Tag Archives: Dogs

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.

 

The Salt Marsh. Our Favorite Place.

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.

sunset at salt marsh 3 ud155

marsh at sunset UD155

salt marsh w iphone UD155And 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.

saki smiles 2 ud155

Eli march 23 UD155

snickers march 23 UD155So 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.

mama osprey attends to chick ud155Sandy 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.

mama osprey feeds hatchling ud155Last 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.

mama sandy at sunset ud155The 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 osprey ud155Papa Stanley is guarding the nest whenever he is not on a fishing trip. Yesterday, again, there was another osprey flying around the nest.

another osprey ud155Stanley sounded alarm and when that was not effective, he promptly went to chase it away.

papa osprey lands at the nest UD155When we passed under the nest a few minutes later, he was back on his guard post and nodded a friendly greeting.

papa osprey UD155I’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.

great blue heron Mayor ud155

younger Great Blue Heron ud155The 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 osprey UD155 9x16Mama 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.

mama osprey prevents attack by blue heron ud155But 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.

reddish egret 1 UD155

reddish egret 2 UD155

Reddish Egret hunting UD155I 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.

great egret with a fish ud155He 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.

tri-colored heron hunts ud155I 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.

tri-colored heron Sand Key Park AHK UD155Just before leaving the park, we discovered something you can only see at the salt marsh. A bird reading a sign.

great egret read a sign ud155The 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.

Adventures of the Three Amigos.

Hi there! This is Dylan again. I’ve been itching to talk to you and I’m grabbing the opportunity now that mom is too busy to watch her laptop. If you ask me, her priorities are not quite right. She prefers to work when she could be blogging! And to travel when she could be giving me belly rubs right here at home! Can you imagine?

The national mall ud150She didn’t take her camera, but yesterday I saw this picture on her phone. She must have been very far because it doesn’t look anything like Florida. It’s dull and foggy and there’s no sun! But from what I can see, this site would’ve been potentially interesting to explore. Sniffing around that big stick in the middle and the large house in the background would’ve given me lots of information. And perhaps even revealed some secrets, had she brought me along. But to be honest, I think I had far more fun than she did. I stayed with my dog park friend Saki. She is a beautiful Shiba Inu girl and we get along very well. But I have to confess there was one tiny mishap on my part. You see, she got a little jealous when I was trying to teach her how to snuggle. Really close to her mom. She may have misunderstood my intentions.

Our mutual friend Eli, who lives next door, came to visit. And that’s when the fun started.

the three amigos ud150_edited-2Eli hatched a plan. He’s such an adventurer. He suggested we’d play the three amigos. And we’d travel south of the border. To the neighbor’s yard. I thought that was a great idea…until I discovered the wall. But Eli showed us how it’s done and jumped to the other side. Just like that! So I decided to follow. I ran really fast and jumped really high…but reached only half way up the wall. What a bummer.

Saki was wiser. She looked at the wall and concluded right away it was too high. She is such an independent thinker. My sombrero off to her. When we didn’t follow, Eli came back. And Saki suggested we’d go to the dog park instead. Although familiar territory anything can happen there. And the three amigos were ready. Saki must have twisted her mom’s arm because she took us there twice (!) that day. I got to ride in a BMW. You know, like UberBLACK. It was so much fun.

Dylan relaxing UD150_edited-1I have to admit I was quite exhausted from all the excitement when mom came to pick me up the next day. I tried to be attentive to her, but I think she noticed. I skipped following her to the bathroom. Truth to be told, I spent quite a bit of time relaxing on the memory foam mattress she bought me last week. I can highly recommend it. Great for aching muscles. Five stars.

mama and papa osprey at the nest feb 9 UD150Mom missed a lot goings on at the salt marsh and at the dog park. I filled her in on the hottest park rumors and the latest marsh news, including that the Osprey couple now spends most of their time at the nest. My assessment is that Mama Sandy will lay eggs any day now. Papa Stanley hardly leaves her side. He’s a trooper. Always on guard so Sandy can take all the naps she needs.

