Tag Archives: Osprey chicks

The Salt Marsh. Our Favorite Place.

After learning about this week’s photo challenge, my first thought was that it will be impossible for me to select one favorite place. There were too many great candidates for that title. Victoria Falls? The pyramids in Giza? The many great wildlife spots in Africa? The ancient treasures in Italy or Greece? My childhood lake in Finland? The Old Town in Stockholm? The list was long. But thinking about it I always came back to a place I can see every day right through my office window. The salt marsh at the north end of our barrier island. It’s always there. At sunrise and sunset. Rain or shine. Its mood constantly changing.

sunset at salt marsh 3 ud155

marsh at sunset UD155

salt marsh w iphone UD155And Dylan agrees with my choice. Whenever I say let’s go to the park, it’s clear from the speed of his tail that I’m on the right track. He loves to play at the dog park next to the marsh with his amigos, Saki, Eli, Snickers and others.

saki smiles 2 ud155

Eli march 23 UD155

snickers march 23 UD155So here we are, on ‘hatch watch’. From what we have been able to glean looking at the osprey nest from our terrace, the osprey couple now has hatchlings. While Mama Sandy is not yet allowing her chicks to be shown in public, her moves in the nest reveal that she is in the ‘mothering mode’. Sorry for the poor picture quality as these two images were taken handheld from almost 300 yards on my compact superzoom camera.

mama osprey attends to chick ud155Sandy gets up often and bends her head down into the nest cup. And after Papa Stanley has brought in a fish, her head stays down for several minutes. She moves around as in feeding more than one chick.

mama osprey feeds hatchling ud155Last night around sunset time, when we passed the nest and Stanley had just left to get dinner, she even stood up in the nest to preen herself. A sure sign that the eggs have hatched this week.

mama sandy at sunset ud155The nest cup is so deep that it will probably take a week or two before I can get ‘proof’ of the newly hatched chicks in the form of a grainy picture from my terrace. And a couple of more weeks before I can get the first baby portraits from the ground. Patience girl. Patience.

papa osprey ud155Papa Stanley is guarding the nest whenever he is not on a fishing trip. Yesterday, again, there was another osprey flying around the nest.

another osprey ud155Stanley sounded alarm and when that was not effective, he promptly went to chase it away.

papa osprey lands at the nest UD155When we passed under the nest a few minutes later, he was back on his guard post and nodded a friendly greeting.

papa osprey UD155I’m sure he had noticed that both the Mayor and the younger Great Blue Heron were present close to the nest. Staring at each other from the opposite sides of the deep water.

great blue heron Mayor ud155

younger Great Blue Heron ud155The Mayor’s presence was a good thing. It was less likely that the younger GBH would get bad ideas. Like considering attacking the osprey nest. He may remember that any attempt to approach the nest will not be tolerated. He would get his butt feathers ruffled by Stanley.

mama osprey UD155 9x16Mama Sandy was alert too. Maybe she remembered her dramatic encounter with the youngster a couple of years ago (below). Despite the difference in size, she did give the young heron a lesson.

mama osprey prevents attack by blue heron ud155But there was one fellow who only had time for himself … and the camera. As soon as the Reddish Egret, aka the Clown, saw my camera, he started his usual hunting dance.

reddish egret 1 UD155

reddish egret 2 UD155

Reddish Egret hunting UD155I always enjoy watching his performance, but this time he didn’t catch a fish. Someone else did. A young Great Egret walked around at the far end of the marsh showcasing his catch.

great egret with a fish ud155He kept an eye on us so we didn’t dare to move closer. Instead we spotted a Tri-colored Heron hunting for crustaceans in the shallow water.

tri-colored heron hunts ud155I was wondering if it was the same bird now being exhibited at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (below). Whatever the case, I am happy that one of the salt marsh residents made it to the “Forever Young” exhibition.

tri-colored heron Sand Key Park AHK UD155Just before leaving the park, we discovered something you can only see at the salt marsh. A bird reading a sign.

great egret read a sign ud155The Great Egret was wet. He looked relieved to see the no swimming sign pictured a human rather than a bird. He had already been swimming.

