Tag Archives: Nature

Arlene’s Farewell Concert. And Mischief at the Salt Marsh.

I feel lucky. I didn’t miss Arlene’s farewell concert on Thursday night. She sang the now familiar Aria di sorbetto ‘I Want Fiiish, a Big Fiiish’ to Mama Sandy, Dylan and me. She sang from the heart and closed her eyes to reach the highest notes.

osprey chick arlene asks for fish ud132Tired after the hot day and, I’m sure, many fishing attempts, she was perching at Papa Stanley’s usual summer resort in the park. Mama Sandy was sleeping on a lamp-post close by. She turned her head towards Arlene and just listened. She didn’t open an eye.

mama Sandy ud132Soon Arlene was sleeping too. Her crop was fairly full, but it never hurts to ask for more fish when mama is nearby.

osprey chick arlene is sleepy ud132_edited-1Early on Friday morning Dylan and I spotted her at her Marriott roof top suite, but during the day she had left. Almost four weeks after fledging she started her independent life. I had anticipated her departure, but little did I know these would be the last pictures of her. For now.

Papa Osprey at Marriott ud132_edited-1Dylan and I have looked for her every night since, but we have only found Papa Stanley and Mama Sandy. They have stayed in the area, and on Friday night we spotted both of them with a half-eaten fish. Perhaps in case Arlene would regret her move. But she didn’t. Osprey chicks rarely return once they ‘move out’, unlike many humans.

mama osprey on Sunday ud132But this morning when I was driving on a bridge to the mainland about five miles south of us, I spotted an Osprey chick. And an adult osprey was perching on the opposite lamp-post. I could not stop the traffic to look closer, but it could very well have been Arlene with one of her parents still keeping an eye on her. That would confirm my theory that one of the parents still support them after they leave. The presence of Osprey chicks is transient. They hatch, the lucky ones fledge and move out from the immediate nest area once they feel confident of their fishing skills. I certainly hope to see Arlene visiting the salt marsh one day. I’ll leave you with a funny picture I’ve not shared before. Arlene became a big girl and learned to potty before she learned to fly ūüôā

osprey chick going to toilet ud126_edited-2Adieu Arlene, we wish you a happy life! And we’ll miss you.

That brings me to the happenings at the salt marsh. On Sunday I finally decided to defy the heat and go for a long walk. The first thing I spotted was quite shocking. An Anhinga had occupied the Osprey nest. Or more accurately, the perch.

anhinga at the osprey nest ud131Birds in the vicinity of the nest reacted too. An intruder was not welcome. Some looked up, dropped their jaw in horror, but said nothing. Like this Common Grackle.

grackle ud132Others, like the juvenile Green Heron, got really upset and just stared at the nest.

juvenile green heron ud132Despite the reactions, the Anhinga perched there for quite a while. That is, until he saw a big bird high in the sky. A Swallow-tailed Kite.

swallow-tailed Kite over salt marsh ud131_edited-1

anhinga ud131One could not risk that he was the owner of the nest. So the Anhinga quickly flew back to his friends on the bay side.

Just when I thought enough excitement now, there was more. The Reddish Egret I have dubbed ‘the Clown’ was doing his song and dance performance.

reddish Egret UD132

reddish egret 2 ud132He was moving swiftly, running sic-sack and talking to himself. He was almost too fast to capture on ‘tape’. Oh sorry, there are no tapes. Just some blurry photographs of his wild performance.

reddish egret 3 ud132Someone was watching this spectacle. As there always is. The Mayor was standing in the bushes nearby, and he was growing annoyed.

great blue heron the mayor ud132He started walking towards the Clown. Determined to stop the loud performance.

great blue heron ud132The Clown quickly calmed down. He was like nailed to the mud. Completely motionless he watched the Mayor walk by.

great blue heron and reddish egret ud132_edited-3A female Mallard was observing the power-play from the trail. She was keeping her distance, probably not knowing what to expect.

