Tag Archives: Night Heron

New Year. New Dreams.

Mama Sandy is flying high. It’s January and that always brings a new proposal from her faithful husband Stanley. A brand new nesting season. And new dreams.

mama and papa oprey flying together January UD147Early on Sunday morning Papa Stanley brought her the proposal gift. A big fish she enjoyed on the perch while Stanley was watching her feast. I witnessed this annual ritual from my living room window while having my first cup of coffee. In the afternoon I went out with Dylan and found Stanley eating his own fish on a lamp-post close to the nest. We wished him Happy New Year and he nodded in response.

papa osprey eats fish UD147Sandy was watching him from the perch at the nest.

mama Sandy UD147And when he had finished his meal, he flew to the nest. Before long Sandy sent him back to the ‘home depot’. While there was evidence of hard work already that morning as large branches were sticking out from the nest, more building materials were needed.

papa and mama osprey in the nest UD147After Stanley left, we walked around the marsh and wished Happy New Year to Sandy too. She looked a bit stern, but I’m sure she was just inspecting Dylan’s new haircut.

mama osprey looks at us UD147The salt marsh was quiet. Most birds were still in hiding after the week-long cold spell. We found one Black-crowned Night Heron in a sunny patch close to the nest. He was wide awake. That was it.

black-crowned night heron ud147Walking back home we spotted only one Cormorant at the Sailing Center, where they usually like to congregate in large numbers. It was still very cool and windy.

cormorant ud147_edited-1Yesterday the weather had warmed up somewhat and we went to the dog park again. We noticed the salt marsh was getting more lively. Mr. Mayor was huddling right below the Osprey nest…

the mayor UD147… where Sandy was having lunch on the perch, while Stanley observed her from the nest. I noted considerable progress in their remodeling effort.

Mama osprey eats fish UD147

papa osprey at the nest UD147Some Wood Storks were visiting again. And a little Snowy Egret bravely shared their accommodations.

wood storks ud147_edited-2The Reddish Egret had recovered from his New Year celebrations and was doing his magical dance in search of a bite for lunch.

reddish egret 2 UD147_edited-2

reddish egret fishing UD147

reddish egret UD147And finally we spotted Miss Rosa on the other side of the marsh. But she didn’t see us. She was taking a nap in the sun.

Roseate spoonbill UD147Walking back towards the nest we noticed from afar that Sandy was in the middle of her daily exercise routine. Right foot up, left foot up. Dylan sat down and I tried to capture her movements.

mama osprey morning gymnastics UD147From a nearby islet a Tri-colored Heron was watching how it’s done. She stretched her neck to get a better view.

tri-colored heron ud147And a Blue Jay was paying attention too. He was exercising his neck trying to find a straight line of sight between the branches.

blue jay ud147Walking home, we spotted a small songbird with raptor’s habits. A Loggerhead Shrike was waiting for lunch to appear in his line of sight.

loggerhead shrike ud147_edited-1Exciting times! We will be sure to follow the highs and the lows of Mr. and Mrs. Osprey’s nesting season. I am certainly hoping there will be less drama and more highs than last year…for them and for us humans.  Thanks so much for visiting the salt marsh gang.

News from the Salt Marsh. Good. News. Only.

My friend and a great bird photographer, H.J. at Avian 101, and his lovely family came for a short visit earlier this week. H.J. and I walked around the salt marsh talking and snapping pictures. Despite the very dry conditions that had lasted for several weeks, we spotted a few familiar faces. The Mayor was honoring H.J’s visit with his presence for the first time in a month!

Great blue heron Mayor ud71And Mama Osprey flew over the marsh a couple of times. She looked at us, but didn’t stop at the nest.

Mama osprey flies by UD72And Miss Rosa was demonstrating her now famous beauty routine to her friends, the White Ibis.

roeate spoonbill and white ibis ud72.jpgWe also found a few Snowy Egrets playing at a little mud pool amidst tall grass.

snowy egret ud72They had a little friend with them too, a Tri-colored Heron. But it was obvious there were some sandbox issues as he was playing more by himself.

