Tag Archives: Florida

Juveniles Rule. And Slowly Returning to Normal.

I am not developing an argument here on what ‘normal’ might be or look like. All I know is that our surroundings here at home are slowly starting to look as they used to – before Hermine dumped almost 15 inches/38cms of water on us over five days. The flood waters are almost gone. I say almost because there are still a few pools of water on the beach, in the park and in our garden. And birds love them. Like Snowy Egrets and White Ibis, who were mingling on the beach in large  numbers yesterday.

Snowy Egret at flood water pool ud80.jpg

snowy-egret-and-white-ibis-ud80And juveniles of all sorts were playing and feeding in the shallow pools. Like these two juvenile White Ibis. One of them was quite white already, while his little sister was still much more brown than white.

two juvenile ibis ud80.jpg

juvenile-white-ibis-ud80Another juvenile, a Black Skimmer, who had already left his parents was practicing skimming in one of the shallow pools.

juvenile-black-skimmer-ud80The juvenile Royal Tern pestering his mom was quite entertaining. Although his poor mom might have disagreed. She tried to show him how to catch food items in the shallow water, but he was not interested. He wanted to be fed.

baby-royal-term-pestering-his-mama-ud80

baby-and-mama-royal-tern-ud80Walking into the salt marsh, I noticed the water levels were down and the bird count was up. Despite the fact that the mosquito count was down only a bit, I decided to see who had returned. And right away saw the younger Great Blue Heron. After hanging around for over two years now, I think he has earned to be named. I will call him Henry. He was balancing high up in the cypress tree surveying the marsh. Possibly trying to find out whether or not the Mayor was present.

young-blue-heron-ud80He wasn’t. So Henry decided it was safe to fly down and start hunting at the far end of the marsh, a spot usually reserved for the Mayor.

young-blue-heron-in-flight-ud80

young-blue-heron-lands-ud80A Great Egret was also scanning the marsh from the top of a tree in the middle of the marsh. He might have been counting his relatives, who were many but difficult to spot in the high grass.

great-egret-on-the-top-ud80

great egret and snowy egret ud80.jpg

great-egret-ud80The only smaller wading bird present, in addition to Snowy Egrets, was a beautiful Tri-colored Heron. She was fishing at the shallow side of the marsh that had already dried up quite a bit. But she was still more than knee-deep in the water.

tricolored-heron-ud80But the Moorhens and Mottled Ducks were present in big numbers. The ducklings born here last spring had returned and were swimming in a nice formation – all ten of them. Juveniles definitely ruled the day 🙂

moorhen-ud80

ten-ducklings-ud80I finished my walk at the Osprey nest. Mama Sandy was having her brunch and checked on me between the bites. I wanted to tell her that on Sunday, I would be visiting again – with the contractor who will be repairing or replacing (if required) the nest. But I let her eat in peace.

mama-osprey-eats-lunch-ud80I didn’t see Papa Stanley, but I know he is around as I saw him just the previous day. He flew low over our garden and tipped his wings to me and Dylan. Instead I spotted a Red-bellied Woodpecker on my way home. He was showcasing his reddish belly.

redbellied-woodpecker-2-ud80But that was not all. Approaching home, I saw a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk fly past me towards our garden.

hawk-ud80I decided to see if I could spot her again and walked around among the trees where I thought she might have landed. And I found her! She was sitting in a dense tree – on our neighbor’s side. It was an awkward spot to try to ‘shoot’ her. Sun right in my eyes, a thick, high hedge on one side and a large ditch with some remaining flood water on the other. I tried to balance on my toes so I could get a clear shot of her, but this is the best I could get. What a beautiful bird.

juvenile-red-shouldered-hawk-ud80She flew away to continue her hunt, and I spotted another bird in a tree right above me. A Black-crowned Night Heron had settled there to sleep for the day and I inadvertently woke him up.

black-crowned-night-heron-ud80Luckily he didn’t seem to be angry. I was happy to find so many of my feathered friends. I concluded that things are slowly returning to normal around here, but unfortunately the damage assessments still continue elsewhere not too far from here.

We all wish you a very happy weekend. Peace.

In Hermine’s Arms. Wet and Windy.