We all wish you a pleasant weekend and a great week ahead. Thank you for visiting our favorite place.

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.

 

 

 

Baptism by Fire. And More Drama from around the Salt Marsh.

I heard an osprey cry. And it didn’t come from the nest. I looked around and couldn’t believe my eyes. Right there in front of me, in the shade under a tree, was Lofty. The oldest of the three Osprey chicks. The day before he’d flown only from one side of the nest to the other.

Oldest osprey nestling practices flying Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty flies from one end of the nest to the other on Wednesday…

And now he was on the ground. Next to a busy road in the park. Being harassed by several black birds.

Osprey fledgling on the ground Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty on the ground right in front of me on Thursday…

Such a beautiful bird. But why was he on the ground? Was he injured? Was he resting after his first flight? Right at that moment Lofty looked at me, flapped his wings and flew up over the salt marsh. Tightly followed by his tormentors.

osprey fledgling chased by grackles Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty flies around the salt marsh chased by his harassers…

I’d call that baptism by fire. He flew several rounds around the salt marsh, even over the nest, and cried. He didn’t attempt to land. But Mama Sandy communicated with him. I guess she advised him to fly towards the ocean.

osprey fledgling in flight over the nest Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty flies over the nest and communicates with Sandy…

And that’s what he did. His harassers didn’t follow. He disappeared over the Gulf of Mexico. That was the last I saw of him.

osprey fledgling in flight Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty flies towards the ocean at the other end of the marsh…

Until several hours later. Looking with my binoculars from our terrace, I saw he was back in the nest with his two siblings, Aspire and little Sindile. Having dinner. All was good. That was last night.

dinner time in osprey family Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Dinner in the Osprey family…

This morning I was curious to see if he would be in the nest. But wasn’t prepared for what I came to witness.

It was a gorgeous morning, almost clear skies, light winds and low humidity. Walking from the beach towards the nest, I was greeted by a Roseate Spoonbill and a Snowy Egret, both enjoying the peace of the morning.

roseate spoonbill in the morning Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Roseate Spoonbill checks out the early visitor…
snowy egret in the morning Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
A Snowy Egret checks out her breakfast options…

Approaching the nest, I could see Mama Sandy there with two sleepy chicks, Aspire and Sindile. The breakfast was over.

 an osprey nestling Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Sindile lifts up her head…

Suddenly Lofty flew in. I later understood he came to tell Aspire it’s time to fly. They had a short dialogue. Mama Sandy just listened. Sindile closed her eyes.

dialogue between osprey chicks Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty tells Aspire it’s time to fly…
dialogue between osprey chicks Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Aspire gives her arguments…

Shortly thereafter Aspire flapped her wings vigorously (I’m assuming for now that Lofty is a boy and both Aspire and Sindile are girls…that might change later). But she didn’t fly. Lofty got beaten right on his head in the process, but took it in stride. He wanted to go flying with Aspire, and proceeded to demonstrate how easy it was. The rest is in this two and a half  minute video clip (Lofty is the one to the left, Aspire is in the middle and little Sindile on the right). It’s wobbly and noisy, but I think a few of you might still enjoy it.

Aprire was also attacked by several black birds, just like Lofty yesterday. She flew a few rounds around the marsh. And even considered landing in the nest, but changed her mind. Her baptism by fire. Finally she shook them off and flew with Lofty towards the bay.

osprey fledgling is attacked by a grackle Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
A Raven attacks Aspire right after she left the nest…
an osprey fledgling is harassed by back birds Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Aspire is chased by black birds… and flies over the nest.
two osprey fledglings fly together Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty and Aspire fly together towards the bay…

You may wonder if Papa Stanley is still around providing for his family. You bet he is. One morning earlier this week, I was walking in the park just after sunrise. And there he was. Making a quick breakfast delivery. Came in, handed the fish over to Sandy, said hi to the chicks, and left.

