Tag Archives: Photo Essay

Fish Trouble for the Tern Couple. A Photo Story.

I spotted this Royal Tern couple on the beach in the middle of all the spring break activity – and just couldn’t leave their story for my next post. I hope you enjoy.

tern couple 1 UD114
You brought this fish for me, right?
tern couple 2 ud114
Go on, give it to me!
tern couple 3 ud114
Hey, I’m waiting…
tern couple 4 ud114
I mean it…give me the fish already!
tern couple 5 ud114
…I’m waiting…don’t make me angry…
tern couple 6b ud114
NOOO! What you doing? I want my fish!
tern couple 7 ud114
Ha! You won’t get away from me…
tern couple 8 ud114
Okay…we can sit and sulk here at the water’s edge … until I get my fish.

 

Summer at the Salt Marsh. Beach Party. Rivalry. And Construction Plans.

Hello friends! I’m still on my summer break, but since I’m at home right now I want to give you an update on the affairs at the salt marsh. H.J’s visit early this month brought in the regular thunderstorms with downpours that belong to our summer. At the salt marsh, water levels are up and everything is fresh green.

salt marsh ud73

salt marsh ud73A couple of days ago I took a walk on the beach and was invited to a beach party attended by hundreds of feathered guests. It was a jolly event with Black Skimmers, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Laughing Gulls, Herring Gulls, including juveniles, enjoying the freshwater ‘lake’ formed on the beach by the frequent torrential downpours. The ‘lake’ occupied almost the whole beach, leaving only a wet, narrow strip of sand next to the salt marsh.

beach party after the rain UD73Some partygoers were flying back and forth looking for the perfect spot, others were catching up on the latest, bathing or preening. It was lively indeed.

birds on the beach 2 ud73

royal tern UD73

juvenile gull ud73Some guests were resting, and yet others had partied enough and fallen asleep on the sand. But in such a crowd you’d better sleep with your eyes open, like this Black Skimmer.

black skimmer sleeping ud73Despite being attired with my newly acquired cheerful rain boots, I decided not to test the water depth in the ‘lake’, but instead to walk to the salt marsh through the bay side.

my new rain boots ud73.jpgThat was a great decision. I was rewarded with a pleasant discovery. Papa Stanley had returned from his 4-week vacation!

papa osprey ud73He was perching on the wind measurement device at the Sailing Center, obviously planning his next fishing trip. I could hardly see him as the sun was right in my eyes, but looking at my photos I realized he had definitely recognized me. From there I went to see Mama Sandy. She was ‘babysitting’ the nest again, and greeted me with a friendly nod. And I thought she tried to tell me about the dismal condition of the nest. We both agree that the nest will not make it through the nesting season starting in December.

mama osprey ud73I was happy to let her know that I’ve finally started the process of getting the nest repaired – or perhaps replaced. This will involve several steps: evaluating the nest pole to see if it has hollowed and will need to be replaced, and if that is the case, evaluating the ground to see if it can carry the heavy equipment needed to replace the whole structure with a new, more durable one. If the answer is yes, then I’ll have to get busy approaching sponsors to get help with the fairly high cost of this project. If the answer is no, then we’ll need to come up with plan B and only replace the nest platform that is falling apart. I hope to have these answers in the next few weeks through the Clearwater Audubon Society. While they don’t have the money to pay for this project right now, they have the required permits and the connections to suitable contractors, and have kindly agreed to help. Wonderful news for our Osprey family.

mama osprey at the nest ud73I promised to keep Mama Sandy updated. As I walked around the marsh, I observed something quite interesting. Both the younger Great Blue Heron and the Mayor were present. Staring at each other from opposite ends of the marsh. Measuring strength. As many of you know, the young one is a colorful character. He is still much smaller than the Mayor, but clearly has the desire to be the king of the hill, so to speak. He has been frequenting the marsh over the last three months, while the Mayor has taken care of his family on the ‘bird island’ in the bay. Last spring the Mayor told us ‘I’ll be back’ – and he has kept his promise.

young great blue heron ud73
Young GBH
great blue heron Mayor ud73
Older GBH, the Mayor

A Great Egret was following the developments with keen interest from a tree in the middle of the marsh.

great Egret ud73And a female Cowbird was excitedly cheering on the Mayor from a nearby tree.

female brown-headed cowbird ud73Miss Rosa was seeking shelter from the sun at her usual spot, but kept an eye on the two rivals as well. Particularly the youngster. She didn’t cheer.

roseate spoonbill ud73The Snowy Egret was staring at the young heron too, and he didn’t cheer either.

snowy egret UD73A family of White Ibis was foraging in the grass close by, probably hoping their youngster wouldn’t need to witness any brouhaha on such a beautiful day.

