Tag Archives: Nature

Flying in and out of the Nest. With the Osprey Couple.

In the past few weeks I’ve been flying in and out of my nest on this barrier island I call home. Several work trips to big cities. Lot’s of ‘osprey time’. And bird’s eye views.

Or views from my temporary nest high up in the air in the Big Apple late in the day…and night.

So after all this flying, I have enjoyed being earth bound this past week. Watching others fly. Like Papa Stanley, who recently flew in for some Valentine’s Day romancing with Mama Sandy. Dylan and I backed off to allow them some privacy.

I think Sandy is pregnant. Her belly is growing and Stanley is already feeding her. And she’s spending lots of time at the nest every day. Yesterday she was watching intently over the bay…

…I turned around and saw Stanley flying far over the bay with a big fish.

Sandy would get it, eventually. But first the head had to be eaten. Sandy was working on rearranging the furniture in the nest, but kept an eye from time to time on Stanley and the fish on a nearby lamp-post.

This morning my assistant and I visited the Taylor Park and spotted many familiar birds. It’s funny how the birds favor the same spot, like this Anhinga who always dries her feathers at almost the same place.

She always faces the lake looking for any signs of approaching gators, but turned to look at my assistant. She didn’t move. Dylan is already trusted by these birds. Next to the kayak launch pad we usually find the Ring-billed Gull. So also this morning.

And the blackbirds are chilling out there too. The dad Boat-tailed Blackbird was reading the sign warning about the presence of gators and warned his wifey who was wading in the water nearby. Wading is a no-no according to the sign.

At the north end of the lake the resident Osprey dad was trying to spot some fish and at the south end two Great Egrets were chasing each other amid a loud argument.

We walked around the lake and spotted our usual suspects, the Little Blue Heron and the Tri-Colored Heron.

A Double-crested Cormorant with bright blue eyes was windsurfing on the lake, watching the waters carefully for any signs of gators.

And he was right in being careful. According to my latest intelligence, there are at least five gators in the lake. So far we had not spotted any of them. But we saw a large flock of American Coots in the middle of the lake and a few brave individuals were cruising solo closer to the shore.

That’s when we saw him…sunbathing on the shore.

I tightened my grip on Dylan’s leash, but since the gator posed calmly I went for a portrait too.

He was quite impressive. We walked back to the other side of the park and before going back to my car, we spotted a little head coming up for air in the middle of the green slime in a small pond. That was our tiny friend, the Pied-billed Grebe.

Today being an outdoors day for us, we also visited the Osprey couple this afternoon. They were napping together in the nest. Stanley seems to have grown a short beard. Perhaps to mark that he’ll soon be a dad once again.

While Sandy was truly sleeping, Stanley was just nodding off. He opened his eyes and told us “I see you.”

The salt marsh was fairly quiet in the middle of the afternoon, which is not unusual. The Mayor was walking around and checking his territory…

…and Mama Moorhen was gliding quietly right below the osprey nest.

I thought that was it…until we found someone hiding deep in the shadows. I had to smile. It was the younger Great Blue Heron. He didn’t want to be seen either by the Mayor or Mama Sandy. His has some unfortunate history with both of them.

I’m hoping for evidence of eggs in the Osprey Family within the next two weeks. And this coming weekend I’m off for another little nature adventure in South Florida. Stay tuned and thank you so much for visiting.

Move Faster! And a Romantic Date Night.

I feel like a turtle. I just want to continue the leisurely stroll of the holidays. Soak in the sun and contemplate life in peace and quiet. But I feel the push to start moving faster. We are almost three weeks into the new year. Can you believe it?

I hope to make this fresh year more balanced than the past. Alternating work and play, just like in the high intensity interval exercise I’ve become to like lately. I’m envisioning myself at times flying fast like Mama Osprey…

… and then just enjoying life like a turtle. With all time in the world.

So far so good. Dylan and I were exploring the Taylor Park again last week. The Anhinga and the Moorhen were present in big numbers as usual.

And we spotted many feathered friends looking for a tasty breakfast, like this Wood Stork, Tri-colored Heron and Little Blue Heron.

We were trying hard to find at least one gator, but they seemed to be lying low(er than usual) due to the cooler winter temperatures we’re having right now. So instead we enjoyed spotting more birds, like this Ring-billed Gull and a Great Egret.

