Category Archives: Photo challenges

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


Snapshots of the Now. Waiting.

I have finally reached the point on my journey to acceptance of what happened in July, where I would love to get back to blogging. But I am not ready to write my usual ‘light touch’ nature stories. Nor have I been able to engage in photography like I used to. Or to focus on reading.

I have realized, however, that life is a string of snapshots of the now. I will be attempting to post frequent snapshots of my life ‘now’ as it unfolds for the next few weeks. Maybe just an iPhone shot, a short poem or something similar. Simple. Often mobile. Comments closed.

To get started, I am sharing a few snapshots of my life in the past two weeks.

Waiting for some dolphins to appear on the Labor Day weekend, when Hurricane Irma was still churning far out on the Atlantic.

labor day 2 watching dolphins ud137.jpgAnd they did…playful as ever. Good times. Grief slowly fading into the background.

labor day 2 dolphin ud137And then there was the quiet before the storm. Calm seas. An eerily beautiful seascape on a perfect day. But nobody was enjoying it. The lonely lifeguard shack was waiting to be moved to safety. Like most of us.

beach view before Irma ud137This peaceful scene was in sharp contrast to my frantic search for a flight to get out of here with Dylan. Paradise in Zone A. Mandatory evacuation.

I have crisscrossed the globe, but seldom been happier to finally see a plane at the gate. One of the last planes to leave the airport before it would be closed. Our temporary home would be wherever that plane flew. A ticket to anywhere.AA plane ud137Flashback. The last plane out from Addis Ababa at war. 1990s. A week after husband and son had been evacuated. Essential personnel.

philly studio ud137_edited-1A small studio apartment at a hotel in Philly. Waiting with Dylan and Wolf Blitzer. Wanting to go home. Whatever that might mean. Waiting.

Snapshots of the Now Series (1)

Arlene’s Farewell Concert. And Mischief at the Salt Marsh.

I feel lucky. I didn’t miss Arlene’s farewell concert on Thursday night. She sang the now familiar Aria di sorbetto ‘I Want Fiiish, a Big Fiiish’ to Mama Sandy, Dylan and me. She sang from the heart and closed her eyes to reach the highest notes.

osprey chick arlene asks for fish ud132Tired after the hot day and, I’m sure, many fishing attempts, she was perching at Papa Stanley’s usual summer resort in the park. Mama Sandy was sleeping on a lamp-post close by. She turned her head towards Arlene and just listened. She didn’t open an eye.

mama Sandy ud132Soon Arlene was sleeping too. Her crop was fairly full, but it never hurts to ask for more fish when mama is nearby.

osprey chick arlene is sleepy ud132_edited-1Early on Friday morning Dylan and I spotted her at her Marriott roof top suite, but during the day she had left. Almost four weeks after fledging she started her independent life. I had anticipated her departure, but little did I know these would be the last pictures of her. For now.

Papa Osprey at Marriott ud132_edited-1Dylan and I have looked for her every night since, but we have only found Papa Stanley and Mama Sandy. They have stayed in the area, and on Friday night we spotted both of them with a half-eaten fish. Perhaps in case Arlene would regret her move. But she didn’t. Osprey chicks rarely return once they ‘move out’, unlike many humans.

mama osprey on Sunday ud132But this morning when I was driving on a bridge to the mainland about five miles south of us, I spotted an Osprey chick. And an adult osprey was perching on the opposite lamp-post. I could not stop the traffic to look closer, but it could very well have been Arlene with one of her parents still keeping an eye on her. That would confirm my theory that one of the parents still support them after they leave. The presence of Osprey chicks is transient. They hatch, the lucky ones fledge and move out from the immediate nest area once they feel confident of their fishing skills. I certainly hope to see Arlene visiting the salt marsh one day. I’ll leave you with a funny picture I’ve not shared before. Arlene became a big girl and learned to potty before she learned to fly 🙂

osprey chick going to toilet ud126_edited-2Adieu Arlene, we wish you a happy life! And we’ll miss you.

That brings me to the happenings at the salt marsh. On Sunday I finally decided to defy the heat and go for a long walk. The first thing I spotted was quite shocking. An Anhinga had occupied the Osprey nest. Or more accurately, the perch.

anhinga at the osprey nest ud131Birds in the vicinity of the nest reacted too. An intruder was not welcome. Some looked up, dropped their jaw in horror, but said nothing. Like this Common Grackle.

grackle ud132Others, like the juvenile Green Heron, got really upset and just stared at the nest.

juvenile green heron ud132Despite the reactions, the Anhinga perched there for quite a while. That is, until he saw a big bird high in the sky. A Swallow-tailed Kite.

swallow-tailed Kite over salt marsh ud131_edited-1

anhinga ud131One could not risk that he was the owner of the nest. So the Anhinga quickly flew back to his friends on the bay side.

