Yesterday, for the fist time in more than a week, I was able to take a walk in the nature reserve. I was delighted to find the Gallinule family, mom and all three kids. Fluffy black balls with red sprinkles.
Mrs. Gallinule is extremely skilful in hiding her chicks even when they are on the move, but a little movement under bushes and grass next to the water gave her away.
They were getting swimming lessons. Common Gallinules have big feet and walk well on the ground, but they are also good swimmers. And these cuties were already moving pretty fast 🙂
While in the park, I also had to check on the osprey nest. I found the juvenile there alone. She looks more and more like an adult now as the white feathering on her wings is becoming less marked. She was having brunch, fish that she’d caught by herself. It seems that she is completely independent now, but still continues to use the nest for eating and resting. I saw her there also late last night when I checked the nest from my terrace. It seems she was sleeping there, but by morning she was gone again. Probably to get some breakfast.
The last time I saw her there together with papa osprey was five days ago. Mama osprey might have left the nesting area already (the female often leaves before the young ones are fully independent), but I’m almost sure papa osprey is still hanging around somewhere in the vicinity. Keeping an eye. As you can see the nest is becoming very “bare bones” now. Its duty for this season is almost done…serving as a home for the osprey couple who produced one healthy offspring. And that is a great thing!
Little more than two weeks ago, I saw mama osprey sitting tight in the nest with the recently fledged junior (above). Since then a lot has happened. Papa has returned and mama has moved out. Don’t worry, that’s how it’s supposed to be according to the research I’ve got my hands on (became a subscriber to Cornell Ornithology Lab’s research). Mama now lives somewhere in the vicinity, and papa osprey has taken over the continued education of the increasingly independent teen.
The appearance of the nest has changed along with the family dynamics. Many of the “necorations” have been discarded or have fallen off. A little bit of a “man cave” feel to it now. Mama osprey’s balcony flowers are still hanging in there by bare teeth, dry and not blooming anymore.
I’ve been following the dad-teen duo through visits to the nest (until I caught a cold bug end of last week) and many times a day from my terrace. I’d like to understand what’s happening towards the end of their nesting season.
Last week I found them at the nest most mornings. In the afternoons the nest was usually empty until close to sunset time when papa osprey returned first and the teen shortly thereafter. Every evening I could see that both papa osprey and the youngster were back in the nest. Often having dinner under the last rays of sun. All was well.
One day last week, I saw something interesting. I was standing behind my usual camouflage tree when I heard papa osprey’s call. It was different from what I’ve heard before, very agitated or maybe I should say emotional. The youngster joined in, singing a different tune.
I saw papa sitting at the south-west edge of the nest (his favorite spot) and peering intently at the south skies. I followed his line of sight and saw a small prick flying high in the sky. It moved like an osprey and I thought it might have been mama osprey checking on her family from the distance. I got a quick shot, and it looks like it’s an osprey (when I made it bigger and more blurry) but the bird was much too far away to tell whether or not it really was mama osprey.
This week the nest has been used even a little less. I’m sure the fishing lessons are happening somewhere on the ocean-side, and that the youngster already flies long distances very confidently. It’s like getting a driver’s license. A new freedom to come and go. Some evenings, just minutes before dark, I’ve seen papa osprey alone, watching the skies and waiting patiently. The teen tends to stay out very late, I’m sure well past her curfew time. In the morning the next day I’ve seen both of them again.
This afternoon, while observing the duo from my terrace, I saw the juvenile suddenly fly away over the bay and follow another osprey. I wonder if that might have been mama osprey? Papa stayed put at the nest.
Ospreys are solitary birds, apart from during the nesting season. It lasts about five months, from the time the usually monogamous parents come together to build or upgrade the nest to the time when the young are independent and everyone starts preparing for their migration south. These guys started their nest-building early January so it’s five months about now. I’m not sure whether this couple and the youngster will actually migrate (we see ospreys here year round), but if they do decide to go further south, it’ll happen in July-August.
I will do one more post about the osprey family little later, summarizing my most interesting observations and best pictures for this nesting season. I discovered I have a few exciting pictures I didn’t include in any of my posts so far. So stay tuned…
I’ve also decided to try to get some new gear to be able to observe them better when they (hopefully) return for the next nesting season. And I’ll also go back to school. Need to understand these fascinating birds a little better.
After returning from my trip this morning, I headed out to see the osprey family. Before even unpacking my suitcase. About a week ago, I’d seen the youngster take off for a short flight above the nest, and I was excited to see if she would fly out of the nest today.
You noticed I said “she”? I’m now almost sure it’s a girl. She is much like her mama. Just look at them side by side, the decorations on her breast are quite marked, like an elaborate “necklace” typical for female osprey.
When I arrived in the nature reserve, mama osprey was keeping an eye on the youngster, as usual. Papa osprey was nowhere to be seen. I assumed he was on fishing duty. I took my position under the trees and observed the two quietly for about 15 minutes. As there were no signs of anything much happening, I relaxed, put down my camera and just sat there lapping the morning sun.
