Tag Archives: Nature Wildlife

Mama Osprey is a Tough Cookie. And Other Breaking News from the Salt Marsh.

He came closer. Walked nonchalantly in the direction of the Osprey nest. Glanced up a few times along his long bill.  A sharp warning cut the air.  The rebellious teenager he is, the young Blue Heron ignored it. And started crossing the last piece of shallow water still separating him from the islet housing the nest.

Great Blue Heron juvenile Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The young Great Blue Heron approaches the nest.

Another warning. This time it was much longer, building up to a wavering squeal reverberating in the air. Mama Sandy was alarmed. Papa Stanley was out on the ocean fetching lunch, and she was alone in the nest with her three chicks.

Female Osprey in the nest with her chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy keeps an eye on the approaching youngster.

She was serious. She wouldn’t tolerate yet another attack on the nest. But the young heron wouldn’t take her word for it. He came closer and closer. He had now reached the islet where the nest pole is located. He flexed his wings, but was not yet quite airborne when Sandy whizzed down from the nest. Her talons stretched out in front of her for a direct hit.

female osprey prevents an attack on the nest by blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy’s preemptive strike.
blue heron on the ground Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The young Blue Heron on the ground after his confrontation with Sandy…
young blue heron gets up
…and he slowly gets up…
blue heron stretches up
…stretches himself …
blue heron flying away Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and flies away.

It was a lightning fast attack. The youngster went down to cover his head. When he finally got up, the feathers on his crown were messed up. He stretched himself up and immediately flew to the far end of the marsh. I have no idea how many times this youngster has attacked the nest, but I have witnessed two such occasions previously. Mama Sandy didn’t want to take the chance of needing to defend the nest up in the air, putting the chicks at risk.  So she warned him twice, with no effect, and then took preemptive action. And after returning to her chicks, she continued to keep an eye on the young heron at the other end of the marsh.

female osprey with her chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
After Sandy’s return, the nestlings help her scan for the young Blue Heron.

It’s funny how all other birds, like the two Great Egrets and the Reddish Egret pictured here just seconds before the attack, can walk and hunt close to, and even right under, the nest causing no alarm. This one individual’s bad behavior has gotten him banned from the vicinity of the Osprey family. I wonder if he’ll ever learn.

Two great egrets and a reddish egret Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
These three were fishing close to the nest just seconds before the strike. Note how fast the Reddish Egret moved away from the scene…he’s nowhere to be seen in the pictures above. Just rings on the water remained  🙂

Soon after the dust had settled, Papa Stanley arrived with a fat fish. He had already eaten the head, as he usually does with a big fish, and gave the best parts to Sandy and the chicks.

male osprey brings in a big fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Lunch arrives!

Sandy told him all about the attack straightaway. No secrets between the two of them. And then she took the fish and started feeding the chicks. Everything was back to normal. The chicks are growing fast and their appetite requires Stanley to catch a big fish, or go fishing twice for each meal to feed the whole family. I’ve seen him just leave the whole fish to Sandy and go right back onto the ocean or the bay.

A few days back, I also checked on the residents of the condo building. Everybody was fine. The Nanday Parakeet flew from his balcony onto his favorite pine branch to greet me. The European Starling was at home, and the Red-bellied Woodpecker was shopping for food in the huge supermarket just next to his apartment.

nanday parakeet Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Nanday Parakeet lifts his foot in a greeting.
eauropean starling Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The European Starling enjoys nice weather on her balcony.
red-bellied woodpecker Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Red-bellied Woodpecker looks for food right next to his apartment.

One evening I visited the salt marsh again at sunset time. The Osprey kids were already sleeping, and I guess Stanley had gone somewhere to eat the leftovers from the family dinner. Mama Sandy sat at the edge of the nest and took in the calm of the evening. This is what she saw from her vantage point.

female ospey at sunset Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy just before sunset.
Sunset at the salt marsh…
sunset Sand Key Beach Clearwater Florida
…and over the ocean.

That’s all for this week from the salt marsh. Wishing you all happiness in the month of May. Peace, Tiny