Tag Archives: Black Crowned Night Heron

Sanctuaries and Sunsets.

In the afternoon of Easter Sunday, I went to see the birds at the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary again. Here are a few portraits of the resident birds, some of whom by now are old friends, like the Red-Shouldered Hawk, the Great-Horned Owl and his house mate, the Barred Owl.

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barred owl ud121The birds that are most represented among the permanent residents are the pelicans, both the White Pelicans and the Brown Pelicans. They tend to get hurt by human activity on the water. This warm day several of them were bathing in the many pools, large and small placed everywhere in their aviaries. Or preening to look their Sunday best.

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brown pelican preens ud121My friend the American Oyster Catcher was there too, and appeared to be doing better than last time I saw it.

american pyster catcher closeup ud121On this Sunday, several other birds were visiting their relatives at the sanctuary, like these American Black vultures.

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american black vulture ud121I also counted more than 50 nests high in the trees around the sanctuary. I believe birds feel this is a protected zone and are confident building nests in the trees around the park. Here a mama pelican peers down from her nest high up in a tall tree, and a Black-Crowned Night Heron nods off at her nest.

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black-crowned night heron sleeping ud121It was a wonderful, life-affirming visit, as always.

sanctuary ud121If only the earth would be a sanctuary for all its inhabitants.

At mid-week, I enjoyed a great sunset walk on the beach with our son, who was on a business trip here on the Gulf coast.

catamaran at sunset April 18 ud121The sunset was as beautiful as ever. Shore birds were running around at the water’s edge and little sand crabs hurried into their homes for the night.

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sand crab UD121The sun disappeared into the ocean leaving a soft glow on the skies. I thought about the beautiful Irish blessing “May every sunset hold more peace.”

sunset April 18 16x9 UD121With that thought I wish you all a wonderful weekend. I will be traveling to spend time with the youngest generation of our family. It always gives me hope. Just like the Osprey chicks.

Be Calm. And Enjoy Life as It Unfolds.

More than anything, I’m saying this to myself as I am facing a work trip packed with back-to-back meetings. I’m not used to such speed anymore. I’m more like the turtles I spotted at McCough Nature Park on Saturday. They just enjoy life in the present moment, lapping the sunshine. They have no hurry to do anything in particular. They accept what is and go with the flow. Or don’t go anywhere at all. A few lessons for me right there.

turtles-ud108While at this beautiful park, I also said hi to Sarge, the Bald Eagle. She has a rare feather disorder and is not able to fly. She now lives in the small Raptor Sanctuary in the park. She was undergoing tests to determine why her feathers are brittle and grow curly instead of straight. The cause could be environmental or genetic. And if it is environmental, it is important for the whole Bald Eagle population to pinpoint the exact substance that may have caused this disorder.

sarge-the-bald-eagle-ud108Sarge’s home is adjacent to a few other raptors, owls and hawks. One of the Great-horned Owls was about and about with his handler.

greathorned-owl-ud108After I had greeted all the raptors and chatted with staff, my journey continued to the Seaside Seabird Sanctuary. I couldn’t believe my luck when I arrived there exactly at the same time as Sheila’s handler. Sheila is the old Red-shouldered Hawk, whom I have met a few times in the last two years.

Sheila was happy to get out for a walk with her handler in the gorgeous winter weather. She flexed her wings vigorously before she settled down to enjoy the sunshine. She is almost blind, with very weak sight in one eye.

sheila-red-shouldered-hawk-with-her-handler-ud108When I talked to her she turned her head and looked towards me. I always enjoy her company. Walking back from the beach side where Sheila was perching, I spotted a Brown Pelican. She was doing bird yoga in the pool.

pelican-yoga-ud108This particular pose lasted for a while, and right afterwards she took a vigorous bath.

brown-pelican-bathing-ud108I walked to greet an old friend, an American Oyster Cather, who has a serious wing injury. It was great to see that she seemed to have more energy now than a few months ago when I first saw her.

american-oyster-catcher-ud-108As always, many completely healthy birds were drawn to the peace – and food – at the sanctuary. There were several American Black Vultures hanging around the hospital building. Maybe visiting their two relatives, who live here permanently.

american-black-vulture-ud108A few Black-crowned Night Herons were around too. One was busy drinking from the water fountain next to the raptor homes.

black-crowned-night-heron-ud1-8And many Brown Pelicans had made their nests in the high trees around the sanctuary. I counted 11 (!) pelican nests. The mothers-to-be were already sitting on the eggs and the males were bringing in complementary nesting materials. Or just hanging around.

