Tag Archives: European Starling

The Paparazzi and the Baby.

As many of you know, Mr. Dylan and I have been stalking the Osprey Family for first baby pictures for a couple of weeks now. Yesterday at lunch time we finally succeeded. Dylan’s persistence to go to the dog park, for first time since my work trip this past week, paid off. We are all smiles.

osprey family with chick ud157When we arrived at the marsh, Stanley had just brought in a fish. Sandy was eating and feeding the chick, whose little head was sticking up in front of her. Stanley decided to fly up to the perch to have a better overview. He often stays at the nest or close by when Sandy is feeding. The provider and guardian that he is.

Papa osprey flies to the perch ud157

papa osprey flies UD157Sandy continued eating and feeding, but soon told Stanley that more was needed. You better go fishing again, she told him with determination. But Stanley stayed put.

Mama osprey asks for more fish ud157We went to the dog park. When we returned Stanley had left. I wondered whether he had gone fishing or just to chill out a bit in his man cave. We walked around the marsh and spotted Miss Rosa.

miss rosa ud157For the first time this season she was there in the middle of the day, beautiful as ever.

roseate spoonbill ud157At the far end of the marsh, we also spotted the older Great Blue Heron. He was walking confidently, his head high, inspecting the marsh. He is a tall, handsome bird. And, indeed, a great Mayor.

the mayor ud157Of course there were some smaller birds flitting around as well. We spotted several European Starlings…

european starling ud157…and a very skittish Blue Jay. One look at the paparazzi and he was gone.

Blue jay in the grass UD157When we approached the osprey nest again, we noticed that the little one had moved closer to the edge. Unfortunately we had to ‘shoot’ almost right into the sun, but you can see that the chick seems curious about the outer world already. At less than three weeks of age. A future explorer for sure.

osprey chick ud157The baby had also discovered its little wings and was flapping them right in mama’s face.

mama osprey and the chick ud157The paparazzi are almost sure that there is only one chick this year. But they have been proven wrong before. What we know for sure is that this little chick is alert and energetic. It’s not yet ready for beauty competitions, but will be very soon. Its feathers will grow out and its eyes will turn from dark to beautiful bright orange. With these happy thoughts we said our goodbyes and walked home.

papa osprey arrives with fish UD157Reaching our front yard we saw, from a block away, that Staley was landing on his usual lamp-post with a new fish. Two fishing trips in about 90 minutes! No wonder the poor man looks a bit exhausted.

Much love from the paparazzi, the Mayor, Miss Rosa and the Osprey Family.

Mama Osprey is a Tough Cookie. And Other Breaking News from the Salt Marsh.

He came closer. Walked nonchalantly in the direction of the Osprey nest. Glanced up a few times along his long bill.  A sharp warning cut the air.  The rebellious teenager he is, the young Blue Heron ignored it. And started crossing the last piece of shallow water still separating him from the islet housing the nest.

Great Blue Heron juvenile Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The young Great Blue Heron approaches the nest.

Another warning. This time it was much longer, building up to a wavering squeal reverberating in the air. Mama Sandy was alarmed. Papa Stanley was out on the ocean fetching lunch, and she was alone in the nest with her three chicks.

Female Osprey in the nest with her chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy keeps an eye on the approaching youngster.

She was serious. She wouldn’t tolerate yet another attack on the nest. But the young heron wouldn’t take her word for it. He came closer and closer. He had now reached the islet where the nest pole is located. He flexed his wings, but was not yet quite airborne when Sandy whizzed down from the nest. Her talons stretched out in front of her for a direct hit.

female osprey prevents an attack on the nest by blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy’s preemptive strike.
blue heron on the ground Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The young Blue Heron on the ground after his confrontation with Sandy…
young blue heron gets up
…and he slowly gets up…
blue heron stretches up
…stretches himself …
blue heron flying away Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and flies away.

It was a lightning fast attack. The youngster went down to cover his head. When he finally got up, the feathers on his crown were messed up. He stretched himself up and immediately flew to the far end of the marsh. I have no idea how many times this youngster has attacked the nest, but I have witnessed two such occasions previously. Mama Sandy didn’t want to take the chance of needing to defend the nest up in the air, putting the chicks at risk.  So she warned him twice, with no effect, and then took preemptive action. And after returning to her chicks, she continued to keep an eye on the young heron at the other end of the marsh.

female osprey with her chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
After Sandy’s return, the nestlings help her scan for the young Blue Heron.

It’s funny how all other birds, like the two Great Egrets and the Reddish Egret pictured here just seconds before the attack, can walk and hunt close to, and even right under, the nest causing no alarm. This one individual’s bad behavior has gotten him banned from the vicinity of the Osprey family. I wonder if he’ll ever learn.

