Tag Archives: Moorhen

Covert Operations to Distract the Paparazzi

Early this week, I finally had an opportunity to check everything out at the salt marsh. In broad daylight. But that didn’t spare me from bumping into some covert operations. By the osprey couple. The main target of my surveillance.

mama osprey on her break ud113When I arrived at the marsh I found Mama Sandy on one of her regular breaks from incubating. Papa Stanley was sitting on the eggs.

Papa Osprey sits on the eggs ud113

mama osprey 3 ud113She was looking well and happy to air her brooding patches for a while. It’s been over five weeks now, which means she has endless patience and that addition to the family is imminent.

mama osprey returns to the nest ud113She flew back to the nest and immediately sat on the eggs. The shift change was seamless. Thirty seconds tops. Stanley flew away and I saw him dive down into the marsh waters behind some trees and bushes, pick up a fish and fly away to eat it. They almost never fish at the marsh, so I believe this was a surprise maneuver to distract the paparazzi.

papa osprey leaves the nest ud113And he succeeded. No pictures. You just have to take my word for it. As everything was quiet at the nest, I continued my inspection round. The first friend I spotted was the Mayor.

mayor ud113As always, he was keenly surveying the marsh. I’m almost sure he has a nest close by. I have seen him fly with nesting materials only to land in the middle of the marsh. And I’ve caught him  returning there at night. But he keeps his family secrets close to his chest.

And so does the Tri-Colored Heron family. I have figured out that the male likes to hide in the trees below the Osprey nest, while the female practices her yoga whenever she has a break. I spotted the male first.

tri-colored heron ud112A half an hour later, Mrs. was out and about stretching her wings and airing her brooding patches on one of the islets.

tri-colored heron ud113Another couple nesting at the marsh now are Mr. and Mrs. Yellow-Crowned Night Heron. Apparently Mister had been fishing. He was drying his feathers in the sun.

yellow-crowned night heron ud113I also saw my friend Little Blue Heron. I am almost sure she’s not yet mature enough to start a family.

little blue heron ud113The same probably applies to the really tiny Snowy Egret, who was observing the wild world from a tree next to the deep water.

small snowy egret ud113Suddenly I heard Sandy’s alarm call. I looked up and saw another female Osprey circling above the nest.

mama osprey sounds alarm 2 ud113

another female osprey ud113I assumed she was the wife of Stanley’s fishing buddy, Steve. They are nesting on the roof of a high-rise building about one mile south of the marsh. Perhaps she was on a break to stretch her wings and was curious about the trendy furnishings in Sandy’s new home. She was not aggressive in any way and Sandy soon calmed down.

I continued my walk and saw that the Reddish Egret was visiting. He might have been looking for some special bites to take back to the bird island, where I’m assuming he’s nesting right now.

reddish egret 3 ud113Next, I saw a duck that I haven’t seen at the marsh for a couple of years, a male hybrid between Mallard and Florida Mottled Duck. It looked like he was canvassing suitable home sites.

hybrid florida mottled duck ud113He had some completion from Papa Moorhen. Although I think the Moorhens have already rented a home for this nesting season. Mama Moorhen was likely already incubating at this time.

mr moorhen ud113But where were all the smaller birds, you might ask. Oh, they were flitting and flying around in big numbers. The super tiny Sedge Wren was foraging in the grass, hardly visible beneath the leaves.

SEDGE WREN UD113The Blue Jay was flying around singing his monotone song – and moving non-stop.

blue jay 3 ud112The Mockingbird’s song was not boring. He had a large repertoire that I greatly enjoyed.

Mockingbird UD112The European Starling, the Grackle and the Eurasian Collared Dove just sat there admiring the gorgeous spring weather.

european starling UD112

common grackle ud112

mourning dove ud113I had to walk home not knowing whether or not there was a little hatchling in the Osprey nest.

Then, on Thursday afternoon, I was spying on them again…from my terrace. Sorry for the poor picture quality, but it was so windy that I could hardly stand straight and zooming full out, handheld, is quite hazardous in those conditions. Anyway, I caught a moment when Stanley was sitting on the perch and Sandy was incubating – her wings a little bit spread out. Suddenly she got up and started working on something.

osprey couple ud113I can’t be sure of what she was doing. But when I inspected my blurry and shaky shots at length, it sure looked like she could have been feeding (by regurgitating) a newborn chick…or two. But you know my imagination.

mama osprey feeding a second chick 2 maybe ud113

mama osprey feeding maybe 3 ud113Sandy was certainly ‘doing something’ both in front of her and to her side. I have learned that when there is a hatchling,  it still looks like she is incubating. Why? She broods the newly hatched chick(s) for 10 days, initially also incubating still unhatched eggs. Her wings are just slightly spread out at that point. As the minimum incubation time has now passed, we could already have one or two tiny chicks…carefully protected from paparazzi by the parents. Whatever it is, we’ll know soon enough.

parasailing ud113We all wish you a beautiful weekend and week ahead. Fly high.

