A Bird in the Hand. And an Egg in the Nest.

My iPhone’s alarm goes off. It’s pitch black. I open one eye and see the lit face of my phone and hit Snooze. A thought crawls into my consciousness. This is not my bed and there’s no Dylan next to me. OMG! This is the day I’ve been waiting for. It’s 5:30 a.m. and I’m in Cape Coral. To attend the annual Burrowing Owl Festival. The photographers’ tour starts in 90 minutes. The night owl will meet the owls. Up you go girl!

I open the curtains, go out onto the balcony to confirm my location, put on the Keurig and hit the shower. Yay! At sunrise I’m on my way. Why don’t you come with me on this little adventure?

The small bus is full of photographers. And huge lenses. The knowledgeable guides are Listers. One of them currently tops the North America list of bird sightings in so far this year. They explain what we can expect to find today. And soon we are at our first stop, a field of burrows next to a football field, all marked with little T-shaped wooden lookout posts. The owls are still sleeping. But wait, someone’s out already. Daddy Burrowing Owl has fallen asleep on his guard.

After a while his beautiful wifey comes out too. Oh, so many long lenses pointing at her … at a respectable distance. She turns her tiny head around in swift movements to check on everybody.

And finally her hubby wakes up too, moves closer to his wifey and inspects the crowd.

These expressive tiny owls reach about 9 inches from top to toe. They are too cute, but we need to let them go on with their Saturday morning chores. We move on.

Our next stop is about ten minutes away, at the nest of the Great-horned Owl. And we are not disappointed. Two Owlets huddle next to each other high up in the nest. Aww.

They are curious little fur balls. The older one inspects me thoroughly, but there are no adults in the nest. Where are mommy and daddy? We look around and finally spot an adult a few trees away. And another adult yet a bit further in the woods, but so well camouflaged by branches I don’t get a good picture. It’s comforting to know both parents are around.

What a treat to see the owlets. We move on, drive quite a while and come to a large meadow known to be the home of some of the few remaining Florida Scrub Jays. Last year, we spotted six of them there and being very curious birds, a few got close up and personal with us.

But we heard that this year, unfortunately, only two individuals had been seen there. These birds are endemic to Florida and their numbers are going down fast despite their protected status. We are lucky. The couple comes and finds us. They settle at the top of a bush not too far from us.

They fly around and we enjoy their presence. Finally one of them lands on the hand of a fellow photographer. For one second tops.

Then they fly away together to the far end of the meadow. And we hear the melancholic song of the Eastern Meadowlark.

She moves around in the grass, her tiny head sticking up at times, but finally she flies on the top of a cable box in the middle of the meadow and offers a somewhat clearer view. She is a strikingly beautiful bird.

We spot a few other birds in the distance, like this Loggerhead Shrike on a wire, and then we move on.

Our next stop is a Bald Eagle nest. We don’t see any activity at the nest. We hear that, unfortunately, this eagle couple have been unsuccessful in their breeding efforts the last two years. And now it seems there are no eggs or nestlings in the nest. So sad. Finally we spot an adult flying towards us.

It circles around and then lands in the tree where the nest is.

Then it sits in the nest and observes us. It seems to be getting slightly nervous about our presence and we promptly leave the vicinity of the nest. This majestic bird needs its peace and quiet.

By now it is almost midday. The heat is up and we head to our last stop of the day. It’s another burrow very close to a small road of white sand. An adult sits on the observation post.

And we spot a juvenile’s head sticking out among all the flowers near the opening of her childhood home. As this is the farewell picture of our tour, I’ll make it to a post card from these precious tiny owls. Until next year, be well!

Back home on Sunday Dylan reminds me there’s something we need to do. Right now. And it’s not just going out to bathroom. We need to check whether or not Mama Osprey has laid any eggs while we were gone. We approach the nest and find Papa Stanley sitting on the perch and Mama Sandy standing in the nest.

She’s not sitting on the egg(s), but it certainly looks like she’s in the process of laying her first egg.

