Category Archives: Wildlife

Mama Osprey’s Two-front War. And Free Fish Tasting at the Pier.

Some of you might have noticed that I’ve been MIA for a while. All kinds of work have been interfering with life. When I finally got back up for air, my first priority was to take a walk in the gorgeous fall weather. I walked almost four miles around the park trying to get my walk-o-meter running again. Phew. I almost felt my age.

Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaRight when I approached the beach end of the salt marsh, I knew something was up. Mama Sandy flew right over my head carrying a fish and sounded loud warning calls. Not for me, but for two other Ospreys circling high above her nest, a male and a female. It might have been Steve, whom some of you will remember, and his new bride.

male osprey

female osprey in flight Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida

I just had to zoom all out, point against the sun and shoot. Sorry for the grainy quality, but that’s the best I got. At least you can see Sandy caught a big fish. Osprey is the only bird that can carry a fish up to two times its own weight. And this fat one made Sandy work hard to get it into the nest.

osprey with a fish

I walked closer and saw the two Ospreys still hanging out in the vicinity of the marsh and looking down at Sandy. She didn’t like that one bit!

mama ospreys warning call Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaWhen I reached the nest, I saw there was a visitor. A Fish Crow was helping Sandy to defend the nest against intruders. Working for food. Or so he thought.

female osprey and the crow watch the skies Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaActually it was more like Sandy fighting a two-front war. I took a 90 second video clip so you can hear Sandy’s warning call and see how it all went down.

The salt marsh was lively with many birds, like this Tri-colored Heron and the Snowy Egret, all of whom went about their business pretending not to hear the loud exchanges of the Ospreys. And the Crow.

tricolored heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida snowy egret Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaMiss Rosa was there too, of course. And said her customary hello.

roseate spoonbill Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaThe young Muscovy Duck, who came to the salt marsh last year and disappeared as soon as he learned to fly, was back too. He was more interested in the photographer than the squabbles going on above his head.

muscovy duck Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaNext I went to visit Papa Stanley’s resort. It looked like he already had his breakfast. He was cleaning his talons.  Or brushing his teeth. It was difficult to tell.

male osprey cleaning his talons Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaFrom there I walked around the park and ended up at the fishing piers. Some of the marsh residents, like the two Great Blue Herons, were there too. Hoping to be invited for a free fish tasting.

fishing pier and a great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Floridayoung great blue heron at fishing pier Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaAnd a Snowy Egret with a broken toe inspected the nets and found a forgotten small fish. It pays to be diligent.

snowy egret at fishing pier Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaAfter meeting so many of my feathered friends, I continued through the lush pine and palm forest to the north beach.

old tree in Sand Key Park Clearwater Floridaforest Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaSand Key Park Clearwater FloridaWalking home, I was looking signs of fall in the nature. As most of our trees are evergreens, I only found some colorful beach grass, typical of fall here,  and some particularly eye-popping seed pods.

beach grass in fall colors Sand Key Park Clearwater Floridapalm seed pods Sand Key Clearwater FloridaWith that I wish you all a wonderful upcoming weekend, and hope to catch up on you blogs in the next few days.

Salt Marsh Gang and the Beach Boys. Live.

This week’s been a busy one. I don’t have the time to write a “proper” update on our friends at the Salt Marsh, so I thought these guys could tell you the latest themselves. They say sorry in advance for the wobbly hand filming them during the last few weeks. Have a great weekend everybody!

Some of the bird song is courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Vroom, Bang and Upside Down. Under the Rainbow at the Salt Marsh.

It was that time of the year again. Super boat championship races on the Gulf. Practice runs on Friday and Saturday and the races on Sunday. Tens of thousands of spectators, parties everywhere, and fireworks on Saturday night. Engine roar and fireworks bangs just a stone throw from the salt marsh, and my terrace.

I guess the permanent residents at the salt marsh are by now used to the volume and the colorful night time lights generated by this annual three day event. Mama Sandy certainly took it all in stride. She was focusing on her fascinating gardening project. There’s even more green in the nest now than three weeks ago when she started planting. It is, indeed, an impressive looking garden.

mama osprey's garden ud25 b

mama osprey proud gardener ud25 b

I’m thinking she might want to create the look and feel of Papa Stanley’s resort. It’s certainly starting to look like that. I have no idea how she does it. But she looks proud of her achievement, don’t you think?

