Tag Archives: Birds

Curious Pairs of Eyes. And Other Drama on Honeymoon Island.

On Friday morning I took my new ‘lens baby’ out for a long hike on Honeymoon Island. Dylan and I wanted to check on the progress at the many osprey nests we had spotted on our end January outing.  And it was time to test whether or not the three of us would be able to hike together. Like last time, we followed the Osprey Trail.

female osprey HMI UD154We spotted several osprey nests. And in all cases found one parent incubating and the other guarding the nest close by.

second osprey nest female incubating HMI ud154

male osprey with a fish HMI UD154To my delight, I discovered that this was the case even at the nest that an osprey couple had just started to rebuild when we last visited. It was a sizable nest now and the mom-to-be was sitting on the eggs.

female osprey incubates HMI UD154

Daddy Osprey in the new nest UD154As far as I could see, the osprey couples on this island were on the same time-table as Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley here at the salt marsh. All were still incubating. Then I remembered the nest that had been overtaken by Great-horned Owls. That explained the tight security around the osprey nests. In January mama owl had been incubating and now I wanted to see if there were owlets in the nest.

Mama great-horned owl ud150I soon discovered two lively owlets. They were having brunch. The older sibling was eating something white and feathered, while the younger one was getting its pickings.

Great-horned Owl chicks at HMI UD154

two owlets HMI 16x9 UD154

Owlets showingntheir feathers UD154There was some occasional brawl around the brunch table and I could see them flexing their little wings. But they were still far from fledging. After a while they finished eating and discovered us on the trail quite a bit away.

Owlets 2b at HMI UD154

Younger owlet UD154Both owlets were very much aware of our presence. Perhaps more Dylan’s than mine.

the Owlets on HMI UD154 featured 2We stayed quite a while – treats for Mr. Dylan for his patience – as I was trying to locate at least one parent in the trees surrounding the nest. Finally I spotted a well camouflaged mama owl sleeping high up in a pine tree.

Mama Great-horned Owl HMI UD154When we left the owl nest I noticed that the younger sibling had fallen asleep, while the older one was keeping watch.

one owlet is sleeping HMI UD154When we approached the end of the trail, I found a female osprey perching in a tree that also housed a nest. Her hubby was nowhere to be seen.

young female osprey hmi ud154Suddenly he flew up from the vicinity of the nest. She looked surprised.

an osprey couple HMI UD154He flew right on top of her. But despite a good effort, they didn’t quite know how to mate…and he flew down to a lower perch. They clearly had no eggs in the nest.

mating young ospreys HMI UD154I found it unusual that they were trying to mate at this time, in mid March. Maybe this was a young couple who already occupied a nest, but had not succeeded to lay eggs as yet. Or perhaps their eggs had become food for predators and they were trying for a second clutch. Whatever the case, I wished them all the best.

We walked back to the car. My assistant was thirsty and my arms were tired of holding the ‘lens baby’ for almost two hours. A bit of a workout for both of us. But we had proven that we can hike together. We just need more practice.

Dylan after hike UD154For us this coming week means ‘hatch watch’. We’ll be hanging out on our terrace with binoculars and the superzoom camera whenever we have time. If we’re lucky, we might spot a hatchling or two at the osprey nest before next weekend. Dylan and I wish you a great week.

In the Meantime at the Salt Marsh…

On Friday morning Dylan and I went for a walk around the salt marsh. Since I’ve been keeping an eye on the osprey nest from my terrace, I already knew that Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley were still incubating. And provided that everything goes well, we should have hatchlings in about 7-14 days.

ospreys still incubating UD153_edited-2On our front lawn, we were met by a puffed up Mourning Dove. It had been chilly, according to Florida standards of course, in the last few days. And the sun had not yet warmed up the grass.

mourning dove ud153On arrival, we spotted lots of white everywhere around the marsh. Several families of Great Egrets, a few Snowy Egrets and White Ibis were having breakfast under the watchful eye of the Mayor. The older Great Blue Heron had parked himself at the far end of the marsh to ensure an adequate overview of what was going on around the breakfast buffet.

mr mayor great blue heron ud153Some Great Egrets were fishing, seemingly not with much success despite valiant efforts …

a Great Egret fishing ud153…while others demonstrated a double catch.

great egret with two fish UD153A few were still flying in …

great egret flying UD153…some were chasing each other…

Two Great Egrets fly together ud153…and yet others were flying around just for the fun of it.

