Tag Archives: Bird_watching

Papa Osprey is a Modern Dad. And Other Foggy Stuff from the Salt Marsh.

This winter mix of weird weather gave us a short break last Sunday. Sizzling 72 F (22 C) and sunny. I took a long walk on the beach and in the park around the salt marsh.

Boring...a Royal Tern is yawning...
This heat makes me so sleepy….a Royal Tern yawns in the company of a Ring-billed Gull.

After the temps had lingered in the cold to cool zone for so long, it felt like summer. Even Mama Osprey was breathing with her tongue sticking out, cooling herself while sitting on the egg(s). I’ve seen her do this previously, but only when it’s 90+ degrees in the summer. I was tempted to do that too, sweaty in my light gear. But grateful for the sun showing up.

Mama Osprey sits on the egg(s) and cools herself...
Mama Osprey sits on the egg(s) and cools herself…

The salt marsh was full of activity. The resident Little Blue Heron even posed for a close-up (featured), and later showed off her catch.

Little Blue Heron caught a frog...Snad Key Park clearwater florida
Look Tiny, I caught a frog…

And the Osprey Family went about their usual daily routine. Papa Stanley brought fish to Mama Sandy and when she was done, he took the rest for himself. To be enjoyed in his man cave about 100 feet away.

Papa Osprey flies to his man cave with the rest of the fish...
Papa Osprey flies to his man cave with the rest of the fish…

But that turned out to be a brief respite as far as the weather gods were concerned. The sea fog came in on Monday.  For three full days I couldn’t see the osprey nest from our terrace. On Thursday afternoon, when the wind finally chased away the fog, I got this picture of Mama Sandy sitting on the egg(s). All was good.

mama osprey incubating the eggs by tiny
Mama Osprey incubating the egg(s)…as seen from our terrace.

Then, yesterday, it was finally just plain cloudy and gray. I went out for a short run. Approaching the nest I saw Mama Osprey sitting on the egg(s) with only her head visible. After a few minutes Papa flew into the nest bringing a big stick. But boy, wasn’t I in for a big surprise!

Papa Osprey sits on the egg(s)...
Papa Osprey sits on the egg(s)…

I discovered it was Mama Sandy who just flew in! And she was wet. Papa Stanley had given her a break from incubation duties so she could stretch her wings, refresh herself and also stop for a quick meal, in addition to going to Home Depot. How nice! Papa was participating in child care duties, like any other modern dad. So Mama could get some time for herself and whatever she wanted to work on.

opsprey brings in nest materials materials
Mama Osprey brings in reinforcements to the nest…

After completing her design project, Sandy perched for a while at the edge of the nest to dry herself.

Papa sits on the eggs while Mama dries herself...
Papa sits on the egg(s) while Mama dries herself…and they both see something approaching…

But the peace didn’t last long. Osprey Steve was approaching the nest. Yet again. He flew right above the nest, stopping and briefly treading air as if courting Mama Sandy. He seems to be young and overconfident that way.

Steve flies above the nest and looks down...
Steve flies above the nest and looks down…

Needless to say, Papa Stanley was furious! He warned his pal Steve in the loudest way possible.

Papa Osprey warns Steve...
Papa Osprey warns Steve…

Even the Night Heron who had been sleeping at the water right under the nest woke up and looked around curiously.

The Yellow-crowned Night Heron woke up...
The Yellow-crowned Night Heron woke up…

But Steve was insistent. To the point that Papa decided it was necessary to chase him away, in person. He set after Steve, who quickly disappeared back into the woods.

Osprey on defense mission...Sand key park clearwater florida
Papa Osprey on his defense mission…

Papa flew around the nest a few more times. Just to make the point. Once again peace was restored in the salt marsh.

Today it’s raining. Nonstop. I looked out from our living room window towards the nest.  At first I couldn’t see anybody. But then a white head came up, just a little bit. I’m guessing it’s Mama Sandy pressed tightly over the egg(s) to keep them warm and dry.

I hope your weekend has started well. Reporting from the salt marsh, Tiny

I Made a Mistake. But Have Been Forgiven. By the Ospreys.

This is a long post. Confessions tend to be long. And I don’t even know how to begin. But I can’t do another post about the Osprey family without telling the truth. Now that I know it.

two ospreys
Mama and Papa osprey flying together

Here we go. Papa Osprey is actually Mama Osprey.  Phew…I feel better already! This week I have realized I made a mistake last summer when one of the osprey parents returned to the nest. I studied my pictures from the nesting season taken with my old camera. I had no clear close-ups, and both ospreys seemed to have a “necklace”, although I now realize Papa’s is much smaller and mainly visible in flight from the side. I came to the (wrong) conclusion that the osprey reclaiming the nest was Papa Osprey. That also aligned neatly with the traditional gender roles for ospreys. But Mama Osprey is not a conformist. She’s a trailblazer for female ospreys! She did many things usually done by male ospreys. And the male osprey I thought was Papa’s friend Stanley is actually Papa Osprey! He’s been hanging around Mama for quite a while now.  They have even been fishing together. So now you have it. And I will need to correct all my posts about “PO”. That will take some time…

Since I already gave a name for Papa, I thought I’ll need to give one for Mama too.  She cannot simply be “PO” any more. She will be Sandy…because she’s living in Sand Key Park. So please check out the handsome couple: Mrs. Sandy and Mr. Stanley Osprey.