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male-pelican-at-the-nest-ud108Before I leave the sanctuary, I always greet the Great-horned Owl, one of the permanent residents here. He is very curious about me and the camera, and always poses nicely for a picture in his neat and clean little home. He has accepted what happened to him, a serious wing injury, and seems to enjoy every day given to him.

great-horned-owl-scbs-feb-11-ud108I was delighted to see how well the birds and their environment in this sanctuary are taken care of by the new management, all the volunteers and the medical staff who work in the hospital. They had just released several birds into the wild last week, and those who cannot manage on their own have pleasant and clean forever homes here.

On this happy note, I wish you all a Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Flying Again. And True News from the Salt Marsh.

I haven’t been here, or at your place, much since my unlawful adventure on the bay side with Dylan. I’m totally guilty, but I will not keep you in suspense. We were not caught.

Sometimes life gives you ‘stuff’ you can’t ignore, like leaking pipes in the attic, family health issues happening far away and new work projects popping up out of nowhere. So that’s where I’ve been. In the ‘when-it-rains-it-pours-land’, just keeping my feet above the water. I’m sure you’ve been there at some point too. Thanks to friends who have been thinking of me and worrying. What wonderful friends you are!

brown-pelican-taking-flight-ud105But now I’m flying a bit higher and the ‘weather’ is much calmer, both literally and figuratively. I’ve even had an opportunity to visit my friends at the salt marsh yesterday. Since I’ve been away from them too, I wanted to check everything out and make a comprehensive round from the bay side to the salt marsh and back home through the beach.

This Brown Pelican was entertaining me on the bay. Sometimes resting on the calm waters and other times disappearing with a big splash.

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pelican-diving-ud105And I spotted an Oyster Catcher, the first in several months. He was busy feeding in the low tide and paying no attention to the stunts by the pelican close by.

oyester-catcher-ud105And the same applied to a Snowy Egret, whom I discovered only when hanging out from the very edge of the seawall.

snowy-egret-ud105I had to smile at the three White Ibis standing in formation next to the sailing center boat launch. All of them had received the memo, but apparently it didn’t specify which leg to stand on.

three-white-ibis-ud105Approaching the salt marsh, I could see that both Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley were in the nest. This is not a sharp picture, but since it’s been taken from a great distance you can see that the nest remodeling has been completed. Their new home is brimming with furniture.

mama-and-papa-osprey-at-their-nest-ud105I was particularly happy to note that Stanley was at home. You see, a couple of days earlier when walking with Dylan, I saw a huge Bald Eagle fly towards the salt marsh. Suddenly two ospreys started chasing it back to where it belongs, on the other side of the bay. One was Stanley and I believe the other was his fishing buddy, Steve, who lives only eight blocks south of the marsh on the roof pillar of a high-rise building. I lost sight of them and was worried that something might have happened. Now I’ve seen both Steve and his wife Sheena (earlier pictures) fly above their top-of-the-line home. So everyone is okay.

When I arrived at the nest, Stanley had disappeared and Sandy was busy working. She was refitting some pillows in the nest. As in preparing the soft ‘nest cup’ for the eggs.

mama-osprey-works-on-the-nest-ud105Just below the nest I spotted the Mayor, the older Great Blue Heron. He was sitting there deep in his thoughts when a Black Crowned Night Heron zoomed in and startled him. But there was no reason for alarm, and the new-comer settled right below the Mayor’s retreat.

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blackcrowned-night-heron-ud105I walked around the marsh and spotted two couples of Yellow-crowned Night Herons, all in the vicinity of the deep waters close to the osprey nest.

yellow-crowned-night-heron-ud105I’m hoping they’ll nest at the marsh so we can see some Night Heron kids this spring. They look too funny with their baby hair standing straight up.

