Tag Archives: American Black Vulture

Sanctuaries and Sunsets.

In the afternoon of Easter Sunday, I went to see the birds at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary again. Here are a few portraits of the resident birds, some of whom by now are old friends, like the Red-Shouldered Hawk, the Great-Horned Owl and his house mate, the Barred Owl.

red-shouldered hawk ud121

great-horned owl ud121

barred owl ud121The birds that are most represented among the permanent residents are the pelicans, both the White Pelicans and the Brown Pelicans. They tend to get hurt by human activity on the water. This warm day several of them were bathing in the many pools, large and small placed everywhere in their aviaries. Or preening to look their Sunday best.

brown pelican bathing ud121

white pelican closeup ud121

brown pelican closeup ud121

brown pelican preens ud121My friend the American Oyster Catcher was there too, and appeared to be doing better than last time I saw it.

american pyster catcher closeup ud121On this Sunday, several other birds were visiting their relatives at the sanctuary, like these American Black vultures.

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american black vulture ud121I also counted more than 50 nests high in the trees around the sanctuary. I believe birds feel this is a protected zone and are confident building nests in the trees around the park. Here a mama pelican peers down from her nest high up in a tall tree, and a Black-Crowned Night Heron nods off at her nest.

mama pelican in the nest 2 ud121

black-crowned night heron sleeping ud121It was a wonderful, life-affirming visit, as always.

sanctuary ud121If only the earth would be a sanctuary for all its inhabitants.

At mid-week, I enjoyed a great sunset walk on the beach with our son, who was on a business trip here on the Gulf coast.

catamaran at sunset April 18 ud121The sunset was as beautiful as ever. Shore birds were running around at the water’s edge and little sand crabs hurried into their homes for the night.

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sand crab UD121The sun disappeared into the ocean leaving a soft glow on the skies. I thought about the beautiful Irish blessing “May every sunset hold more peace.”

sunset April 18 16x9 UD121With that thought I wish you all a wonderful weekend. I will be traveling to spend time with the youngest generation of our family. It always gives me hope. Just like the Osprey chicks.

Hello World! Reporting Live from the Seabird Sanctuary.

The Great Horned Owl, Miss Kitty, is alert and follows my movements in front of her little house with keen interest. This owl, whose badly infected wing had to be amputated, has been living at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary for over nine years. She is usually one of the first birds to greet me when I visit. Her closest neighbor is another long-time resident, a Barred Owl. She is huddling deep in thought close to the ceiling of her little row house, and unlike her neighbor she clearly prefers her own company. And I respect that.

Next, I am checking on some of the White Pelicans. They have a large netted home with several swimming pools to enjoy in the summer heat. While autumn is officially here, our temperatures are still hovering in the upper 80s F (around 30C).

white-pelicans-at-scbs-ud81The Brown Pelicans have a home next to their white cousins, and their ‘yard’ is also appointed with several pools. Just chilling around the pool seems to be a favorite activity.

brown-pelican-scbs-ud81Next to the pelicans, two Sandhill Cranes have their large, beautifully decorated home.

two-sandhill-cranes-ud81Some smaller birds, like a juvenile White Ibis and an American Oyster Catcher with a badly injured wing, share the neighboring homes.

juvenile-white-ibis-at-scbs-ud81

wounded-oystervatcher-at-scbs-ud81But to be honest, I came here to see an old friend, the Red Shouldered Hawk. Her name is Isis. I will need to point out that this beautiful bird was named 26 years ago when she first came to this sanctuary with a badly injured eye. She is close to 30 years old now, completely blind in one eye and almost blind in the other. To my delight I discover that her handler has just arrived to take her out for a ‘walk’ in the park. Great! So after greeting the other birds, I walk into a large covered area under the observation tower and find her perched there.

scbs-observation-tower-ud81I love watching her and it is clear that she thoroughly enjoys her open air outing. But I also want to take a few pictures of her. And that proves quite challenging. While the covered area is nice and shadowy,  the sun is very bright right outside of it.

red-shouldered-hawk-at-scbs-ud81Isis is still molting and she is preening diligently to get rid of some old feathers on her wings.

red-shouldered-hawk-molting-scbs-ud81And then she stretches her beautiful wings. I can sense she is dreaming of flying high up in the sky riding a cool current.

red-shouldered-hawk-2-at-scbs-ud81She has had a long, safe and comfortable life here at the sanctuary and it is wonderful, as always, to spend some time with her.

Walking out of the sanctuary I meet two non-residents, an American Black Vulture and a Black-crowned Night Heron. Perhaps they have relatives in rehabilitation here, or maybe they are just waiting for a free meal. I also note that the night heron is strategically positioned to remind visitors of the importance of donating to this unique sanctuary.

american-black-vulture-3-at-scbs-ud81

black-crowned-night-heron-at-scbs-ud81It is lovely to know there is a place where so many injured wild birds can get help. About 15-20 birds daily, or up to 5000 each year, are brought to the Dr. Marie L. Farr Avian Hospital located in this sanctuary. They have varying injuries, for example to their limbs, eyes or bills.

sun-coast-sea-bird-sanctuary-ud81Unfortunately about 90% of those injuries are directly or indirectly attributtable to human activity. After receiving the necessary hospital care, the birds are rehabilitated and then released. The success rate is fairly high, over 80% of the birds who survive the first 24 hours go back to live their lives in the wild. Those who cannot manage to live on their own due to a permanent handicap are provided a forever home here. I am always filled with gratitude thinking of all the volunteers who take care of these birds and keep their homes looking wonderful, and people who donate to keep this sanctuary going.

