Tag Archives: Birds

Move Faster! And a Romantic Date Night.

I feel like a turtle. I just want to continue the leisurely stroll of the holidays. Soak in the sun and contemplate life in peace and quiet. But I feel the push to start moving faster. We are almost three weeks into the new year. Can you believe it?

I hope to make this fresh year more balanced than the past. Alternating work and play, just like in the high intensity interval exercise I’ve become to like lately. I’m envisioning myself at times flying fast like Mama Osprey…

… and then just enjoying life like a turtle. With all time in the world.

So far so good. Dylan and I were exploring the Taylor Park again last week. The Anhinga and the Moorhen were present in big numbers as usual.

And we spotted many feathered friends looking for a tasty breakfast, like this Wood Stork, Tri-colored Heron and Little Blue Heron.

We were trying hard to find at least one gator, but they seemed to be lying low(er than usual) due to the cooler winter temperatures we’re having right now. So instead we enjoyed spotting more birds, like this Ring-billed Gull and a Great Egret.

Then we heard a loud group of Boat-tailed Blackbirds. The males were fighting in the reeds and refused to be photographed. But this female, who is actually brown and may have been the reason of the fight, stepped out to hunt for food. Click.

There are always several Pied-billed Grebes on the lake and I love photographing them.

But this cutie stretched my patience – and even Mr. Dylan’s who had to sit and wait for me. This little one was diving non-stop and staying up on the surface less than a second at the time. It was a comical exercise. There he is. Gone. Repeat. I got numerous pictures of bubbles and rings on the water and some tail feathers at times. But finally my patience was rewarded and I managed to snap a picture. Oops!

That’s when I saw something in the water further out in the shady part of the lake. It was, indeed, a very quiet gator.

After that discovery we ran our last stretch before leaving the park happy with our intermittent “osprey-turtle” exercise.

But what about the salt marsh, you may wonder. We have been there too. After returning from my holiday trip to Sweden, I hadn’t seen much of the Osprey couple. They usually start their nesting season in early January by refurbishing their home, but it had been quiet at the nest. We walked past the nest on our way to the dog park and I thought I could see some signs of remodeling, but nobody was there. And I started to get worried.

The perivious week I had seen Mama Sandy fly by my office window…

… and Papa Stanley eating on a lamp-post close to the nest, but hadn’t seen them together or working on the nest. Knowing that ospreys don’t opt for a divorce at the first sign of disagreement, I concluded there has to be some valid reason for their wait.

Finally last week on Saturday night I saw a beautiful sight from my terrace. Sandy and Stanley were having a date night at the Sailing Center

I grabbed my camera and out we went, my assistant and I. I was hoping the happy couple would still be there and the light would be enough to capture the evidence of this romance. And we were in luck. Both Sandy and Stanley greeted us with a friendly nod.

They were enjoying the last light on the bay side as much as we were…

…and we also spotted a a Snowy Egret and a Great Egret down at the water’s edge.

So finally, and quite late this year, mama and papa osprey had come together to start their nesting season. The sixth one I look forward to observing.

Earlier this week, Dylan and I visited the dog park on a cool, partly loudy day. And discovered the little salt marsh village was lively indeed. The Mayor was in the office and surveyed the marsh in his typical, calm manner.

Further out, in a difficult spot to ‘shoot’, several residents were huddling to seek shelter from the cold wind coming from the north. Even the Clown, aka Reddish Egret was calm, with no intention to perform. Maybe his enthusiasm was dampened by the presence of the Wood Stork, who had only recently given him a lesson.

But he couldn’t help himself, he had to follow the bigger bird into the water and keep him under surveillance.

Closer to the Osprey nest, at the east end of the marsh, Several residents had sought shelter in the bushes. I was happy to see the Snowy Egret had already developed a breeding plumage and to spot both a Black- and Yellow-crowned Night Heron for the first time in quite a while. Most residents seemed to be back from their holiday travels.

To my delight, both Sandy and Stanley were at the nest, which now clearly was under renovation. Sandy was happily munching on a fish, likely provided by Stanley. And he seemed to be musing on the fact that he would be dad again…

…and watched us with great interest. Or maybe it was bride. In any case, I promised myself to make time to follow their, hopefully successful, nesting season in my “turtle time” between travels. Thank you for being here. Be good and keep warm.

