I just had to go to the salt marsh on Christmas Eve while my turkey was cooking. Needed to wish Happy Holidays to all my feathered friends, and deliver the greetings many of you sent to the “team”.
Upon arrival I was greeted by a dragonfly in full holiday attire. She was busy, just posed quickly for the photo shoot and then flew away.
A Great Egret was playing Santa and delivering Christmas gifts. No reindeer needed. He left a small package in the grass, not far from the osprey nest. Maybe a treat for Papa Osprey?
In a tree next to the deep water, a Green Heron was happily guarding his stocking. It had already been filled by Santa, and was now hanging securely next to him.
Then I heard music! An Ibis was singing carols, accompanied by bells in a nearby tree. His deep baritone entertained everyone in the salt marsh for quite a while. Including me.
When I arrived at Mama Osprey’s nest nobody was home. I sat for a while on my usual bench admiring her decorations. Suddenly I saw her fly in with a huge branch! She has started restoring the nest on her own! She worked hard before she was happy with the placement of this large beam. I was impressed. Again.
After wishing them all Happy Holidays, I hurried back home to check on my turkey. It was a nice little walk before all that eating 🙂 Many more walks are needed, however, in the next few days.
PO, Bumble and I say thanks for the many beautiful cards received from blogging friends thanks to Jackie’s Great Christmas Card Exchange! And we thank you all for being such an inspiring part of our year. ❤ Tiny
Ps. This post has been edited after publishing when I discovered that Papa Osprey (PO) actually was Mama Osprey.
I came back home last night to the tune of strong winds and a passing cold front. By this morning, the wind had calmed down a bit and the skies were blue again, but it was cool. I would say cold, but I don’t want to offend anyone. Anyway, I felt the need to get moving again this afternoon so I went out for a walk to check on my feathered friends.
The beach was quite stormy. And completely empty, apart from a few Willets. When passing the salt marsh, I found the birds hunching in the grass or hiding in the trees. Even Papa Osprey and his friend Stanley were not perching upright as they usually do. That’s what a cold front does to you.
The birds were clearly feeling the chill. Winter has arrived to Florida. And that means the start of the nesting season for many residents in the salt marsh.
Speaking of nesting, I have to tell you something I discovered later this afternoon. I saw Papa Osprey flying together with another Osprey. And singing. I took some pictures of them on the run and when I enlarged them, I saw the other Osprey also had a “necklace”. Stanley and Steve don’t have one, but Mama Osprey does. Couldn’t be sure though it was her so I leave it like that. We’ll see soon enough.
After neglecting my exercise routine for almost a month, and eating far too much over the holiday, I decided it was time to get out. Not to the malls or other crowded venues offering black stuff for mere pittance, but to the salt marsh to check on my feathered friends. The weather was finally sunny and the strong winds had calmed down quite a bit.
I was eager to see how the residents had fared the stormy weather and whether or not Papa Osprey would still recognize me.
There we signs of minor wind damage, dead palm branches and small debris scattered everywhere. And very few birds out and about. I almost got worried. But then I spotted this Great Egret. He was hunting. Looking intently into the grassy pool of water, waiting patiently, and then making his move.
He caught a little frog (click to enlarge, and you’ll see). He ate it and flew away to the sunny side of the marsh.
I continued to Papa’s nest. He was there, initially awake and checking his surroundings. But he had a full crop, much like mine after the holiday. He was sleepy. After nodding a greeting, he soon fell asleep perching on the edge of his nest to digest his breakfast. I thought that was neat. Tiny was not a threat, it was okay to doze off. He looked cute sleeping like a baby, I thought.
I let him sleep and walked around for a while looking for more birds. I found the Moorhen family, all three together, on an after breakfast swim.
And whoops, suddenly a Little Blue Heron landed almost in front of me. I assume he’d been away for Thanksgiving. Welcome home you little one!
But all the others were still sleeping, hiding or just away somewhere. So I decided to walk to the bay side to look for more familiar faces. But the pickings were slim. To my delight I spotted at least one resident of the salt marsh, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.
That was rare as they usually don’t hunt after daybreak. I always find them dozing off in the bushes, but not this one. I hope he wasn’t sleepwalking.
I feel so much better after the long walk. My “crop” feels a little smaller. I hope yours does too. ❤ Tiny
Earlier this week, I went out for my usual greet-papa-osprey run around the salt marsh, and landed in the middle of a migration conference with over 100 participants! The place resembled a luxury resort, with guests sprawling around every table at the lunch buffet.
I’ve never seen so many birds in this salt marsh! Dozens of migrating Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Wood Storks were visiting. I was delighted, but the permanent residents didn’t quite share my enthusiasm. The crowd was a bit unruly at times. Tempers flared, voices – and hairs – were raised.
There were a few really loud exchanges. Followed by rearrangements at the tables. Or maybe I should say, adjustments in the pecking order.
But for the most part, the conference luncheon went smoothly. Everyone got their pickings, big or small.
After lunch some quests embarked on their exercise routines, while others chatted with their peers. Exchanging the latest. Some paraded the calm waters, showing off their beautiful gowns.
I noticed that some permanent residents tried to keep away from the hubbub, seeking calm corners to hide in until the conference would be over. Some stayed out of sight altogether, like the Night Herons.
A few elected to let it all pass, and moved to the relative calm of the bay side.