That’s all for tonight from the Seabird Sanctuary. Next, your reporter will take on the replacement of the osprey nest platform at the salt marsh. We don’t want Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley to move out just because their home falls apart, do we?

We all hope your week is going great.

Face it! Birds Have Expressive Faces Too.

Papa Osprey’s expressive face is definitely one of my favorites! Here he’s watching me watching him. He tilts his head slightly, curious about the long black tube pointing at him. Click. Click.

Miss Rosa, the Roseate Spoonbill, has a photogenic face. Despite her very long spoon-like bill. And I think she knows it. Always poses happily for the camera.

roseate spoonbill FACEForaging birds often have that highly focused expression on their face. It’s necessary to focus all their attention on finding that one delicious piece of food. Here exemplified by the gracious Tri-colored Heron.

tri-colored heron FACEAnd the Little Blue Heron. Look at those eyes! Nothing can escape that stare.

portrait of little blue heron FACEThe reddish Egret often has a his clown face on, particularly when starting his hunting show. But don’t get fooled, he’s highly concentrated on his mission.

reddish egret all buffed up FACEWhen these birds catch a fish, or three, they show a happy face! Demonstrated here by the Great Egret.

great egret with three fish FACEThe Red-bellied Woodpecker has her sharp pecking tool embedded in a surprisingly soft face.

female red-bellied woodpecker FACEBut I can’t say the same about the Snowy Egret, especially when she has an itch right under her chin. Her face shows determination. Away with the itch. Scratch. Scratch.

snowy egret FACEThe Green Heron has a shy face. He looks away when noticing he’s observed. And pretends he’s nowhere to be seen.

green heron portrait FACEBirds, too, can have an old face. Scarred by life and full of wrinkles. Like this old American Black Vulture.

an old american tblack vulture FACEAnd they can have a face of a curious teenager. Just check out this young Muscovy Duck who has yet to learn to fly.

muscovy duck FACEAnd birds can have a face that shows contentment. Everything they need is right here. Right now. This is aptly demonstrated by the Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Here captured in the morning, after what I believe was a successful hunting session the previous night.

yellowcrowned night heron FACEI will have to end this “Faces from the Salt Marsh- series” by showcasing Mama Osprey. Her dancing face is as beautiful as her flowing dress 🙂

mama osprey FACEThe “salt marsh gang” wishes you all a pleasant week. You can find other interesting faces here.

Behind the Grid. In the Bird Sanctuary.

In the bird sanctuary many of the injured or otherwise handicapped birds live in enclosures. Behind the grid. Like these two Blue Jays, siblings brought up by humans since they were nestlings. And then abandoned. They don’t know they are birds, and cannot manage in the wild despite best rehabilitation efforts. They always return to their little row house in the sanctuary. It’s home.

two blue jays scbsThe Seabird Sanctuary here on Florida’s west coast is the largest non-profit wild bird hospital/sanctuary in the US.  On average, 15-20 injured birds are brought into their medical facility on a daily basis, and up to 5,000 are admitted annually. Unfortunately about 90% of their injuries are related to human activity.

snowy egrets SCBS

Luckily most of these birds (over 80%) only stay here for a little while. First in the hospital and then, if required, in observation and rehabilitation. Once healed, they are released back into the wild, usually in the same area where they were found. All baby birds born in the facility are also released into the wild as soon as they have gained independence.

young great blue heron SCBSBut quite a number of birds have injuries that make it impossible for them to live in the wild. They’ve lost parts of their wings and can no longer fly, they are blind or partly blind, or have injuries to their bill so they can no longer fetch food. Birds with a permanent handicap are offered a forever home here, or in another reputable facility.  Like these pelicans who enjoy splashing in the many small swimming pools. Or just floating around on a lazy afternoon.

pelican bath SCBS GThe oldest permanent resident is a Red-shouldered Hawk. She is blind in one eye, and almost blind in the other. She is over 20 years old, and has called this sanctuary home for quite a while. She lives in her little studio apartment, but is also able to enjoy the park and the beach thanks to a volunteer, who comes and takes her for regular outings.

Red-shouldered hawk scbsred-shouldered hawk on outing scbsThe day of my latest visit her human friend had just arrived. She turned around towards the back door in anticipation of her walk. barred owl SCBS G2And it was a great outing. The weather was fabulous, and I could see how much this old hawk enjoyed it.