Tricolored heron ud71 (2)

It was difficult to get any picture of him…that is, until he peeked out from the grass, his long neck completely stretched out. Peek-a-boo!

Clouds started to gather and we heard distant rumble when we left the salt marsh to have lunch. As soon as we sat down in the Cuban/Spanish restaurant on the bay side, the heavens opened and we had a torrential downpour with all the trimmings. We enjoyed a nice lunch while nature got a much needed soaking.

It was great to see this lovely family again. Thanks H.J., Lucy and Tyler for stopping by here and for a wonderful lunch! And thank you for bringing the much needed rains 🙂

I trust H.J.  got some great captures of the Major, Miss Rosa and some of the other residents despite the quiet mood at the time.

columbia restaurant ud72After much more rain overnight, I walked by the marsh the next morning with Dylan and snapped an iPhone picture. What a difference! The water level was up 5-6 inches and  many birds (the white dots are Great and Snowy Egrets) were enjoying the newly acquired freshness.

salt marsh w iphone ud72Around lunch time I went for a walk again. The marsh was still brimming with birds, but many of them had now sought shelter from the sun in the trees and bushes. It was very difficult to get pictures of them, demonstrated by the Little Blue Heron here. She had now turned almost blue from her very white juvenile appearance just a few weeks ago.

Little Blue Heron UD72She had lots of company in the trees close by. Several Night Herons were sleeping nearby, like this juvenile Black-crowned Night Heron.

Juvenile Black-cowned Night HeronI had to almost crawl on the slippery grass to get a glimpse of Miss Rosa between the branches.

Miss Rosa ud72Snowy Egrets were flying back and forth, competing for the best view over the water.

Egret landing ud72

two snowy egrets ud72And the loser was not always happy having to leave the best spot. But who would be?

snowy egret not happy ud72Mama Sandy was back at the nest directing the traffic at and over the marsh. It’s obvious from the disarray of the feathers on her back that she’s still molting. Papa Stanley has not been around lately, I am assuming he took a solo vacation after Lady Cawcaw left the nest. Or a long fishing trip with his pal Steve.

mama osprey at the nest ud72.jpgAfter a while, Miss Rosa got enough of the crowded trees, or maybe she got hungry. She flew down and started looking for food.

Miss Rosa flies away ud72

Miss Rosa roseate spoonbill ud72I left the salt marsh happy for the birds, who now have lots of food in the previously dry mud flats. In the midst of all the distressing news, it is a privilege to be able to lift up one’s spirit in nature. We cannot allow ourselves to get stuck in the darkness.

snowy egret 2 UD72Last, I have some other good news as well. My net shop, Nature Bound Art, is now open at Fine Art America. Unique and hopefully inspiring gifts based on my photos and digital art are now available in many parts of the world. Please check it out.

I hope you will lift your spirits in nature too. Peace.

 

Hunching Party. And a Mystery Bird over the Salt Marsh.

Girl making a snowman digital artI hope all friends are warm, safe and dry after the blizzard and coastal flooding that hit so many states here in the US this weekend. We had gale force winds from the ocean for two days and Florida winter temperatures in the 30s, but today things are much calmer, winds only at 10-15 mph, sun and pale blue skies.

winter beach JAN ud44I finally got a chance to go check on my feathered friends at the salt marsh. And wanted to give you a quick update on the state of affairs before the work week swallows me again.

