Returning from our South Florida vacation last weekend, I looked out towards the Osprey nest from my terrace expecting to see two rowdy chicks. The nest was deadly quiet. And no Mama Sandy in sight. That in itself was not alarming because Osprey moms go fishing after the chicks are six weeks old. But there was no movement at all.
After a couple of hours, at sunset time, Dylan and I walked through the marsh. I could see Sandy had returned. Taking a picture from the far end of the marsh, I could see her next to two small ‘heaps’ that could have been chicks. But they did not move.
After a brief visit to the dog park, we walked closer to the nest as the sun was going down. Papa Stanley had arrived with a fish for supper.
He had settled on the perch instead of giving the fish to Sandy like he always does. And I didn’t hear the typical frenzied song ‘gimme fish’. I didn’t hear anything. Something was terribly wrong. Sandy remained where she had been, next to the smaller ‘heap’. She was not interested in eating. I was wondering what could have happened to the two healthy chicks I had seen just a few days before we left on our trip early in the week. An attack by a large bird, like a Great Horned Owl, who also nests somewhere in the park or a Bald Eagle, who nests on the other side of the bay? Or the younger Great Blue Heron, who had attacked the nest previously? Or perhaps something large hitting the nest in the violent storm that had passed through on Friday night and left huge amounts of debris on the ground everywhere? Or an illness? I had thousand questions, but there were no answers.
Early in the week, when I checked on the nest, Sandy remained at about the same spot. It seemed as if she was grieving. I felt sad and was afraid she might have lost or was about to lose both her chicks to some tragic event or illness while I was away. I had not wanted (read: dared) to take any pictures from my terrace, but that night at sunset time, I finally did.
I could see a chick with its head up. One was still alive! I could also see something right next to Sandy that could have been the remains of the other chick. It was difficult to tell. The next day I observed the nest often from my terrace worrying the other chick might also die because it didn’t move about. Finally I saw some wing movements. Not vigorous flapping, as could be expected of a chick of 6+ weeks, but a slow stretch of a wing. That was a sign I had been waiting for. One chick was alive, seemingly recovering. It was still not moving around the nest like they normally do, but stretching a wing was definitely a good sign. Then on Wednesday, I saw the chick was eating. Not fed by Sandy anymore, but eating directly from the fish. Another good sign. I went out to the marsh to try to spot the chick.
The chick held a low profile while I was close by, but from the street, far away between the big trees, I captured it asking for more fish. It had not grown much while I was away, but it had recovered! I was grateful it was not the worst case scenario I had feared.
Yesterday I went out again. From afar I could see the little family of three at the nest.
When I arrived at the marsh, Stanley had left. Sandy flew up to the perch to give the chick plenty of room to exercise and preen. And it did.
Then it started ‘working’, perhaps making the nest more comfortable to move around. I am hoping that the chick will now recover fully from whatever happened, grow and start flying lessons in the next two weeks.
Knowing the chick was well on the mend, I walked around the marsh and this time paid attention to all the other residents too. The gorgeous Miss Rosa was there. First she foraged in the shallows, then sat down on a little islet to straighten up her hot pink dress – and finally flew away to the inner parts of the park.
What a delightful sight she was! The Mayor was there too, close to his ‘office’. He was keeping a keen eye on Harry, the younger Great Blue Heron.
Harry, who was a really bad boy when he was younger, was hiding in the shadows close to the Osprey nest. I sincerely hoped the drama that had taken place was not caused by him.
When he came out of hiding a bit later, I noticed his tail feathers had been ruffled… but I will not pronounce him guilty because I did not witness anything this time around.
The beautiful Tri-colored Heron was chasing small fish in the shallows.
And a Snowy Egret was calmly observing life from the edge of the water installation.
When I walked further towards the beach, I spotted the Clown, the Reddish Egret. He was fun to watch, as always. His red hair flew from side to side with his sudden movements. Gotcha!
The Little Blue Heron tried to imitate his dramatic foraging style. And successfully snapped a lunch bite.
Everything was back to normal at the marsh, minus one Osprey chick. But that is life. We will never know what happened, but we can root for the remaining chick. And hope it recovers fully, fledges, learns to fish and becomes a happy, productive member of the Osprey community. That is a wish that we mothers have for our young.
I wish Mama Sandy and all mothers in the readership a Happy Mother’s Day ❤
Happy Mother’s Day to Mama Sandy! Being a mother is wonderful, but also exhausting and full of trials. Mama Sandy knows. She looks weary. I am not sure this picture shows two chicks, but this is the closest I’ve come this week to confirm that there still are two of them.
But that doesn’t mean that the younger chick didn’t survive. S/he could just be in the middle of the nest and not yet looking out much. And even in the next picture s/he could be right in front of Sandy’s head.
The bigger chick is certainly thriving. S/he is wingersizing already. That long, out-stretched wing belongs to him/her!
This morning I took a solo walk to check on them. See, Dylan is not allowed to take long walks until next Thursday. He had surgery to repair a Cherry Eye in his left eye, which is still red. He has a cone to protect his eye, and is on three medications. Needless to say he doesn’t appreciate his current restrictions.
Anyway, this morning I heard Mama Sandy give a sharp alarm call several times. I looked up in the sky, but couldn’t see anything flying overhead. At one time she was making herself ready to fly out, but changed her mind at the last moment. I was baffled. What was making her so upset?
I walked closer to the nest and discovered the reason she was on edge. The young Great Blue Heron was watching the nest intensively from the other side of the deep pond.
After being discovered, he flew across the pond landing almost below the nest. And Sandy gave another sharp warning.