male osprey brings a fish Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley brings in fish for breakfast…
Fish transport is complete by male osprey Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
The fish is now with Mama Sandy, Stanley says hi to the kids and flies away…

Very soon he’ll have one additional task. To teach the chicks how to fish. Lofty and Aspire will be coming back to the nest for food at least a couple more weeks, after which they’ll be good enough fliers to start learning how to fish for themselves. When they’re not successful, they’ll come back to the nest and wait for food brought in by both Sandy and Stanley.

osprey fledgling's first flight Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Aspire in flight today…

The chicks typically follow the male on fishing trips to learn how to spot, evaluate the size and dive for the fish. While an Osprey can carry a fish twice their own weight (record in the bird world!) they may drown if they put their talons firmly on a fish that’s too heavy. So Stanley, and Sandy too, have one more important teaching role once the three chicks become confident fliers.

I hope to catch glimpses of them carrying a fish at some point, but for now all eyes will be on little Sindile. It looks to me she’ll take her time before she fledges. But I’ve been wrong before.

Have a wonderful weekend. Fly free like a bird.

Dim the Lights. Bring the Envelope. (Or Guest Post XVIII)

Hiff there! It’s me again, Bumble. Long time no see. Finally Mom allowed me to do a guest post on her blog.  And I hope it’s not only because she had to.  I came up with the prize for the best name proposals for the Osprey chicks. And it’s my book telling my story. She’s lucky I’m still here with my wits intact. At almost fifteen. It’s a respectable age, don’t you think?

new bumble laptop5 ed
Typing at Mom’s laptop…

Anyway, I’m happy to see you all again. How’ve you been? I hope life is smelling good. Like chicken. And that you’re getting enough exercise. I still walk Mom four times a day, and I’m on a new diet. I take that back. It’s actually not a diet. I’ve changed the way I eat. And that’s changed the way I feel. I’ve gotten a new leash on life. I heard my groomer say that to Mom the other day. I didn’t quite get it as I already have a leash. Actually two, if you count the short orange one from the hospital. But who cares, I feel fine.

Had to pose for Mom the other day...
Had to pose for Mom the other day…

You’re not curious to know the secret anti-aging trick that has allowed me to keep my good looks well into old age? No, you don’t need to click on anything, or buy anything. I’ll tell you right now for free: no dog treats! Only fresh baby carrots and apples between healthy meals. Preferably grilled chicken. Or poached salmon. So now you have it.

Otherwise it’s been busy around here. We spend a lot of time in the office. Mom and I. And we’re working hard. She talks on the phone or writes. When she’s not flying somewhere or exercising with the birds around the salt marsh. And I guard all her papers.

bumble in mom's office
Guarding Mom’s papers in the office…

One of my favorite pastimes is listening to the osprey chicks on our terrace. I’d say watching, but that’d be a lie. My eye sight is not that good anymore.

Listening to the osprey chicks...and guarding Mom's drink. Water, I think.
Listening to the osprey chicks…and guarding Mom’s drink. Water, I think.

And even Mom uses some kind of long glasses to watch them. But they are loud when they want food. And they seem to eat all the time. Like I did when I was younger. Always helping Mom in the kitchen. Picked up anything and everything she dropped. Under five seconds, with a good margin.

Sorry. Here I’m talking away when we need to get down to business. Dim the lights. We got many great proposals on names for the three osprey chicks. I’m sure you’re itching to know the winners…oh, I almost forgot! I asked mom why they needed names in the first place when we could just call them the big, middle and little chick. Mom said it wasn’t just for fun. A name with a good photo helps to recognize them, should they show up again after they leave the nest. Even if it’s much later, like after my next birthday. A satisfactory explanation, I thought. Much like my ID tag. So here we go. Dim the lights again.

bumble meditating in the dining room
Dim the lights!