Just when I thought enough excitement now, there was more. The Reddish Egret I have dubbed ‘the Clown’ was doing his song and dance performance.

reddish Egret UD132

reddish egret 2 ud132He was moving swiftly, running sic-sack and talking to himself. He was almost too fast to capture on ‘tape’. Oh sorry, there are no tapes. Just some blurry photographs of his wild performance.

reddish egret 3 ud132Someone was watching this spectacle. As there always is. The Mayor was standing in the bushes nearby, and he was growing annoyed.

great blue heron the mayor ud132He started walking towards the Clown. Determined to stop the loud performance.

great blue heron ud132The Clown quickly calmed down. He was like nailed to the mud. Completely motionless he watched the Mayor walk by.

great blue heron and reddish egret ud132_edited-3A female Mallard was observing the power-play from the trail. She was keeping her distance, probably not knowing what to expect.

female mallard ud132But there was no confrontation. The Clown walked away, calmly. Despite some Black Skimmers flying back and forth right in front of his nose.

reddish egret and black skimmer ud132But he soon regained his resolve. And challenged the mayor, all puffed up.

reddish egret 4 ud132What he didn’t understand was that the Mayor is a stable, thick-skinned adult. Not to be easily provoked. And suddenly everything was calm again. The little Mottled ducklings swam by completely oblivious to the previous tension.

two mottled ducklings ud132The Tri-colored Heron continued her search for a tasty bite. And the Great Egret at the other end of the marsh gave a sigh of relief. He’s had his disagreements with the Clown.

tri-colored heron ud132.jpg

great egret ud132And I walked home. Now that the nesting season is over, I might take some time off too. I want to do some travelling. And approaching my fifth blogging anniversary next month, I also feel the need to refresh my blog. In the meantime I may blog less…and/or different. Although we’ll probably ‘see’ each other over the summer months, I wish all our friends a wonderful summer. A huge thank you from all of us at the salt marsh for being here.

In Focus: Incredible Arlene

On a stormy evening late last week, Arlene was perching on the boat lift at the sailing center. She was scanning for fish. Suddenly she flew up, hovered for a few seconds above the water and dove feet first into the water. She didn’t catch the fish. Not yet. But she had all the right moves, including shaking off water in mid-air like a pro. This was less than two weeks after she fledged. And that’s nothing short of incredible. I didn’t carry the camera so you just have to take my word for it. Dylan is my witness. After coming home, I caught this picture of her from my terrace. She was back up there staring into the water…and she would try again. I call that determination.

arlene learns to fish on her own ud130She is scanning for fish often now. And her parents, after seeing her early progress, have clearly taken the back seat. Mama Sandy is still around occasionally keeping watch for any dangers. Sometimes I have not seen her for a day or two, but she comes when Arlene calls her. Like last night when the skies suddenly darkened and the wind picked up before strong thunderstorms. I could not see Arlene, but I heard her. She was somewhere on the roof. Sandy was flying towards her pushing against the strong winds. Really struggling. She came from the north along the bay side and landed on the roof. I guess Arlene needed adult company in the storm and her mama was there for her. Dylan and I ran home and rushed into our garage just when the first fat raindrops started falling. And then pretty much everything went out of focus.

storm on the bay out-of-focus 2 ud130Sandy probably feeds Arlene only once a day now, if that. Her parenting is encouraging independence. But still providing protection. And Arlene is confident in her abilities, as she has been from the day she fledged. A strong female leader in the making, as I see it.

Mama osprey keeps watch ud130On Sunday morning, Arlene’s two-week fledging anniversary,  I saw her perched at the sailing center. Ten minutes later I went for a walk and saw her eating on Marriott’s roof, at her favorite spot. I wouldn’t rule out it was the first fish she’s caught by herself. No parents were in sight.

arlene eats fish ud130Young Arlene has not followed the conventional path to independence. You see, normally, Osprey chicks stay at the nest being fed by their parents at least 4 weeks after fledging. They start to follow their parents on fishing trips during the 3rd week and start to try to fish on their own at 4-6 weeks after fledging. Not Arlene. She left the nest the day she fledged and directly started to fly with her folks. She was diving for fish 12 days after fledging…and now, 16 days after her fledging, I think she might be able to provide for herself already. I am sure Sandy will not stay in the vicinity for long. And Arlene, too, is likely to move a bit further soon. But as long as she stays here you’ll have ‘full and impartial coverage’ on this brave and beautiful chick by this media outlet.

Arlene at sunset June 9 ud130On Sunday, I also briefly visited the salt marsh between heavy showers. After two weeks of rains, everything at the salt marsh was green and the water level was high. Consequently many of the waders were keeping away for now. I guess they don’t like their bellies getting wet while wading in high waters.

salt marsh after the rains ud130But that memo had not reached the juveniles. Or perhaps they are more adventurous simply because they are not looking at the world through the lens of conventional wisdom. Some of them were happily wading on previously dry mud flats or amongst the high grass. First I spotted the same juvenile Little Blue Heron I saw a couple of weeks ago. He had turned much more blue already, as you can see.

juvenile little blue heron ud130

juvenile little blue heron 2 ud130The second juvenile wading at the marsh was a very small, young Green Heron. He still had some of his white ‘baby hairs’ right on the top of his head, but was bravely doing it alone.

juvenile green heron 2 ud130

juvenile green heron 1 ud130_edited-1The third juvenile I spotted was a Boat-tailed Grackle. She was in the company of her mother…and although she had fledged, she was still asking to be fed. Quite unlike Arlene.

female boat-tailed grackle with a juvenile ud130_edited-1The fourth juvenile, the Roseate Spoonbill I had named Rosanna, was observing life from a tree at the deep water channel.

young roseate spoonbill ud130The only adult wader I encountered was the beautiful Snowy Egret. I thought she looked like a white flower in the midst of the green grass.

snowy egret ud130And that’s when they arrived, the two Black Skimmers. They flew at extremely high speeds while skimming the surface, water spraying all around them. They put on a wild show. I enjoyed trying to catch them in flight. But they did beat me time after time…resulting in many pictures of water, sky and grass – without a Skimmer. One has to learn one’s limitations the hard way.

black skimmer 1 ud130_edited-2.jpg

black skimmer skimming ud130 We all wish you a wonderful rest of the week. Thank you for visiting.