No, Hurricane Hermine did not make a landfall here in central Gulf Coast. But being on the east side of the storm brewing on the ocean we came to experience the worst weather in its feeder bands. Relentless downpours and tropical storm force winds from Wednesday until this afternoon. And it’s not quite over as yet. We are fine, just now surrounded by much more water than I have ever seen here. The beach has only a narrow strip of sand before the ‘lakes’ take over. All the paths to the salt marsh are heavily flooded too. And our garden has an extra pond where I usually walk Dylan at midday.

flooded lake on the beach from Hermine UD77

flooded beach hermine UD77

hermine extra lake UD77But there has been lots of drama in our area. Rescues from sinking cars, flooded streets, homes and businesses, a hospital evacuation and house fires. A storm surge in some places north of us reached 12 feet, while ours was only 2-3 feet. Luckily no lives were lost.

hermine damage channel 8 ud77It was difficult to stay inside for over two days. Apart from some challenging bathroom breaks for Dylan. The cabin fever set in. I had gone to the terrace a couple of times during short breaks in the rain to take pictures of the ocean, the salt marsh and the bay .

hermine at the jetty UD77

hermine bay ud77And I had tried to take a few pictures from inside as well. With varying degrees of success 🙂

rain and the bay Hermine UD77

hermine on the bay rain ud77So late this morning when the rain did let up for a couple of hours, I went out with my camera. I wanted to check on the flooding and the waves pounding the beach. Or so I thought.

hermine winds UD77I walked through our back garden and among lots of debris from palm trees, I found our resident Northern Mockingbird.

northern mocking bird UD77Then I steered towards our ‘board walk’, which leads to the beach. It was not under water, but I could see ‘lakes’ on both sides, normally dry land.

extra lake from hermine UD77

flooding from hermine UD77And when I arrived at the end of the walk, I discovered the path to the beach was flooded. Much more water than my rain boots would take.

hermine flooded path UD77So I ended up shooting the waves from our board walk. The wind was still measuring at over 30 miles or 50 kilometers per hour. It was difficult to stay upright. Even the flood waters had noticeable waves.

hermain on the ocean UD77

hermine gulls and waves UD77

6 foot waves Hermine UD77The waves were still about 6 feet high and a group of terns was taking shelter at the narrow sand bank separating the ocean from the flood waters. Soon it started to rain again and I had to run inside. In the coziness of our living room I looked out towards the bay. Perfecting the art of staying inside 😉

hermine from inside 2 UD77I have not yet been able to visit the salt marsh due to the heavy flooding, but I hope to do so later on this Labor Day weekend. The only bird I have seen from my terrace is Mama Osprey. She was checking on the nest this afternoon. The water levels are currently too high for the wading birds to walk there, but I’m hoping for a rush as soon as the waters recede a bit. Happy weekend to all of you.

Me and my Mama. And a Flight School at the Salt Marsh.

The chick closed her eyes and snuggled close to her Mama. Mama Sandy has been sad lately. She’s been grieving. Staying a lot in the corner of the nest where I now know the little chick’s earthly remains rest. The big chick is about 6 weeks old now, alert and following everything around her with healthy curiosity. I think it’s a she, but I might change my mind in the next couple of weeks.

salt marsh ud60 6x9I haven’t been taking Dylan on walks at the salt this past week. The poor guy still has to wear his cone. His vet told us to keep it on until Monday’s check-up. Needless to say Dylan is not a happy camper. He feels just fine, but the cone prevents him from doing so many essential things. Such as eating properly from his bowl or reading his daily newspaper in the grass. It’s like I would be trying to read the morning paper without my reading glasses. Not fun.

So today I decided to take a solo walk to check on our friends. It was lunch time and quite hot. I anticipated the marsh would be fairly quiet as birds tend to seek shelter from the midday sun. But I was happy to see many palm trees in full bloom.

palm flowers ud60

another flowering palm tree ud60When I arrived at the Osprey nest the chick was snuggling close to Sandy. Like taking care of her Mama. Then she started preening. And Sandy discovered I was there. We said our customary hellos.

mama osprey and osprey chick preening UD60After ten minutes of diligently cleaning herself, the chick settled down and started to check out her environment, including me.

