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’.
But 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.
Stanley 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.
The 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.
Soon 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.
And Sandy decided it was time to run errands. She flew away in the direction of the bay.
The chick was alone in the nest, but under tight supervision by Stanley on the perch. She was looking into the distance after Sandy.
And 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.
I was not the only one taken by surprise. Typical Sandy, always fast and efficient. When she wants something she goes and gets it.
She 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.
But 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.
She 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.
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.
This week has been sunny and warm, until today. And it’s been busy. Exacerbated by my laptop’s moody behavior. On its fourth birthday, it decided to go on strike. Not to work at all. I had to use all my tech wiz skills to wake it up. Since then it’s been misbehaving to the point I ordered a new one. And have to set it up later today. But before I say goodbye to this old blogging veteran, I want to give you a short update from the salt marsh. I’m asking it to cooperate for one last time.
Finally yesterday, my assistant and I had an opportunity to get out and check on the osprey chick. We arrived soon after the family brunch. Papa Stanley was still on the perch, guarding his little family from intruders. The baby was sleeping and Mama Sandy nodded off for a while as well. She shielded her baby from the sun and the wind that was already picking up.
But soon Stanley saw a danger in the skies (beyond my horizon) and sounded frequent loud warnings.
The chick woke up and peered out from behind the baby gate with its head lowered. Sandy became alert too, but nobody came close to the nest.
The salt marsh appeared deserted. The only other bird present was the Reddish Egret. And he was completely absorbed in his hunting dance.
At sunset time Dylan took me for another walk. He loves to walk on the bayside and look down to the water. I don’t mind such a detour because I often spot birds enjoying the low tide next to the sea wall. And we were lucky. Two Oystercatchers were looking for supper.
And a bit further away, a Great Egret was enjoying the last rays of the day.
The sun was still up when we reached the salt marsh. We found the younger Great Blue Heron, aka Henry the Troublemaker, on his usual spot staring at the osprey nest.
And a beautiful Snowy Egret was looking for her evening meal. And checking us out.
A Yellow-crowned Night Heron had woken up to get his breakfast. He was planning his hunt on the little islet that also serves as the Mayor’s office. The Mayor was nowhere to be seen.
When we approached the Osprey nest we heard the typical whistles of the Red-winged Blackbird. Finally I spotted one smack in the middle of the marsh.
Then Dylan alerted me to a lovely Mourning Dove walking right on our path. It was not eager to meet us and hurried away.
We found Stanley on his guard post. He nodded a friendly good evening to us. But Sandy was hunkering down over the baby and we could only see a few feathers sticking up.
Just before dark we finally reached the dog park and my assistant got a well deserved rest after walking around the marsh and running back and forth at the park.
When we returned to go home it was already dark. Stanley had gone to his sleeping quarters, but we saw Sandy in the nest beautifully silhouetted against the sunset’s after-glow.
This afternoon the skies darkened and the storms arrived. Right now I can hardly see the osprey nest from my terrace through the heavy rains. Gray walls of water are swept sideways by the strong winds. I went out quickly and took one picture. Sandy had placed her baby in the nest cup and was shielding it from the elements with her wings. Even her head was down. Possibly to reassure the baby that this too shall pass. She knows her stuff.
With that we wish you a great week ahead and hope it will be sunny and bright. Thank you for visiting.
As many of you know, Mr. Dylan and I have been stalking the Osprey Family for first baby pictures for a couple of weeks now. Yesterday at lunch time we finally succeeded. Dylan’s persistence to go to the dog park, for first time since my work trip this past week, paid off. We are all smiles.
When we arrived at the marsh, Stanley had just brought in a fish. Sandy was eating and feeding the chick, whose little head was sticking up in front of her. Stanley decided to fly up to the perch to have a better overview. He often stays at the nest or close by when Sandy is feeding. The provider and guardian that he is.
Sandy continued eating and feeding, but soon told Stanley that more was needed. You better go fishing again, she told him with determination. But Stanley stayed put.
We went to the dog park. When we returned Stanley had left. I wondered whether he had gone fishing or just to chill out a bit in his man cave. We walked around the marsh and spotted Miss Rosa.
For the first time this season she was there in the middle of the day, beautiful as ever.
At the far end of the marsh, we also spotted the older Great Blue Heron. He was walking confidently, his head high, inspecting the marsh. He is a tall, handsome bird. And, indeed, a great Mayor.
Of course there were some smaller birds flitting around as well. We spotted several European Starlings…
…and a very skittish Blue Jay. One look at the paparazzi and he was gone.
When we approached the osprey nest again, we noticed that the little one had moved closer to the edge. Unfortunately we had to ‘shoot’ almost right into the sun, but you can see that the chick seems curious about the outer world already. At less than three weeks of age. A future explorer for sure.
The baby had also discovered its little wings and was flapping them right in mama’s face.
The paparazzi are almost sure that there is only one chick this year. But they have been proven wrong before. What we know for sure is that this little chick is alert and energetic. It’s not yet ready for beauty competitions, but will be very soon. Its feathers will grow out and its eyes will turn from dark to beautiful bright orange. With these happy thoughts we said our goodbyes and walked home.
Reaching our front yard we saw, from a block away, that Staley was landing on his usual lamp-post with a new fish. Two fishing trips in about 90 minutes! No wonder the poor man looks a bit exhausted.
Much love from the paparazzi, the Mayor, Miss Rosa and the Osprey Family.
This time of the year it’s a bit easier for this night owl to get up and witness the sunrise. The silent hour when nature is waking up brings incredible colors over the bay and beautiful reflections in the clouds over the ocean. Peace reigns.
Creatures living in harmony with nature start their day. Some sit and enjoy the sunrise, others get on with breakfast preparations.
