Tag Archives: Osprey nest

Return of the Mayor. And Other Salt Marsh News.

Before Hurricane Irma visited the salt marsh in early September, all the resident birds evacuated prompted by their natural instincts. The marsh was already deserted when I was still trying to get tickets out of here for Dylan and myself…and the sun was still shining. It was eerily quiet. The mandatory evacuation orders for human residents on this barrier island did not have the same effect. Many stayed to ride out the storm.

Salt marsh before Irma UD141I have to say the salt marsh fared quite well. Most of the old, tall trees are still standing. But the debris took weeks to clear out.

salt marsh debris after Irma ud141

Irma debris at the salt marsh ud141

salt marsh after Irma ud141When I visited the park on my day at home between the storm and my trip to Europe, there were no birds. They had all stayed at their evacuation resorts. Apart from one.

papa osprey right after the storm ud141.jpgPapa Stanley was perching at the sailing center. He had returned to check out his forest and his home. Or maybe he was looking for Mama Sandy. I’m pretty sure he saw the nest had not been damaged…before he took off again.

Irma 2017 ud141When I came back from my trip in October most of the debris had been hauled away and I found this ‘monument’ at a small clearing where several trees had fallen. But only a couple of birds had returned. Among those Mama Sandy. She was perching at the nest looking a bit tousled, very serious and definitely wet. It was good to see that she, too, had made it through the storm. But now Papa Stanley was nowhere to be seen.

mama osprey after Irma ud141A lonely Tri-colored Heron was trying to figure out how to find something to eat despite the still very high water levels at the marsh. And that was it. The evacuees were slow to return.

tricolored heron ud141Late that evening, Dylan and I spotted the young Great Blue Heron on the bay. He too seemed to wonder where everyone had gone.

younger GBH UD141And so it continued for about three weeks. I started to get worried about Papa Stanley. He had made it through Irma’s 120 m/h wind gusts, but why was he not home? And where were all the other residents, including the Mayor, the Clown and Miss Rosa?

papa and mama osprey are at home ud141Then one morning in early November I looked out of my office window and discovered a large gathering at the marsh. That was a great sight…and out I ran to witness the return of the evacuees and the migrating visitors.

The first birds I spotted were Papa Stanley (yay!) and Mama Sandy. They were having a mid-morning snack, perhaps following a joint fishing trip. Papa was perching on a lamp-post and Mama at the nest. And they were keeping an eye on each other.

papa osprey eats and looks at mama osprey ud141

mama osprey at the nest 16x9 ud141Finally the marsh was busy. Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Ibis, Wood Storks and others.

younger GBH and visitor wood storks ud141The younger GBH, who now looks very much like the Mayor, was patrolling the waters in his typical manner, pretending to be the boss. Some of the Wood Storks gave him the look.

wood stork ud141That’s when I saw a familiar fellow in the corner of my eye. The Mayor had returned! He was foraging far away, completely undisturbed.

the great blue heron Mayor fishing ud141_edited-2Knowing the history of these two, I thought things might get interesting. And before long, the Mayor discovered his young rival. He decided to check on the youngster.

the GBH Mayor moves in ud141_edited-2The young fellow noticed the developments. But he didn’t back off from his newly acquired position of power. Looking determined he continued his march…

young GBH ud141

younger GBH discovers mayor ud141… until he realized the Mayor was running on water. And closing in on him.

GBH ud141The Mayor took a detour onto a grassy islet, but continued his approach with determination.

the mayor ud141Tension was building. Everybody was watching.

three wood storksThat’s when I discovered that the Reddish Egret, the Clown, had returned. He was not performing his usual tricks. Instead, he stood frozen in place under some mangroves. Watching.

reddish egret ud141The little Snowy Egret, who was hiding in the grass close to the scene, decided it was better to keep some distance. One never knew what could happen.

a snowy egret ud141

snowy egret flies away ud141The Mayor continued his march, and finally the two ‘great blues’ were face to face.

young and old GBH face to face UD141And this is what happened…

The old Mayor still has the spark. The younger GBH ended up on dry land, his feathers all buffed up. He quickly assessed the situation – and walked away. Everyone seems to prefer it that way.

younger GBH ud141 A couple of days ago, Dylan and I went to the dog park in the middle of the day…and found the same crowd at the marsh – minus the younger ‘great blue’. The party was still going on. The Clown discovered my camera and decided to perform an elaborate bathing ritual for his captive audience.

Reddish Egret the Clown ud141

Reddish Egret takes a bath ud141

reddish egret sits in the water ud141We left this delightful ‘photobomber’ happily sitting in the shallow water. Normalcy has returned to the salt marsh.

mourning dove ud141Some of you may wonder what happened to Miss Rosa. I was pondering that too, until the other night. Dylan and I discovered her all alone at the marsh at sunset time. And she was there even last night. She is definitely back home too.

Miss Rosa the Roseate Spoonbill at sunset_edited-1Opening my terrace door this morning, I discovered that both Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley were at the nest. That was remarkable. But Stanley’s early visit didn’t last long. Sandy told him in no uncertain terms to wait at least 4-5 more weeks. And promptly chased him away. He will be allowed in the nest only after a proposal dance and a special gift delivery. Traditions have to be respected. And everything has its right time.

mama osprey chases papa away from the nest ud141I noted that Irma, however powerful, had not been able to sweep the nest clean of building materials Sandy had put in place last year. But this couple will still need to do quite a bit of remodeling when the nesting season starts at the end of December.

With that, we all wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. And peace.

Moon Happy Thsnksgiving

 

Moonlight. Cinderella. And Operation Osprey at the Salt Marsh.