Then we heard a loud group of Boat-tailed Blackbirds. The males were fighting in the reeds and refused to be photographed. But this female, who is actually brown and may have been the reason of the fight, stepped out to hunt for food. Click.

There are always several Pied-billed Grebes on the lake and I love photographing them.

But this cutie stretched my patience – and even Mr. Dylan’s who had to sit and wait for me. This little one was diving non-stop and staying up on the surface less than a second at the time. It was a comical exercise. There he is. Gone. Repeat. I got numerous pictures of bubbles and rings on the water and some tail feathers at times. But finally my patience was rewarded and I managed to snap a picture. Oops!

That’s when I saw something in the water further out in the shady part of the lake. It was, indeed, a very quiet gator.

After that discovery we ran our last stretch before leaving the park happy with our intermittent “osprey-turtle” exercise.

But what about the salt marsh, you may wonder. We have been there too. After returning from my holiday trip to Sweden, I hadn’t seen much of the Osprey couple. They usually start their nesting season in early January by refurbishing their home, but it had been quiet at the nest. We walked past the nest on our way to the dog park and I thought I could see some signs of remodeling, but nobody was there. And I started to get worried.

The perivious week I had seen Mama Sandy fly by my office window…

… and Papa Stanley eating on a lamp-post close to the nest, but hadn’t seen them together or working on the nest. Knowing that ospreys don’t opt for a divorce at the first sign of disagreement, I concluded there has to be some valid reason for their wait.

Finally last week on Saturday night I saw a beautiful sight from my terrace. Sandy and Stanley were having a date night at the Sailing Center

I grabbed my camera and out we went, my assistant and I. I was hoping the happy couple would still be there and the light would be enough to capture the evidence of this romance. And we were in luck. Both Sandy and Stanley greeted us with a friendly nod.

They were enjoying the last light on the bay side as much as we were…

…and we also spotted a a Snowy Egret and a Great Egret down at the water’s edge.

So finally, and quite late this year, mama and papa osprey had come together to start their nesting season. The sixth one I look forward to observing.

Earlier this week, Dylan and I visited the dog park on a cool, partly loudy day. And discovered the little salt marsh village was lively indeed. The Mayor was in the office and surveyed the marsh in his typical, calm manner.

Further out, in a difficult spot to ‘shoot’, several residents were huddling to seek shelter from the cold wind coming from the north. Even the Clown, aka Reddish Egret was calm, with no intention to perform. Maybe his enthusiasm was dampened by the presence of the Wood Stork, who had only recently given him a lesson.

But he couldn’t help himself, he had to follow the bigger bird into the water and keep him under surveillance.

Closer to the Osprey nest, at the east end of the marsh, Several residents had sought shelter in the bushes. I was happy to see the Snowy Egret had already developed a breeding plumage and to spot both a Black- and Yellow-crowned Night Heron for the first time in quite a while. Most residents seemed to be back from their holiday travels.

To my delight, both Sandy and Stanley were at the nest, which now clearly was under renovation. Sandy was happily munching on a fish, likely provided by Stanley. And he seemed to be musing on the fact that he would be dad again…

…and watched us with great interest. Or maybe it was bride. In any case, I promised myself to make time to follow their, hopefully successful, nesting season in my “turtle time” between travels. Thank you for being here. Be good and keep warm.

Help! Where was I?

The answer is here, there and everywhere. And I don’t even know where to begin. Perhaps warm greetings from a chilly NYC, where I’ve worked this past week, would be in place?

I can’t believe I’ve been away from here for over six weeks. Various adventures near and far with my friends visiting from Sweden have filled my days… sprinkled with some necessary work sessions. And then a completely unnecessary bout of severe cold kept me ‘lying flat’ for days. But now I’m upright and on the go again. Feeling thankful for it.

Our nearby adventures included, of course, the salt marsh. This past month that little village has been lively. Many migrating birds have made a stopover there to mingle with the locals.

The Mayor has tried to keep peace among the sometimes unruly crowds, but despite his watching eye, the Clown (aka the Reddish Egret) got into trouble. It started innocently enough. A Wood Stork was trying to catch a fish. But the Clown got upset and flashed his red hair… and that was it!

The larger bird went into attack. And the Clown had to flee!

That was the first time I have seen him retreating. Ever.