osprey chick ud60

osprey chick 6 weeks old ud60She is a beautiful young Osprey now, and it will take only a couple of more weeks, if that, before she’ll be flying. I walked around the marsh and saw the young Great Blue Heron at the other end of the marsh. He didn’t dare to come close to the nest, which was probably good for his wellbeing. Mama Sandy was keeping an eye on him.

young great blue heron ud60I also spotted my newest friend, the juvenile Little Blue Heron foraging in the shade of some bushes. She is turning more blue every week, which unlike for us humans, is a good thing for a Little Blue Heron. She seems to be doing great.

juvenile little blue heron ud60Walking back towards the nest I saw two Florida Mottled Ducks tanning themselves in the midday sun.

two Florida Mottled Ducks ud60When I reached the nest again, I spotted the Reddish Egret. It was too hot to perform tricks, I guess, as he was just checking the marsh in quiet contemplation.

reddish egret ud60But the Osprey chick was not quiet. She had started her “getting-ready-to-fly routine” up in the nest. I made a short GIF so you can see all her elaborate moves. This young lady will take off soon!

osprey chick wingersizing may 14 2016Down in the pond this new routine didn’t go unnoticed. The Reddish Egret turned and followed the chick’s performance with great interest.

reddish egret looks at the nest ud60I left the salt marsh with mixed feelings. Sad that nature had decided there would be only one chick in the Osprey family this year, but happy knowing this young bird would have great odds to make it to maturity. Sandy and Stanley would feed her for a long time after she fledges, and take her on countless fishing trips to make sure she knows how to catch a fish before she leaves the nest towards the end of June or early July.

Waking home, I was delighted to find new palm flowers on my route, the White Bird of Paradise was in full bloom.

white bird of paradise flower ud60Thanks for coming along. I wish you all a peaceful weekend and a great week ahead.

I picked up on Lucille, started singin’ blues…

B.B. King was one of the music legends featured at this year’s annual Sugar Sand Festival on Clearwater Beach, voted the best beach in the US this year – again. I welcome you to join me for this music themed art tour to discover some great works by sand sculptors from all over the world.

SSF CLW BeachThe skillfully sculpted exhibits featured artists from the 60s and 70s, like Jimi Hendrix…

SSF jimi Hendrix…and Janis Joplin, both with an impressive hair of soft sand.

SSF Janis JoplinSome wild rock bands, like Kiss, were also featured…

SSF Kiss…along with good ol’ bluegrass bands. Such an impressive detail. I could almost hear the banjo playing and feel the foot tapping on the sand.

SSF Bluegrass BandSome classics, like the Glenn Miller Band, were present too.

SSF Glen MillerAnd jazz of course, here represented by the phenomenal Louis Armstrong.

SSF Louis ArmstrongMy visit to this exhibition was just a couple of days after the death of Prince. A sculptor was at work to add him into the parade of musicians who had passed away recently…

SSF Prince…such as David Bowie, here portrayed as Ziggy Stardust.

SSWF David BowieI really liked this whimsical portrait of Bob Marley. It made me smile too.

SSF Bob Marley.jpgAnd I was intrigued by the fine representatives of the first musicians, the troubadours. They put their heart on their sleeve while serenading fine ladies. Sometimes with mixed success, I guess.

SSF TroubadourAll in all it was a very interesting exhibition of sand sculptures. I am full of admiration for the sculptors and how they are able to create something so delicate yet durable out of the sugar soft sand we have here.

You can find other responses to the Weekly Photo Challenge “Admiration” here.

Love is Blooming. And Now I’m Really Worried.

When I came home earlier this week, I saw what I had been waiting for. The sky dance. It is the annual ritual Papa Stanley performs for Mama Sandy before they start their big “nestoration” project. I admired the dance from my terrace, but came to the conclusion it was impossible to document. For me, that is. Stanley soared high up over the nest in undulating flight. At the top of the undulation, he hovered briefly and then dove down his wings drawn in. This lasted probably 15-20 minutes, but I only had my camera for the last five minutes. I captured him in the middle of the flight, including when he briefly glanced at me, and again when he was almost on the ground close to the nest.