Further out I spotted a Little Blue Heron and a beautiful Great Egret. The former was busy selecting suitable food items, while the latter showcased her beautiful breeding plumage.

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great-egret-ud105Suddenly I saw a strange shadow and looked up to the sky. Starlings by the hundreds! The tail end of this party decided to occupy a few palm trees at the marsh.

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murmurating-starlings-ud105They sat on every branch, and while some of them seemed to be quiet for the photo shoot, the discussion flowed non-stop between the birds in different trees. Until, like on a secret command, they all flew away again.

By that time I was at the beach end of the marsh and saw that Stanley had sneaked back into the nest. He had brought a fish for his pregnant wife. How thoughtful of him.

mama-and-papa-osprey-2-ud105

mama-osprey-eats-fish-ud105Just before I left to walk home through the beach, I spotted Mr. Moorhen, whom I haven’t seen for several weeks. I think he was scouting for suitable nesting sites.

moorhen-ud105The beach was lively too. Hundreds of birds resting in several colonies. A large group of tiny Sanderlings, several groups of Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls and a few Willets and Ringbilled Gulls. And Brown Pelicans, of course. Here just a few pictures of shore birds I encountered on my way home.

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a-brown-pelican-and-a-gull-ud105I thought that was it for the birds. But when I walked into our garden, I heard a familiar sound. A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was working hard in a palm tree next to our garage entrance. His tempo was almost too fast to get a clear picture of his head.

mr-red-bellied-woodpecker-ud105-2I wish you all a wonderful weekend and will do my best to visit all my friends in the next few days. We all wish you peace.

No Election Stress. At the Salt Marsh.

It’s election day. The salt marsh is right next to our polling place at the Sailing Center.

election-day-ud89Early this morning as voters started to stream in, Papa Stanley was stationed right there, on the wind metering device, keeping watch. He was very alarmed, to say the least.

papa-osprey-sounds-alarm-ud89To my relief I discovered that he was alarmed about something completely different. Another male osprey flying over the salt marsh, where Mama Sandy was minding the nest.

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mama-osprey-ud89Sandy and Stanley are dating now, and he doesn’t venture far from her side. I bet he is already rehearsing his proposal dance to be performed in late December. In any case, the bay side was as lively as the polling place. Pelicans had gathered around the pier, and lots of fishing was going on.

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pelican-2-ud89I decided to visit the salt marsh. And the turnout of birds did not disappoint. Although Mama Sandy had now flown away from the nest, there was a lively crowd of ‘big boys’. Like the Wood Storks.

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wood-stork-ud89And the Great Egrets. Although a few of them decided to move to the bay side. More excitement there, I assumed.

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great-egret-flies-away-ud89But most importantly, the Mayor was in the ‘office’ on his favorite islet. He was keeping an eye on everything.

great-blue-heron-mayor-ud89In addition to the big guys, I spotted some smaller fellows. Like this Black-crowned Night Heron. He was trying to take a nap, apparently unsuccessfully, in the bushes below the osprey nest.

black-crowned-night-heron-ud89Then my attention was drawn to a rare visitor, a Belted Kingfisher. He was flying and hovering above the marsh for a long time, and finally sat down to rest in the middle of the marsh.

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belted-kingfisher-ud89I decided to take a swing on the beach. But I felt watched. A drone was circling above the beach. It was watching me, so I decided to watch it too. Tit for tat.

drone-ud89I didn’t like the drone and decided to return to the salt marsh. Just in time to see Mama Sandy return to the nest. I was secretly hoping she would not like the artificial ‘bird’ in the skies above the beach. But had to assume she had not seen it.

mama-osprey-lands-in-the-nest-ud89She had no fish. I believe she had already eaten her breakfast and was just taking an extra exercise round above the bay.