He had met his match and settled on a small islet. He was sulking. Or maybe mulling over what just happened.

That day the marsh had more than fifty visitors. Birds everywhere. Some were flying…

Others were running…

Many were fishing…

One or two were dreaming…

Or just mingling and giving speeches…

Mama Sandy was, as always, only watching the nest and the skies. She couldn’t be bothered with the crowds. She knows they come and go.

One day my friends went for a walk with Dylan when I had to take a break … for work. And Tony spotted something special. Sandy had allowed Stanley to the nest although the nesting season was still more than a month away!

I hadn’t seen Stanley for a couple of weeks, so perhaps they had an argument and he’d gone away for a while? To let it cool down. And when he finally returned and brought her a fish as a sign of reconciliation, she allowed him to perch on the nest. Here is the proof. Thanks Tony!

And after that they have been flying a lot together. The other day when I was trying to work while battling a bout of bad cold, they flew several times past my office window.

And one morning I saw them working together. They were chasing a huge Bald Eagle away from the salt marsh. I had no camera, but Dylan is my witness. They took turns to dive on the back of the eagle until it got tired and flew to the other side of the bay where it lives.

But I spotted a juvenile Bald Eagle on one of our trips to Taylor Park. It was trying to fish, but gave up after several unsuccessful attempts and flew back into the forest.

My friends liked Taylor Park too. So many birds always show up…
…just to disappear like magic.

And it is quite a thrill to spot a gator lurking around and looking at you…

We got to see many more of them on an airboat ride with Captain Duke we did in the central Florida swamps.

In fact, we were guests in their very special world.

We spotted numerous huge old ones in and out of the water…

And deep in the swamp, we saw a baby gator who had dared to come out of the nest hole all alone.

It was a great journey through the St. John’s River swamps, or the ‘real Florida’ as our captain put it.

Of course we spotted lots of birds as well, but it was not easy to capture them on camera while speeding through the waters.

It was an adventure deep into nature my friends appreciated.

Although they flew back home a couple of weeks ago, you can still participate in more adventures right here in the coming weeks.
Thank you for coming along to the salt marsh, the Taylor Park and to the central Florida swamps. Have a great weekend. Lady Liberty says hi.

The Beauty and the Beast. For Real.

It’s slowly getting a bit fall-like here in Florida. And we love it. Mr. D. and I have been going out to enjoy nature more frequently in the last two weeks. Last Sunday morning we took a walk at Florida Botanical gardens and met a real beauty. A Gulf Fritillary at the outskirts of the Butterfly Garden.

Adult Gulf Fritillary 2 ud172The various gardens were beautiful, both the cultivated ones with plants native to Florida and the many natural habitats. Lots of mosaics are incorporated into and around the walk ways. I included a couple of them in the slide show below.

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Earlier in the week we walked the Taylor Park again. It’s becoming one of our favorites…always some excitement in addition to its natural beauty. And I’m learning to recognize the residents of this ‘village’ while Mr. D. is learning the important spots to sniff.

Taylor Park lake ud172Right off the bat we spotted someone in the grass spying on us. I guess we had surprised him in the middle of his breakfast.

squirrel ud172Then I heard someone working. Looking around I spotted our smallest woodpecker, the Downy, on a tree trunk quite a bit away.

a downy woodpecker ud172On the lake side we spotted a Wood Stork ooking for breakfast…

woodstork taylor park ud172… and soon realized that the whole village was out and about. A Great Blue Heron, a Little Blue Heron and Tri-colored Heron we all looking for an early bite.

GBH ud172

little blue heron ud172

tri-colored heron at Taylor Park ud172When we arrived at the canoe launch ramp, aka the local Starbucks,  we saw it was busier than ever.

white ibis drinking ud172This time there was no gator lurking nearby, the coast was clear. So the Ibis had their morning drink and their morning bath all at once. On the side of the ramp an Anhinga was drying his wings…

Anhinga at canoe ramp ud172… and another one was checking his outfit in the mirror.

