Category Archives: Birds

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.

Flying in and out of the Nest. With the Osprey Couple.

In the past few weeks I’ve been flying in and out of my nest on this barrier island I call home. Several work trips to big cities. Lot’s of ‘osprey time’. And bird’s eye views.

Or views from my temporary nest high up in the air in the Big Apple late in the day…and night.

So after all this flying, I have enjoyed being earth bound this past week. Watching others fly. Like Papa Stanley, who recently flew in for some Valentine’s Day romancing with Mama Sandy. Dylan and I backed off to allow them some privacy.

I think Sandy is pregnant. Her belly is growing and Stanley is already feeding her. And she’s spending lots of time at the nest every day. Yesterday she was watching intently over the bay…

…I turned around and saw Stanley flying far over the bay with a big fish.

Sandy would get it, eventually. But first the head had to be eaten. Sandy was working on rearranging the furniture in the nest, but kept an eye from time to time on Stanley and the fish on a nearby lamp-post.

This morning my assistant and I visited the Taylor Park and spotted many familiar birds. It’s funny how the birds favor the same spot, like this Anhinga who always dries her feathers at almost the same place.

She always faces the lake looking for any signs of approaching gators, but turned to look at my assistant. She didn’t move. Dylan is already trusted by these birds. Next to the kayak launch pad we usually find the Ring-billed Gull. So also this morning.

And the blackbirds are chilling out there too. The dad Boat-tailed Blackbird was reading the sign warning about the presence of gators and warned his wifey who was wading in the water nearby. Wading is a no-no according to the sign.

At the north end of the lake the resident Osprey dad was trying to spot some fish and at the south end two Great Egrets were chasing each other amid a loud argument.

We walked around the lake and spotted our usual suspects, the Little Blue Heron and the Tri-Colored Heron.

A Double-crested Cormorant with bright blue eyes was windsurfing on the lake, watching the waters carefully for any signs of gators.

And he was right in being careful. According to my latest intelligence, there are at least five gators in the lake. So far we had not spotted any of them. But we saw a large flock of American Coots in the middle of the lake and a few brave individuals were cruising solo closer to the shore.

That’s when we saw him…sunbathing on the shore.

I tightened my grip on Dylan’s leash, but since the gator posed calmly I went for a portrait too.

He was quite impressive. We walked back to the other side of the park and before going back to my car, we spotted a little head coming up for air in the middle of the green slime in a small pond. That was our tiny friend, the Pied-billed Grebe.

Today being an outdoors day for us, we also visited the Osprey couple this afternoon. They were napping together in the nest. Stanley seems to have grown a short beard. Perhaps to mark that he’ll soon be a dad once again.

While Sandy was truly sleeping, Stanley was just nodding off. He opened his eyes and told us “I see you.”

The salt marsh was fairly quiet in the middle of the afternoon, which is not unusual. The Mayor was walking around and checking his territory…

…and Mama Moorhen was gliding quietly right below the osprey nest.

I thought that was it…until we found someone hiding deep in the shadows. I had to smile. It was the younger Great Blue Heron. He didn’t want to be seen either by the Mayor or Mama Sandy. His has some unfortunate history with both of them.

I’m hoping for evidence of eggs in the Osprey Family within the next two weeks. And this coming weekend I’m off for another little nature adventure in South Florida. Stay tuned and thank you so much for visiting.

Help! Where was I?

The answer is here, there and everywhere. And I don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps warm greetings from a chilly NYC, where I’ve worked this past week, would be in place?

I can’t believe I’ve been away from here for over six weeks. Various adventures near and far with my friends visiting from Sweden have filled my days… sprinkled with some necessary work sessions. And then a completely unnecessary bout of severe cold kept me ‘lying flat’ for days. But now I’m upright and on the go again. Feeling thankful for it.

Our nearby adventures included, of course, the salt marsh. This past month that little village has been lively. Many migrating birds have made a stopover there to mingle with the locals.