Despite all the hubbub, the marsh has been lively with birds. Lots of white sprinkled with pink, blue and brown.

salt marsh birds ud25 b

The water levels are up again after recent rains that have also given us multiple beautiful rainbows over the bay in the last few days.

rainbow over clearwater bay ud25 b panorama double rainbow ud25 bRosa, the Roseate Spoonbill, and her friends ibis, egrets and herons have enjoyed foraging in the previously dry spots.

roseate spoonbill B ud25 byoungr Great Blue Heron ud25 bblackcrowned night heron juvenile ud25 b

This juvenile Pied-billed Grebe is a newcomer at the salt marsh. I’ve not seen any other family members so I’m thinking this little one must have migrated on its own from up north.

juvenile pied-billed Grebe ud25 b

This past week, I also spotted the Red-bellied Woodpecker again. He has returned from his summer adventures. He was hanging upside down and his red head was moving fast in search of breakfast.  Every now and then he’d interrupt his work to scan for any dangers.

redbellied woodpecker ud25 bHis sweetheart was with him too. She was too shy for a photo shoot, but he posed gladly for a second one.

redbellied woodpecker 2 ud25 bI wondered what they might have thought discovering their old home, the “condo building”, was gone.

Close to the woodpeckers, I spotted a Loggerhead Shrike and a Northern Mockingbird. Both are permanent residents in the forests next to the marsh.

loggerhead shrike ud25 bnorthern mockingbird 3 ud25 b

I had not seen Papa Stanley for days so I decided to walk to his resort, hoping he would be at home. I was lucky. He had just returned after taking a bath.  He shook his wings to get rid of the water, and then spread them out to dry. I was happy to note he seemed to be in great shape.

papa osprey lands at his resort ud25 b

So everybody in the extended salt marsh family is accounted for, and we all wish you a great and safe weekend.

Breakfast on the go. Morning Meditations. And Gardening at the Salt Marsh.

She is a very good gardener, Mama Sandy. She “planted” some greens in the nest about 10 days ago, and they are still green, in fact in great condition as of this morning. And standing tall despite some breezy days in between.

female osprey babysitting the decorated nest.I’d like to know her secret, but she’s tight-lipped, as always. She and Papa Stanley are still molting, but start to look more put together day by day. They both even posed for a portrait photo last weekend.

female osprey sand key park clearwater floridamale osprey sand key park clearwater floridaSandy in the nest and Stanley close by at his resort. But he didn’t look as representable this morning when I caught him coming fresh from the bay with his carry out.

male osprey caught a fish sand key park clearwater floridaI took a swing to the bay side and saw a beautiful Great Egret in the middle of his morning meditation, and several Brown Pelicans flying back and forth in search of breakfast. They seemed to be quite successful.

great egret at clearwater bay floridabrown pelican takes off clearwater floridapelican eating a fish clearwater bay floridaWalking back to the salt marsh, I spotted a Northern Mockingbird. I love their brilliant medley performances, and have smiled many times  at their Osprey imitations. But she didn’t sing for me today. She had something else on her mind.

northern mockingbird sand key park clearwater floridaI stopped to have a gulp of water and saw this little fellow in a tree right behind me. He looked at me suspiciously when I raised my camera, and then ran away.

squirrel sand key park clearwater floridaThe migrating birds have not yet arrived in any big numbers, but the salt marsh was spotted with white birds, lots of Snowy Egrets and White Ibis.

ibis and snowy egret hunting sand key park clearwater floridaI also saw a new juvenile Night Heron busy grooming herself, and an Anhinga stretching out on a branch.

juvenile night heron sand key park clearwater floridaanhinga sand key park clearwater floridaFor those of you, who’ll wonder about the Mayor, I can tell he was there too. But it seemed he was taking an after-breakfast-nap in the high grass, so I didn’t get a picture of him this time. I walked home through the beach and the trail was surrounded by wild flowers, brilliant colors from yellow to purple to pink.

beach wild flowers ud 24wild flowers 2 on the beach ud25The beach was lively, as usual, but I’ll just leave you with a couple more pictures. A Sandwich Tern, who shows us how best to get breakfast on the go. Just dip your bill into the water in mid-flight and you’re good to go.

gull eating on the fly sand key clearwater floridaAnd a Oystercather who was half asleep and let me walk fairly close to take his portrait.

oystercatcher sand key clearwater floridaWith that, I’ll wish you all a wonderful upcoming weekend. Cheers from all friends at the salt marsh ~

Fall. Salt Marsh Kindergarten. And How Mama Osprey Tricked Me.

