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.