Tag Archives: Beach

A Day by the Sea

Waking up this morning, I smile. 24 brand new hours are before me. – Thich Nhat Hanh

the bay before sunrise UD15The breeze at dawn has secrets to tell you. – Rumi

sunrise at the beach UD1God gives every bird his worm, but He does not throw it into the nest. –  P. D. James

Willet shore birdWhat will our children do in the morning if they don’t see us fly? – Rumi

sandwich tern flying in the surf in ud67I realized that if I had to choose, I would rather have birds than airplanes. – Charles Lindbergh

pelican taking off 3 ud25Quiet is peace. Tranquility. Quiet is turning down the volume knob on life. Silence is pushing the off button. Shutting it down. All of it. – Khaled Hosseini

our camp on dolphin island ud67.jpgMay your journey through life be vibrant and full of colorful rainbows. -Harley King

rainbow beach ud67bClouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.” – Rabindranath Tagore

sunset ship ud67For most people, we often marvel at the beauty of a sunrise or the magnificence of a full moon, but it is impossible to fathom the magnitude of the universe that surrounds us.       – Richard H. Baker

full moon clearwater floridaThe pure bliss nature will plant in your soul is worth a day spent by the sea. – Tiny

Lady Cawcaw Performs. And High Drama at the Salt Marsh.

Two Ospreys were circling in the skies above the nest, looking down and talking to Lady Cawcaw. Both Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley were calling on her to go fishing with them. She responded something I didn’t quite understand, but she didn’t lift her butt from the nest. Typical teenager. After a few minutes Sandy flew over the nest with a fish. She is lightning fast. In the top 10 % of Ospreys as far as fishing speed is concerned. She was looking up at Stanley who had yet to go fishing.

papa osprey calls for chick to go fishing ud65

Mama Osprey with a fish ud65Seeing the fish, Lady Cawcaw started to sing. She  sang from the heart. You know that song. It’s quite repetitive, as you can hear in this 30 second clip.

But that didn’t work. No fish for her. Instead, Sandy landed on Mariott’s roof to enjoy her fish.

mama osprey eats her fish ud65And Stanley, once he flew towards the ocean, soon came back with a fish and started eating it in his usual hideout in the old pine tree close to the nest.

papa osprey eats his fish ud65.jpgAs you can see, Lady Cawcaw’s parents both caught the same kind of fish. I’m sure there was a school of that particular fish close to the shore and that was the reason they wanted her to come with them and learn. But no.

osprey chick 16x9 ud65She was hungry. And she continued to ask for food. I was sitting on “my” bench and watching her desperate quest to be fed without getting her feathers wet, when I noticed some movement on the water below the nest. I couldn’t believe my eyes…

mottled duck mom with 7 ducklings ud65…when Mama Mottled Duck swam to the shore with seven ducklings. She climbed up on the grass and so did the ducklings. Where was she taking them?!

mama duck and ducklings 2 ud65They marched straight towards the stone wall between the marsh and the busy street. Oh, no!!

mama duck in the grass ud65Mama Duck knew about a hole in the wall and they went through it. I had to run around the stone wall to get to the road. The traffic had to be stopped! I was gesturing like a mad woman (that I am) to the cars. Mama Duck and the ducklings marched right on to the busy street!

mama mottled duck takes ducklings over the gulf blvd ud65The cars stopped! They did. And Mama marched onto the Sailing Center grounds. Then into the grass and further towards the bay.

mama duck and duckling safely on the bay side ud65I guess their nest had been flooded by the rains dumped on us by TS Colin, and she had to move. The salt marsh is brimming with water.

salt marsh after Colin ud65Probably the highest water levels I’ve seen. Many of the small islands are under water and marsh flowers are sticking up from the water.

flooding at the salt marsh UD65The whole marsh looks more like a lake. No small “beaches” or mud flats.