That included the “Mayor of the Marsh”, Mister Blue Heron. I assumed he got tired of policing the crowd.
But Mama Osprey wouldn’t be moved. She’d been there, done that. She knew peace would return in a couple of days.
And it did. This morning the marsh was calm again, and the twenty odd residents were able to enjoy their home in peace, like the Great Egret does in the featured image.
I know a leader when I see one. That’s how I’ve made my livelihood, at least to a part. Spotting leadership talent and helping it flourish. Now I’ve spotted such talent in the nature reserve. Ready to lead. No coaching required.
That’s Mama Osprey, of course. You knew it, right? Or you may want some proof? I have plenty.
First, she cares about her community. The salt marsh has plenty of fish, from huge footlongs to medium and small. It would be easy to just dive down from the nest and get breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like opening the fridge. But she doesn’t fish there.
She leaves the food supply for residents who can’t fish in the ocean. Like this tiny Tri-colored Heron.
Second, she ensures peace in the community. She constantly scans the skies and the grounds for any threats. And warns the residents whenever she detects a potential danger. Like dogs walking their people or bicyclists on the foot path closest to the marsh.
Or the two other ospreys, Stanley and Steve, who have settled in the area. Don’t get me wrong. Mama Osprey lets them thrive in the park. And even allows them to use her favorite dead palm trunk as their breakfast bar.
But she keeps a watchful eye on their movements. And sends a message of caution, as and when warranted. It’s clear that she has earned their respect.
Third, she’s on the top of everything in the community. Has the big picture. Gently keeps tabs on the residents’ comings and goings. Like this Great Blue Heron, who periodically takes trips to the bay-side to socialize with fishermen in exchange for free fish.
Or the Pelicans who fly in shuttle traffic between the ocean and the bay right over the salt marsh.
And the young Night Herons who practice landing at the tree tops with varying degrees of success.
And not to talk about the large Egret population that tends to move back and forth between the tiny islands in search of the best fish.
Fourth, Mama Osprey trusts her gut. I got proof of that just a couple of days ago when I met a nice bird photographer. He was a visitor, not familiar with the nature reserve . So we started to chat and I told him about the nest. After a while I heard Mama Osprey’s warning calls. Unwanted disturbance too close to the nest.
And then saw the poor guy walk away from the vicinity of the nest. After he left, I went to see Mama Osprey. She was her calm, good-looking self and turned to greet me when I walked right under the nest. Not a peep, just a friendly nod. She definitely trusts her gut.
Then we both admired the bright yellow wild flowers that had popped up right next to the nest pole. I snapped a picture, she checked on the little worm crawling on one of the flowers.
My conclusion, based on all this evidence, is that Mama Osprey is a pioneering community leader with natural clout. I hope you agree with my assessment.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Ps. This post has been edited after publishing when I discovered that PO (Papa Osprey) actually was Mama Osprey.
Last Sunday was my birthday. Not that I need to be reminded of the years piling up, but it was a great day. A balanced affair of spectacle and peace. The spectacle was provided by the annual Clearwater Speed Boat Race, and the peace by the birds … and other good friends and family.
After a night of torrential rains, the morning was beautiful.
I took a long walk on the beach, where the birds were getting breakfast and people of all ages were preparing to watch the boating event of the year.
Some were more interested in other explorations, of course.
On the ocean, thousands of boats were lining up along the 2.5 miles long race track. And helicopters were circling overhead. Quite a spectacle!
I decided to seek my peace in the nature reserve. On my way there I saw something remarkable. Papa Osprey was flying in after a swim in the ocean. When he approached the nest, he shook himself in mid-air, almost like a dog would do, to get rid of excess water. I had read that ospreys do this, but never seen it before. Unfortunately my camera was in its bag as I tried to negotiate a path to the park that wouldn’t require a swim suit.
When I reached the nest, Papa Osprey was there. All spread out under the natural hair dryer. He was still wet and held his wings up to dry his underpants. He gave me a friendly birthday nod, but it’s difficult to say if he smiled.
I also spotted a Great Egret perched on a tree near the osprey nest. After posing politely for a photo, she flew away over the water.
It was getting hot and the Great Blue Heron, whom I’ve named the Mayor of the Marsh, was seeking shade hunched down in the bushes.
I stayed in the park for a while receiving calls from family abroad, and snapped another picture of him little later.
Herons were out in force that morning. I saw a Yellow Crowned Night Heron and a Green Heron too. While the latter is most often perched on a tree looking like he’s dreaming of some faraway place, now he was hunting and all stretched out.
And what would a birthday be without a Tri-colored Heron showing off his beautiful colors. This time I saw him hunting, diving right into the water.
And then shaking his feathers. The gracious little bird was all buffed up.
So after getting my peace in the morning, I came home and we watched the speed boat race from our terrace. Luckily they raced at some distance. No water spray on our lunch, but the engine roar was clearly audible. I’ll put a few pictures here for the boat enthusiasts in the readership.
The rest of the day was lots of fun, culminating in a sumptuous seafood dinner with friends and family. Bang Bang Shrimp, Rainbow Trout, and chocolate… I could do it again. Any day.
I will probably be posting/reading a little less than usual in October as I’ve a few travels planned before NaNoWriMo hits in November. I hope your week is going well.