Juvenile ibis ud73Their wish was granted. The truce lasted, and each heron held on to its end of the marsh. I walked home and shot some pictures of flowers in our garden on my way in. Pink flowers. Just to celebrate summer.

I look forward to visiting my family in northern Europe early August. I may do a short mobile post from there. Otherwise I’ll see you after mid August. Lots to catch up on by then.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you are enjoying your summer too. Much love.

After the Storm at the Salt Marsh.

Late last night I was reading and watching TV in bed when I heard a strange rumbling noise. I didn’t recognize it. When it continued and the light started to flicker,  I went to the window and peeked out. And immediately saw where the sound came from. A full fledged storm raged outside, probably the strongest one we’ve seen this year. Strong winds made the rain fall horizontally and palm trees bend heavily, their “hair” flying sideways.

mama protecting the chick in rain storm UD3The hen mother that I am, I was immediately thinking of Mama Sandy and the chick in the nest. They would lay flat, their heads pointing against the wind. The chick would be leaning to her mother tightly, or even lay partially under her, like in this picture from last year. I couldn’t see them, of course. It was pitch black over the salt marsh. I was hoping that Papa Stanley and all the other birds residing at the salt marsh were in safe shelters. The storm lasted for about an hour, and I made a mental note to go check on them in the morning.

sunrise on the bay ud61We woke up to an almost cloudless sky. From my windows I could see the Osprey nest was still intact despite two of the four supports being loose. When I opened the blinds in my office, I saw Papa Stanley fly right past the window towards the ocean – going on a fishing trip, I assumed. Needless to say I was happy to see him.

So after Dylan had taken me for a walk, and I had enjoyed a cup of coffee, I went out to see how everything and everybody had fared the short but fierce storm. The ground was full of palm debris, but the first thing I saw arriving at the salt marsh was Sandy and the chick happily in the nest. Yay!

mama osprey and chick waiting for brunch ud61Sandy was asking for fish. It seemed Stanley had not yet returned from his fishing expedition. And Sandy was also making a series of alarm calls. I looked around and did not see any reason for alarm. It occurred to me that she might have done that to get Stanley’s attention. Bad thought. She would never do that. And then I saw the young Great Blue Heron hiding in the high grass very close to the nest. Too close for Sandy to be comfortable.

younger great blue heron ud61To my delight I found many permanent residents at home. The great Egret was watching his village from on the beach end of the marsh.

great egret ud61The juvenile Little Blue Heron, who is growing fast, had found a hunting companion, a Tri-colored Heron.

little blue heron juvenile ud61They were happily foraging in the shallow pools formed by the heavy rains over the mud flats. I saw hundreds, if not thousands of fish fry swim around in those brand new pools. These two birds had a blast.

tri-colored heron ud61And so did the Reddish Egret. He caught a bigger fish at the shallow end of the marsh.

reddish egret caught a fish UD61The “resort island” was occupied by a Snowy Egret and a couple of blue-eyed White Ibis. They seemed to enjoy the freshness brought by the rains. No pollen blanket floating on the water.

snowy egret ud61

two ibis ud61Just when I was crawling my way up from the natural “hide” close to the little island, I discovered Papa Stanley was finally flying in with a fish. I missed the fish, of course, as he had just landed when I could stand up and shoot a picture from the distance.

papa osprey arrives with sunday brunch ud61Walking towards the nest again, I saw that even the Night Heron couple had made it through the storm.

another night heron ud61

yellow-crowned night heron ud61The fish Staley brought must have been a big one because he stayed in the nest and all three started having their brunch together.

osprey family ud61The chick is eating by herself now, and was done first. She was looking happy having both her parents in the nest for brunch. And so was I.

after sunday brunch the osprey family ud61All was well. And with those good news, I wish you all a wonderful weekend and a great week ahead. I hope that you too can make it out to enjoy the nature.

 

Me and my Mama. And a Flight School at the Salt Marsh.

The chick closed her eyes and snuggled close to her Mama. Mama Sandy has been sad lately. She’s been grieving. Staying a lot in the corner of the nest where I now know the little chick’s earthly remains rest. The big chick is about 6 weeks old now, alert and following everything around her with healthy curiosity. I think it’s a she, but I might change my mind in the next couple of weeks.

salt marsh ud60 6x9I haven’t been taking Dylan on walks at the salt this past week. The poor guy still has to wear his cone. His vet told us to keep it on until Monday’s check-up. Needless to say Dylan is not a happy camper. He feels just fine, but the cone prevents him from doing so many essential things. Such as eating properly from his bowl or reading his daily newspaper in the grass. It’s like I would be trying to read the morning paper without my reading glasses. Not fun.

