Ospreys and Nests. The Joys and Challenges of Home Ownership (WPC: Variation)

Last Sunday when the temperatures finally crept up into the normal range for us here in Florida, Mr. Dylan took me for a hike on Honeymoon Island. We hiked the 2.2 mile Osprey Trail. His nose was pointing down and my eyes were looking up. This state park is known for its many Ospreys and soon I spotted a couple in a large well-built nest. It appeared to be ready for egg laying, soft nest cup materials falling over the sides.

Osprey parent on Honeymoon Island UD150This nest had weathered Hurricane Irma, while some others had not. Soon I discovered a female Osprey working on a new nest. It was still very small and far from ready for eggs. And I couldn’t help wondering if her nest had been blown down by Irma. And where was her hubby? He should be busy shuttling in building materials.

female osprey at a new nest UD150 Soon enough I found him. He was taking a break in a nearby tree. I sure hoped he was hatching plans for a lengthy work shift in the afternoon.

male osprey UD150We continued our hike and Dylan greeted about a dozen dogs who had taken their moms or dads out too. Then I spotted yet another variation on the osprey nest. But there was something odd about it. There was no Osprey. Instead I saw two ears sticking up from the middle of the nest. Look carefully and you’ll see the ears of mom Great-horned Owl. It appeared she was already incubating.

Mama great-horned owl ud150Oh dear. Could the nest she had been using have blown down by the hurricane? And she just settled in this osprey nest instead? Might this be the nest of the couple now working on new construction? It certainly looked like that. You see, Great-horned owls do not build their own nest. Instead, they raise their young in nests built by other birds.Β  I knew dad Great-horned Owl had to be somewhere in the vicinity of this nest. Although well camouflaged I found him soon enough. He was napping at the top of a very tall pine tree.

daddy great-horned owl ud150Dylan almost lost his patience following me around the tree as I was trying to get a clear picture of him. But despite our best efforts to get his attention, he continued to sleep among the long needles and branches. He never looked down.

papa great-horned owl ud150Dylan even asked me if he should start barking, but I told him no. Maybe that poor owl had been hunting all night. A Mourning Dove offered a consolation prize. She was readily available for a photo session.

mourning dove ud150We continued our hike and discovered a great variety of dead trees available for new nests.

And before arriving back to the parking lot, we spotted one more Osprey mom at her nest.

another female osprey UD150Closer to home, Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley have made tremendous progress on their nest left thinly furnished by Irma. We found them both at home yesterday.

papa osprey in the nest UD150_edited-5Stanley had guard duty, while Sandy was working an a large Hogfish presumably brought home by hubby.

mama osprey works on a big fish UD150Dylan’s employment contract as my photo assistant is conditional to first visiting the dog park. So we left the happy couple to enjoy their lunch.

Coming back we walked around the marsh and found a Great Egret in breeding plumage. He was walking right on our path. Dylan discovered him first. But true to his new role, he didn’t lurch forward to catch the big bird.

Dylan below the Osprey nest UD150We approached carefully, but finally he discovered us too.

great egret 2 ud150We noticed from the distance that the osprey nest was empty. I assumed Stanley, faithful to his habits, had taken the rest of the fish and gone to eat his lunch in privacy. And that Sandy had taken an exercise flight after all that eating. Right then Sandy landed back on the perch.

mama osprey returns UD150And I soon understood why she had hurried back. A Turkey Vulture was approaching the nest.

turkey vulture UD150_edited-1Sandy let him know in no uncertain terms that he was not wanted in the vicinity of her home.

Mama Sandy sees a danger UD150_edited-1He left. She calmed down. And we walked past her right below the nest.

mama osprey at the nest UD150_edited-1She doesn’t like to see dogs right next to the nest. I have witnessed her dog alarms on multiple occasions. But she didn’t say a peep. Nor did she move her head back and forth – a sure sign of irritation. She just took a long glance at Mr. D. and decided he couldn’t fly. Or maybe she trusts the two of us?

mama osprey sees Dylan UD150The only other bird we spotted at the marsh yesterday was the older Great Blue Heron, aka the Mayor. He was patrolling the shallow waters and looked happy with the peaceful scene.

mayor great blue heron ud150When we got back on the trail to go home, we saw the Great Egret again. His beautiful breeding plumage and the green ‘wedding painting’ on his face told me he was looking for a mate.

Great egret ud150Thanks for coming along to see some variations on the theme ‘Ospreys and Nests’. We all wish you a great week ahead.

