Tag Archives: Family

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.

 

It’s a Girl! And Other Breaking News from the Salt Marsh.

It’s been a busy two weeks since we last checked on the Osprey Family. The week after my last update, Dylan and I went by the nest late one evening, but it was really windy and Mama Sandy was covering the chick. Nothing to be seen. Other than the waxing moon. Presented here for evidence.

evening moon ud159Yesterday, after I had returned from my latest work trip on Friday night, we went to the salt marsh twice. We found the Osprey Family all gathered in the nest for some late-morning family time.

Osprey family ud159Papa Stanley took a nap on the perch, but his sleep was interrupted by Sandy reminding him it was time to fetch lunch. And that’s when I saw it. The chick is a girl! She looks just like her mom, with a ‘necklace’ already at six weeks of age. She had grown beautiful feathers and was as alert as ever.

all three ospreys in the nest ud159Stanley is quite funny. He never leaves on a fishing trip right away when Sandy asks for food. He  flew down from his perch and parked himself in the nest for a while. Sandy continued her “we-want-fish-fish” song and the little one chimed in a couple of times. It was obvious she had learned to talk.

papa mama and osprey chick ud159Finally Stanley glanced at his watch and saw it was lunch time. He left for his 3rd fishing trip of the day. Both females observed his departure. Better late than never, they seemed to think. And then they settled side by side to observe the life at the marsh. Sandy soon nodded off, but the chick was watching her environment. Perhaps already dreaming of flying.

sandy and osprey chick ud159She could see the ‘Clown’ down below. He was playing peek-a-boo with the chick.

reddish egret 2 UD159

reddish egret ud159And little further away Papa Moorhen was inspecting his territory.

mr moorhen ud159We went home before Stanley returned. But when we walked back in the evening it was like we never left. Stanley had a newly caught fish. He was eating the head on ‘his’ lamp-post, like he always does before he gives the fish to Sandy.

papa osprey has dinner ud159But then I discovered an Osprey flying high above the street. It was Sandy.

mama osprey in flight ud159So who was with the chick? Nobody! She was lying low in the nest all by herself while mama was stretching her wings and flying around just for the fun of it. Now that the chick is six weeks old, Sandy is free to do just that…and even go fishing should she feel for it.

osprey chick alone in the nest ud159After a few minutes of pre-dinner exercise Sandy returned to her chick. She was watching the setting sun and waiting for Stanley to drop off the fish.

mama osprey at sunset ud159We walked to the dog park passing right below the nest and discovered several familiar faces. Harry the trouble-maker, the younger Great Blue Heron, was hiding in the high grass.

younger GBH UD159He didn’t want to be seen and I soon understood why. The Mayor was marching around at the beach end of the marsh.

GBH the Mayor ud159Usually there’s not enough space for the two of them at the marsh, but this time Harry was not spotted. A Yellow-crowned Night Heron could see both of them from his sun-soaked islet, but he didn’t tell.

night heron UD159Dylan sat down as in waiting for some drama to occur, but there was none. A Mourning Dove sat on a branch just above my assistant and enjoyed the peace of the evening.

Dylan at sunset ud159

Mourning Dove ud159We went to the dog park and when we returned the sun was setting over the salt marsh.

salt marsh at sunset 2 UD159It was almost dark, but we saw some movement in the water. Miss Rosa was out and about getting her late night snack. I didn’t think the light would be enough to get anything but a pink blob, but in one picture you can actually see her. A little.

miss rosa ud159Soon there was only the full moon.

full moon april 28 ud159 I’m sure that Dylan, keeping with the tradition, will invite you all to provide name suggestions for the new osprey girl and reveal the lottery prize in the next post 🙂 Thank you for visiting and have a wonderful week.

 

Sshhh…Mama and Baby Are Sleeping.

This week has been sunny and warm, until today. And it’s been busy. Exacerbated by my laptop’s moody behavior. On its fourth birthday, it decided to go on strike. Not to work at all. I had to use all my tech wiz skills to wake it up. Since then it’s been misbehaving to the point I ordered a new one. And have to set it up later today. But before I say goodbye to this old blogging veteran, I want to give you a short update from the salt marsh. I’m asking it to cooperate for one last time.

osprey family portrait 2 april 14 ud158Finally yesterday, my assistant and I had an opportunity to get out and check on the osprey chick. We arrived soon after the family brunch. Papa Stanley was still on the perch, guarding his little family from intruders. The baby was sleeping and Mama Sandy nodded off for a while as well. She shielded her baby from the sun and the wind that was already picking up.

