Category Archives: Photo challenges

Papa Osprey’s Fake Wings. And a Flying Mattress Delivery.

It’s good to be away, particularly if you can spend some quality time with your grandkids. And then happen to stumble on a bird photographer’s paradise. But that’s for the next post. Here only one picture of last weekend’s adventures. As a ‘teaser’.

nesting birds st augustine ud160But first things first. News from a place where I belong.  There have been some new developments at the salt marsh since we last spoke, and a quick update might be called for. The youngest member of the Osprey Family is now over seven weeks old. Dylan and I went to check on her yesterday morning and arrived at the nest right after the family breakfast. Papa Stanley was sitting in the nest with the chick but Mama Sandy was nowhere to be seen.

papa osprey and the chick ud160Stanley greeted us with a friendly nod, but the little one was busy observing the skies. Then she realized it was time for her daily exercise routine. Stanley suddenly got wings sprinkled with white feathers, typical for osprey chicks. Those ‘fake’ wings made me smile.

papa ospreys fake wings ud160The chick should be fledging in less than two weeks and I was happy to see her ‘wingersize’ vigorously. That’s when Sandy’s head popped up from the back of the nest and I realized she had been there all along. She was busy working on something.

osprey family ud160Soon Stanley decided it was time to retreat onto the perch. Or maybe he just wanted to show the chick how it’s done. Actually flying.

papa osprey flies to the perch ud160And Sandy decided it was time to run errands. She flew away in the direction of the bay.

mama osprey flies away ud160The chick was alone in the nest, but under tight supervision by Stanley on the perch. She was looking into the distance after Sandy.

osprey chick ud160And I was focusing on taking pictures of her. Suddenly I felt something fly right over my head! And a second later Sandy landed on the nest. With a new mattress for the chick. Lightning fast express delivery. No lines at the mattress shop as the whole trip took less than two minutes.

mattress delivery by mama osprey ud160I was not the only one taken by surprise. Typical Sandy, always fast and efficient. When she wants something she goes and gets it.

mama osprey returns ud160She landed in the middle of the nest, right on the spot where she wanted to place the mattress. Then she had a mother-daughter moment with the chick. Nothing needed to be said.

mama osprey and the chick ud160But the chick understood mama would like to see some more exercising…and she went for another set of wing flaps. She still looks quite tentative in her movements and stands with her legs wide apart. She’ll need several practice sessions a day if she’s going to fledge in the week after next.

osprey chick flexes her wings ud160She is  a beautiful osprey girl and she’ll need a name. So Dylan and I will do the ‘same procedure as last year’ and have a lottery. The prize will hopefully be worth putting on your thinking hat: a 60″/152 cm round beach/picnic towel featuring Sandy and Stanley. And the drawing itself, to be conducted by Dylan on May 15th, promises to be exciting…and super fast. We’re talking about treats here.

Mama and Papa Osprey beach towel UD160

Rest assured that the names already submitted by some of you are safely in the hat. Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend. We hope to hear from you. Much love.

The Paparazzi and the Baby.

As many of you know, Mr. Dylan and I have been stalking the Osprey Family for first baby pictures for a couple of weeks now. Yesterday at lunch time we finally succeeded. Dylan’s persistence to go to the dog park, for first time since my work trip this past week, paid off. We are all smiles.

osprey family with chick ud157When we arrived at the marsh, Stanley had just brought in a fish. Sandy was eating and feeding the chick, whose little head was sticking up in front of her. Stanley decided to fly up to the perch to have a better overview. He often stays at the nest or close by when Sandy is feeding. The provider and guardian that he is.

Papa osprey flies to the perch ud157

papa osprey flies UD157Sandy continued eating and feeding, but soon told Stanley that more was needed. You better go fishing again, she told him with determination. But Stanley stayed put.