Many birds were out and about braving the cool weather. A real hunching party. Everybody was puffed up, like these White Ibis taking in the sunshine.

white ibis ud44Just when I arrived at the osprey nest,  Papa Stanley flew in with soft materials for the nest cup. In preparation for egg laying.

papa osprey brings nest materials ud44Mama Sandy seemed pleased and put it carefully in place in the middle of the nest. And then they just sat there together warming up after the cold night. The nest platform held through the storm again, which is a a good sign considering that it now seems impossible to do any repairs until after the nesting season. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it holds until summer.

papa and mama osprey at the nest ud44I spotted several juvenile Night Herons seeking shelter in the bushes under the osprey nest, some were awake, some asleep.

juvenile night heron ud44

another juvenile night heron ud44A Snowy Egret was huddling there too, airing her beautiful plumage in the breeze. And for the first time in weeks, I found a Tricolored Heron.

snowy agret ud44This slender heron was almost unrecognizable hunching there all puffed up.

tri-colored heron UD44I had just spotted the young Muscovy Duck, when I heard a loud discussion at the other end of the marsh.

muscovy duck ud44Based on the dialect I heard, it was between two Great Blue Herons. You guessed it, the Mayor and the youngster. When I glanced over there, I saw that the young GBH had occupied the Mayor’s Office. He clearly harbors aspirations to take over. But the Mayor didn’t like it. The impostor got chased away. He flew up to a tall cypress and settled at the top to consider his options. Sandy and Stanley were not delighted to see him either. Stanley gave a sharp warning call.

young great blue heron flees ud44When I came closer, I saw the Mayor was still very upset, probably thinking what his next step should be.

great blue heron mayor ud44He didn’t settle in his office for long, instead he flew to an islet closest to the group of trees where the youngster was. To keep an eye on his rival. Wise move.

mayor great blue heron ud44This season promises to be interesting. The youngster has not mellowed, if anything he seems to be challenging everyone.

Walking away from the drama, I spotted a Wood Stork. He was separated from his friends who were huddling in the bushes a bit away. They were not willing to pose for a photo.

woodstork ud44But the Great Egret was. He had witnessed the high-pitched discussion between the Blue Herons, and seemed happy that the peace had returned.

great egret in breeding plumage ud44I decided to walk home on the bay side. Leaving the salt marsh, I noticed a sweet juvenile Snowy Egret bravely exploring the marsh on her own.

juvenile snowy egret ud44The bay shore was almost empty. Some pelicans were fishing on the bay and another Great Egret was hunching in the sun next to the sailing club pier.

great egret ud44That’s when I saw the Turkey Vulture circling overhead. I snapped a couple of pictures of him at our driveway.

turkey vulture 2 ud44The surprise came when I looked at my pictures at home. Look carefully. Do you see anything strange? He has the letters HAX on his right wing, doesn’t he? I had to look at all my pictures to believe that marking really was there. I have no idea what that could be. Do you?

I wish you all a good week ahead. Take care.

 

 

Flooding. Deserted Salt Marsh. And the Mayor’s Speech.

After 21 straight days of storms that dumped over 20 inches of rain on us, I’m happy to report we’re seeing the sun again here on the west coast of the “sunshine state”. When the rain finally stopped on Monday afternoon, I went to check out the flooding. And to see if I could spot any of my feathered friends.

beach and park flooding after the storms sand key clearwater florida

The beach and all the trails to the park were flooded. The new “Beach Lake” was even bigger than last week. As the rain had stopped, some boys tried to play ball at the shallow end of it. Lots of splashing.

playing ball on the flooded beach sand key clearwater florida

It was still gloomy, but the sun tried to show its face from under a hefty cloud cover. I didn’t want to repeat my wading exercise from last week, so I walked to the salt marsh on the street and the partly flooded walkways. The only bird I found on the usually lively bay shore was this Willet bathing in the floodwaters.

a willet bathing in flood water bay side sand key clearwater florida

And I spotted Papa Osprey. He was perched on a lamp-post far away, shaking his feathers and looking quite disheveled.

male osprey on a lamp post sand key clearwater florida

Entering the park, I saw flooding everywhere. All low-lying areas were under water, and the doggy park just north of the salt marsh had become a water feature for the birds.

flooding in the park sand key clearwater floridadoggy park under water sand key clearwater florida

