Tag Archives: Pied-billed Grebe

The Beauty and the Beast. For Real.

It’s slowly getting a bit fall-like here in Florida. And we love it. Mr. D. and I have been going out to enjoy nature more frequently in the last two weeks. Last Sunday morning we took a walk at Florida Botanical gardens and met a real beauty. A Gulf Fritillary at the outskirts of the Butterfly Garden.

Adult Gulf Fritillary 2 ud172The various gardens were beautiful, both the cultivated ones with plants native to Florida and the many natural habitats. Lots of mosaics are incorporated into and around the walk ways. I included a couple of them in the slide show below.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Earlier in the week we walked the Taylor Park again. It’s becoming one of our favorites…always some excitement in addition to its natural beauty. And I’m learning to recognize the residents of this ‘village’ while Mr. D. is learning the important spots to sniff.

Taylor Park lake ud172Right off the bat we spotted someone in the grass spying on us. I guess we had surprised him in the middle of his breakfast.

squirrel ud172Then I heard someone working. Looking around I spotted our smallest woodpecker, the Downy, on a tree trunk quite a bit away.

a downy woodpecker ud172On the lake side we spotted a Wood Stork ooking for breakfast…

woodstork taylor park ud172… and soon realized that the whole village was out and about. A Great Blue Heron, a Little Blue Heron and Tri-colored Heron we all looking for an early bite.

GBH ud172

little blue heron ud172

tri-colored heron at Taylor Park ud172When we arrived at the canoe launch ramp, aka the local Starbucks,  we saw it was busier than ever.

white ibis drinking ud172This time there was no gator lurking nearby, the coast was clear. So the Ibis had their morning drink and their morning bath all at once. On the side of the ramp an Anhinga was drying his wings…

Anhinga at canoe ramp ud172… and another one was checking his outfit in the mirror.

Anhinga looking in the mirror UD172Nobody seemed concerned about dangers lurking in the water. Looking out on the lake I discovered a large Pied-billed Grebe family in the company of a young Moorhen.

grebe family and a moorhen UD172While they were diving for food and generally having fun,it was clear they also kept an eye on the water, like these two…

two grebes ud172I looked in the direction their eyes were trained at…and there he was. Silently gliding in the water.

new gator at Taylor Park ud172Sometimes only the very top of his head was visible. Then he turned to check on us, or perhaps he was interested in the busy Starbucks on the shore.

gator looking at me ud172I was glad the birds were keeping watch. We continued our walk to the end of the lake and turned around.

Part of lake at Taylor Park ud172We spotted the resident Osprey. She made a few fishing attempts at the far end of the lake, but didn’t seem to have any luck. Walking back we spotted her again on a pine branch above the trail. She was looking intently out to the lake…

resident osprey at Taylor Park ud172… and I did too. First I didn’t see anything out of the ordinary. The gator was no longer there and all the Grebes seemed to be safe. But scanning the water with my zoom lens, Mr. D. patiently sitting by my side, I spotted another, much larger gator. He was well camouflaged with a green head covering.

a well camouflaged gator ud172He was quietly swimming about quite close to the shore. Suddenly he turned around with a splash…

gator hunts at taylor park ud172… and opened his mouth. I remember checking that there was no bird close by. And then I saw it. He caught a fat fish!

gator swallows a fish UD172Phew! I was happy he had fish on his menu that morning. The little birds diving in the lake seemed to be safe for now. Relatively speaking.

Florida Mottled Duck ud172

Pied-billed Grebe ud172We caught up with some moms on an outing with their babies…

Moms and babies at Taylor Park ud172…and also spotted another little cutie on the lake before arriving back to the parking lot.

Pied-billed Grebe 2 ud172Next week we will be getting company. Good friends from Sweden are coming to visit. Stay tuned for some new and different adventures. Thank you for walking with us again. Mr. D. and I wish you wonderful fall days…or spring days for those of you in the southern hemisphere.

 

 

Can I See Your ID, Please? Mysteries at Salt Marsh Holiday Gathering.

