Tag Archives: Gulf coast

She’s Baaack! Papa Osprey’s Welcome Gift. And a Storm Brewing.

He stretched it out. The announcement was very loud, perhaps even a bit enthusiastic. The Green Heron had returned to his winter home at the salt marsh while I was gone, and appeared surprised to see me. As I walked closer, he repeated the announcement.

green heron 3 ud76An Anhinga, who was resting down by the water almost right below him, joined the choir. She’s baaack!

anhinga 2 ud76All eyes were on me. Well, almost. Even the Mayor interrupted his hunt, walked closer, nailed his eyes on me and gave me a nod.

older great blue heron ud76The young Mourning Dove checked on me too from her high vantage point. Approvingly, I thought.

mourning dove ud76Miss Rosa was still sleeping in her ‘bedroom’,  heavily curtailed by leafy greens. She opened her eyes. I’m afraid my approach had woken her up.

miss rosa ud76The Reddish Egret, who had been fishing in the shallows nearby, performed his signature dance. Shake, Baby, Shake. What a royal reception!

reddish egret 3 ud76Even two of the ducklings, who had left the salt marsh merely four months ago marching behind their Mama, came to say hi. They had grown a lot. And they had started in diving school. I saw a few more siblings further away.

two juvenile mottled ducks ud76

mottled ducklings diving ud76But not all residents joined the welcome party. The young Great Blue Heron didn’t really care to see me back. We have some history, as some of you will remember. I noticed he might have been in a fight as he had a flap of skin hanging under his chin. I wished him speedy recovery.

younger Blue Heron UD76And the Yellow-crowned Night Heron didn’t pay any attention to me either. But I didn’t take it personally. He might have been hunting all night and was now looking for some peace and quiet.

young yellow-crowned night heron ud76His cousin, the Black-crowned Night Heron, was present too and peeked out from the tall grass. He was simply shy. And soon he flew up into a tree to sleep for the day.

black+crowned night heron ud76I walked to the beach-end of the marsh and found two Great Egrets hunting together. Beautiful.

two great egrets ud76And a little Snowy Egret who was fishing alone. She soon decided to move onto the bay side and took off while I was watching her.

snowy egret ud76

snowy egret in flight ud76I was delighted to see so many feathered friends on my first walk! But where were the Ospreys? The nest was empty – and in great need of repair. Unfortunately the ground is too soft right now to allow a big vehicle to come close to the nest. That will have to wait for a bit longer.

osprey nest ud75I walked around the marsh. Then sat on ‘my’ bench to drink some water. It was hot already. I waited. A squirrel in the tree above came down to check me out.

squirrel ud76I noticed the Anhinga was still there, now drying her wings in the light breeze. And letting her latest catch, the drama of which I had obviously missed,  go down smoothly.

anhinga after breakfast ud76Suddenly I heard friendly osprey speak in the sky. Mama Sandy was flying above the marsh with Papa Stanley. Yes! Both of them were around and seemed to be doing fine.

Mama osprey 2 flies over salt marsh ud76

papa osprey flying with Steve UD76I discovered there was a third Osprey flying with them too. One with slightly orange-colored eyes and white tips on the flying feathers. A juvenile.

juvenile osprey over the nest ud76

a young osprey UD76I looked at all the pictures I snapped of this young Osprey, and while I can’t be absolutely sure, I think it might have been Lady Cawcaw! She was discussing something with her papa. Maybe getting tips on good fishing spots. That’s when Papa Stanley’s gift arrived. A beautiful flight feather came dangling down and landed on the grass just a few feet from where I was standing. I picked it up. And now have this 14 inches long ‘treasure’ in a small vase in my office, his molting gift.

mama ospreys feather ud75While I was watching the Ospreys, Miss Rosa had decided it was time for breakfast. She had come out from her hideout and was looking for food.

roseate spoonbill 2 ud76And the Reddish Egret had recovered from our first meeting and was hunting again with great determination.

reddish egret ud76I was delighted by the reception orchestrated by the salt marsh residents. So many of them were present on that beautiful morning last Saturday.

sunrise over the bay 2 ud76

sunrise on the ocean 16x9 ud76It may take a few days before we see such a glorious sunrise again as we are currently bracing for the impacts from a high grade tropical storm, hopefully not a hurricane, expected to brush our area tomorrow night and Thursday. I am hoping all our feathered friends will find shelter to keep them safe. Greetings from all of us.