I then spent some time observing a few very small birds. They moved fast, but finally one of them sat down for a photo shoot. After looking at all my pictures, I think it might be a Pine Warbler, but stand to be corrected by friends who know these small birds much better than I do.

pine-warbler-ud89After getting my shot, I decided to walk home. Just when I got onto the street, I saw Papa Stanley fly over my head. With a fish. He landed on a lamp-post close to the marsh – with a direct line of sight to the nest where Mama Sandy was perching. Everything was in order.

papa-osprey-caught-a-fish-ud89Whatever happens tonight, I hope we will find peace. Individually and collectively.

Hello World! Reporting Live from the Seabird Sanctuary.

The Great Horned Owl, Miss Kitty, is alert and follows my movements in front of her little house with keen interest. This owl, whose badly infected wing had to be amputated, has been living at the Suncoast Seabird Sanctuary for over nine years. She is usually one of the first birds to greet me when I visit. Her closest neighbor is another long-time resident, a Barred Owl. She is huddling deep in thought close to the ceiling of her little row house, and unlike her neighbor she clearly prefers her own company. And I respect that.

Next, I am checking on some of the White Pelicans. They have a large netted home with several swimming pools to enjoy in the summer heat. While autumn is officially here, our temperatures are still hovering in the upper 80s F (around 30C).

white-pelicans-at-scbs-ud81The Brown Pelicans have a home next to their white cousins, and their ‘yard’ is also appointed with several pools. Just chilling around the pool seems to be a favorite activity.

brown-pelican-scbs-ud81Next to the pelicans, two Sandhill Cranes have their large, beautifully decorated home.

two-sandhill-cranes-ud81Some smaller birds, like a juvenile White Ibis and an American Oyster Catcher with a badly injured wing, share the neighboring homes.

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wounded-oystervatcher-at-scbs-ud81But to be honest, I came here to see an old friend, the Red Shouldered Hawk. Her name is Isis. I will need to point out that this beautiful bird was named 26 years ago when she first came to this sanctuary with a badly injured eye. She is close to 30 years old now, completely blind in one eye and almost blind in the other. To my delight I discover that her handler has just arrived to take her out for a ‘walk’ in the park. Great! So after greeting the other birds, I walk into a large covered area under the observation tower and find her perched there.

scbs-observation-tower-ud81I love watching her and it is clear that she thoroughly enjoys her open air outing. But I also want to take a few pictures of her. And that proves quite challenging. While the covered area is nice and shadowy,  the sun is very bright right outside of it.

red-shouldered-hawk-at-scbs-ud81Isis is still molting and she is preening diligently to get rid of some old feathers on her wings.

red-shouldered-hawk-molting-scbs-ud81And then she stretches her beautiful wings. I can sense she is dreaming of flying high up in the sky riding a cool current.

red-shouldered-hawk-2-at-scbs-ud81She has had a long, safe and comfortable life here at the sanctuary and it is wonderful, as always, to spend some time with her.

Walking out of the sanctuary I meet two non-residents, an American Black Vulture and a Black-crowned Night Heron. Perhaps they have relatives in rehabilitation here, or maybe they are just waiting for a free meal. I also note that the night heron is strategically positioned to remind visitors of the importance of donating to this unique sanctuary.

american-black-vulture-3-at-scbs-ud81

black-crowned-night-heron-at-scbs-ud81It is lovely to know there is a place where so many injured wild birds can get help. About 15-20 birds daily, or up to 5000 each year, are brought to the Dr. Marie L. Farr Avian Hospital located in this sanctuary. They have varying injuries, for example to their limbs, eyes or bills.

sun-coast-sea-bird-sanctuary-ud81Unfortunately about 90% of those injuries are directly or indirectly attributtable to human activity. After receiving the necessary hospital care, the birds are rehabilitated and then released. The success rate is fairly high, over 80% of the birds who survive the first 24 hours go back to live their lives in the wild. Those who cannot manage to live on their own due to a permanent handicap are provided a forever home here. I am always filled with gratitude thinking of all the volunteers who take care of these birds and keep their homes looking wonderful, and people who donate to keep this sanctuary going.