Adieu Lady Cawcaw. Hello Summer.

Lady Cawcaw left last Monday. Just like every Osprey chick born at the salt marsh in the past three years, she left exactly one month after fledging. And I haven’t spotted her since. This is the last picture I got of her. She had a full crop and had taken a bath. This beautiful bird was ready to take on the big world outside the salt marsh. I wish her the best! And hope to see her again.

last picture of osprey chick lady cawcaw ud69It looked like the birds were saying their goodbyes to her. The Yellow-crowned Night Heron peered towards the nest.

yellow-crowned night heron ud69The Green Heron was in deep thought. Maybe pondering how fast the time flies. And how fast the kids grow up.

green heron ud69Miss Rosa was on her favorite ‘island’ close to the Osprey nest. She took her customary beauty nap and then walked around looking for food.

roseate spoonbill ud69Life goes on and we all have to eat. That was true also for the Black Skimmer, who was flying around lightning fast and skimming the waters.

Black skimmer ud69The salt marsh feels somehow quieter now in the absence of Lady Cawcaw’s performances. The birds go on with their daily chores, but the action has been more low-key. Maybe they miss her. Or maybe it’s the midsummer heat.

Mama Sandy has been hanging around the nest for a few hours almost every day since Lady Cawcaw left. On Friday I found her eating a big fish.

mama osprey at the nest ud69And Papa Stanley has been around too. They have not gone on vacation this year, like they did last year and the year before. May it be that Lady Cawcaw has stayed somewhere nearby and they are keeping an eye on her?

papa osprey ud69This morning I took another quick walk to see who was at home. The first bird I saw was the Loggerhead Shrike (or butcherbird),  who hasn’t been around for a while. He was scanning for prey.

loggerhead shrike ud69And a Red-winged Blackbird was singing his heart out close to the Osprey nest.

female red-winged blackbird ud69Sandy was babysitting the nest. It’s unusual she does that directly after the nesting season, but she must have her reasons.

mama osprey at the nest ud69She was keeping an eye on the skies as well as on the young Blue Heron who was very close to the nest. He earned a few warning calls. Again.

young great blue heron ud69The Moorhens were out in big numbers. One was doing her beauty routine at a small pond.

moorhen 3 ud69.jpgThe Egrets were well represented too, both big and small.

snowy egret 2 ud69And so were the White Ibis. They had invaded the popular ‘resort island’, and had it all for themselves.

white Ibis ud69But Miss Rosa was represented only by this hot pink marker. Probably left there last night after her evening bath. A feather that was not up to her high standards.

miss rosas feather ud69This is all from the ‘Salt Marsh News’ for tonight. I have a feeling these news will be broadcasted at a more random schedule over the summer. This reporter will take her summer vacation, which involves various travels. She will still post and read. But it will be more like ‘whenever’ until after mid August.

summer beach ud69From all of us to all of you: Thank you for being here, have a wonderful week! Enjoy summer!

 

Persuation Time. And Miss Rosa Steals the Show.

Lady Cawcaw is still around. During this busy week I have spotted her eating in the nest at least once every day. I have been hoping she had caught the fish by herself, but now I’m leaning towards it having been supplied by one of her parents. And on Friday I witnessed something rare when observing the nest from my terrace. Mama Sandy was eating her fish in the nest, while Lady Cawcaw was crying to get a piece. Or maybe she was hoping for Papa Stanley to come to her rescue. I thought I could hear “where’s my fish, daddy?” quite clearly.

mama osprey eats in the nest with chick ud67It’s hard to listen to your baby cry, I know. But Sandy may have taken this drastic measure in an attempt to persuade the little lady to come on fishing trips with her or Stanley. And I think it might finally be working.

While Lady Cawcaw seems to have found a better night perch and has not been spending the nights at the nest anymore, she was there when I arrived at the salt marsh yesterday morning.

osprey chick looks at parents ud67She was looking up and I saw Mama Sandy was flying above the marsh.

mama osprey ud67Although her crop didn’t look empty, she immediately started to ask for fish.

osprey chick sees parents ud67No fish was forthcoming, and after a few minutes she flew away. Supposedly to go fishing, but there is also the probability she went to check on her parents’ whereabouts.  I decided to walk around the marsh.  It was lively. Lots of Great Egrets and Snowy Egrets around.

great egret ud67

snowy egret at sunrise ud57And Miss Rosa was there too! She was in the middle of her elaborate beauty routine. I took a 30 second instructional clip so you can learn how it’s done.

Another one of my favorite birds was there too, the Reddish Egret. He was also doing his morning routine. But as soon as he saw me, he made sure I noticed what he was up to: fishing.

reddish egret 2 ud67

reddish egret 3 ud67

reddish egret fishing ud67He was fun to watch. He always is. And he knows it.