 

Summer at the Salt Marsh. Beach Party. Rivalry. And Construction Plans.

Hello friends! I’m still on my summer break, but since I’m at home right now I want to give you an update on the affairs at the salt marsh. H.J’s visit early this month brought in the regular thunderstorms with downpours that belong to our summer. At the salt marsh, water levels are up and everything is fresh green.

salt marsh ud73

salt marsh ud73A couple of days ago I took a walk on the beach and was invited to a beach party attended by hundreds of feathered guests. It was a jolly event with Black Skimmers, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Laughing Gulls, Herring Gulls, including juveniles, enjoying the freshwater ‘lake’ formed on the beach by the frequent torrential downpours. The ‘lake’ occupied almost the whole beach, leaving only a wet, narrow strip of sand next to the salt marsh.

beach party after the rain UD73Some partygoers were flying back and forth looking for the perfect spot, others were catching up on the latest, bathing or preening. It was lively indeed.

birds on the beach 2 ud73

royal tern UD73

juvenile gull ud73Some guests were resting, and yet others had partied enough and fallen asleep on the sand. But in such a crowd you’d better sleep with your eyes open, like this Black Skimmer.

black skimmer sleeping ud73Despite being attired with my newly acquired cheerful rain boots, I decided not to test the water depth in the ‘lake’, but instead to walk to the salt marsh through the bay side.

my new rain boots ud73.jpgThat was a great decision. I was rewarded with a pleasant discovery. Papa Stanley had returned from his 4-week vacation!

papa osprey ud73He was perching on the wind measurement device at the Sailing Center, obviously planning his next fishing trip. I could hardly see him as the sun was right in my eyes, but looking at my photos I realized he had definitely recognized me. From there I went to see Mama Sandy. She was ‘babysitting’ the nest again, and greeted me with a friendly nod. And I thought she tried to tell me about the dismal condition of the nest. We both agree that the nest will not make it through the nesting season starting in December.

mama osprey ud73I was happy to let her know that I’ve finally started the process of getting the nest repaired – or perhaps replaced. This will involve several steps: evaluating the nest pole to see if it has hollowed and will need to be replaced, and if that is the case, evaluating the ground to see if it can carry the heavy equipment needed to replace the whole structure with a new, more durable one. If the answer is yes, then I’ll have to get busy approaching sponsors to get help with the fairly high cost of this project. If the answer is no, then we’ll need to come up with plan B and only replace the nest platform that is falling apart. I hope to have these answers in the next few weeks through the Clearwater Audubon Society. While they don’t have the money to pay for this project right now, they have the required permits and the connections to suitable contractors, and have kindly agreed to help. Wonderful news for our Osprey family.

mama osprey at the nest ud73I promised to keep Mama Sandy updated. As I walked around the marsh, I observed something quite interesting. Both the younger Great Blue Heron and the Mayor were present. Staring at each other from opposite ends of the marsh. Measuring strength. As many of you know, the young one is a colorful character. He is still much smaller than the Mayor, but clearly has the desire to be the king of the hill, so to speak. He has been frequenting the marsh over the last three months, while the Mayor has taken care of his family on the ‘bird island’ in the bay. Last spring the Mayor told us ‘I’ll be back’ – and he has kept his promise.

young great blue heron ud73
Young GBH
great blue heron Mayor ud73
Older GBH, the Mayor

A Great Egret was following the developments with keen interest from a tree in the middle of the marsh.

great Egret ud73And a female Cowbird was excitedly cheering on the Mayor from a nearby tree.

female brown-headed cowbird ud73Miss Rosa was seeking shelter from the sun at her usual spot, but kept an eye on the two rivals as well. Particularly the youngster. She didn’t cheer.

roseate spoonbill ud73The Snowy Egret was staring at the young heron too, and he didn’t cheer either.

snowy egret UD73A family of White Ibis was foraging in the grass close by, probably hoping their youngster wouldn’t need to witness any brouhaha on such a beautiful day.

