Tag Archives: Bald Eagle

Help! Where was I?

The answer is here, there and everywhere. And I don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps warm greetings from a chilly NYC, where I’ve worked this past week, would be in place?

I can’t believe I’ve been away from here for over six weeks. Various adventures near and far with my friends visiting from Sweden have filled my days… sprinkled with some necessary work sessions. And then a completely unnecessary bout of severe cold kept me ‘lying flat’ for days. But now I’m upright and on the go again. Feeling thankful for it.

Our nearby adventures included, of course, the salt marsh. This past month that little village has been lively. Many migrating birds have made a stopover there to mingle with the locals.

The Mayor has tried to keep peace among the sometimes unruly crowds, but despite his watching eye, the Clown (aka the Reddish Egret) got into trouble. It started innocently enough. A Wood Stork was trying to catch a fish. But the Clown got upset and flashed his red hair… and that was it!

The larger bird went into attack. And the Clown had to flee!

That was the first time I have seen him retreating. Ever.

He had met his match and settled on a small islet. He was sulking. Or maybe mulling over what just happened.

That day the marsh had more than fifty visitors. Birds everywhere. Some were flying…

Others were running…

Many were fishing…

One or two were dreaming…

Or just mingling and giving speeches…

Mama Sandy was, as always, only watching the nest and the skies. She couldn’t be bothered with the crowds. She knows they come and go.

One day my friends went for a walk with Dylan when I had to take a break … for work. And Tony spotted something special. Sandy had allowed Stanley to the nest although the nesting season was still more than a month away!

I hadn’t seen Stanley for a couple of weeks, so perhaps they had an argument and he’d gone away for a while? To let it cool down. And when he finally returned and brought her a fish as a sign of reconciliation, she allowed him to perch on the nest. Here is the proof. Thanks Tony!

And after that they have been flying a lot together. The other day when I was trying to work while battling a bout of bad cold, they flew several times past my office window.

And one morning I saw them working together. They were chasing a huge Bald Eagle away from the salt marsh. I had no camera, but Dylan is my witness. They took turns to dive on the back of the eagle until it got tired and flew to the other side of the bay where it lives.

But I spotted a juvenile Bald Eagle on one of our trips to Taylor Park. It was trying to fish, but gave up after several unsuccessful attempts and flew back into the forest.

My friends liked Taylor Park too. So many birds always show up…
…just to disappear like magic.

And it is quite a thrill to spot a gator lurking around and looking at you…

We got to see many more of them on an airboat ride with Captain Duke we did in the central Florida swamps.

In fact, we were guests in their very special world.

We spotted numerous huge old ones in and out of the water…

And deep in the swamp, we saw a baby gator who had dared to come out of the nest hole all alone.

It was a great journey through the St. John’s River swamps, or the ‘real Florida’ as our captain put it.

Of course we spotted lots of birds as well, but it was not easy to capture them on camera while speeding through the waters.

It was an adventure deep into nature my friends appreciated.

Although they flew back home a couple of weeks ago, you can still participate in more adventures right here in the coming weeks.
Thank you for coming along to the salt marsh, the Taylor Park and to the central Florida swamps. Have a great weekend. Lady Liberty says hi.

Go Ahead, Take a Picture!

Have you ever been to an Owl Festival? And I don’t mean any festivals for night owls you may have frequented in your youth. I mean real Owls. I hadn’t either, until recently. The annual Burrowing Owl Festival took place last Saturday in Cape Coral on South Florida’s Gulf coast. It’s the home town for many colonies of these pint-sized owls, and I wanted to see these expressive, tiny birds in person for the first time.

Burrowed Owl UD152If I wanted to go on the “Photographer’s Tour”, I had to be at the festival grounds at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. So I drove south in the congested traffic on Friday afternoon for over three hours and spent the night at a hotel. But only after filling my ‘tank’ at a great Mexican establishment. Fajitas (enough) for two enjoyed by me and myself.