This was on Tuesday, but the water had not receded even today. I walked around the marsh this morning and noticed that only large wading birds were around, and even they were sitting on the little trees sticking up from the water.

great egret ud65All, apart from the younger Great Blue Heron. He was standing right next to “my” bench. And he didn’t like to see me.

young great blue heron ud65In fact, he was very vocal about it. Before he took off.

younger great blue heron ud65.jpgApart from Great Egrets, I spotted a Snowy Egret on the doggy park fence, next to a little “lake” that had formed there.

snowy egret ud65

She was watching a Mottled Duck happily swimming around in the temporary “lake”.

mottled duck ud65…while her cousins, the Moorhens, were cruising the marsh in big numbers.

papa moorhen ud65And how was the svelte Lady Cawcaw, you may ask. She was just fine. She sang again. And this time her song was heard. Mama Sandy came in with half a fish.

mama osprey delivers fish UD65I left her eating her small portion, and walked onto the beach. A big party was going on in the new fresh water lake.

black skimmers royal terns and laughing gulls bathing ud65Laughing Gulls, Black Skimmers and Royal Terns enjoyed the temporary bath tub. There were hundreds of birds around. Some flying in tandem…

two black skimmers ud65…others just relaxing on the sand.

black skimmer sleeps ud65I was almost at home when an Osprey flying over the ocean caught my eye. It was lady Cawcaw!

osprey chick flies over the ocean 3 ud65I guess her small lunch had left her hungry. She flew beautifully, but was not looking down. She’s yet to learn that fish don’t fly. But this was a great start. Next time when her parents want her to go fishing with them, she just might follow them.

We all wish you a great weekend ahead. Peace.

Naming Party. Accompanied by Colin.

So Tropical Storm Colin was a rain-maker. Not much punch in the wind department, only occasional 50 mph/80 kmph gusts, but flash floods on the roads and many flooded neighborhoods. Youngsters were kayaking on some streets in the city last night. Not good, but not as bad as expected.

lake in the garden ud65For us here on the beach it brought elevated tide levels and rip currents, a freshwater lake on the beach and another in the garden. And the salt marsh is brimming with water after 48 hours of continuous down pours. Fresh.

terns and flooring from Colin ud65Throughout the day yesterday, I was keeping an eye at the Osprey chick who was alone in the nest. At the beginning of the storm yesterday morning, I saw her standing in the nest. She was not laying down and facing the wind, as you can see. It was clear she had not yet acquired the storm savvy of her parents.

osprey chick in the the storm Colin ud65When the worst of the storm came over us around midday, it was impossible to see anything for the walls of rain moving sideways. And it became really dark. I tried to shoot pictures of the osprey nest in the salt marsh…

colin middle of the day ud65…and only after much magic in the “filter room”, I could get one picture where it was possible to distinguish the Osprey chick in the nest. Now she was laying down facing the wind.

osprey chick layig low in high winds colin ud65When the torrential rains had eased up a bit, I could see she was still “flat” in the nest. She had not flown anywhere, and her parents had not gone fishing for her.

osprey chick bracing the wind of colin ud65Finally when the wind had also eased up, at around 6:30 p.m., I found her eating supper. Probably the only meal she got yesterday. I guess Papa Stanley had managed to spot a fish in the choppy seas for her. I think this young lady learned quite a bit. Resilience, endurance and confidence.

names for osprey chick ud65.jpgMeanwhile, inside our comparatively much cozier home, I was preparing for the “drawing” to determine her name. All together 21 great name proposals were received. Thank you all!

the hat ud 65

I typed out all the names on paper strips of the equal size. Then folded the strips around pieces of Dylan’s favorite cookies. He was patiently following the whole procedure. Without snatching one single piece. Talk about self discipline. I went to get the hat while he guarded the cookie pieces. But the hat was too small for all the pieces to lay flat.

dylan waiting for the drawing ud65.jpgSo I put the cookies wrapped in paper (instead of bacon) in his toy basket. I placed it on the floor. Dylan was looking for permission to start the drawing, but didn’t move. Only when I said he was allowed to take a piece, he quickly sprung into action.

dylan doing the drawing ud65He picked one piece with the paper and all into his mouth, but I managed to grab the paper strip before he ate it. And this was the name he picked out…

name revealed ud65Lady Cawcaw!  That’s a suitable name for a great singer our chick has already proven to be 😉 Congratulations to Hariod!  Dylan got himself two more pieces of his favorite dessert once I had removed the papers.