Juvenile ibis ud73Their wish was granted. The truce lasted, and each heron held on to its end of the marsh. I walked home and shot some pictures of flowers in our garden on my way in. Pink flowers. Just to celebrate summer.

I look forward to visiting my family in northern Europe early August. I may do a short mobile post from there. Otherwise I’ll see you after mid August. Lots to catch up on by then.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you are enjoying your summer too. Much love.

Parenting Preteens. Exercise Regimens. And More Babies in the Salt Marsh.

I want to start this weeks update by showing you the bigger picture of the salt marsh and the eastern (bay side) part of the park where all the adventures of the Osprey family and other feathered friends take place. So here you have the “theatre of operations” 🙂

The bigger picture of the
The bigger picture of the salt marsh ~ click to enlarge.

And while we are on the pictures I took last weekend, you can also see the nest from above. It’s getting somewhat crowded.

ospey nest from above Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Osprey family pictured from above.

The chicks are growing fast. They resemble their parents more and more. I have to say I admire the parenting skills of this couple. Sandy has protected the youngest chick and ensured s/he gets a fair share of the food. And she’s taught all three kids patience and great manners. There are no signs of the usual sibling rivalry, no fighting or picking on each other.

Female osprey feeds the smallest chick at sunrise in  Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy feeds the youngest chick at sunrise today. Papa Stanley must have made a pre-dawn fishing trip and is now taking a well deserved nap.

Stanley brings in fish after fish all day long and participates actively in the upbringing of their offspring. Like any modern dad. And both of them are highly skilled in protecting the nest, as you’ve seen.

male osprey brings a fish into the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Stanley brings in a fish, head already eaten as usual.

One day I witnessed a quiet discussion between the parents while the chicks were napping.  Or more like a monologue by Sandy. Stanley didn’t say much. He was in the listening mode. I didn’t understand all of it, but it ended up by Sandy asking him to go fetch afternoon snacks.

osprey couple in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy asks for afternoon snacks.

Stanley obliged. He flew towards the ocean at exactly 2 p.m. And came back 17 minutes later with a shiny fish. Is that a record or what! He flew over the nest to show it to Sandy before taking it to his man cave for initial cleanup.

Male osprey goes fishing and comes back with a fish in 17 minutes Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Stanley flies towards the ocean and returns 17 minutes later with a fish.

The first-born chick has already started “wingersizing”. That means s/he may fledge within 10-14 days. The middle chick will not be far behind, and the youngest probably a few days after that. I made a short gif image for you to see how it’s done (sorry for the camera movement, I don’t usually carry my tripod on these short walks).

First born osprey chick exercises his/her wings by Tiny lessonsblog
First born chick exercises his/her wings by Tiny (click to see the exercise, repeats only three times).

Sandy now also leaves the nest a bit more often, but only for a minute or two, to bring in some reinforcements to the nest. Note how flat the chicks are lying in the nest while she’s gone.

female osprey brings new reinforcements to the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy brings in additional railing materials.

Luckily there hasn’t been any drama to witness this week. But I have some good news. In addition to the ten ducklings, there are three tiny Moorhen chicks in the salt marsh! I spotted them on a swim with Mrs. Moorhen yesterday.

Moorhen with her chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mrs. Moorhen with her three chicks.
a Moorhen chick Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Help! Where are you mommy?

They are tiny black fluff balls with red markings and really big feet. One of these days I hope to spot them walking in the grass so you can see for yourself. I’ve also tried to see if I could find the ten ducklings again, but instead of them coming out, I spotted these two dragonflies enjoying the sunshine just above their nest.

dragonfly Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A purple dragonfly…
dragonfly Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and a blue one.

The other day I also saw something funny I think you might enjoy. A juvenile Great Egret was exercising with a Mottled Duck. One, two, three, four. Repeat. This routine attracted another duck onto the scene. Perhaps also wanting to participate.

Young Great egret exercising with a Mottled Duck by tinylessonsblog
Young Great Egret exercising with a Mottled Duck (click to see the exercise, repeats only three times).

That’s all for this week from the salt marsh. Remember to keep moving, exercise is good for us too 😀

Fireworks. Strong Storms. And Little Miracles in the Salt Marsh.