Among the residents there are also two owls. They have wing and eye injuries, but are well taken care of here.The Barred Owl insisted on sitting in the attic so I only got a shaky portrait of him. But the Great-horned Owl was very curious about me (or the camera?) and posed nicely for a picture.

great-horned owl 2 SCBSThere are many other residents, like this Cormorant, who all have large and remarkably clean enclosures.

cormorant at scbsIn the surrounding park, I found other birds, old and young, who call the sanctuary home. Like this old Black-crowned Night Heron who was waiting for lunch time right in front of the hospital building when I arrived. And this buffed up youngster on the roof of the education center.

old black-crowned night heron at scbsjuvenile blackcrowned night heron An old American Vulture also hangs around in the park. He might be a former patient, who just feels comfortable staying close by.

american black vulture at SCBS I have made it a habit to visit this sanctuary every now and then. Just to offer little support as I don’t have the time to volunteer. They depend solely on donations, and you can imagine the amount of food that is needed here on a daily basis. And medicine, medical supplies, materials for the “homes” and equipment to keep the place clean and comfortable. Wonderful work by staff, volunteers and caring donors.

I wish you all a great week ahead.

This post is also my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge “Grid”. You can find other responses here.

Nature Immersion. Hiking on Honeymoon Island.

On the weekend between Christmas and New Year, I decided I had to get moving. I mean really moving. An hour of jogging around the salt marsh nearby just wouldn’t cut it. So I decided to go hiking on Honeymoon Island.

Honeymoon Island aerial in 1940s
Honeymoon Island aerial in 1940s

This beautiful island in the Gulf of Mexico was used as a hog farm by early settlers, and consequently it was called Hog Island. But when a developer from New York bought the island in 1930s, and built 50 palm thatched huts  for honeymooners, it became known as Honeymoon Island.

lovers nook hut on honeymoon island 1940s
Lovers Nook, one of the huts on Honeymoon Island in 1940s

In 1939 the developer held a competition for newlyweds, featured in the LIFE magazine, and the winners were flown onto the island for a their two-week honeymoon.

Map of the Honeymoon Island
Map of the Honeymoon Island

Today the island is a beautiful state park with gorgeous beaches and nature trails, and you can reach it by car on a causeway from the city of Dunedin. I drove there right after sunrise that Sunday, and started off on the Osprey Trail.  The natural beauty of the virgin slash pine forest was breathtaking.

HM osprey trail
The Osprey Trail
HM island pine and palm forest
Honeymoon Island forest

Right away I saw Ospreys. Some were flying and others were just hanging around, many perching on dead tree trunks close to their nests. I guess they were waiting for their mate to arrive and the nesting season to start.

HMI park osprey and her nest

All my pictures are shot from the trail. It was not advisable to walk deeper into the forest trying to get a clear shot  or a close-up . Why not? Simply because I didn’t have any desire to “shoot” the rattle snakes who also live on the island. Here are a few Ospreys out of the over 20 that I spotted that day on the Osprey Trail.

I have also prepared a small gallery of the numerous osprey nests I spotted along the trail. I thought some of them were true masterpieces showing off the nest-building capabilities of these birds. Like a Home Show.

I spotted a couple of Woodpeckers too, but couldn’t get close enough for a clear shot. Great Egrets liked to sit on the top of the tall trees and trunks, beautiful against the blue skies.

One of the Great Egrets on Honeymoon Island
One of the Great Egrets on Honeymoon Island
Another Great Egret
Another Great Egret

And I spotted a bird I had not seen before, an American Black Vulture. He was sitting in deep thought and nodded off a couple of times while I was observing him.

HM park american black vulture
An American Black Vulture
HM park american black vulture sleeping
…nodding off on his perch.

It was a peaceful hike. No manmade noises in the cool winter air. I was alone in the nature with the birds that morning.

HM pelican trail 2
The mangrove lined Pelican Trail

I wanted to hike back on the Pelican Cove Trail.  It was beautiful too and took me to the northwestern  side of the island where a small lagoon has formed between the main island and the “sand spit”. I didn’t see any Pelicans, but many other birds were wading on the “sand spit” side of the lagoon. The “sand spit” doesn’t have trails, but one can walk on the sandy beach to the north end of it to see tidal pools that tend to form there. I plan to do just that … next time.

birds on the sand spit beach HMI
Ibis and Blue Heron wading on the Sand Spit side of the Lagoon.

I stood there for quite a while inhaling the serenity and admiring the view of the calm Gulf of Mexico.  Silence swept its arms around me and I lost the sense of time. Food for the soul, nature immersion at it best.

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A view towards the ocean

On my way back I spotted an Osprey fairly close to the trail. She had just caught a big fish for late lunch or afternoon snack. And was not happy to see me approaching on the trail.

HM osprey with a fish2
An Osprey with a fish was not happy to get company…

My last discovery that day was a colony of fiddler crabs who had taken over the sandy trail. The sand was full of little “doors” to their dwellings. They were happily running back and forth conducting their business when I approached. But as soon as they felt the tremors from my tiptoeing feet, they hurried inside. I was free to pass their village.

HMI sand crab
A fiddler crab is scurrying away from the trail…
HM sand crab2
…and the last man on the run…made it to safety too!

It was a great hike! All my moving parts felt it for a couple of days. My soul still feels it.

I hope you enjoyed the trip and are not too tired from the long hike. Thanks for coming along!