It’s mid September. The weather here in Florida is still very much summer like. But the fall activities have definitely started. Migrating shore birds have arrived in hundreds. The beach is swarming with large flocks of Sanderlings and Dunlins, mingling with Willets, Black Skimmers, and all kinds of terns and gulls.

sanderlings and dunlins on the beach ud24Some of the Sanderlings must’ve been practicing with a marching band over the summer up north. They still have the rhythm.

sanderlings 2 running ud24 16x9Pelicans, old and young, are also present in much larger numbers than usual. Their waterskiing, formation flying and diving presentations are highly entertaining.

theee pelicans ud24

And I love watching the antics of the Royal Terns.  There is always something happening in their large community. They fish, chase each other and take breaks for contemplation and rest. And their landing styles are highly varied.  From clumsy one footers to gracious gliding.

royal terns return home ud24tern coming home ud24The Black Skimmer community is also lively. Lots of talking. Low bark-like calls, occasionally loud. And skimming for food at the water’s edge at sunrise and sunset.

black skimmers ud24Some “snow birds” have arrived at the salt marsh as well. Like the Mallards, who haven’t been here for months. And many more Great and Snowy Egrets than usual.

a male mallard duck molting into breeding plumage ud24great egret on the top ud24 snowy egret ud24The newly hatched Moorhen chicks have started in kindergarten. They are just tiny balls of fluffy black baby feathers,  but already bravely exploring the pollen-filled shallows.

mama moorhen and one chick ud24 two moorhen chicks ud24I’ve seen Papa Osprey only from afar, either in flight or scanning for fish at Marriott’s roof. But Mama Sandy is spending lots of time at the nest right now. You’ll notice (in later pictures) the greenery she’s brought in to make the bare nest more cozy.

papa osprey at sunrise B ud24

Yesterday morning Sandy was still wet after a dive, but as far as I could see there was no breakfast.

mama osprey wet ut with no fish ud24

I thought she’d already eaten, and after spending some time with her, I walked over to the bay side. It was a beautiful morning, and the young Great Blue Heron (GBH) was there too, looking for breakfast.

bay sunrise ud24the young blue heron ud24That’s when Sandy flew in from the nest. I had high hopes to get my first picture ever of her catching a fish! I’d be patient. I’d pan. I’d follow her every move.

She circled over the water. Back and forth for ten minutes, sometimes almost disappearing from sight. She hovered over several spots, looking intently down into the water. But she didn’t dive. And I waited with my camera ready to capture the drama. My arms started to hurt.

Suddenly she turned around and flew towards the ocean. A bit disappointed, I decided to walk home through the salt marsh to see the rest of the birds.

A few minutes later, just when I was passing the nest, Sandy came speeding in. With a fish!

mama osprey lands with a fish ud24She had tricked me. Ten minutes of circling over the bay, and five minutes to fetch a fish from the ocean, including the commute. Ha!

mama osprey sees something ud24She shook off the water, but had her eyes fixed into the sky towards the bay. The young GBH was approaching. Flying straight towards the nest.

young blue heron coming in ud24Sandy gave him a series of stern warnings. She hasn’t forgotten his blatant attacks on the nest last spring. The youngster circled around the nest once, tempting his fate. But then landed at the far end of the marsh.

young blue heron in flight ud24young blue heron lands ud24And Sandy could finally concentrate on her breakfast without interruptions.

mama osprey eats breakfast ud24I wish the young GBH would get some counseling with the Mayor. That gentleman knows how to live in peace at the salt marsh.

the older great blue heron ud24That’s it for today. We all hope your week is going great.

Exhibition At the Salt Marsh Town Hall (WPC Connected)

The older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor of the marsh, is always hatching plans to tighten the community connections at the salt marsh. Permanent marsh residents will need to manage the soon upcoming bi-annual migration conference as a team. Without a hitch. He’s expecting big crowds, like last year.

So he’ll be throwing a Labor Day party at the town hall, with a special exhibition in the tree gallery. Under the theme “Connected”, he wants to show portraits of all those residents who’ll be sharing the salt marsh smorgasbord with migrating visitors, and others just stopping by for a snack. I volunteered to help. And to ensure timely delivery, persuaded this older gentleman to accept digital paintings.

Here my friends, you’ll get a sneak peek of these portraits before we’ll hang them up later today.

older great blue heron paint
Martin, the Mayor – the older Great Blue Heron
portrait of the young great blue heron paint
Billy – the younger Great Blue Heron, also known as the culprit (particularly by the Osprey family)
Harry – the Green Heron
portrait of little blue heron3 paint
Lilly – the Little Blue Heron
yellowcrowned night heron portrait paint
Norbert – the Yellow-crowned Night Heron
black-crowned night heron portrait paint
Nelly – the Black-crowned Night Heron
tricolored heron
Trina – the Tri-colored Heron
great while egret portrait paint
Gregory – the Great Egret
portrait of a reddish egret paint
Rudolf – the Reddish Egret, also known as the clown
snowy egret portrait paint
Sally – the Snowy Egret
nanday parakeet portrait paint
Polly – the Nanday Parakeet
papa osprey portrait paint
Stanley – the Osprey, also known as Papa Osprey
mama osprey portrait paint
Sandy – the Osprey, also known as Mama Osprey
roseate spoonbill portrait paint
Rosa – the Roseate Spoonbill

I’m hoping it’ll be a nice exhibition. And I’m planning to join the party despite allergies that have hit me this weekend. Let’s stay connected, and thanks for visiting 🙂

You can find other replies to this challenge here.