That’s all for tonight from the Seabird Sanctuary. Next, your reporter will take on the replacement of the osprey nest platform at the salt marsh. We don’t want Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley to move out just because their home falls apart, do we?

We all hope your week is going great.

Juveniles Rule. And Slowly Returning to Normal.

I am not developing an argument here on what ‘normal’ might be or look like. All I know is that our surroundings here at home are slowly starting to look as they used to – before Hermine dumped almost 15 inches/38cms of water on us over five days. The flood waters are almost gone. I say almost because there are still a few pools of water on the beach, in the park and in our garden. And birds love them. Like Snowy Egrets and White Ibis, who were mingling on the beach in large  numbers yesterday.

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snowy-egret-and-white-ibis-ud80And juveniles of all sorts were playing and feeding in the shallow pools. Like these two juvenile White Ibis. One of them was quite white already, while his little sister was still much more brown than white.

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juvenile-white-ibis-ud80Another juvenile, a Black Skimmer, who had already left his parents was practicing skimming in one of the shallow pools.

juvenile-black-skimmer-ud80The juvenile Royal Tern pestering his mom was quite entertaining. Although his poor mom might have disagreed. She tried to show him how to catch food items in the shallow water, but he was not interested. He wanted to be fed.

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baby-and-mama-royal-tern-ud80Walking into the salt marsh, I noticed the water levels were down and the bird count was up. Despite the fact that the mosquito count was down only a bit, I decided to see who had returned. And right away saw the younger Great Blue Heron. After hanging around for over two years now, I think he has earned to be named. I will call him Henry. He was balancing high up in the cypress tree surveying the marsh. Possibly trying to find out whether or not the Mayor was present.

young-blue-heron-ud80He wasn’t. So Henry decided it was safe to fly down and start hunting at the far end of the marsh, a spot usually reserved for the Mayor.

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young-blue-heron-lands-ud80A Great Egret was also scanning the marsh from the top of a tree in the middle of the marsh. He might have been counting his relatives, who were many but difficult to spot in the high grass.

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great-egret-ud80The only smaller wading bird present, in addition to Snowy Egrets, was a beautiful Tri-colored Heron. She was fishing at the shallow side of the marsh that had already dried up quite a bit. But she was still more than knee-deep in the water.

tricolored-heron-ud80But the Moorhens and Mottled Ducks were present in big numbers. The ducklings born here last spring had returned and were swimming in a nice formation – all ten of them. Juveniles definitely ruled the day 🙂

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ten-ducklings-ud80I finished my walk at the Osprey nest. Mama Sandy was having her brunch and checked on me between the bites. I wanted to tell her that on Sunday, I would be visiting again – with the contractor who will be repairing or replacing (if required) the nest. But I let her eat in peace.

mama-osprey-eats-lunch-ud80I didn’t see Papa Stanley, but I know he is around as I saw him just the previous day. He flew low over our garden and tipped his wings to me and Dylan. Instead I spotted a Red-bellied Woodpecker on my way home. He was showcasing his reddish belly.

redbellied-woodpecker-2-ud80But that was not all. Approaching home, I saw a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk fly past me towards our garden.

hawk-ud80I decided to see if I could spot her again and walked around among the trees where I thought she might have landed. And I found her! She was sitting in a dense tree – on our neighbor’s side. It was an awkward spot to try to ‘shoot’ her. Sun right in my eyes, a thick, high hedge on one side and a large ditch with some remaining flood water on the other. I tried to balance on my toes so I could get a clear shot of her, but this is the best I could get. What a beautiful bird.

juvenile-red-shouldered-hawk-ud80She flew away to continue her hunt, and I spotted another bird in a tree right above me. A Black-crowned Night Heron had settled there to sleep for the day and I inadvertently woke him up.

black-crowned-night-heron-ud80Luckily he didn’t seem to be angry. I was happy to find so many of my feathered friends. I concluded that things are slowly returning to normal around here, but unfortunately the damage assessments still continue elsewhere not too far from here.

We all wish you a very happy weekend. Peace.

She’s Baaack! Papa Osprey’s Welcome Gift. And a Storm Brewing.

