Tag Archives: Nature reserve

Vroom, Bang and Upside Down. Under the Rainbow at the Salt Marsh.

It was that time of the year again. Super boat championship races on the Gulf. Practice runs on Friday and Saturday and the races on Sunday. Tens of thousands of spectators, parties everywhere, and fireworks on Saturday night. Engine roar and fireworks bangs just a stone throw from the salt marsh, and my terrace.

I guess the permanent residents at the salt marsh are by now used to the volume and the colorful night time lights generated by this annual three day event. Mama Sandy certainly took it all in stride. She was focusing on her fascinating gardening project. There’s even more green in the nest now than three weeks ago when she started planting. It is, indeed, an impressive looking garden.

mama osprey's garden ud25 b

mama osprey proud gardener ud25 b

I’m thinking she might want to create the look and feel of Papa Stanley’s resort. It’s certainly starting to look like that. I have no idea how she does it. But she looks proud of her achievement, don’t you think?

Despite all the hubbub, the marsh has been lively with birds. Lots of white sprinkled with pink, blue and brown.

salt marsh birds ud25 b

The water levels are up again after recent rains that have also given us multiple beautiful rainbows over the bay in the last few days.

rainbow over clearwater bay ud25 b panorama double rainbow ud25 bRosa, the Roseate Spoonbill, and her friends ibis, egrets and herons have enjoyed foraging in the previously dry spots.

roseate spoonbill B ud25 byoungr Great Blue Heron ud25 bblackcrowned night heron juvenile ud25 b

This juvenile Pied-billed Grebe is a newcomer at the salt marsh. I’ve not seen any other family members so I’m thinking this little one must have migrated on its own from up north.

juvenile pied-billed Grebe ud25 b

This past week, I also spotted the Red-bellied Woodpecker again. He has returned from his summer adventures. He was hanging upside down and his red head was moving fast in search of breakfast.  Every now and then he’d interrupt his work to scan for any dangers.

redbellied woodpecker ud25 bHis sweetheart was with him too. She was too shy for a photo shoot, but he posed gladly for a second one.

redbellied woodpecker 2 ud25 bI wondered what they might have thought discovering their old home, the “condo building”, was gone.

Close to the woodpeckers, I spotted a Loggerhead Shrike and a Northern Mockingbird. Both are permanent residents in the forests next to the marsh.

loggerhead shrike ud25 bnorthern mockingbird 3 ud25 b

I had not seen Papa Stanley for days so I decided to walk to his resort, hoping he would be at home. I was lucky. He had just returned after taking a bath.  He shook his wings to get rid of the water, and then spread them out to dry. I was happy to note he seemed to be in great shape.

papa osprey lands at his resort ud25 b

So everybody in the extended salt marsh family is accounted for, and we all wish you a great and safe weekend.

Mama Osprey. The Female Leader with Natural Clout.

I know a leader when I see one. That’s how I’ve made my livelihood, at least to a part. Spotting leadership talent and helping it flourish.  Now I’ve spotted such talent in the nature reserve. Ready to lead. No coaching required.

roseate spoonbill and snowy egret
Community representatives: a Roseate Spoonbill and a Snowy Egret.

That’s Mama Osprey, of course. You knew it, right? Or you may want some proof? I have plenty.

First, she cares about her community. The salt marsh has plenty of fish, from huge footlongs to medium and small. It would be easy to just dive down from the nest and get breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like opening the fridge. But she doesn’t fish there.

Plenty of fish in the salt marsh
Plenty of fish in the salt marsh

She leaves the food supply for residents who can’t fish in the ocean. Like this tiny Tri-colored Heron.

tricolored heron caught a fish
A Tri-colored Heron caught a fish…

Second, she ensures peace in the community. She constantly scans the skies and the grounds for any threats. And warns the residents whenever she detects a potential danger. Like dogs walking their people or bicyclists on the foot path closest to the marsh.

 osprey watching the sky
Mama Osprey watching the sky to the South…
papa osprey watching the sky 2
…and to the North.

Or the two other ospreys, Stanley and Steve,  who have settled in the area. Don’t get me wrong. Mama Osprey lets them thrive in the park. And even allows them to use her favorite dead palm trunk as their breakfast bar.

