Tag Archives: Flooding

Living on the Edge. Of the Salt Marsh.

Yesterday I was standing on the edge of my terrace watching a helicopter fly very low over the salt marsh and the park. Its flight pattern was crazy, heart-quickening. It would rise up fast, make a sharp turn over the bay or the Clearwater pass followed by a wild descent until it almost touched the ground.

helicopter-turning-ud79

mosquito-control-helicopter-ud79What was going on? I zoomed in and found the answer. It was a mosquito control helicopter from the county dropping larvicide in the many still flooded areas of the park. Part of the county’s efforts to prevent the Zika virus from spreading through local transmission.

mosquito-control-patrol-ud79It landed once and park personnel came forth to load several bags of (probably) granulated larvicide onboard.

helicopter-taking-off-16x9-ud79It’s been ten days since the torrential downpours from Hermine started, and although the flood water levels have been going down, both the beach and the park are still flooded (picture as of yesterday morning, today it looks a bit better).

flooding-after-hermine-ud79The whole park where the salt marsh is located is “closed until further notice due to effects after TS Hermine”. I had to read that out loud to Dylan, who insisted we go to the doggy park.

salt-marsh-flooding-after-hermine-ud79Very few birds have been present. I assumed it was because of the high water levels in the marsh would not allow them to feed, but it’s probably also due to the fact that bird blood is much preferred to human blood by mosquitoes. I learned this today from an article. My experience would have led me to a different conclusion.

You see, I had decided to take a walk on the beach and planned to visit the salt marsh too. Knowing that the beach entrances to the park would still be flooded, I was planning to ‘slink in’ to the salt marsh from the street.  Through the narrow opening between the stone wall and the closed gate. I was sure Tiny could get in through there when nobody was watching. That was the plan.

birds-at-the-beach-lake-ud79I walked through our back garden onto the board walk. And as I had anticipated the path to the beach had now dried up enough to allow me to walk there with my sturdy walking shoes. So I did. That’s when I was attacked by zillions of mosquitoes. Zillions. I’m not exaggerating. I had put on mosquito repellant on my ankles, arms, neck and nose, but they tried to bite me through my clothing. Twentynine of them hanging onto my crop jeans almost threw me crazy. I didn’t stop to zoom in on those fellows, so you have to take my word for it. Instead I ran to the water’s edge where a sea breeze drove most of them off. And on my way I stumbled upon a sand castle built by some brave little soul after the storm.

sand-castle-ud79The beach itself was lively. Only me and another woman, but hundreds of birds. Most of them were enjoying the now much more shallow floodwater lake between the beach and the salt marsh. The air traffic to and from the ‘lake’ was heavy, mostly Royal Terns and Black Skimmers.

royal-tern-2-in-flight-2-ud79

black-skimmer-in-flight-ud79And there were plenty of newly arrived shore birds at the water’s edge, Sanderlings, Willets and Ruddy Turnstones.

sanderling-ud79

willet-on-the-beach-ud79

ruddy-turnstone-ud79It was wonderful to see all of them again. And the Black Skimmer community was large. Beautiful juveniles and adults.

juvenile-black-skimmer-ud79

black-skimmer-talking-ud79Some juveniles were still hanging onto their parents – with resulting loud arguments and corresponding dramatics.

black-skimmer-juvenile-and-mom-ud79When leaving the beach I decided to run for my life through the soft, party wet path occupied by an army of aggressive mosquitoes. And arriving back to our garden, I had had enough of them. The planned ‘slinking in’ to the salt marsh would need to wait. Probably until they open the gates again. There is a reason for everything.

I wish you all a wonderful, mosquito-free weekend.

 

Naming Party. Accompanied by Colin.