Search and Rescue. And Storms over the Salt Marsh.

Wishes do come true. Erica, the tropical storm, died last Saturday. But she left a large blob of moisture churning on the Gulf. And that brought strong storms over our area late last week and early this week. The “beach lake” was reborn, and there are some fresh water pools in the park around the salt marsh. But luckily no bad flooding.

Early in the week, I managed to get in a couple of walks just before the storms rolled in. While the bay bathed in sunshine under blue skies both mornings, the storm clouds were gathering on the ocean.

Clearwater BayMama Sandy hasn’t visited the nest much lately, but I’ve usually found her somewhere on the bay side. One of these mornings she was having breakfast on a lamp-post, but keeping a keen eye on the skies at the same time. She seemed to be in a hurry.

Female Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaFemale Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaYou see, she was aware of Papa Stanley circling high in the skies with another Osprey. First I thought his pal Steve might have returned, but then managed to get a couple of pictures that proved me wrong. It was a juvenile! Likely one of their chicks, but it was impossible to tell for sure which one. I was betting on Lofty.

Juvenile Osprey Sand Key Clearwater Florida Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaAfter finishing her breakfast Sandy joined them over the bay. She was talking non stop. Maybe she was telling them to focus on getting breakfast before the storms would roll in. Who knows. But Stanley obliged.

Female Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaI noticed (from very far) that he flew back to Marriott and took up a scanning position on the lower roof.

Male Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaI also saw a woodpecker family on the bay side. It might have been the same couple of Red-bellied Woodpeckers who nested in the demolished “condo building”. Now there was a new juvenile in the family.

redbellied woodpecker Sand Key Clearwater FloridaAnd since I also had my eye on the sky, I decided to leave a proper visit to the salt marsh for later. And soon was happy I did. An impressive thunderstorm rolled in.

The next morning I found only Sandy. She had decided to borrow Stanley’s resort to keep an eye on the approaching storms. And on me. That penthouse has the best views. Stanley may have embarked on a fishing trip little further out. Perhaps a father and son outing with Lofty.

Female Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaI decided to tempt my fate and visit the salt marsh. But it was practically deserted. There was an eerie silence. No bird song, no nothing. The birds had already gone to their rain shelters in anticipation of the storm. The only one seemingly still around was the young GBH. His head stuck up from the high grass as he peered towards the ocean.

young great blue heron Sand Key Clearwater FloridaThen I heard Papa Moorhen.  I spotted him hauling heavy materials to reinforce the family home. Last-minute preparations for the impending storm.

moorhen repairing nest

Just before I reached the beach, I almost stumbled on a young Sandwich Tern. She was laying in the grass next to the trail. She looked away when I approached, but didn’t move. I thought it was odd for her to be there alone when all the other birds had sought shelter. I snapped a couple of pictures of her, and then ran (yes, ran) home through the flooded beach.

rainbow over the ocean Sand Key Clearwater FloridaIt was already raining on the ocean so I decided to take a shortcut through some trees and bushes into our garden. But failed to jump all the way over the ditch, or rather a newly formed four-foot wide “river”.  My old hiking shoes got a through soaking, but luckily I didn’t land on my tummy in the water. Then the first fat rain drops fell on me. The storm was upon us.

Once safely inside, I sat down at my laptop, had my second cup of coffee, and looked at the pictures. This is what I saw.

sandwich ternThe little tern had a fishing hook sticking out of her mouth. And it had also pierced her throat. She couldn’t even close her beak, and must’ve been in terrible pain. I hadn’t noticed the hook when I saw her, and now she was out there in the storm badly injured by human activity.storm over salt marsh Sand Key Clearwater FloridaTo make a long story short, I reached my friend, the Ranger, on the phone. She is also a bird rescuer. I told her about the little tern and where she’d been when I spotted her. The Ranger went out to look for her. About fifteen minutes later I got a call from her. The little tern had been found and was on her way to the vet. The Ranger told me she’d seen fishing hooks in birds many times, but never one so badly tangled into the skin.

little tern So there would be a small surgery, and maybe some recuperation time at the sanctuary. But this little tern would make it. Yay!

On that happy note I wish you all a great weekend ahead.