Tag Archives: Brown-headed Cowbird

Summer at the Salt Marsh. Beach Party. Rivalry. And Construction Plans.

Hello friends! I’m still on my summer break, but since I’m at home right now I want to give you an update on the affairs at the salt marsh. H.J’s visit early this month brought in the regular thunderstorms with downpours that belong to our summer. At the salt marsh, water levels are up and everything is fresh green.

salt marsh ud73

salt marsh ud73A couple of days ago I took a walk on the beach and was invited to a beach party attended by hundreds of feathered guests. It was a jolly event with Black Skimmers, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Laughing Gulls, Herring Gulls, including juveniles, enjoying the freshwater ‘lake’ formed on the beach by the frequent torrential downpours. The ‘lake’ occupied almost the whole beach, leaving only a wet, narrow strip of sand next to the salt marsh.

beach party after the rain UD73Some partygoers were flying back and forth looking for the perfect spot, others were catching up on the latest, bathing or preening. It was lively indeed.

birds on the beach 2 ud73

royal tern UD73

juvenile gull ud73Some guests were resting, and yet others had partied enough and fallen asleep on the sand. But in such a crowd you’d better sleep with your eyes open, like this Black Skimmer.

black skimmer sleeping ud73Despite being attired with my newly acquired cheerful rain boots, I decided not to test the water depth in the ‘lake’, but instead to walk to the salt marsh through the bay side.

my new rain boots ud73.jpgThat was a great decision. I was rewarded with a pleasant discovery. Papa Stanley had returned from his 4-week vacation!

papa osprey ud73He was perching on the wind measurement device at the Sailing Center, obviously planning his next fishing trip. I could hardly see him as the sun was right in my eyes, but looking at my photos I realized he had definitely recognized me. From there I went to see Mama Sandy. She was ‘babysitting’ the nest again, and greeted me with a friendly nod. And I thought she tried to tell me about the dismal condition of the nest. We both agree that the nest will not make it through the nesting season starting in December.

mama osprey ud73I was happy to let her know that I’ve finally started the process of getting the nest repaired – or perhaps replaced. This will involve several steps: evaluating the nest pole to see if it has hollowed and will need to be replaced, and if that is the case, evaluating the ground to see if it can carry the heavy equipment needed to replace the whole structure with a new, more durable one. If the answer is yes, then I’ll have to get busy approaching sponsors to get help with the fairly high cost of this project. If the answer is no, then we’ll need to come up with plan B and only replace the nest platform that is falling apart. I hope to have these answers in the next few weeks through the Clearwater Audubon Society. While they don’t have the money to pay for this project right now, they have the required permits and the connections to suitable contractors, and have kindly agreed to help. Wonderful news for our Osprey family.

mama osprey at the nest ud73I promised to keep Mama Sandy updated. As I walked around the marsh, I observed something quite interesting. Both the younger Great Blue Heron and the Mayor were present. Staring at each other from opposite ends of the marsh. Measuring strength. As many of you know, the young one is a colorful character. He is still much smaller than the Mayor, but clearly has the desire to be the king of the hill, so to speak. He has been frequenting the marsh over the last three months, while the Mayor has taken care of his family on the ‘bird island’ in the bay. Last spring the Mayor told us ‘I’ll be back’ – and he has kept his promise.

young great blue heron ud73
Young GBH
great blue heron Mayor ud73
Older GBH, the Mayor

A Great Egret was following the developments with keen interest from a tree in the middle of the marsh.

great Egret ud73And a female Cowbird was excitedly cheering on the Mayor from a nearby tree.

female brown-headed cowbird ud73Miss Rosa was seeking shelter from the sun at her usual spot, but kept an eye on the two rivals as well. Particularly the youngster. She didn’t cheer.

roseate spoonbill ud73The Snowy Egret was staring at the young heron too, and he didn’t cheer either.

snowy egret UD73A family of White Ibis was foraging in the grass close by, probably hoping their youngster wouldn’t need to witness any brouhaha on such a beautiful day.

Juvenile ibis ud73Their wish was granted. The truce lasted, and each heron held on to its end of the marsh. I walked home and shot some pictures of flowers in our garden on my way in. Pink flowers. Just to celebrate summer.

I look forward to visiting my family in northern Europe early August. I may do a short mobile post from there. Otherwise I’ll see you after mid August. Lots to catch up on by then.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you are enjoying your summer too. Much love.

We are Flying! But Are We Ever Gonna Eat?