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.

Walking Stockholm. On the Water.

The inner city of Stockholm, Sweden, is a collection of islets connected by bridges. Soon after Stock(log)holm(islet) was founded in 1252 more and more islets were connected together by log-bridges. So even today water is a dominant feature in the city and its surroundings. Please come along on a 7-mile tour by foot, guided by my sister’s dog Pebbe, and then a short trip by boat to learn some of what summer Stockholm has to offer in terms of waterways.

karlberg canal ud164We’ll start our walk along the Canal of Karlberg. This canal runs in the western central Stockholm and connects two lakes. On its shores we find lots of greenery, water lilies and other wild flowers.

karlberg 2 ud164

karlberg water lily ud164

karlberg 1 ud164

karlberg walk ud164Along the canal we spot fishing boats, hostel boats, houseboats and, of course people kayaking and paddle boarding. Pebbe is a great guide and keeps up the pace. Photo stops are carefully timed.

fishing boat karlberg ud164

karlberg boat ud164

karlberg housebaoats ud164

karlberg canoe ud164

karlber paddler ud164We also find some familiar birds and cute wild rabbits, who live under one of the bridges.

gulls in stockholm ud164

mallards at karlberg ud164

juvenile coot ud164

wild rabbit karlberg ud164We pass some beautifully planned new developments right on the water.

lindhagen ud164

cafe at karlbergs kanal ud164And walking back we spot the Karlberg Palace that now hosts the Military Academy.

militarhogskolan ud164By this time we have walked about four miles and stop to rest along the canal before heading home through Solna – another three mile walk.

aulikki at karlberg ud164Once in Solna, we marvel about the 2014 building of the year, Aula Medica of the Karolinska Institute, a Medical University, by Wingårdh Architects. It houses a 1000-seat auditorium/lecture hall and catches the eye with its unconventional, modern architecture.

KI Aula ud164

aula stockholm UD164

KI Aula Medica 2014 by Gert Wingårdh UD164We walk home through the little forest surrounding these new, and old, buildings. I hope you’re doing fine after this seven mile walk. The fact that this July turned out to be the warmest in 265 years in Sweden should not make you sweat. But I am exhausted and Pebbe wants to sit for a bit too.

Pebbe UD164After resting for a couple of days, we’ll embark on a short boat tour in the very heart of Stockholm, now on the eastern side.

sightseeing boat ud165We go out right along the most exclusive neighborhood in the city, the gorgeous old buildings on Strandvägen.

stockholm strandvagen UD165

stockholm strandvagen 2 UD165

old buildings on strandvagen ud165And far away we spot a landmark, the Kaknäs observation tower.

kaknastornet ud164We pass the Nordic Museum and the Wasa Museum that houses the only 1700-ship ever salvaged (mainly) intact, the 64-gun warship Wasa that sunk on her maiden voyage in 1628.

nordiska museet stockholm UD165

wasa varvet ud164Next we pass the largest amusement park in Stockholm, Gröna Lund. We used to visit this park frequently when our son was small. It now boasts several new rides that I wouldn’t even imagine trying out … and still a few old ones that look more familiar.

grona lund 3 ud164

grona lund swing UD165

grona lund carousel UD165Then we glide past more peaceful sights, like the Fåfänga park …

fafangan park ud165… and continue a bit deeper into the archipelago, in good company.

old sailboat ud165I leave you with a hint of my next post about a nostalgic trip to Finland on a ship like the one below.

boat traffic stockholm ud165I hope you enjoyed Stockholm on the water as much as I did. Thank you for coming along.

Bubbette Says Hello. To Alberto.