female mallard ud132But there was no confrontation. The Clown walked away, calmly. Despite some Black Skimmers flying back and forth right in front of his nose.

reddish egret and black skimmer ud132But he soon regained his resolve. And challenged the mayor, all puffed up.

reddish egret 4 ud132What he didn’t understand was that the Mayor is a stable, thick-skinned adult. Not to be easily provoked. And suddenly everything was calm again. The little Mottled ducklings swam by completely oblivious to the previous tension.

two mottled ducklings ud132The Tri-colored Heron continued her search for a tasty bite. And the Great Egret at the other end of the marsh gave a sigh of relief. He’s had his disagreements with the Clown.

tri-colored heron ud132.jpg

great egret ud132And I walked home. Now that the nesting season is over, I might take some time off too. I want to do some travelling. And approaching my fifth blogging anniversary next month, I also feel the need to refresh my blog. In the meantime I may blog less…and/or different. Although we’ll probably ‘see’ each other over the summer months, I wish all our friends a wonderful summer. A huge thank you from all of us at the salt marsh for being here.

In Focus: Incredible Arlene

On a stormy evening late last week, Arlene was perching on the boat lift at the sailing center. She was scanning for fish. Suddenly she flew up, hovered for a few seconds above the water and dove feet first into the water. She didn’t catch the fish. Not yet. But she had all the right moves, including shaking off water in mid-air like a pro. This was less than two weeks after she fledged. And that’s nothing short of incredible. I didn’t carry the camera so you just have to take my word for it. Dylan is my witness. After coming home, I caught this picture of her from my terrace. She was back up there staring into the water…and she would try again. I call that determination.

arlene learns to fish on her own ud130She is scanning for fish often now. And her parents, after seeing her early progress, have clearly taken the back seat. Mama Sandy is still around occasionally keeping watch for any dangers. Sometimes I have not seen her for a day or two, but she comes when Arlene calls her. Like last night when the skies suddenly darkened and the wind picked up before strong thunderstorms. I could not see Arlene, but I heard her. She was somewhere on the roof. Sandy was flying towards her pushing against the strong winds. Really struggling. She came from the north along the bay side and landed on the roof. I guess Arlene needed adult company in the storm and her mama was there for her. Dylan and I ran home and rushed into our garage just when the first fat raindrops started falling. And then pretty much everything went out of focus.

storm on the bay out-of-focus 2 ud130Sandy probably feeds Arlene only once a day now, if that. Her parenting is encouraging independence. But still providing protection. And Arlene is confident in her abilities, as she has been from the day she fledged. A strong female leader in the making, as I see it.

Mama osprey keeps watch ud130On Sunday morning, Arlene’s two-week fledging anniversary, ¬†I saw her perched at the sailing center. Ten minutes later I went for a walk and saw her eating on Marriott’s roof, at her favorite spot.¬†I wouldn’t rule out it was¬†the first fish she’s caught by herself. No parents were in sight.

arlene eats fish ud130Young Arlene has not followed the conventional path to independence. You see, normally, Osprey chicks stay at the nest being fed by their parents at least 4 weeks after fledging. They start to follow their parents on fishing trips during the 3rd week and start to try to fish on their own at 4-6 weeks after fledging. Not Arlene. She left the nest the day she fledged and directly started to fly with her folks. She was diving for fish 12 days after fledging…and now, 16 days after her fledging, I think she might be able to provide for herself already. I am sure Sandy will not stay in the vicinity for long. And Arlene, too, is likely to move a bit further soon. But as long as she stays here you’ll have ‘full and impartial coverage’ on this brave and beautiful chick by this media outlet.