Male osprey in flightpapa ospreys sky dance 3 ud43papa osprey comes back to the nest ud43It was fascinating to watch, and I noted it happened exactly on the same day as last year. A proposal every year. That’s love. And from that point on they have been busy rebuilding the completely bare nest. I have been busy with work too, and only seen their building project from my windows. Until yesterday.

sunrise 2 ud43I had planned to sleep in, but woke up at sunrise. I went out on the terrace to have my coffee and to capture the atmosphere of the early hour. In addition to a beautiful sunrise, I saw an Osprey in the nest. I took one quick handheld shot – and saw the progress. Did you know that Osprey can build a nest as fast as 7-10 days? And these guys had been busy as you can see. So after finishing my coffee, I went out to see my friends for the first time in ten (!!) days.

papa osprey at the nest ud43.jpgThe first bird I spotted was a male Red-bellied Woodpecker. He was enjoying his breakfast on the shade side (of course) of a bent palm tree just outside our garden.

male red-bellied woodpecker ud43Next I found Mama Sandy eating a fish on a lamp-post close to the park. I was wondering why she didn’t eat at the nest.

mama osprey eats her fish ud43Once at the salt marsh, I understood. Stanley had given her the fish, and she had decided to have her breakfast in relative privacy. Stanley was minding the nest. He was working too. On the redesign stuff. And kept a keen eye on Sandy.

papa osprey working ud43papa osprey is minding the nest ud43I said hi to him, and then walked around the marsh to check who was there at this early hour. Right under the nest, in his usual “bedroom”, I found my friend, the juvenile Yellow-crowned Night Heron. He had nodded off, drying his wings in the morning sun.

juvenile yellow-crowned night heron ud43Close by, I found the young Muscovy Duck. It looks like he’s been hired as a body guard by the Moorhens. They seem to spend lots of time together.

muscovy duck defends the moorhens ud43When I reached the other end of the marsh, I spotted the Mayor. He was in his office on the little islet, as always. Checking things out. I thought he was quite photogenic in the early morning sun.

great blue heron ud43great blue heron 2 ud43A young Great Egret was busy hunting and didn’t pay any attention to me. But I admired her reflection.

great egret fishing ud43That’s when I saw Mama Sandy flying back to the nest. She had finished her breakfast and wanted to spend some time with hubby.

mama osprey in flight ud43mama osprey and papa osprey at the nest ud43They were too cute. I sat down on “my” bench to watch these love birds. And that’s when I realized what I was seeing. This.

osprey nest in need of repairs ud43The nest platform is falling apart. I had seen signs of that already earlier. The nails come out at a couple of corners, and the net at the bottom is in bad shape. I had talked to the park service staff several months ago about the need to do repairs at off-season. They told me the nest was built by boy scouts and they would need to repair it. I even offered to pay for the repairs, but nothing has happened. Such things don’t seem to be in anyone’s job description. And now it’s much worse. The whole platform is unstable. I worry that we might have real drama, or even a tragedy, at the salt marsh this nesting season if nothing is done.

Just when I sat there in deep thought,  Stanley decided to leave. And I did too.

papa osprey leaves the nest 2 ud43I would go home and write to the Audubon Society hoping that they could come up with something useful they or I can do. The Osprey family needs emergency repairs. Yesterday.

I walked home on the bay side and saw three more birds, a beautiful Snowy Egret in breeding plumage, a curious Willet and an Oyster Catcher.

snowy egret in breeding plumagewillet 2 ud43oyester catcher ud43And found where Stanley had flown. He was at his favorite outlook spot on Marriott’s roof. His breakfast was already a bit late, so he scanned for fish in the bay. But also kept an eye on Sandy in the nest.

papa osprey looks at mama ud43sand key osprey nest  2 ud43I wonder if he is also worried. And, like me, hoping someone will care. Such is life, full of ups and downs. For all creatures on this earth. Love, Tiny

UPDATE: This morning we’re experiencing heavy storms with 35-40 mile winds. TG the nest platform is still in place. I just saw Papa Stanley struggle against the wind to check on the nest – or on Mama Sandy? It was extremely difficult for him to fly, he went almost upside down a couple of times and was thrown sharply up and down by the gusts. I hope to spot both of them later this afternoon when the storms are expected to subside.

Papa Osprey’s Photo Shoot. And an Illicit Visitor at the Salt Marsh.