Yesterday afternoon I finally got to visit our feathered friends at the salt marsh. And walked right into a Holiday gathering! Or more precisely, to the nap sequence of the party. You see, in the avian world napping after a festive meal is allowed, even encouraged. It is totally okay for the guests to doze off for a while. No eyebrows raised.

roseate spoonbill snowy egret tri-colored heron Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridawood stork Sand Key, Clearwater, Florida three wood storks Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridayellow-crowned Night Heron Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaEven Mama Sandy was nodding off at the nest with a half eaten fish in her talons.

mama osprey is sleeping Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaSome of the birds soon woke up, maybe sensing a paparazzo lurking around in the bushes.

four wood storks Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridatri-colored heron Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaOr to listen to the Great Egret’s Christmas address on peace for humanity. He didn’t need any loudspeakers delivering his compassionate message. I guess he was acting for the older Blue Heron, the Mayor, who was absent. Maybe visiting relatives for the Holidays.

great egret Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridagreat egret Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaRosa opened one eye to check on me. And Sandy woke up to attend to her fish, and to say hi.

roseate spoonbill Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridafemale osprey at the nest with a fish Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaWhile large families of Wood Storks, egrets, and herons gathered in the west wing of the marsh, the waters of the east wing were reserved for the duckies. The young Muscovy Duck, in his holiday outfit,  was mingling with his friends, the Moorhens. And the little Pied-billed Grebe didn’t seem to be bothered by the crowds.

muscovy duck Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridajuvenile moorhen Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridapied billed grebe Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaJust when I was leaving to look for Papa Stanley, I discovered the Loggerhead Shrike,  the only song bird that also is a raptor, and is commonly known as the “butcher bird”. He was having a party of his own. Struggling with his pray high up in a palm tree.

butcher bird loggerhead shrike with a frog Sand Key, Clearwater, Florida

But that was only the beginning. I left the holiday decorated salt marsh. And was in for a mystery or two of my own.

salt marsh Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaI walked over to Papa Stanley’s favorite perch. He was not there. But I saw two Osprey’s perched on lamp-posts on the bridge leading to the next barrier island. I decided I needed extra exercise and started walking onto the bridge.

The first Osprey was a young female. She also had a fish. To see her ID, which is the “necklace” on her breast, I had to shoot almost against the sun.

another female osprey Sand Key, Clearwater, Florida

Seeing the almost diamond-shaped markings on her breast, I remembered the only chick Sandy and Stanley had two years ago. I used to call her Diamond, just because of the shape of her markings. Could it be that she had returned to the place of her birth? This beautiful lady wouldn’t tell, but it’s a distinct possibility.

Now, the next Osprey, almost at the top of the long bridge, must be Stanley, right?

young female ospreySand Key, Clearwater, Florida

Wrong. It was a beautiful, young female. Her eyes were not yet pale yellow, and there were a few white spots at the edge of her wing feathers.  Who was she? I asked kindly, but she wouldn’t show me her ID. Just because her position was such that taking a picture of her breast, standing between the railings on the narrow walkway on the bridge, would’ve been right against the gassing sun. I couldn’t see anything through the viewfinder. But she looked at me like she knew me.

 female osprey Sand Key, Clearwater, Florida

Could it be Aspire, the middle chick from the last nesting season? I thought her face reminded me of Aspire’s.  A little on the round side. Here are a couple of pictures of Aspire from April and May this year. What do you think?

portrait of an osprey chick Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridaosprey chick female 2015 Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaI can not be sure of the identities of these young ladies, but it’s possible that they are Sandy’s and Stanley’s two daughters who came home for the Holidays. Pondering this mystery, I walked down from the bridge. I spotted many more birds on the bay side, Brown Pelicans, Cormorants, Anhingas, gulls and terns, and  the young Blue Heron. Remembering he was sent home from the migration conference earlier in the fall, he had probably decided it was safer to stay away from the gathering at the salt marsh.

young great blue heron Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaPassing Stanley’s resort again, I noticed he’d just returned from a fishing trip. He was eating Red Snapper. Not bad for a holiday meal.

Male osprey eats fish Sand Key, Clearwater, Floridamale osprey eats fish Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaWhat a walk this was, almost 3 miles in two hours, over 40 birds of 19 different species. Talk about a Holiday gathering. We all wish you all Peace, Joy and Love this Holiday Season.

You can find more gatherings here.

Annual Migration Conference. Birds Fly In. I Fly Out.