mama osprey and chick ud158But soon Stanley saw a danger in the skies (beyond my horizon) and sounded frequent loud warnings.

papa osprey sounds an alarm ud158The chick woke up and peered out from behind the baby gate with its head lowered. Sandy became alert too, but nobody came close to the nest.

mama osprey and baby ud158The salt marsh appeared deserted. The only other bird present was the Reddish Egret. And he was completely absorbed in his hunting dance.

reddish egret ud158At sunset time Dylan took me for another walk. He loves to walk on the bayside and look down to the water. I don’t mind such a detour because I often spot birds enjoying the low tide next to the sea wall. And we were lucky. Two Oystercatchers were looking for supper.

two Oyster catchers ud158And a bit further away, a Great Egret was enjoying the last rays of the day.

great egret on the bay side ud158The sun was still up when we reached the salt marsh. We found the younger Great Blue Heron, aka Henry the Troublemaker, on his usual spot staring at the osprey nest.

young great blue heron ud158And a beautiful Snowy Egret was looking for her evening meal. And checking us out.

snowy egret at sunset ud158A Yellow-crowned Night Heron had woken up to get his breakfast. He was planning his hunt on the little islet that also serves as the Mayor’s office. The Mayor was nowhere to be seen.

yellow-crowned night heron ud158When we approached the Osprey nest we heard the typical whistles of the Red-winged Blackbird. Finally I spotted one smack in the middle of the marsh.

redwinged blackbird male UD158Then Dylan alerted me to a lovely Mourning Dove walking right on our path. It was not eager to meet us and hurried away.

mourning dove ud158We found Stanley on his guard post. He nodded a friendly good evening to us. But Sandy was hunkering down over the baby and we could only see a few feathers sticking up.

Papa osprey at sunset ud158Just before dark we finally reached the dog park and my assistant got a well deserved rest after walking around the marsh and running back and forth at the park.

Dylan at sunset ud158When we returned to go home it was already dark. Stanley had gone to his sleeping quarters, but we saw Sandy in the nest beautifully silhouetted against the sunset’s after-glow.

mama osprey at dusk ud158This afternoon the skies darkened and the storms arrived. Right now I can hardly see the osprey nest from my terrace through the heavy rains. Gray walls of water are swept sideways by the strong winds. I went out quickly and took one picture. Sandy had placed her baby in the nest cup and was shielding it from the elements with her wings. Even her head was down. Possibly to reassure the baby that this too shall pass. She knows her stuff.

sandy in the storm Ud158With that we wish you a great week ahead and hope it will be sunny and bright. Thank you for visiting.

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.

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.

Christmas. And Stockholm in My Heart.

Darkness fell early. Around 3 p.m. But it wasn’t really dark. Stockholm, my former home town, was lit up for the holiday season. Chandeliers and Christmas stars lit up almost every window of the respectably old buildings in the city. And the streets were decorated with Christmas lights.

drottingatan X17 UD146The day before Christmas Eve, I decided to take a pre-dinner walk down the memory lane in the historic Old Town. Coming up from the metro station I was happy it wasn’t raining. My puffer jacket proved its worth in the near freezing temperatures and I felt ready for a long urban hike.  A man selling Christmas flowers greeted me from inside his tent.

flower stall X17 UD146I walked the narrow cobble stone alleys admiring the old buildings, a few built as early as the 13th/14th century, most in the 15th to 19th century. All of them modernized for comfortable city living.

Walking on one of the main streets, I made a nostalgic discovery. Our favorite Italian restaurant from the late 70s and 80s, Michel Angelo, was still there.

restaurant Michel Angelo UD146.jpgI walked closer and snapped a picture of a very special table. Husband and I sat there one cold night in February over 30 years ago. And got the fastest service ever. You see, I was expecting our son. And it was obvious he would arrive soon. The waiter politely asked me when the baby was due. I responded truthfully that he was due two days ago. I will never forget the expression on his young face. Needless to say our pizzas arrived in record time. Quattro Stagioni with different toppings for each quarter, like the four seasons.

rest michel angelo table ud146Here I was, so many years later, a reflection in the window of my memories.