83 thoughts on “Ospreys and Nests. The Joys and Challenges of Home Ownership (WPC: Variation)”

  1. I wanted a house and yard again after 30 years apartments. Moved from Miami here to Greensboro, NC 3 years ago. Each fall rake up and fill about 40 fifty gallon barrels of leaves. So much for “gee, I bet a little yard work again will keep me trim” nonsense. The effort is a killer. I do miss the pool and condo crowd action .

    1. I am happy you enjoyed the visit to the many ospreys and the sleeping owl, Tish. I think Dylan and I have to go back in a month or so to see if there are any owlets πŸ™‚ I truly enjoyed revisiting Africa and the Nairobi National Park through your latest post!!

  2. I so enjoy these treks with you and Dylan! After all this time, I’m sure Sandy trusts you and Mr D. πŸ’• Thank you so much for these wonderful stories, Helen, sharing your storytelling and photography gifts with us. 😊

          1. Oh yes many more stories my friend. We did a lot of live sharing on Facebook over the month for those who were keen on the day to day goings on but I promise more to come here too.

  3. Thank you Tiny for this beautiful photo journey among so many wonderful and powerful birds. Your commentary is also both amusing and informative. I love the photo of angry Sandy in full flight and the Great Egret.

    1. Happy you visited us and enjoyed our little adventure, Miriam. D and I just passed the nest tonight and both Sandy and Stanley were there…egg laying in the next week or two I hope πŸ™‚

  4. It was a treat seeing all the different osprey nests at various stages of completion. How nice of Sandy to be more welcoming to Dylan. Or at least more tolerant of his presence. I hope we will see more pictures of the owl family some day!

    1. I plan to go back to that island with Dylan between my travels this spring to see if we can find small owlets and osprey chicks. Happy you enjoyed the “variation” of ospreys and nests πŸ™‚

  5. Well, at least there were plenty of building materials available for the poor osprey who got her nest stolen! Quite a lot of drama for a walk with the dog. Thanks for taking us along. πŸ™‚

  6. Dylan is so well-behaved. Thanks for the tour of your district, Helen. Everything looks to be in order and as it should be for the time of year. I love the Great Egret’s Valentine paint job. πŸ™‚ xx

    1. Dylan has learned that his part-time job as my photo assistant starts when I grab both his leash and my camera…and he knows he’ll get a treat for job well done when we get home πŸ™‚ So no more lurching after birds. But ducks are still a bit of a challenge…

  7. Thank you for letting us walk with you on this beautiful osprey trail Helen, it looks wonderful! So lovely to see Dylan enjoying the outdoors too and I am sure Sandy knows you both and trusts you too β˜ΊπŸ’– xxx

    1. Happy you came along for this island walk, Xenia. I hope we can go back there a few weeks from now to see if we can spot some ‘babies’ πŸ™‚ XXX

    1. Yes, that green paint and the gorgeous plumage signal an invitation for a prospective mate… and both the males and females have it πŸ™‚ Great Egrets don’t mate for life, but are known to be ‘faithful’ for their selected mate each nesting season.

  8. Dylan is a wonderful tour guide. His pictures are excellent. He must be pleased to have you along as his camera assistant. I have discovered that a surprising number of photographers don’t actually take their own picture but just stand there bossing underlings about so I look forward to Dylan’s first exhibition.

    1. Dylan bosses me around pretty good on our outings, but he has not even thought about an exhibition as yet πŸ™‚ If he does, I’ll be sure to put him in his place.

  9. Dylan is a cool hiker. πŸ™‚ Love these bird photos. I’m so happy to see Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley, the last two photos of Sandy are remarkable. Thank you for the tour, Helen! πŸ™‚

  10. Wonderful photos! I have no doubt that Sandy has gotten used to you and Dylan. “My” Osprey family years ago would allow me to walk up very close to the nest platform and take photos (well the chicks didn’t like it but they didn’t know better lol). But if any one else, even a single person, would be coming towards them, both Oliver and Olivia would go nuts, screaming at them. I really feared one time a group of 4-5 people were going to be attacked!

    Lovely photos of all the Osprey, I’m a little nervous now knowing about the Great Horned Owls so close! They are one of the Osprey’s predators. 😦 Fingers crossed they can ‘get along’ so close and behave. I do find it interesting that the GHO would occupy an Osprey nest.

    1. Hi Donna! You described exactly how also Sandy and Stanley behave! Once I was close to the nest taking pictures and a man came with two dogs on the “backside” of the marsh where Dylan and I walk … I was sure Stanley would attack them…he dove right down at them several times but turned away only a foot from the man’s head.
      I am also nervous about the Great-horned owl settling right in the middle of the “osprey village”. There are so many nests…soon with chicks…in the vicinity.