Anyway, I also spotted the Mayor. He flew across the marsh and then settled in his office on an islet close to the dog park. He was focused on his work. Not even one glance in my direction.

the mayor UD150Then I saw a Night Heron who was wide awake. I wonder if he was jet-lagged and had lost his circadian rhythm. Like mom does when she comes home from her long trips. She messes up my rhythm too. I never know if or when we’ll go to sleep. And in the morning I can’t get her up. Hello! It’s bathroom time! Nothing.

night heron ud150_edited-1I have to tell you my patience was tried when I came across a family of White Ibis. They walked deliberately along my trail. Like begging for attention.

ibis family ud150But I stayed put and let them go. In my book, that’s heroic behavior worth many treats. Chicken to be exact. I hope mom will compensate me later. Now that I’ve been transparent and told the story just like it was.

Dylan 2 sits still ud150That’s all for today. Mom is back and we’re slowly settling into our routines. Unlike mom, I love routine. Up, out, eat, nap. Repeat. Simple, safe and very pleasant.

Be good now. Lots of love, D.

From My Diary. Fall 2017.

Hi there. This is Dylan. Long time no see. And a lot has happened since then. Not all good.

In July dad went to heaven. One day he was here, the next day he was gone. All his things and clothes remained just where he’d left them. His smell was still here. He left without taking anything with him. And he didn’t tell me he was going. Like mom, I’ve been very sad about that. I remember the love he gave me. The back and tummy rubs. And the silly routines we had perfected together. I’m trying to teach mom, but she’s a slow learner. It will take time for her to grasp everything. Dad was a natural. I miss him.

Dylan sadI have a bout of separation anxiety every time mom leaves home without me. I know exactly when she’s planning to leave. And even the thought makes me fearful. Already before she grabs her purse I’m busy hoping she’ll come back. And not go to heaven like dad. To help my anxiety, mom bought me a Thunderskirt. I have to admit that while I don’t like clothes in general, that one makes me feel a bit safer. And it’s warm too. Just right for days like today when it’s windy and almost freezing. Only 55F/13C.

Dylan in Thunderskirt_edited-1And then a hurricane hit our area in early September, the first in almost 100 years. I was not born at the time of the last hurricane, but mom might remember it. Anyway, we took an impromptu trip to Philly. Just hopped on an airplane and left. That was quite an adventure.

philly studio ud137_edited-2It was my first time to fly. The security check was easy, I had a tick mark on my ticket so I just ran through the metal detector before mom. Then I checked out the Admirals Club, but there were no dog treats. Mom gave me a small piece of cheese. Then I flew like a pro. To tell you the truth you don’t actually need to fly. The big metal crate has large wings and it does all the work. You just sit back and enjoy the ride.

Dylan flying_edited-3The hardest thing on this trip was to go to the restaurants with our friends. I had to lie low and be quiet in the booth next to mom. I smelled chicken, bacon, cheese, you name it, but had to keep my head down. No sniffing. It was hard. But somehow I rose to the occasion. Nobody even knew I was there. Right, Gladys?

I have to tell you that I’ve never seen so many geese in my life. They patrolled the vicinity of our hotel every day. Again, I had to practice self-discipline.

Canada geese in Philly_edited-1All in all, it was a great trip. I realized I like to travel. And I hope mom gets me a frequent flyer card. Oh wait, that might not be such a great idea when I think about it. Smells like a double-edged sword. With more miles mom might travel even more. And there’s no guarantee she’d take me everywhere. Like earlier in the fall and again recently. You know, she’s been away twice in the last three weeks. First time she told me she’s going to look for a new home for us. New home? What does that mean? I love my home, my sitter and all my friends, like Bentley and others, at the dog park. I’m not moving. Full stop.

Bentley_edited-1I have to come up with an emergency plan to get that out of her head. All tips are welcome. I just hope it’s not too late.

