Tag Archives: Blue Jay

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.

Osprey Chick Boot Camp. And Other Life Lessons.

The Osprey chick is in boot camp. Mama Sandy is trying to get her ‘wingersizing’. It’s time to strengthen her wings by exercising them.  And to improve her self-confidence after the tragedy that killed her sibling two weeks ago. So now Mama Sandy is often retreating to her perch to give the little one room to move around in the nest and spread her wings. Why do I say her? It is because I snapped this picture the other night at sunset time when Dylan walked me through the marsh.

osprey chick at sunrise ud125Her ‘necklace’ is very much like Sandy’s. So it’s a girl. Again. In the last few years Sandy and Stanley have produced mostly girls: one girl in 2014, two girls and one boy in 2015 and one girl in 2016.

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Now this girl needs to learn to fly. But she is not yet exercising enough. At least in Sandy’s opinion. So yesterday when I sat on “my” bench watching the nest, I saw Sandy teaching her. By role modeling flight from start to end. She walked the talk, so to speak. She took off from the perch and just flew around for a minute. And landing back on the perch she demonstrated her well-practiced “come-from-below” approach.

mama osprey flies around the nest ud125

Mama osprey returns ud125She did this repeatedly. She did not go anywhere, just flew around the nest so the chick could see her. And the chick watched intently. Even flexed her wings a few times.

osprey chick watches mama flying ud125

osprey chick streches her wings ud125

Mama osprey lands on the perch ud125I was impressed by Sandy’s home schooling skills. Then my camera battery warning light began blinking. I started to change the battery. And…like so often previously, that’s when Stanley appeared. My camera’s bottom wide open, I watched him zoom in, leave the fish to Sandy and leave. Sandy divided it into two pieces and they started to eat.

mama osprey and chick are eating ud125_edited-1The chick was hungry and wanted more. Or maybe her piece was smaller.

mama osprey and the chick ud125_edited-1In any case, after Sandy had eaten enough, she started to feed the chick.

osprey female feeds the chick ud125_edited-1Perhaps Sandy made a point right there. If you’re a baby and don’t want to learn to fly, I’m going to feed you like a baby. Or maybe that’s just my speculation. In any case, the chick’s recovery seems to be going quite well. The intensive flight preparation classes should get her airborne shortly.

After spending quite a bit of time with the Osprey family, I only had time to walk quickly around the marsh. I spotted my friend, the beautiful Tri-colored Heron.

tri-colored Heron 2 UD125And a hybrid Mottled Duck, whose friend put up quite a show for me. Or maybe I should say gave me a free preening lesson. If you have the time to actually be at the salt marsh, and need a smile, please watch the short video below.

duck ud125

A White Ibis family was foraging close by, and among them was this beautiful juvenile. She was only partly white. I am guessing she was born last year.

juvenile white ibis ud125At the far end of the marsh, the Clown (Reddish Egret) sported his red, spiked up hair do. He was busy chasing a Great Egret away from his fishing camp. The latter obliged.

Reddish Egret chases a Great Egret ud125Just when I was leaving the marsh, I spotted a Blue Jay. He didn’t care to pose for a portrait, but showcased the gorgeous colors on his back.

blue jay 2 ud125When I arrived home, a tiny Mockingbird baby was practicing her songs on the garage roof. Her repertoire was not yet well developed, but her obvious joy of just being alive was enough to give me a big smile – and something to ponder.

baby northern Mockingbird ud125Thank you for being here. Please stay tuned…the now traditional chick naming lottery is starting next week. Dylan will take care of it, just like last year. Peace.

Covert Operations to Distract the Paparazzi

Early this week, I finally had an opportunity to check everything out at the salt marsh. In broad daylight. But that didn’t spare me from bumping into some covert operations. By the osprey couple. The main target of my surveillance.

mama osprey on her break ud113When I arrived at the marsh I found Mama Sandy on one of her regular breaks from incubating. Papa Stanley was sitting on the eggs.

Papa Osprey sits on the eggs ud113

mama osprey 3 ud113She was looking well and happy to air her brooding patches for a while. It’s been over five weeks now, which means she has endless patience and that addition to the family is imminent.

mama osprey returns to the nest ud113She flew back to the nest and immediately sat on the eggs. The shift change was seamless. Thirty seconds tops. Stanley flew away and I saw him dive down into the marsh waters behind some trees and bushes, pick up a fish and fly away to eat it. They almost never fish at the marsh, so I believe this was a surprise maneuver to distract the paparazzi.

papa osprey leaves the nest ud113And he succeeded. No pictures. You just have to take my word for it. As everything was quiet at the nest, I continued my inspection round. The first friend I spotted was the Mayor.

mayor ud113As always, he was keenly surveying the marsh. I’m almost sure he has a nest close by. I have seen him fly with nesting materials only to land in the middle of the marsh. And I’ve caught him  returning there at night. But he keeps his family secrets close to his chest.

