Return of the Mayor. And Other Salt Marsh News.

Before Hurricane Irma visited the salt marsh in early September, all the resident birds evacuated prompted by their natural instincts. The marsh was already deserted when I was still trying to get tickets out of here for Dylan and myself…and the sun was still shining. It was eerily quiet. The mandatory evacuation orders for human residents on this barrier island did not have the same effect. Many stayed to ride out the storm.

Salt marsh before Irma UD141I have to say the salt marsh fared quite well. Most of the old, tall trees are still standing. But the debris took weeks to clear out.

salt marsh debris after Irma ud141

Irma debris at the salt marsh ud141

salt marsh after Irma ud141When I visited the park on my day at home between the storm and my trip to Europe, there were no birds. They had all stayed at their evacuation resorts. Apart from one.

papa osprey right after the storm ud141.jpgPapa Stanley was perching at the sailing center. He had returned to check out his forest and his home. Or maybe he was looking for Mama Sandy. I’m pretty sure he saw the nest had not been damaged…before he took off again.

Irma 2017 ud141When I came back from my trip in October most of the debris had been hauled away and I found this ‘monument’ at a small clearing where several trees had fallen. But only a couple of birds had returned. Among those Mama Sandy. She was perching at the nest looking a bit tousled, very serious and definitely wet. It was good to see that she, too, had made it through the storm. But now Papa Stanley was nowhere to be seen.

mama osprey after Irma ud141A lonely Tri-colored Heron was trying to figure out how to find something to eat despite the still very high water levels at the marsh. And that was it. The evacuees were slow to return.

tricolored heron ud141Late that evening, Dylan and I spotted the young Great Blue Heron on the bay. He too seemed to wonder where everyone had gone.

younger GBH UD141And so it continued for about three weeks. I started to get worried about Papa Stanley. He had made it through Irma’s 120 m/h wind gusts, but why was he not home? And where were all the other residents, including the Mayor, the Clown and Miss Rosa?

papa and mama osprey are at home ud141Then one morning in early November I looked out of my office window and discovered a large gathering at the marsh. That was a great sight…and out I ran to witness the return of the evacuees and the migrating visitors.

The first birds I spotted were Papa Stanley (yay!) and Mama Sandy. They were having a mid-morning snack, perhaps following a joint fishing trip. Papa was perching on a lamp-post and Mama at the nest. And they were keeping an eye on each other.

papa osprey eats and looks at mama osprey ud141

mama osprey at the nest 16x9 ud141Finally the marsh was busy. Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Ibis, Wood Storks and others.

younger GBH and visitor wood storks ud141The younger GBH, who now looks very much like the Mayor, was patrolling the waters in his typical manner, pretending to be the boss. Some of the Wood Storks gave him the look.

wood stork ud141That’s when I saw a familiar fellow in the corner of my eye. The Mayor had returned! He was foraging far away, completely undisturbed.

the great blue heron Mayor fishing ud141_edited-2Knowing the history of these two, I thought things might get interesting. And before long, the Mayor discovered his young rival. He decided to check on the youngster.

the GBH Mayor moves in ud141_edited-2The young fellow noticed the developments. But he didn’t back off from his newly acquired position of power. Looking determined he continued his march…

young GBH ud141

younger GBH discovers mayor ud141… until he realized the Mayor was running on water. And closing in on him.

GBH ud141The Mayor took a detour onto a grassy islet, but continued his approach with determination.

the mayor ud141Tension was building. Everybody was watching.

three wood storksThat’s when I discovered that the Reddish Egret, the Clown, had returned. He was not performing his usual tricks. Instead, he stood frozen in place under some mangroves. Watching.

reddish egret ud141The little Snowy Egret, who was hiding in the grass close to the scene, decided it was better to keep some distance. One never knew what could happen.

a snowy egret ud141

snowy egret flies away ud141The Mayor continued his march, and finally the two ‘great blues’ were face to face.

young and old GBH face to face UD141And this is what happened…

The old Mayor still has the spark. The younger GBH ended up on dry land, his feathers all buffed up. He quickly assessed the situation – and walked away. Everyone seems to prefer it that way.

younger GBH ud141 A couple of days ago, Dylan and I went to the dog park in the middle of the day…and found the same crowd at the marsh – minus the younger ‘great blue’. The party was still going on. The Clown discovered my camera and decided to perform an elaborate bathing ritual for his captive audience.

Reddish Egret the Clown ud141

Reddish Egret takes a bath ud141

reddish egret sits in the water ud141We left this delightful ‘photobomber’ happily sitting in the shallow water. Normalcy has returned to the salt marsh.

mourning dove ud141Some of you may wonder what happened to Miss Rosa. I was pondering that too, until the other night. Dylan and I discovered her all alone at the marsh at sunset time. And she was there even last night. She is definitely back home too.

