Category Archives: Birds

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.

Really?! Surprising Developments at the Salt Marsh.

It’s been difficult to get pictures of our osprey girl, Bubbette. She is a very ambitious student and attends the fishing school with Papa Stanley all day long. A few days ago when I started to get worried about her staying away so long, I went to our terrace with Dylan in tow and spotted Mama Sandy waiting for her at the nest. A Blue Jay had conquered the perch and kept flying over Sandy numerous times. He even landed on the nest. Sandy just ducked and made no effort to chase him away. She demonstrated great patience with the little one. I have to say I was impressed. I documented this rare event, but as the pictures were taken with my 1200mm zoom the quality leaves a lot to desire.

mama osprey and a Blue Jay 2 ud162

blue jay lands at the nest ud162

blue Jay flies over the nest UD162Did you spot the second Blue Jay at the edge of the nest? Sandy certainly did. But she took it all with stride.

In the last couple of days Sandy has joined the faculty at the fishing school, and the nest has been mostly empty. Bubbette leaves around sunrise when this night owl is still soundly asleep and often returns only just before sunset. In the last two weeks I have only found her at the nest once during our day time walks.

osprey chick with mama osprey ud162But when we go to the doggy park in the evenings, she and Sandy have been back at the nest and we have spotted Stanley fishing on the bay.

mama osprey with chick after sunset ud162The other night we saw the Blue Jay again. He was sitting on the perch and talking to Bubbette and Sandy.

blue jay and Bubbette ud162

blue jay ud162I was wondering what he was saying. It looked like he was asking to be adopted. He flew repeatedly over the nest and always landed back on the perch. Both ospreys were extremely understanding with him.

Blue jay flies ud162Anyway, on our one daytime walk we spotted several familiar faces. The Mayor was back! And he caught a big fish!

mayor GBH with a fish ud162This surprised us and one of the Snowy Egrets watching near by.

snowy egrets ud162But the Reddish Egret, aka the Clown, only got more motivated to continue his fishing expedition. I really like to watch this charming red head. And he knows it.

Reddish Egret is hunting ud162Harry, the younger GBH, did not witness the catch. Wisely, he stayed out of the Mayor’s sight at the opposite end of the marsh.

the younger blue heron ud162Yesterday I monitored Bubbette from my terrace. She was away the whole day and I started to get worried. Finally around 7 p.m. I spotted her alone in the nest. I took my camera along for the walk to the dog park. You see, I am not sure she will be here when I come back from my travels in about one week. She is an advanced flier already and the past couple of nights, Sandy has let her sleep alone in the nest. That means she’s considered almost ready to move from home and is fed only sporadically by her parents. We found her in the nest asking for food, although it was a quite half-hearted request. Her crop was fairly full.

Bubbette girl 6 15 UD162When we were close to the dog park, I turned around and noticed she had company. The little Blue Jay was back on the perch. They enjoyed the last rays of the day together.

Bubbette and the blue jay at sunset ud162When at the dog park, we heard her asking for food again and I walked up to the fence to see if Sandy was back at the nest with a bite for the night. She wasn’t. But the marsh bathed in the warm glow of the setting sun.

Bubbette at sunset 6 15 ud162Bubbette was learning that the free meals would be fewer and far between. When we left the dog park, we spotted a few more friends at the almost dark marsh. I saw a flash of red and noticed a male Northern Cardinal landing on a tree just ahead of us. My assistant kept a low profile and I managed to get a shot before he flew off.

male cardinal ud162A Tri-colored Heron was getting a late snack and Harry was, as he often is, watching the osprey nest.

tricolored heron at sunset ud162

young GBH at sunset 2 UD162 He saw that Bubbette had flown up to the perch. A sign of mastering the skill of flying. Perhaps she was checking if any of her parents were nearby and hoping for a late night snack.

Bubbette at night Friday 6 15 UD162And, indeed, Sandy was perching at the Sailing Center right across the road. She was looking at Bubbette. It might have been too dark to go fishing, but who knows…

sandy at sunset ud162Today at lunch time, I spotted both Sandy and Bubbette at the nest. And faintly heard the fish-fish song again. I will miss that song and hope to hear it again when I come back next weekend.

sandy and Bubbette at the nest 6 16 ud162I will leave you with last night’s beautiful glow over the salt marsh. Thank you for visiting. Be well.

salt marsh sunset 6 15 UD162

What a Party!

