In Focus: Incredible Arlene

On a stormy evening late last week, Arlene was perching on the boat lift at the sailing center. She was scanning for fish. Suddenly she flew up, hovered for a few seconds above the water and dove feet first into the water. She didn’t catch the fish. Not yet. But she had all the right moves, including shaking off water in mid-air like a pro. This was less than two weeks after she fledged. And that’s nothing short of incredible. I didn’t carry the camera so you just have to take my word for it. Dylan is my witness. After coming home, I caught this picture of her from my terrace. She was back up there staring into the water…and she would try again. I call that determination.

arlene learns to fish on her own ud130She is scanning for fish often now. And her parents, after seeing her early progress, have clearly taken the back seat. Mama Sandy is still around occasionally keeping watch for any dangers. Sometimes I have not seen her for a day or two, but she comes when Arlene calls her. Like last night when the skies suddenly darkened and the wind picked up before strong thunderstorms. I could not see Arlene, but I heard her. She was somewhere on the roof. Sandy was flying towards her pushing against the strong winds. Really struggling. She came from the north along the bay side and landed on the roof. I guess Arlene needed adult company in the storm and her mama was there for her. Dylan and I ran home and rushed into our garage just when the first fat raindrops started falling. And then pretty much everything went out of focus.

storm on the bay out-of-focus 2 ud130Sandy probably feeds Arlene only once a day now, if that. Her parenting is encouraging independence. But still providing protection. And Arlene is confident in her abilities, as she has been from the day she fledged. A strong female leader in the making, as I see it.

Mama osprey keeps watch ud130On Sunday morning, Arlene’s two-week fledging anniversary,  I saw her perched at the sailing center. Ten minutes later I went for a walk and saw her eating on Marriott’s roof, at her favorite spot. I wouldn’t rule out it was the first fish she’s caught by herself. No parents were in sight.

arlene eats fish ud130Young Arlene has not followed the conventional path to independence. You see, normally, Osprey chicks stay at the nest being fed by their parents at least 4 weeks after fledging. They start to follow their parents on fishing trips during the 3rd week and start to try to fish on their own at 4-6 weeks after fledging. Not Arlene. She left the nest the day she fledged and directly started to fly with her folks. She was diving for fish 12 days after fledging…and now, 16 days after her fledging, I think she might be able to provide for herself already. I am sure Sandy will not stay in the vicinity for long. And Arlene, too, is likely to move a bit further soon. But as long as she stays here you’ll have ‘full and impartial coverage’ on this brave and beautiful chick by this media outlet.

Arlene at sunset June 9 ud130On Sunday, I also briefly visited the salt marsh between heavy showers. After two weeks of rains, everything at the salt marsh was green and the water level was high. Consequently many of the waders were keeping away for now. I guess they don’t like their bellies getting wet while wading in high waters.

salt marsh after the rains ud130But that memo had not reached the juveniles. Or perhaps they are more adventurous simply because they are not looking at the world through the lens of conventional wisdom. Some of them were happily wading on previously dry mud flats or amongst the high grass. First I spotted the same juvenile Little Blue Heron I saw a couple of weeks ago. He had turned much more blue already, as you can see.

juvenile little blue heron ud130

juvenile little blue heron 2 ud130The second juvenile wading at the marsh was a very small, young Green Heron. He still had some of his white ‘baby hairs’ right on the top of his head, but was bravely doing it alone.

juvenile green heron 2 ud130

juvenile green heron 1 ud130_edited-1The third juvenile I spotted was a Boat-tailed Grackle. She was in the company of her mother…and although she had fledged, she was still asking to be fed. Quite unlike Arlene.

female boat-tailed grackle with a juvenile ud130_edited-1The fourth juvenile, the Roseate Spoonbill I had named Rosanna, was observing life from a tree at the deep water channel.

young roseate spoonbill ud130The only adult wader I encountered was the beautiful Snowy Egret. I thought she looked like a white flower in the midst of the green grass.

snowy egret ud130And that’s when they arrived, the two Black Skimmers. They flew at extremely high speeds while skimming the surface, water spraying all around them. They put on a wild show. I enjoyed trying to catch them in flight. But they did beat me time after time…resulting in many pictures of water, sky and grass – without a Skimmer. One has to learn one’s limitations the hard way.

black skimmer 1 ud130_edited-2.jpg

black skimmer skimming ud130 We all wish you a wonderful rest of the week. Thank you for visiting.

68 thoughts on “In Focus: Incredible Arlene”

    1. Thanks, Joanna! I was happy I didn’t use the old time film camera when shooting the Skimmers – would have been pretty expensive 🙂

      1. Lol, know THAT feeling. I’ve just sorted through 370 photos from this morning of a sub-adult (so my new bird book of 5-minutes tells me) bald-eagle!😂

  1. Beautiful pics Tiny, especially of the Skimmer reflections ( I love bird reflections) and your Green Heron also. The Grackle shot is special also, it is always a treat to get parent and child together. Arlene is certainly a fast learner, and her parents will probably be admitting her to one of those advanced learning schools, as she is advanced for her age. Lovely to see the salt marsh replenished, we have had a similar experience recently with rain and are in for more tomorrow. Enjoy the rest of your week my friend.

    1. I was quite delighted seeing so many juveniles at the salt marsh, some of them seem to stay there all the time. The tiny Green Heron was a special treat. And it is always wonderful to see Arlene. I hope to see her a little longer around here …although she is definitely already in the advanced school for Osprey girls 🙂 I have never seen an Osprey chick like her before. I wish you a wonderful weekend.

  2. The marsh has definitely gotten lovely and so is Arlene! I commend you on the black skimmer in flight pics! I failed miserably trying to get some. Your last pic is awesome!