So Tropical Storm Colin was a rain-maker. Not much punch in the wind department, only occasional 50 mph/80 kmph gusts, but flash floods on the roads and many flooded neighborhoods. Youngsters were kayaking on some streets in the city last night. Not good, but not as bad as expected.

lake in the garden ud65For us here on the beach it brought elevated tide levels and rip currents, a freshwater lake on the beach and another in the garden. And the salt marsh is brimming with water after 48 hours of continuous down pours. Fresh.

terns and flooring from Colin ud65Throughout the day yesterday, I was keeping an eye at the Osprey chick who was alone in the nest. At the beginning of the storm yesterday morning, I saw her standing in the nest. She was not laying down and facing the wind, as you can see. It was clear she had not yet acquired the storm savvy of her parents.

osprey chick in the the storm Colin ud65When the worst of the storm came over us around midday, it was impossible to see anything for the walls of rain moving sideways. And it became really dark. I tried to shoot pictures of the osprey nest in the salt marsh…

colin middle of the day ud65…and only after much magic in the “filter room”, I could get one picture where it was possible to distinguish the Osprey chick in the nest. Now she was laying down facing the wind.

osprey chick layig low in high winds colin ud65When the torrential rains had eased up a bit, I could see she was still “flat” in the nest. She had not flown anywhere, and her parents had not gone fishing for her.

osprey chick bracing the wind of colin ud65Finally when the wind had also eased up, at around 6:30 p.m., I found her eating supper. Probably the only meal she got yesterday. I guess Papa Stanley had managed to spot a fish in the choppy seas for her. I think this young lady learned quite a bit. Resilience, endurance and confidence.

names for osprey chick ud65.jpgMeanwhile, inside our comparatively much cozier home, I was preparing for the “drawing” to determine her name. All together 21 great name proposals were received. Thank you all!

the hat ud 65

I typed out all the names on paper strips of the equal size. Then folded the strips around pieces of Dylan’s favorite cookies. He was patiently following the whole procedure. Without snatching one single piece. Talk about self discipline. I went to get the hat while he guarded the cookie pieces. But the hat was too small for all the pieces to lay flat.

dylan waiting for the drawing ud65.jpgSo I put the cookies wrapped in paper (instead of bacon) in his toy basket. I placed it on the floor. Dylan was looking for permission to start the drawing, but didn’t move. Only when I said he was allowed to take a piece, he quickly sprung into action.

dylan doing the drawing ud65He picked one piece with the paper and all into his mouth, but I managed to grab the paper strip before he ate it. And this was the name he picked out…

name revealed ud65Lady Cawcaw!  That’s a suitable name for a great singer our chick has already proven to be 😉 Congratulations to Hariod!  Dylan got himself two more pieces of his favorite dessert once I had removed the papers.

The book arrived today and will be on its way to England as soon as I receive your address, dear Hariod.

the prize book ud65Lady Cawcaw survived the storm. And I have lots to tell you about the “day after the storm”, amusement and drama in equal parts. And a long awaited performance. Of a different kind. But I don’t want to make this post too long so that will need to wait until next time.

osprey chick Lady cawcaw ud65Tonight we will have a sunset and I’m looking forward to capturing it. Be well.

 

Flooding. Deserted Salt Marsh. And the Mayor’s Speech.

After 21 straight days of storms that dumped over 20 inches of rain on us, I’m happy to report we’re seeing the sun again here on the west coast of the “sunshine state”. When the rain finally stopped on Monday afternoon, I went to check out the flooding. And to see if I could spot any of my feathered friends.

beach and park flooding after the storms sand key clearwater florida

The beach and all the trails to the park were flooded. The new “Beach Lake” was even bigger than last week. As the rain had stopped, some boys tried to play ball at the shallow end of it. Lots of splashing.

playing ball on the flooded beach sand key clearwater florida

It was still gloomy, but the sun tried to show its face from under a hefty cloud cover. I didn’t want to repeat my wading exercise from last week, so I walked to the salt marsh on the street and the partly flooded walkways. The only bird I found on the usually lively bay shore was this Willet bathing in the floodwaters.

a willet bathing in flood water bay side sand key clearwater florida

And I spotted Papa Osprey. He was perched on a lamp-post far away, shaking his feathers and looking quite disheveled.

male osprey on a lamp post sand key clearwater florida

Entering the park, I saw flooding everywhere. All low-lying areas were under water, and the doggy park just north of the salt marsh had become a water feature for the birds.

flooding in the park sand key clearwater floridadoggy park under water sand key clearwater florida