Stanley, the second Osprey, eats breakfast on the dead palm trunk...
Stanley, the second Osprey, eats breakfast on the dead palm trunk…

But she keeps a watchful eye on their movements. And sends a message of caution, as and when warranted. It’s clear that she has earned their respect.

third osprey flying 6
Steve, the third Osprey, flies above the salt marsh…

Third, she’s on the top of everything in the community. Has the big picture. Gently keeps tabs on the residents’ comings and goings. Like this Great Blue Heron, who periodically takes trips to the bay-side to socialize with fishermen in exchange for free fish.

blue heron flying high up
The Great Blue Heron on his way from the salt marsh…
blue heron flying high 3
…to the bay-side.

Or the Pelicans who fly in shuttle traffic between the ocean and the bay right over the salt marsh.

two pelicans flying
Pelicans flying over the marsh towards the bay…

And the young Night Herons who practice landing at the tree tops with varying degrees of success.

A juvenile Night Heron about to land...
A juvenile Night Heron about to land…

And not to talk about the large Egret population that tends to move back and forth between the tiny islands in search of the best fish.

egret flying
A Great White Egret flies to better hunting grounds…

Fourth, Mama Osprey trusts her gut. I got proof of that just a couple of days ago when I met a nice bird photographer. He was a visitor, not familiar with the nature reserve . So we started to chat and I told him about the nest. After a while I heard Mama Osprey’s warning calls.  Unwanted disturbance too close to the nest.

papa ospreys nest from afar
Papa Osprey’s nest seen from the East end of the marsh…

And then saw the poor guy walk away from the vicinity of the nest. After he left, I went to see Mama Osprey. She was her calm, good-looking self and turned to greet me when I walked right under the nest. Not a peep, just a friendly nod. She definitely trusts her gut.

papa osprey saying hi to tiny
Mama osprey says hi…
papa osprey looking at the flowers
…and then admires the flowers on the ground.

Then we both admired the bright yellow wild flowers that had popped up right next to the nest pole. I snapped a picture, she checked on the little worm crawling on one of the flowers.

wild flowers below the nest

My conclusion, based on all this evidence, is that Mama Osprey is a pioneering community leader with natural clout. I hope you agree with my assessment.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Ps. This post has been edited after publishing when I discovered that PO (Papa Osprey) actually was Mama Osprey.

 

Summer on the Beach. Ospreys and Old Friends.

I hope your weekend was great. For us it was a weekend of sun and blue skies. And a few sudden thunderstorms as can be expected mid July in Florida.

sand key beach clearwater
Summer beach

Lots of outdoors time for me. Sweaty and refreshing at the same time. The essence of summer.

Clearwater intra-coastal
Bay-side where the ospreys and pelicans like to fish…and people like to get on the water

I enjoyed the beach and the warm Gulf waters, walked in the nature reserve and visited the bay-side too. That’s where I discovered papa osprey! He was perched on a lamp post at the edge of the park, with a strategic view of his fishing waters on the bay across the street.

papa osprey 712
That’s papa osprey!
papa osprey
Hi Tiny!

When I walked past the lamp post, he turned around to look at me. As if saying so Tiny, here we meet again. He was talking a lot and staring intently into the nature reserve to his right. Following his line of sight I soon discovered another osprey on a palm trunk close-by.

Beautiful adult osprey at the edge of the park
Beautiful adult osprey at the edge of the park

His breast was white with no markings so he’s likely a male. He greeted me politely and didn’t seem alarmed.

When I reached the beach on the bay-side, I saw that papa osprey was still watching me . It was wonderful to see him again. I hope to see him more often on my walks now that I have discovered his holdout.

Papa osprey checking on Tiny
Papa osprey checking on Tiny

Heading back home, I walked through the nature reserve. Most birds were hiding in the shadows, but I saw some of my old friends, like this Roseate Spoonbill. He always amazes me with his theatrics.

roseate spoonbill adult
Roseate spoonbill
small blue heron immature
Small Blue Heron juvenile

This juvenile Small Blue Heron was present too, but I saw the Great Blue Heron (the “Mayor”) on the bayside. He was following a fisherman’s luck very closely 🙂

Sand Key Park and salt marsh
A protected and peaceful environment

I hope your week will be productive and beautiful, complete with ospreys and old friends.  Love always, Tiny

 

 

 

 

Gen Z Invasion. In the Nature Reserve.