The Mayor was busy. He patrolled the waters between the small islets that served as conference rooms for the annual Migration Conference at the salt marsh.

older great blue heron older great blue heron The crowd was generally well behaved. Apart from the young Great Blue Heron. He was acting up, pretending he’d been promoted to Deputy Mayor. Which of course wasn’t the case. His provoking behavior raised a few eye brows among the guests.

young blue heron and a wood storkwood stork blue heron and roseate spponbill Finally the Mayor decided he had to be managed. And sent him away from the premises amid loud protests.

The oldest Wood Stork started everyone off with a long speech. Some listened intently, others preferred to hold their own side meetings. Or started lining up for the smorgasbord.

papa wood stork wood storks and a snowy egretgreat egrets and wood storks And yet others preferred to explore the marsh during the proceedings, like the Reddish Egret, the Tri-colored Heron and the Snowy Egret. But everyone’s eyes turned to Miss Rosa when she entered the stage in her hot pink dress.

reddish egret tri-colored heron snowy egret She was nothing short of stunning. No competition there.

roseate spoonbill Actually, almost everyone turned to look at her. The Yellow-crowned Night Heron found it difficult to keep his eyes open at all during the meeting. He’d probably been up late. Or just found it plain boring.

yellow-crowned night heronThe little Pied-billed Grebe enjoyed the relative calm at the deep end of the marsh, where also the Moorhens and their friend, the Muscovy Duck, had fled the hubbub.

pied-billed grebe 2 muscovy duck and moorhen Unlike last year, Mama Sandy had declined to participate in the conference. She had gone fishing with Papa Stanley, and they were enjoying an early lunch away from the crowds. Stanley at his resort and Sandy 60 feet away on a lamp post. Both checking on each other, and on me, between the bites.

male osprey eating fish female osprey eats fishI am happy I was invited again this year to document the Migration Conference. But it was completely out of question to get everybody lined up for a group photo. This was the best I could get.

migration conference Now that all these birds have arrived south, it’s my turn to fly north. I’ll see you in about ten days. While away I’ll be very busy, and also won’t have internet connection for several days. But I just might try posting a short greeting from my iPhone. Now that the new editor is so mobile friendly 😉

pelican taking off I’ll catch up with you all on my return.  And Happy Thanksgiving to  friends and visitors celebrating this wonderful holiday on Thursday! I trust you spotted the turkey among the conference participants 🙂 Much love, Tiny

Family Dramas. And a Possible Election Challenge. At the Salt Marsh.

There’s a hint of autumn in the air now. Finally it’s cooler, breezy and less humid. Okay. I’m going for full disclosure. It’s been gorgeous. And the beach has been lively with all kinds of shorebirds. Little Sanderlings and little humans enjoying the tidal pools together.

sanderling ud26 One morning I also witnessed a bit of a drama in the Royal Tern family. This is how it went down.

Mommy....I'm hungry! My older brother got more fish for breakfast.
Daddy….I’m still hungry! My older brother took almost all the fish.
Lunch time, Mommy!!
Did you hear me Daddy? I’m hungry!
Bring me fish! It's my turn!
Bring me fish! It’s my turn!
What about me, Mommy?
When Daddy returned empty-handed, Mommy was there too….Where’s the fish? Can’t you see our little one is hungry?

I hope all that was settled amicably after I had to leave. While all kinds of excitement was going on among the families on shore, the Brown pelican was sitting calmly on his observation pole off shore, watching it all. I could feel him thinking “this too shall pass”.

pelican ud26

The salt marsh has been fairly quiet. No big rush of migrants as yet. As usual the Mayor has been keeping order among the residents. The other day I saw him chasing the younger GBH around the marsh. I wondered what mischief he’d been up to. Or maybe he wanted to challenge the Mayor and run for office? Like so many these days.

mayor older blue heron ud26

That wouldn’t be such a good idea. I doubt he would get any votes at all. Even Mama Sandy sounded a sharp warning when he as much as flew towards the nest the other day. But he was challenging his fate, as usual, and landed in the water just below the nest. He has a big ego, it seems.

mama osprey closeup ud26

The ducks would definitely gang together against him. They’ve been having these large sunset gatherings lately. Perhaps planning a super pack to support the Mayor? And they’ve been very inclusive. Mallards, Mottled Ducks, and even the tiny Pied-billed Grebe. Like one big, happy family.