The Mayor has tried to keep peace among the sometimes unruly crowds, but despite his watching eye, the Clown (aka the Reddish Egret) got into trouble. It started innocently enough. A Wood Stork was trying to catch a fish. But the Clown got upset and flashed his red hair… and that was it!

The larger bird went into attack. And the Clown had to flee!

That was the first time I have seen him retreating. Ever.

He had met his match and settled on a small islet. He was sulking. Or maybe mulling over what just happened.

That day the marsh had more than fifty visitors. Birds everywhere. Some were flying…

Others were running…

Many were fishing…

One or two were dreaming…

Or just mingling and giving speeches…

Mama Sandy was, as always, only watching the nest and the skies. She couldn’t be bothered with the crowds. She knows they come and go.

One day my friends went for a walk with Dylan when I had to take a break … for work. And Tony spotted something special. Sandy had allowed Stanley to the nest although the nesting season was still more than a month away!

I hadn’t seen Stanley for a couple of weeks, so perhaps they had an argument and he’d gone away for a while? To let it cool down. And when he finally returned and brought her a fish as a sign of reconciliation, she allowed him to perch on the nest. Here is the proof. Thanks Tony!

And after that they have been flying a lot together. The other day when I was trying to work while battling a bout of bad cold, they flew several times past my office window.

And one morning I saw them working together. They were chasing a huge Bald Eagle away from the salt marsh. I had no camera, but Dylan is my witness. They took turns to dive on the back of the eagle until it got tired and flew to the other side of the bay where it lives.

But I spotted a juvenile Bald Eagle on one of our trips to Taylor Park. It was trying to fish, but gave up after several unsuccessful attempts and flew back into the forest.

My friends liked Taylor Park too. So many birds always show up…
…just to disappear like magic.

And it is quite a thrill to spot a gator lurking around and looking at you…

We got to see many more of them on an airboat ride with Captain Duke we did in the central Florida swamps.

In fact, we were guests in their very special world.

We spotted numerous huge old ones in and out of the water…

And deep in the swamp, we saw a baby gator who had dared to come out of the nest hole all alone.

It was a great journey through the St. John’s River swamps, or the ‘real Florida’ as our captain put it.

Of course we spotted lots of birds as well, but it was not easy to capture them on camera while speeding through the waters.

It was an adventure deep into nature my friends appreciated.

Although they flew back home a couple of weeks ago, you can still participate in more adventures right here in the coming weeks.
Thank you for coming along to the salt marsh, the Taylor Park and to the central Florida swamps. Have a great weekend. Lady Liberty says hi.

The Beauty and the Beast. For Real.

It’s slowly getting a bit fall-like here in Florida. And we love it. Mr. D. and I have been going out to enjoy nature more frequently in the last two weeks. Last Sunday morning we took a walk at Florida Botanical gardens and met a real beauty. A Gulf Fritillary at the outskirts of the Butterfly Garden.

Adult Gulf Fritillary 2 ud172The various gardens were beautiful, both the cultivated ones with plants native to Florida and the many natural habitats. Lots of mosaics are incorporated into and around the walk ways. I included a couple of them in the slide show below.

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Earlier in the week we walked the Taylor Park again. It’s becoming one of our favorites…always some excitement in addition to its natural beauty. And I’m learning to recognize the residents of this ‘village’ while Mr. D. is learning the important spots to sniff.

Taylor Park lake ud172Right off the bat we spotted someone in the grass spying on us. I guess we had surprised him in the middle of his breakfast.

squirrel ud172Then I heard someone working. Looking around I spotted our smallest woodpecker, the Downy, on a tree trunk quite a bit away.

a downy woodpecker ud172On the lake side we spotted a Wood Stork ooking for breakfast…

woodstork taylor park ud172… and soon realized that the whole village was out and about. A Great Blue Heron, a Little Blue Heron and Tri-colored Heron we all looking for an early bite.