Otherwise the salt marsh was deserted.  I walked around looking for my friends, water sloshing around my boots. The only birds I could find, in addition to those at the doggy park, were the young Great Blue Heron and Mama Sandy.  The heron was walking in the high grass, and Sandy was roosting at the nest. She was clearly tired of the rains. Just like me.great blue heron inspects the marsh sand key clearwater floridafemale osprey perching at her nest Sand Key park Clearwater FloridaThe water level in the marsh was too high for many of the birds to hunt there…and still rising. So they had evacuated.

salt marsh under water Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Yesterday afternoon, after three days of sunshine, I went back there to check how things were progressing. The flood waters in the park had receded considerably, but the marsh was brimming with water, and the beach was still flooded.

To my delight, I found that many residents had returned. The old Great Blue Heron, the Mayor, was surveying his little village at the west end of the marsh. He was addressing the community. Saying it was safe to return, I gathered.

great blue heron inspects the marsh Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

I had to laugh when I saw the crowd on the fence of the doggy park. They were listening to the Mayor while trying to dry up in the sun. The park was too soggy for the dogs to come back, so it was a safe place to roost.

egrets and ibis perching on the fence in the dog park Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Egrets and Ibis were perching on trees and bushes in big numbers. Like white dots sprinkled all over the marsh. And the Roseate Spoonbill was enjoying some shade at her usual spot below the osprey nest. She kindly agreed to a photo shoot.

birds in the salt marsh after the storms Sand Key park Clearwater Floridaa roseate spoonbill Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

The young Night Heron was back too, drying his feathers next to the deep water. It looks like he’s become a permanent resident. Decided the salt marsh was a safe place to grow up.

juvenile night heronSand Key park Clearwater Florida

The tiny Tricolored Heron surveyed the water levels at the east end of the marsh, looking a bit anxious. She probably understood it’d be some time before she could go hunting there again. The grassy little pools where she’d normally go fishing were now part of the “lake”. Full of big, scary fish.

tricolored heron on a stormy day Sand Key park Clearwater Floridafish in the salt marsh Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

The Mottled Ducks were happily cruising the waters, and so were the Moorhen families. With kids of all ages.

moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Floridamoorhen chick and a juvenile moorhen Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

And Mama Sandy was perched in her “watch tower”, monitoring the busy air traffic between the bay and the beach. I saw the young Great Blue Heron fly over the nest, and heard Sandy give a stiff warning. She has no tolerance for fools who’ve attacked her nest.

female osprey Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Before going home, I had to check on Papa Stanley too. He was back in his resort, looking much more put together. And really paying attention to me. I felt tiny under such scrutiny.

male osprey Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Life at the salt marsh is slowly returning to normal.  We all wish you a wonderful weekend and thank you for coming to see us. Much appreciated. Just like the sunshine.

Water. Everywhere. And an Oversized Wading Bird at the Salt Marsh.

There is so much water everywhere.  But I promise you’ll not get soaked if you join me for a quick inspection of the lay of the land water at the salt marsh. And you can wear nice shoes too. Or like me, no shoes at all.

storm over the bay UD18

On Sunday afternoon we got a small break from the relentless storms that have stayed with us for the last couple of weeks. The sun even peeked through the clouds occasionally. A good time to get in some exercise, both for the past and the coming week. All in one walk.

flooding on the beach sand key clearwater Florida

I waded ankle-deep, at times almost knee-deep, through the new rainwater “lake” that had formed on the beach. And walked right into a lively shorebird conference at the beach side of the “lake”. Hundreds of participants.

birds on sand key clearwater Florida

Some were bathing, others had passionate conversations, and a few just enjoyed the brief spell of sunshine. Like the Black Skimmer who’d fallen asleep on the beach. His pal flew in to check on him. Calling loudly for him to wake up already.

black skimmer sand key clearwater Florida

black skimmer sleeping on the beach sand key clearwater Florida

He woke up eventually, and they joined the others at the “lake”.  A baby Black Skimmer, the first I’ve ever seen, was wading tummy deep in the water while his sleep deprived mother was nodding off nearby. But there wasn’t much to skim, yet, for anyone. Just plenty of fresh water.

juvenile black skimmer sand key clearwater florida mama black skimmer sleeping sand key clearwater Florida

From there I walked through a flooded path towards the salt marsh to check on the residents. I felt like an oversized wading bird, but without the ability to fly over the puddles.