He stretched it out. The announcement was very loud, perhaps even a bit enthusiastic. The Green Heron had returned to his winter home at the salt marsh while I was gone, and appeared surprised to see me. As I walked closer, he repeated the announcement.

green heron 3 ud76An Anhinga, who was resting down by the water almost right below him, joined the choir. She’s baaack!

anhinga 2 ud76All eyes were on me. Well, almost. Even the Mayor interrupted his hunt, walked closer, nailed his eyes on me and gave me a nod.

older great blue heron ud76The young Mourning Dove checked on me too from her high vantage point. Approvingly, I thought.

mourning dove ud76Miss Rosa was still sleeping in her ‘bedroom’,  heavily curtailed by leafy greens. She opened her eyes. I’m afraid my approach had woken her up.

miss rosa ud76The Reddish Egret, who had been fishing in the shallows nearby, performed his signature dance. Shake, Baby, Shake. What a royal reception!

reddish egret 3 ud76Even two of the ducklings, who had left the salt marsh merely four months ago marching behind their Mama, came to say hi. They had grown a lot. And they had started in diving school. I saw a few more siblings further away.

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mottled ducklings diving ud76But not all residents joined the welcome party. The young Great Blue Heron didn’t really care to see me back. We have some history, as some of you will remember. I noticed he might have been in a fight as he had a flap of skin hanging under his chin. I wished him speedy recovery.

younger Blue Heron UD76And the Yellow-crowned Night Heron didn’t pay any attention to me either. But I didn’t take it personally. He might have been hunting all night and was now looking for some peace and quiet.

young yellow-crowned night heron ud76His cousin, the Black-crowned Night Heron, was present too and peeked out from the tall grass. He was simply shy. And soon he flew up into a tree to sleep for the day.

black+crowned night heron ud76I walked to the beach-end of the marsh and found two Great Egrets hunting together. Beautiful.

two great egrets ud76And a little Snowy Egret who was fishing alone. She soon decided to move onto the bay side and took off while I was watching her.

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snowy egret in flight ud76I was delighted to see so many feathered friends on my first walk! But where were the Ospreys? The nest was empty – and in great need of repair. Unfortunately the ground is too soft right now to allow a big vehicle to come close to the nest. That will have to wait for a bit longer.

osprey nest ud75I walked around the marsh. Then sat on ‘my’ bench to drink some water. It was hot already. I waited. A squirrel in the tree above came down to check me out.

squirrel ud76I noticed the Anhinga was still there, now drying her wings in the light breeze. And letting her latest catch, the drama of which I had obviously missed,  go down smoothly.

anhinga after breakfast ud76Suddenly I heard friendly osprey speak in the sky. Mama Sandy was flying above the marsh with Papa Stanley. Yes! Both of them were around and seemed to be doing fine.

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papa osprey flying with Steve UD76I discovered there was a third Osprey flying with them too. One with slightly orange-colored eyes and white tips on the flying feathers. A juvenile.

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a young osprey UD76I looked at all the pictures I snapped of this young Osprey, and while I can’t be absolutely sure, I think it might have been Lady Cawcaw! She was discussing something with her papa. Maybe getting tips on good fishing spots. That’s when Papa Stanley’s gift arrived. A beautiful flight feather came dangling down and landed on the grass just a few feet from where I was standing. I picked it up. And now have this 14 inches long ‘treasure’ in a small vase in my office, his molting gift.

mama ospreys feather ud75While I was watching the Ospreys, Miss Rosa had decided it was time for breakfast. She had come out from her hideout and was looking for food.

roseate spoonbill 2 ud76And the Reddish Egret had recovered from our first meeting and was hunting again with great determination.

reddish egret ud76I was delighted by the reception orchestrated by the salt marsh residents. So many of them were present on that beautiful morning last Saturday.

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sunrise on the ocean 16x9 ud76It may take a few days before we see such a glorious sunrise again as we are currently bracing for the impacts from a high grade tropical storm, hopefully not a hurricane, expected to brush our area tomorrow night and Thursday. I am hoping all our feathered friends will find shelter to keep them safe. Greetings from all of us.