Miss Rosa the Roseate Spoonbill at sunset_edited-1Opening my terrace door this morning, I discovered that both Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley were at the nest. That was remarkable. But Stanley’s early visit didn’t last long. Sandy told him in no uncertain terms to wait at least 4-5 more weeks. And promptly chased him away. He will be allowed in the nest only after a proposal dance and a special gift delivery. Traditions have to be respected. And everything has its right time.

mama osprey chases papa away from the nest ud141I noted that Irma, however powerful, had not been able to sweep the nest clean of building materials Sandy had put in place last year. But this couple will still need to do quite a bit of remodeling when the nesting season starts at the end of December.

With that, we all wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. And peace.

Moon Happy Thsnksgiving


91 thoughts on “Return of the Mayor. And Other Salt Marsh News.”

  1. So glad that the habitat is returning to normalcy, Helen, and that life, with or without all its former characters, continues. There must be some analogously poignant echoes in this for you, I imagine. H ❤

    1. You are right, my friend, there are some echoes in this for me. After the storms things slowly settle in new tracks and life continues. Thank you, Hariod ❤

  2. I’m so glad to see this post for so many reasons. I love your stories, photos, and insights. I’m glad you and the marsh community survived the storms. And I love your insights into the daily life of this community. Kudos to you and the Mayor. Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Thank you, Brad! It means a lot to me that you belong to the “friends of the salt marsh birds” 🙂 It is so comforting to see, right from my office window, that the marsh is lively once again. And every resident displays their individual personality, just like before. I will celebrate the Thanksgiving with my grandies…so much to be grateful for despite everything.

    1. We are all happy to ‘see’ you, Sylvia, at the salt marsh. It’s funny how different the young GBH and the Mayor are. The former attacked the Osprey nest repeatedly and always bosses the other birds around and away from ‘his’ fishing waters, while the Mayor is calmness personified…apart from when he encounters the youngster 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving. XXX

    1. Thank you, Dina. I was not sure how these birds and the marsh would get through the storm, but it all ended well – nature is truly resilient.

  3. Helen, what a delightful homecoming post! I enjoyed every word and picture so very much. Seems a new normal is the way for all…in some fashion. Wishing you a Happy Thanksgiving to you, dear Helen. Peace. 💕☮️

    1. Thank you Carrie. And yes, the new normal is definitely here. But I am happy it looks very similar to the ‘old normal’ at the marsh. Everyone seems to have made it ❤

  4. So glad to see you back at the salt marsh, Tiny. I have missed your regular updates on all the residents. Wonderful that they are starting to return after the hurricane. Love and blessings to you all, and Dylan of course. ❤

    1. Thank you my friend. I am so happy the marsh and the birds are recovering so well from the strongest storm that has hit us in over 90 years. Love and blessings to you too ❤

    1. I am very happy about that too – nature is so resilient. Your favorite pink bird was the last to show up, and I think she might sleep at the marsh now too. Thank you, Joanne!

        1. Two days ago, D & I spotted her there again after dark…I could only distinguish her shadow in the water …she was having a very late dinner 🙂

  5. Smiling from ear to ear, Helen. Your narrative and beautiful images are a welcome return in so many ways; it is truly wonderful to hear your voice again.
    As for The Mayor and his rival; today’s rooster is tomorrow’s feather duster, as the saying goes. The GBH ‘The Younger’ will probably have his day, in time.
    It’s lovely to see Mama Sandy & Papa Stanley; indeed all of the returning community. Nature is quite incredible; it takes, but, it also gives so much. 🙂

    1. Great that these guys gave you a smile, Carolyn. I’m sure you are right about GBH ‘The Younger’. He must be about 3 years old now and I hope his bad ways will change with additional maturing. Last year I didn’t spot him attacking the Osprey nest any more, which clearly shows he’s making progress 🙂 Nature is so resilient and a wonderful teacher. XXX

  6. Happy to see Stanley and Sandy! They look great. 🙂 Great Blue is gorgeous! Thank you for the beautiful walk, Helen.
    Happy Thanksgiving. ❤ 🙂

    1. I agree that both Osprey parents look great…they seem to be ready for the next nesting season to start in a few weeks. Stanley is overly eager and I’m sure Sandy will put him to work shortly…to haul in new nesting materials 🙂 Happy Thanksgiving to you too, Amy ❤

  7. Yay! It’s amazing how attached we’ve all become to the salt marsh crew, collectively and individually. You got some amazing clicks for the Mayor’s return! Loved being able to see those!

      1. Thank you, Cyndi. It is great to see that practically all residents have now returned…and the damaged trees (with wind burn) are recovering very fast producing new green leaves and branches. I am sure you see the same. Happy Thanksgiving to you too (I will be on the east coast too in North FL over the Holiday)!

    1. Thanks for visiting us, David. Indeed, it’s great to have them back home. Just writing this, Miss Rosa is flying over the marsh, her pink color glowing against the greenery. Nature is so resilient.

    1. Yes, Hurricane Irma was the strongest storm to visit our area in over 90 years. Although she thankfully did not hit us directly, the gusts of her bands here were over 120m/h. I am grateful there was not too much damage and that the marsh and its residents fared amazingly well. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours too.