Papa Stanley returns from his first fishing trip of the day, one of many to come …
A few minutes later, he nods off on the lamp-post just outside the marsh border. As we know, taking care of babies is quite tiring for the parents. He has eaten the fish head and takes a short nap before bringing the meaty parts of the fish to Mama Sandy and the kids.
And so the day has started. Late morning yesterday, when Dylan and I were spying on the osprey family from our terrace, we finally spotted a little chick! Or perhaps two? The first born should be almost two weeks old now. Here is the first grainy family picture of 2018. We hope for better ones soon.
Throughout the day many other birds made appearances. My assistant and I went on a short walk in another park nearby and spotted a Limpkin, a Double Crested Cormorant and a couple of White Ibis.
We also found two different blackbirds…
…and a few turtles enjoying the water and the mild spring weather.
Later on, around sunset time, we walked through the bay side to the salt marsh and discovered a beautiful Snowy Egret enjoying the low tide and the last rays of sun.
We noticed that Sandy was on her dinner break at their usual lamp-post table. She had left Stanley to look after the kids.
We also spotted Ms. Rosa! Long time no see. There was just about enough light to see that she still looks great.
She forageed around the shallow water as we watched her. Then ended up posing for another picture with Mr. Blue-winged Teal.
The younger GBH was watching the osprey nest, as he had been for the past few nights. But Stanley seemed relaxed. He might know the youngster has now grown up and adopted better manners. The latter was evidenced by a short nod in our direction.
Before we knew it the sun had gone down and the marsh filled with shadows. We saw some movement in the bushes but it was too dark for pictures.
We enjoyed the peace of the evening for a while on ‘my’ bench. When we finally wanted to leave, the park gate had already closed. We had to use our secret escape path out of the park. Dylan led the way in the moonlight. He had done this before.
Thank you for visiting us between the sunrise and the sunset. And Happy Easter to all who celebrate! I leave you with my one of my favorite sunset pictures from our beach. Sail well into the new week.
After learning about this week’s photo challenge, my first thought was that it will be impossible for me to select one favorite place. There were too many great candidates for that title. Victoria Falls? The pyramids in Giza? The many great wildlife spots in Africa? The ancient treasures in Italy or Greece? My childhood lake in Finland? The Old Town in Stockholm? The list was long. But thinking about it I always came back to a place I can see every day right through my office window. The salt marsh at the north end of our barrier island. It’s always there. At sunrise and sunset. Rain or shine. Its mood constantly changing.
And Dylan agrees with my choice. Whenever I say let’s go to the park, it’s clear from the speed of his tail that I’m on the right track. He loves to play at the dog park next to the marsh with his amigos, Saki, Eli, Snickers and others.
So here we are, on ‘hatch watch’. From what we have been able to glean looking at the osprey nest from our terrace, the osprey couple now has hatchlings. While Mama Sandy is not yet allowing her chicks to be shown in public, her moves in the nest reveal that she is in the ‘mothering mode’. Sorry for the poor picture quality as these two images were taken handheld from almost 300 yards on my compact superzoom camera.
Sandy gets up often and bends her head down into the nest cup. And after Papa Stanley has brought in a fish, her head stays down for several minutes. She moves around as in feeding more than one chick.
Last night around sunset time, when we passed the nest and Stanley had just left to get dinner, she even stood up in the nest to preen herself. A sure sign that the eggs have hatched this week.
The nest cup is so deep that it will probably take a week or two before I can get ‘proof’ of the newly hatched chicks in the form of a grainy picture from my terrace. And a couple of more weeks before I can get the first baby portraits from the ground. Patience girl. Patience.
Papa Stanley is guarding the nest whenever he is not on a fishing trip. Yesterday, again, there was another osprey flying around the nest.
Stanley sounded alarm and when that was not effective, he promptly went to chase it away.
When we passed under the nest a few minutes later, he was back on his guard post and nodded a friendly greeting.
I’m sure he had noticed that both the Mayor and the younger Great Blue Heron were present close to the nest. Staring at each other from the opposite sides of the deep water.
The Mayor’s presence was a good thing. It was less likely that the younger GBH would get bad ideas. Like considering attacking the osprey nest. He may remember that any attempt to approach the nest will not be tolerated. He would get his butt feathers ruffled by Stanley.
Mama Sandy was alert too. Maybe she remembered her dramatic encounter with the youngster a couple of years ago (below). Despite the difference in size, she did give the young heron a lesson.
But there was one fellow who only had time for himself … and the camera. As soon as the Reddish Egret, aka the Clown, saw my camera, he started his usual hunting dance.
I always enjoy watching his performance, but this time he didn’t catch a fish. Someone else did. A young Great Egret walked around at the far end of the marsh showcasing his catch.
He kept an eye on us so we didn’t dare to move closer. Instead we spotted a Tri-colored Heron hunting for crustaceans in the shallow water.
I was wondering if it was the same bird now being exhibited at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (below). Whatever the case, I am happy that one of the salt marsh residents made it to the “Forever Young” exhibition.
Just before leaving the park, we discovered something you can only see at the salt marsh. A bird reading a sign.
The Great Egret was wet. He looked relieved to see the no swimming sign pictured a human rather than a bird. He had already been swimming.
We all wish you a pleasant weekend and a great week ahead. Thank you for visiting our favorite place.
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.
We spotted several osprey nests. And in all cases found one parent incubating and the other guarding the nest close by.
To 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.
As 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.
I 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.
There 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.
Both owlets were very much aware of our presence. Perhaps more Dylan’s than mine.
We 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.
When we left the owl nest I noticed that the younger sibling had fallen asleep, while the older one was keeping watch.
When 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.
Suddenly he flew up from the vicinity of the nest. She looked surprised.
He 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.
I 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.
For 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.