Stanley is holding guard and warns everybody flying too close to the nest. Usually he only sounds an alarm when another raptor, mostly another osprey, flies by but today he’s vocal even when a gull flies by. And he’s keeping an eye on us too. Something’s definitely up.

We go back late at night on Monday, on our way to the dog park, and there she is. Incubating her first egg when the sun has just gone down.

And I can tell you she’s still there. Today it’s been raining all day, but whenever Dylan and I check on the nest from inside our dry and comfy home we see a head in the nest. It’s not always Sandy. Stanley is a modern dad, he settles on the egg(s) many times a day to give her a break to eat, exercise and take a bath. I hope there are already two eggs in the nest. But right now there’s no way to tell. Incubating osprey eggs is a long journey of 34 to 40 days.

Thank you for coming along. Mr. D and I hope you’ll have a great rest of the week.

Ps. Dylan tells me he’s itching to blog soon. I’m not sure whether to take him up on his offer. He tends to spill out things that I’ve kept quiet about.

86 thoughts on “A Bird in the Hand. And an Egg in the Nest.”

  1. Stunning captures, I loved journeying with you to the Owl Fest. And I didn’t have to get up at 5:30 am! hee hee

    Seriously, Helen, your images are gorgeous, and well worth getting up for so early for so many wonderful sightings. And, YAY, Sandy and Stanley are now hard at work protecting their precious egg(s). I do hope there will be 2-3 this season. Sandy and Stanley certainly have the space for that many with their lovely dish home!

    Hey, Dylan, what do you know? Do tell!!

    1. Oh, you’re tempting Dylan and he sits right here in my lap! He’s clearly spinning some stories in his head πŸ˜€
      Thanks Donna for coming along to see the owls, it was worth the early rise, the drive in bad traffic, all of it. I just love the tiny curious owls and the big owlets were cute too. And here at home, the osprey couple is incubating day and night. I hope there are 2-3 eggs by now. We might have witnessed another egg laying on Tuesday…I hope I’m right.
      Greetings from all of us. Have a great weekend.

  2. What an amazing day it must have been! I feel goosebumps πŸ™‚ And how exciting (but very busy times of course) for Stanley and Sandy. As always so happy to see an update from you. Wish you and D a wonderful week ❀

    1. It was a wonderful day! I hope I can go and see these tiny owls and other birds again next year…and that they do well in the meantime. Sandy and Stanley are busy incubating…a head is visible in the nest at all times. D and I are hoping for more than one hatchling at the end of this moth. We wish you a beautiful weekend ❀

  3. I agree with the others Helen. Your photos are gorgeous and your stories are fun. I’m glad I didn’t have to get up at 5 to see the owls, but they’re cuties and kudos to Stanley and Sandy. I want to hear from Dylan. πŸ™‚

    1. Dylan is right here in my lap, reading your words and musing πŸ™‚
      Thanks for coming along to visit the tiny – and the large owls, Brad!

  4. Last week I went to Florida on vacation with Lucy and Tyler, I stopped by Clearwater and then Sandy Key for some hours on my way to Sarasota. Saw the salt marsh and some of your crew, I saw the Ospreys too, she was laying in the nest and minutes later the male flew by the nest with a huge fish but didn’t stop at the nest. She was calling, and calling. I shot some pictures and then we continued our trip. Your post is very good as always. πŸ™‚

    1. Oh, I would have loved to see you all!!! If you wrote to the blog email, I apologize as I have been too busy with my three work email accounts to go there for a while. I thought you had my cell number? If not, I’ll send it to you – next time we have to have lunch.
      Anyway, glad you saw the ospreys. Stanley always flies by the nest to show her that lunch or dinner is coming soon…after he first takes his time to eat the head part πŸ™‚
      Say hi to Lucy and Tyler ❀

  5. What a wonderful adventure Tiny, to see these owls and the beautiful meadow lark. How sad your Florida Scrubjays are in. Decline, so many species are. Wonderful news of anew clutch and we await the next chain of events as you monitor their progress. Enjoy the rest of your week my friend 😊

    1. Thank you, my friend, for coming along on this “birding” trip to South Florida! It was a wonderful treat for me. I am worried about the Scrub Jays too…people take so much land that their habitat keeps shrinking.
      On the osprey nest, incubation goes on day and night. We just said good night to Sandy when we walked by on our way to the dog park.
      Have a wonderful weekend!

