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

Holidays, Journeys, Traditions and Trees

This time of the year I often look back to the many vastly different environments in which we have celebrated the festive season over the years.

xmas landscape (2)

I have many warm and wonderful memories of the Christmases of my childhood in Scandinavia. We always went to the forest to cut the tree ourselves, often in knee-deep snow. This  was usually done in the morning of Christmas Eve or earliest the day before. The tree was then decorated during the afternoon and the live candles were lit in the evening – under strict supervision. The flickering lights were beautiful as we sat down for the festive meal, which in the Scandinavian countries is enjoyed on Christmas Eve with extended family, whenever possible.

After the dinner we would receive Santa’s modest presents. Often there was something self-made, such as a small play table and two chairs for me and my sister, a knitted doll or a pair of warm socks or gloves. The gifts were not fancy but lovingly made. Coloring books and drawing materials were also among my favorites, I remember.

College time Xmas PineI celebrated the holidays at home until I went away to college. During the college years I used to look for work abroad during the Christmas break together with some of my friends. Maybe an early sign of my quest to learn about other countries and cultures, and definitely good for my wallet and language skills. This of course meant that I no longer spent the holidays at home as we were working throughout the period. Those Christmases were somewhat lonely and very simple, illustrated by one of my “trees” from that time, a pine branch in a champagne bottle.

Then I got married and we started a family. Our son’s birth brought a new dimension to the holiday celebrations. After a few years celebrating at home my career took us to many different countries – that was a beginning of a long stretch of years celebrating the holidays in many different environments and circumstances.

I always remember our first Christmas in Africa. We celebrated it in Zambia. It was very strange not to have snow or at least cold weather when the holidays approached. It didn’t really feel like Christmas!

Xmas on the terrace in Zambia

We could not get hold of a Christmas tree, but had a tiny artificial tree with a few decorations that we had brought with us.  We found a German farm and managed to get an excellent smoked ham for Christmas dinner. We enjoyed that dinner with some traditional Scandinavian dishes on our beautiful covered terrace, decorated by nature for the holidays with huge red lilies. Finally the holiday mood arrived!

Santa in ZambiaIn Zambia, our son could also enjoy Santa, who came to say hi all the way from Scandinavia wearing a T-shirt, long johns and sunglasses. That year we also had family visiting us from home for the holidays and we celebrated a memorable New Year at Victoria Falls in the very south of the country.

My next special memory is from a Christmas we celebrated in Ethiopia. That was the first time in our years in Africa we tried to get a live Christmas tree. We found a small cypress that I thought looked very nice. Xmas in Ethiopia

It was tall, but as it happened, the branches were so weak that we had to be very creative to hang our heavy lights and the few ornaments we had brought from home. After hours of strengthening the branches we had our tree all lit up! This was my most memorable tree decorating ever. Still smiling.

In Ethiopia we also organized a traditional Scandinavian Lucia ceremony with our kids singing carols and carrying live candles. Lucia is a prelude to Christmas, always celebrated on December 13th.

Santa Lucia in Ethiopia

My most memorable hotel Christmas, and there are a few,  was in the tiny nation of Djibouti. The only Christmas decoration we had in our hotel room was a small light chain around a picture frame. But it didn’t really matter as we spent the days on a small uninhabited island in the red sea. Swimming in the turquoise waters and eating picnic foods prepared for us every morning by the hotel chef. That was a different, but also a very beautiful holiday. No stress, no cooking, no gifts, just peaceful surroundings and lots of relaxation with family and a few friends.

Elephants crossing the river in Africa

The most memorable holiday season safari was in Uganda in the early 1990s. My sister and her husband were visiting us from Sweden. We embarked on a long safari on Boxing Day and visited three different national parks over a period of about a week, from Bwindi forests in the north to Queen Elizabeth National Park where we celebrated the New Year and finally to Mburo National Park before returning to our home in Kampala.

Xmas tree with cans in BotswanaAnother memorable holiday was just before we came to the US. I had been offered a job in Botswana and our family was invited to spend the holidays in Gaborone. That Christmas we stayed in a nice guest house in a completely new city. We hung up some colorful lights and I found most of the ingredients for our traditional Christmas dishes (another post to follow). In walking around in the city we spotted a Christmas tree decorated with empty soda and beer cans! We also stumbled on a Christmas display with a snowman and all in the 90/35 degree heat! He looked a bit tired…

Xmas display in GaboroneThen, in 1994, we settled in the US and have usually celebrated the holidays at home.  The most memorable celebration was a few years ago when our son got married just before Christmas and we had a lot of family from Scandinavia and new in-laws joining us for the holidays. I prepared all our traditional Christmas dishes and we ate in shifts of 12! That was a memorable holiday with so much of the family gathered in our house. That year we decorated a huge Christmas tree in Scandinavian style in our dining room.

Xmas tree at the wedding time

After moving to the beach two years ago, we are now fully accustomed to the warm weather, the “green Christmas” and the holiday decorated palm trees swaying in the wind. We have given up the live tree in favor of a nice artificial one…but I still prepare the traditional foods from my childhood to bring in the holiday mood.

xmas lion

Nowadays, I try to leave the stress of shopping and gifting behind and spend more time relaxing and reflecting on the spirit of the holidays. I hope you will be able to celebrate the season with family and friends in the way your heart calls for. And get some quiet time for reflection. Peace.