The season’s first subtropical storm, Alberto, will soon be making landfall on the northern Gulf coast, now packing 65mph/105kph winds. Yesterday it was churning past us about 135 miles out on the Gulf. It didn’t come here, but the “low” associated with it has brought rainy weather and gusty winds already much of last week for us. And although we now see glimpses of sun every now and then, the winds are still very gusty. As far as I know, Miss Bubbette has not yet fledged. I think Mama Sandy has put her under strict orders not to try her wings in this weather. On Wednesday, Thursday and yesterday when we had some dry weather, Dylan and I went to see her.

osprey chick waits for mama osprey ud161On Wednesday we found her alone in the nest keeping a low profile. Mama Sandy was flying overhead and sounding loud warnings.

Mama Osprey chased an intruder ud161I realized she was chasing away a male intruder who had ventured too close to the nest.

Mama Osprey chases a male osprey ud161Sandy soon returned to the nest and I understood she had flown away in the middle of her lunch. She continued eating. Bubbette had probably already eaten, but asked for more so Sandy was feeding her a few more bites from her own lunch. Mother’s love.

Mama osprey is feeding chick 2 ud161After finishing her lunch, Sandy flew up to the perch. Bubbette continued her wing exercises.

Mama osprey is back ud161We walked around the marsh and saw a few friends. Miss Rosa was visiting…

miss rosa ud161

snowy egret and miss rosa ud161… and foraging together with a Snowy Egret. A Yellow-crowned Night Heron was hunting too, which is rarely seen in the middle of the day.

yellowcrowned night heron ud161And Mr. Moorhen was checking out his territory. Otherwise the marsh was quiet.

moorhen ud161On Thursday we went out again quickly between the rain showers. Bubbette was exercising her wings again. She did not take off the nest, but ‘flew’ onto the highest branch in the nest.

Osprey chick bubbette practices flying UD161And she was hungry. She had, indeed, learned the most common osprey song: Gimme Fish.

And she knows her “head bob”, so typical for ospreys. Mama Sandy just sat on the perch. After a while she took a short flight towards the bay. Perhaps to check if Papa Stanley was somewhere close by eating the head of their lunch fish. You see, I had witnessed a small brawl between Sandy and Stanley the previous night when watching the nest from my living room. Stanley had brought a fish and was sitting on the perch when Sandy suddenly flew up and literally pushed him away. I had no idea what he’d done, or if he would still bring in fish for that matter. I have not spotted him at the nest since.

mama osprey returns ud161The sky had filled with clouds and we left Bubbette and Sandy to wait for their lunch.

Osprey chick perching on the highest branch in the nest ud161Yesterday I went out to the terrace to take a picture of the nest through the rain. I was thrown off balance several times by the strong wind gusts. No wonder Sandy doesn’t allow her girl to get airborne as yet.

osprey chick and mom in the rain ud161Later in the afternoon when the sun came out, I looked at the nest again…and could not spot Bubbette! I thought the poor girl might have taken off in the gusting wind, which made it difficult to fly even for experienced fliers. I took my camera and went out Dylan in tow. The wind hit us hard.

Mama osprey UD161We arrived at the nest, but could only see Sandy on the perch. The wind was blowing so hard that it forced three Anhingas on their way to the bay to land at the marsh.

Anhinga 1 ud161

Anhinga 2 ud161

anhinga 3 ud161Still no Bubbette in sight. This ‘osprey granny’ was starting to get worried. We walked around the marsh and spotted Harry, the younger Great Blue Heron.

Yoiung great blue heron UD161And a tiny, juvenile Green Heron, who was trying to keep her balance on a low branch.

Juvenile Green Heron UD161A male Red-winged Blackbird had to flap his wings to stay put on his sturdy tree stump. Normally he would land in the middle of the marsh on one of those slender bushes, but I guessed he didn’t like the idea of ‘swinging’ in this gusty wind.

redwinged blackbird male ud161When we approached the nest again, pushing against the wind, I still didn’t see the osprey chick, but a pregnant Mama Moorhen walked by.

mama moorhen ud161Suddenly I heard a faint song…fish, fish. It was Bubbette! But where did the sound come from? Dylan and I stayed quite a while close to the nest looking around. Finally we gave up and decided to walk home. When on the side-walk, I looked out to the nest again, and saw her. Phew.

Bubbette ud161She had been lying low in the nest cup all along, probably ordered to take shelter by Mama Sandy. It is windy today too…and the fledging watch continues. Thanks for visiting. Happy Memorial Day and have a great week.