So today I decided to take a solo walk to check on our friends. It was lunch time and quite hot. I anticipated the marsh would be fairly quiet as birds tend to seek shelter from the midday sun. But I was happy to see many palm trees in full bloom.

palm flowers ud60

another flowering palm tree ud60When I arrived at the Osprey nest the chick was snuggling close to Sandy. Like taking care of her Mama. Then she started preening. And Sandy discovered I was there. We said our customary hellos.

mama osprey and osprey chick preening UD60After ten minutes of diligently cleaning herself, the chick settled down and started to check out her environment, including me.

osprey chick ud60

osprey chick 6 weeks old ud60She is a beautiful young Osprey now, and it will take only a couple of more weeks, if that, before she’ll be flying. I walked around the marsh and saw the young Great Blue Heron at the other end of the marsh. He didn’t dare to come close to the nest, which was probably good for his wellbeing. Mama Sandy was keeping an eye on him.

young great blue heron ud60I also spotted my newest friend, the juvenile Little Blue Heron foraging in the shade of some bushes. She is turning more blue every week, which unlike for us humans, is a good thing for a Little Blue Heron. She seems to be doing great.

juvenile little blue heron ud60Walking back towards the nest I saw two Florida Mottled Ducks tanning themselves in the midday sun.

two Florida Mottled Ducks ud60When I reached the nest again, I spotted the Reddish Egret. It was too hot to perform tricks, I guess, as he was just checking the marsh in quiet contemplation.

reddish egret ud60But the Osprey chick was not quiet. She had started her “getting-ready-to-fly routine” up in the nest. I made a short GIF so you can see all her elaborate moves. This young lady will take off soon!

osprey chick wingersizing may 14 2016Down in the pond this new routine didn’t go unnoticed. The Reddish Egret turned and followed the chick’s performance with great interest.

reddish egret looks at the nest ud60I left the salt marsh with mixed feelings. Sad that nature had decided there would be only one chick in the Osprey family this year, but happy knowing this young bird would have great odds to make it to maturity. Sandy and Stanley would feed her for a long time after she fledges, and take her on countless fishing trips to make sure she knows how to catch a fish before she leaves the nest towards the end of June or early July.

Waking home, I was delighted to find new palm flowers on my route, the White Bird of Paradise was in full bloom.

white bird of paradise flower ud60Thanks for coming along. I wish you all a peaceful weekend and a great week ahead.

Mama Osprey’s Little Wingman. And Danger Lurking.

Happy Mother’s Day to Mama Sandy! Being a mother is wonderful, but also exhausting and full of trials. Mama Sandy knows. She looks weary. I am not sure this picture shows two chicks, but this is the closest I’ve come this week to confirm that there still are two of them.

weary Mama Osprey and 2 chicks ud59But that doesn’t mean that the younger chick didn’t survive. S/he could just be in the middle of the nest and not yet looking out much. And even in the next picture s/he could be right in front of Sandy’s head.

osprey chick ud59The bigger chick is certainly thriving. S/he is wingersizing already. That long, out-stretched wing belongs to him/her!

This morning I took a solo walk to check on them. See, Dylan is not allowed to take long walks until next Thursday. He had surgery to repair a Cherry Eye in his left eye, which is still red. He has a cone to protect his eye, and is on three medications. Needless to say he doesn’t appreciate his current restrictions.

Dylan after surgeryAnyway, this morning I heard Mama Sandy give a sharp alarm call several times. I looked up in the sky, but couldn’t see anything flying overhead. At one time she was making herself ready to fly out, but changed her mind at the last moment. I was baffled. What was making her so upset?

mama osprey ready to defend the nest ud59I walked closer to the nest and discovered the reason she was on edge. The young Great Blue Heron was watching the nest intensively from the other side of the deep pond.

young great blue heron ud59After being discovered, he flew across the pond landing almost below the nest. And Sandy gave another sharp warning.

gbh flying ud59

younger great blue heron ud59Sandy was on her toes and ready to defend the nest. Because Papa Stanley didn’t fly in to assist her, I gathered he was out fishing. So I walked around the marsh to see who else was at home. The first one I spotted was the small Tri-colored Heron. She was hunting and didn’t pay much attention to me.

tricolored heron ud59The tiny juvenile Little Blue Heron, whom I saw last week for the first time, was also there. I think she’s made the salt marsh her new home.

juvenile little blue heron ud59On the north side of the marsh, two baby Mottled Ducks were having breakfast. Diving so often that I had a difficulty in capturing both of them up on the surface at the same time.

two ducklings ud59Mr. Mallard was also visiting the marsh for the first time this year. He posed nicely for the camera.

mr mallard ud59Walking further towards the beach end of the marsh, I had to laugh at this Northern Mockingbird.

