Tag Archives: Nature

Osprey Chick Boot Camp. And Other Life Lessons.

The Osprey chick is in boot camp. Mama Sandy is trying to get her ‘wingersizing’. It’s time to strengthen her wings by exercising them.  And to improve her self-confidence after the tragedy that killed her sibling two weeks ago. So now Mama Sandy is often retreating to her perch to give the little one room to move around in the nest and spread her wings. Why do I say her? It is because I snapped this picture the other night at sunset time when Dylan walked me through the marsh.

osprey chick at sunrise ud125Her ‘necklace’ is very much like Sandy’s. So it’s a girl. Again. In the last few years Sandy and Stanley have produced mostly girls: one girl in 2014, two girls and one boy in 2015 and one girl in 2016.

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Now this girl needs to learn to fly. But she is not yet exercising enough. At least in Sandy’s opinion. So yesterday when I sat on “my” bench watching the nest, I saw Sandy teaching her. By role modeling flight from start to end. She walked the talk, so to speak. She took off from the perch and just flew around for a minute. And landing back on the perch she demonstrated her well-practiced “come-from-below” approach.

mama osprey flies around the nest ud125

Mama osprey returns ud125She did this repeatedly. She did not go anywhere, just flew around the nest so the chick could see her. And the chick watched intently. Even flexed her wings a few times.

osprey chick watches mama flying ud125

osprey chick streches her wings ud125

Mama osprey lands on the perch ud125I was impressed by Sandy’s home schooling skills. Then my camera battery warning light began blinking. I started to change the battery. And…like so often previously, that’s when Stanley appeared. My camera’s bottom wide open, I watched him zoom in, leave the fish to Sandy and leave. Sandy divided it into two pieces and they started to eat.

mama osprey and chick are eating ud125_edited-1The chick was hungry and wanted more. Or maybe her piece was smaller.

mama osprey and the chick ud125_edited-1In any case, after Sandy had eaten enough, she started to feed the chick.

osprey female feeds the chick ud125_edited-1Perhaps Sandy made a point right there. If you’re a baby and don’t want to learn to fly, I’m going to feed you like a baby. Or maybe that’s just my speculation. In any case, the chick’s recovery seems to be going quite well. The intensive flight preparation classes should get her airborne shortly.

After spending quite a bit of time with the Osprey family, I only had time to walk quickly around the marsh. I spotted my friend, the beautiful Tri-colored Heron.

tri-colored Heron 2 UD125And a hybrid Mottled Duck, whose friend put up quite a show for me. Or maybe I should say gave me a free preening lesson. If you have the time to actually be at the salt marsh, and need a smile, please watch the short video below.

duck ud125

A White Ibis family was foraging close by, and among them was this beautiful juvenile. She was only partly white. I am guessing she was born last year.

juvenile white ibis ud125At the far end of the marsh, the Clown (Reddish Egret) sported his red, spiked up hair do. He was busy chasing a Great Egret away from his fishing camp. The latter obliged.

Reddish Egret chases a Great Egret ud125Just when I was leaving the marsh, I spotted a Blue Jay. He didn’t care to pose for a portrait, but showcased the gorgeous colors on his back.

blue jay 2 ud125When I arrived home, a tiny Mockingbird baby was practicing her songs on the garage roof. Her repertoire was not yet well developed, but her obvious joy of just being alive was enough to give me a big smile – and something to ponder.

baby northern Mockingbird ud125Thank you for being here. Please stay tuned…the now traditional chick naming lottery is starting next week. Dylan will take care of it, just like last year. Peace.

Mama Osprey is Sad. On Mother’s Day.

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.

Mama osprey at sunset w two heaps ud124After 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.

papa osprey brought a fish at sunset ud124He 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.

mama osprey is grieving ud124Early 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.grieving mama osprey ud124

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.

mama osprey and the remaining chick ud124The 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.

osprey family ud124When 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.

mama osprey flies up to the perch 2 ud124.jpg

osprey chick flexes her wings ud124Then 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.

Osprey chick works on the nest 124Knowing 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.