The book arrived today and will be on its way to England as soon as I receive your address, dear Hariod.

the prize book ud65Lady Cawcaw survived the storm. And I have lots to tell you about the “day after the storm”, amusement and drama in equal parts. And a long awaited performance. Of a different kind. But I don’t want to make this post too long so that will need to wait until next time.

osprey chick Lady cawcaw ud65Tonight we will have a sunset and I’m looking forward to capturing it. Be well.

 

Sunset Musings. And Naming Sweepstakes.

In 2014 Sandy and Stanley had one chick, a girl. I named her Diamond because she had a “necklace” that was diamond-shaped. In this picture taken in June 2014, she is carrying a half-eaten fish after a fishing trip with Stanley.

Diamond flying 2014 ud63Those who have followed my posts a bit longer may remember that I thought Diamond came to visit her parents in December last year. This is the only picture I got of her, taken right against the sun, but you can see her “necklace” was still there.

maybe Diamond ud63.jpgThen last year, Sandy and Stanley had three chicks. You, the friends of this Osprey family, named them Lofty, Aspire and Sindile. Lofty was the self-assured older brother, Aspire was the middle sister who aspired to do everything Lofty did, and Sindile was the sweet little sister.

last years osprey family ud63They all grew up nicely and fledged. Then in about four to five weeks they all learned to fish for themselves and left the nest. Sandy and Stanley were exhausted and went on a well deserved vacation.

Last years chicks ud63You may remember I thought Aspire also came back to visit her parents last December. What a beautiful young lady she had become.

aspire ud63So this year they had two chicks. The little one was born at least a week after the firstborn, which in itself was strange, and unfortunately she did not survive.

two osprey chicks ud63The beautiful firstborn fledged last week and now deserves to be named. I don’t think she’d like to be referred to as “the chick of 2016” when she comes to visit her parents later on all grown up.

osprey chick ud60Last night I took my light camera along for our evening walk to the doggy park and took a few sunset pictures using the dog stabilizer, pictured below.

dylan dog stabilizer ud63All my pictures are all little “soft” as the stabilizer was disturbed by some squirrels and other irresistible attractions along the trail. But you can see the Osprey chick was alert and looking intently at something on the ground, while Mama Sandy was enjoying some rest warmed by the last rays of sun.

mama and osprey chick at sunsset ud63I had to look right into the sun to see what she was staring at. Shading my eyes, I could finally distinguish a blue-gray shape hunkering behind some glittering long grass. The younger Great Blue Heron was in attendance. And the chick was keeping an eye on him.

young GBH 3 UD63

We also found Miss Rosa. She was standing on one foot and sleeping.

roseate spoonbill 2 ud63And walking back from the doggy park, we also spotted a Snowy Egret still hunting in the shallow waters.

snowy egret ud63Walking back home, I decided to take a swing on the bay side. The last rays colored everything vibrantly so I snapped a picture of the Sailing Center pier, while Dylan was looking right into the water from the edge of the sea wall.

sunset on the bay and papa osprey ud63Only after taking the picture, I realized there was something familiar. I zoomed closer while making sure Dylan didn’t intend to do a somersault into the water below. And caught a wet Papa Stanley resting on the railing, after what I believed was a failed dive for supper. I thought he looked like a painting.

papa osprey ud63Back to the name issue. What’s it gonna be? I leave that up to you. Please propose fun names for this girl in the comments. Last year I found it difficult to judge all those great proposals, so this year we are going to do a lottery, or sweepstakes. All you have to do is to put one name (not yet proposed by others) in the comments by next Monday, June 6.  I will then print them all out,  put them into a hat and Dylan will do the drawing. Dylan two weeks at home 3We’ve agreed that I will tie the name slips onto small halves of his favorite cookies. And the name on the first cookie piece he picks will be the winner. That should be fair. The only challenge with this procedure will be for me to take away the hat before he eats all the pieces.