Arlene at sunset June 9 ud130On Sunday, I also briefly visited the salt marsh between heavy showers. After two weeks of rains, everything at the salt marsh was green and the water level was high. Consequently many of the waders were keeping away for now. I guess they don’t like their bellies getting wet while wading in high waters.

salt marsh after the rains ud130But that memo had not reached the juveniles. Or perhaps they are more adventurous simply because they are not looking at the world through the lens of conventional wisdom. Some of them were happily wading on previously dry mud flats or amongst the high grass. First I spotted the same juvenile Little Blue Heron I saw a couple of weeks ago. He had turned much more blue already, as you can see.

juvenile little blue heron ud130

juvenile little blue heron 2 ud130The second juvenile wading at the marsh was a very small, young Green Heron. He still had some of his white ‘baby hairs’ right on the top of his head, but was bravely doing it alone.

juvenile green heron 2 ud130

juvenile green heron 1 ud130_edited-1The third juvenile I spotted was a Boat-tailed Grackle. She was in the company of her mother…and although she had fledged, she was still asking to be fed. Quite unlike Arlene.

female boat-tailed grackle with a juvenile ud130_edited-1The fourth juvenile, the Roseate Spoonbill I had named Rosanna, was observing life from a tree at the deep water channel.

young roseate spoonbill ud130The only adult wader I encountered was the beautiful Snowy Egret. I thought she looked like a white flower in the midst of the green grass.

snowy egret ud130And that’s when they arrived, the two Black Skimmers. They flew at extremely high speeds while skimming the surface, water spraying all around them. They put on a wild show. I enjoyed trying to catch them in flight. But they did beat me time after time…resulting in many pictures of water, sky and grass – without a Skimmer. One has to learn one’s limitations the hard way.

black skimmer 1 ud130_edited-2.jpg

black skimmer skimming ud130 We all wish you a wonderful rest of the week. Thank you for visiting.

The Natural Order.

I have come to the conclusion that expressions of order in nature are captivating. Much different from any man-made order, however neat, and more beautiful. In my book, order in nature is of higher quality and its many manifestations are fascinating. I have been digging in my photo archives to show you a few expressions of order in nature as I see them through my lens – with some humor.

Flying in formation: Six White Ibis (featured image) and five Brown Pelicans.

five pelicans in formation UD129Standing in line: Four Willet all standing on their right foot.

four willets on one leg ud129Marching order: Mama Mottled Duck with her ducklings.

mama duck and ducklings ud129Tight formation swimming: Mama Mottled Duck and her ducklings.

mama mottled duck with ducklings ud129Pecking order: 2015 season’s Sand Key Osprey chicks (from the left) 3rd born Sindile, 1st born Lofty and 2nd born Aspire.

three osprey chicks May 27 2015 ud129Landing lineup: Royal Terns’ approach to landing in formation.

royal terns landing order ud129Departure lineup: A group of Wood storks departing in the Everglades.

three wood storks departing ud129Above and below: Four Brown Pelicans flying in “layers”.

four pelicans in flight ud129_edited-1 Backorder: father, mother and baby elephant and three zebras on the savannah.

three elephant butts ud129

three zebras ud129Side order: Two Black Skimmers and two Brown Pelicans flying side by side.

two black skimmers ud129

two pelicans flying tandem ud129Front and back: A Roseate Spoonbill and a Great Blue Heron upfront and a Wood Stork at the back on a small islet.

wood stork blue heron and roseate spponbill ud129_edited-1Law and order: A Reddish Egret chases away a Great Egret, who didn’t have a fishing permit.

Reddish Egret chases a great egret ud129_edited-1Taking turns: One Great Egret eats first, the other one eats second.

two egrets ud129Even disorder in nature can be beautiful: Three White Ibis, one standing on the left foot, two standing on the right foot…

three white ibis ud129…and Monarch Butterflies on a tree in no order at all.

butterfly tree ud129And finally, for our regular readers, there is the current order: The Osprey chick joins her parents to enjoy the sunset glow at the sailing center after a good meal on Marriott’s roof.

osprey chick eats on the roof ud129_edited-1
Arlene has supper on the roof at 7 p.m.
osprey chick hanging out with Mama osprey ud129_edited-1
Arlene and Sandy at the sailing center after sunset around 8:30 p.m.
osprey chick enjoys sunset ud129
Arlene looks for a small “dessert fish” in the water below
mama osprey after sunset ud129
Mama Sandy proudly watches Arlene
papa osprey looks at chick ud129
Papa Stanley lovingly watches his family

I hope you agree that order in nature has many amazing expressions. Have a great weekend!

