7 weeks. The Reddish Egret with its stalking foraging style is a delight to watch. Makes me smile every time 🙂 Thank you, my friend. Have a wonderful week!

  6. How sad for the ospreys to lose a chick. Up here in Canada they have nested but haven’t seen a chick yet. I love all the photos. How wonderful to have such a variety of large colourful birds nearby.

    1. It was sad, but I am happy one of the chicks seems to have recovered. If everything goes well, it should be fledging before the end of this month. The non-migratory Ospreys we have here start their nesting season in January and their chicks usually leave the nest at end of June so they are 2-3 months ahead of the migratory Ospreys.

  7. Wild things have illness’s and such and we have to accept that I suppose. So sad but I’m happy one chick survived. I could almost feel Mama Sandy’s hurt when she had to say goodbye to the one chick.
    Hope your Mother’s day was a good one, my friend. ❤

    1. Yes…I have learned to accept the ways of nature…at least after initial sadness. Now there is one chick to cheer on, just like last year. Sandy was grieving for at least 4-5 days, now she’s eating and fussing about the chick again 🙂 I had a beautiful day yesterday. Thank you, my friend ❤

      1. I got tearful myself when I read that she lost a chick. Nature is cruel but just I think. Isn’t it amazing how animals grieve just like we do? Makes me feel closer than ever to them. ❤

  8. I’m sorry about your loss my friend, there are sad moments when least expected but one has to accept them with sobriety and look forward to the survivors. I hope you had a wonderful Mother’s Day with your family. 🙂

    1. Yes, I had a great day yesterday…lots of love and lobster tails 🙂 And I have completely accepted what happened at the Osprey nest, whatever it was. Now cheering on the chick hoping it will develop normally and fledge in the next couple of weeks. Thank you, my friend.

  9. Hello dear Helen, thank you for this latest update. Yes, it brought mixed emotions, but you wrote about it so beautifully. And a reminder that while anything can happen to all of us, we can also appreciate what we have and cherish each moment. I hope you had a lovely Mother’s Day and a good week ahead ❤

    1. It was not an easy time coming home from my adventure in the Everglades, but I have accepted the way of nature and now look forward to the remaining chick to take flight soon. Cherishing every moment is the key ❤ Thank you, dear Takami.

  10. It’s hard when you can’t get close enough to see exactly what has happened! I would be the same. Glad you could see the survival of one chick Helen. So much can change quickly in nature, as it can in our own lives. Adapting and accepting this is a daily practice. 💕

    1. You are so right, Karen. Adapting to life as it comes and going with the flow is an important lesson for us. I am grateful for what is, and now cheer on the chick hoping it will develop normally and take flight soon ❤

    1. Glad you came along for the walk, Susan, even when all news were not good this time. Now I am hoping that the remaining chick will grow and take flight soon.

    1. For a couple of days after my return from the Everglades, I was afraid both chicks were lost to some virus, but have not heard that anything like that was going around here. Now I am so happy now seeing that one has recovered.

  11. Reading this brought tears to my eyes. I felt some better when I saw that one of the chicks survived whatever happened. I feel so sorry for Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley. There was a robin nesting under my carport and it was almost time for the babies to hatch. Crows came and stole the eggs Thursday. Made me so sad. Things in nature can seem cruel at times. Thank you sweet Tiny for sharing the beautiful pictures and doing what you did to let us know that one of the chicks was still there and recovering. Hugs

    1. Thank you dear Mags! I just passed the nest with Dylan on our evening walk and saw that Papa Stanley was babysitting on the perch and the little one was stretching its wings. I think Sandy had gone fishing. She seems to be back to her normal routine now, which is a good thing. So sad that the crows stole the robin eggs from under your car port. I saw a white little egg and one already eaten in our garden yesterday…I think the crows might have been there too…probably a Mockingbird nest. Many hugs

  12. So glad to see one chick is doing well! But sad to see the other didn’t make it…Thank you so much for the update. Beautiful bird images, as always. Thank you, Helen!

  13. So sorry to hear about Sandy’s loss. 😦 It’s good to know that she still has the other chick to guide into adulthood, and she seems to be coping well. It must have been difficult for you, not knowing what had happened.