After coming back, mom took me for a nice outing. We went to see some birds at Fort de Soto Park. We walked the trails near the beaches and found many different birds, big and small.

two willets FDS_edited-1

snowy egret FDS

GBH at FDS

ruddy turnstone FDSBut the most interesting part of the trip was sniffing around at the old fort. By far. The smells were fascinating. Markings of dogs long gone mixed with faint traces of gun powder around the old canons. I like that stuff.

canon and osprey FDS

canon at FDSThen we found another fort. And the soldiers were still there. Mostly pelicans and cormorants. They were guarding the island. Who knows what might come from the sea.

pelicans FDS

skyway bridge FDSOne pelican even gave me the look. Like questioning my right to be there.

pelican at FDSAt the end of the day I was happy, but exhausted and hungry. My dinner time was dangerously close. But mom said she didn’t want to leave before she found at least one osprey. Right away I pointed out several of them for her. They were pretty far away, but she should have spotted them. Then we finally drove back home. And I got my dinner 30 minutes late.

osprey FDS This past week mom left again. For work, she said. That word always sounds iffy to me. I don’t like anything that smells work. Bad smell right off the bat. I suspect she was doing sightseeing. Who can work four days in a row anyway? Impossible. And my hunch proved right. I caught her looking at pictures that didn’t look like work. Even I recognize the building. I watch the news. MSM. And mom’s not working at the White House, is she? I hope not. But here’s the evidence that she was there. Both day and night. Sometimes she’s so difficult to read.

white house DC

white house at night DC_edited-2

national xmas tree day time DC

national xmas tree at night DCWhatever the whole truth, the main thing is she came back. That she’s here now. Giving me tummy rubs. I just hope this lasts for a while.

Take care now. With love, Dylan

Snapshots of the Now. Waiting.

I have finally reached the point on my journey to acceptance of what happened in July, where I would love to get back to blogging. But I am not ready to write my usual ‘light touch’ nature stories. Nor have I been able to engage in photography like I used to. Or to focus on reading.

I have realized, however, that life is a string of snapshots of the now. I will be attempting to post frequent snapshots of my life ‘now’ as it unfolds for the next few weeks. Maybe just an iPhone shot, a short poem or something similar. Simple. Often mobile. Comments closed.

To get started, I am sharing a few snapshots of my life in the past two weeks.

Waiting for some dolphins to appear on the Labor Day weekend, when Hurricane Irma was still churning far out on the Atlantic.

labor day 2 watching dolphins ud137.jpgAnd they did…playful as ever. Good times. Grief slowly fading into the background.

labor day 2 dolphin ud137And then there was the quiet before the storm. Calm seas. An eerily beautiful seascape on a perfect day. But nobody was enjoying it. The lonely lifeguard shack was waiting to be moved to safety. Like most of us.

beach view before Irma ud137This peaceful scene was in sharp contrast to my frantic search for a flight to get out of here with Dylan. Paradise in Zone A. Mandatory evacuation.

I have crisscrossed the globe, but seldom been happier to finally see a plane at the gate. One of the last planes to leave the airport before it would be closed. Our temporary home would be wherever that plane flew. A ticket to anywhere.AA plane ud137Flashback. The last plane out from Addis Ababa at war. 1990s. A week after husband and son had been evacuated. Essential personnel.

philly studio ud137_edited-1A small studio apartment at a hotel in Philly. Waiting with Dylan and Wolf Blitzer. Wanting to go home. Whatever that might mean. Waiting.

Snapshots of the Now Series (1)

An Amazing Bunch of Friends

When you experience unimaginable heartbreak and sorrow, you need the support of your family. But you also need the support of your friends. When I lost my dad and my husband in less than two weeks in July, both to a massive heart attack, I was grateful and privileged to have both ‘support groups’ close to me.

I was completely lost, but everyone was there to support me. Family came to stay with me, friends traveled huge distances, including from Sweden, to be here. Flowers, baskets, homemade food, cards and hugs arrived for weeks. Blogging friends reached out to me with private messages on email and messages here on my blog. Several of you are still ‘checking on’ me, which I greatly appreciate. Thank you, friends, from the bottom of my heart.