The sun was barely up on my first day home after the trip when I stepped out in the garden. Without even a cup of coffee. I just had to go see my feathered friends before starting a busy day. And he was right there. The Little Blue Heron, in a shady spot under the palm trees.

little blue heron in our garden ud21It was wonderful to be welcomed home by one of my friends from the salt marsh. The beach was quiet. And the rainwater “lake” was gone.

sunrise beach ud21The salt marsh looked fresh and misty. And I saw the water levels were almost back to normal. Little islets stuck up from the water, just as they used to.

sunrise at salt marsh ud21Most birds were still in their sleeping quarters, but Mama Sandy was already having her breakfast at the nest. She had a nasty wound on her left leg, but looked okay otherwise.

mama osprey with a fish ud21When I came closer, she greeted me in her typical straight forward, but friendly manner. I thought she even smiled.

mama osprey at the nest UD21I found the young Great Blue Heron (GBH) close to the osprey nest, as often is the case. He didn’t bother to look at me. He might be familiar with my view on his attacks on the nest earlier this year.

young blue heronThe Tri-colored Heron, who had temporarily moved elsewhere during the floods, was back home. She was happily hunting for her breakfast in the shallow waters.

tricolored heron ud21And just when I was about to leave, Rosa, the Roseate Spoonbill flew in. It’s always nice to see her. And it looks like she might think the same about me 🙂

roseate spoonbill landing ud21roseate spoonbill Rosa ud21I continued my walk to the bay side, and marveled at the European Starlings greeting the sun on a lamp-post next to the park.

starling family at sunrise ud21I decided to check if Papa Stanley would be at his resort. He was at home. Still sleeping when I arrived.

papa osprey sleeping ud21He soon discovered me and decided to pose for a photo shoot. A rare treat, and so very kind of him.

papa ospey says hi ud21papa osprey in his resort ud21papa osprey portraIT 2 UD21papa osprey portrait ud21I thought he was quite handsome. That was a great home-coming.

I got another opportunity to get out for a quick walk this morning. I discovered that the “beach lake” had reemerged after yesterday’s short, but intense storm. Many birds were enjoying rainwater baths and the special menu the fresh waters had to offer.

more rainwater and birds on the beach ud21snowy egret 2 ud21theyoung great blue heron ud21black skimmer drinking fresh water ud21juvenile black skimmer sleeping ud21And some, like this juvenile Black Skimmer, were just plain tired of all the excitement.

While the young GBH was frolicking at the “beach lake”, the older one, the Mayor, was back in charge at the salt marsh.

mayor great blue heronI bet he was not happy to see this illicit fisherman trying to capture the fish that belongs to the residents. I was not happy either.

fisherman at salt marsh ud21I wished Sandy had been at the nest and given him a small lesson. But luckily, as soon as I started walking towards the park HQ, he packed his gear and left. Once he was gone, I came back to greet the Great and Snowy Egrets who were enjoying the sunshine in large numbers, and then walked back home.

great egret on the top ud21So much excitement, as always, at the salt marsh. Thank you for coming along. We all wish you a wonderful weekend!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Half and Half (8 Images)

This week’s DP photo challenge is “Half and Half”. It leaves room for quite a bit of creativity in the interpretation. I like that. Many things in life are half and half. Even today is half rain, half shine. Different from the day last winter, when the view from my terrace was half fog, half sky.

About half of these images are newer, the other half older. Almost half of you may have seen about half of them before. But because my hard disk is only working half and half since Friday, I can’t process brand new ones right now. I’m expecting a whole new hard disk to arrive at half week. I wish everyone a great week ahead, may there be nothing half and half about it.

You can find other responses to this challenge here.

golder hour on the Gulf
The golden hour on the Gulf.  Half sky, half ocean.
juvenile backcrowned night heron half and half
A juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron. Half adult, half baby.
A crater lake in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Half crater, half lake.
A crater lake in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Half crater, half lake.
tri-colored heron portrait half and half
A Tri-colored Heron. Half in the picture, half outside the picture. Half sharp, half blurred.
two little boys on the beach
Two little boys on the beach. Half winter, half summer. One visitor, one local.
beach sunrise half and half
Sunrise on the beach. Half sand, half sky.
bumble half and half
Bumble. Half dog, half human. Or so he thinks.