And so does the Tri-Colored Heron family. I have figured out that the male likes to hide in the trees below the Osprey nest, while the female practices her yoga whenever she has a break. I spotted the male first.

tri-colored heron ud112A half an hour later, Mrs. was out and about stretching her wings and airing her brooding patches on one of the islets.

tri-colored heron ud113Another couple nesting at the marsh now are Mr. and Mrs. Yellow-Crowned Night Heron. Apparently Mister had been fishing. He was drying his feathers in the sun.

yellow-crowned night heron ud113I also saw my friend Little Blue Heron. I am almost sure she’s not yet mature enough to start a family.

little blue heron ud113The same probably applies to the really tiny Snowy Egret, who was observing the wild world from a tree next to the deep water.

small snowy egret ud113Suddenly I heard Sandy’s alarm call. I looked up and saw another female Osprey circling above the nest.

mama osprey sounds alarm 2 ud113

another female osprey ud113I assumed she was the wife of Stanley’s fishing buddy, Steve. They are nesting on the roof of a high-rise building about one mile south of the marsh. Perhaps she was on a break to stretch her wings and was curious about the trendy furnishings in Sandy’s new home. She was not aggressive in any way and Sandy soon calmed down.

I continued my walk and saw that the Reddish Egret was visiting. He might have been looking for some special bites to take back to the bird island, where I’m assuming he’s nesting right now.

reddish egret 3 ud113Next, I saw a duck that I haven’t seen at the marsh for a couple of years, a male hybrid between Mallard and Florida Mottled Duck. It looked like he was canvassing suitable home sites.

hybrid florida mottled duck ud113He had some completion from Papa Moorhen. Although I think the Moorhens have already rented a home for this nesting season. Mama Moorhen was likely already incubating at this time.

mr moorhen ud113But where were all the smaller birds, you might ask. Oh, they were flitting and flying around in big numbers. The super tiny Sedge Wren was foraging in the grass, hardly visible beneath the leaves.

SEDGE WREN UD113The Blue Jay was flying around singing his monotone song – and moving non-stop.

blue jay 3 ud112The Mockingbird’s song was not boring. He had a large repertoire that I greatly enjoyed.

Mockingbird UD112The European Starling, the Grackle and the Eurasian Collared Dove just sat there admiring the gorgeous spring weather.

european starling UD112

common grackle ud112

mourning dove ud113I had to walk home not knowing whether or not there was a little hatchling in the Osprey nest.

Then, on Thursday afternoon, I was spying on them again…from my terrace. Sorry for the poor picture quality, but it was so windy that I could hardly stand straight and zooming full out, handheld, is quite hazardous in those conditions. Anyway, I caught a moment when Stanley was sitting on the perch and Sandy was incubating – her wings a little bit spread out. Suddenly she got up and started working on something.

osprey couple ud113I can’t be sure of what she was doing. But when I inspected my blurry and shaky shots at length, it sure looked like she could have been feeding (by regurgitating) a newborn chick…or two. But you know my imagination.

mama osprey feeding a second chick 2 maybe ud113

mama osprey feeding maybe 3 ud113Sandy was certainly ‘doing something’ both in front of her and to her side. I have learned that when there is a hatchling,  it still looks like she is incubating. Why? She broods the newly hatched chick(s) for 10 days, initially also incubating still unhatched eggs. Her wings are just slightly spread out at that point. As the minimum incubation time has now passed, we could already have one or two tiny chicks…carefully protected from paparazzi by the parents. Whatever it is, we’ll know soon enough.

parasailing ud113We all wish you a beautiful weekend and week ahead. Fly high.

Warm Up. At the Salt Marsh.