The Osprey chick caught me completely off guard! She really did. Last Tuesday when I took my “birding” camera on the morning walk with Dylan, she was still a nestling. We walked past the nest and nothing much was up. The chick was alone in the nest, I guessed Mama Sandy had gone to run some errands after breakfast. Osprey moms do that from the time the chicks are 5-6 weeks old.

osprey chick ud62Right when we were leaving Sandy came back and gave us a friendly look. I think she has now accepted Dylan as a part of this paparazzo’s entourage.

mama osprey gets something to the nest ud61We saw many smaller birds, like this Northern Mockingbird who lives at the marsh.

northern mocking bird ud62And a Brown-headed Cowbird, who doesn’t love dogs very much. I can tell from the sharp warning calls as soon as Dylan approaches.

brown-headed cowbird ud62A Great-tailed Grackle sang for us from a lamp-post along the walkway.

Boat-tailed Gragle ud62And the Mourning Dove sat on the driveway fence checking us out, just like she does almost every morning.

Mourning dove in the morning ud62So late yesterday morning, after all the necessary morning chores, I set out by myself to check the beach and the developments at the salt marsh. I took my new camera with me and shot some macros in the garden before heading to the beach. This girl needs to get acquainted with her new gear.

bee macro ud61I got my first tiny insect, a bee in the White Bird of Paradise flower, but he didn’t care to look into the camera. And a couple of flowers and buds too, of course.

garden flower macro ud62

flower bud macro 2 ud62

new leaf opening 2 macro

flower bud macro ud62I still have tons to learn, and have to start carrying the heavier camera and the lenses to experiment with macros and other more advanced types of shots. I’m sure I will get a hang of it by time.

Our beach was quiet. Idyllic, if I may say. But the public beach just off the salt marsh was already buzzing with activity.

our beach on Sand Key ud62All kinds of fun stuff was going on in the water and in the air. This is one of the busiest weekends of the year around here.

parasailing ud62But the salt marsh was serene as always. I walked directly towards the Osprey nest. On my way I saw a Yellow-crowned Night Heron. He had caught something big, maybe a crab, and didn’t quite know what to do with it. It could be that he hadn’t been successful during his night shift and grabbed the biggest piece available for brunch.

yellow-crowned night heron was hunting ud62I heard Mama Sandy’s alarm calls, and again didn’t see anything threatening in the air. But just as I arrived to the East-end of the marsh, something big flew by me. Yes, you guessed it. The younger Great Blue Heron made his entrance and landed right below the Osprey nest.

young great blue heron ud62 He has grown to a big handsome bird, and hopefully his manners have improved. But Sandy didn’t take any chances. She immediately flew down and swooped by this fellow. Just to make a point. It all happened in a couple of seconds and I only caught her when she landed back in the nest.

mama osprey returns to chick ud62The chick was taking notes. Then I realized that apparently their brunch was late. The chick was fairly vocal about it.

I hadn’t noticed Papa Stanley fly by with a fish, but when both the chick and Sandy were asking for fish and looking in the direction of the woods on the other side of the trail, I thought I’d better  investigate. And soon I found him in a pine tree with a big fish.

papa osprey with a fish 2 UD62Stanley was soaking wet and had just started to eat the head of the fish.  He looked in the direction of the nest where the chick was hurrying him along. And briefly checked on me too.

papa osprey with a fish ud62I walked back to the nest, took some portraits of the two ladies and waited with them. But still no fish delivery.

portrait of mama osprey ud62

osprey chick 2 ud62

mama osprey and chick waiting for fish ud62So finally I decided to go back home not to be late for my own lunch date. Just when I reached the street and looked back towards the nest, I saw the chick take off! She had fledged in the last few days! She flew a round high over the bay and also took a swing over the woods where Stanley was working on the fish. Sandy sat alone in the nest and watched her. Proud mama.

mama osprey watches chick flying ud62I decided to wait right there to see the chick come back to the nest. In a couple of minutes she approached. It looked like she might miss the nest.

osprey chick approaches the nest ud62Sandy got ready for action, but luckily the chick could work her wings and steer onto the edge of the nest.

osprey chick landing ud62.jpgAnd she landed safely next to Sandy.

ocprey chick is back in the nest ud62She got some motherly advice from Sandy right away. I wish I would’ve understood what was said. But I’m sure it was something wise.

mama osprey advises osprey chick 2 ud62I had witnessed one of the chick’s first flights. And now I had to run home. I hope friends in the US are having a nice long weekend. All of us at the marsh wish everyone a wonderful week ahead. Thanks coming along on this long Memorial Day weekend walk.