Anhinga looking in the mirror UD172Nobody seemed concerned about dangers lurking in the water. Looking out on the lake I discovered a large Pied-billed Grebe family in the company of a young Moorhen.

grebe family and a moorhen UD172While they were diving for food and generally having fun,it was clear they also kept an eye on the water, like these two…

two grebes ud172I looked in the direction their eyes were trained at…and there he was. Silently gliding in the water.

new gator at Taylor Park ud172Sometimes only the very top of his head was visible. Then he turned to check on us, or perhaps he was interested in the busy Starbucks on the shore.

gator looking at me ud172I was glad the birds were keeping watch. We continued our walk to the end of the lake and turned around.

Part of lake at Taylor Park ud172We spotted the resident Osprey. She made a few fishing attempts at the far end of the lake, but didn’t seem to have any luck. Walking back we spotted her again on a pine branch above the trail. She was looking intently out to the lake…

resident osprey at Taylor Park ud172… and I did too. First I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. The gator was no longer there and all the Grebes seemed to be safe. But scanning the water with my zoom lens, Mr. D. patiently sitting by my side, I spotted another, much larger gator. He was well camouflaged with a green head covering.

a well camouflaged gator ud172He was quietly swimming about quite close to the shore. Suddenly he turned around with a splash…

gator hunts at taylor park ud172… and opened his mouth. I remember checking that there was no bird close by. And then I saw it. He caught a fat fish!

gator swallows a fish UD172Phew! I was happy he had fish on his menu that morning. The little birds diving in the lake seemed to be safe for now. Relatively speaking.

Florida Mottled Duck ud172

Pied-billed Grebe ud172We caught up with some moms on an outing with their babies…

Moms and babies at Taylor Park ud172…and also spotted another little cutie on the lake before arriving back to the parking lot.

Pied-billed Grebe 2 ud172Next week we will be getting company. Good friends from Sweden are coming to visit. Stay tuned for some new and different adventures. Thank you for walking with us again. Mr. D. and I wish you wonderful fall days…or spring days for those of you in the southern hemisphere.

 

 

Walking the Taylor Park. With Gators.

taylor park lake ud171It’s a beautiful morning, not humid and not too hot. A rare treat for mid October. Dylan and I jump into the car and head towards the Taylor Park to walk our newly discovered nature trail. We invite you to come along.

wooden bridge Taylor park ud171The shadows are still long when we start our walk. Dylan is on a short leash. The trail goes right next to the water so all sniffing is done strictly on the forest side of the trail…for a good reason. While we haven’t seen any alligators on our previous visits, I know they are lurking in the water, like in most fresh water lakes in Florida. This park is also favored by many birds. And right away we spot one of them, an Anhinga with her wings spread to dry after the morning dive.

anhinga B ud171The next one we see has selected a good spot to scout for the gators…and makes us smile.

anhinga on alligator sign at Taylor Park ud171And the third one does double duty. Dries her wings while spying on gators down below.

anhinga in the tree ud171I’m keeping my eyes trained on the water too, but no luck so far. All I see is water sprinkled with flowers and Moorhens.

water lilies ud171

moorhen family ud171

flowers at taylor park ud171

moorhen 2 ud171And an Osprey on a reconnaissance flight over the lake.

osprey at taylor park ud171On the forest side of the trail, I spot two woodpeckers, a Red-bellied Woodpecker and Pileated woodpecker but miss the latter. Dylan decides it is time for a bathroom break. I get a big splash of red in the picture as the large woodpecker flies away.

red-bellied woodpecker at taylor park ud171Next we spot a Little Blue Heron and a Limpkin. I am delighted because Limpkins do not often come to the salt marsh.

Little Blue Heron ud171

limpkin ud171Further, in the shadow of the bridge over the lake, we see a Green Heron in the water. He seems to consider his options for a morning meal while exhibiting good situational awareness.

green heron ud171But close to him a Tri-colored Heron is only aware of a potential breakfast bite in the water below. He has no worries about becoming a breakfast himself.

tri-colored heron hunting ud171By this time the sun has climbed higher. After stopping for some water we decide to turn around and walk back seeking some shade in the forest.

Taylor Park trail ud171We reach a canoe launch pad and hear loud screams. We look towards the lake and spot three White Ibis lining up for their morning drink. A Starbucks line with unexpected hassles.

white ibis and a gator ud171A gator is waiting for an opportunity to strike.

alligator ud171

gator at taylor park ud171These birds quickly leave their watering hole, but an Anhinga stays close by right on the side of the launch pad. Perhaps he has concluded the gator cannot jump.

an anhinga ud171The last bird we hear and then spot is a male Red-winged Blackbird hanging out in the reeds.

male red-winged blackbird ud171Thanks for walking with us, the birds and the gators. Have a great weekend and week ahead.