Suddenly the youngster turned, looked down…and just “fell” from the nest spreading her wings. She took me by total surprise! I had expected to see some wing flexing, but she just went over the edge and eased into flight! Of course I didn’t catch that very moment with my camera, but caught up a few seconds into her flight.
She was flying really low, close to the water. I’m sure she had seen some fish close to the surface and wanted to check it out. Since I was way back from the marsh, I could only see her a few times above the brush and the trees.
It was fantastic to see her fly. Her wings flapped a lot and were not yet perfectly synchronized, but she was in the air on her own flying about 2-3 minutes above the marsh! Then she soared upwards and made a successful, if not perfect, landing back into the nest. I’m sure you noticed how mama osprey was leaning outward to make room for her flapping wings.
I stayed with them for a while but there didn’t seem to be more practice sessions planned for this morning. I assume that the young one needs a little more flying practice before the diving and fishing lessons will start. I will try to keep a close eye on developments.
Before I left them, I noticed that mama osprey’s balcony plants are still green with some white flowers – after three weeks! I have to admire her gardening skills, among other impressive stuff I’ve seen over the last couple of months.
I couldn’t keep myself from checking on the osprey family again. You knew that, right? I had been spying on the nest from our terrace using binoculars …unfortunately it’s too far for me to get sharp pictures with my current camera gear.
So yesterday, after shoving down half a salad late in the lunch hour, I ran out to the nature reserve. Ok – I didn’t really run, but that’s how it felt in the afternoon heat.
Approaching the nest I only saw the mama. She was observing me. The nestling was laying low, but I could see little movement of his head every now and then. They were not eating lunch as yet.
It was about 2 p.m. and papa osprey was nowhere to be seen. That’s until mama osprey thought I had been too sloppy with my camouflage. She gave out a few short high-pitched whistles, cheep cheep. The calls were not the kind of frenzied cheereeks I had heard earlier when the dogs approached the nest, but papa osprey appeared almost immediately! He flew over the nest, looked down on me and tipped his hat (sorry, I missed that picture). That’s old Tiny, he seemed to think, no danger from her. He didn’t even circle the nest, just continued to fly high towards the beach. He has great intuition.
I decided to turn and walked around the marsh to the other side of the nest where the ospreys are more used to see joggers and other loose folks like me. I was still a bit away, busy watching some ibis birds and egrets washing and drying themselves in the marsh, when I sensed something in the air. I looked up and saw a huge fish hanging from the talons of papa osprey’s right foot high up in the air!
Lunch had arrived, fresh from the ocean! There was activity in the nest. I guessed the fish was portioned out. But I got a surprise! The nestling was being fed by his mama again!
I left them to enjoy their lunch in peace and quiet. It was not yet the time for flying practice.
For weekend reading I want to invite you to come along for another walk on the beach and in the nature reserve close to my home. My outing earlier this week was on an intermittently sunny, but windy day. It was not yet warm. Although it’s March, it felt more like winter. That’s relative, of course.
Spring has actually started by now here on the nature coast, but one wouldn’t know it from the weather. Temperatures are several degrees cooler than the averages for this time of the year. Even an implant like me is still using a jacket. Then, how do I know it’s spring? Easy. There is lots of pollen in the air and allergies are in high gear. Even my dog, Bumble, got an allergy shot this week. Not kidding.
The pelicans have not yet returned to the beach, but I could see a few sea gulls patrolling the windy ocean front. My eyes were watering from the wind so I decided to turn away from the beach and walk in the nature reserve.
I immediately knew I would have much better luck in spotting birds. The first one I saw was a small blue heron wading in the marsh. Then I spotted a bunch of white ibis birds. They were playing “follow the leader”. And marched right across the trail I was walking on. One, two, three…
At the first glance the marshland looked empty. But then I discovered several birds hiding from the cool wind amongst the trees and bushes. Here’s a small heron taking shelter. I would say it was well camouflaged.
After a while I encountered two birds who were very happy to pose for close-ups. A large sea gull
who had taken shelter in the park, which is rare, and a white ibis braving the wind on the top of an old swing. It didn’t look very happy, I thought.
My next find was much more rare, a roseate spoonbill. I have only seen one about a year ago in this reserve. This one might be visiting or maybe renting a home here only for the spring break?
But I thought it was beautiful! I was standing there admiring the spoonbill when a great blue heron landed elegantly in the water right in front of me. This one definitely lives here.
It always patrols the different areas of the park and it occurred to me that it might be the neighborhood watchman? Or maybe the tax collector?
I continued my walk and saw tiny bird. I hope it felt welcomed by the many big birds who call this reserve their home. As we say in the Nordic countries: if there’s room in the heart, there’s room in the home.
Before I leave the park, I always check on the resident osprey couple. It seems that they are not yet expecting any addition to the family. But I guess it’s just a matter of time. I’m going to keep an eye on them from our terrace. I can see their nest using strong binoculars. It would be so cool to catch a few flying lessons when the juveniles start practicing. If I do, I’ll make sure to share the pictures with you.