Mockingbird ud59As soon as I walked by his tree, he started serenading me in advance of Mother’s Day. I took a 30 second video so he can serenade you too. The master of the songbird universe.

Reaching the end of the marsh, my attention was drawn to a Great Egret, who seemed very upset.

great egret ud59He was vocal too, and soon enough I saw why. The young Great Blue Heron was flying right towards him. I guess the GBH had decided he didn’t want to get his butt kicked by Sandy again, and wanted another piece of land to conquer.

young great blue heron ud59The Great Egret flew away, and the young GBH soon was the King of the Hill at the west-end of the marsh.

younger Great Blue Heron ud59I walked back towards the Osprey nest on the south side of the marsh. The only bird I saw there was a Blue Jay. He was moving all the time and gave me a hard time to get a shot.

blue jay ud59While I was occupied with him, I saw Papa Stanley circle around the nest with a fish. Mama Sandy did not say anything so he flew away with the fish. After reaching the nest, I sat down on “my” bench to change the battery in my camera.

mama osprey ud59I could only see Sandy. Then I saw a dark shadow flying over my head. It was Stanley coming back with the fish.

papa osprey brings a fish ud59He landed at the corner of nest. But nobody was hungry. This was around 10 a.m. and I guess Sandy and the chick(s) had just eaten. So he took the fish and flew away, presumably to eat it himself.

papa osprey delivers extra fish ud59

papa osprey flies away w fish ud59I’m sure he’ll need that extra energy as he’s fishing at least four times a day now, and probably eats less than any of them.

It was a gorgeous day and an eventful walk. Reaching our driveway a Mourning Dove was welcoming me home.

mourning dove ud59

With that I wish all mothers and grandmothers a wonderful Mother’s Day tomorrow.

 

 

Premature Rewards and Other Natural Phenomena. But Where Is the Baby?

Every evening on our walk Dylan and I have passed by the Osprey nest in a quest to see the Baby. But nothing since the picture in my post last week. So one evening I took my camera along for the evening walk. I thought I might as well teach Dylan to sit or lay down completely still when I lift my camera so I can use both my arms as a “tripod”. Well. That was easier said than done. See, there are too many traces of squirrels and other small animals around the salt marsh. Sitting or laying still is not an option.  Although we do it very well in the house.

Dylan two weeks at home 3On that walk we saw Papa Stanley eating dinner on the very lamp-post where he used to keep an eye on the three chicks last year. Since we were on the sidewalk, Dylan agreed to cooperate and I got one relatively shake-free picture of Stanley. He was looking over to Sandy in the nest. He had already eaten the head of the fish and was now working on the tail. The best parts would go to the nest.

papa osprey at sunset ud56Mama Sandy was in the nest, but we couldn’t see the Baby. We walked around the marsh trying to spot a small head. But could only see Sandy half asleep, lit by the last rays of the setting sun (featured image). And we saw a Red-winged Blackbird. He was shaking a bit too. In the camera view, that is.

red-winged blackbird ud50Those were the three somewhat usable images I got with Dylan as my assistant. And believe it or not, I haven’t had a minute to go out there on my own. See, my big project has entered its final stretch. And someone I know fairly well being a terrible procrastinator, the final stretch always means a long spurt. Of the kind that keeps me clued to my computer for at least 12 hours a day. I’m driven by deadlines, and I think I’ll never learn to pace my work properly. There is always something more interesting to do when there is plenty of time. So instead of getting out to the salt marsh on my own, I have taken in the natural world by admiring the orchid blooming in my office.

my orchid 2 ud56.jpgBut I have to confess something. One day last week, when the deadline was still about three weeks away,  I decided to reward myself for all this hard work. Prematurely. Around midnight, after another grueling work session of about 13 hours,  I splurged on all new camera gear. I thought I had learned the basics and deserved something more than my super zoom birding camera. Or asking to borrow my hubby’s big Canon.

The five packages arrived this week. I had to open the boxes as they took up half the entry hall. It took about an hour. I placed my new treasures carefully on the living room table and asked Dylan to guard them. He took up his duty immediately.

my new camera gear ud56In that process I also discovered the Easter eggs next to the living room orchid. Remnants from the Easter party. They have since ended up in the trash, and Dylan has since been relieved of his guard duty. But my fingers itch. I want to try the new camera and all the new lenses.