Otherwise the salt marsh was deserted.  I walked around looking for my friends, water sloshing around my boots. The only birds I could find, in addition to those at the doggy park, were the young Great Blue Heron and Mama Sandy.  The heron was walking in the high grass, and Sandy was roosting at the nest. She was clearly tired of the rains. Just like me.great blue heron inspects the marsh sand key clearwater floridafemale osprey perching at her nest Sand Key park Clearwater FloridaThe water level in the marsh was too high for many of the birds to hunt there…and still rising. So they had evacuated.

salt marsh under water Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Yesterday afternoon, after three days of sunshine, I went back there to check how things were progressing. The flood waters in the park had receded considerably, but the marsh was brimming with water, and the beach was still flooded.

To my delight, I found that many residents had returned. The old Great Blue Heron, the Mayor, was surveying his little village at the west end of the marsh. He was addressing the community. Saying it was safe to return, I gathered.

great blue heron inspects the marsh Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

I had to laugh when I saw the crowd on the fence of the doggy park. They were listening to the Mayor while trying to dry up in the sun. The park was too soggy for the dogs to come back, so it was a safe place to roost.

egrets and ibis perching on the fence in the dog park Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Egrets and Ibis were perching on trees and bushes in big numbers. Like white dots sprinkled all over the marsh. And the Roseate Spoonbill was enjoying some shade at her usual spot below the osprey nest. She kindly agreed to a photo shoot.

birds in the salt marsh after the storms Sand Key park Clearwater Floridaa roseate spoonbill Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

The young Night Heron was back too, drying his feathers next to the deep water. It looks like he’s become a permanent resident. Decided the salt marsh was a safe place to grow up.

juvenile night heronSand Key park Clearwater Florida

The tiny Tricolored Heron surveyed the water levels at the east end of the marsh, looking a bit anxious. She probably understood it’d be some time before she could go hunting there again. The grassy little pools where she’d normally go fishing were now part of the “lake”. Full of big, scary fish.

tricolored heron on a stormy day Sand Key park Clearwater Floridafish in the salt marsh Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

The Mottled Ducks were happily cruising the waters, and so were the Moorhen families. With kids of all ages.

moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Floridamoorhen chick and a juvenile moorhen Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

And Mama Sandy was perched in her “watch tower”, monitoring the busy air traffic between the bay and the beach. I saw the young Great Blue Heron fly over the nest, and heard Sandy give a stiff warning. She has no tolerance for fools who’ve attacked her nest.

female osprey Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Before going home, I had to check on Papa Stanley too. He was back in his resort, looking much more put together. And really paying attention to me. I felt tiny under such scrutiny.

male osprey Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Life at the salt marsh is slowly returning to normal.  We all wish you a wonderful weekend and thank you for coming to see us. Much appreciated. Just like the sunshine.

Water. Everywhere. And an Oversized Wading Bird at the Salt Marsh.

There is so much water everywhere.  But I promise you’ll not get soaked if you join me for a quick inspection of the lay of the land water at the salt marsh. And you can wear nice shoes too. Or like me, no shoes at all.

storm over the bay UD18

On Sunday afternoon we got a small break from the relentless storms that have stayed with us for the last couple of weeks. The sun even peeked through the clouds occasionally. A good time to get in some exercise, both for the past and the coming week. All in one walk.

flooding on the beach sand key clearwater Florida

I waded ankle-deep, at times almost knee-deep, through the new rainwater “lake” that had formed on the beach. And walked right into a lively shorebird conference at the beach side of the “lake”. Hundreds of participants.

birds on sand key clearwater Florida

Some were bathing, others had passionate conversations, and a few just enjoyed the brief spell of sunshine. Like the Black Skimmer who’d fallen asleep on the beach. His pal flew in to check on him. Calling loudly for him to wake up already.

black skimmer sand key clearwater Florida

black skimmer sleeping on the beach sand key clearwater Florida

He woke up eventually, and they joined the others at the “lake”.  A baby Black Skimmer, the first I’ve ever seen, was wading tummy deep in the water while his sleep deprived mother was nodding off nearby. But there wasn’t much to skim, yet, for anyone. Just plenty of fresh water.

juvenile black skimmer sand key clearwater florida mama black skimmer sleeping sand key clearwater Florida

From there I walked through a flooded path towards the salt marsh to check on the residents. I felt like an oversized wading bird, but without the ability to fly over the puddles.