Mama and Papa osprey
Mama and Papa Osprey

Last Sunday, January 11, I went for a jog around salt marsh. I saw Mama Sandy in the nest, but still thought it was Papa Osprey. She was calling and calling! But it was a call that I recognized Mama Osprey did repeatedly last year, and I had not heard “PO” do, ever. “Bring me fish!!” I realized something was not right. Listen to this.

She continued to call for about 10 minutes, and then suddenly (just when I was talking to another jogger, of course) I see an osprey fly in with a fish for the osprey in the nest. Male ospreys do that when they start courting and rebuilding the nest. He feeds her.

Papa Stanley brought a fish for Mama Sandy
Papa Stanley brought a fish for Mama Sandy

I still wasn’t willing to admit my mistake. But the next day, I witnessed (from my terrace) Papa Stanley performing the “sky dance” when Mama Sandy was in the nest. He hovered high above the nest and then did a dramatic dive, rose again and dove again. I got one good picture of his flight and another of Mama in the nest.

Sky dance by Papa Stanley
Mama osprey in the nest
Mama Sandy in the nest

Then I’ve followed them all week long from my terrace. They have continued their courtship and the big nest remodeling project.

Mama osprey redesigning the nest
Mama Sandy redesigning the nest

Today I saw them both in the nest and apologized for my embarrassing mix-up. They seemed okay about it, both of them tolerated me in their social space. I could approach the nest with no alarm calls from Papa Stanley.

Papa and mama in the nest...forgiving
Papa and mama in the nest…forgiving

In a way it’s good that I am bff with Mama Sandy, since she’s the one who’s going to feed the nestling(s). Maybe I can get closer than last year to take pics of the little one(s) without her being alarmed.

Love birds...
Love birds…

I hope you’ll also have a forgiving heart, and still look forward to the nesting season adventures of Sandy and Stanley. ❤ Tiny

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.

HM island beach N
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!

Only One Minor Disagreement. With Mama Osprey.

Mama Osprey and I agree on most things. Like the importance of a safe and comfortable home, loving family, good diet that includes lots of fish, and regular exercise. But I’ve discovered we have one minor disagreement. On dogs. While I love the company of dogs, she doesn’t.

dogs walking their human in nature reserve 3
Two dogs running with their owner next to the salt marsh…

Maybe I should put it this way: Mama Osprey has a preference for a large personal space, and an even larger social space. And dogs are not invited. She allows me to enter her social space, but she allows dogs only in her public space. Defined her way, as the opposite sidewalk when she sits on a lamp-post, and as the other side of the salt marsh when she’s in the nest.

I got a first glimpse of her preferences last year in March when two people walked their dogs on “her side” of the marsh. My theory was confirmed last week.

papa osprey eating on lamp post
PO says hi…

I found Mama having lunch on a lamp-post at the edge of the park. I walked closer, we exchanged greetings and she continued to eat. I took a few pictures.

papa osprey eating on a lamp post
…and continues his lunch.

Suddenly she stopped eating in the middle of a bite. And stared intently at something behind me on the sidewalk.

Papa osprey eating discovering the dogs 1
PO discovers the dogs…

I turned around and saw two large dogs running with their owner. They were right behind me, approaching the lamp-post. I stepped aside to let them pass. And when I looked up again the lamp-post was empty. No Mama, no fish. But I saw a small prick far away. It looked like a lunch transport.

papa osprey flies away with the fish
…and flies away with his lunch.

It was clear to me the dogs had encroached on Mama Osprey’s social space, and she had decided to finish her meal elsewhere. I walked north to have a clear view of the old palm trunk favored by Mama and her friends. But it was already taken by Papa Stanley.

osprey  looks at another osprey flying

 Papa Stanley observes the drama from the safety of the palm trunk…

I was jus snapping a picture of him when I realized Mama was flying back towards us, in the direction of her nest.

papa osprey with fish and stanley looking on
…and sees Mama  flying with the fish.

So I turned around and jogged back to the salt marsh. And there she was. Finishing her lunch at the nest.

hi tiny I'm almost done papa osprey
PO finishes his lunch at the nest…see how many twigs he’s already collected.

Peace and quiet. No dogs in his social space. Just old Tiny. That was fine with her. We don’t agree on everything, and that’s just fine with both of us.

We hope your week is going well.

Ps. This post has been edited after publishing when I discovered that Papa Osprey (PO) actually was Mama Osprey.