mallard meeting ud26Pied-billed Grebe ud26

I wonder if Papa Stanley and Mama Sandy were communicating about that very issue the other day. Papa was at his resort looking south, shouting something to Sandy. And posing for a photo in between. She was about half a mile south, sending replies perched on a huge antenna at the very top of the Marriott Resort on the bay side. That went on for a while before they said “over and out”.

papa osprey ud26mama osprey on the TV antenna ud26

In any case, if the young GBH was dreaming of running for office, my prediction is he’d not get support even from his own. The other Herons. The Tri-colored Heron seems to have her head firmly on her shoulders. And the juvenile Night Heron, although he might perhaps be persuaded by aggressive campaigning, is too young to vote anyway.

tricolored heron ud26juvenile night heron ud26

As to Miss Rosa, she seems very happy with the Mayor’s work. Nobody, but maybe a photographer, could make her to turn her head. And her friend Ibis may be blue eyed, but let me tell you, he’s not easily charmed. By anyone.

roseate spoonbill ud25 bibis ud26

As to the smaller birds, like this Blue Jay, they like to keep a safe distance to anybody showing signs of aggression.

Blue Jay ud26

Based on this official, highly reliable polling, my prediction is that the Mayor will sit firmly in the office for quite some time to come. And I take a new rainbow over the salt marsh as a good sign.

rainbow salt marsh to bay panorama ud26

With that, I’ll wish you all peace. And a wonderful upcoming weekend ~

Vroom, Bang and Upside Down. Under the Rainbow at the Salt Marsh.

It was that time of the year again. Super boat championship races on the Gulf. Practice runs on Friday and Saturday and the races on Sunday. Tens of thousands of spectators, parties everywhere, and fireworks on Saturday night. Engine roar and fireworks bangs just a stone throw from the salt marsh, and my terrace.

I guess the permanent residents at the salt marsh are by now used to the volume and the colorful night time lights generated by this annual three day event. Mama Sandy certainly took it all in stride. She was focusing on her fascinating gardening project. There’s even more green in the nest now than three weeks ago when she started planting. It is, indeed, an impressive looking garden.

mama osprey's garden ud25 b

mama osprey proud gardener ud25 b

I’m thinking she might want to create the look and feel of Papa Stanley’s resort. It’s certainly starting to look like that. I have no idea how she does it. But she looks proud of her achievement, don’t you think?

Despite all the hubbub, the marsh has been lively with birds. Lots of white sprinkled with pink, blue and brown.

salt marsh birds ud25 b

The water levels are up again after recent rains that have also given us multiple beautiful rainbows over the bay in the last few days.

rainbow over clearwater bay ud25 b panorama double rainbow ud25 bRosa, the Roseate Spoonbill, and her friends ibis, egrets and herons have enjoyed foraging in the previously dry spots.

roseate spoonbill B ud25 byoungr Great Blue Heron ud25 bblackcrowned night heron juvenile ud25 b

This juvenile Pied-billed Grebe is a newcomer at the salt marsh. I’ve not seen any other family members so I’m thinking this little one must have migrated on its own from up north.

juvenile pied-billed Grebe ud25 b

This past week, I also spotted the Red-bellied Woodpecker again. He has returned from his summer adventures. He was hanging upside down and his red head was moving fast in search of breakfast.  Every now and then he’d interrupt his work to scan for any dangers.

redbellied woodpecker ud25 bHis sweetheart was with him too. She was too shy for a photo shoot, but he posed gladly for a second one.

redbellied woodpecker 2 ud25 bI wondered what they might have thought discovering their old home, the “condo building”, was gone.

Close to the woodpeckers, I spotted a Loggerhead Shrike and a Northern Mockingbird. Both are permanent residents in the forests next to the marsh.

loggerhead shrike ud25 bnorthern mockingbird 3 ud25 b

I had not seen Papa Stanley for days so I decided to walk to his resort, hoping he would be at home. I was lucky. He had just returned after taking a bath.  He shook his wings to get rid of the water, and then spread them out to dry. I was happy to note he seemed to be in great shape.

papa osprey lands at his resort ud25 b

So everybody in the extended salt marsh family is accounted for, and we all wish you a great and safe weekend.