Now you might be wondering about the price. No? I will not keep you guessing. The winner will get my 8 x 8″photo book about last year’s nesting season in hard cover, My Life as an Osprey. It’s in print already, so please hurry up 🙂 The winner will be announced next Wednesday.

osprey book 2015 seasonDylan and I are hoping you’ll come up with some great sounding names that even he can pronounce. Thanks in advance for putting you creative thinking hat on. Be good now. Tiny & Dylan

 

We are Flying! But Are We Ever Gonna Eat?

The Osprey chick caught me completely off guard! She really did. Last Tuesday when I took my “birding” camera on the morning walk with Dylan, she was still a nestling. We walked past the nest and nothing much was up. The chick was alone in the nest, I guessed Mama Sandy had gone to run some errands after breakfast. Osprey moms do that from the time the chicks are 5-6 weeks old.

osprey chick ud62Right when we were leaving Sandy came back and gave us a friendly look. I think she has now accepted Dylan as a part of this paparazzo’s entourage.

mama osprey gets something to the nest ud61We saw many smaller birds, like this Northern Mockingbird who lives at the marsh.

northern mocking bird ud62And a Brown-headed Cowbird, who doesn’t love dogs very much. I can tell from the sharp warning calls as soon as Dylan approaches.

brown-headed cowbird ud62A Great-tailed Grackle sang for us from a lamp-post along the walkway.

Boat-tailed Gragle ud62And the Mourning Dove sat on the driveway fence checking us out, just like she does almost every morning.

Mourning dove in the morning ud62So late yesterday morning, after all the necessary morning chores, I set out by myself to check the beach and the developments at the salt marsh. I took my new camera with me and shot some macros in the garden before heading to the beach. This girl needs to get acquainted with her new gear.

bee macro ud61I got my first tiny insect, a bee in the White Bird of Paradise flower, but he didn’t care to look into the camera. And a couple of flowers and buds too, of course.

garden flower macro ud62

flower bud macro 2 ud62

new leaf opening 2 macro

flower bud macro ud62I still have tons to learn, and have to start carrying the heavier camera and the lenses to experiment with macros and other more advanced types of shots. I’m sure I will get a hang of it by time.

Our beach was quiet. Idyllic, if I may say. But the public beach just off the salt marsh was already buzzing with activity.

our beach on Sand Key ud62All kinds of fun stuff was going on in the water and in the air. This is one of the busiest weekends of the year around here.

parasailing ud62But the salt marsh was serene as always. I walked directly towards the Osprey nest. On my way I saw a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. He had caught something big, maybe a crab, and didn’t quite know what to do with it. It could be that he hadn’t been successful during his night shift and grabbed the biggest piece available for brunch.

yellow-crowned night heron was hunting ud62I heard Mama Sandy’s alarm calls, and again didn’t see anything threatening in the air. But just as I arrived to the East-end of the marsh, something big flew by me. Yes, you guessed it. The younger Great Blue Heron made his entrance and landed right below the Osprey nest.

young great blue heron ud62 He has grown to a big handsome bird, and hopefully his manners have improved. But Sandy didn’t take any chances. She immediately flew down and swooped by this fellow. Just to make a point. It all happened in a couple of seconds and I only caught her when she landed back in the nest.

mama osprey returns to chick ud62The chick was taking notes. Then I realized that apparently their brunch was late. The chick was fairly vocal about it.