    1. Thanks Cindy! They seem tame, but are not…we had to remain at quite a distance not to scare them off. The smallest quick move would scare them off and into the burrow. I hope you can come to the festival next year…it’s sometime in the latter part of February πŸ™‚

  6. You have given us a beautiful treat to lift spirits and feel the love for those beautiful winged friends. Together with your excellent commentary the post is uplifting and endearing. Thank you.

    Miriam

  7. I so enjoyed this post Helen! Thank you again for sharing your adventures and beautiful pictures. Eli and I eagerly await what Dylan has to tell us tooπŸ˜‰

    1. Thanks Kathy! Dylan is not in a storytelling mood today. He had his annual physical and his teeth cleaned under anesthesia. He did really well. He insisted to take a short walk tonight, but got a bit wobbly when we came back home. The poor guy needs a good night’s sleep πŸ™‚

  8. Such a fun and beautiful post, dear Helen! You capture all of the subjects so well, giving us an up close and personal view of these amazing creatures. Your story always adds a wonderful context for enjoying the photos even more! Thank you!

  9. The owl photos are breathtaking! Amazing! It must be so much fun to go on a photographer tour. I love the sleepy Burrowing Owl. It’s good to see that Sandy and Stanley have started a new family. Hmmm… I wonder what Dylan might be wishing to blog about….

    1. It was truly a fun experience! Thanks for coming along Barbara. Whenever D and I walk past the osprey nest one head is visible in the nest at all times incubating the eggs – I hope they are more than one now. At the end of this month there should be a hatchling or two.
      So far Dylan is tightlipped about his plans… πŸ™‚

  10. Thank you, Tiny, for another amazing virtual tour through your bird paradise! I had once an otherwise very shy junco sitting on my camera while I was refilling the bird feeder. Have a great day, Tiny!

    1. The owls were my favorites too…and it was all worth the drive and the early rise! Glad you came along and enjoyed this little adventure, Marlene.

    1. Thank you my friend! D and I are keeping our thumbs up for at least one fledgling, or preferably more than one, this spring! Sandy and Stanley are tirelessly incubating. Dylan had his teeth cleaned today (under anesthesia) as a part of his annual health exam. He did well, but is very tired tonight. Love from both of us ❀

  11. Beautiful images for an early, early morning! Love that you also captured a bald eagle, but I personally liked seeing the jays and the meadowlark. Looking forward to your osprey family additions in the months ahead.

    1. Thank you Cyndi! I too look forward to the new generation of ospreys in the nest…hoping that this year more than one will survive. Have a wonderful rest of the weekend…the weather is great for us in FL right now!

  12. Hahah… What a lovely journey, Helen; I did enjoy it with you!
    Owls are such wondrous birds, and so very expressive. Indeed, all the images are magical; you must have had a wow of a time, I’m sure.
    As for Stanley and Sandy: Congrats to them. It will be, hopefully, another successful year for them.
    You’ve whetted my appetite now. I do hope you allow Mr. D. to post. I’m sure he has some juicy tales to tell…
    Love to you both..
    xoxoxo

    1. Yes, I had a great time, in bird heaven, so to speak. Happy you came along! Now we are watching the osprey couple incubating tirelessly day and night…and hope they are successful this year too. Mr. D looked so miserable yesterday after his teeth cleaning anesthesia that I promised he’ll be allowed to blog next. Now he’s clearly starting to gather information and pictures because he wants to go to Taylor Park this morning. Love from both of us. xoxo

  13. What a treat Helen! Thank you for sharing the photographers adventure with some wonderful photos. Love your picture perfect postcard too! Its good to see the love birds doing well and beginning anew year and new family. Thank you for making my day πŸ’•