This morning, waking up to rare Florida winter temperatures of 36F/2C, strong northerly winds and 5-8 foot/1.5-2.5 meter waves on the Gulf, I decided to pull together a post about my short walk earlier this week. The weather was balmy, partly sunny and the temperature hovered around 70F/20C. Just seeing the pictures now makes me feel warmer. And I hope they have the same effect on friends who are experiencing snow, ice and freezing cold right now – up north in the US and Canada as well as in Northern Europe. I still remember the truly cold weather from my youth…and the blizzards up in D.C.  And can’t honestly say I miss the snow.

winter-snow-at-home-up-north-ud101On Thursday morning I took a short break from working on my current project and walked to the salt marsh. Mama Sandy was sitting on her new perch, but Papa Stanley was nowhere to be seen. Sandy might have sent him to Home Depot for more supplies for their nest remodeling efforts, which obviously have already started.

mama-osprey-at-the-nest-ud101She greeted me in her usual friendly manner. And sometimes I wonder if she knows that I had something to do with the new nest she suddenly found one morning last November. I’m suspecting she does.

mama-osprey-at-her-perch-ud101In any case, I am happy not needing to worry that the winter storms might take down her nest.

The older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor, was standing guard on the same small islet he has favored in winters past. It’s always great to see the Mayor in his ‘office’.

great-blue-heron-ud101I spotted two Yellow-crowned Night Herons close to the Osprey nest. They had received the Mayor’s memo urging everyone to rest on one leg. And I think they might be a couple. I’ve seen them together many times in the past few weeks. If they’ll nest at the salt marsh, we might see little babies come late spring. If they choose to nest on the protected ‘bird island’ in the bay, we’ll see juveniles as soon as they learn to fly next summer.

yellow-crowned-night-heron-ud101

yellow-crowned-night-heron-2-ud101Otherwise the marsh looked deserted.  I wondered why that might be.

Just when I was leaving, I spotted something bright blue moving on the ground a bit further away. I realized it was a Blue Jay.  They are extremely skittish so I tried to be invisible when I slowly moved closer. Of course he discovered me, Tiny is 5′ 6″ after all, looked at me and was gone. Hence only one ‘soft’ picture of him.

blue-jay-ud101I walked home through the bay side. To my surprise I found many of our salt marsh friends there. They were enjoying the ‘fast food’ provided by the low tide on the bay. The Great Egret was hurrying to the table.

great-egret-in-flight-ud101

great-egret-ud101The Snowy Egret was already there and so was the Little Blue Heron. The latter appeared truly blue in the weak sunlight, but seemed to be reasonably happy.

snowy-egret-ud101

little-blue-heron-ud101I saw several Brown Pelicans on the other side of the Sailing Center pier. And almost fell down from the seawall trying to get a straight shot of one of them between the pillars. It goes to say that trying to frame a shot can be risky at times.

brown-pelican-ud101Now, looking at the part of salt marsh I can see from my windows, it appears completely deserted. The birds have taken shelter from the cold wind. Even Sandy, whom I saw at the nest first thing this morning, has gone to some more sheltered location in the woods. But I hope this little greeting from the recently warm world of our feathered friends, made you feel a bit warmer. Have a great week ahead.

 

Mama Osprey’s Little Wingman. And Danger Lurking.

Happy Mother’s Day to Mama Sandy! Being a mother is wonderful, but also exhausting and full of trials. Mama Sandy knows. She looks weary. I am not sure this picture shows two chicks, but this is the closest I’ve come this week to confirm that there still are two of them.

weary Mama Osprey and 2 chicks ud59But that doesn’t mean that the younger chick didn’t survive. S/he could just be in the middle of the nest and not yet looking out much. And even in the next picture s/he could be right in front of Sandy’s head.

osprey chick ud59The bigger chick is certainly thriving. S/he is wingersizing already. That long, out-stretched wing belongs to him/her!

This morning I took a solo walk to check on them. See, Dylan is not allowed to take long walks until next Thursday. He had surgery to repair a Cherry Eye in his left eye, which is still red. He has a cone to protect his eye, and is on three medications. Needless to say he doesn’t appreciate his current restrictions.

Dylan after surgeryAnyway, this morning I heard Mama Sandy give a sharp alarm call several times. I looked up in the sky, but couldn’t see anything flying overhead. At one time she was making herself ready to fly out, but changed her mind at the last moment. I was baffled. What was making her so upset?

mama osprey ready to defend the nest ud59I walked closer to the nest and discovered the reason she was on edge. The young Great Blue Heron was watching the nest intensively from the other side of the deep pond.

young great blue heron ud59After being discovered, he flew across the pond landing almost below the nest. And Sandy gave another sharp warning.

gbh flying ud59

younger great blue heron ud59Sandy was on her toes and ready to defend the nest. Because Papa Stanley didn’t fly in to assist her, I gathered he was out fishing. So I walked around the marsh to see who else was at home. The first one I spotted was the small Tri-colored Heron. She was hunting and didn’t pay much attention to me.

tricolored heron ud59The tiny juvenile Little Blue Heron, whom I saw last week for the first time, was also there. I think she’s made the salt marsh her new home.

juvenile little blue heron ud59On the north side of the marsh, two baby Mottled Ducks were having breakfast. Diving so often that I had a difficulty in capturing both of them up on the surface at the same time.

two ducklings ud59Mr. Mallard was also visiting the marsh for the first time this year. He posed nicely for the camera.

mr mallard ud59Walking further towards the beach end of the marsh, I had to laugh at this Northern Mockingbird.