GBH ud172

little blue heron ud172

tri-colored heron at Taylor Park ud172When we arrived at the canoe launch ramp, aka the local Starbucks,  we saw it was busier than ever.

white ibis drinking ud172This time there was no gator lurking nearby, the coast was clear. So the Ibis had their morning drink and their morning bath all at once. On the side of the ramp an Anhinga was drying his wings…

Anhinga at canoe ramp ud172… and another one was checking his outfit in the mirror.

Anhinga looking in the mirror UD172Nobody seemed concerned about dangers lurking in the water. Looking out on the lake I discovered a large Pied-billed Grebe family in the company of a young Moorhen.

grebe family and a moorhen UD172While they were diving for food and generally having fun,it was clear they also kept an eye on the water, like these two…

two grebes ud172I looked in the direction their eyes were trained at…and there he was. Silently gliding in the water.

new gator at Taylor Park ud172Sometimes only the very top of his head was visible. Then he turned to check on us, or perhaps he was interested in the busy Starbucks on the shore.

gator looking at me ud172I was glad the birds were keeping watch. We continued our walk to the end of the lake and turned around.

Part of lake at Taylor Park ud172We spotted the resident Osprey. She made a few fishing attempts at the far end of the lake, but didn’t seem to have any luck. Walking back we spotted her again on a pine branch above the trail. She was looking intently out to the lake…

resident osprey at Taylor Park ud172… and I did too. First I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. The gator was no longer there and all the Grebes seemed to be safe. But scanning the water with my zoom lens, Mr. D. patiently sitting by my side, I spotted another, much larger gator. He was well camouflaged with a green head covering.

a well camouflaged gator ud172He was quietly swimming about quite close to the shore. Suddenly he turned around with a splash…

gator hunts at taylor park ud172… and opened his mouth. I remember checking that there was no bird close by. And then I saw it. He caught a fat fish!

gator swallows a fish UD172Phew! I was happy he had fish on his menu that morning. The little birds diving in the lake seemed to be safe for now. Relatively speaking.

Florida Mottled Duck ud172

Pied-billed Grebe ud172We caught up with some moms on an outing with their babies…

Moms and babies at Taylor Park ud172…and also spotted another little cutie on the lake before arriving back to the parking lot.

Pied-billed Grebe 2 ud172Next week we will be getting company. Good friends from Sweden are coming to visit. Stay tuned for some new and different adventures. Thank you for walking with us again. Mr. D. and I wish you wonderful fall days…or spring days for those of you in the southern hemisphere.

 

 

Walking the Taylor Park. With Gators.

taylor park lake ud171It’s a beautiful morning, not humid and not too hot. A rare treat for mid October. Dylan and I jump into the car and head towards the Taylor Park to walk our newly discovered nature trail. We invite you to come along.

wooden bridge Taylor park ud171The shadows are still long when we start our walk. Dylan is on a short leash. The trail goes right next to the water so all sniffing is done strictly on the forest side of the trail…for a good reason. While we haven’t seen any alligators on our previous visits, I know they are lurking in the water, like in most fresh water lakes in Florida. This park is also favored by many birds. And right away we spot one of them, an Anhinga with her wings spread to dry after the morning dive.

anhinga B ud171The next one we see has selected a good spot to scout for the gators…and makes us smile.

anhinga on alligator sign at Taylor Park ud171And the third one does double duty. Dries her wings while spying on gators down below.

anhinga in the tree ud171I’m keeping my eyes trained on the water too, but no luck so far. All I see is water sprinkled with flowers and Moorhens.

water lilies ud171

moorhen family ud171

flowers at taylor park ud171

moorhen 2 ud171And an Osprey on a reconnaissance flight over the lake.

osprey at taylor park ud171On the forest side of the trail, I spot two woodpeckers, a Red-bellied Woodpecker and Pileated woodpecker but miss the latter. Dylan decides it is time for a bathroom break. I get a big splash of red in the picture as the large woodpecker flies away.

red-bellied woodpecker at taylor park ud171Next we spot a Little Blue Heron and a Limpkin. I am delighted because Limpkins do not often come to the salt marsh.