Hello There! Wanna See Some Birds?

What do you do when you stumble right into a birder’s paradise with a 50mm lens and both your birding lenses are over 200 miles away? Simple! You take pictures with the lens you happen to have on your camera. This happened to me recently when I was visiting my grandies and their parents in North Florida. On that Saturday morning, my 8 years old granddaughter proposed that we’d go to visit the Alligator Farm in St. Augustine. Hmm. I had seen lots of alligators in Everglades and crocodiles in Africa, but thought we’d have a nice time together watching the alligators. So it was a “yes” from me. Little did I know that we would walk into a zoological park with hundreds of wild birds nesting at its outskirts.

bird trees St Augustine UD160Everywhere I looked, I saw trees heavy with numerous nests, babies, juveniles and their parents, some still incubating. I was a kid in the candy store.

birds and babies St Augustine UD160The air traffic was lively with birds still bringing in additional nesting materials.

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And then there were mothers and babies, little chicks and big chicks…some of them luckily a little closer to the path we were walking.

snowy egrets babies ud160

roseate spoonbill with babies ud160

Roseate spoonbill feeds baby ud160

snowy egret mom and baby ud160

young roseate spoonbills ud160And some colorful scenes of residents resolving differences, which is to be expected in such a tightly built neighborhood.

tricolored heron chases a little blue heron ud160Some incubating moms and protective dads ready to fight off any intruders.

snowy egret nesting ud160And a few birds whom I don’t see very often. Like this Cattle Egret inspecting her eggs.

nesting cattle egret ud160And others, who I usually see at the salt marsh…

tricolored heron UD160

adult roseate spoonbill ud160I could have stayed there for days…if I’d had my birding lenses and a tripod. We moved on and there were some exotic birds to see too, like this Scarlet Macaw from South America..scarlet macaw st augustine ud160

the girls ud160…a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo from Australia…

suphur-crested Cockatoo ud160…and the Black Crowned Cranes from Africa. Lots of wonder for the girls, including this girl.

black crowned crane ud160Surprise, surprise…this Alligator Farm also housed alligators and crocodiles of all shapes and sizes. Here just one lazy exemplar enjoying the midday sun.

alligator 2 ud160And there were caravans of ducks and turtles, small and big.

ducks in A F UD160

turtle caravan UD160

a big turtle ud160We thoroughly enjoyed the park, particularly the nesting colonies. And I promised my self never to leave home without one of my long lenses. You never know where the birds might find you.

nesting birds st augustine 16x9 ud160Speaking of home, we had some business to do earlier this week. My photo assistant in particular. We received 21 proposals for names for the osprey chick and the lottery had to be arranged. But it wasn’t the same procedure as last year. On Tuesday night, in the middle of writing a legal report, I decided it was time to have some fun. The names were printed and cut into long strips, suitable for wrapping around exactly 21 yummy treats.

names ud160

treats ud160While I was doing this at my laptop, Dylan parked himself right next to my chair and paid close attention.

Dylan follows the process us160Then I placed the ‘name-wrappped’ treats in Dylan’s toy basket which was doing service as the ‘hat’. As you can see, the names were on the inside so Dylan wouldn’t be able to read them. Just when I was placing them in the ‘hat’ he rushed close, seemingly ready to grab all 21 pieces. But I shouted “not yet” and he dutifully backed off…

treats in the toy basket ud160…for at least one full hour. He wouldn’t touch the treats. When I moved them closer, even put them under his nose and asked him to go ahead, he moved further away.

Dylan and the treat basket 2 ud160He just looked at me as in saying make up your mind mom. We circled around my office for 20 minutes. He wouldn’t pick a treat. Finally I gave up and placed them on his ‘mattress pad’ and put them on the floor …

Dylan does not want treats ud160…he backed further away. Whatever I said or how much I pleaded didn’t matter, he wouldn’t touch the treats. I moved the pad with the treats into the living room. Same story. I was about to give up and pronounce the Osprey chick “Nameless”. But that didn’t sound right. So I poured the ‘name treats’ into my hand and asked him to pick one. I had my camera in the other hand (sorry for the shaky pictures) and finally he came forward…

Dylan picks the winner UD160…and picked one!