Mockingbird ud59As soon as I walked by his tree, he started serenading me in advance of Mother’s Day. I took a 30 second video so he can serenade you too. The master of the songbird universe.

Reaching the end of the marsh, my attention was drawn to a Great Egret, who seemed very upset.

great egret ud59He was vocal too, and soon enough I saw why. The young Great Blue Heron was flying right towards him. I guess the GBH had decided he didn’t want to get his butt kicked by Sandy again, and wanted another piece of land to conquer.

young great blue heron ud59The Great Egret flew away, and the young GBH soon was the King of the Hill at the west-end of the marsh.

younger Great Blue Heron ud59I walked back towards the Osprey nest on the south side of the marsh. The only bird I saw there was a Blue Jay. He was moving all the time and gave me a hard time to get a shot.

blue jay ud59While I was occupied with him, I saw Papa Stanley circle around the nest with a fish. Mama Sandy did not say anything so he flew away with the fish. After reaching the nest, I sat down on “my” bench to change the battery in my camera.

mama osprey ud59I could only see Sandy. Then I saw a dark shadow flying over my head. It was Stanley coming back with the fish.

papa osprey brings a fish ud59He landed at the corner of nest. But nobody was hungry. This was around 10 a.m. and I guess Sandy and the chick(s) had just eaten. So he took the fish and flew away, presumably to eat it himself.

papa osprey delivers extra fish ud59

papa osprey flies away w fish ud59I’m sure he’ll need that extra energy as he’s fishing at least four times a day now, and probably eats less than any of them.

It was a gorgeous day and an eventful walk. Reaching our driveway a Mourning Dove was welcoming me home.

mourning dove ud59

With that I wish all mothers and grandmothers a wonderful Mother’s Day tomorrow.

 

 

Family Dramas. And a Possible Election Challenge. At the Salt Marsh.

There’s a hint of autumn in the air now. Finally it’s cooler, breezy and less humid. Okay. I’m going for full disclosure. It’s been gorgeous. And the beach has been lively with all kinds of shorebirds. Little Sanderlings and little humans enjoying the tidal pools together.

sanderling ud26 One morning I also witnessed a bit of a drama in the Royal Tern family. This is how it went down.

Mommy....I'm hungry! My older brother got more fish for breakfast.
Daddy….I’m still hungry! My older brother took almost all the fish.
Lunch time, Mommy!!
Did you hear me Daddy? I’m hungry!
Bring me fish! It's my turn!
Bring me fish! It’s my turn!
What about me, Mommy?
When Daddy returned empty-handed, Mommy was there too….Where’s the fish? Can’t you see our little one is hungry?

I hope all that was settled amicably after I had to leave. While all kinds of excitement was going on among the families on shore, the Brown pelican was sitting calmly on his observation pole off shore, watching it all. I could feel him thinking “this too shall pass”.

pelican ud26

The salt marsh has been fairly quiet. No big rush of migrants as yet. As usual the Mayor has been keeping order among the residents. The other day I saw him chasing the younger GBH around the marsh. I wondered what mischief he’d been up to. Or maybe he wanted to challenge the Mayor and run for office? Like so many these days.

mayor older blue heron ud26

That wouldn’t be such a good idea. I doubt he would get any votes at all. Even Mama Sandy sounded a sharp warning when he as much as flew towards the nest the other day. But he was challenging his fate, as usual, and landed in the water just below the nest. He has a big ego, it seems.

mama osprey closeup ud26

The ducks would definitely gang together against him. They’ve been having these large sunset gatherings lately. Perhaps planning a super pack to support the Mayor? And they’ve been very inclusive. Mallards, Mottled Ducks, and even the tiny Pied-billed Grebe. Like one big, happy family.