I hadn’t noticed Papa Stanley fly by with a fish, but when both the chick and Sandy were asking for fish and looking in the direction of the woods on the other side of the trail, I thought I’d better  investigate. And soon I found him in a pine tree with a big fish.

papa osprey with a fish 2 UD62Stanley was soaking wet and had just started to eat the head of the fish.  He looked in the direction of the nest where the chick was hurrying him along. And briefly checked on me too.

papa osprey with a fish ud62I walked back to the nest, took some portraits of the two ladies and waited with them. But still no fish delivery.

portrait of mama osprey ud62

osprey chick 2 ud62

mama osprey and chick waiting for fish ud62So finally I decided to go back home not to be late for my own lunch date. Just when I reached the street and looked back towards the nest, I saw the chick take off! She had fledged in the last few days! She flew a round high over the bay and also took a swing over the woods where Stanley was working on the fish. Sandy sat alone in the nest and watched her. Proud mama.

mama osprey watches chick flying ud62I decided to wait right there to see the chick come back to the nest. In a couple of minutes she approached. It looked like she might miss the nest.

osprey chick approaches the nest ud62Sandy got ready for action, but luckily the chick could work her wings and steer onto the edge of the nest.

osprey chick landing ud62.jpgAnd she landed safely next to Sandy.

ocprey chick is back in the nest ud62She got some motherly advice from Sandy right away. I wish I would’ve understood what was said. But I’m sure it was something wise.

mama osprey advises osprey chick 2 ud62I had witnessed one of the chick’s first flights. And now I had to run home. I hope friends in the US are having a nice long weekend. All of us at the marsh wish everyone a wonderful week ahead. Thanks coming along on this long Memorial Day weekend walk.

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.

Papa Osprey’s Photo Shoot. And an Illicit Visitor at the Salt Marsh.

The sun was barely up on my first day home after the trip when I stepped out in the garden. Without even a cup of coffee. I just had to go see my feathered friends before starting a busy day. And he was right there. The Little Blue Heron, in a shady spot under the palm trees.

little blue heron in our garden ud21It was wonderful to be welcomed home by one of my friends from the salt marsh. The beach was quiet. And the rainwater “lake” was gone.

sunrise beach ud21The salt marsh looked fresh and misty. And I saw the water levels were almost back to normal. Little islets stuck up from the water, just as they used to.

sunrise at salt marsh ud21Most birds were still in their sleeping quarters, but Mama Sandy was already having her breakfast at the nest. She had a nasty wound on her left leg, but looked okay otherwise.

mama osprey with a fish ud21When I came closer, she greeted me in her typical straight forward, but friendly manner. I thought she even smiled.

mama osprey at the nest UD21I found the young Great Blue Heron (GBH) close to the osprey nest, as often is the case. He didn’t bother to look at me. He might be familiar with my view on his attacks on the nest earlier this year.

young blue heronThe Tri-colored Heron, who had temporarily moved elsewhere during the floods, was back home. She was happily hunting for her breakfast in the shallow waters.

tricolored heron ud21And just when I was about to leave, Rosa, the Roseate Spoonbill flew in. It’s always nice to see her. And it looks like she might think the same about me 🙂

roseate spoonbill landing ud21roseate spoonbill Rosa ud21I continued my walk to the bay side, and marveled at the European Starlings greeting the sun on a lamp-post next to the park.

starling family at sunrise ud21I decided to check if Papa Stanley would be at his resort. He was at home. Still sleeping when I arrived.

papa osprey sleeping ud21He soon discovered me and decided to pose for a photo shoot. A rare treat, and so very kind of him.

papa ospey says hi ud21papa osprey in his resort ud21papa osprey portraIT 2 UD21papa osprey portrait ud21I thought he was quite handsome. That was a great home-coming.

I got another opportunity to get out for a quick walk this morning. I discovered that the “beach lake” had reemerged after yesterday’s short, but intense storm. Many birds were enjoying rainwater baths and the special menu the fresh waters had to offer.

more rainwater and birds on the beach ud21snowy egret 2 ud21theyoung great blue heron ud21black skimmer drinking fresh water ud21juvenile black skimmer sleeping ud21And some, like this juvenile Black Skimmer, were just plain tired of all the excitement.