On Friday morning, I went to the kitchen to brew my second cup of coffee and suddenly remembered I had not yet checked on the Osprey Family. Mr. Dylan and I have been keeping a tight watch on the nest, particularly from the mid week on as the weather started to improve. At sunset time the previous night we spotted Bubbette sitting on her favorite high ‘chair’ in the nest looking out on the bay. She was clearly dreaming of flying.

osprey chick night before fledging ud161I picked up my binoculars and looked out through the living room window.  Just like previous mornings, I found Bubbette in the nest and Mama Sandy on the perch. I was about to put down my binoculars when Bubbette took off. Just like that! I ran to get my camera and discovered my battery was out of charge. Finally found my spare and ran out to the terrace with Dylan in tow. I spotted Bubbette right over the bay. She was at least 600-700 yards away, close to the opposite shore. She was flying low over the water. I couldn’t hear her, but it looked like she was singing her fish-fish-song.

Bubbette flies over the bay ud161I discovered that Papa Stanley was circling high up in the sky right above her, but couldn’t get them into the same picture. It was heart-warming to see Papa protecting her on her first flight.

Bubbettes first flight 3 ud161Then she flew higher up and continued her adventure towards the mainland. My heart was racing because I knew the Bald Eagle couple nests at the Country Club on the other side of the bay. Luckily Stanley was close by. Bubbette flew further away and I could hardly see her. Finally she turned back towards our island and I spotted her again.

Bubbettes first flight 2 ud161 I watched her fly. What a beautiful sight. A few minutes later she made a perfect landing almost in the middle of the nest! No second try, no landing on the ground. Sandy watched her proudly from the perch. And her ‘grandma’ on the terrace was equally delighted.

osprey chick makes perfect landing 2 ud161At lunch time Dylan and I went out to see her, after a dog park visit of course. We found Sandy on the perch and Bubbette in the nest. I was hoping she would fly out again.

mama osprey and the chick at the nest june 1 ud161But both of them were busy looking intensely towards the bay. Little did I know that Stanley had planned a graduation party. I had not seen him at the nest since Sandy chased him away from the perch almost two weeks ago. No kissing and making up as yet. But he had been doing fly-overs and checking on his girls every now and then. And he had flown with Bubbette that morning.

Mama osprey sees fish delivery ud161Next thing I knew Sandy started singing and flew down from the perch…

Mama osprey flies down from the perch ud161… and they started a frantic duet, eyes trained on something beyond my horizon.

anticipation of a fish ud161I could hear the wing beats when Stanley flew right over my head. Papa was in the house! Seeing that whopper of a fish Bubbette and Sandy were full of excitement.

papa osprey brings a fish ud161And it was a whole fish solely for the girls, delivered directly from the bay.

Papa osprey delivers a fish ud161Stanley steered to the right, grabbed the fish with both talons and placed his catch perfectly in front of Sandy. Perhaps as a combined graduation and reconciliation gift.

papa osprey brings a whole fish ud161While Sandy grabbed the fish, he exchanged greetings with Bubbette.

Papa Osprey in the nest ud161A few seconds later he took off again.

papa osprey leaves ud161I guess he didn’t want to overstay his welcome. Sandy placed the fish so that both of them could eat from it once she was done with the head part.

mama osprey takes the fish ud161We left them to enjoy their celebratory lunch and walked home.

Mama osprey and chick share the fish ud161That was a great graduation party. Always lovely to see the new generation take flight. Since then Bubbette has been out several times, including over three hours yesterday morning. And she’s out flying this morning too. I guess she enjoys her newly acquired freedom and is eager to learn how to fish. And her Papa is a great teacher. In about a month she will be ready to leave the nest and start her independent life somewhere nearby. We hope you enjoyed the party and wish you a great week ahead.

Bubbette Says Hello. To Alberto.

The season’s first subtropical storm, Alberto, will soon be making landfall on the northern Gulf coast, now packing 65mph/105kph winds. Yesterday it was churning past us about 135 miles out on the Gulf. It didn’t come here, but the “low” associated with it has brought rainy weather and gusty winds already much of last week for us. And although we now see glimpses of sun every now and then, the winds are still very gusty. As far as I know, Miss Bubbette has not yet fledged. I think Mama Sandy has put her under strict orders not to try her wings in this weather. On Wednesday, Thursday and yesterday when we had some dry weather, Dylan and I went to see her.

osprey chick waits for mama osprey ud161On Wednesday we found her alone in the nest keeping a low profile. Mama Sandy was flying overhead and sounding loud warnings.