Fajitas for two UD152_edited-1Appropriately fortified by a rare 6 a.m. breakfast, I arrived at our meet-up-location on time. And boarded a Parks and Recreation bus with The Photographers. Most with their massive 600mm lenses and tripods, weighing over 10 lbs/5 kg. I tried to carry one of these combinations. Ouch. To tell you the truth, I’d need to go to the gym just to be able to lift that kind of equipment to eye level. So there I was with a ‘tiny’ 70-300 mm lens on my Canon and my “jogging camera”, a light-weight compact superzoom. Feeling a bit intimidated, but hopeful the owls would treat me well. And they did. Relatively speaking.

burrowing owl 3 UD152_edited-1We arrived at a sports field. There was an active burrow with both parents preparing for the nesting season. Only one greeted us when we arrived, but soon the other parent (I believe the female) also came out and they posed for us together. Too cute.

burrowing owl couple ud152Soon one of them, I believe the mom-to-be, decided it was time to continue to make their home ready for the little ones…

two owls at the burrow UD152_edited-1…and disappeared down in the burrow. The dad-to-be stayed above ground to keep an eye on us.

burrowing owl male UD152Although we were well-behaved, I could see he was on his guard. We soon discovered there were Monk Parakeets on the sports field. Among them a sweet courting couple.

a MOnk Parakeet couple ud152I was delighted to be able to observe this couple as we do not have this species in our area. Beautiful love birds.

monk parakeets ud152From there our journey continued to another site known to host much larger owls, namely Great-horned Owls. We discovered they already had fledglings. One ‘baby’ was sleeping high up in a pine tree.

great-horned owl baby is sleeping UD152 His mother was nearby, well camouflaged behind branches in the same tree.

Mother Great-horned Owl UD152_edited-1Perhaps we made some unintended noise because the ‘baby’ woke up. And seemed to nail his big yellow eyes right on me. Howdy!

young Great-horned Owl UD152Just for the record, we saw the other ‘baby’ in a close-by tree, but papa Great-horned Owl was nowhere to be found. We believed he might be sleeping in a another tree away from the mom and the babies. Perhaps seeking some privacy after a night of hunting.

We continued our journey to a field close to the owl nest in an effort to locate a family of the rare and threathened Florida Scrub Jays. We were lucky! There was a family of four residing in the scrubs on a grassy field. They are beautiful birds, a bit like the more common Blue Jay.

Florida scrub jay nat env UD152After a while they became curious. And before we knew it, two of them came to greet us! They sat on heads of photographers who wore hats…

…and one of them even wanted to specialize in photography, thoroughly examining the equipment of a fellow photographer. What a treat!

Florida Scrub Jay on Camera UD152On that field I also captured more familiar birds, a couple of Mourning Doves on a wire in the distance.

twp mourning doves ud152But I missed the Eastern Meadow Lark’s brief appearance while trying to zoom in on an approaching young Bald Eagle. And didn’t get good pictures of several other smaller birds. You just can’t have everything.

Juvenile Bald Eagle UD152We continued our journey trying to locate a Bald Eagle nest. We found both Papa and Mama Bald Eagle. With mixed feelings.

bald eagle couple UD152A note on the road side told us that this couple had lost all three of their hatchlings for unknown reasons about two weeks earlier.  The note further speculated that  the reason the parents hadn’t left the nest might be that a second clutch of eggs was forthcoming. I hope the author was right as Mama Eagle stayed firmly in the nest…

mama eagle UD152And Papa was guarding their home just a branch or two higher up.

papa bald eagle UD152I wished them the best and took a portrait of them both.

Our last stop was another active burrow, where we found a rare Burrowing Owl with black eyes. Based on the apparent division of labor I concluded he was the male.

Black-eyed burrowing owl UD152_edited-2After he trusted us a bit more, he flew closer to the burrow and soon we saw his ‘better half’ for a brief moment.

second burrowing owl couple UD152After posing for us, she went down again and started working on their burrow. Fine sand flew out in waves right on the face of her hubby.

sand blast UD152She demonstrated an ability which is unique to Florida Burrowing Owls, namely that they dig their own burrows. At first her hubby closed his eyes and took the intense sand blast, but soon realized that the remodeling effort had just started, and flew up on a perch nearby.

burrowing owl at his burrow UD152I truly enjoyed this tour with our fantastic guides, Tammy and David McQuade. And needless to say, these tiny owls captured my heart. I hope I can go back to see them next year. And if I do, I will be a little better equipped. My new 3.62 pound ‘baby’ arrived a couple of days ago.

new lens ud152The good thing is that I will not need to go to the gym to be able to hold it. I just need to be a good parent and teach it to do exactly what I ask for 🙂 Wish me luck.