Roseate spoonbill ud124

Roseate spoonbill 2 ud124

Roseate spoonbill in flight ud124What 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.

the great blue heron mayor 2 ud124Harry, 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.

young great blue heron ud124When 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.

harry the young great blue heron ud124The beautiful Tri-colored Heron was chasing small fish in the shallows.

tri-colored heron ud124And a Snowy Egret was calmly observing life from the edge of the water installation.

snowy egret ud124When 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!reddish egret fishing 1 ud124.jpg

reddish egret fishing 2 ud124The Little Blue Heron tried to imitate his dramatic foraging style. And successfully snapped a lunch bite.

little blue heron ud124Everything 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.

mama osprey and papa oprey mothers day ud124I wish Mama Sandy and all mothers in the readership a Happy Mother’s Day ❤

Danger, Thrill and Beauty. The Unique Blend in the Everglades.

My orange-colored ear plug fell on the floor. Then it flew overboard and disappeared in water spray. The roar of the airboat engine grew exponentially as we flew over the sawgrass prairie at high speed.

airboat in everglades ud123When we slowed down and finally stopped altogether, the sky and land seemed to merge here, in the middle of this unique wilderness of 1.5 million acres. I took out the remaining ear plug. And listened.

saw grass prerie in Everglades ud123The sawgrass prairie was beautiful and very peaceful. But danger was lurking in the shallow water, only 4-5 feet/1.2-1.5 meters deep on average. Over 200,000 alligators with a typical body length of 9-12 feet, a mouth equipped with 80 sharp teeth and over 1000 pounds of closing power in their jaws, call this swamp home.

alligator swimming in everg;ades ud123

alligator sunning itself ud123They went about their daily life quietly in the water and on land. I was, without a doubt, a guest in their home.

an alligator swims away ud123

Alligator in everglades on the roadside ud123Luckily humans are not on their menu unless we threaten their young. They observed me as I observed them, keenly, and I could see the skies reflected in their eyes. Mesmerizing.

alligator eye 1 ud123I understood that in the Everglades, one of the world’s most diverse ecosystems, danger is married to beauty.

mangroves and sawgrass in Everglades ud123

Everglades mangrove forest ud123

everglades trees ud123The sawgrass prairie bloomed with Spider Lily and other beautiful flowers.

spider lilies in everglades 3 ud123

flowers in everglades ud123

flowering Everglades ud123And so did the hammocks.

flowering bush in Everglades ud123I found the airplants most intriguing. A seed lands on a tree, then grows and blooms. Just like that. One of the thousands of small miracles in nature.

airplants in everglades ud123And crisscrossing the prairie I found many of my favorite marsh birds, like the Great Blue Heron, the Great Egret and the Snowy Egret.

saw grass prerie in Everglades 2 ud123

great blue heron in Everglades ud123

great egret in Everglades ud123

snowy egret in everglades ud123A family of Wood Storks got disturbed by our noisy approach and took flight.

woodstork in Everglades ud123

two woodstorks in flight ud123

wood storks in flight ud123And I spotted impressive Osprey nests, several feet high. At one of them, a juvenile was considering the benefits and dangers of flying. Her mommy watched nearby. And waited.

osprey chick ud123

an Osprey chick in Everglades 2 ud123

mother osprey in Everglades ud123I saw many other birds enjoy the peace of this wilderness, like this Red-Shouldered Hawk, but it was a challenge to ‘shoot’ them from a fast moving airboat.

Hawk in the Everglades ud123Particularly if they were moving too, like this female Anhinga, who was trying to swallow her catch.

female anhinga 2 in Everglades ud123Coming back to the airboat station, I spotted two familiar handsome males. A Red-Winged Blackbird and a Boat-Tailed Grackle.

a large airboat ud123

male red-winged blackbird ud123

male boat-tailed grackle ud123From here my journey continued through the Big Cypress National Preserve. I made some interesting discoveries, like the smallest federal building in the US, the Ochopee Post Office.

smallest post office in the us ud123I also visited some wildlife centers on my way to Everglades City, which really was a small, idyllic village with a few roads and houses on stilts due to frequent flooding.

building in everglades city ud123I also spotted both modern and older versions of swamp buggies parked in front of the houses.

modern swamp buggy ud123

swamp buggy in Everglades city ud123And found a nice place for lunch. Alligator was on the menu, but I opted for a chicken sandwich.

lunch place ud123

cocos palms in Everglades 2 ud123Arriving to the western side of the Everglades, I visited the historic museum in Chokoloskee, an area inhabited for centuries by the Calusa people, and for thousands of years by their ancestors.

