Tag Archives: Fireworks

A Marriage Proposal. And Happy New Year from the Salt Marsh.

Hello everyone! I hope the Holiday Season has treated you well. I’m back home from my Christmas adventures with family on the Atlantic seaboard in North Florida and Georgia. It was a precious time with our son and his family.

st-simons-island-pier-georgis-fb-ud98Lots of little adventures and places to see. Here a few pictures from our trip to St. Simons Island in Georgia: the lighthouse from 1807, rebuilt in 1872, the Christ Church from 1808 and the beautiful Avenue of Oaks planted sometime before 1850.

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christ-church-2-st-simons-island-georgia-ud98

the-avenue-of-oaks-st-simons-georgia-ud98I did do some bird watching as well with my 6-year old granddaughter. Here’s our catch from Georgia, Double-crested Cormorants and gulls.

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cormorant-and-gulls-georgia-ud98I am happy to say she is also into nature and photography, shooting away with her Nikon Coolpix. Here she discovered some ‘interesting plant’ that needed to be captured close up.

little-photographer-ud98We also did a birding walk in her neighborhood with Dylan in tow. And to my delight I captured my first shots of a Hooded Merganser.

hooded-merganser-2-jax-ud98The rest of the neighborhood birds included a family of Canada Geese, a serious-looking Little Blue Heron and a Snowy Egret.

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snowy-egret-jax-ud98That was so much fun!

Yesterday morning I checked on my friends at the salt marsh. A New Year’s celebration was clearly in the making. So many birds! A large family of Wood Storks, many Great Egrets, and the Mayor, of course, were all enjoying the cool sunshine – and plenty of food offerings.

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great-egret-and-great-blue-heron-ud97As usual, the Reddish Egret was entertaining the crowds and shaking his booty. And for the first time I captured him in full flight.

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reddish-egret-flying-ud97Miss Rosa was there too, delighting everyone with her colorful presence. She always notices me and nods her greeting. I thought she said Happy New Year. How sweet of her.

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roseate-spoonbill-ud97Mama Sandy was sitting on her new perch. Papa Stanley flew by and they had a brief exchange. At the time I was not aware of the importance of the moment.

mama-osprey-at-her-perch-ud97Below the Osprey nest, I spotted a Tri-colored Heron. When I came home and looked at my pictures, I realized she was not alone. A Green Heron was lurking in the shadows right behind her, and another bird further in behind him.

tricolored-heron-and-green-heron-in-shadows-ud97And I witnessed some rivalry between two of the Great Egrets. There was a loud exchange followed by a flight competition.

two great egrets flying 2 ud97.jpgEven the big Wood Stork wanted to get away from such a disturbance to the otherwise peaceful New Year Eve party. He hurried his steps, then ran and flexed his huge wings.

wood-stork-fishing-ud97But the Little Blue Heron was brave. He was a bit startled, but stayed put on the water installation and stared curiously at the big boys’ silly competition.

little-blue-heron-ud97The juvenile Night Heron also observed the hullabaloo from the relative safety of his tree below the Osprey nest.

juvenile-night-heron-ud97I was happy to find everyone in good spirits on the last day of the year and walked home. On my way, I spotted an industrious couple, Mr. and Mrs. Red-bellied Woodpecker. But I was yet to get my biggest year-end surprise.

male-and-female-red-bellied-woodpecker-ud97An hour or so later, when I happened to look out from my office window towards the salt marsh, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I ran out to the terrace and could confirm that Papa Stanley was in the new nest for the first time!

papa-osprey-in-the-nest-ud99And Mama Sandy was happily enjoying her proposal gift on the perch. Wow! The proposal gift was not a fish, but a small mammal, perhaps a squirrel.

mama-osprey-with-her-proposal-gift-ud99If Osprey eats something other than fish, it will probably be at the time when the male makes his annual marriage proposal. I have seen Sandy receiving a mouse in 2015, and that’s the only time before yesterday I’ve seen her eat other than fish. Now this gift was very special, and it was given 11 days earlier than last year.

This morning on my early morning walk with Dylan, but without my camera, I saw that both Sandy and Stanley were sitting in the nest together. And I noticed that some soft nest materials had already been brought in. Sandy and Stanley have renewed their marriage vows once again, and this New Year’s Eve marked the official start of their 2017 nesting season. What a resilient couple they are!

fireworks-2017-ud100I want to thank all blogging friends for a wonderful year. You have inspired me with your thought-worthy posts and generous advice, amazing stories, wonderful poems and beautiful photos and other art! And you have given me laughs when I most needed them 🙂 You have also encouraged me by visiting here and commenting on what I have shared,  which I have immensely enjoyed. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. My furry sidekick also sends his regards, and we both wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year.

A Journey into the First Night. On My Terrace.