I hope you enjoyed the short visit to the owls. Thanks for coming along.

 

 

Be Calm. And Enjoy Life as It Unfolds.

More than anything, I’m saying this to myself as I am facing a work trip packed with back-to-back meetings. I’m not used to such speed anymore. I’m more like the turtles I spotted at McCough Nature Park on Saturday. They just enjoy life in the present moment, lapping the sunshine. They have no hurry to do anything in particular. They accept what is and go with the flow. Or don’t go anywhere at all. A few lessons for me right there.

turtles-ud108While at this beautiful park, I also said hi to Sarge, the Bald Eagle. She has a rare feather disorder and is not able to fly. She now lives in the small Raptor Sanctuary in the park. She was undergoing tests to determine why her feathers are brittle and grow curly instead of straight. The cause could be environmental or genetic. And if it is environmental, it is important for the whole Bald Eagle population to pinpoint the exact substance that may have caused this disorder.

sarge-the-bald-eagle-ud108Sarge’s home is adjacent to a few other raptors, owls and hawks. One of the Great-horned Owls was about and about with his handler.

greathorned-owl-ud108After I had greeted all the raptors and chatted with staff, my journey continued to the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary. I couldn’t believe my luck when I arrived there exactly at the same time as Sheila’s handler. Sheila is the old Red-shouldered Hawk, whom I have met a few times in the last two years.

Sheila was happy to get out for a walk with her handler in the gorgeous winter weather. She flexed her wings vigorously before she settled down to enjoy the sunshine. She is almost blind, with very weak sight in one eye.

sheila-red-shouldered-hawk-with-her-handler-ud108When I talked to her she turned her head and looked towards me. I always enjoy her company. Walking back from the beach side where Sheila was perching, I spotted a Brown Pelican. She was doing bird yoga in the pool.

pelican-yoga-ud108This particular pose lasted for a while, and right afterwards she took a vigorous bath.

brown-pelican-bathing-ud108I walked to greet an old friend, an American Oyster Cather, who has a serious wing injury. It was great to see that she seemed to have more energy now than a few months ago when I first saw her.

american-oyster-catcher-ud-108As always, many completely healthy birds were drawn to the peace – and food – at the sanctuary. There were several American Black Vultures hanging around the hospital building. Maybe visiting their two relatives, who live here permanently.

american-black-vulture-ud108A few Black-crowned Night Herons were around too. One was busy drinking from the water fountain next to the raptor homes.

black-crowned-night-heron-ud1-8And many Brown Pelicans had made their nests in the high trees around the sanctuary. I counted 11 (!) pelican nests. The mothers-to-be were already sitting on the eggs and the males were bringing in complementary nesting materials. Or just hanging around.

papa-pelican-brings-nest-materials-ud108

male-pelican-at-the-nest-ud108Before I leave the sanctuary, I always greet the Great-horned Owl, one of the permanent residents here. He is very curious about me and the camera, and always poses nicely for a picture in his neat and clean little home. He has accepted what happened to him, a serious wing injury, and seems to enjoy every day given to him.

great-horned-owl-scbs-feb-11-ud108I was delighted to see how well the birds and their environment in this sanctuary are taken care of by the new management, all the volunteers and the medical staff who work in the hospital. They had just released several birds into the wild last week, and those who cannot manage on their own have pleasant and clean forever homes here.

On this happy note, I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day!

two-turtles-ud108

Repairs and Drama. In the Windswept Salt Marsh.

In battering winds and close to freezing temperatures, with a wind chill factor much below freezing, Mama Osprey was tightly pressed down in the middle of the nest in her Florida coat. Her head was down and pointed against the wind. She didn’t move. She was protecting her egg(s). I saw all this from my office window and decided to dare the cold to check on the Osprey Family.