The sky lit up, and loud bangs reverberated through the salt marsh. About an hour after bed time, the three Osprey chicks woke up to experience their first fireworks. Courtesy of the Sugar Sand Festival going on just north of the park, on the other side of the narrow waterway. Luckily Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley have experienced these occasional “disturbances” several times before. I’m confident they made the chicks feel safe. And explained to them the silly fascination with these loud nightly displays we humans have.

sugar sand festival fireworks Clearwater Florida
Lights come on with a bang in the middle of the night.

On Sunday afternoon the drama continued, but this time it wasn’t manmade. Papa Stanley had just left for his 2 p.m. fishing trip on the bay when the thunderstorms rolled in. The skies darkened instantly. The winds picked up, gusting up to 50 miles/hour. Dry leaves and small branches swirled through the air. Sheets of rain moved sideways like grey walls of water, followed by thunder and lightning.

storm over the bay
Storms over the bay where Papa Osprey went to get some  afternoon snacks.

Mama Osprey was tightly pressed over her chicks, her head pointed against the wind. The chicks experienced their first torrential rains and their first thunderstorms under Mama’s half-spread wings.

mama osprey protects chicks in storm Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy protects the kids during the thunderstorms – as seen from my terrace.

This scene was repeated, with more intensity, on Monday afternoon. Looking through my window with binoculars, I could see that both Sandy and Stanley were in the nest shielding the kids from wind and rain.

On Tuesday afternoon I could finally take a walk to check on the residents in the salt marsh. The water levels were up throughout, and I saw several feathery friends out inspecting their surroundings after the storms…or just enjoying the much nicer fishing weather.

moorhen Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mr. Moorhen inspects his flooded neighborhood after the storms.
Great Egret fishing Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Great Egret goes fishing after the storms.

Arriving at the osprey nest I noticed Mama Sandy had a small injury on her tummy, a bloody patch just above her left leg. But she was in full swing feeding the chicks, and didn’t seem bothered by it. Something must have hit her there scraping away the soft feathers and skin.

male osprey sleeps while the female feeds the chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The first born chick watches Mama Sandy  feed the middle chick while Papa Stanley takes a nap. Mama’s injury is partly visible just above and left of the nest corner.

It’s been quite a week for the Osprey family. The first born chick is now about four weeks old. All three chicks have learned to walk and discovered their wings. Their curiosity is limitless. They come close to the edge to scan the skies or to peek down. Even just to say hello.

osprey chick says hello Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The middle chick says hello to Tiny. Their eyes are almost red at birth, then turn to a lighter orange shade and finally yellow at maturity.

So what do good parents do? They go shopping for baby gates. That’s exactly what both Sandy and Stanley have done several times this week.

mama osprey brings in reenforcements to the nest with three chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy brings in reinforcements to the nest. She left the first born (on the left) in charge.
male osprey brought nest reinforcements Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley brought in a heavy duty baby gate.

I’ve admired the good discipline Sandy and Stanley have established. The chicks are always fed one at the time, while the other two patiently wait for their turn. All three seem to be growing, developing their own personalities … and challenging my ability to catch them all in a family portrait 🙂

Osprey family Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A family portrait (almost). The smallest chick is being fed by Mama Sandy, his/her head partly visible next to Mama’s leg behind the middle chick.

The regular daily routine Sandy and Stanley have established serves to keep the chicks feeling safe in the wild world of fireworks and storms. It goes something like this

  • Wake up time just around dawn at 7 a.m.
  • Breakfast 7:30 – 8:30 a.m.
  • Lunch 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.
  • Afternoon snack 3:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Dinner 7:00 – 8:00 p.m.
  • Sleepy time just around nightfall at 8:00 p.m.

Nice, eh?  I don’t think these wise parents have googled expert recommendations on consistency in meal and nap times. They just intuitively know. And that’s quite amazing to watch. In fact, it’s a privilege.

Papa Stanley and the oldest chick scan the skies.

Now is also the time to meet other youngsters. Yesterday afternoon I spotted a young  Great Egret enjoying a refreshing bath at the shallow end of the marsh.

Juvenile Great Egret  takes a bath Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A young Great Egret takes a cooling bath.