    Miss Rosa is definitely gorgeous and it was a treat to see what she looks like when flying. I decided to look in my mother’s bird field guide to see if the roseate spoonbill was on her life list of sightings. Sure enough, she saw one on 23 December 1970 ~ must have been on one of our Christmas trips to visit an aunt who was living in Fort Meyers. 🙂

    1. Sandy was clearly grieving, she stayed at the same spot and didn’t want to eat. She recovered when the remaining chick became more active – and last night I saw her leaving on a fishing trip while leaving Stanley to babysit. Glad your mother saw a Roseate Spoonbill – they are abundant around Fort Myers. Thank you Barbara 🙂

  14. When I read the title of your post and saw the photo header, I was so sad and worried, Helen. I am grateful to hear that one baby Osprey survived. Thank you for sharing the beauty of the salt marsh and being such a loving chronicler of life’s wonders and challenges.

    1. Thank you dear Carol. Life continues at the Osprey family home and the remaining chick seems to be recovering quite well. It is still not as active as I would hope, but I am hoping it will get ‘there’ and fledges in the next two weeks.

  15. Ah! Tiny…my heart breaks 😦
    Isn’t it amazing how you could feel her energy…her mourning. I know that we don’t need words to communicate. Happy belated MD…hope you are well…and sending my condolences 💙

    1. Thank you dear Lorrie ❤ After whatever tragedy that had happened, I am now cheering on the remaining chick…and hope s/he will fledge in the next two weeks. Mama Sandy has recovered from her period of mourning and is now fussing about with the chick. Sending hugs!

  16. This post has been on my mind (and heart) since I read it the other day. I had to come back here and tell you what an emotional experience it was and how immediately I was drawn into the story. You unfolded it beautifully, and the sadness turned to hope. You are a master storyteller. 💕

    1. Thank you, Carrie, for coming back to comment so kindly. All these discoveries were quite emotional for me. I have, in a way, become the human granny to the chicks in the Osprey family, and it is sad to discover that one chick had died. I was worrying that the other one would die too, but it seems to be recovering, albeit a bit slowly. It is still not as active it should be considering its age, but I hope Sandy will have the patience to support it a bit longer than she usually does. Thank you ❤

      1. I believe your stories have the same impact on me. I feel like an earth grandmother to nature and it all has impact – both the joys and the sorrows. Thank you again for so honestly and eloquently sharing these beautiful experiences. ❤️

  17. I was lost in your post, Tiny…wanting to rush to the end bu afraid I’d miss some vital details. First I feared the worst and both chicks were gone. I’m relieved that they are ar least a family of three and the chick is recovering. The photographs are stunning as always, sharing the wonder of birds and their habitat with us – thank you so much. Ah…Miss Rosa has the most amazing colouring. Wow!

    1. Thank you, Annika. I am grateful that at the end one of the chicks survived. I am now hoping it catches up on it growth and will fledge by the end of the month. I am so happy Miss Rosa has started to visit the marsh again. I now often see her in the evenings looking for supper. Maybe she still has some daytime responsibilities 🙂

  18. I like happy endings. I once lived in a wooded area on a canal which led out to the Intercoastal. It was full of squirrels . But after hurricane Andrew blew through I did not see any the last 3 years I lived there.

  19. Tiny – it took me a couple days to come back to comment on this sad story – even though the ending is a hopeful one. I always hope for the fairy tale endings, forgetting that most fairy tales are horrid, sad stories for the most part. Ahh, life. Wishing you and yours all the best – Susan

    1. Thank you for your insightful comment, Susan. I had several tense days following this little Osprey family, when I did not know whether or not at least one chick will survive. I dragged my feet even on putting all this in writing. Natures ways are indeed unknowable to us at times. Now I am just hoping the second chick will thrive.

  20. Tiny, I really enjoyed the latest installment. I felt the tension… was she gonna be OK?
    Then, what looks like a happy and recovering Osprey family. Yay! All’s right with the world!

    1. Thanks Gabe. The remaining chick is a girl and seems to be doing fine now. I’m hoping she’ll go to flight school soon. Planning to check on her progress today. Have a great weekend.

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