I haven’t had the time to take a walk for quite a few days, so I started feeling the deficit today. You know, like an itch in the soul and tingling in the toes. I knew that a long walk on the beach and in the nature reserve would provide a complete cure. So that’s what I did.

Arriving in the nature reserve, I discovered that the Gallinule kids had grown up in the last one month, transformed from fluffy black fur balls to beautiful teenagers.

Common Gallinule chick
Gallinule chick on June 4
Two common gallinule chicks
Two chicks on June 15

The three chicks didn’t want to pose for a portrait together (what’s new?), but here’s how they all look today. They are about two-thirds of the size of mom now, And they  don’t want to be seen with her. They are full of energy and busy exploring the world on their own.  Luckily I didn’t see them thumbing on smart phones  🙂

gallinule  juvenile
Gallinule teen July 8

Walking a bit further, I found a young roseate spoonbill. She was sleeping in the shadow of a tree and woke up when I approached her “bed”. She gave me the look. You’re waking me up and it’s not yet even noon.

sleeping roseate spoonbill
Roseate spoonbill sleeping in a tree
roseate spoonbill
You woke me up!

Then to my total surprise, the young osprey came to say hello. She’s been hanging around on the bay-side (across the street from the park) after she left the nest about three weeks ago.  Thanks to excellent binoculars I’ve seen her fishing on the bay and then eating the fish on her favorite lamp-post at the sailing club. Now she flew right over her birth home, fairly high up, and looked down on me.  Sorry for the bad quality of the pictures, but she didn’t send me a text that she was coming 🙂 It was great to see her again “in person”, even if very briefly!

My friend, young osprey flies over the nest
My friend, young osprey, flies over the nest and nods a greeting…
juvenile osprey two 708
The young osprey flies over to the bay-side

There were so many gen Zs in the reserve today, they far outnumbered all the other generations. Next, I saw the resident great blue heron patrolling the marsh. He’s  a mature adult, a boomer like me. I bet he’s the Mayor of the marsh. Always there, always in control.

The Great Blue Heron, Mayor of the marsh...
The Great Blue Heron, Mayor of the marsh…

There were several other herons present in his municipality. I saw the green heron again. He was taxing out on the sand dune and then took off.

green heron in flight 708

Before I left the reserve, I spotted a tri-colored heron. She’s such a beautiful and gracious bird. And a great fisher too.

Tri-colored Heron
Tri-colored Heron

I’m quite sure the night heron was there too. He’s always hiding in the bushes around the marsh and very difficult to spot.

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the walk, whether gen x, y, z or an older version like me. Have a great week.

Bye, bye. This is how I learned to fly.

The young osprey has now left the nest. She’s independent and fully capable to take care of herself. And with that, the 2014 nesting season is officially over for the osprey family I’ve been following since January.

I saw this magnificent young bird eating and resting in the nest for a few hours on Monday and then again (from my terrace) on Tuesday.  She left that evening to explore her wider surroundings and has not returned.

My last picture of the juvenile osprey on June 23
My last picture of the juvenile osprey on June 23

I thought this might be a good time to look back on the nesting season’s most interesting events, and particularly on the day when the nestling became a fledgling.

Building the nest , or rather renovating last years home, started in mid January.  Papa osprey went back and forth to the Home Depot store and brought home building materials. Mama osprey was the designer and put it all together.

Papa osprey brings in a twig - Jan 16
Papa osprey brings in a twig on Jan 16

The couple had a few interesting and fairly loud arguments during this DIY renovation project. Wouldn’t any couple?  This happened particularly at times when papa osprey came home empty-handed.

Landing empty-handed is not popular...on Jan 16
Landing empty-handed is not popular…on Jan 16

Then mama osprey was sitting on the egg and papa osprey was feeding her.

Mama osprey sitting on the egg on Feb 16
Mama osprey sits on the egg on Feb 16

And protecting the nest from intruders. A dramatic show of force was displayed by both mama and papa osprey when two dogs took their people for a walk on the wrong side of the nest on March 15. I assume the egg had hatched (or was about to) at that time.