And watched quietly in awe when Mama Mottled Duck suddenly came out of her nest. With ten little miracles in tow.  Possibly for one of their first swims. I could only see them for a minute or so before Mama took them into safety in a narrow corridor under the mangroves. Aren’t they lovely?

female mottled duck with 10 chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Duck takes her ten chicks for a swim.

And of course I would spot Mister Reddish Egret successfully chasing his cousin, the Great Egret, away from the fishing spot he’d claimed. That was not a miracle, but a rather common occurrence around here 🙂

Reddish Egret chases a Great Egret Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mister Reddish Egret chases away the Great Egret.

This morning it’s been raining on and off. I noticed that Mama Sandy left her kids by themselves for a little while. Probably to get more reinforcements to the nest.  Right after she left it started raining again. The three chicks moved to the middle of the nest and huddled together until she returned a few minutes later.

three osprey chicks huddling together in the rain UD3
All three chicks huddling together in the rain. Sorry for the quality as I took this picture without a tripod from my terrace more than a block away.

You will notice the youngest chick is quite a bit smaller than the other two. My guess is that the first two hatched a day apart, but the last born hatched 2-3 days after the middle chick. Sandy seems to keep him/her separate from the others, often between or right behind her legs when she’s in the nest, including at feeding time. I’m sure she does that to increase his/her chances to make it.

We all wish you a great day/evening filled with love, laughter and small miracles. Rain or shine. Your embedded reporter in the nature zone, Tiny

Recalculating. Birds and Drones over the Salt Marsh.

This report from the salt marsh actually covers only the first half of the week, up until Wednesday. But don’t you worry, there’s been a full week’s worth of excitement. As you read this I’ll be traveling. And hoping a little osprey chick would have arrived by the time I’ll be back next week 🙂

female osprey sitting on the eggs
Mama osprey sits on the egg(s) February 21st

That brings me back to my calculations of the “due date”. I have now gone through my pictures from February. And I can say, with a high degree of certainty, that Sandy was incubating on February 21st. She may have laid the first egg on February 20-21. If that is correct, we would expect a hatchling anytime from this weekend to Monday-Tuesday next week.

Mexican Gulf sunset Sand key beach clearwater
Sunset over the Gulf.

Last weekend I took a walk at sunset time. It was a beautiful evening. The salt marsh was quiet, most birds had already gone to their sleeping quarters. The only one still feeding in the shallow waters was a Roseate Spoonbill clad in hot pink breeding colors.

roseate spoobill
A Roseate Spoonbill looks for dinner.

Mama Sandy had eaten her dinner and was sitting on the eggs.  She raised her head to say hi. I didn’t see Papa Stanley. So I went looking for him. And found him in his man cave finishing dinner.

mama osprey at sunset
Mama Osprey sits on the egg(s) at sunset time…the sun no longer reaches the nest.
osprey eating at sunset
Papa Osprey finishes a meal in his still sunny man cave on the other side of the road.

It was getting dark, and I had started my walk home, when I heard a faint humming sound. I looked up and saw a manmade bird, a drone, flying above the park. It was small, but I managed to get a photo when it turned and was lit up by the sunset’s afterglow.

a drone flies over Sand Key park
A drone flies over the park.

From a distance I heard Sandy sound a short alarm. I’m sure Stanley flew right away over to the nest to protect her and the egg(s) from this unfamiliar danger. I’m assuming this was their first time to see such a strange “bird” fly in the skies over the marsh. It certainly was for me. And I can’t say I liked it. I definitely prefer birds made by nature. Like these little fellows.

MOTTLED DUCK COUPLE
A Mottled Duck couple basking in the midday sun.

The beginning of the week was peaceful. Lots of birds in the marsh. Many of them pairing up and working on their nests.

ibis in flight
A White Ibis flies to the bay side.
red-bellied woodpecker in the pine tree
The Red-bellied Woodpecker works in a pine tree close to his condo home.
Boat-tailed Grackle
A Boat-tailed Grackle observes the goings-on in the marsh.
red-winged blackbird
A Red-winged Blackbird is a new resident in the marsh.
a juvenile pied billed grebe
This tiny Pied-billed Grebe lives in the marsh with her mom and dad.