Two great egrets and a reddish egret Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
These three were fishing close to the nest just seconds before the strike. Note how fast the Reddish Egret moved away from the scene…he’s nowhere to be seen in the pictures above. Just rings on the water remained  🙂

Soon after the dust had settled, Papa Stanley arrived with a fat fish. He had already eaten the head, as he usually does with a big fish, and gave the best parts to Sandy and the chicks.

male osprey brings in a big fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Lunch arrives!

Sandy told him all about the attack straightaway. No secrets between the two of them. And then she took the fish and started feeding the chicks. Everything was back to normal. The chicks are growing fast and their appetite requires Stanley to catch a big fish, or go fishing twice for each meal to feed the whole family. I’ve seen him just leave the whole fish to Sandy and go right back onto the ocean or the bay.

A few days back, I also checked on the residents of the condo building. Everybody was fine. The Nanday Parakeet flew from his balcony onto his favorite pine branch to greet me. The European Starling was at home, and the Red-bellied Woodpecker was shopping for food in the huge supermarket just next to his apartment.

nanday parakeet Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Nanday Parakeet lifts his foot in a greeting.
eauropean starling Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The European Starling enjoys nice weather on her balcony.
red-bellied woodpecker Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Red-bellied Woodpecker looks for food right next to his apartment.

One evening I visited the salt marsh again at sunset time. The Osprey kids were already sleeping, and I guess Stanley had gone somewhere to eat the leftovers from the family dinner. Mama Sandy sat at the edge of the nest and took in the calm of the evening. This is what she saw from her vantage point.

female ospey at sunset Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy just before sunset.
Sunset at the salt marsh…
sunset Sand Key Beach Clearwater Florida
…and over the ocean.

That’s all for this week from the salt marsh. Wishing you all happiness in the month of May. Peace, Tiny

Papa Osprey Hauls in Fish. Mama Bakes. Two Chicks to Feed.

Oh chick! Just after last week’s update I thought I saw two tiny hatchlings in the Osprey nest, but couldn’t get a confirmation until this morning. I was having my second cup of coffee on the terrace when I saw Papa Stanley fly in with a fish. I ran in to get my camera.  And discovered Mama Sandy was feeding not one, but two chicks! They seemed to be about the same size and must have hatched a day or two apart about 12-14 days ago.

Papa and Mama osprey with two chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley is checking the surroundings…
osprey chicks sand key park clearwater florida
…while Mama Sandy feeds the chicks.

Two little heads came up every time Sandy took a bite. I guess they can now eat tiny pieces of fish, and seem to be growing fast! That means a fishing trip after another for Stanley. From what I’ve observed, he brings in three to four fish a day, maybe more.

osprey flies low sand key park clearwater florida
Papa Osprey flies low coming back to the nest.

That’s tiring. The other day I caught him dozing off in a pine tree near his man cave – with what was left for him of the fish. It’s a full time job to feed a family of four, and he seems to be doing it pretty well. I thought he deserved a nap on his lunch break so I didn’t go too close.

osprey with fish taking a nap sand key park clearwater florida
Papa Osprey takes a lunch time nap.

And Mama Sandy is not brooding the chicks anymore as they are now older than 10 days. But because the little ones don’t have any way to cool themselves as yet, she is still protecting them from the sun with her wings most of the time.

Mama Osprey protects the chicks from sun.

One morning I discovered she had started baking. There was a fish hanging on the side right below the nest, baking in the midday sun. Maybe dried fish was on the menu at a later date 🙂 I have no idea how she did it.

mama ospey bakes a fish sand key park clearwater florida
A fish is baking in the sun below the nest.

Sometimes Sandy flies away briefly to fetch something small for the babies from nature’s huge supermarket, and leaves Stanley to look after them. One morning, she left the nest twice and came back with something green, both times. It looked like a small bunch of leaves. I gathered the babies must be ready for some salad with their fish. Or maybe they just needed additional vitamins.

mama osprey leaves the nest sand key park clearwater florida
Mama Osprey leaves the nest to get some greens for the chicks.

This week I’ve also checked on the residents in the condo building. They seem to be doing fine. The Parakeet couple has chosen a particular pine tree for their hugging sessions when not in their apartment. It’s much roomier outside, of course.

parakeets sand key park clearwater florida
The affectionate Nanday Parakeet couple on their perch.
palm trunk condo update
Parakeet and Starling on their balconies.
red-bellied woodpecker in his nest sand key park clearwater florida
The red-bellied Woodpecker in his apartment on the other side of the building.