Soon the nestling was big enough to peek out from the nest. That’s when I spotted her first.

Osprey nestling peeks out on April 23
Osprey nestling peeks out on April 23

Papa osprey went on frequent fishing trips and brought home the “beef” that mama osprey fed to the nestling.

Mama osprey feeds the nestling on April 25
Mama osprey feeds the nestling on April 25
Papa osprey brings home a big fish on May 7
Papa osprey brings home a big fish on May 7

Mama osprey kept feeding the nestling and took care of her until she started “wingersizing” and then finally fledged. I have put together a sequential gallery of photos I took over a two-hour period on May 13. You can see how determined the young one was to fly. Mama osprey had to be careful not to be hit in the head by a flying twig or by the youngster. I had to laugh when I looked at these photos again 🙂

Anyway, that’s the day the youngster learned to fly. Soon after that papa osprey took over her training. They went on fishing trips together and he then kept an eye on her until last week when I witnessed her coming back to the nest with a fish.

The young osprey comes home after a fishing trip with her papa
The young osprey comes home after a fishing trip with her papa on June 19

I hope all of them will have a great summer and fall wherever they are going.  I’m already looking forward to the return of mama and papa osprey in December-January. The juvenile will probably return to breed in her birth environment only in her third year.

I hope you enjoyed this successful nesting season as much as I did.

Cheereek! Papa osprey and the fat fish.

I grabbed the binoculars and checked the osprey nest while my coffee was brewing this morning. It’s become a part of my morning ritual this nesting season.

empty nest on 620
The empty nest this morning

Nobody was at home. I assumed that the youngster, who’s been living there solo since early last week, had gone to fetch some breakfast. Maybe she was fishing on the bay-side, just behind the Dunkin’ Donuts shop.

Around midday, I decided some exercise would be in place. A quick walk on the beach and in the nature reserve would do. I was hoping to say hello to the young osprey and maybe spot some other birds too.

osprey juvenile at the nest
Hi Tiny!

I was happy to find the juvenile at the nest. She was not alarmed when I approached and sat down on a bench under some trees nearby. She’s seen me since she was old enough to peek out of the nest. I thought she nodded a greeting.

osprey juveniles alarm call
Cheereek! Intruders!

It was hot and I was thirsty. I put my camera away and opened a water bottle. Relaxed for a bit.  Right then the youngster gave out a loud and very upset alarm call. Cheereek! From where I sat, I didn’t see anything unusual.   Next that I knew, I saw papa osprey zooming in from the bay-side and sweeping over the nest! Checking that everything was okay. I was scrambling with my camera … and only caught the tail-end of him at a distance.

papa osprey came to check juvenile 619
Papa osprey checked on the youngster…

In the meantime, the youngster was already in flight following her papa. Talk about paying a price for putting my gear down. I missed all the action.

Soon enough I got an explanation to why the youngster was so upset in the first place. Three men came walking from the grassy area behind the nest pole! Walking there is a no-no in the osprey book. Some of you may remember the big alarm by mama osprey when the dogs and their people walked that way back in March. This time I sat in a different place and didn’t see it coming.

So there I was, mulling over my bad luck with the camera. While waiting (and hoping)  that the juvenile would return to the nest, I discovered some movement in the water. I went to check it out and look what I saw: a blue crab swimming happily in the murky water!

a crab in the marsh
A blue crab in the salt marsh

I went back to my bench and was about to pack up and leave when I saw the youngster return. She was holding  a fat fish in the talons of her right foot! Correctly positioned head first to diminish air resistance!

young osprey caught a fish
Fish! I did it!

I guess papa osprey took her right where the fish was congregating. The whole trip took less than 10 minutes. Good for her! She started eating immediately.

young osprey lands back at the nest
Perfect landing on the left foot…
young osprey eating lunch
Lunch time!

I left her to enjoy her food. It was fun to see how papa osprey is still keeping an eye on the youngster and that they go fishing together.

tri-colored heron
A tri-colored heron

On my way back I saw a tri-colored heron and several ibis birds. Thanks for coming along. I hope you enjoyed the lesson on how to transport a fish in the air. It could prove useful one day.

Have a wonderful Midsummer – celebrated this weekend in the Nordic countries. Love always, Tiny