Indian museum ud123

chokoloskee museum ud123My last adventure was a boat cruise through the western Everglades mangrove estuary known as the 10,000 Islands.

mangrove forest in everglades ud123After speeding past many islands, we suddenly got company. Two Bottlenose Dolphins followed our ‘sister boat’ and then kept diving back and forth under our boat. In addition to us humans, dolphins are the only other wild species that like to play and have fun 🙂  Unfortunately coming up for a photo-op was not included in their scheme of fun for the day.

dolphins swim behind the boat 2 ud123

two dolphins dive under the boat ud123After a while they decided the fun was over and headed for their own underwater explorations. We continued towards the ocean past lovely small islands until we reached the southern Gulf of Mexico.

south Gulf of Mexico island ud123

Southern Gulf of mexico ud123On our way back, we got company again. A young West Indian Manatee stayed with us for quite a while. This ‘sea cow’ can stay under water up to 40 minutes at a time so it was a thrill to capture it coming up for a breath next to our boat a couple of times.

manatee 2 ud123

manatee ud123

manatee 3 ud123Close to the shore I spotted an Osprey in flight above a mangrove island. That was a great ending to my adventure in the Everglades.

osprey 1 in Everglades ud123It was an unforgettable trip from the eastern Everglades through the Big Cypress National Preserve to the western Everglades. And I am more determined than ever to do what I can to preserve this wonderful wilderness, and others, for the future generations.

Thank you for coming along. See you later alligator.

Alligator 2 in everglades ud123

Surprises. And Almost a Heart Attack.

It started innocently enough. On Tuesday afternoon, just around dinner time, husband asked me if I had seen ‘the birds’, aka the Osprey family. My nose had been clued to the computer all day, so I went onto the terrace with my binoculars and my super zoom. And almost got a heart attack. The Osprey nest was empty! I mean, no adults around. A little head was sticking up from the nursery. What an earth had happened?

empty nest ud119I waited. No parent came back. And suddenly the first-born got very anxious, flexed its tiny featherless wings and screamed from the bottom of its lungs. Ma-ma!  The second-born lifted up its head as well. They were alarmed.

two osprey chicks alone in the nest ud119Then, after several minutes, one of the parents landed on the perch. It was impossible to tell which one. I assumed it was Papa Stanley because Mama Sandy would have landed in the nest. All kinds of thoughts flew through my mind on what might have happened to Sandy. You see, normally she would not leave the chicks alone before they are six weeks old, and these chicks were hardly three weeks old last Tuesday.

a parent is back ud119Right after finishing my dinner I checked on the nest again. Someone was feeding the chicks! It looked like Sandy. And – surprise, surprise – she had three chicks in front of her! The two older chicks are bigger and ‘darker’ and the youngest chick (in the middle) is still very small and much lighter in color. That was a much nicer surprise.

mama osprey feeds three chicks 4 ud119But I couldn’t be sure it was Sandy until I saw her much closer – from the ground. So out we went, Dylan and I. He knew his mom was on a mission and sat down every time I took pictures.

Dylan at sunset ud120It was late in the day, almost 7:30 p.m., but I was able to confirm Sandy was back with her chicks. That was a great relief.

mama osprey 2 ud120Perhaps Sandy had gotten tired of waiting for dinner and had decided to go fishing herself. For a change. And in the process almost gave me a heart attack.

That evening I was treated to yet another nice surprise. Miss Rosa was back! I had not seen her in about six weeks, and it was great to see was fine, beautiful as ever. Perhaps she too was on a ‘mommy break’ from nesting activities on the bird island in the bay.

miss rosa at sunset ud120And the Mayor was there patrolling the waters, as always.

the mayor at sunset ud120And just before the darkness fell, I spotted a Red-winged Backbird. I know he is nesting at the marsh right now, just like last year.

red-winged blackbird at sunset ud120On the bay side, walking back home, we saw a Willet utilizing the low tide to get herself some supper.

willet ud120Yesterday morning I took a quick walk around the marsh, mostly to check on the Osprey chicks. The whole family was gathered. Sandy was feeding the chicks, who had grown a lot since Tuesday.

osprey family ud120I could only see two of them, but it doesn’t mean that the last-born wasn’t there. The first-born and the middle chick are almost the same size, born only a day apart, while the last chick was probably born two days after the middle chick.  At this time in their development four days make a huge difference.

osprey chicks siblings ud120The oldest chick is just over three weeks old now and has already learned a lot, like mimicking Sandy when she sounded a warning to a pelican flying over the nest.

pelican in flight ud117

mama osprey and chick sound alarm ud120I had to smile. It has also discovered its wings and is trying to flex them a bit already. In the picture below, Sandy is probably feeding the little one, whom she wisely keeps a bit separated from the two older ones. I am hoping the tiny last-born will survive. Its chances to fledge are statistically only about 38%. But then, Sandy is an exceptional mother and Stanley is a great provider.