Mama Osprey chased an intruder ud161I realized she was chasing away a male intruder who had ventured too close to the nest.

Mama Osprey chases a male osprey ud161Sandy soon returned to the nest and I understood she had flown away in the middle of her lunch. She continued eating. Bubbette had probably already eaten, but asked for more so Sandy was feeding her a few more bites from her own lunch. Mother’s love.

Mama osprey is feeding chick 2 ud161After finishing her lunch, Sandy flew up to the perch. Bubbette continued her wing exercises.

Mama osprey is back ud161We walked around the marsh and saw a few friends. Miss Rosa was visiting…

miss rosa ud161

snowy egret and miss rosa ud161… and foraging together with a Snowy Egret. A Yellow-crowned Night Heron was hunting too, which is rarely seen in the middle of the day.

yellowcrowned night heron ud161And Mr. Moorhen was checking out his territory. Otherwise the marsh was quiet.

moorhen ud161On Thursday we went out again quickly between the rain showers. Bubbette was exercising her wings again. She did not take off the nest, but ‘flew’ onto the highest branch in the nest.

Osprey chick bubbette practices flying UD161And she was hungry. She had, indeed, learned the most common osprey song: Gimme Fish.

And she knows her “head bob”, so typical for ospreys. Mama Sandy just sat on the perch. After a while she took a short flight towards the bay. Perhaps to check if Papa Stanley was somewhere close by eating the head of their lunch fish. You see, I had witnessed a small brawl between Sandy and Stanley the previous night when watching the nest from my living room. Stanley had brought a fish and was sitting on the perch when Sandy suddenly flew up and literally pushed him away. I had no idea what he’d done, or if he would still bring in fish for that matter. I have not spotted him at the nest since.

mama osprey returns ud161The sky had filled with clouds and we left Bubbette and Sandy to wait for their lunch.

Osprey chick perching on the highest branch in the nest ud161Yesterday I went out to the terrace to take a picture of the nest through the rain. I was thrown off balance several times by the strong wind gusts. No wonder Sandy doesn’t allow her girl to get airborne as yet.

osprey chick and mom in the rain ud161Later in the afternoon when the sun came out, I looked at the nest again…and could not spot Bubbette! I thought the poor girl might have taken off in the gusting wind, which made it difficult to fly even for experienced fliers. I took my camera and went out Dylan in tow. The wind hit us hard.

Mama osprey UD161We arrived at the nest, but could only see Sandy on the perch. The wind was blowing so hard that it forced three Anhingas on their way to the bay to land at the marsh.

Anhinga 1 ud161

Anhinga 2 ud161

anhinga 3 ud161Still no Bubbette in sight. This ‘osprey granny’ was starting to get worried. We walked around the marsh and spotted Harry, the younger Great Blue Heron.

Yoiung great blue heron UD161And a tiny, juvenile Green Heron, who was trying to keep her balance on a low branch.

Juvenile Green Heron UD161A male Red-winged Blackbird had to flap his wings to stay put on his sturdy tree stump. Normally he would land in the middle of the marsh on one of those slender bushes, but I guessed he didn’t like the idea of ‘swinging’ in this gusty wind.

redwinged blackbird male ud161When we approached the nest again, pushing against the wind, I still didn’t see the osprey chick, but a pregnant Mama Moorhen walked by.

mama moorhen ud161Suddenly I heard a faint song…fish, fish. It was Bubbette! But where did the sound come from? Dylan and I stayed quite a while close to the nest looking around. Finally we gave up and decided to walk home. When on the side-walk, I looked out to the nest again, and saw her. Phew.

Bubbette ud161She had been lying low in the nest cup all along, probably ordered to take shelter by Mama Sandy. It is windy today too…and the fledging watch continues. Thanks for visiting. Happy Memorial Day and have a great week.

Hello There! Wanna See Some Birds?