Our neighbors and friends, including those at the dog park were here to support me and Dylan when it mattered most. And that support has continued. What an amazing bunch of friends you all are!

dog park friends 1 ud135_edited-1
Some of our dog park friends

After everyone returned to their daily lives, and our home suddenly felt empty and huge, Dylan has provided a wonderful, comforting presence.

Dylan running ud135He has dragged me out for long walks daily, however bad I have felt, and snuggled next to me every night. He had many daily routines with ‘dad’ and is now training me to perform those tasks. He pulls me into the salt marsh and dog park most nights just before sunset. He enjoys the company of his friends as much I treasure the company of mine.

saki ud135
Saki
Bently and Dylan ud135
Bentley and Dylan
Eli and Deb ud135
Eli in Debbie’s lap when it thunders
Dylan and his friend Kaci ud135_edited-1
Kaci and Dylan
Priya ud135
Priya
Moose ud135
Moose
pepper ud135
Pepper

These guys are an amazing bunch too. While I have not yet gotten back to my usual photography routine, I snapped a picture of Papa Osprey at the Sailing Center late one evening when I happened to carry my camera. Just seeing him around warmed my heart.

papa osprey at sunset ud135And the Mayor was there too, greeting us from the low tide waters right below the sea wall.

great blue heron mayor ud134I do feel the call of my feathered friends and hope to be able to get back to observing them on a regular basis soon. At latest when I return from my family/work/’me-time’ trip in early October. I hope this upcoming trip to Europe will give me new perspectives and valuable experiences. And I intend to share some of them with you.

All, take care of you and your loved ones. Thank you for your encouragement and friendship. I want to end this post with a poem I wrote about a week ago.

ACCEPTANCE

Acceptance of what is

now has a completely new meaning.

When tidal waves of loss

wash over your head

you don’t philosophize

you just want to breathe

for one more minute.

Blue Hour Walks. And Adventures of the Osprey Chick.

We have finally gotten some rain.  Refreshing soft rain has nourished the salt marsh and the whole island for many days now. Luckily it has taken frequent breaks at sunset time enabling Dylan to take me on walks late in the day. And we have walked on the bay side. By design.

bayside ud127_edited-1

dylan ud127You see, I wanted to see how little Arlene and her parents are doing. And the best chance to spot her has been late in the evening on Marriott’s roof. She has been perching on the top roof. And Mama Sandy on the lower roof.

osprey chick and mama osprey at Marriott ud127

osprey chick sleeps at Marriott ud127

mama osprey with chick at Marriott ud127_edited-1And you can see from the markings on the wall that she has been eating regularly 🙂 Sometimes Arlene has been sleeping with Sandy perching right next to her, like last Sunday night. Arlene was wet. And that means she might have been practicing diving already, emulating her parents.

osprey chick and mama osprey on the roof ud127_edited-1Papa Stanley has been camping at a distance where he can both see and hear her, either at the sailing center or, late at night, on a nearby lamp-post.

papa osprey waits at the sailing center ud127_edited-2

papa osprey on the lamp ud127_edited-2This is a highly unusual setup. Young Arlene seems to fly a lot during the day. A couple of times I’ve seen her whoosh right by my office window. Then in the evening she returns to “her” spot on the roof for supper. And her parents have adapted. Normally only either Sandy or Stanley stays nearby and feeds the chick after it has fledged, but Arlene has changed their routine.  Both parents are engaged in her fishing lessons, which seem to have started much earlier than for other chicks in past years. You go girl!

On our blue hour walks we have seen other friends as well, like this Yellow-crowned Night Heron on the sea wall.

Yellow-crowned Night Heron ud127And both the Mayor and the young Great Blue Heron have delighted us with their presence late in the evening.

great blue heron ud127

young gret blue heron ud127_edited-1And the other night Dylan spotted some friends practicing paddle boarding on the calm bay. Luckily he didn’t ask to be enrolled in that school.

dogs on paddle boards ud127_edited-1I hope Arlene’s fishing lessons will last a little longer so that we can still find her when I return from a short work trip to the nation’s capital later this week.

Thank you for visiting. Best wishes for a beautiful rest of the week from all of us on the bay side.