Once at the marsh, I found the water level was much higher than I’d ever seen. Many small islets and all my favorite photo spots were now under water.

salt marsh under water sand key clearwater Floridamy photo spot under water sand key clearwater Florida

Only a few birds were out and about. The young Great Blue Heron was trying to peek over the tall grass, and a Tri-colored Heron was out fishing. Successfully.

young blue heron after the storm sand key clearwater Floridatricolored heron hunting sand key clearwater Floridatricolored heron hunting sand key clearwater Floridatricolored heron hunting sand key clearwater Floridatricolored heron shakes off UD18I also spotted a small heron hiding in the partly submerged grass. My first thought was American Bittern, but after checking all my pictures of him, I now believe he was a juvenile Green Heron.

juvenile green heron sand key clearwater Florida

Some birds didn’t trust the weather man. They had stayed in their rain-shelters close to the Osprey nest. Like this Snowy Egret and the juvenile Night Heron with baby hairs.

snowy egret on a stormy day sand key clearwater Florida juvenile night heron sand key clearwater Florida snowy egret takes shelter in the storm sand key clearwater Florida

No sign of Mama or Papa Osprey. With all the lightning we’ve had, I wanted to see for myself they were okay. I decided to stretch my luck and go searching for them. Ignoring the fact that the next storm was already brewing in the skies. I walked towards Papa Stanley’s resort, and the minute I could see it, he flew in from the bay side.

male osprey sand key clearwater Florida

He was soaking wet, but had no fish. I was happy to see him safe and sound. And sure he’d catch a fish on his next dive.

papa osprey sand key clearwater Florida

As soon as Stanley had settled down, he turned his head and stared back towards the bay. That’s when I heard Mama Sandy. She was singing “I caught a fish, fish, fish”. I stepped back to the road side, and saw Sandy had landed on a lamp-post nearby. With a good-sized fish. They had been fishing together on the bay, but only Sandy had been lucky. I’ve long considered her a somewhat better fisher(wo)man than Stanley. Stanley is very good, but she’s master class.

female osprey with a fish sand key clearwater Florida

Sandy started eating her fish, and I wondered whether she would share some with Stanley. It was highly unlikely. And he didn’t ask for any either. In the Osprey world everyone fishes for themselves. Papa brings fish to Mama only when proposing to her, and when she’s incubating and raising small chicks. And both parents can bring fish to the chicks until they’re ready to start their independent lives.

osprey with a fish sand key clearwater FloridaIt was great to see both of them. I had to hurry home as it started raining gain. A few big drops at first, then buckets. And that pattern has continued. There’s no risk the salt marsh, or its stories, will dry up any time soon. Although it’s finally been sunny today. The first thunderstorm appeared only at dinner time.

Thanks for coming along. Have a great rest of the week.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Half and Half (8 Images)

This week’s DP photo challenge is “Half and Half”. It leaves room for quite a bit of creativity in the interpretation. I like that. Many things in life are half and half. Even today is half rain, half shine. Different from the day last winter, when the view from my terrace was half fog, half sky.

About half of these images are newer, the other half older. Almost half of you may have seen about half of them before. But because my hard disk is only working half and half since Friday, I can’t process brand new ones right now. I’m expecting a whole new hard disk to arrive at half week. I wish everyone a great week ahead, may there be nothing half and half about it.

