Tag Archives: Red-bellied Woodpecker

Walking the Taylor Park. With Gators.

taylor park lake ud171It’s a beautiful morning, not humid and not too hot. A rare treat for mid October. Dylan and I jump into the car and head towards the Taylor Park to walk our newly discovered nature trail. We invite you to come along.

wooden bridge Taylor park ud171The shadows are still long when we start our walk. Dylan is on a short leash. The trail goes right next to the water so all sniffing is done strictly on the forest side of the trail…for a good reason. While we haven’t seen any alligators on our previous visits, I know they are lurking in the water, like in most fresh water lakes in Florida. This park is also favored by many birds. And right away we spot one of them, an Anhinga with her wings spread to dry after the morning dive.

anhinga B ud171The next one we see has selected a good spot to scout for the gators…and makes us smile.

anhinga on alligator sign at Taylor Park ud171And the third one does double duty. Dries her wings while spying on gators down below.

anhinga in the tree ud171I’m keeping my eyes trained on the water too, but no luck so far. All I see is water sprinkled with flowers and Moorhens.

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moorhen family ud171

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moorhen 2 ud171And an Osprey on a reconnaissance flight over the lake.

osprey at taylor park ud171On the forest side of the trail, I spot two woodpeckers, a Red-bellied Woodpecker and Pileated woodpecker but miss the latter. Dylan decides it is time for a bathroom break. I get a big splash of red in the picture as the large woodpecker flies away.

red-bellied woodpecker at taylor park ud171Next we spot a Little Blue Heron and a Limpkin. I am delighted because Limpkins do not often come to the salt marsh.

Little Blue Heron ud171

limpkin ud171Further, in the shadow of the bridge over the lake, we see a Green Heron in the water. He seems to consider his options for a morning meal while exhibiting good situational awareness.

green heron ud171But close to him a Tri-colored Heron is only aware of a potential breakfast bite in the water below. He has no worries about becoming a breakfast himself.

tri-colored heron hunting ud171By this time the sun has climbed higher. After stopping for some water we decide to turn around and walk back seeking some shade in the forest.

Taylor Park trail ud171We reach a canoe launch pad and hear loud screams. We look towards the lake and spot three White Ibis lining up for their morning drink. A Starbucks line with unexpected hassles.

white ibis and a gator ud171A gator is waiting for an opportunity to strike.

alligator ud171

gator at taylor park ud171These birds quickly leave their watering hole, but an Anhinga stays close by right on the side of the launch pad. Perhaps he has concluded the gator cannot jump.

an anhinga ud171The last bird we hear and then spot is a male Red-winged Blackbird hanging out in the reeds.

male red-winged blackbird ud171Thanks for walking with us, the birds and the gators. Have a great weekend and week ahead.

Flying Again. And True News from the Salt Marsh.

I haven’t been here, or at your place, much since my unlawful adventure on the bay side with Dylan. I’m totally guilty, but I will not keep you in suspense. We were not caught.

Sometimes life gives you ‘stuff’ you can’t ignore, like leaking pipes in the attic, family health issues happening far away and new work projects popping up out of nowhere. So that’s where I’ve been. In the ‘when-it-rains-it-pours-land’, just keeping my feet above the water. I’m sure you’ve been there at some point too. Thanks to friends who have been thinking of me and worrying. What wonderful friends you are!

brown-pelican-taking-flight-ud105But now I’m flying a bit higher and the ‘weather’ is much calmer, both literally and figuratively. I’ve even had an opportunity to visit my friends at the salt marsh yesterday. Since I’ve been away from them too, I wanted to check everything out and make a comprehensive round from the bay side to the salt marsh and back home through the beach.

This Brown Pelican was entertaining me on the bay. Sometimes resting on the calm waters and other times disappearing with a big splash.

brown-pelican-ud105

pelican-diving-ud105And I spotted an Oyster Catcher, the first in several months. He was busy feeding in the low tide and paying no attention to the stunts by the pelican close by.

oyester-catcher-ud105And the same applied to a Snowy Egret, whom I discovered only when hanging out from the very edge of the seawall.

snowy-egret-ud105I had to smile at the three White Ibis standing in formation next to the sailing center boat launch. All of them had received the memo, but apparently it didn’t specify which leg to stand on.

three-white-ibis-ud105Approaching the salt marsh, I could see that both Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley were in the nest. This is not a sharp picture, but since it’s been taken from a great distance you can see that the nest remodeling has been completed. Their new home is brimming with furniture.

mama-and-papa-osprey-at-their-nest-ud105I was particularly happy to note that Stanley was at home. You see, a couple of days earlier when walking with Dylan, I saw a huge Bald Eagle fly towards the salt marsh. Suddenly two ospreys started chasing it back to where it belongs, on the other side of the bay. One was Stanley and I believe the other was his fishing buddy, Steve, who lives only eight blocks south of the marsh on the roof pillar of a high-rise building. I lost sight of them and was worried that something might have happened. Now I’ve seen both Steve and his wife Sheena (earlier pictures) fly above their top-of-the-line home. So everyone is okay.