What do you do when you stumble right into a birder’s paradise with a 50mm lens and both your birding lenses are over 200 miles away? Simple! You take pictures with the lens you happen to have on your camera. This happened to me recently when I was visiting my grandies and their parents in North Florida. On that Saturday morning, my 8 years old granddaughter proposed that we’d go to visit the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine. Hmm. I had seen lots of alligators in Everglades and crocodiles in Africa, but thought we’d have a nice time together watching the alligators. So it was a “yes” from me. Little did I know that we would walk into a zoological park with hundreds of wild birds nesting at its outskirts.

bird trees St Augustine UD160Everywhere I looked, I saw trees heavy with numerous nests, babies, juveniles and their parents, some still incubating. I was a kid in the candy store.

birds and babies St Augustine UD160The air traffic was lively with birds still bringing in additional nesting materials.

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And then there were mothers and babies, little chicks and big chicks…some of them luckily a little closer to the path we were walking.

snowy egrets babies ud160

roseate spoonbill with babies ud160

Roseate spoonbill feeds baby ud160

snowy egret mom and baby ud160

young roseate spoonbills ud160And some colorful scenes of residents resolving differences, which is to be expected in such a tightly built neighborhood.

tricolored heron chases a little blue heron ud160Some incubating moms and protective dads ready to fight off any intruders.

snowy egret nesting ud160And a few birds whom I don’t see very often. Like this Cattle Egret inspecting her eggs.

nesting cattle egret ud160And others, who I usually see at the salt marsh…

tricolored heron UD160

adult roseate spoonbill ud160I could have stayed there for days…if I’d had my birding lenses and a tripod. We moved on and there were some exotic birds to see too, like this Scarlet Macaw from South America..scarlet macaw st augustine ud160

the girls ud160…a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo from Australia…

suphur-crested Cockatoo ud160…and the Black Crowned Cranes from Africa. Lots of wonder for the girls, including this girl.

black crowned crane ud160Surprise, surprise…this Alligator Farm also housed alligators and crocodiles of all shapes and sizes. Here just one lazy exemplar enjoying the midday sun.

alligator 2 ud160And there were caravans of ducks and turtles, small and big.

ducks in A F UD160

turtle caravan UD160

a big turtle ud160We thoroughly enjoyed the park, particularly the nesting colonies. And I promised my self never to leave home without one of my long lenses. You never know where the birds might find you.

nesting birds st augustine 16x9 ud160Speaking of home, we had some business to do earlier this week. My photo assistant in particular. We received 21 proposals for names for the osprey chick and the lottery had to be arranged. But it wasn’t the same procedure as last year. On Tuesday night, in the middle of writing a legal report, I decided it was time to have some fun. The names were printed and cut into long strips, suitable for wrapping around exactly 21 yummy treats.

names ud160

treats ud160While I was doing this at my laptop, Dylan parked himself right next to my chair and paid close attention.

Dylan follows the process us160Then I placed the ‘name-wrappped’ treats in Dylan’s toy basket which was doing service as the ‘hat’. As you can see, the names were on the inside so Dylan wouldn’t be able to read them. Just when I was placing them in the ‘hat’ he rushed close, seemingly ready to grab all 21 pieces. But I shouted “not yet” and he dutifully backed off…

treats in the toy basket ud160…for at least one full hour. He wouldn’t touch the treats. When I moved them closer, even put them under his nose and asked him to go ahead, he moved further away.

Dylan and the treat basket 2 ud160He just looked at me as in saying make up your mind mom. We circled around my office for 20 minutes. He wouldn’t pick a treat. Finally I gave up and placed them on his ‘mattress pad’ and put them on the floor …

Dylan does not want treats ud160…he backed further away. Whatever I said or how much I pleaded didn’t matter, he wouldn’t touch the treats. I moved the pad with the treats into the living room. Same story. I was about to give up and pronounce the Osprey chick “Nameless”. But that didn’t sound right. So I poured the ‘name treats’ into my hand and asked him to pick one. I had my camera in the other hand (sorry for the shaky pictures) and finally he came forward…

Dylan picks the winner UD160…and picked one!