Surprise, surprise. For once I have demonstrated I have a backbone. The gear will stay on the living room table, untouched mind you, until next weekend. Just like that. Because by then I should be much closer to the goal I rewarded my self for.

But despite nightly walks at the salt marsh, the mystery of the Osprey Baby remained unresolved. This morning I was observing the nest from my living room window with a cup of coffee in my hand. I saw Sandy’s back and nothing else. Suddenly Stanley flew in with a fish. I rushed to get my birding camera and ran out onto the very windy terrace. This is what I saw zooming all out while leaning heavily on the wall.

mama papa and chick osprey april 16 ud56Stanley was still there, and Sandy was tearing out small pieces of the fish feeding the Baby. Yay! It seems Sandy and Stanley have only one nestling this year, just like in 2014. And that means this little one will get a royal upbringing until it is completely ready to fly off and fend for itself. Much better odds to survive his/her first year than what the three chicks had last year. I am excited and feel privileged to be able to follow the childhood of this little Osprey.

orchid 1 ud56And as to my big project, I can now see some light at the end of the tunnel. And the delightful orchid still blooming in my living room. Have a great Sunday and a wonderful week ahead. Peace.

First Pictures of the Baby!

Dylan and I have been following the Osprey family’s baby saga this past week. Every evening we’ve walked past the nest and seen Mama Sandy fussing with her chick(s) – without us spotting even a little head. Earlier this week she stopped brooding so I concluded the chic(s) have to be more than 10 days old.

boat-tailed blackbird ud55I’ve explained to Dylan that I love birds, and that Mama Sandy is having at least one baby in the nest. His hunting instinct is strong, of course, like for any poodle. He’ll follows the trace of a squirrel with his nose sweeping the ground. His ancestors were used as hunting dogs already in the 15th century, but may have come to Europe as early as the 8th century traveling with the Moors from North Africa.

Wenceslas_Hollar_-_A_poodle,_after_Matham
17th century engraving of a poodle (Wikipedia)

Last night he actually sat down and listened attentively when I was talking to Mama Sandy. And later to Papa Stanley, who was eating the head of the fish on his perch before bringing the dinner to Sandy and the chick(s). I didn’t have my camera so you just have to take my word for it.

mama osprey UD55Today at lunch time I took a solo walk at the salt marsh with my camera. And saw Sandy shielding a chick (or chicks) from the sun with her wings. I stood on the benches again, and all but climbed the trees, hoping to capture a little head. But no luck. So I walked around the marsh and enjoyed the other birds. Particularly the antics of the Reddish Egret.

Reddisg egret says hi ud55He looked at me and said hi. Then he put up a show knowing he had a captive audience.

reddish egret hides ud55He was hiding, jumping, flexing, flying and finally he caught his lunch item. He was thoroughly entertaining as always. The little clown of the marsh.

Reddish egret flying ud55

reddish egret piks lunch ud55I also saw papa Mottled Duck swimming around guarding the nest, where I assume his mate was sitting on the eggs. He tried to look nonchalant, but checked several times on the place where their nest was hidden last year. Now I’m sure we’ll see little ducklings quite soon.

papa mottled duck ud55I also saw the Mayor, the Great Blue Heron. He flew in to get his lunch items from the marsh drive through.

great blue heron the mayor ud55Suddenly Sandy sounded a short warning. A male Osprey was flying low over the nest, as in wanting to land. First I thought it had to be Steve, the Osprey who often comes close to the nest. But looking at my pictures, I realized it was Stanley.

Papa Osprey flies over the marsh ud55He tried to come to the nest at lunch time without a fish! How dare he! Hence the brief warning from Sandy. Her call soon changed to a much friendlier, but equally important message. Bring us fish, husband! Fish! He landed at the top of a tree to make fishing plans, and after a while flew towards the ocean.

papa osprey lands on a branch ud55I couldn’t wait for him to return so I walked home. When on the road I looked back towards the nest. I thought I saw a little head. Yes! The picture is not good as I had to zoom all out without a tripod, and cars flying by. But here it is, this year’s first picture of a chick! I would say s/he is about two weeks old.

Mama Osprey and chick 4 ud55I waited for a while on the side walk and finally got another picture of a little head right under Sandy’s wing. It could be the same chick, or chick number two. We will soon know 🙂

mama osprey and chick 3 ud55And with that, we all wish you all a wonderful weekend!