A text message flashed on my screen late on Thursday afternoon. The countdown to replacing the osprey nest platform had begun. Yay! I gathered my two cameras and called my friend Gladys. We arrived at the salt marsh just when the last rays swept over the water. We noticed right away that the Mayor had come to oversee the construction project. As he should.

the older great blue heron mayor ud90.jpgAnd so had the Tri-colored Heron, who appeared quite surprised encountering visitors at this late hour. But tonight he would see something he hasn’t seen before.

tricolored-heron-ud90We walked around the marsh as the sun plunged into the ocean. Dusk arrived fast. We could hardly see a family of White Ibis feeding at the shallow part of the marsh.

white-ibis-ud90We returned to the bay end of the marsh to wait for the contractor’s truck. A Little Blue Heron was relaxing right below the nest. She had no idea what was to come.

little-blue-heron-2-ud90We sat in the swing. We chatted. It was 6 p.m. and no truck in sight. We learned they were heading our way, so we walked onto the road hoping that they would arrive before the gates were set to close at 6:30 p.m. Standing there we suddenly heard something unusual. Hooves. Cinderella and her prince rode past us in a lit carriage. We cheered them on. What a romantic wedding transport.

cinderella-wedding-2-ud90We waited. And suddenly Mama Sandy flew towards the nest. Oh no! She shouldn’t be witnessing this particular project. It could be traumatic. So I shouted to her not to come to the nest – and luckily she flew away.

mama-osprey-flies-by-at-night-2-ud90The moon appeared in the sky and the blue hour soon turned into darkness. That’s when a huge truck turned into the park and into the salt marsh. Phew. Blake and Matt from Powertown had made it with only 15 minutes to spare before nobody could enter the park, only exit.

truck-arrives-ud90The tree trimming undertaken by the park personnel a few weeks earlier made it possible to park the truck right next to the nest.

truck-at-the-nest-ud90I took the last picture of the completely run down nest platform. It had seen many nestlings grow and fledge over the years. But it was time for this Osprey couple to move into a safe, new home for the next nesting season.

last-picture-of-the-old-osprey-nest-ud90We got a first glimpse of their new ‘mansion’ next to the truck, before the lift arm was deployed and Blake went up to remove the old platform.

nest-dish-ud90

hard-hat-going-up-to-the-nest-ud90-2It was exciting to watch, but we could not see much in the pitch black night.

at-the-nest-ud90The mosquitoes had now come out in full force. And it was well past the time for Dylan’s nightly walk. So we decided to go back home to take care of dinners, walks and the like. After I came back from our 1.5 mile walk, I went out onto the terrace. It was 7:45 p.m. As you can see the park was pitch black, but work was still going on at the nest.

working on the nest at night ud90.jpgOn Friday morning I was up early. And took a camera with me for Dylan’s morning walk. At the Sailing Center, Cormorants and Anhingas had gathered to greet the misty sunrise.

morning-meeting-ud90Up on a lamp-post opposite the salt marsh, Mama Sandy was inspecting her new mansion from the distance.  When she turned to greet us, I told her to muster the courage to check it out in person sooner rather than later.

mama-osprey-morning-after-ud90Dylan and I walked into the park to check out the new dish. It looked great! Unlike the old platform, it could easily accommodate both parents and 3-4 chicks.

new-osprey-nest-ud90We did not walk around the marsh, but caught this Great Egret greeting the rising sun right next to the new nest.

great-egret-2-ud90When we walked home, I spotted Mama Sandy. She was flying past the nest. She did not go there as yet, but I was sure she would find it very comfortable. Her old ‘furniture’, which (minus some red ants) was carefully carried back into the new nest, should make it feel familiar.

mama-osprey-flies-by-the-nest-ud90Once the nesting season begins, I’m sure Papa Stanley will find the new perch very useful. He no longer needs to find another perch in the woods or on a lamp-post when he wants to stay close by.

On Saturday, Sandy was still in the watching mode. She perched very close to the nest and observed it intently, but she didn’t go there. Then this morning – voilà! She had convinced herself that the new ‘mansion’ was safe – and all hers. The best sight ever!

mama-osprey-on-the-perch-ud90Later this morning I took a walk at the salt marsh. Sandy was still there, visibly happy for the new perch and her new home. Soon she flew away, and I heard her tell all about their new home to Stanley. There was a lively discussion in the sky above the bay. Perhaps they were planning for additional furnishings. And trips to Home Depot by Stanley.

mama-osprey-at-the-new-nest-ud90The marsh was busy. The Mayor was there again. And the Reddish Egret entertained me with his hunting dance.

great-blue-heron-the-mayor-ud90

white-ibis-and-reddish-egret-ud90

reddish-egret-hunts-ud90The smaller wading birds were back too. I spotted the Little Blue Heron in deep thought. And the Tri-colored Heron was happily hunting around. Everything was in good order.

little-blue-heron-ud90

tri-colored-heron-ud90Operation Osprey was a great success. I want to express my sincere thanks to Duke Energy  for their generous grant and all others who contributed to funding this project, including Sand Key residents, blogging friends, and Sheraton Sand Key Resort. My thanks also go to Kathy, the Chief Ranger at Sand Key Park, and her staff for all the tree trimming that was necessary to make this project possible. And to my friend Gladys for her help on the fundraising and always being there despite the fact that mosquitoes liked her more than they liked me. Last but not least, my thanks go to Barb at Clearwater Audubon Society and to Steve, Blake and Matt at Powertown Line Construction for making this all happen.

We all wish you a peaceful week ahead.