As to Sandy and Stanley, they have spent the week doing what matters most. Family stuff. Protecting the nest, incubating, bathing, preening, exercising, inspecting the egg(s) and feeding. The other day I happened to witness a food transport. Papa Stanley was returning from a fishing trip over the ocean. Delivering a nice fresh fish to Mama Sandy.

papa osprey brings fish to mama
Papa Osprey delivers fresh seafood…a small fish.

They quickly changed shifts. Stanley sat on the eggs and Sandy took the fish and flew off to the  lamp-post close by to enjoy it.

 osprey eats on a lamp-post
Mama Osprey enjoys her food on a nearby lamp-post.

She then returned to the nest and did her pilates balancing on the edge. Stretching her arms and legs in turn. Followed by light flying exercises around the marsh.

mama osprey does her workout
Mama Osprey does her pilates…
Mama Osprey flies around the nest
Mama Osprey flies around the marsh just to get some exercise.

I wish them…and you all a wonderful weekend! I’ll catch up on your blogs next week as soon as I return.

Reporting from the salt marsh on Wednesday, Tiny

 

Be My Valentine. And Other Breaking News from the Salt Marsh.

Phew! What a busy week it’s been. Haven’t been able to visit the salt marsh until today. But there is breaking news! Mama Osprey seems to be sitting on the first egg now. At least it looks like that to me. And if I’m correct, there could be a little hatchling in 5-6 weeks.

female osprey sitting on the eggs sand key clearwater
Mama Osprey sitting in the nest.

As you can see from the picture taken from my terrace today, the nest is in great shape. It is much higher now than it was just three weeks ago and has lots of soft materials (dry sea algae, dry palm flowers) and colorful “toys” for the babies.

female and male osprey share a fish clearwater fl
Mama had lunch, Papa takes the rest…

When I arrived to the nest Mama Sandy had just finished eating lunch. Papa Stanley took what was left of the fish and flew to finish it off in his “man cave”. Mama settled in the middle of the nest, only her head visible, so I jogged over to Papa Osprey’s hangout.

male osprey sand key clearwater fl
…to his “man cave”, but hears Mama’s alarm calls…

But soon his eating was interrupted by alarm calls from Mama Sandy. There was another osprey flying towards the salt marsh from the bay side. He took the rest of the fish and hurried back to the nest immediately. That’s love right there.

Papa is back in the nest with the rest of the food
…and flies back to the nest with the rest of the food in his right talons

He checked that Mama was okay and immediately took off for a patrol flight, several rounds over the salt marsh.

osprey leaves again to check the situation
Papa Osprey takes off again…
male osprey patrols the marsh in sand key park clearwater fl
…to patrol the salt marsh.

When the danger was over Stanley returned to his Valentine in the nest…to make more little ospreys.

mating ospeys
Mating…and hoping for more than one offspring

An Anhinga serenaded them in a tree towards the bay side. Every day is a Valentine’s Day in the salt marsh. Love is in the air.

anhinga sand key park clearwater fl
An Anhinga sings “Be My Valentine”.

Happy Heart Day to all of you from all of us in the salt marsh! ❤ Tiny

Clearwater, FL. Destination for Your Outward-bound Vacation.

I originally wrote this article for Bucketlistpublications.com where it was published on January 13. It’s a little different from my usual posts, but I have edited it slightly and added many more pictures for your enjoyment. See you in Florida soon 😉 Tiny

——

After having lived on three continents, and traveled the world for more than two decades for work and pleasure, I finally found my own little piece of paradise here on Sand Key, a barrier island on Florida’s beautiful Gulf Coast.

large trees in Sand key park at clearwater pass
Northern end of Sand Key at Clearwater Pass

Don’t get me wrong, I still travel, but I no longer feel I have to get away. Simply because there’s so much to explore right here in my backyard.  Outdoor activities for every taste, every age and ability.

I’m not going to tell you about all the excellent hotels, restaurants and bars that cater for visitors here. There’s an app or two for that. Instead, I’ve chosen to talk about a few activities and adventures for those who want an active, outdoorsy vacation.

sunset over the Gulf on Sand Key Clearwater FL
Sunset on Sand Key

Beaches. Beaches are of course the main attraction around here. Clearwater Beach offers everything beachgoers could ask for, a beautiful beach and lots of water related activities at the marina across the road – and throngs of company. Shopping and activities on Pier 60 every night at sunset, and lots of watering holes nearby.