The Tri-colored Heron didn’t make a big number of his hunting. Actually he was just admiring the view for quite a while.

tri-colored heron ud67A big junk of my walk was taken up by chasing the Black Skimmer around the marsh. That was fun. He was skimming the surface of the small ponds. As soon as I got him in focus, he was in another pond. Two thousand steps later, this the best picture I got.

black skimmer ud67I was marveling about the big feet and the colorful red-green “boots”of the little Moorhen …

papa moorhen ud67…when suddenly a familiar face shot up from the bushes. The young Great Blue Heron looked like a deer caught in the headlights.

young great blue heron ud67.jpgHe decided it was better to move to the other side of the deep water, away from the paparazzo.

young great blue heron flies away ud67

younger great blue heron flies away ud67He landed right below the Osprey nest, where some Red-winged Blackbirds were looking for food scraps.

red-winged blackbirds ud67Their enjoyment of the Osprey B & B was cut short by the return of Lady Cawcaw. As you can see, she has now mastered the same landing technique as her parents, coming from below and against the breeze.

osprey chick returns ud67 b

osprey chick returns 2 ud67 bHowever, she had not yet mastered how to catch a fish. But now she’d been trying. She shook off the excess water at the nest. Bravo!

wet osprey chick ud67I could see Papa Stanley perching high up at the fire station next to the salt marsh. He was wet too. I figured he might have been giving diving lessons to his teen. He might have told her something like this: hover over the water to spot the fish you like, size it carefully so it’s not too big for you, then dive in feet first and your talons stretched out, but don’t dive more than about 3 feet deep! That should do it…shortly.

papa osprey at fire station ud67While I was walking home on the bay side, Stanley passed me, in the air of course. He settled on his favorite spot at the corner of Marriott’s roof and immediately started to scan for fish in the bay. He is a great dad. I wished him Happy Farther’s Day.

papa osprey at Marriott's roof ud67Late in the afternoon, I saw that Lady Cawcaw was eating in the nest. I hoped it was a self-caught dinner.

Thank you for coming along. We all wish you a great week.

Tough Love. And an Election Rally at the Salt Marsh.

I know, Lady Cawcaw gets disproportional coverage in the ‘Salt Marsh News’ right now. But for a good reason. We know she’ll be gone soon. That is, as soon as she learns to fish for herself. Her parents are using tough love to get her motivated.  This has been very clear over the weekend. The food portions are smaller and far between. And she’s hungry, her crop is empty.

osprey chick is hungry ud66Over the weekend she was away from the nest for hours, I assume hovering over the waters around here. But she always came back without a fish. And immediately upon return told her parents she had tried, but had not been successful.

osprey chick returns to nest ud66On Saturday, Sandy and Stanley demonstrated their strategy with the teen. Sandy was keeping an eye on the nest from a lamp-post close by. But I saw her finish the whole fish by herself. She had a full crop, as you can see.

mama osprey finished her meal ud66She was also watching Stanley fly overhead with his pal Steve. You remember him, right? Both of them settled on Marriott’s roof to scan for fish in the bay. I was hoping Stanley would bring lunch for Lady Cawcaw. But the guys were not in a hurry. They just chilled out in the breeze up there. I could hear friendly small talk, two guys catching up on a fishing trip.

stanley and steve ud66Although it was partly cloudy, it was very hot. I decided to check if the residents had moved back to the salt marsh. They had! The water had receded a bit and the egrets enjoyed being able to walk around the smorgasbord.

great and snoy egrets at salt marsh  ud66

egrets at the saltt marsh ud66The young Great Blue Heron was there too. I have a feeling that the Major has moved on (you remember him, right?) and the youngster is trying to secure this coveted office. He is always there, and I have to say his behavior has improved. No known attacks on the Osprey nest or others lately. He has cleaned up his rhetoric.

young great blue heron ud66But to his surprise another candidate had surfaced. A Great Egret was speaking to the crowds.

great egret making a speech UD66Some listened attentively and moved closer. Others turned their attention elsewhere.

two egrets 2 ud66The Great Blue Heron moved closer too. I was afraid he would confront the speaker right there. But he was quiet. Probably planning to tweet his counter arguments later on.

young great blue heron and great egret UD66The juvenile Night Heron had never heard a speech like that and lifted his head curiously from the grass.

juvenile night heron 2 ud66A young Brown-headed Cowbird was curious too. It looked like the speech spoke to younger voters.

brown-headed cowbird ud66But others, like Miss Rosa, who have seen and heard it all before, preferred to take a nap in the bushes.

roseate spoonbill ud66And some just didn’t pay attention to the speaker because they had some other pressing business to take care of, like this Snowy Egret.

snowy egret preening ud66And others simply moved away from it all, like this Mottled Duck couple.

mottled duck couple ud66Some protests were heard. The Moorhens are known to speak their mind. You just can’t come on their turf and get away with it.

moorhen ud66And in a nearby palm tree, a Common Grackle loudly added his voice to the mix too.

common grackle ud66Soon after that the speech ended. Everybody went on with their business. Miss Rosa had woken up and scanned the landscape carefully from her hideout.