You can find other responses to this challenge here.

golder hour on the Gulf
The golden hour on the Gulf.  Half sky, half ocean.
juvenile backcrowned night heron half and half
A juvenile Black Crowned Night Heron. Half adult, half baby.
A crater lake in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Half crater, half lake.
A crater lake in Queen Elizabeth National Park in Uganda. Half crater, half lake.
tri-colored heron portrait half and half
A Tri-colored Heron. Half in the picture, half outside the picture. Half sharp, half blurred.
two little boys on the beach
Two little boys on the beach. Half winter, half summer. One visitor, one local.
beach sunrise half and half
Sunrise on the beach. Half sand, half sky.
bumble half and half
Bumble. Half dog, half human. Or so he thinks.

Juvenile Sightings. Familiar Faces. And Death in the Salt Marsh.

I met this adorable Royal Tern fledgling on the only walk I’ve managed to take between all the thunderstorms and ordinary downpours this week. She looked at me curiously, then decided to demonstrate her newly acquired flying skills. She flew right onto the water’s edge, where quite impressive waves came crashing in. Her mom flew there too, probably to keep an eye on her.juvenile Royal Tern 2 UD 16Arriving at the salt marsh, I saw a flock of young ducklings on a little islet. I tried to get down to the water through some dense bushes and trees…and discovered I’m not that tiny. I scared them off with all the rustling of the dry palm leaves. Once they were on the water I counted them. Seven. Then I saw another three ducklings swimming off from a neighboring islet. The alarm bells had gone off there too. If, indeed, these were the same ten ducklings I’d discovered in April, then all of them had survived their first three months. That would make the salt marsh an exceptionally safe place for bird babies. mama mottled duck with 10 chicks UD3ten ducklings about three months old now UD16Soon they all disappeared together into an area of high grass where I thought their nest had been. That was a treat!

I continued my walk towards the Osprey nest. Mama Sandy was there. Her head was turned towards the skies and she was talking to someone up in the air.Mama Osprey watches Papa and Sindile UD16I looked up too and saw two Ospreys flying above the nest. I recognized Papa Stanley immediately, but who was the other one? I could see it was a young osprey with whitish edging to its flying feathers. Likely one of the chicks, but which one?papa osprey and sindile UD16Sandy and the two of them communicated back and forth as they circled over the salt marsh. I wished I’d taken osprey speak as an extra curricular activity back in school. I had no idea what they said. But it must have been something important. As soon as the two disappeared from sight, Mama Sandy took off and flew after them.

mama osprey flies after papa UD16After this exciting encounter I continued my walk. And spotted another familiar face. The young Night Heron I’ve seen on my recent walks was hiding in a tree next to the deep water.

juvenile night heron ud16She looked too cute, with baby hairs on her head standing right up. My hair was almost standing up too when I heard the loud noises. Unfamiliar. Definitely manmade. I turned around to witness the death of a huge palm tree close to the park entrance. I noticed the hard hats had also removed another dead palm tree I had shot a picture of some time back.death of a palm tree 2 ud16I was marveling about this park and the good care it gets, when I spotted something very much alive. A dragonfly. It was resting on a broken branch, enjoying the temporary pleasure of bright sunshine. Just long enough for me to snap a picture.dragonfly 2 UD16Walking towards the beach along the Northern side of the salt marsh, I found the tiniest Moorhen chick I’ve ever seen. She was struggling in the grass with her huge feet, flapping her little wings-to-be for balance, and finally came down to the water where her mom was waiting.moorhen chick 2 UD16moorhen chick UD16Walking home through the beach I spotted more young birds. Mr. Willet was teaching foraging skills to his two juveniles. Mrs. Willet was taking a walk nearby. Just another ordinary family in Mother Nature’s village. Much like us, I mused.willet in breeding plumage UD16I came home just before the storm dragons started dancing in the skies again, in line with the weather pattern we’ve been seeing so far this week.storm clouds UD16It was a good time to do some detective work based on the pictures I have on the three Osprey chicks in flight. I came to the fairly reliable conclusion that the young Osprey flying with Stanley had been Sindile, the youngest chick who left the nest only two weeks ago. Yay!

I hope you enjoyed this short walk between the downpours. Have a great rest of the week.