    1. Yes, over two weeks of rains almost every day has done wonders to the marsh! It is sparkling green now. I have to confess that I have tried to get pictures of the Black Skimmers skimming for four years – and last year I got the first ones before these ones. I concluded you can never catch them if you just follow them panning…you have to anticipate where they might be coming from and be ready to shoot 🙂

  3. How wonderful to see that a new group of actors (Juveniles) is assuming the new roles of he reality show at the Salt Marsh! I’m happy that princess Arlene is shinning with her incredible tenacity for independence and self survival. Thanks for the great post Tiny! 🙂

    1. I am delighted too that so many juveniles have joined the cast at the salt marsh 🙂 You would have enjoyed seeing Arlene’s fishing attempt at 12 days after fledging – all the right moves. Thanks, dear friend. We wish you all a nice weekend!

  4. These are fantastic photos Helen. I especially like the skimmers and green heron. And I love your passion and details for Arlene and the osprey habits. Thanks for a fun and exciting education. 🙂

    1. The skimmers made me sweat and be grateful that we no longer use film cameras 😀 Arlene has provided some new learnings for sure! Thanks for being here, Brad. We all wish you a beautiful weekend.

    1. Happy you liked the Skimmers … they really made me sweat 🙂 Arlene has been a chick full of surprises. I hope she will stay in the neighborhood for a while longer…and I hope to see her come back here to nest in 2-3 years. Thank you, Karen. Have a wonderful weekend, too!

  5. Incredible ongoing natural history documentation/photography you are capturing of the ospreys mating, nesting, fledging, and post nest behavior over multiple seasons. I am thinking this may be unique, and you should google osprey university based researchers and send them just a tad of what you have and see how they respond.

    1. Thanks Cindy. I know about Dr. Greene at Cornell Ornithology Lab and have actually thought about perhaps asking him whether or not these observations would be of interest for his research. The existing osprey research is mainly on migratory ospreys so this might be of interest. Thanks for your encouragement.

  6. Fabulous bird series, Helen! Arlene is so gorgeous!
    The last two photos are awesome. I know how difficult it is to capture them.

    1. Thanks, Amy! I will tell Arlene when I (hopefully) see her again. The Skimmers made me sweat for the pictures…and I was grateful I didn’t need to use any film in my camera 🙂

  7. A fabulous series of images on the young birds all maturing so beautifully. Arlene is one in a million and it is such a treat to see her life unfold through your lens and your stories. Thank you so much for sharing Helen and much love to you and Dylan xxx

    1. Thank you, Xenia. I didn’t spot Arlene yesterday, but early this morning when Dylan and I took a walk, she was again perching at her favorite spot on the roof 🙂 I guess she ventures out on fishing trips during the day. Much love to you all! XXX

    1. Thank you, Otto. I find the osprey family’s trials, tribulations and triumphs fascinating to observe…and oftentimes I feel we humans can learn something from them. The Skimmers are like the “Formula One” drivers of the marsh, they made me really sweat for the two reasonable shots I got.

    1. She is doing great! And still hanging around, particularly in early morning and late evening. I think she renting the upper roof at Marriott 🙂

  8. Arlene is just sooooooo beautiful. Those shots of the skimmers are fantastic. I enjoyed the visit to the marsh via your wonderful photos sweet Tiny. Your photography is above and beyond excellent. Thank you so much for sharing. Hugs for you and nose kisses for sweet Dylan.

    1. Thank you for your visit and kind comment, Mags! Young Arlene is, indeed, both beautiful and wise. He has already graduated from grade school 🙂 Those fast flying Skimmers made me work hard to ‘catch’ them. I have tried to photograph them for 4 years and only last year got my first pictures of them skimming. Many hugs and wishes for a beautiful weekend.

  9. Wonderful, Helen! The images, your thrilling narrative, Arlene’s incredible adventures, the youth and their plumage changes, small steps to adulthood, and, once again, your images!
    The black skimmers may have tested your patience; however, the last two pics are quite sensational, and well worth your effort! Well done to You… 🙂
    xoxoxo

    1. Thank you dear Carolyn! It is, indeed, great to see the new generation at the salt marsh…and how they slowly morph into adults in this relatively safe place. I call the Skimmers “rally drivers” because they fly so fast and make sudden turns. After trying to capture them skimming for over two years without one single picture, I finally figured out that to get a picture I have to anticipate their flying patterns…and voila! I got a few pictures of these special birds this time 🙂 I hope you have wonderful travels and meet wonderful people. Arlene says hi too 🙂 XXX

    1. The marsh is looking great…and if we don’t get much more rain now, the birds will return, I’m sure. I already saw two usual suspects last night.

    1. Arlene is truly one of the kind. I have not seen any chick like her previously. Those Black Skimmers made me sweat for the pictures…they are close to impossible to capture in flight due to their extreme speeds and the sudden turns they make. Thanks Sue!

    1. Thank you, Gallivanta. Arlene is one of the kind chick…she was away the whole day yesterday, but had returned to her “rental” early this morning 🙂

  10. Loved all the portraits of the juveniles! Great catch of the skimmer! It’s nice to let the camera go and see what it gets without having to waste lots of film. A perk of our digital age. Have a great weekend, Tiny!

    1. Thank you Barbara! I was very grateful for the ‘digital age’ when chasing pictures of the Skimmers 🙂 Have a wonderful weekend, my friend.

  11. I enjoyed seeing all the juveniles at the marsh, Helen. And your observations of the osprey behavior over the years is fascinating. How very terrific that Arlene has advanced and matured so quickly.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Jet! I find it fascinating to observe non-migratory ospreys, there is very little research on them and so much more to learn! Arlene has been an interesting chick, so different from the earlier chicks I have seen.

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