The last day of the year was coming to an end. Fleeting rays of the setting sun performed their last dance around the tree tops. Dusk started to settle over the salt marsh. And most birds were tucked away in their sleeping quarters.

salt marsh at night fallThe ‘blue hour’ came. Fully booked dinner cruise boats floated from the bay onto the ocean. But at the darkened northwest corner of the park now closed, activity continued all evening long. Until the last hour of the last day of 2015.

clearwater pass and the sand key park at blue hourAs the midnight hour approached, the moon slept on its big tummy on a misty bed over the bay. The Christmas tree at the local hospital on the opposite shore was brightly lit.  Lights were still shining from many windows. For some fellow passengers on this earthly journey, the first night would be greeted in a hospital bed.

And then the ball finally dropped in front of the crowds in the big city. The skies were set alight. Followed by loud kabooms reverberating over the salt marsh.

first night fireworks Star showers fell towards the ocean and the beach. Shapes in bright colors filled the sky.

first night fireworks fireworks And if the salt marsh residents had not covered their eyes and ears with their wings, they did see  a bird looking right down on them from the skies. A symbol of something we all need. Peace.

new year fireworks 2016The Night Herons and Barn Owls were certainly not the only birds awakened by people’s celebration at this first hour of the first night. But luckily it soon became quiet. The moon wiggled out of its misty bed and shone brightly to light up the first night. Once again, a new year was born.

half moonMay 2016 bring us peace and contentment.

Sunrise Walk with Surprises. Both Good and Bad.

This morning I woke up to a glorious pre-dawn glow. I felt I needed exercise and decided to head out for a walk. While it was still cool. That’s a relative term here in Florida, of course.

Clearwater Bay Florida before sunrise
Pre-dawn sky over the bay.

This first morning after the July 4th weekend, I wanted to check on the birds after all the fireworks on the beach and around the bay on Saturday, and even on Sunday. I was hoping my feathered friends had been huddling in the salt marsh during the festivities, and not flying in the path of any of the hundreds of “rockets” reaching for the skies.

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July 4th fireworks over the bay.

The salt marsh was quiet and serene. Just me and a few birds. And the sun trying to peek over the horizon, while the moon was still hanging on high up in the sky.

sunrise at the salt marsh Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Sun peeks over the horizon at the salt marsh…
vaning moon at sunrise Sand key Clearwater Florida
…but the moon lingers on…

Many of the residents were sleeping in their hidden night quarters, but the Great Blue Heron was already patrolling the shallow waters.

great blue heron at sunrise Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Great Blue Heron is an early bird…

And so were the Florida Mottled Ducks. I think these might’ve been juveniles from the brood I spotted in April.

two mottled ducks at sunrise Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and so are the young ducks.

I also spotted a bird that I couldn’t identify. My friend H.J. thinks it might be a Mississippi Kite – thank you!

Loggerhead Shrike
Loggerhead Shrike

Seeing the empty nest reminded me that I thought I’d seen Mama and Papa Osprey flying together on Saturday afternoon. I’d had my binoculars and made a positive ID on both.

empty osprey nest sand key park clearwater florida
The empty Osprey nest, now barebones after the storm mid June.

I decided to walk onto the bayside to see if I could find them. I walked past the Sailing Center where Papa Stanley used to have his feeding perch when Sindile was still in the nest. He was not there.

sunrise on the bay at the sailing center sand key clearwater Florida
Sunrise on the bay…

I admired the bay basking in newly acquired sunlight, when I spotted Mama Sandy on a lamp-post close to the sea wall! She’d gone away when the two older chicks left the nest, about three weeks ago. I’d been right when I saw the two of them. She was back!

female osprey with a fish at sunrise sand key clearwater florida
Mama osprey is back! I missed to check what she was looking at…maybe it was Papa flying by.

She was turned towards the rising sun, drying her still wet feathers, and eating a big fish with great appetite. And she didn’t look like she’d been on vacation. Her crop looked empty, and she had lost even more weight from the time I last saw her. She may have followed the chicks and been teaching them how to fish…getting very little food for herself.

female osprey eats fish at sunrise sand key clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy at sunrise, still wet after her breakfast dive.

Now she was back to keep an eye on the nest, exactly like last year. I left her eating breakfast and walked across the marsh back to the beach.

sunrise sky on Sand Key beach clearwater florida
Early sunrise sky as seen from the beach.

In addition to many gulls, I spotted a Ruddy Turnstone, and a Willet. Both were running back and forth at the water’s edge, busy getting breakfast.

ruddy turnstone on sand key beach Clearwater Florida
A Ruddy Turnstone on the beach.
willet on sand key beach at sunrise clearwater florida
A Willet in the waves.