I continued my walk trying to find my way to Stortorget, the main town square in Old Town, where the traditional Christmas Market has been held every year since the 1920s.

street in old town 2 X17 UD146My sense of direction has always been poor so I ended up enjoying many an old building on my way. I came to a smaller square, Järntorget, where a big tree lit up the surrounding buildings. And tomtar, reindeers, dala horses and viking helmets filled the shop windows.

jarntorget gamla stan UD146_edited-1

shop window in Old Town UD146I crisscrossed a few more alleys and finally heard the music and saw the familiar sights of the Christmas Market.

xmas market X17 UD146I lingered there between the stalls for quite a while. I was looking for a Yule Goat, just like the one husband had bought over 30 years ago. And found the last remaining one! It is now continuing the tradition in our son’s family glogg UD146_edited-1home. I also found warm glögg and enjoyed a small cup with a ginger bread cookie in the company of visitors from Japan and Poland.

It was all so familiar. Heartwarming. I felt at home right there standing in the crowd sipping my glögg.

Now all warmed up, I continued my journey through the Old Town finding many interesting buildings and churches built starting in the latter part of the middle ages.

And finally arrived at the Royal Palace. It has over 600 rooms, but looking up from the darkened court-yard only a few windows were lit here and there. A soldier stood guard at one of the entrances.

royal palace X17 UD146

Royal palace court yard UD146_edited-4From there I walked down the castle hill and continued towards another island, Riddarholmen, the Island of the Knight. You see, while the earliest findings of human activity in the Stockholm area date back to the stone age, about 6000 B.C., the city of Stockholm was built starting in 1180 and was officially established in 1252 on Stadsholmen, or the Town Island now broadly referred to as the Old Town. The city then gradually expanded onto several other islands connected by bridges.

slottsbacken X17 castle hill UD146From there I could spot Kungsholmen, the King’s Island, were we used to live in our early years in Stockholm. And where we got married at the City Hall seen in the distance.

mot kungsholmen X17 UD146From the bridge to Riddarholmen I also spotted the Royal Opera House lit in changing colors for the festive season.

the royal opera house UD146I then walked over the bridge to the beautifully lit city center…

bridge to old town X17 UD146

sergels torg 2 X17 UD146…and took the metro a couple of stops back to my sister’s home, also located in a century old building in central Stockholm.

gathorna X17 UD146 Once inside, I was wrapped in the warmth of the Christmas spirit…

xmas cheer X17 UD146

xmas star in te window X17 UD146

amaryllis X17 ud146…served delicious traditional meals, loved and hugged by family.

julbord X17 UD146 And I was kissed by a sweet boy. He did a great job in comforting me when I missed Dylan. my sweet boy UD146While being the first without my dad and husband, this Christmas truly nurtured my heart and soul.

Thank you for being here, and for all your encouragement throughout 2017. I wish you all good health, renewed joy, love and peace. May your light burn bright in 2018.

fire X17 UD146_edited-1

Yule Goat.

Snow boots. A hooded winter coat. Gloves. Leggings and jeans. Wool sweaters. Layering tops. Christmas gifts. My trusted carry-on refuses to collaborate. It will not close. And don’t dare to sit on it. I give up and go to fetch my large suitcase. The Florida girl is going to Sweden.

I feel emotional. Browsing my photo libraries for pictures of Christmases past. I travel back in time. All the way to our son’s very first Christmas. He’s crawling under the lower branches of our live Christmas tree. Mesmerized by the lights and the sparkling tinsel garland. It’s Christmas in Stockholm.

MJ first ChristmasOur home is filled with seasonal aromas. Ham and rutabagas, potato, carrot and macaroni casseroles. Meatballs and spicy sausages. Jansson’s Temptation and herring salad. I’m in the kitchen cooking traditional Christmas dishes for my little family. Husband and son play in the living room. The camera clicks.

Christmas foodsSnow. I taste the word. Cold. Fluffy. Beautiful. And again I’m back in Stockholm. Playing in the snow with my son. Husband taking pictures. Those precious moments frozen in time.

Mom and son StockholmAnd soon I will be there again. Same city, different time. Christmas. Hopefully white. Long walks with my sister’s family and their poodle. Beautifully decorated streets and shop windows. Delicious traditional dishes. Christmas market in the historic Old Town.

I look at the old yule goat on my dining table. Its yellow straws and red ribbons are still fairly intact, after faithfully standing on whatever table it decided to jump onto for over 30 years. Every Christmas, on three different continents. It asks me if I remember. I nod.

yule oat 2It is a crisp, snowy December evening. The Old Town is wrapped in Christmas spirit. Seasonal music streams from the market stalls. Warm glögg and lussekatter. Husband stops at a stall and the yule goat becomes part of the family. Life is good.

Now silently conversing with the yule goat Love wraps me in a warm blanket. So much to be grateful for. I wish you all a wonderful, soul-warming Christmas and a happy holiday season. Feel the spirit.