What a Party!

On Friday morning, I went to the kitchen to brew my second cup of coffee and suddenly remembered I had not yet checked on the Osprey Family. Mr. Dylan and I have been keeping a tight watch on the nest, particularly from the mid week on as the weather started to improve. At sunset time the previous night we spotted Bubbette sitting on her favorite high ‘chair’ in the nest looking out on the bay. She was clearly dreaming of flying.

osprey chick night before fledging ud161I picked up my binoculars and looked out through the living room window.  Just like previous mornings, I found Bubbette in the nest and Mama Sandy on the perch. I was about to put down my binoculars when Bubbette took off. Just like that! I ran to get my camera and discovered my battery was out of charge. Finally found my spare and ran out to the terrace with Dylan in tow. I spotted Bubbette right over the bay. She was at least 600-700 yards away, close to the opposite shore. She was flying low over the water. I couldn’t hear her, but it looked like she was singing her fish-fish-song.

Bubbette flies over the bay ud161I discovered that Papa Stanley was circling high up in the sky right above her, but couldn’t get them into the same picture. It was heart-warming to see Papa protecting her on her first flight.

Bubbettes first flight 3 ud161Then she flew higher up and continued her adventure towards the mainland. My heart was racing because I knew the Bald Eagle couple nests at the Country Club on the other side of the bay. Luckily Stanley was close by. Bubbette flew further away and I could hardly see her. Finally she turned back towards our island and I spotted her again.

Bubbettes first flight 2 ud161 I watched her fly. What a beautiful sight. A few minutes later she made a perfect landing almost in the middle of the nest! No second try, no landing on the ground. Sandy watched her proudly from the perch. And her ‘grandma’ on the terrace was equally delighted.

osprey chick makes perfect landing 2 ud161At lunch time Dylan and I went out to see her, after a dog park visit of course. We found Sandy on the perch and Bubbette in the nest. I was hoping she would fly out again.

mama osprey and the chick at the nest june 1 ud161But both of them were busy looking intensely towards the bay. Little did I know that Stanley had planned a graduation party. I had not seen him at the nest since Sandy chased him away from the perch almost two weeks ago. No kissing and making up as yet. But he had been doing fly-overs and checking on his girls every now and then. And he had flown with Bubbette that morning.

Mama osprey sees fish delivery ud161Next thing I knew Sandy started singing and flew down from the perch…

Mama osprey flies down from the perch ud161… and they started a frantic duet, eyes trained on something beyond my horizon.

anticipation of a fish ud161I could hear the wing beats when Stanley flew right over my head. Papa was in the house! Seeing that whopper of a fish Bubbette and Sandy were full of excitement.

papa osprey brings a fish ud161And it was a whole fish solely for the girls, delivered directly from the bay.

Papa osprey delivers a fish ud161Stanley steered to the right, grabbed the fish with both talons and placed his catch perfectly in front of Sandy. Perhaps as a combined graduation and reconciliation gift.

papa osprey brings a whole fish ud161While Sandy grabbed the fish, he exchanged greetings with Bubbette.

Papa Osprey in the nest ud161A few seconds later he took off again.

papa osprey leaves ud161I guess he didn’t want to overstay his welcome. Sandy placed the fish so that both of them could eat from it once she was done with the head part.

mama osprey takes the fish ud161We left them to enjoy their celebratory lunch and walked home.

Mama osprey and chick share the fish ud161That was a great graduation party. Always lovely to see the new generation take flight. Since then Bubbette has been out several times, including over three hours yesterday morning. And she’s out flying this morning too. I guess she enjoys her newly acquired freedom and is eager to learn how to fish. And her Papa is a great teacher. In about a month she will be ready to leave the nest and start her independent life somewhere nearby. We hope you enjoyed the party and wish you a great week ahead.

Bubbette Says Hello. To Alberto.