Enough Drama Already!

This Memorial Day weekend¬†was like one long suspense¬†novel. And I’m afraid this post is also novel-length compared to my usual posts.

It all started on Friday evening when Dylan and I passed the nest on our way from the dog park. I could see the Osprey chick was flapping her wings vigorously and actually getting up, a foot or so,  in the air. Finally the survivor would fledge!

osprey chick pepares to fly ud126_edited-1So on Saturday morning I took my camera and went to the nest to observe her flying exercises. She flew from one side of the nest to the other. Repeatedly.

ospery chick lifts off ud126

osprey chick in flight ud126_edited-1

osprey chick lands ud126Mama Sandy was watching her from the perch. I’m sure she was proud and relieved. And when a juvenile Bald Eagle flew by, she was sounding a sharp alarm.

mama osprey alarm ud126_edited-1

juvenile bald eagle 3 ud126The chick watched curiously, but didn’t say a peep. Maybe she didn’t know why this was such an alarming situation, or maybe she has yet to learn the alarm call.

osprey chick looks at the big bird ud126_edited-2It was wonderful to see her up in the air, but she didn’t leave the nest while I was there. At times she was looking at me as if saying look I can fly.

mama osprey and chick at the nest ud126_edited-1So on Saturday night when Dylan and I went to the dog park, I took my camera along. The chick was still busy practicing.

mama osprey and the chick sat evening May 27 ud126On Sunday morning I was full of anticipation. I would see the chick fledge! I looked out from my bedroom window – and saw Mama Sandy alone in the nest. The chick had already fledged!

Mama osprey waiting for chick ud126So after breakfast I hurried out to the nest to see her return. Sandy had flown away, but Papa Stanley was waiting for the chick on the perch.

Papa osprey waits for the chick ud126He was looking keenly toward the¬†tall trees in the park. I didn’t know why. I waited at the nest. No chick.¬†Finally I decided to walk around the marsh to¬†greet the other residents. First I spotted a beautiful, young Roseate Spoonbill.¬†She had not yet developed the characteristic dark band around the base of¬†her head, had a few feathers on the top of her head and was much smaller than Miss Rosa. Perhaps a relative, or even an offspring. I named her Rosanna.

young roseate spoonbill ud126Next I spotted another juvenile. This was not a Snowy Egret, but a young Little Blue Heron. She was still almost white, but I could see the first light blue spots developing on her back and wings. This was a day of juveniles and the fledging day for the osprey chick. But she was nowhere to be seen.

juvenile little blue heron 2 ud126I continued to wait…and walk. I spotted both Mama and Papa Moorhen…

Mama moorhen 2 ud126

Papa moorhen ud126…and the Mayor. He was walking past his office inspecting the surroundings.

great blue heron ud126Suddenly I heard the Osprey chick. She was asking for fish and her call came from the¬†park north of the salt marsh. I walked towards her call, but couldn’t¬†find her. It was very hot so maybe she was seeking shade in the forest. Or perhaps she was resting on the ground just like her brother Lofty, who fledged exactly on the same day two years ago. I had spotted him on the ground the day he fledged.

lofty on the ground under the tree UD9When I came back to the nest, Stanley was still there. He was talking to Sandy. She was flying from the bay towards the forest carrying a newly caught fish. I assumed she was going to feed the chick.

female osprey with a fish 2 ud126_edited-1Finally I had to leave without seeing the newly fledged chick. Papa Stanley was still waiting for her at the nest.