Little Blue Heron ud171

limpkin ud171Further, in the shadow of the bridge over the lake, we see a Green Heron in the water. He seems to consider his options for a morning meal while exhibiting good situational awareness.

green heron ud171But close to him a Tri-colored Heron is only aware of a potential breakfast bite in the water below. He has no worries about becoming a breakfast himself.

tri-colored heron hunting ud171By this time the sun has climbed higher. After stopping for some water we decide to turn around and walk back seeking some shade in the forest.

Taylor Park trail ud171We reach a canoe launch pad and hear loud screams. We look towards the lake and spot three White Ibis lining up for their morning drink. A Starbucks line with unexpected hassles.

white ibis and a gator ud171A gator is waiting for an opportunity to strike.

alligator ud171

gator at taylor park ud171These birds quickly leave their watering hole, but an Anhinga stays close by right on the side of the launch pad. Perhaps he has concluded the gator cannot jump.

an anhinga ud171The last bird we hear and then spot is a male Red-winged Blackbird hanging out in the reeds.

male red-winged blackbird ud171Thanks for walking with us, the birds and the gators. Have a great weekend and week ahead.

All is Good. Mama is Back.

Yesterday morning I looked up from my laptop and saw something I’ve missed since late June. Mama Sandy was flying back and forth right by my windows and over the salt marsh. Previous summers she has been ‘babysitting’ the nest daily starting in August. But not this year. I have looked out towards the nest several times a day, but she would be there only in the shadows of my memory. The nest would be empty.

memory of mama osprey perching ud171I was getting really worried about her until I finally spotted her at the sailing center one morning just about two weeks ago. But she wouldn’t come to the nest. I had no idea why. She had left with her daughter Bubbette (remember her ?) at the end of June and stayed away much longer than the usual 3-4 weeks.

osprey chick Bubbette ud171But that all changed yesterday. She was flying around the marsh and passing by my terrace several times…

mama osprey in flight 2 ud171…as in making sure I would notice her. Finally she landed on her perch at the nest. Looking at the picture taken from my terrace, I noticed that she had been gardening again. Her flower bed was green after all the rains this past summer.

mama osprey at the nest ud171She was still there when Dylan and I passed by briefly at lunch time. Now she was taking her nest-sitting seriously. And I liked it. The salt marsh felt homey again.

mama osprey babysits the nest ud171Another fellow I’ve missed made an appearance too. The Reddish Egret, aka the Clown, was hunting for a lunch bite in the middle of the marsh.

reddish egret hunts ud171He danced around, flapped his wings…and caught a fish! He turned to show off his catch…

reddish egret caught a fish ud171… and then enjoyed it without further ado.

reddish egret eats the fish ud171After his meal he posed for me, in his usual charming way, looking straight into my camera. I love watching his performances. And I think he knows it.

reddish egret ud171Last night Mr. D. and I visited the bayside and the dog park just before sunset. I realized we’ll need to adjust our schedule as it is getting dark much earlier now. It was almost too dark to take pictures. We found Stanley at his favorite perch at the Sailing Center and Sandy close by on a lamp-post. It was good to see them together again.

papa osprey at sunset 2 ud171

mama osprey at sunset 2 ud171The marsh was already in the shadows, but far away I could see the Mayor on the ‘bird island’ in the company of numerous residents, mostly White Ibis.

the older GBH and ibis ud171A  juvenile Little Blue Heron, who was still completely white,  got a bit startled after seeing Mr. D., but then realized he was leashed and graciously posed for a picture.

snowy egret ud171Another friend I haven’t seen in a while, a Tri-colored Heron, was trying to find supper in the last light for the night…

tri-colored heron at sunset ud171…and Harry, the younger Great Blue Heron, was keeping a good distance to the Mayor and his company.