The Starling and the Red-bellied Woodpecker still live there too. And I’ve not seen any evidence of neighborly disputes, even when Papa Stanley still occasionally uses his penthouse-level man cave.

I’ve come eye to eye with many other salt marsh residents as well, like this Mockingbird who was imitating osprey calls. Big dreams in falsetto for this little fellow.

a mockingbird sand key park clearwater florida
The Northern Mockingbird imitates osprey calls and is surprised to see Tiny.

And the Reddish Egret, who put on quite a show for me and then paused as in waiting for the applause. But that’s for another post.

reddish egret sand key park clearwater florida
The Reddish Egret waits for the applause after his show.

That’s all for this week. Salt marsh residents, from the biggest to the smallest, wish you all a wonderful weekend. ❤ Tiny

Detective Work and a New Condo Building. In the Salt Marsh.

No baby news as yet for the Osprey Family.  Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley are still sitting tight on the egg(s), taking turns. Sandy sits from sunset until sunrise, then gets a nice break after breakfast for bath and exercise.

female osprey drying herself Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Osprey does her morning exercises. She has specialized in greeting me her head upside down   🙂

She also gets a short break in the afternoon, and a last long one just after dinner before sunset. The shift change is quick and smooth, well practiced by now.

shift change for incubating ospreys Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Shift change, Mama Osprey goes back to sit on the egg(s) after her morning break…
shift change for incubating ospreys Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…Papa osprey leaves for his break…
male osprey leaves the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and to get the next meal.

Just a little later this day, on my way home, I found him on Marriott’s roof looking for fish in the bay, but also checking on Mama every now and then. It’s quite far from the nest, but I’m sure he could both see and hear her.

osprey on the roof of sand key Marriott resort
Papa Osprey’s lookout on the roof of Marriott Resort.

But I’ve seen some indications that hatching is imminent. Sandy gets up, exercises a bit and inspects the egg(s), which she hasn’t done before. She’s counting the days, I’m sure.

Mama osprey checks on the eggs Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Osprey checks on the egg(s)…

And Stanley has moved his perch closer to the nest. Last few days I’ve found him on a lamp-post just south of the park border and only 30 feet from the nest. I took this picture of him on St. Patrick’s Day through some thick trees. He was sleepy after eating the head of the fish and was just guarding it until Sandy would tell him she wants to eat.

osprey sleeping with a half eaten fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…while Papa is sleeping with full crop on his lamp-post.

A wonderful little couple. But has their week been just peace and quiet? Of course not. Osprey Steve has flown by a few times, but heeded the warnings and disappeared quickly. Maybe he’s finally learning. But that’s not the case with the Great Blue Heron who attacked the nest couple of weeks ago. He did it again.

young great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The culprit, a young Great Blue Heron is hiding close to some tall grass.

This time I had just left to go home and had reached the opposite end of the marsh when I saw a Great Blue Heron fly right over me from the beach towards the nest. I saw Papa Osprey intercepting him in the air about ten feet from the nest. I scrambled with my camera that I had already shut off and placed in my bag. And saw a wild chase over the salt marsh. The culprit was fleeing and Papa was chasing him. I managed to get them both in one of my wild shots from very far. You can see Stanley coming back towards the marsh and the Blue Heron flying over the marsh trying to find a hiding place.

Papa Osprey (on the upper left) chases the Great Blue Heron (on the right)

I just had to return and do some detective work. I couldn’t believe the culprit was the resident Great Blue Heron, whom I had named the Mayor of the Marsh, and seen around for the whole year. And I was right. Little detective work sometimes pays off. There were two Great Blue Herons in the marsh! The youngster (pictured above) who just flew in and attacked the nest, and the older gentleman. He was watching the drama from a small islet, and I had not seen him earlier. That explains a lot.

great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Mayor of the Marsh checks on the residents…

I have one more funny thing to report.  You remember the old palm trunk where Papa Stanley has his man cave penthouse? Now that he’s moved closer to the nest and is not using it much, it has become a very busy condo building for nesting birds.

nanday parakeet Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Nanday Parakeet couple has the upper unit…
european starling
A couple of European Starlings have the middle unit…
redbellied woodpecker in his nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and a Red-bellied Woodpecker has the lower unit on the other side of the trunk.
Two residents are on their balconies, the woodpecker is obviously on his way out to run some errands.

Oh, I almost forgot. The Green Heron, whom I haven’t seen for months, returned to the marsh just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

green heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Green Heron is back home!

That’s all for this week. Unless there are breaking news. I hope your week has been great so far.

Reporting from the salt marsh, Tiny