The season’s first subtropical storm, Alberto, will soon be making landfall on the northern Gulf coast, now packing 65mph/105kph winds. Yesterday it was churning past us about 135 miles out on the Gulf. It didn’t come here, but the “low” associated with it has brought rainy weather and gusty winds already much of last week for us. And although we now see glimpses of sun every now and then, the winds are still very gusty. As far as I know, Miss Bubbette has not yet fledged. I think Mama Sandy has put her under strict orders not to try her wings in this weather. On Wednesday, Thursday and yesterday when we had some dry weather, Dylan and I went to see her.

osprey chick waits for mama osprey ud161On Wednesday we found her alone in the nest keeping a low profile. Mama Sandy was flying overhead and sounding loud warnings.

Mama Osprey chased an intruder ud161I realized she was chasing away a male intruder who had ventured too close to the nest.

Mama Osprey chases a male osprey ud161Sandy soon returned to the nest and I understood she had flown away in the middle of her lunch. She continued eating. Bubbette had probably already eaten, but asked for more so Sandy was feeding her a few more bites from her own lunch. Mother’s love.

Mama osprey is feeding chick 2 ud161After finishing her lunch, Sandy flew up to the perch. Bubbette continued her wing exercises.

Mama osprey is back ud161We walked around the marsh and saw a few friends. Miss Rosa was visiting…

miss rosa ud161

snowy egret and miss rosa ud161… and foraging together with a Snowy Egret. A Yellow-crowned Night Heron was hunting too, which is rarely seen in the middle of the day.

yellowcrowned night heron ud161And Mr. Moorhen was checking out his territory. Otherwise the marsh was quiet.

moorhen ud161On Thursday we went out again quickly between the rain showers. Bubbette was exercising her wings again. She did not take off the nest, but ‘flew’ onto the highest branch in the nest.

Osprey chick bubbette practices flying UD161And she was hungry. She had, indeed, learned the most common osprey song: Gimme Fish.

And she knows her “head bob”, so typical for ospreys. Mama Sandy just sat on the perch. After a while she took a short flight towards the bay. Perhaps to check if Papa Stanley was somewhere close by eating the head of their lunch fish. You see, I had witnessed a small brawl between Sandy and Stanley the previous night when watching the nest from my living room. Stanley had brought a fish and was sitting on the perch when Sandy suddenly flew up and literally pushed him away. I had no idea what he’d done, or if he would still bring in fish for that matter. I have not spotted him at the nest since.

mama osprey returns ud161The sky had filled with clouds and we left Bubbette and Sandy to wait for their lunch.

Osprey chick perching on the highest branch in the nest ud161Yesterday I went out to the terrace to take a picture of the nest through the rain. I was thrown off balance several times by the strong wind gusts. No wonder Sandy doesn’t allow her girl to get airborne as yet.

osprey chick and mom in the rain ud161Later in the afternoon when the sun came out, I looked at the nest again…and could not spot Bubbette! I thought the poor girl might have taken off in the gusting wind, which made it difficult to fly even for experienced fliers. I took my camera and went out Dylan in tow. The wind hit us hard.

Mama osprey UD161We arrived at the nest, but could only see Sandy on the perch. The wind was blowing so hard that it forced three Anhingas on their way to the bay to land at the marsh.

Anhinga 1 ud161

Anhinga 2 ud161

anhinga 3 ud161Still no Bubbette in sight. This ‘osprey granny’ was starting to get worried. We walked around the marsh and spotted Harry, the younger Great Blue Heron.

Yoiung great blue heron UD161And a tiny, juvenile Green Heron, who was trying to keep her balance on a low branch.

Juvenile Green Heron UD161A male Red-winged Blackbird had to flap his wings to stay put on his sturdy tree stump. Normally he would land in the middle of the marsh on one of those slender bushes, but I guessed he didn’t like the idea of ‘swinging’ in this gusty wind.

redwinged blackbird male ud161When we approached the nest again, pushing against the wind, I still didn’t see the osprey chick, but a pregnant Mama Moorhen walked by.

mama moorhen ud161Suddenly I heard a faint song…fish, fish. It was Bubbette! But where did the sound come from? Dylan and I stayed quite a while close to the nest looking around. Finally we gave up and decided to walk home. When on the side-walk, I looked out to the nest again, and saw her. Phew.

Bubbette ud161She had been lying low in the nest cup all along, probably ordered to take shelter by Mama Sandy. It is windy today too…and the fledging watch continues. Thanks for visiting. Happy Memorial Day and have a great week.