Mama oprey is an empty nester ud126 on May 28In the afternoon I checked on the nest several times. Nobody at home. I checked again just before going out with Dylan in evening. Still an empty nest. I started to get really worried. Usually the newly fledged chicks fly short rounds over the park and return to the nest in minutes, or at latest by dinner time, just like Lofty had done. But not this chick.

We didn’t go to the dog park in the evening, but instead walked on the bay side. I was hoping I would spot the chick. But no. Until we were almost at home. I saw three Osprey¬†flying together above¬†the Marriott’s roof, a place favored by both Sandy and Stanley in summer time. I didn’t have my camera so there was no way to see who was who. But then I heard the familiar gimme fish. The chick was alive! And probably¬†in the company of¬†her parents.

osprey chick 2 at Marriott ud126Then on Monday I kept an eye on the nest throughout the day. The parents visited a few times, but not the chick. It is highly unusual, almost unheard of, that an Osprey chick would follow her parents from the day they fledge. But this girl was an exception to the rule. I would not¬†spot¬†her¬†until Dylan and I went to the dog park at sunset time on Monday evening. I heard her right away. She was sitting on Marriott’s roof asking for fish and looking towards the bay.

osprey chick calls for mama ud126_edited-2A few seconds later, Sandy appeared next to her. But she had no fish.

osprey chick hangs out with Mama Osprey ud126_edited-4So there she was hanging out with Sandy. I was very happy she was alive and well. Soon Sandy flew away, probably on a fishing trip, and from far away I saw the chick flapping her wings.

osprey chick on Marriott's roof ud126_edited-1Soon we spotted Stanley too. He was perching at the sailing center about 150 yards away. I snapped a picture of him from the side-walk. Dylan was in a hurry to see his friends.

Papa osprey waits ud126_edited-1This was a unique scenario. Either this girl was truly exceptional and had started her fishing lessons right away, or she simply felt the nest was too small a landing strip for her at this time. When I looked towards the Marriott from the dog park, she was gone. Maybe she followed Sandy out to the ocean. Coming back much later, we found Stanley at the Marriott. On the ledge, one level below where the chick had been.

papa osprey watches the chick ud126And just when I was¬†‘shooting’ Stanley, I saw movement in the corner of my eye. I looked up and saw a tail of the chick. She was landing on the upper level. Soon she looked down, both on¬†us and her papa.

Almost the same scenario was repeated last night. Stanley was at the sailing center, while Sandy and the chick were¬†perching on the roof. This time she didn’t ask for fish¬†so I assumed she had already eaten her supper.

osprey chick looks at papa ud126This adventurous girl deserves a great name! So today we did the ‘same¬†procedure as last year’. Dylan picked¬†a name from the hat – one among 16 names proposed by you, our friends. So how did we do it? I hope the pictures talk for themselves.

lottery hat ud126

Dylan and lottery hat ud126

Dylan does the drawing ud126It was difficult to ‘watch not touch’ the¬†16 treats in the hat, but Dylan waited patiently until I gave him a go ahead. And then, with lightning speed resulting in a blurred picture,¬†he picked only one treat. The winner is…

the winner ud126I was very touched. And I want to tell you why. Pat proposed the name Arlene, I believe, because Arlene was a dear friend of many neighbors here on the island as well as many dog parents at our park. She had a wonderful little puppy, Hogan, who was friends with Dylan and other dogs frequenting the park. One morning in August last year, Arlene left us suddenly after being hit by a car while crossing the road right here in our neighborhood. She and Hogan were on their way home from the dog park. Tiny Hogan survived and was adopted to a good home. So now we have Arlene, this very special Osprey girl, flying the skies above all of us. And that feels just right.

Thank you all for participating in the lottery and congratulations to Pat!

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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 Рand 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 ūüôā ¬†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