older chick has discovered his wings ud120When walking quickly around the marsh, I got a fourth surprise. Henry, the mischievous young Great Blue Heron, who used to attack the Osprey nest in 2015, was back. He is still much smaller than the Mayor, and was keenly watching the nest from the north side of the marsh. Not again, I thought.

the younger blue heron ud120I was trying to move closer to get a clear shot when I heard heavy wing beats. The Mayor was approaching, fast. I was so surprised that I didn’t even get a clear picture of him chasing away young Henry. But here is the end tail of that action.

major chasing ud120Happy being firmly in charge of the city again, the Mayor settled at the far end of the marsh.

major ud120Everything was good again. When I left to go home, the courting Mottled Duck couple cruised the calm waters just below the Osprey nest.

mottled duck couple ud120We all wish you Happy Easter.

Travels. And Homecoming Gifts.

My work trip to the nation’s capital last week was like jumping on a treadmill that was moving at an ever-increasing speed.

dc national mall ud116The approaching spring was evident, but so was the stress level. Luckily Dylan has trained me well so I could keep up with the people buzzing on the streets.

washington monument ud116I managed to run fast, sit in countless meetings and accomplish my mission. But it felt good when I was finally on my way back home.

reagan airport at sunset ud116The darkening city after sunset looked deceptively peaceful from the skies.

sunset over washington dc ud116It took a couple of days of dipping my toes into the serenity here at home before I felt the last traces of stress leaving my body. But I knew where the medicine cabinet was. At the salt marsh. Dylan and I went for a walk there late on Saturday – after I had spotted two tiny chicks in the nest from our terrace. The sun had already set when we walked the south side of the marsh right below the Osprey nest. I was breathing peace. Papa Stanley sat on the perch, and while he’s usually not tolerating people who walk there, he didn’t say a peep when Dylan and I admired him…and the moon. He just nodded his greeting.

papa osprey and the moon ud117

moon ud117Then, finally, this morning, I took a long walk at the salt marsh. And boy, did I feel welcomed by all! The first thing I spotted, even before reaching the park, was the Little Blue Heron. He was confidently balancing on the wooden fence.

little blue heron ud117And when I looked up, I saw Papa Stanley returning to the nest with a brand new mattress for the babies.

Papa osprey went shopping ud117

papa osprey comes home ud117Mama Sandy was shielding the babies from the sun, and paparazzi, but soon she got up and started making the bed.  And reinforcing the security of the nest.

mama osprey working ud117Then she sat down again and realized it was lunch time. She asked Stanley, in no uncertain terms, to go fishing. Right now.

mama osprey wants fish ud117He obliged, and I walked around the marsh to say hello to the residents who happened to be at home. First I spotted a visitor from the bay side, a Cormorant, close to the nest.

cormorant ud117.jpgAnd then I saw the older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor. He was standing in the shallow water and shaking his feathers. It looks more and more likely that he has a nest at the marsh. You see, last year during the nesting season I hardly saw him, and now he is present every time I visit, including late at night. He even posed for a portrait as soon as he had settled in his office.

mayor is wet ud117

the mayor great blue heron ud117It’s always reassuring to see him. To my delight I saw that the “Clown”, aka the Reddish Egret, was there too. He was faithful to his manners and put up a show in the middle of the marsh. I tried to tell him to come closer, but somehow he preferred the waters far away.

reddish egret 2 ud117

reddish egret 1 ud117But then I finally realized why he stayed right there. Silly me. He had an admirer! A beautiful, shy lady was observing him from an islet closer to me…straight line of sight.

another reddish egret ud117Hmm. Maybe something’s going on there. I continued my walk and spotted a Great Egret walking on the east fence. Look at that neck!

great egret in our garden ud117And her smaller cousin, a Snowy Egret was walking in the water nearby in her beautiful breeding plumage.

snowy egret ud117Papa Moorhen was minding his own business, or perhaps he was looking for some good bites to take back to Mama in the nest.

papa morrhen ud117Arriving back to the Osprey nest, I noticed some White Ibis foraging in the grass.

while ibis ud117.jpgAnd  suddenly something bright red flew past me. And then something orange swished by. I realized I had spotted the first Northern Cardinal couple at the marsh, ever. Yay!