great egret in flight ud153Some had found their own perfect spot in the sun to air their beautiful breeding plumage. Like this Great Egret who had decided to rent the Mayor’s office…

great egret ud153…and this Snowy Egret, who had found a private sunny spot close to the osprey nest.

snowy agret ud153Suddenly we heard a familiar sound. A high-pitched warning call. And not only by one osprey, but two. Papa Stanley was eating his breakfast at a lamp-post just outside the marsh. He stopped eating and sounded repeated warning calls…

papa osprey sounds alarm ud153…while Mama Sandy sounded the alarm from the nest where she was sitting on the eggs. It took me a while to localize the threat in the sky. It was another, to me unknown, Osprey. He flew towards the nest and peered down right on Sandy.

another osprey ud153Despite the duet of warning calls, the newcomer circled several times around the nest and finally Sandy couldn’t take it anymore. She got up, left the eggs and flew towards the forest after the intruder. I have never seen her do such a daring maneuver while incubating.

mama osprey gets up and flies UD153I lost sight of her for a minute or two, but then she landed back in the nest. Phew. As you can see, she was very careful not to hit the nest cup in the middle of the nest. Her talons were drawn in and her eyes were trained on the eggs.

mama osprey arrives back ud153

mama osprey back at the nest ud153She had been successful in chasing away the intruder, but stood up for a while checking he was really gone.

Peace returned to the salt marsh. A Belted Kingfisher landed on a branch in the middle of the marsh…

belted Kingfisher ud153_edited-1…Stanley went back to eating his fish…

papa osprey continues to eat ud153…and Sandy went back to incubating.

mama osprey incubiting ud153I was glad there was a happy ending to this story, and can’t wait to see a hatchling, two or three soon. Dylan, I and the lively salt marsh gang wish you all a wonderful week ahead.

Newsflash. We Have Eggs. And Plenty of Company.

Last Monday night, Dylan and I made a long-awaited discovery while passing the osprey nest: Mama Sandy was incubating. The next morning we promptly took a break from work and went out on the terrace to gather more evidence using my super zoom camera.

Mama Osprey incubates since Feb 12 UD151Sandy was sitting on the eggs and napping. After a while she woke up and turned the eggs. All while Papa Stanley was witnessing the carefully executed procedure from the perch.

Mama Osprey turns the eggs UD151In 30 to 36 days from now it’ll be baby time! Two to three hatchlings if everything goes well.

On Friday Dylan and I took a walk around the marsh and found Sandy on a long lunch break. She had already eaten and was just chilling on the perch. Stanley was taking his turn incubating the eggs, his head peeking out every now and then. He is an exemplary hubby, always gives Sandy nice breaks and brings her breakfast, lunch and dinner.

papa osprey incubates ud151Sandy checked us out thoroughly when we passed right underneath the nest.Mama Osprey has a break UD151We spotted many other birds as well, but I want to show you a bird that I haven’t seen at the marsh in previous years – a Blue Winged Teal. I have a suspicion that a couple or perhaps even two couples are nesting at the marsh this year.

blue-winged teal ud151We also spotted the Mayor. He was all puffed up and looked determined to protect the marsh birds this nesting season.

GBH Mayor ud151_edited-1Then this morning I went on a beach walk and was met by huge crowds. Not people but birds. More exactly, hundreds of Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls, Ring-billed Gulls…

gulls and terns on the beach ud151

ringbilled gull ud151_edited-1

royal tern family ud151…and one juvenile Herring Gull. She was vocal…maybe calling her parents who were nowhere to be seen.

a juvenile herring gull ud151_edited-2As usual, there was a young Royal Tern pestering his mom for food. He was so intense that after a while his mom decided to fly away. Not very far, but just far enough to reinforce the boundaries.

young royal tern pesters parent UD151

mother and juvenile royal tern ud151

royal tern takes off UD151Now I have to reinforce my own boundaries as well and take Dylan out for his evening walk. Next weekend I will be traveling again, and this time I actually look forward to it. I am hoping to find a bird I have not seen “live” before…and be able to share some special fun with you next time we meet.

Thanks for being here. Have a wonderful rest of the week.

Winter. Hope. And Other Animal Encounters.

We have Winter here in Clearwater, Florida. She is a rescued Bottlenose dolphin, whose tail had to be amputated. But thanks to some inventive and compassionate people, she now has a new prosthetic tail – and a permanent home.

winter UD148_edited-1She is the star of two wonderful films, The Dolphin Tale and the Dolphin Tale 2. But even more importantly, she is the star in the hearts of countless kids who have met her and her friend Hope at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium.