And bring me the envelope. Mom? You were supposed to sit on the couch here. And hand me the envelope with your Excel sheet and the rationales we agreed on. I’ll need to paste them here.  Why do you always complicate things …oh, there you are! Thanks Mom…I have to bite this open. And now I press  “insert”. Ta Da!

osprey chick names

Lofty describes the personality of the big chick to the dot. He is imposing and a bit patronizing. Always wants to have the fish for himself and eat first. And be the first in the air. Val wins a book!

Aspire is a great name for the middle chick, who is well behaved but otherwise aspires to be like the big chick, sits next to him all the time and tries to come and eat with him. Kathy wins a book!

Sindile is a suitable name for the little chick. It means survivor (African origin). She has grown to a beautiful bird despite meager odds. And is slowly getting more assertive. Nancy Tex wins a book!

Bumble counting the books BG
Just checking…yes, we have enough books. The rest will go to the shop at the shelter.

There you go! And all the others ( Gallivanta, Jackie, Lorrie, Nancy, Nancy, and Susan) share the second place and get a card with all the chicks’ IDs. Once Mom has gotten lucky with a neat picture of them. That I approve of.  I’ve already volunteered to help her print it on the cards. Maybe she’ll allow me to sign them as well. I think my paw print looks quite good. Mom doesn’t always agree. Like that time I put my print on one of her mementos, a Zambian driver’s license.

Bumble selfie BG
Looks can be deceiving…I’m a good guard dog.

All winners please send your address to me at tinylessonsblog@aol.com. I promise to keep it safe. I’ll growl if someone tries to steal it. And I’m prepared to bite should tough measures be required. Looks can be deceiving. But you already know that, right?

Bumble Skydiving BG
An illustration from my book…I’m living fearlessly.

Thanks for playing and live fearlessly. Until next time. Love, Bumble

Sunday Extra! Breaking News. But Don’t Tell Mama Osprey.

I know. You’ve already clicked through this weeks Salt Marsh News. But a short weekend edition seems to be called for as there’s some late breaking news.

It was hot yesterday. On the better side of 90 degrees (F). In mid afternoon Mama Osprey left the nest. She flew a few rounds around the marsh checking for any dangers. Flying by the nest, she realized the chicks were moving about and watching her. She sounded a sharp two-part warning: Heads down!  And down they went like by magic.

osprey chicks watching mama fly around Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The chicks are up and moving when Sandy has left the nest…
osprey nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and magically disappear on her command.

But that didn’t last long. As soon as Mama Sandy was out of sight, the oldest chick got up and flexed his wings. The middle chick next to him stayed down. The little chick lifted her head in amazement over the total disregard of Mama’s rules. The big brother flexed his wings vigorously. Faster and faster. And up in the air he went. Almost a whole foot.

osprey chick practices flying Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Flap! Flap! Flap! The big chick is in the air!

The middle chick next to him ducked further down. The youngest didn’t dare to watch. Big brother’s wobbly flight lasted only for a few seconds. And his landing was hazardous. An one foot operation.

oldest osprey chick lands Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
One foot down, the other almost on the middle chick…

But finally he gained his balance and got a firm footing. This reporter let out a sigh of relief.  Nobody hurt, nobody fell out of the nest. Weekend duty can be nerve-racking.

oldest osprey chick gains his footing Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…an additional flap, and both feet land nicely in the nest.

After that show of emerging talent everybody was quiet. Until Sandy returned ten minutes later. She was wet, obviously from diving. But to the disappointment of the chicks, she didn’t bring a fish this time. She just needed a bath.

mama osprey returns from her dive Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama is coming back! Fish, fish, fish!
wet female osprey is back in the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
You want fish? I needed a bath!

Mama was back. And nobody said a peep about the flying exercise that took place in her absence. And you won’t tell either, right?

Ps. If you have further suggestions on creative (and preferably gender neutral) names for the three chicks, please put them into your comments. Bumble will announce the winners in a special guest post he’s planned for Tuesday night. I think.