  11. I can see that Mr Dylan and the Osprey family keep you very entertained! This post was very interesting and superbly illustrated. I can’t wait for Spring to be here. I hardly see my birds because the weather is lousy! πŸ™‚

    1. I see much fewer birds at the marsh too …the weather has been cool (sometimes right out cold) and windy even here. Thank you for coming along to the Honeymoon Island, H.J. πŸ™‚ I hope you guys have a great weekend.

  12. Thanks again❀ You and Dylan are a great couple! The pictures and story🌷🌷🌷 Hugs from Anja&Hertta

  13. Tiny, a gem of a post! I reckon you and Dylan are well-known by them all there now! Dylan is remarkable and so patient. Wow, that is a great owl…absolutely huge and not wanting to wake up at all! πŸ˜€

    1. We tried to get the sleeping owl to look down, but he was snoring up there completely oblivious to everything below him πŸ™‚ Dylan was a great companion, but got a bit impatient with my lengthy efforts to get a good picture. Glad you came along, Annika.

  14. Thank you for sharing your venture into new osprey territory Helen! Some of those nests are amazing…. especially if they survived Irma.
    Dylan has become such a good photographers companion too. Sandy is a wise old bird for accepting you both πŸ’›

    1. All those nests (and many more I didn’t get to) survived Irma. I agree it’s amazing as so many human built structures suffered great damage. I thought Sandy’s and Stanley’s fairly shallow nest would be completely clean swept of all nest materials, but that was not the case. Thanks Val ❀

  15. I love your ‘title’ image, Helen; it is an amazing ‘natural’ sculpture! And it doesn’t surprise to know that our Osprey couple trust Dylan. He has earned this mark of respect along with his photo assistant position.
    On a darker note: After reading ‘bayphotosbydonna’ I immediately googled the Great Horned Owl. Yikes, it even eats Great Blue Herons. I do hope the Mayor knows of this!? πŸ™‚

    1. Dylan is taking his new position seriously and he’s a quick learner πŸ™‚ The Great-horned Owl eats all kinds of birds…and they know it. I am equally worried about a GHO couple settling right in the middle of the “Osprey Kingdom” on Honeymoon Island. And apparently these owls are also nesting at the park next to the salt marsh…I was suspecting them in the disappearance of Sandy’s and Stanley’s two chicks last year…but that’s nature, nothing one can do about it. I just hope S and S are on their watch this year and win.

    1. While Sandy and Stanley are “old friends”, the extended family of Honeymoon Island Ospreys were on their guard. They didn’t “say” anything, but watched us carefully πŸ™‚ Thank you Karen.

    1. Thank you, Takami. for coming along on our small adventure and for your kind comment. Sandy and Stanley are both at the nest for much of the time now, but no eggs as yet.

  16. I have missed the salt marsh and was so happy to see Stanley and Sandy on their very special new nest platform, great to see the mayor too. I chuckled at Dylan’s employment contract and so enjoyed your verbiage, Helen. And, as always, the photos were a complete joy.

    1. Happy you enjoyed our small adventures, Jet. Sandy and Stanley are at the nest a lot now and I expect she’ll lay eggs in a week or two. Dylan enjoys these photo-walks a lot because it means he gets to visit the dog park and run with his friends πŸ™‚

  17. Perhaps Stanley and Sandy have come to know you and Dylan and know you mean them no harm. So happy to see the two of them once again planning on another family. Amazing these birds are. I so enjoyed your images of your corner of the world in the Salt Marsh. Thank you! πŸ’

  18. Thank you for being here, dear Amy! I expect Sandy to lay eggs in a week or two πŸ™‚ Tomorrow I’ll travel up north for work (to D.C.) and expect to experience cool weather, but no snow predicted at this time… would have loved to see some bright snowy landscapes, but will enjoy your images even more ❀

  19. Lovely images as always. You got some beautiful ‘headshots’ of the duo. (I’m never quite sure if I’m looking at Sandy or Stanley unless the captioned reference is quite obvious.) I’m somewhat jealous of your talents. I’ve set up a few bird feeders outside my house and I delight in watching their capers and birdie ballets but honestly, I’ve never managed much better than a blurry snap with my cell phone. (One of these days I’m taking that screen frame out of the window before winter gets here.)

    I was very taken by your comments on the mating plumage of the larger birds–a heron and an egret, I believe. I wonder what the ‘green’ markings signify to a prospective mate?

  20. Hi dear friend Helen!I’ll be away from WP for a while,I try to empty my email inbox,you’ll see some likes of mine,I don’t want to delete the posts I missed without having a look ❀ Have a brilliant weekend,dear friend ❀ xxx πŸ™‚

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