Dylan picks the winning name ud160I was going to remove the ‘name ribbon’ from his mouth, but he did that very aptly himself. And I could see Jackie P. at the end of the ribbon when it landed on the rug. When he retreated, the name of the new Osprey girl came in full view: Bubbette by Jackie P. from To Breathe is to Write!

jackies ticket ud160

the winning ticket ud160Congrats to you, dear Jackie! The beach towel will be on its way next week. I am sure it will arrive in time for summer weather in Canada. I love that whimsical name. This osprey girl is very energetic and bubbly 🙂 So… let me present to you Miss Bubbette as captured on Wednesday night on our evening walk. Both her parents were in the nest with her…

Bubbette with parents UD160…but she wasn’t shy to do her flying exercises. Sandy ducked as her wings swept back and forth right above her head. You go girl!

Bubbette wingersizes UD160This weekend my assistant and I will start our fledging watch. We’ll bring you the breaking news as soon as she is airborne. Sorry for the oversized post and thanks for visiting. Miss Bubbette and the rest of us wish you a wonderful weekend.

 

Papa Osprey’s Fake Wings. And a Flying Mattress Delivery.

It’s good to be away, particularly if you can spend some quality time with your grandkids. And then happen to stumble on a bird photographer’s paradise. But that’s for the next post. Here only one picture of last weekend’s adventures. As a ‘teaser’.

nesting birds st augustine ud160But first things first. News from a place where I belong.  There have been some new developments at the salt marsh since we last spoke, and a quick update might be called for. The youngest member of the Osprey Family is now over seven weeks old. Dylan and I went to check on her yesterday morning and arrived at the nest right after the family breakfast. Papa Stanley was sitting in the nest with the chick but Mama Sandy was nowhere to be seen.

papa osprey and the chick ud160Stanley greeted us with a friendly nod, but the little one was busy observing the skies. Then she realized it was time for her daily exercise routine. Stanley suddenly got wings sprinkled with white feathers, typical for osprey chicks. Those ‘fake’ wings made me smile.

papa ospreys fake wings ud160The chick should be fledging in less than two weeks and I was happy to see her ‘wingersize’ vigorously. That’s when Sandy’s head popped up from the back of the nest and I realized she had been there all along. She was busy working on something.

osprey family ud160Soon Stanley decided it was time to retreat onto the perch. Or maybe he just wanted to show the chick how it’s done. Actually flying.

papa osprey flies to the perch ud160And Sandy decided it was time to run errands. She flew away in the direction of the bay.

mama osprey flies away ud160The chick was alone in the nest, but under tight supervision by Stanley on the perch. She was looking into the distance after Sandy.

osprey chick ud160And I was focusing on taking pictures of her. Suddenly I felt something fly right over my head! And a second later Sandy landed on the nest. With a new mattress for the chick. Lightning fast express delivery. No lines at the mattress shop as the whole trip took less than two minutes.

mattress delivery by mama osprey ud160I was not the only one taken by surprise. Typical Sandy, always fast and efficient. When she wants something she goes and gets it.

mama osprey returns ud160She landed in the middle of the nest, right on the spot where she wanted to place the mattress. Then she had a mother-daughter moment with the chick. Nothing needed to be said.

mama osprey and the chick ud160But the chick understood mama would like to see some more exercising…and she went for another set of wing flaps. She still looks quite tentative in her movements and stands with her legs wide apart. She’ll need several practice sessions a day if she’s going to fledge in the week after next.

osprey chick flexes her wings ud160She is  a beautiful osprey girl and she’ll need a name. So Dylan and I will do the ‘same procedure as last year’ and have a lottery. The prize will hopefully be worth putting on your thinking hat: a 60″/152 cm round beach/picnic towel featuring Sandy and Stanley. And the drawing itself, to be conducted by Dylan on May 15th, promises to be exciting…and super fast. We’re talking about treats here.

Mama and Papa Osprey beach towel UD160

Rest assured that the names already submitted by some of you are safely in the hat. Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend. We hope to hear from you. Much love.