Pier 60 Clearwater Beach Florida
Pier 60 and Clearwater Beach

For those who prefer a bit more quiet and space for their beach day, or maybe want to catch a fresh grouper for dinner, the Sand Key Park and beach just over the bridge from Clearwater Beach, will be ideal. It has all the necessary amenities, including food at nearby establishments.

Sand Key beach clearwater florida
Sand Key public beach on a busy day
Miles long Sand Key Beach clearwater fl
Miles of white sandy beach on Sand Key, south of the park

Water sports. Jet skiing is probably the most popular water sport among visitors, and is available both on Clearwater Beach and on Sand key.

summer fun on jet ski clearwater fl
Jet skiing is popular

Kayaking, sailing and  paddle boarding are available at the Community Sailing Center just opposite the Sand Key Park and the beach. They also offer summer camps  and instructional courses where you can learn the basics of sailing or paddle boarding.

summer fun at sailing center sand key clearwater fl
Sailing school
summer fun canoeing 2 720
Kayaking
summer fun 3 at sailing school 712
Paddle boarding

Kite surfing is popular on Sand Key when the winds are right. Parasailing and “sky-surfing” are also on offer for those who have a higher calling, or just seek the big picture.

parasailing in clearwater fl
Parasailing
skysurfing above sand key tinylessonsblog
Skysurfing

Excursions on the water. Clearwater Beach marina is a busy place. That’s where you can book trips on the water. Again, the items on the menu are many. Anything from a Pirate Ship rides with kids, to dolphin tours, dinner cruises or sunset sails.  Going slow or fast.  Your choice.

pirate ship clearwater fl
A pirate ship, fun for kids
summer fun tour boat clearwater fl
Dolphin tours
dinner cruises at sunset from clearwater fl
Dinner cruises
sailboat at sunset clearwater fl
Sunset sailing
Speed boating in clearwater fl
Speed boating

But I’d like to mention one particular experience that all my guests regardless of age have loved, Captain Mike’s Dreamcatcher Explorations. Most tours (private or split between 5-6 people) go to the Three Rooker Bar, a small Barrier Island.

3 rooker bar barrier island
3 Rooker Bar

There is no better way to spend a morning or an afternoon. You can do tube riding and dolphin watching on your way there, fantastic shelling and snorkeling once you reach the island. It’s an untouched paradise, and if you’re lucky a dolphin might come to swim with you there.

tube ride in clearwater fl
Tube rides
anchored on the three rooker bar barrier island off dunedin fl
Anchored at 3 Rooker bar

Three Rooker Bar is also a protected nature preserve, which brings me to my final theme.

Wildlife and hiking. Many visitors enjoy the birds found on Florida shores. And you can watch/photograph many species right in the salt marsh of Sand Key Park, on the beach and on the bay side. I’ve photographed at least 40 different species there, maybe around 10-15 on any given day.

papa osprey is wet after a bath sand key park clearwater fl
A female osprey, wet after a dive
reddish egret sand key park salt marsh clearwater fl
A Reddish Egret

If you want to experience untouched Florida nature and are up for a hike, then I can recommend a visit to Honeymoon Island about 30 minutes north of Clearwater.

Great Egret on Honeymoon island
A Great Egret on Honeymoon Island

And if you are up for a really long hike and the weather is nice, you can walk to Caldesi, a pristine barrier island, on a sand bar all the way from Clearwater. Those who want to just enjoy the beach or hike the nature trail can also reach Caldesi Island by boat from Honeymoon Island.

caladesi island nature trail dunedin florida
Nature trail on Caladesi Island
Beach on Caladesi Island, voted America's best beach a few years ago
Caladesi Island beach, voted America’s best beach a few years ago

Other nature related adventures are offered by Clearwater Marine Aquarium, which is the home of Winter, the dolphin from two movies, Dolphin Tale and Dolphin Tale 2.  The Aquarium, which is actually a hospital and rehabilitation center for marine animals, also offers excursions on the bay to examine the interesting marine life there.

Here’s to an outdoorsy vacation in the Clearwater area!