Hope and Winter UD148Despite its name this is not a traditional aquarium, but a marine hospital and rehabilitation center where injured animals are brought from near and far for urgent care and rehabilitation.

staff feeds a sea turtle UD148The two dolphins, and a third one called Nicholas, live here getting all the care and therapies they need on a daily basis. They have certainly made a lasting impression on my ‘grandies’.

going to feed Hope UD148_edited-1This past holiday season Santa brought them an opportunity to have a close encounter with Hope. They could feed her, touch her and get a photo taken with her. Absolute joy.

Hope with a trainer UD148_edited-1One of the last days of 2017 we also visited the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa, where we found this baby chimpanzee pondering the complexities of life…

Baby chimpanzee UD148…while his friend, a colobus monkey, demonstrated his gymnastic skills. And his fancy haircut.

colobus monkey UD148We saw many birds, including a Scarlet Ibis and a beautiful mystery bird I have not been able to identify as yet. Anyone?

scarlet ibis UD148

mystery bird at Lowry park zoo UD148_edited-1And we watched the meerkats watching us. The one on guard duty, in particular, nailed his eyes on us. But we were on our best behavior and he didn’t need to sound alarm.meerkat UD148_edited-1In the “Africa” section we spotted elephants, zebras…and a giraffe couple having a tender moment.

elephant UD148

young zebra UD148

giraffe love UD148I’d rather observe all these animals in their natural environment like I used to, but have to admit well run zoos offer the kids an invaluable opportunity to experience them.

my family at the zoo UD148And some zoos, including this one, also help to breed endangered species. Four southern white rhino babies have already been born here.

southern white rhino ud148There was so much more to see, like this sweet little wallaby basking in the late December sun.

wallaby UD148But when you are dealing with a granny and two kids, there’s a limit how much you can take in during one visit. So late in the afternoon we had to say goodbye. Thank you for coming along!

parakeet ud148

New Year. New Dreams.

Mama Sandy is flying high. It’s January and that always brings a new proposal from her faithful husband Stanley. A brand new nesting season. And new dreams.

mama and papa oprey flying together January UD147Early on Sunday morning Papa Stanley brought her the proposal gift. A big fish she enjoyed on the perch while Stanley was watching her feast. I witnessed this annual ritual from my living room window while having my first cup of coffee. In the afternoon I went out with Dylan and found Stanley eating his own fish on a lamp-post close to the nest. We wished him Happy New Year and he nodded in response.

papa osprey eats fish UD147Sandy was watching him from the perch at the nest.

mama Sandy UD147And when he had finished his meal, he flew to the nest. Before long Sandy sent him back to the ‘home depot’. While there was evidence of hard work already that morning as large branches were sticking out from the nest, more building materials were needed.

papa and mama osprey in the nest UD147After Stanley left, we walked around the marsh and wished Happy New Year to Sandy too. She looked a bit stern, but I’m sure she was just inspecting Dylan’s new haircut.

mama osprey looks at us UD147The salt marsh was quiet. Most birds were still in hiding after the week-long cold spell. We found one Black-crowned Night Heron in a sunny patch close to the nest. He was wide awake. That was it.

black-crowned night heron ud147Walking back home we spotted only one Cormorant at the Sailing Center, where they usually like to congregate in large numbers. It was still very cool and windy.

cormorant ud147_edited-1Yesterday the weather had warmed up somewhat and we went to the dog park again. We noticed the salt marsh was getting more lively. Mr. Mayor was huddling right below the Osprey nest…

the mayor UD147… where Sandy was having lunch on the perch, while Stanley observed her from the nest. I noted considerable progress in their remodeling effort.

Mama osprey eats fish UD147

papa osprey at the nest UD147Some Wood Storks were visiting again. And a little Snowy Egret bravely shared their accommodations.

wood storks ud147_edited-2The Reddish Egret had recovered from his New Year celebrations and was doing his magical dance in search of a bite for lunch.

reddish egret 2 UD147_edited-2

reddish egret fishing UD147

reddish egret UD147And finally we spotted Miss Rosa on the other side of the marsh. But she didn’t see us. She was taking a nap in the sun.