male cardinal ud117

female cardinal ud117They looked for food in the grass, and I was so focused on them that I didn’t notice Papa Stanley had returned with a fish. He had already given it to Sandy and was sitting on the perch while Sandy was feeding the chicks.

papa osprey ud117So I started to walk home. Happy after seeing so many friends at the marsh, but a bit disappointed because I knew there were at least two chicks in the nest I wasn’t able to see. Reaching the street, I looked at back at the nest. And couldn’t believe my eyes. I spotted two little heads reaching for food!

mama osprey feeds two chicks ud117

Mama osprey feeds two chicks 3 ud117There could very well be three of them because it looked like they were in different places. Time will tell. But I am happy I could see them, and my last shot of the first-born was quite decent.

mama osprey feeds one chick ud117They are not yet pretty, but will be in a few weeks. Whether they are two or three, I hope all of them will survive. Exciting times, indeed.

Thank you for being here. We wish you peace.

 

 

 

Performances and Mysteries.

They flew low in a tight formation over the bay. It was just before sunset. Dylan had insisted I take my camera along for the evening walk. I guess he had seen me glued to my computer and my phone all week, and felt we should take a longer walk. So I complied – and right off the bat we witnessed a spectacular synchronized dive by four Brown Pelicans on the bay.

Pelicans ud115One of them took off immediately and sat down to digest his meal, but the rest stayed on the water to enjoy the soft evening glow.

pelican ud115A lone Oyster Catcher was having his dinner near the sea wall, where the low tide had revealed a rich smorgasbord.

oyster catcher ud115Before we left the bay side, we spotted the younger Great Blue Heron, whom I haven’t seen in a couple of months. He was making plans for the evening under the Sailing Center pier.

younger Great Blue heron ud115When we walked through the marsh towards the dog park, we saw Papa Stanley in a pine tree close to the nest. He spotted us too and nodded his greeting.

papa osprey at sunset ud115He was facing the nest, where Mama Sandy was brooding the chicks basking in the last rays still reaching the salt marsh.

mama osprey in the nest at sunsetDylan spent a few minutes running with his friends at the dog park, including one of his first friends there, Saki.

dylan at doggy park UD115

saki ud115When we walked back past the nest Papa Stanley was there too, drying his feathers and facing the setting sun. Perhaps he had brought home some evening snacks.

sunset mama and papa osprey ud115I have seen from my terrace that Sandy is now brooding the chicks and feeding them small bites of fish. But their new home is  paparazzi-safe. The nest cup is so deep that I have not yet gotten a good picture of the new generation. However, I am concluding from Sandy’s feeding pattern that they have 2-3 babies…about 10-12 days old by now. It’s funny how they always notice me taking pictures from my terrace although I am more than a block away from the nest.

mama and papa osprey tend to chicks ud115Then yesterday I finally had a chance to do a solo walk at the marsh in bright daylight. It was interesting to note that Sandy left the nest twice for a minute or so. When Stanley was there looking after the kids, she flew to the middle of the marsh and brought back something small, holding it very carefully in both her talons.

mama osprey returns first time ud115I have seen this also in previous years and always wondered what it is she brings back to the nest. The fact that Sandy now leaves the nest also tells me the chicks are more than 10 days old. She does not need to brood continuously any more. I just hope to see a little head, or more, soon. After twice leaving and bringing in some mysterious stuff, Sandy left Stanley in charge and went out once more for a short excursion. Perhaps she just wanted some exercise because she came back empty handed.

papa osprey at the nest 2 ud115

mama osprey returns to the nest ud115I walked around the marsh and saw a few friends. The Mayor was back in his office on the tiny islet. It looked like he was firmly in control of this small ‘city’. That was reassuring.

Mayor in his office ud115The Tri-Colored heron was foraging in the shallows – and little later on I saw him catch a small fish.

tri-colored heron ud115The Little Blue Heron was also there with the tiny Snowy Egret. I am thinking these guys are too young to form a family as yet.

little Blue Heron ud115

snowy egret ud115Then I saw Stanley leave the nest. He flew towards the ocean. But in a couple of minutes he returned to the marsh. He didn’t fly to the nest empty-handed, that would’ve been a mistake, instead he settled on a cypress tree far away from the nest.

papa osprey lands to rest ud115He sat there for a few minutes resting, then flew towards the bay. I hope he had better luck there. I saw many other smaller birds on this weekend walk, but those images will need to come in a future post.

sunset 16x9 ud115.jpgI have a short work trip coming up in the beginning of the week and wish you all a wonderful week.

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.