Dylan picks the winning name ud160I was going to remove the ‘name ribbon’ from his mouth, but he did that very aptly himself. And I could see Jackie P. at the end of the ribbon when it landed on the rug. When he retreated, the name of the new Osprey girl came in full view: Bubbette by Jackie P. from To Breathe is to Write!

jackies ticket ud160

the winning ticket ud160Congrats to you, dear Jackie! The beach towel will be on its way next week. I am sure it will arrive in time for summer weather in Canada. I love that whimsical name. This osprey girl is very energetic and bubbly 🙂 So… let me present to you Miss Bubbette as captured on Wednesday night on our evening walk. Both her parents were in the nest with her…

Bubbette with parents UD160…but she wasn’t shy to do her flying exercises. Sandy ducked as her wings swept back and forth right above her head. You go girl!

Bubbette wingersizes UD160This weekend my assistant and I will start our fledging watch. We’ll bring you the breaking news as soon as she is airborne. Sorry for the oversized post and thanks for visiting. Miss Bubbette and the rest of us wish you a wonderful weekend.

 

It’s a Girl! And Other Breaking News from the Salt Marsh.

It’s been a busy two weeks since we last checked on the Osprey Family. The week after my last update, Dylan and I went by the nest late one evening, but it was really windy and Mama Sandy was covering the chick. Nothing to be seen. Other than the waxing moon. Presented here for evidence.

evening moon ud159Yesterday, after I had returned from my latest work trip on Friday night, we went to the salt marsh twice. We found the Osprey Family all gathered in the nest for some late-morning family time.

Osprey family ud159Papa Stanley took a nap on the perch, but his sleep was interrupted by Sandy reminding him it was time to fetch lunch. And that’s when I saw it. The chick is a girl! She looks just like her mom, with a ‘necklace’ already at six weeks of age. She had grown beautiful feathers and was as alert as ever.

all three ospreys in the nest ud159Stanley is quite funny. He never leaves on a fishing trip right away when Sandy asks for food. He  flew down from his perch and parked himself in the nest for a while. Sandy continued her “we-want-fish-fish” song and the little one chimed in a couple of times. It was obvious she had learned to talk.

papa mama and osprey chick ud159Finally Stanley glanced at his watch and saw it was lunch time. He left for his 3rd fishing trip of the day. Both females observed his departure. Better late than never, they seemed to think. And then they settled side by side to observe the life at the marsh. Sandy soon nodded off, but the chick was watching her environment. Perhaps already dreaming of flying.

sandy and osprey chick ud159She could see the ‘Clown’ down below. He was playing peek-a-boo with the chick.

reddish egret 2 UD159

reddish egret ud159And little further away Papa Moorhen was inspecting his territory.

mr moorhen ud159We went home before Stanley returned. But when we walked back in the evening it was like we never left. Stanley had a newly caught fish. He was eating the head on ‘his’ lamp-post, like he always does before he gives the fish to Sandy.

papa osprey has dinner ud159But then I discovered an Osprey flying high above the street. It was Sandy.

mama osprey in flight ud159So who was with the chick? Nobody! She was lying low in the nest all by herself while mama was stretching her wings and flying around just for the fun of it. Now that the chick is six weeks old, Sandy is free to do just that…and even go fishing should she feel for it.

osprey chick alone in the nest ud159After a few minutes of pre-dinner exercise Sandy returned to her chick. She was watching the setting sun and waiting for Stanley to drop off the fish.

mama osprey at sunset ud159We walked to the dog park passing right below the nest and discovered several familiar faces. Harry the trouble-maker, the younger Great Blue Heron, was hiding in the high grass.

younger GBH UD159He didn’t want to be seen and I soon understood why. The Mayor was marching around at the beach end of the marsh.

GBH the Mayor ud159Usually there’s not enough space for the two of them at the marsh, but this time Harry was not spotted. A Yellow-crowned Night Heron could see both of them from his sun-soaked islet, but he didn’t tell.

night heron UD159Dylan sat down as in waiting for some drama to occur, but there was none. A Mourning Dove sat on a branch just above my assistant and enjoyed the peace of the evening.

Dylan at sunset ud159

Mourning Dove ud159We went to the dog park and when we returned the sun was setting over the salt marsh.

salt marsh at sunset 2 UD159It was almost dark, but we saw some movement in the water. Miss Rosa was out and about getting her late night snack. I didn’t think the light would be enough to get anything but a pink blob, but in one picture you can actually see her. A little.

miss rosa ud159Soon there was only the full moon.

full moon april 28 ud159 I’m sure that Dylan, keeping with the tradition, will invite you all to provide name suggestions for the new osprey girl and reveal the lottery prize in the next post 🙂 Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful week.