While the young GBH was frolicking at the “beach lake”, the older one, the Mayor, was back in charge at the salt marsh.

mayor great blue heronI bet he was not happy to see this illicit fisherman trying to capture the fish that belongs to the residents. I was not happy either.

fisherman at salt marsh ud21I wished Sandy had been at the nest and given him a small lesson. But luckily, as soon as I started walking towards the park HQ, he packed his gear and left. Once he was gone, I came back to greet the Great and Snowy Egrets who were enjoying the sunshine in large numbers, and then walked back home.

great egret on the top ud21So much excitement, as always, at the salt marsh. Thank you for coming along. We all wish you a wonderful weekend!

After the Big Rains. Long Lineup to the Smorgasbord.

Okay. The relentless storms are over. But I don’t even know how to begin to tell the story of the delightful bird invasion we’ve had around here this past week. The fresh water pooled up on the beach during the rains has been like a magnet for the shorebirds, particularly Black Skimmers and terns, among them many juveniles. They’ve been foraging in whatever little is left of the “beach lake”. (Click on the pictures for larger versions)

Terns and black skimmers Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaMany Black Skimmer parents have been encouraging their teenagers to start flying. That’s been quite amusing to watch. Like this mom and her baby. Mom nudged the baby asking her to practice flying. But she’d only flex her wings halfheartedly. While her pop, a few feet away, would dig in the sand impatiently, and “bark” at her to go up in the air already.

black skimmer mom and baby Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridablack skimmer Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Florida

And the beach has been swarming with Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns and gulls. Some practicing synchronized preening. Others fishing. And yet others arguing with their parents.

terns Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridaroyal terns preening Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaRoyal Tern diving Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridaroyal tern divig Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridaroyal tern caught a fish Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridaroyal tern mom and juvenile Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaAnd the tiny Sanderlings have brought their whole extended family to enjoy the beach.

sanderlings Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaWhere they were mixing with Willets and American Oystercathers. So many birds!

young willet Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaAmerican oystercatcher Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaAnd for the first time ever, I’ve spotted a baby Ruddy Turnstone. She was tentatively examining the beach with her mom fairly close by.

juvenile Ruddy Turnstone Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaThe same has been true for the park next to the salt marsh. Long lines to the smorgasbord at shallow ditches still filled with fresh rainwater. Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Spoonbills, Ibis, Night Herons, you name it. All sharing the rare treat of fresh water.

egrets foraging in flood waters Sand Key Park, Clearwater, Floridasnowy egret and roseate spoonbill Sand Key Park, Clearwater, Floridajuvenile white ibis Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaAt the salt marsh, Mama Sandy has taken charge. I guess the Mayor is on vacation as I haven’t seen him since last week.

female osprey Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaSandy has been sitting at the front edge of the nest following the developments with a keen eye. For the most part things have been going smoothly, but I noticed some competition about great scanning posts among the many egrets. At least forty of them.

salt marsh birds Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaSandy also kept an eye on the skies. And when I followed her line of sight, I saw a Red-shouldered Hawk flying high above the marsh.

redshouldered hawk Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaI was hoping the hawk didn’t spot the ducklings performing synchronized diving in the deep waters.

mottled ducklings diving Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaRosa, the resident Roseate Spoonbill, had not cared to venture out of the marsh to see her cousins feeding in the remaining floodwaters elsewhere in the park. She was at home, in the shade under the osprey nest as usual.

roseate spoonbill Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaI hope you enjoyed the many birds saying hello to us here on the beach and at the salt marsh. I’m flying away too for a few days (this is a scheduled post). I’ll try to stay in touch on my mobile devices. In any case I’ll catch up early next week.

terns on the beach Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaI wish you all a wonderful weekend. Remember to enjoy what nature has to offer. Fly high!

Flooding. Deserted Salt Marsh. And the Mayor’s Speech.