Mama osprey asks for more fish ud157We went to the dog park. When we returned Stanley had left. I wondered whether he had gone fishing or just to chill out a bit in his man cave. We walked around the marsh and spotted Miss Rosa.

miss rosa ud157For the first time this season she was there in the middle of the day, beautiful as ever.

roseate spoonbill ud157At the far end of the marsh, we also spotted the older Great Blue Heron. He was walking confidently, his head high, inspecting the marsh. He is a tall, handsome bird. And, indeed, a great Mayor.

the mayor ud157Of course there were some smaller birds flitting around as well. We spotted several European Starlings…

european starling ud157…and a very skittish Blue Jay. One look at the paparazzi and he was gone.

Blue jay in the grass UD157When we approached the osprey nest again, we noticed that the little one had moved closer to the edge. Unfortunately we had to ‘shoot’ almost right into the sun, but you can see that the chick seems curious about the outer world already. At less than three weeks of age. A future explorer for sure.

osprey chick ud157The baby had also discovered its little wings and was flapping them right in mama’s face.

mama osprey and the chick ud157The paparazzi are almost sure that there is only one chick this year. But they have been proven wrong before. What we know for sure is that this little chick is alert and energetic. It’s not yet ready for beauty competitions, but will be very soon. Its feathers will grow out and its eyes will turn from dark to beautiful bright orange. With these happy thoughts we said our goodbyes and walked home.

papa osprey arrives with fish UD157Reaching our front yard we saw, from a block away, that Staley was landing on his usual lamp-post with a new fish. Two fishing trips in about 90 minutes! No wonder the poor man looks a bit exhausted.

Much love from the paparazzi, the Mayor, Miss Rosa and the Osprey Family.

Sunrise, Sunset and All the Birds in Between.

This time of the year it’s a bit easier for this night owl to get up and witness the sunrise. The silent hour when nature is waking up brings incredible colors over the bay and beautiful reflections in the clouds over the ocean. Peace reigns.

sunrise on the ocean UD156Creatures living in harmony with nature start their day. Some sit and enjoy the sunrise, others get on with breakfast preparations.

birds at sunrise all varieties UD156Papa Stanley returns from his first fishing trip of the day, one of many to come …

papa osprey brings a fish UD156A few minutes later, he nods off on the lamp-post just outside the marsh border. As we know, taking care of babies is quite tiring for the parents. He has eaten the fish head and takes a short nap before bringing the meaty parts of the fish to Mama Sandy and the kids.

papa osprey sleeping with a fish UD156And so the day has started. Late morning yesterday, when Dylan and I were spying on the osprey family from our terrace, we finally spotted a little chick! Or perhaps two? The first born should be almost two weeks old now. Here is the first grainy family picture of 2018. We hope for better ones soon.

first osprey family portrait 2018 ud156Throughout the day many other birds made appearances. My assistant and I went on a short walk in another park nearby and spotted a Limpkin, a Double Crested Cormorant and a couple of White Ibis.

Limpkin ud156

cormorant ud156

two Ibis ud156We also found two different blackbirds…

red-winged blackbird ud156

blackbird UD156…and a few turtles enjoying the water and the mild spring weather.

turtle ud156

turtle swimming ud156Later on, around sunset time, we walked through the bay side to the salt marsh and discovered a beautiful Snowy Egret enjoying the low tide and the last rays of sun.

snowy egret ud156We noticed that Sandy was on her dinner break at their usual lamp-post table. She had left Stanley to look after the kids.

papa osprey at the nest ud156We also spotted Ms. Rosa! Long time no see. There was just about enough light to see that she still looks great.

Roseate spoonbill at sunset ud156She forageed around the shallow water as we watched her. Then ended up posing for another picture with Mr. Blue-winged Teal.

a blue-winged teal and a roseate spoonbill UD156The younger GBH was watching the osprey nest, as he had been for the past few nights. But Stanley seemed relaxed. He might know the youngster has now grown up and adopted better manners. The latter was evidenced by a short nod in our direction.

younger Great Blue Heron at sunset UD156Before we knew it the sun had gone down and the marsh filled with shadows. We saw some movement in the bushes but it was too dark for pictures.

dog park trees at sunset UD156

salt marsh 2 at sunset ud156We enjoyed the peace of the evening for a while on ‘my’ bench. When we finally wanted to leave, the park gate had already closed. We had to use our secret escape path out of the park. Dylan led the way in the moonlight. He had done this before.

full moon ud156Thank you for visiting us between the sunrise and the sunset. And Happy Easter to all who celebrate! I leave you with my one of my favorite sunset pictures from our beach. Sail well into the new week.

sailboat at sunset UD156

The Salt Marsh. Our Favorite Place.