Roseate spoonbill UD147Walking back towards the nest we noticed from afar that Sandy was in the middle of her daily exercise routine. Right foot up, left foot up. Dylan sat down and I tried to capture her movements.

mama osprey morning gymnastics UD147From a nearby islet a Tri-colored Heron was watching how it’s done. She stretched her neck to get a better view.

tri-colored heron ud147And a Blue Jay was paying attention too. He was exercising his neck trying to find a straight line of sight between the branches.

blue jay ud147Walking home, we spotted a small songbird with raptor’s habits. A Loggerhead Shrike was waiting for lunch to appear in his line of sight.

loggerhead shrike ud147_edited-1Exciting times! We will be sure to follow the highs and the lows of Mr. and Mrs. Osprey’s nesting season. I am certainly hoping there will be less drama and more highs than last year…for them and for us humans.  Thanks so much for visiting the salt marsh gang.

Return of the Mayor. And Other Salt Marsh News.

Before Hurricane Irma visited the salt marsh in early September, all the resident birds evacuated prompted by their natural instincts. The marsh was already deserted when I was still trying to get tickets out of here for Dylan and myself…and the sun was still shining. It was eerily quiet. The mandatory evacuation orders for human residents on this barrier island did not have the same effect. Many stayed to ride out the storm.

Salt marsh before Irma UD141I have to say the salt marsh fared quite well. Most of the old, tall trees are still standing. But the debris took weeks to clear out.

salt marsh debris after Irma ud141

Irma debris at the salt marsh ud141

salt marsh after Irma ud141When I visited the park on my day at home between the storm and my trip to Europe, there were no birds. They had all stayed at their evacuation resorts. Apart from one.

papa osprey right after the storm ud141.jpgPapa Stanley was perching at the sailing center. He had returned to check out his forest and his home. Or maybe he was looking for Mama Sandy. I’m pretty sure he saw the nest had not been damaged…before he took off again.

Irma 2017 ud141When I came back from my trip in October most of the debris had been hauled away and I found this ‘monument’ at a small clearing where several trees had fallen. But only a couple of birds had returned. Among those Mama Sandy. She was perching at the nest looking a bit tousled, very serious and definitely wet. It was good to see that she, too, had made it through the storm. But now Papa Stanley was nowhere to be seen.

mama osprey after Irma ud141A lonely Tri-colored Heron was trying to figure out how to find something to eat despite the still very high water levels at the marsh. And that was it. The evacuees were slow to return.

tricolored heron ud141Late that evening, Dylan and I spotted the young Great Blue Heron on the bay. He too seemed to wonder where everyone had gone.

younger GBH UD141And so it continued for about three weeks. I started to get worried about Papa Stanley. He had made it through Irma’s 120 m/h wind gusts, but why was he not home? And where were all the other residents, including the Mayor, the Clown and Miss Rosa?

papa and mama osprey are at home ud141Then one morning in early November I looked out of my office window and discovered a large gathering at the marsh. That was a great sight…and out I ran to witness the return of the evacuees and the migrating visitors.

The first birds I spotted were Papa Stanley (yay!) and Mama Sandy. They were having a mid-morning snack, perhaps following a joint fishing trip. Papa was perching on a lamp-post and Mama at the nest. And they were keeping an eye on each other.

papa osprey eats and looks at mama osprey ud141

mama osprey at the nest 16x9 ud141Finally the marsh was busy. Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Ibis, Wood Storks and others.

younger GBH and visitor wood storks ud141The younger GBH, who now looks very much like the Mayor, was patrolling the waters in his typical manner, pretending to be the boss. Some of the Wood Storks gave him the look.

wood stork ud141That’s when I saw a familiar fellow in the corner of my eye. The Mayor had returned! He was foraging far away, completely undisturbed.

the great blue heron Mayor fishing ud141_edited-2Knowing the history of these two, I thought things might get interesting. And before long, the Mayor discovered his young rival. He decided to check on the youngster.

the GBH Mayor moves in ud141_edited-2The young fellow noticed the developments. But he didn’t back off from his newly acquired position of power. Looking determined he continued his march…

young GBH ud141

younger GBH discovers mayor ud141… until he realized the Mayor was running on water. And closing in on him.