    1. Thanks dear Val! The love birds are busy incubating…more than three weeks to go before we see the little head(s) in the nest. Kind greetings from me and Mr. D ❀

  14. What a treat to see the Owl Fest through your lens Helen! Wonderful captures and such a variety of birds on the trail πŸ¦‰πŸ¦… So happy to see we have at least one osprey egg for Sandy and Stanley πŸ™‚πŸ’œ We hope all is well with you and much love to you Dylan from all of us here πŸ€—πŸ’–πŸ• xxx

    1. Thank you for coming along to Cape Coral, Xenia! The osprey couple is tirelessly incubating, day and night. D and I might have witnessed the laying of the second egg last Tuesday! All is good here, but Dylan is a bit out of shape after his teeth were cleaned under anesthesia yesterday. His mouth is a bit sore and eating is not a favorite activity today. But he’s getting there πŸ™‚ Much love to all of you ❀

  15. What a thrill sweet Tiny that must have been to see all those cute owls in person and get photos of them. That was so cool that the bird landed on the photographers hand even for a short time…and to get a photo of it, wow! I am happy to hear that Sandy and Stanley are expecting a new arrival. Thank you so much for sharing these amazing pictures. Hugs and nose kisses for you and sweet Dylan from Chancy and me.

    1. It was a real thrill for me, well worth the 2.5 h drive and the early morning. Loved all the birds we spotted, could have stayed with the little owls the whole day πŸ™‚ I think that Sandy has more than one egg in the nest now…they are tirelessly incubating…until end of this month. Hugs and kisses to you and Chancy ❀

  16. I literally held my breath whilst looking at your marvelous photos, Helen. Such an amazing array of birds and I particularly adore the owlets and the jays. What a beautiful postcard you made too. I’m so happy that Sandy has some eggs in her nest. This should make for some interesting blog posts in the next while. Tell Dylan that I enjoy his blog posts. I’m sure he won’t tell us any real secrets. πŸ˜‰ xx

    1. Thank you, dear Sylvia! Dylan loved the greetings and I’m sure he’s ruminating on a story, although today he is very tired after having his teeth cleaned under anesthesia. That’s something he needs once a year, so now it’s done! I’m sure he’ll be back to his happy self tomorrow…and wants to go see the incubating ospreys and his friends at the dog park. XXX

  17. Now that was worth an early morning! The little owls are so sweet. Gorgeous captures. Also wonderful to see the osprey family bringing a new generation on. Looking forward to the updates!

    1. It was certainly worth the drive and the early rise! I love the little expressive owls…and saw so many other birdies as a bonus. The osprey couple are now incubating day and night…. and we hope to see little ones at the end of this month! Thanks Sue!

  18. The jays are adorable, and I enjoyed seeing the owl families and the meadowlark too. Yay for Sandy laying eggs — I hope they’ll all survive this year. πŸ™‚

    1. Oh, the birds posed for one photo out of ten, on average. Not a brilliant record. Greetings from me and Mr. D. – and the incubating osprey couple πŸ™‚

  19. Thank you for the wonderful story and pictures! I have no words! You are the master❀❀ Hugs from Anja and Hertta πŸ˜ƒπŸ©

  20. Thank you so much for letting us tag along, Helen! πŸ˜€ This is the most amazing tour!! The owls are adorable, and beautifully photographed by yourself! How sad that the Florida Scrub Jays are quickly disappearing – stunning birds and amazingly brave/tame! A delightful uplifting post and the final farewell postcard is idyllic.

    1. Thank you Annika! I love the Burrowing owl Festival…and hope to be able to go next year as well. Sorry for the tardy response…I’ve been working “like crazy” and then went on an adventure in the “wild west” – just returned home a few days ago. More to come on that… Have a great evening!

    1. Thanks Otto. I try to do this little weekend visit to the owls every year – love the photographers’ tour and always meet new interesting people.

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