After learning about this week’s photo challenge, my first thought was that it will be impossible for me to select one favorite place. There were too many great candidates for that title. Victoria Falls? The pyramids in Giza? The many great wildlife spots in Africa? The ancient treasures in Italy or Greece? My childhood lake in Finland? The Old Town in Stockholm? The list was long. But thinking about it I always came back to a place I can see every day right through my office window. The salt marsh at the north end of our barrier island. It’s always there. At sunrise and sunset. Rain or shine. Its mood constantly changing.

sunset at salt marsh 3 ud155

marsh at sunset UD155

salt marsh w iphone UD155And Dylan agrees with my choice. Whenever I say let’s go to the park, it’s clear from the speed of his tail that I’m on the right track. He loves to play at the dog park next to the marsh with his amigos, Saki, Eli, Snickers and others.

saki smiles 2 ud155

Eli march 23 UD155

snickers march 23 UD155So here we are, on ‘hatch watch’. From what we have been able to glean looking at the osprey nest from our terrace, the osprey couple now has hatchlings. While Mama Sandy is not yet allowing her chicks to be shown in public, her moves in the nest reveal that she is in the ‘mothering mode’. Sorry for the poor picture quality as these two images were taken handheld from almost 300 yards on my compact superzoom camera.

mama osprey attends to chick ud155Sandy gets up often and bends her head down into the nest cup. And after Papa Stanley has brought in a fish, her head stays down for several minutes. She moves around as in feeding more than one chick.

mama osprey feeds hatchling ud155Last night around sunset time, when we passed the nest and Stanley had just left to get dinner, she even stood up in the nest to preen herself. A sure sign that the eggs have hatched this week.

mama sandy at sunset ud155The nest cup is so deep that it will probably take a week or two before I can get ‘proof’ of the newly hatched chicks in the form of a grainy picture from my terrace. And a couple of more weeks before I can get the first baby portraits from the ground. Patience girl. Patience.

papa osprey ud155Papa Stanley is guarding the nest whenever he is not on a fishing trip. Yesterday, again, there was another osprey flying around the nest.

another osprey ud155Stanley sounded alarm and when that was not effective, he promptly went to chase it away.

papa osprey lands at the nest UD155When we passed under the nest a few minutes later, he was back on his guard post and nodded a friendly greeting.

papa osprey UD155I’m sure he had noticed that both the Mayor and the younger Great Blue Heron were present close to the nest. Staring at each other from the opposite sides of the deep water.

great blue heron Mayor ud155

younger Great Blue Heron ud155The Mayor’s presence was a good thing. It was less likely that the younger GBH would get bad ideas. Like considering attacking the osprey nest. He may remember that any attempt to approach the nest will not be tolerated. He would get his butt feathers ruffled by Stanley.

mama osprey UD155 9x16Mama Sandy was alert too. Maybe she remembered her dramatic encounter with the youngster a couple of years ago (below). Despite the difference in size, she did give the young heron a lesson.

mama osprey prevents attack by blue heron ud155But there was one fellow who only had time for himself … and the camera. As soon as the Reddish Egret, aka the Clown, saw my camera, he started his usual hunting dance.

reddish egret 1 UD155

reddish egret 2 UD155

Reddish Egret hunting UD155I always enjoy watching his performance, but this time he didn’t catch a fish. Someone else did. A young Great Egret walked around at the far end of the marsh showcasing his catch.

great egret with a fish ud155He kept an eye on us so we didn’t dare to move closer. Instead we spotted a Tri-colored Heron hunting for crustaceans in the shallow water.

tri-colored heron hunts ud155I was wondering if it was the same bird now being exhibited at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (below). Whatever the case, I am happy that one of the salt marsh residents made it to the “Forever Young” exhibition.

tri-colored heron Sand Key Park AHK UD155Just before leaving the park, we discovered something you can only see at the salt marsh. A bird reading a sign.

great egret read a sign ud155The Great Egret was wet. He looked relieved to see the no swimming sign pictured a human rather than a bird. He had already been swimming.