Miss rosa is hiding in the bushes ud66Before leaving I spotted a fairly rare visitor, an adult Little Blue Heron. She had probably come to attend the rally. I was happy to see the smaller waders too had returned to the salt marsh.

little Blue heron 2 ud66Yesterday it was too hot to take a long walk, but I kept an eye on Lady Cawcaw from my terrace. I could hear her asking for fish, and I spotted Mama Sandy fairly close to the nest on the bay side. I assumed she was monitoring the situation and would intervene if it got critical.

Late this afternoon, while writing this post, I decided to go out on the terrace and check on the young lady again. To my delight she was eating what looked like a whole fish.

osprey chick eating fish mon june 13 ud66I hope she had caught it by herself. We will know soon enough. If this was her first fish, we will only see her in the nest for a few more days. But if Sandy or Stanley had brought it, she will probably stay a couple of more weeks.

Thanks for reading the ‘Salt Marsh News’. We all wish you a good week.

 

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.

Christmas Morning at the Salt Marsh. But Don’t Come without a Gift. Please.

The Christmas morning was beautiful. Little on the warm side. Okay, we were probably one of the warmest places in the country. No jacket required, not even in church. Late morning everybody was heading to the beach, including Santa.

christmas morning on the beach I got out too,  for a much needed walk. A solitary break from cooking and eating. And eating again. I took the shortcut through our garden to the beach and then to the salt marsh.

gardenIt was very peaceful. You see, the park was actually closed. No cars coming in. The birds were not many either. A couple of Great Egrets, a few White Ibis, Moorhens and several Night Herons sleeping in the bushes.

great egret white ibis and moorhen ud38

This juvenile was the only one agreeable to a photo shoot. Albeit half-heartedly.

juvenile yellow-crowned night heron christmas ud38

When I arrived to the east end of the marsh, the Osprey nest was empty. But I enjoyed the company of the “duckies” who have pretty much reserved the deep water for themselves. A young Moorhen came up on land and was quite funny walking the “plank” with his big feet.

moorhenmoorhen

Soon the Ibis also wanted to show me his style, balancing on the edge of the installation that regulates the ocean water coming into the marsh.white ibis The young Muscovy duck was resting further out, at the corner of the same installation. He lifted his head to acknowledge me, but didn’t move.

muscovy duck christmas portrait

I was admiring the little Grebe, who seems to have made the marsh her home, when Mama Sandy flew into her nest.

Grebe female osprey arrives at the nest

After saying hello, she settled on the back edge of the nest and scanned the skies. Looking up, I didn’t see anything interesting.

female osprey at the nest

And she scanned the ground too. Two unleashed dogs came running with their owner. When outside the dog park, dogs must be on leash. But I don’t think they knew how to read. It’s a pity that their human didn’t  either.

Mama Sandy continued to stare at the sky, and suddenly she gave a sharp, loud warning. I saw the young Great Blue Heron approaching the nest with his landing gear already down.

great blue heron 2 ud38But Sandy was adamant he wasn’t welcome.  Full stop. So he picked up his legs and flew towards the bay side. Soon after that I saw Papa Stanley fly high up in the sky, not far from the nest.

male osprey in flightAnd he was coming close. Very close. He was about to land, but Sandy told him not to come to the nest. Not without the customary gift!

female osprey is upset See, that’s a clear message. You don’t arrive empty-handed. Stanley changed his mind in the last minute. Sandy knows what she wants. And he knows very well he needs to bring a gift to be allowed into the nest.  So he flew towards the bay. This courting is getting serious.

male osprey not allowed at the nest Soon after Stanley disappeared from sight, Sandy flew away too. Maybe to check on him.

female osprey

When I walked out from the park, I spotted the Northern Mockingbird again. He lives somewhere close to the wooden fence of the park. He was in deep thought. Very serious. Maybe he’s been following the Osprey saga, and was pondering where to find a mate of his own.

northern mockingbird 2 ud38

Just before arriving home, I saw Sandy and Stanley flying together very far over the bay. It looked like she would get her gift. Sooner or later. Stanley had already caught a fish. I didn’t get a good picture of the two of them as they flew so far apart, but I’ll share what I’ve got so you’ll see I’m not kidding. He clearly has a fish. In less than ten minutes. There’s hope for this romance.

male osprey with fish and a female osprey

With that continuing excitement at the salt marsh, I wish you all a great Boxing Day! Peace.

 

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.