GBH ud141The Mayor took a detour onto a grassy islet, but continued his approach with determination.

the mayor ud141Tension was building. Everybody was watching.

three wood storksThat’s when I discovered that the Reddish Egret, the Clown, had returned. He was not performing his usual tricks. Instead, he stood frozen in place under some mangroves. Watching.

reddish egret ud141The little Snowy Egret, who was hiding in the grass close to the scene, decided it was better to keep some distance. One never knew what could happen.

a snowy egret ud141

snowy egret flies away ud141The Mayor continued his march, and finally the two ‘great blues’ were face to face.

young and old GBH face to face UD141And this is what happened…

The old Mayor still has the spark. The younger GBH ended up on dry land, his feathers all buffed up. He quickly assessed the situation – and walked away. Everyone seems to prefer it that way.

younger GBH ud141 A couple of days ago, Dylan and I went to the dog park in the middle of the day…and found the same crowd at the marsh – minus the younger ‘great blue’. The party was still going on. The Clown discovered my camera and decided to perform an elaborate bathing ritual for his captive audience.

Reddish Egret the Clown ud141

Reddish Egret takes a bath ud141

reddish egret sits in the water ud141We left this delightful ‘photobomber’ happily sitting in the shallow water. Normalcy has returned to the salt marsh.

mourning dove ud141Some of you may wonder what happened to Miss Rosa. I was pondering that too, until the other night. Dylan and I discovered her all alone at the marsh at sunset time. And she was there even last night. She is definitely back home too.

Miss Rosa the Roseate Spoonbill at sunset_edited-1Opening my terrace door this morning, I discovered that both Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley were at the nest. That was remarkable. But Stanley’s early visit didn’t last long. Sandy told him in no uncertain terms to wait at least 4-5 more weeks. And promptly chased him away. He will be allowed in the nest only after a proposal dance and a special gift delivery. Traditions have to be respected. And everything has its right time.

mama osprey chases papa away from the nest ud141I noted that Irma, however powerful, had not been able to sweep the nest clean of building materials Sandy had put in place last year. But this couple will still need to do quite a bit of remodeling when the nesting season starts at the end of December.

With that, we all wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. And peace.

Moon Happy Thsnksgiving


The Natural Order.

I have come to the conclusion that expressions of order in nature are captivating. Much different from any man-made order, however neat, and more beautiful. In my book, order in nature is of higher quality and its many manifestations are fascinating. I have been digging in my photo archives to show you a few expressions of order in nature as I see them through my lens – with some humor.

Flying in formation: Six White Ibis (featured image) and five Brown Pelicans.

five pelicans in formation UD129Standing in line: Four Willet all standing on their right foot.

four willets on one leg ud129Marching order: Mama Mottled Duck with her ducklings.

mama duck and ducklings ud129Tight formation swimming: Mama Mottled Duck and her ducklings.

mama mottled duck with ducklings ud129Pecking order: 2015 season’s Sand Key Osprey chicks (from the left) 3rd born Sindile, 1st born Lofty and 2nd born Aspire.

three osprey chicks May 27 2015 ud129Landing lineup: Royal Terns’ approach to landing in formation.

royal terns landing order ud129Departure lineup: A group of Wood storks departing in the Everglades.

three wood storks departing ud129Above and below: Four Brown Pelicans flying in “layers”.

four pelicans in flight ud129_edited-1 Backorder: father, mother and baby elephant and three zebras on the savannah.

three elephant butts ud129

three zebras ud129Side order: Two Black Skimmers and two Brown Pelicans flying side by side.

two black skimmers ud129

two pelicans flying tandem ud129Front and back: A Roseate Spoonbill and a Great Blue Heron upfront and a Wood Stork at the back on a small islet.

wood stork blue heron and roseate spponbill ud129_edited-1Law and order: A Reddish Egret chases away a Great Egret, who didn’t have a fishing permit.

Reddish Egret chases a great egret ud129_edited-1Taking turns: One Great Egret eats first, the other one eats second.

two egrets ud129Even disorder in nature can be beautiful: Three White Ibis, one standing on the left foot, two standing on the right foot…

three white ibis ud129…and Monarch Butterflies on a tree in no order at all.

butterfly tree ud129And finally, for our regular readers, there is the current order: The Osprey chick joins her parents to enjoy the sunset glow at the sailing center after a good meal on Marriott’s roof.

osprey chick eats on the roof ud129_edited-1
Arlene has supper on the roof at 7 p.m.
osprey chick hanging out with Mama osprey ud129_edited-1
Arlene and Sandy at the sailing center after sunset around 8:30 p.m.
osprey chick enjoys sunset ud129
Arlene looks for a small “dessert fish” in the water below
mama osprey after sunset ud129
Mama Sandy proudly watches Arlene
papa osprey looks at chick ud129
Papa Stanley lovingly watches his family

I hope you agree that order in nature has many amazing expressions. Have a great weekend!