After 21 straight days of storms that dumped over 20 inches of rain on us, I’m happy to report we’re seeing the sun again here on the west coast of the “sunshine state”. When the rain finally stopped on Monday afternoon, I went to check out the flooding. And to see if I could spot any of my feathered friends.

beach and park flooding after the storms sand key clearwater florida

The beach and all the trails to the park were flooded. The new “Beach Lake” was even bigger than last week. As the rain had stopped, some boys tried to play ball at the shallow end of it. Lots of splashing.

playing ball on the flooded beach sand key clearwater florida

It was still gloomy, but the sun tried to show its face from under a hefty cloud cover. I didn’t want to repeat my wading exercise from last week, so I walked to the salt marsh on the street and the partly flooded walkways. The only bird I found on the usually lively bay shore was this Willet bathing in the floodwaters.

a willet bathing in flood water bay side sand key clearwater florida

And I spotted Papa Osprey. He was perched on a lamp-post far away, shaking his feathers and looking quite disheveled.

male osprey on a lamp post sand key clearwater florida

Entering the park, I saw flooding everywhere. All low-lying areas were under water, and the doggy park just north of the salt marsh had become a water feature for the birds.

flooding in the park sand key clearwater floridadoggy park under water sand key clearwater florida

Otherwise the salt marsh was deserted.  I walked around looking for my friends, water sloshing around my boots. The only birds I could find, in addition to those at the doggy park, were the young Great Blue Heron and Mama Sandy.  The heron was walking in the high grass, and Sandy was roosting at the nest. She was clearly tired of the rains. Just like me.great blue heron inspects the marsh sand key clearwater floridafemale osprey perching at her nest Sand Key park Clearwater FloridaThe water level in the marsh was too high for many of the birds to hunt there…and still rising. So they had evacuated.

salt marsh under water Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Yesterday afternoon, after three days of sunshine, I went back there to check how things were progressing. The flood waters in the park had receded considerably, but the marsh was brimming with water, and the beach was still flooded.

To my delight, I found that many residents had returned. The old Great Blue Heron, the Mayor, was surveying his little village at the west end of the marsh. He was addressing the community. Saying it was safe to return, I gathered.

great blue heron inspects the marsh Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

I had to laugh when I saw the crowd on the fence of the doggy park. They were listening to the Mayor while trying to dry up in the sun. The park was too soggy for the dogs to come back, so it was a safe place to roost.

egrets and ibis perching on the fence in the dog park Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Egrets and Ibis were perching on trees and bushes in big numbers. Like white dots sprinkled all over the marsh. And the Roseate Spoonbill was enjoying some shade at her usual spot below the osprey nest. She kindly agreed to a photo shoot.

birds in the salt marsh after the storms Sand Key park Clearwater Floridaa roseate spoonbill Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

The young Night Heron was back too, drying his feathers next to the deep water. It looks like he’s become a permanent resident. Decided the salt marsh was a safe place to grow up.

juvenile night heronSand Key park Clearwater Florida

The tiny Tricolored Heron surveyed the water levels at the east end of the marsh, looking a bit anxious. She probably understood it’d be some time before she could go hunting there again. The grassy little pools where she’d normally go fishing were now part of the “lake”. Full of big, scary fish.

tricolored heron on a stormy day Sand Key park Clearwater Floridafish in the salt marsh Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

The Mottled Ducks were happily cruising the waters, and so were the Moorhen families. With kids of all ages.

moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Floridamoorhen chick and a juvenile moorhen Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

And Mama Sandy was perched in her “watch tower”, monitoring the busy air traffic between the bay and the beach. I saw the young Great Blue Heron fly over the nest, and heard Sandy give a stiff warning. She has no tolerance for fools who’ve attacked her nest.

female osprey Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Before going home, I had to check on Papa Stanley too. He was back in his resort, looking much more put together. And really paying attention to me. I felt tiny under such scrutiny.

male osprey Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Life at the salt marsh is slowly returning to normal.  We all wish you a wonderful weekend and thank you for coming to see us. Much appreciated. Just like the sunshine.