  8. How nice to know that all your avian friends are back to the Salt marsh and especially important is that you and Dylan are there too! Make things to be normal again. Tiny, you are the Curator of the Marsh, you are the soul that animates all the beautiful creatures that live there, you are the narrator of the daily stories. Without you we would not know what happen in that habitat. Thank you for being there my dear friend! 🙂

    1. Thank you for visiting us and for your beautiful, kind comment, my friend. Before the storm, I didn’t even dare to think what the salt marsh might look like upon my return and was pleasantly surprised when I saw it had fared so well, relatively speaking. I would love to know how far the birds evacuated…as it took quite a time for them to come back. But all is well now. Papa Osprey is eager to start the nesting season…he practices the proposal dance almost every day above the nest, right in front of my windows 🙂 Dylan and I wish you all a wonderful Thanksgiving.

  9. Happy Thanksgiving dear Tiny, though I know it won’t be the same this year, I do pray you find some family to share it with. How lovely to see the salt marsh return to normal again. Thanks for sharing the parallel with your recent life experience, that these salt marsh inhabitants had recently. They return and get on with their life. You are constantly in my thoughts and prayers dear friend, especially as these family times approach. May our Lord comfort and strengthen you through this season.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and prayers, my friend. It will not be the same, but I am so grateful to still have family to celebrate with. I will visit my son’s family in North Florida for the Thanksgiving weekend, starting tomorrow. And I will have a ‘double’ Christmas this year. First celebrating with my sister’s family in Stockholm, Sweden and then celebrating again with my grandies (and salt marsh friends) here at my home right upon my return on Boxing Day. I will give thanks for everything that has been, is and will be, including the return of all our feathered friends.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Cynthia. After four years of following the happy and the sad in the lives of these resident birds at the marsh, they all feel like family. And it is great to see all of them back ‘home’.

    1. I would love to know where they all went, if they flew far away or were hiding from the storm somewhere close by. I am thinking most of them went quite far because it took them so many weeks to return. I will be heading to North FL tomorrow morning to be with my grandies over the Thanksgiving weekend. Despite all the trials, so much to be grateful for. Many hugs to you too.

  10. Peace and a Happy Thanksgiving to you also! Thanks for the salt marsh update — it’s good to see that the residents got through the hurricane all right and the Mayor is still in charge. 🙂

  11. A wonderful update Helen! I do enjoy your narrative as well as this great photos. So happy the crew has come back. It’s amazing how they know the right time. Stanley looks ready for the task ahead of him at the end of December.
    Happy Thanksgiving 🍁🦃🍁

    1. The salt marsh gang is indeed back! Papa Stanley practices is proposal dance over the nest almost on daily basis…and actually came to say hello to me and Dylan just a couple of days ago. He sat on our terrace railing and looked right into our living room. When I moved to get my camera, he decided ‘no photos’ and flew away. Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours, too.

      1. Thank you Helen 💕 We don’t really celebrate it since family isn’t here … but it is wonderful time to be thankful for the gifts and love that surrounds us all🙏

  12. I thoroughly enjoyed all these informative updates, filled with tension, wonder, and so many dramatic moments. You are a great storyteller! So glad to hear everyone is doing well. Isn’t it remarkable how the natural world is so resilient, despite the force of a hurricane like Irma?!

    1. Yes indeed, the nature is resilient. Everything is healing now, including most of the wind burned trees. I wish the resident birds could tell their “Irma story”…some of them seemed to have evacuated quite far from here. I am so grateful they are back now.

  13. Isn’t nature the most amazing thing? That all of the bird gang knew to get out of town and then ever so gradually to return one by one. so wonderful that they all have come back. Your photos and the little video are astounding. Makes me feel as if I am watching there right beside you.

    1. Thanks Sue! Yes, it was great to see that practically all the residents have now returned. I’ve been traveling a lot in the past couple of weeks and will need to go back to check on them before the holidays 🙂

  14. So glad to see the Salt Marsh has recovered nicely and everyone returned safe and sound, Helen. I loved see both Stanley and Sandy! Back to normal is good but not always easy. Keep on keeping on! 🙂

    1. Thank you Donna. It is great to see that practically all salt mars residents have returned. And now Sandy and Stanley are very close to starting the nesting season…Sandy stays in the nest (not only on the perch) a lot now. I’m sure she’s ‘smuggling’ in materials already 🙂

    1. Nature really amazes me…we have a bougainvillea that had to be cut down to 1-2 foot and now it’s grown to about 8 feet in 3 months and has a few flowers already.

  15. Happy to see that life came back to the marsh after the nasty storm,dear Tiny.It’s amazing how nature has endowed all the living organisms with natural insticts which enable them to preact and save their lives.All the photos of our beloved characters are so lovely and clearly show that everybody there readjusted to their familiar environment and started enjoying their habits again.I hope you had a peaceful Thanksgiving Day with Dylan and the rest of your family,my dear friend.Sending you season’s greeting & a big hug for Dylan 🙂

    1. Thank you dear Doda. It is wonderful to see life at the marsh again 🙂 We had a wonderful Thanksgiving with the grandies and I am planning to celebrate Christmas with my sister’s family in Stockholm. I hope to see some snow 🙂 Season’s Greetings to you as well. Dylan sends kisses ❤

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