Tag Archives: Holidays

Can I See Your ID, Please? Mysteries at Salt Marsh Holiday Gathering.

Yesterday afternoon I finally got to visit our feathered friends at the salt marsh. And walked right into a Holiday gathering! Or more precisely, to the nap sequence of the party. You see, in the avian world napping after a festive meal is allowed, even encouraged. It is totally okay for the guests to doze off for a while. No eyebrows raised.

roseate spoonbill snowy egret tri-colored heron Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridawood stork Sand Key, Clearwater, Florida three wood storks Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridayellow-crowned Night Heron Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaEven Mama Sandy was nodding off at the nest with a half eaten fish in her talons.

mama osprey is sleeping Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaSome of the birds soon woke up, maybe sensing a paparazzo lurking around in the bushes.

four wood storks Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridatri-colored heron Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaOr to listen to the Great Egret’s Christmas address on peace for humanity. He didn’t need any loudspeakers delivering his compassionate message. I guess he was acting for the older Blue Heron, the Mayor, who was absent. Maybe visiting relatives for the Holidays.

great egret Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridagreat egret Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaRosa opened one eye to check on me. And Sandy woke up to attend to her fish, and to say hi.

roseate spoonbill Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridafemale osprey at the nest with a fish Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaWhile large families of Wood Storks, egrets, and herons gathered in the west wing of the marsh, the waters of the east wing were reserved for the duckies. The young Muscovy Duck, in his holiday outfit,  was mingling with his friends, the Moorhens. And the little Pied-billed Grebe didn’t seem to be bothered by the crowds.

muscovy duck Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridajuvenile moorhen Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridapied billed grebe Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaJust when I was leaving to look for Papa Stanley, I discovered the Loggerhead Shrike,  the only song bird that also is a raptor, and is commonly known as the “butcher bird”. He was having a party of his own. Struggling with his pray high up in a palm tree.

butcher bird loggerhead shrike with a frog Sand Key, Clearwater, Florida

But that was only the beginning. I left the holiday decorated salt marsh. And was in for a mystery or two of my own.

salt marsh Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaI walked over to Papa Stanley’s favorite perch. He was not there. But I saw two Osprey’s perched on lamp-posts on the bridge leading to the next barrier island. I decided I needed extra exercise and started walking onto the bridge.

The first Osprey was a young female. She also had a fish. To see her ID, which is the “necklace” on her breast, I had to shoot almost against the sun.

another female osprey Sand Key, Clearwater, Florida

Seeing the almost diamond-shaped markings on her breast, I remembered the only chick Sandy and Stanley had two years ago. I used to call her Diamond, just because of the shape of her markings. Could it be that she had returned to the place of her birth? This beautiful lady wouldn’t tell, but it’s a distinct possibility.

Now, the next Osprey, almost at the top of the long bridge, must be Stanley, right?

young female ospreySand Key, Clearwater, Florida

Wrong. It was a beautiful, young female. Her eyes were not yet pale yellow, and there were a few white spots at the edge of her wing feathers.  Who was she? I asked kindly, but she wouldn’t show me her ID. Just because her position was such that taking a picture of her breast, standing between the railings on the narrow walkway on the bridge, would’ve been right against the gassing sun. I couldn’t see anything through the viewfinder. But she looked at me like she knew me.

 female osprey Sand Key, Clearwater, Florida

Could it be Aspire, the middle chick from the last nesting season? I thought her face reminded me of Aspire’s.  A little on the round side. Here are a couple of pictures of Aspire from April and May this year. What do you think?

portrait of an osprey chick Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridaosprey chick female 2015 Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaI can not be sure of the identities of these young ladies, but it’s possible that they are Sandy’s and Stanley’s two daughters who came home for the Holidays. Pondering this mystery, I walked down from the bridge. I spotted many more birds on the bay side, Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, Anhingas, gulls and terns, and  the young Blue Heron. Remembering he was sent home from the migration conference earlier in the fall, he had probably decided it was safer to stay away from the gathering at the salt marsh.

young great blue heron Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaPassing Stanley’s resort again, I noticed he’d just returned from a fishing trip. He was eating Red Snapper. Not bad for a holiday meal.

Male osprey eats fish Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridamale osprey eats fish Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaWhat a walk this was, almost 3 miles in two hours, over 40 birds of 19 different species. Talk about a Holiday gathering. We all wish you all Peace, Joy and Love this Holiday Season.

You can find more gatherings here.

Peeking into the Salt Marsh. While My Turkey Was Cooking.

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”.

Holidays at salt marsh

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?

gift delivery by egret

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.

Xmas green heron and his stocking

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.

singing ibis

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.

papa osprey decorating his nest for xmas

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.

Holiday Travel. And All Its Trials.

Make no mistake, the holiday travel rush has started. At the busy airport on the ocean side, those wanting to land there had to wait for their turn to hit the runways.

congested landing strip
Terns lining up for landing…

Some were put into a holding pattern and had to circle the airport.

trio of flying pelicans
Pelicans in a holding pattern…

Others became a bit desperate and decided to make an emergency descent to a lower altitude. Just in case.

pelican diving 2 (2)
A Pelican diving…

Luckily everyone attempting to land got their gear down on time. No accidents reported, but there definitely were some close calls.

royal tern coming in for landing tm
A Royal Tern asking for permission to land…
pelican landing and tern flying
A Pelican landing…

Some of the departing flights demonstrated excellent on-time performance, some not. But that’s to be expected.

pelican taking off
A Pelican taking off…

Those who had landed were happy to reach their destinations. A few showed signs of exhaustion, particularly those travelling with children.

royal tern mom and child
A Royal Tern kid complaining to his mom…

But most took it in stride. And a few even took advantage of the showers in the arrival lounge.

sandwich tern bathing 2
A Sandwich Tern taking a shower…

That’s what holiday travel is at busy airports. But at smaller airports, like the salt marsh, it was much more laid back. One takeoff or landing every now and then.

great egret flying_tm
A Great Egret taking off…
anhinga 2
An Anhinga just landed…

And even the personnel in the tower could take a nap in between flights. With a half eaten lunch still on the table.

papa osprey sleeping w a fish in his talons_tm
Papa Osprey taking a nap with full crop…and a fish tail still in his talons…

There was some through traffic though above the salt marsh. And some cargo traffic too.

great egret flying
A Great Egret passing over salt marsh…
another osprey with half fish flying
Another Osprey, probably Stanley, flying over the salt marsh with a fish…

The control tower was certainly alert when needed. Some landing permissions were not granted.

papa osprey following the traffic
Papa Osprey scanning the skies…

Particularly for big “birds” like these.  They didn’t have feathered wings.

flying moped boat_tm
A manmade bird flying over the salt marsh…
flying moped_tm
…and another one…

All holiday travelers were not going by air, of course. There was some boat traffic too on the lakes in the salt marsh.  Very relaxing cruises, suitable for those who have all the time in the world.

muscovyduck and moorhen
A Muscovy Duck and a Moorhen cruising in the salt marsh…

May your holiday travels be pleasant and safe. ❤ Tiny