But I also found something left behind by much bigger, and supposedly wiser, bipeds.

fireworks paraphernalia left behind on the beach clearwater florida
Fireworks paraphernalia left on the beach…

TNT Dark Revenge. Very close to a clearly marked Sea Turtle nest. Frustrating, and dark indeed. I’m just hoping the bangs didn’t disturb the 100+ eggs recently laid there by Mama Sea Turtle.

sea turtle nest on the beach clearwater florida
…next to a marked Sea Turtle nest.

Mother Nature is amazing, but her caretakers not always so. Luckily She is quite resilient. Constantly producing new life for us to enjoy. Like this blue-eyed juvenile Ibis and these fluffy Moorhen babies, both spotted over the weekend.

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A juvenile Ibis.
moorhen chicks and mom sand key park clearwater florida
Moorhen chicks listen attentively to their Mama.

Thanks for coming along. Have a great rest of the week.

The Sky Is Falling. Thy Daily Folklore.

The annual Sugar Sand Festival at Pier 60 on Clearwater Beach closes in a couple of hours. But if we walk fast, we can still make it!

Clearwater Beach at pier 60 Pier 60 Clearwater Beach This year’s theme is Sugar Sand Tales. Ten internationally renowned sand sculptors have created stunning scenes reminding us of our childhood’s fairytales.

sugar sand festival tent clearwater beach

Let’s enter this enchanted storyland housed in a massive 21,000 sqf tent, where our fantasy and great memories will be brought to life.

We made it out just in time for the fireworks! They too are like fairytales. Whimsical and inventive. See for yourself.

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And now that we are in a child-like mood, we can go home and watch the uplifting nature movie made right here, Dolphin Tale 2.

sugar sand festival clearwater beach

Thanks for joining me for a tour inside this timeless storybook made of sugar sand. May your week be magical.

That Was a Blast. Right Next to the Salt Marsh.

Yesterday, on New Year’s Eve, we watched fabulous fireworks right here on the beach. I mean they were truly fabulous, but the thick fog over the ocean prevented us from seeing all of it.  I didn’t mind. But while I watched whatever we could see, I was getting worried. The loud blasts were coming from the north end of the beach, right next to the salt marsh where the birds live.

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A low “sparkler”…

While taking a few photos of the foggy fires from my terrace, I was hoping all of my feathery friends would be safely tucked in for the night in their sleeping quarters. With ear plugs. And not flying around in the area.

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All we could see below the fog…

So this morning when the sun half-heartedly peeked out, I took a walk to check on them. The first one I spotted was a Snowy Egret. She was cleaning her white dress. I assumed it had gotten dirty at last night’s swing about.

snowy egret grooming Jan 1 2015
A Snowy Egret dry cleaning her dress…

Why do I think there was a swing about? That was quite obvious when I spotted a male Snowy Egret doing exactly the same thing in a nearby tree.

male snowy heron grooming on new year
A Snowy Egret dry cleaning his traditional dress…

Just when I could see Mama Osprey’s empty nest from afar, she flew in.  Phew! You see, a couple of years ago an osprey was killed by fireworks in a nearby town, so I was relieved and happy to see her alive and well.

papa osprey lands in the nest new year 2015
Mama Osprey arrives just when I was getting worried…

I got a charming nod for Happy New Year, and also noticed she had continued to work on the nest in anticipation of Papa Osprey’s return. Many more heavy branches and twigs were sticking out of the nest now.

papa osprey says happy new year
Mama Osprey says Happy New Year…

After a while I continued my walk. And spotted a very sleepy Yellow-crowned Night Heron. He opened one eye when I approached. Just like hubs did this morning.

night heron sleeping one eye open on new year
A sleepy Yellow-crowned Night Heron shows little interest…

On a little island nearby, the always curious Muscovy Duck was sound asleep. I found a feather in his iridescent green color on the ground, it must have been a wild night for him.

muscovy duck sleeping on new year
Mister Muscovy Duck is sound asleep…

Then something interesting happened. I heard Mama Osprey sing. And sing. And sing. It was a beautiful tune! My tired head finally realized he didn’t sing just for my enjoyment, and I looked up. An osprey was flying high up above the nest.  It could have been Papa Osprey!

Last year I spotted them in full nest restoration mode on January 16th. And ospreys tend to keep their timetable from year to year. So please stay tuned for breaking good news 🙂

Happy New Year to all of you from all of us in the salt marsh!

Ps. This post has been edited after publishing when I discovered that Papa Osprey (PO) actually was Mama Osprey.

 

A New Year

A new year is a simple unit of time

a short fragment of eternity

a precious gift from the universe.

A new year is a repeat offering

to try new things, to make mistakes

to learn from them and to grow.

A new year is a renewed invitation

to live each minute of it mindfully

harboring love and hope but no fear.

A new year is a thousand opportunities

to bring a smile on a stranger’s face

a sparkle of joy on an angel’s wing.