Sandy was on her toes and ready to defend the nest. Because Papa Stanley didn’t fly in to assist her, I gathered he was out fishing. So I walked around the marsh to see who else was at home. The first one I spotted was the small Tri-colored Heron. She was hunting and didn’t pay much attention to me.
The tiny juvenile Little Blue Heron, whom I saw last week for the first time, was also there. I think she’s made the salt marsh her new home.
On the north side of the marsh, two baby Mottled Ducks were having breakfast. Diving so often that I had a difficulty in capturing both of them up on the surface at the same time.
Mr. Mallard was also visiting the marsh for the first time this year. He posed nicely for the camera.
Walking further towards the beach end of the marsh, I had to laugh at this Northern Mockingbird.
As soon as I walked by his tree, he started serenading me in advance of Mother’s Day. I took a 30 second video so he can serenade you too. The master of the songbird universe.
Reaching the end of the marsh, my attention was drawn to a Great Egret, who seemed very upset.
He was vocal too, and soon enough I saw why. The young Great Blue Heron was flying right towards him. I guess the GBH had decided he didn’t want to get his butt kicked by Sandy again, and wanted another piece of land to conquer.
The Great Egret flew away, and the young GBH soon was the King of the Hill at the west-end of the marsh.
I walked back towards the Osprey nest on the south side of the marsh. The only bird I saw there was a Blue Jay. He was moving all the time and gave me a hard time to get a shot.
While I was occupied with him, I saw Papa Stanley circle around the nest with a fish. Mama Sandy did not say anything so he flew away with the fish. After reaching the nest, I sat down on “my” bench to change the battery in my camera.
I could only see Sandy. Then I saw a dark shadow flying over my head. It was Stanley coming back with the fish.
He landed at the corner of nest. But nobody was hungry. This was around 10 a.m. and I guess Sandy and the chick(s) had just eaten. So he took the fish and flew away, presumably to eat it himself.
I’m sure he’ll need that extra energy as he’s fishing at least four times a day now, and probably eats less than any of them.
It was a gorgeous day and an eventful walk. Reaching our driveway a Mourning Dove was welcoming me home.
With that I wish all mothers and grandmothers a wonderful Mother’s Day tomorrow.
Found a little bird at sunrise today
And I saw you, Mother, in a mythical way
So young, vibrant and full of life
Just few short months before you left
Us children, by cancer’s theft.
The little bird sang a beautiful song
And I heard your voice, no longer so strong
“My children, I love you”
That was your last Mother’s Day
The next morning took you away.
The little bird looked right at me
And I felt you, Mother, warm esprit
I told you we grew up missing you
But made it through life, somehow
You are a great grandma now.
The little bird took in the morning’s calm
And I sensed you around, a soothing balm
My eyes welled up with gratitude
I picked a flower thinking of you
And the little bird flew its way too.
Epilogue: I was working on the third verse of this poem when a small bird came to sit on the lounger just outside the glass doors to my office. It was just like the bird I saw in the park at sunrise. It looked straight into the room. Then it flew to the glass door itself, hung onto the vertical glass surface with its little feet for a few seconds, and looked in again before it flew away. Quite magical.
Happy Mother’s Day to all mothers!
I’m enjoying Mother’s Day weekend 2005 on mid-Atlantic coast with my hubby and our guests from Europe. We are having lunch in an outdoor restaurant. Sipping drinks. Live music. Sun is shining. Relaxed. Happy.
My cellphone rings. I don’t pick up. Our food arrives. Hubby’s cellphone rings. He doesn’t pick up. My cellphone rings again. I take out phone from my bag. Adt…ADT! I open the flip.
This is ADT. Who am I talking to? What is your code?
I ramble my name and the code. Get it all correct.
We have an alarm event at you residence in Washigton D.C. Burglar alarm. Someone has entered the front door at 1:21:52 p.m.
Oh no! Nobody is at home. We are at the beach since yesterday afternoon!
We are sending the police right away. They should be there in a few minutes.
Thank you! Please keep me in the loop on what’s happening.
We will call you back once the police is there.
And I hang up. Shaking. Angry. Not hungry. I see our house being burglarized.
Then I see the red voice mail dot. I press to listen.
Alarm sound…Hi mom...more alarm sound…I drove up to surprise you for Mother’s Day….more alarm noise…I’ve forgotten the new code to disarm.…horrible alarm noise…Where are you guys? Call me!
I start to laugh. Hysterical. Relieved.
ADT calls again. Police on the way now. I tell them intruder is beloved son. In college in Florida. Finishing finals. Not supposed to come home until the following week. Forgot the new code.
I call son. Horrible noise. I shout the code. I shout again. Much louder. The guests around us stare. I shout even louder. They all learn the code. 1226. Son presses buttons. Finally silence. And the police. I down all my wine.
Son doesn’t go to jail. The next day I have a wonderful Mother’s Day. Son lifts me up in the air. Bear hugs. I love bear hugs. The whole family together. Very happy.
Later I change the code. I pay the bill. False alarm. 15 dollars. It was worth it!
Happy Mother’s Day to all moms out there! May your day be wonderful!
Love always, Tiny
I saw your smile in the shimmer of the ocean
I heard your voice in the bird’s song
I sensed your gentle being in the wind
and you hugged me when the rain came.
You let me know you loved the bouquet
of hepatica we brought to your hospital room
on the morning of your last day, Mother’s Day
and you thanked me for growing up without you.
Remembering that day, I cried
you talked to me softly in the breeze
comforting thoughts of love and wisdom
and I picked all the wild flowers for you.