We all wish you a pleasant weekend and a great week ahead. Thank you for visiting our favorite place.

In the Meantime at the Salt Marsh…

On Friday morning Dylan and I went for a walk around the salt marsh. Since I’ve been keeping an eye on the osprey nest from my terrace, I already knew that Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley were still incubating. And provided that everything goes well, we should have hatchlings in about 7-14 days.

ospreys still incubating UD153_edited-2On our front lawn, we were met by a puffed up Mourning Dove. It had been chilly, according to Florida standards of course, in the last few days. And the sun had not yet warmed up the grass.

mourning dove ud153On arrival, we spotted lots of white everywhere around the marsh. Several families of Great Egrets, a few Snowy Egrets and White Ibis were having breakfast under the watchful eye of the Mayor. The older Great Blue Heron had parked himself at the far end of the marsh to ensure an adequate overview of what was going on around the breakfast buffet.

mr mayor great blue heron ud153Some Great Egrets were fishing, seemingly not with much success despite valiant efforts …

a Great Egret fishing ud153…while others demonstrated a double catch.

great egret with two fish UD153A few were still flying in …

great egret flying UD153…some were chasing each other…

Two Great Egrets fly together ud153…and yet others were flying around just for the fun of it.

great egret in flight ud153Some had found their own perfect spot in the sun to air their beautiful breeding plumage. Like this Great Egret who had decided to rent the Mayor’s office…

great egret ud153…and this Snowy Egret, who had found a private sunny spot close to the osprey nest.

snowy agret ud153Suddenly we heard a familiar sound. A high-pitched warning call. And not only by one osprey, but two. Papa Stanley was eating his breakfast at a lamp-post just outside the marsh. He stopped eating and sounded repeated warning calls…

papa osprey sounds alarm ud153…while Mama Sandy sounded the alarm from the nest where she was sitting on the eggs. It took me a while to localize the threat in the sky. It was another, to me unknown, Osprey. He flew towards the nest and peered down right on Sandy.

another osprey ud153Despite the duet of warning calls, the newcomer circled several times around the nest and finally Sandy couldn’t take it anymore. She got up, left the eggs and flew towards the forest after the intruder. I have never seen her do such a daring maneuver while incubating.

mama osprey gets up and flies UD153I lost sight of her for a minute or two, but then she landed back in the nest. Phew. As you can see, she was very careful not to hit the nest cup in the middle of the nest. Her talons were drawn in and her eyes were trained on the eggs.

mama osprey arrives back ud153

mama osprey back at the nest ud153She had been successful in chasing away the intruder, but stood up for a while checking he was really gone.

Peace returned to the salt marsh. A Belted Kingfisher landed on a branch in the middle of the marsh…

belted Kingfisher ud153_edited-1…Stanley went back to eating his fish…

papa osprey continues to eat ud153…and Sandy went back to incubating.

mama osprey incubiting ud153I was glad there was a happy ending to this story, and can’t wait to see a hatchling, two or three soon. Dylan, I and the lively salt marsh gang wish you all a wonderful week ahead.

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.  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.

Silence is an Ocean – Rumi. (WPC Five Images)

Nothing’s happening
Yet everything is here Now
I breathe in silence.

silence at sunrise ud149

I wait in silence
For a small sign from above
To take the next step.

silence on a sand bar ud149

The day goes to sleep
Never to wake up again
Blue silence remains.

silence in the blue hour ud149

Life crafts miracles
In the silence of the night
I trust and exhale.

silence at night ud149_edited-1