Once at the marsh, I found the water level was much higher than I’d ever seen. Many small islets and all my favorite photo spots were now under water.

salt marsh under water sand key clearwater Floridamy photo spot under water sand key clearwater Florida

Only a few birds were out and about. The young Great Blue Heron was trying to peek over the tall grass, and a Tri-colored Heron was out fishing. Successfully.

young blue heron after the storm sand key clearwater Floridatricolored heron hunting sand key clearwater Floridatricolored heron hunting sand key clearwater Floridatricolored heron hunting sand key clearwater Floridatricolored heron shakes off UD18I also spotted a small heron hiding in the partly submerged grass. My first thought was American Bittern, but after checking all my pictures of him, I now believe he was a juvenile Green Heron.

juvenile green heron sand key clearwater Florida

Some birds didn’t trust the weather man. They had stayed in their rain-shelters close to the Osprey nest. Like this Snowy Egret and the juvenile Night Heron with baby hairs.

snowy egret on a stormy day sand key clearwater Florida juvenile night heron sand key clearwater Florida snowy egret takes shelter in the storm sand key clearwater Florida

No sign of Mama or Papa Osprey. With all the lightning we’ve had, I wanted to see for myself they were okay. I decided to stretch my luck and go searching for them. Ignoring the fact that the next storm was already brewing in the skies. I walked towards Papa Stanley’s resort, and the minute I could see it, he flew in from the bay side.

male osprey sand key clearwater Florida

He was soaking wet, but had no fish. I was happy to see him safe and sound. And sure he’d catch a fish on his next dive.

papa osprey sand key clearwater Florida

As soon as Stanley had settled down, he turned his head and stared back towards the bay. That’s when I heard Mama Sandy. She was singing “I caught a fish, fish, fish”. I stepped back to the road side, and saw Sandy had landed on a lamp-post nearby. With a good-sized fish. They had been fishing together on the bay, but only Sandy had been lucky. I’ve long considered her a somewhat better fisher(wo)man than Stanley. Stanley is very good, but she’s master class.

female osprey with a fish sand key clearwater Florida

Sandy started eating her fish, and I wondered whether she would share some with Stanley. It was highly unlikely. And he didn’t ask for any either. In the Osprey world everyone fishes for themselves. Papa brings fish to Mama only when proposing to her, and when she’s incubating and raising small chicks. And both parents can bring fish to the chicks until they’re ready to start their independent lives.

osprey with a fish sand key clearwater FloridaIt was great to see both of them. I had to hurry home as it started raining gain. A few big drops at first, then buckets. And that pattern has continued. There’s no risk the salt marsh, or its stories, will dry up any time soon. Although it’s finally been sunny today. The first thunderstorm appeared only at dinner time.

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

WPC Forces of Nature: The Many Faces of Storms (9 Images)

This weeks DP Photo Challenge is “Forces of Nature”. Living close to the ocean and the intracoastal waters, I’ve snapped a few pictures of storms over the last few years. I find it fascinating how the light changes with the atmospherics of the storms. Here are a few images I’ve selected for this challenge.

storm over the bay WPC
The skies darken before the storm, but light is always there behind the clouds…
bay storm skies WPC
…even when “storm dogs” run wild in the skies…
…a window of light suddenly opens in the wall of rain over the ocean…
storm approaching the beach WPC
… and light acquires a mysterious quality when a storm approaches from the ocean…
stormy ocean waves WPC
..at other times there’s plenty of light, but the ocean is so angry it’s difficult to stand upright…
...and sometimes it rain so hard you can't go out to shoot anything at all...
…and many times there’s practically no light …and you can’t go out to shoot anything at all…
rainbow WPC
Then a rainbow shows up in the sky after the storm…
...and the birds get a rainwater bath on the flooded beach.
…and the birds get a bath in a newly formed “lake” on the flooded beach. The storm is over.

You can find other responses to the challenge here. Have a wonderful week. May your skies be sunny and bright.