mallard meeting ud26Pied-billed Grebe ud26

I wonder if Papa Stanley and Mama Sandy were communicating about that very issue the other day. Papa was at his resort looking south, shouting something to Sandy. And posing for a photo in between. She was about half a mile south, sending replies perched on a huge antenna at the very top of the Marriott Resort on the bay side. That went on for a while before they said “over and out”.

papa osprey ud26mama osprey on the TV antenna ud26

In any case, if the young GBH was dreaming of running for office, my prediction is he’d not get support even from his own. The other Herons. The Tri-colored Heron seems to have her head firmly on her shoulders. And the juvenile Night Heron, although he might perhaps be persuaded by aggressive campaigning, is too young to vote anyway.

tricolored heron ud26juvenile night heron ud26

As to Miss Rosa, she seems very happy with the Mayor’s work. Nobody, but maybe a photographer, could make her to turn her head. And her friend Ibis may be blue eyed, but let me tell you, he’s not easily charmed. By anyone.

roseate spoonbill ud25 bibis ud26

As to the smaller birds, like this Blue Jay, they like to keep a safe distance to anybody showing signs of aggression.

Blue Jay ud26

Based on this official, highly reliable polling, my prediction is that the Mayor will sit firmly in the office for quite some time to come. And I take a new rainbow over the salt marsh as a good sign.

rainbow salt marsh to bay panorama ud26

With that, I’ll wish you all peace. And a wonderful upcoming weekend ~

Behind the Grid. In the Bird Sanctuary.

In the bird sanctuary many of the injured or otherwise handicapped birds live in enclosures. Behind the grid. Like these two Blue Jays, siblings brought up by humans since they were nestlings. And then abandoned. They don’t know they are birds, and cannot manage in the wild despite best rehabilitation efforts. They always return to their little row house in the sanctuary. It’s home.

two blue jays scbsThe Seabird Sanctuary here on Florida’s west coast is the largest non-profit wild bird hospital/sanctuary in the US.  On average, 15-20 injured birds are brought into their medical facility on a daily basis, and up to 5,000 are admitted annually. Unfortunately about 90% of their injuries are related to human activity.

snowy egrets SCBS

Luckily most of these birds (over 80%) only stay here for a little while. First in the hospital and then, if required, in observation and rehabilitation. Once healed, they are released back into the wild, usually in the same area where they were found. All baby birds born in the facility are also released into the wild as soon as they have gained independence.

young great blue heron SCBSBut quite a number of birds have injuries that make it impossible for them to live in the wild. They’ve lost parts of their wings and can no longer fly, they are blind or partly blind, or have injuries to their bill so they can no longer fetch food. Birds with a permanent handicap are offered a forever home here, or in another reputable facility.  Like these pelicans who enjoy splashing in the many small swimming pools. Or just floating around on a lazy afternoon.

pelican bath SCBS GThe oldest permanent resident is a Red-shouldered Hawk. She is blind in one eye, and almost blind in the other. She is over 20 years old, and has called this sanctuary home for quite a while. She lives in her little studio apartment, but is also able to enjoy the park and the beach thanks to a volunteer, who comes and takes her for regular outings.

Red-shouldered hawk scbsred-shouldered hawk on outing scbsThe day of my latest visit her human friend had just arrived. She turned around towards the back door in anticipation of her walk. barred owl SCBS G2And it was a great outing. The weather was fabulous, and I could see how much this old hawk enjoyed it.

Among the residents there are also two owls. They have wing and eye injuries, but are well taken care of here.The Barred Owl insisted on sitting in the attic so I only got a shaky portrait of him. But the Great-horned Owl was very curious about me (or the camera?) and posed nicely for a picture.

great-horned owl 2 SCBSThere are many other residents, like this Cormorant, who all have large and remarkably clean enclosures.

cormorant at scbsIn the surrounding park, I found other birds, old and young, who call the sanctuary home. Like this old Black-crowned Night Heron who was waiting for lunch time right in front of the hospital building when I arrived. And this buffed up youngster on the roof of the education center.

old black-crowned night heron at scbsjuvenile blackcrowned night heron An old American Vulture also hangs around in the park. He might be a former patient, who just feels comfortable staying close by.

american black vulture at SCBS I have made it a habit to visit this sanctuary every now and then. Just to offer little support as I don’t have the time to volunteer. They depend solely on donations, and you can imagine the amount of food that is needed here on a daily basis. And medicine, medical supplies, materials for the “homes” and equipment to keep the place clean and comfortable. Wonderful work by staff, volunteers and caring donors.

I wish you all a great week ahead.

This post is also my response to the Weekly Photo Challenge “Grid”. You can find other responses here.