younger GBH at sunset ud171Mr. D. ran around alone at the park. I guess we were too late and everyone had already gone home. When he finally sat down to rest, I snapped a picture of him and glanced over the fence…

Dylan at the dog park oct 4 ud171…at a gorgeous sunset sky.

dog park sunset ud171We walked out of the park and enjoyed the sunset from a distance. Mr. D. is a bit sour about not being allowed on the beach, but he took it all with stride.

sunset ud171Walking back home through the darkened marsh, we discovered that Sandy was now perching at the nest. Her silhouette against the sunset’s after glow was reassuring. All is good. Mama is back.

mama osprey in the nest after sunset ud171Thank you for visiting. Mr. D and I wish you a wonderful upcoming week.

Goodbye Bubbette. Hello Vacation Time.

Last week was busy. After a few days of work in D.C. I came home, turned around and drove to North Florida for my son’s graduation. When I came back, I realized our osprey girl, Bubbette, had already left the nest. She didn’t wait for me, but that was not surprising. She was an advanced flier from the get go and spent her days diligently attending the Fishing School with Papa Stanley.

I also noticed that the whole osprey family had left the area. This happens every year at the time when a chick leaves the nest. The first year I observed this, I thought Sandy and Stanley had flown off to take a well-deserved vacation in the Caribbean. But now my theory is different. I believe that one or both parents follow the chick for a while to keep an eye on their fishing ability…and to teach them more if needed. So the nest has been empty, apart from the Blue Jay visiting from time to time.

empty osprey nest ud163Papa Stanley returned a couple of days ago, and I can now see him perching every evening on the Sailing Center’s wind device, one of his favorite places after the nesting season. I first spotted him while taking pictures of the bay just before a late afternoon storm. Can you spot him in the first picture below?

the bay before storm ud163

papa osprey ud163Mama Sandy is still gone. Usually she returns back home in about two to three weeks. Anyway, I wish Bubbette a wonderful life with plenty of fish to go around. May she be skilled enough to survive the first very tough year, and then live happily for the next 15-20 years!

I want to share a few pictures from my adventure on the Atlantic Beach last Friday. You see, this night owl was invited to tag along on a Sea Turtle Patrol. That was a four mile walk on the beach, just before and after the sunrise, to check if Mama Leatherback (world’s largest turtle) or Mama Loggerhead had laid any eggs overnight. Both nest on this beach. We arrived there before the sunrise, just when the sky started to get some color, but we could still clearly see the lights from the boats on the ocean.

first light UD163We started walking close to the water line, watching for any trails in the sand left by mama turtles. I snapped pictures of the gorgeous colors … thanks Mary for this evidence of the night owl being up before sunrise 🙂 And soon the sun was up.

Tiny takes pictures ud163

sunrise at jax beach ud163

sun is up on Jax beach ud163We didn’t find any fresh signs of new nests, but inspected a nest from the previous night. It was high up among the dunes.

Turtle nest ud163Mary showed me the trails in the sand. How Mama Loggerhead had come up to lay her eggs and how she had gone back to the sea.

Turtle patrol 2 ud163She has been patrolling the beaches for several years now and knows all about these sea turtles. I learned a lot that morning. I appreciate and admire the work all the volunteers do to protect these nests…and later in the summer/fall to make sure the tiny hatchlings find their way to the ocean.

laughing gulls on jax beach UD163The morning was beautiful and we spotted many Laughing Gulls and various terns on the sand bars revealed by the low tide. Some had already been fishing in the golden waters.

laughing gull fishing UD163As the morning progressed more tidal pools were forming on the beach attracting fishermen, joggers and people with dogs. What a beautiful morning!

tidal pools 2 UD163In a couple of days I will be traveling to visit family and friends in Northern Europe for the month of July. This time I will be fully connected and plan to send some ‘postcards’ to my friends here along the way and do some reading too. Thank you for visiting and take care now.