When I arrived, Mama osprey acknowledged my presence. Papa Osprey was nowhere to be seen.

female osprey at the nest
Mama Osprey says hi to Tiny…

I walked over to his “man cave”. He was not there. Then I spotted him huddling in a pine tree close by. He appeared to be wet. Maybe from an unsuccessful fishing trip in the stormy bay waters on the coldest day this winter. That was on Thursday.

male osprey perching in a pine tree
Papa Osprey huddles in a pine tree…

Yesterday the weather improved slowly. The winds calmed down a bit, and after the coldest morning this winter,  the temperatures climbed to balmy 49F (9.5 C) in the afternoon.  Most birds were still in hiding when I arrived in the salt marsh, but the “Mayor” himself was hunching on a small islet. I guess he wanted to give reassurances to the other residents.  This too shall pass.

great blue heron
Mister Great Blue Heron huddles in the wind…

I found Mama Sandy eager to repair her nursery after the stormy night. She gave instructions to Papa Stanley to bring home some sturdy materials. And he promptly delivered a long stick.

male osprey repairs the nest
Papa Osprey delivers repair materials…

But it didn’t seem to be quite what Mama needed. So she left the nest, just for a couple of minutes, to do the shopping herself. And brought home a large piece taken from a palm tree.

mama osprey goes shopping A
Mama Osprey goes shopping…

mama osprey gets materials A
…for the correct materials.

She then arranged the nest to her liking, and sat down on the egg(s)again.  That’s when a threat appear in the sky. Mama sounded an alarm, and Papa Stanley hurried back to the nest.

osprey couple
Mama Osprey sounds warnings…

Osprey Steve was flying over the nest. Repeatedly. With a half eaten fish in his talons.

osprey steve flies by the nest with a half fish by tiny
…with a half eaten fish. It’s Steve.

After the “situation” was over, Mama Sandy asked for fish. And Papa flew away again. Life was returning to normal in the salt marsh.

male osprey leaves the nest
Papa osprey goes fishing…

On my way home I spotted him scanning for fish above the bay, but couldn’t stay long enough to see the outcome. But about half an hour later, I saw him fly past my office window with a small shiny fish. All was good.

male osprey scans for fish
Papa Osprey scans for fish in the bay…

This morning was beautiful. The winds were weak and the temperatures climbed steadily. I just had to get out for a long walk.

The salt marsh was bustling with activity. Ibis, Night Herons, Blue Herons and Egrets were out and about.

great egret
A Great Egret airs her plumes in the sunshine.

yellowcrowned night heron portrait
A Yellow-crowned Night Heron is completely awake.

When I arrived to the nest, Mama Osprey had just finished eating . As usual, Papa Stanley took the rest of the fish and flew to finish it off in his “man cave”.

osprey flies away with the fish
Papa Osprey flies to his “man cave” to finish his meal…

But he didn’t eat. Something else had caught his attention high up in the sky.

papa osprey watching the bald eagles by tiny
…but he can’t eat. There’s danger on the horizon.

I looked up too and saw what seemed like two huge birds circling high, high up in the sky. I took my camera and zoomed all out. Two Bald Eagles. The only real danger to Ospreys, apart from man-made hazards. Papa Osprey didn’t move. His eyes followed the two birds with complete concentration.

two bald eagles flying high above
Could these two be Bald Eagles?

Yes they were...
Yes they were…

I ran back to the nest. Mama Osprey sat on her egg(s), quietly without a peep. Watching the danger in the sky. No alarm calls. It was better to remain silent and pretend to be invisible.

osprey watching the eagles
Mama Osprey watches the Eagles as well…

I knew there was a Bald Eagle nest on the other side of the bay, and gathered this might be the couple. They appeared to be completely taken by their courting dance high up in the air, and not hunting. After about five minutes they disappeared towards the bay. I could almost hear the sigh of relief from Mama Sandy. And soon Papa Stanley arrived back to the nest with his still uneaten fish. Better safe than sorry.

osprey returns with his fish 16x9
Papa Osprey returns with his fish…to be with Mama.

The danger was over and weekend was going great again.

I hope your weekend is going well too. Reporting from the salt marsh, Tiny