Empty Fridge. Life Lessons. And Romantic News from the Salt Marsh.

Mama Osprey’s fridge has been empty many times this week. The chicks are growing fast and have an endless appetite. Like teenagers usually do. When the meal time is over, all that’s left for Mama Sandy can be some shreds of a fish tail.

fame osprey feeding her chicks Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
A shred of a fish tail remains for Sandy’s lunch.

I’m no longer wondering why female ospreys lose 15% of their body weight during the nesting season. Sandy is a good example of a mom who always puts her chicks first. Male ospreys lose about 10% of their weight too. I guess the fish heads are not that filling. When the chicks were smaller, Stanley either waited in the nest until everyone had eaten or came back for the remaining tail. More recently he’s stopped waiting, and he doesn’t bother to come back to check for any leftovers. He knows there won’t be any.

male osprey leaves the nest Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Stanley leaves after his drop-off.

It’s been very hot this week, more like July-August temperatures. Luckily all three chicks are now big enough to be able to cool themselves. Sandy is still often protecting them from the hottest afternoon sun with her wings half-spread out. And the chicks are fluffing themselves up to let the sea breeze cool their skin.

Female osprey and an osprey chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy and one of the chicks managing the heat last weekend.

The chicks are also learning the skill of watching for any dangers. The oldest one, in particular, often sits upright and helps Sandy to scan the skies. And s/he is also able to eat directly from the fish now, once the smaller siblings have been fed.

Female osprey with a chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy checks out Tiny and one of the chicks scans the sky.

I haven’t spotted Papa Stanley making a fish transport since last Sunday. But that’s not so strange because his visits to the nest now are all about dropping off the fish, which only takes a few seconds.  I’m sure he’s still there. In any case Mama Sandy has started to fetch food too. It’s common for osprey moms go back to work as soon as the kids are big enough to be left alone for a while. There’s a need to complement what dad brings in.

female osprey returns to her chicks Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy returns to the nest from one of her short outings. The oldest chick was in charge 🙂

This morning Sandy totally surprised me. And I think she surprised the chicks too.  I heard the youngest chick ask for fish. She stretched herself up, looked over to the shallow part of the marsh. And off she went. I was taking a picture of the chicks alone in the nest – and whoops, she was back! With a fish. It took maybe about 30 seconds for her to pick up the fish from the water. I have never seen her fishing right there. Needless to say I was impressed.  Here’s the sequence of Mama Sandy going to the neighborhood seven eleven.

female osprey with osprey chicks Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy stretches up and watches intently…
female osprey with chicks Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Then she just flies out … down into the marsh.
osprey chicks waiting for female osprey to return Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
The two oldest ones watch her, but the youngest one is just asking for fish.
female osprey is back with a fish Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
Sandy is back with a fish…
female osprey got a large fish Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
…and it’s a fairly big one.

Sandy started feeding them right away. Less than two hours later I checked on them from home with my binoculars and they were eating again. Stanley must have brought another fish right after they finished the first one 🙂

Otherwise everything is good around the salt marsh. The Red-winged Blackbird has made himself home and is busy singing his songs in one tree or another. I love to see him, but wouldn’t pay to download his songs.

redwinged blackbird 3 UD6
A Red-winged Blackbird sings to his heart’s delight.

The Nanday Parakeet couple still lives happily in their condo apartment. The balcony and the patio perch come to good use in the heat.

nanday parakeet in her nest Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
A Nanday Parakeet on her balcony (I’m guessing it’s the female)…
nanday parakeet Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
…and her hubby on their perch patio.

The Red-bellied Woodpecker is still there, but no longer alone.  He’s gotten hitched! It was impossible to persuade both of them to sit together and pose for the camera. I had to merge two pictures to show you how they play.

Red-bellied Woodpecker couple Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
The Red-bellied Woodpecker couple close to their home.

And the Moorhen chicks continue to grow. I’ve spotted them on most of my walks this week exploring their surroundings with mom and dad.

A Moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida
One of the Moorhen chicks came out of the grass to explore a bit further.

That’s all from the Salt Marsh News for this week. I hope you’re learning good life lessons too, and that your week is going great.

Parenting Preteens. Exercise Regimens. And More Babies in the Salt Marsh.

I want to start this weeks update by showing you the bigger picture of the salt marsh and the eastern (bay side) part of the park where all the adventures of the Osprey family and other feathered friends take place. So here you have the “theatre of operations” 🙂

The bigger picture of the
The bigger picture of the salt marsh ~ click to enlarge.

And while we are on the pictures I took last weekend, you can also see the nest from above. It’s getting somewhat crowded.

ospey nest from above Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Osprey family pictured from above.

The chicks are growing fast. They resemble their parents more and more. I have to say I admire the parenting skills of this couple. Sandy has protected the youngest chick and ensured s/he gets a fair share of the food. And she’s taught all three kids patience and great manners. There are no signs of the usual sibling rivalry, no fighting or picking on each other.

Female osprey feeds the smallest chick at sunrise in  Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy feeds the youngest chick at sunrise today. Papa Stanley must have made a pre-dawn fishing trip and is now taking a well deserved nap.

Stanley brings in fish after fish all day long and participates actively in the upbringing of their offspring. Like any modern dad. And both of them are highly skilled in protecting the nest, as you’ve seen.

male osprey brings a fish into the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Stanley brings in a fish, head already eaten as usual.

One day I witnessed a quiet discussion between the parents while the chicks were napping.  Or more like a monologue by Sandy. Stanley didn’t say much. He was in the listening mode. I didn’t understand all of it, but it ended up by Sandy asking him to go fetch afternoon snacks.

osprey couple in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy asks for afternoon snacks.

Stanley obliged. He flew towards the ocean at exactly 2 p.m. And came back 17 minutes later with a shiny fish. Is that a record or what! He flew over the nest to show it to Sandy before taking it to his man cave for initial cleanup.

Male osprey goes fishing and comes back with a fish in 17 minutes Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Stanley flies towards the ocean and returns 17 minutes later with a fish.

The first-born chick has already started “wingersizing”. That means s/he may fledge within 10-14 days. The middle chick will not be far behind, and the youngest probably a few days after that. I made a short gif image for you to see how it’s done (sorry for the camera movement, I don’t usually carry my tripod on these short walks).

First born osprey chick exercises his/her wings by Tiny lessonsblog
First born chick exercises his/her wings by Tiny (click to see the exercise, repeats only three times).

Sandy now also leaves the nest a bit more often, but only for a minute or two, to bring in some reinforcements to the nest. Note how flat the chicks are lying in the nest while she’s gone.

female osprey brings new reinforcements to the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy brings in additional railing materials.

Luckily there hasn’t been any drama to witness this week. But I have some good news. In addition to the ten ducklings, there are three tiny Moorhen chicks in the salt marsh! I spotted them on a swim with Mrs. Moorhen yesterday.

Moorhen with her chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mrs. Moorhen with her three chicks.
a Moorhen chick Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Help! Where are you mommy?

They are tiny black fluff balls with red markings and really big feet. One of these days I hope to spot them walking in the grass so you can see for yourself. I’ve also tried to see if I could find the ten ducklings again, but instead of them coming out, I spotted these two dragonflies enjoying the sunshine just above their nest.

dragonfly Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A purple dragonfly…
dragonfly Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and a blue one.

The other day I also saw something funny I think you might enjoy. A juvenile Great Egret was exercising with a Mottled Duck. One, two, three, four. Repeat. This routine attracted another duck onto the scene. Perhaps also wanting to participate.

Young Great egret exercising with a Mottled Duck by tinylessonsblog
Young Great Egret exercising with a Mottled Duck (click to see the exercise, repeats only three times).

That’s all for this week from the salt marsh. Remember to keep moving, exercise is good for us too 😀