When I arrived at the nest, Stanley had disappeared and Sandy was busy working. She was refitting some pillows in the nest. As in preparing the soft ‘nest cup’ for the eggs.

mama-osprey-works-on-the-nest-ud105Just below the nest I spotted the Mayor, the older Great Blue Heron. He was sitting there deep in his thoughts when a Black Crowned Night Heron zoomed in and startled him. But there was no reason for alarm, and the new-comer settled right below the Mayor’s retreat.

great-blue-heron-and-black-crowned-night-heron-ud105

blackcrowned-night-heron-ud105I walked around the marsh and spotted two couples of Yellow-crowned Night Herons, all in the vicinity of the deep waters close to the osprey nest.

yellow-crowned-night-heron-ud105I’m hoping they’ll nest at the marsh so we can see some Night Heron kids this spring. They look too funny with their baby hair standing straight up.

Further out I spotted a Little Blue Heron and a beautiful Great Egret. The former was busy selecting suitable food items, while the latter showcased her beautiful breeding plumage.

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great-egret-ud105Suddenly I saw a strange shadow and looked up to the sky. Starlings by the hundreds! The tail end of this party decided to occupy a few palm trees at the marsh.

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murmurating-starlings-ud105They sat on every branch, and while some of them seemed to be quiet for the photo shoot, the discussion flowed non-stop between the birds in different trees. Until, like on a secret command, they all flew away again.

By that time I was at the beach end of the marsh and saw that Stanley had sneaked back into the nest. He had brought a fish for his pregnant wife. How thoughtful of him.

mama-and-papa-osprey-2-ud105

mama-osprey-eats-fish-ud105Just before I left to walk home through the beach, I spotted Mr. Moorhen, whom I haven’t seen for several weeks. I think he was scouting for suitable nesting sites.

moorhen-ud105The beach was lively too. Hundreds of birds resting in several colonies. A large group of tiny Sanderlings, several groups of Royal Terns, Laughing Gulls and a few Willets and Ringbilled Gulls. And Brown Pelicans, of course. Here just a few pictures of shore birds I encountered on my way home.

sanderlings-ud105

royal-terns-ud105

ringbilled-gull-ud105

a-brown-pelican-and-a-gull-ud105I thought that was it for the birds. But when I walked into our garden, I heard a familiar sound. A male Red-bellied Woodpecker was working hard in a palm tree next to our garage entrance. His tempo was almost too fast to get a clear picture of his head.

mr-red-bellied-woodpecker-ud105-2I wish you all a wonderful weekend and will do my best to visit all my friends in the next few days. We all wish you peace.

Juveniles Rule. And Slowly Returning to Normal.

I am not developing an argument here on what ‘normal’ might be or look like. All I know is that our surroundings here at home are slowly starting to look as they used to – before Hermine dumped almost 15 inches/38cms of water on us over five days. The flood waters are almost gone. I say almost because there are still a few pools of water on the beach, in the park and in our garden. And birds love them. Like Snowy Egrets and White Ibis, who were mingling on the beach in large  numbers yesterday.

Snowy Egret at flood water pool ud80.jpg

snowy-egret-and-white-ibis-ud80And juveniles of all sorts were playing and feeding in the shallow pools. Like these two juvenile White Ibis. One of them was quite white already, while his little sister was still much more brown than white.

two juvenile ibis ud80.jpg

juvenile-white-ibis-ud80Another juvenile, a Black Skimmer, who had already left his parents was practicing skimming in one of the shallow pools.

juvenile-black-skimmer-ud80The juvenile Royal Tern pestering his mom was quite entertaining. Although his poor mom might have disagreed. She tried to show him how to catch food items in the shallow water, but he was not interested. He wanted to be fed.

baby-royal-term-pestering-his-mama-ud80

baby-and-mama-royal-tern-ud80Walking into the salt marsh, I noticed the water levels were down and the bird count was up. Despite the fact that the mosquito count was down only a bit, I decided to see who had returned. And right away saw the younger Great Blue Heron. After hanging around for over two years now, I think he has earned to be named. I will call him Henry. He was balancing high up in the cypress tree surveying the marsh. Possibly trying to find out whether or not the Mayor was present.

young-blue-heron-ud80He wasn’t. So Henry decided it was safe to fly down and start hunting at the far end of the marsh, a spot usually reserved for the Mayor.

young-blue-heron-in-flight-ud80

young-blue-heron-lands-ud80A Great Egret was also scanning the marsh from the top of a tree in the middle of the marsh. He might have been counting his relatives, who were many but difficult to spot in the high grass.

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great egret and snowy egret ud80.jpg

great-egret-ud80The only smaller wading bird present, in addition to Snowy Egrets, was a beautiful Tri-colored Heron. She was fishing at the shallow side of the marsh that had already dried up quite a bit. But she was still more than knee-deep in the water.

tricolored-heron-ud80But the Moorhens and Mottled Ducks were present in big numbers. The ducklings born here last spring had returned and were swimming in a nice formation – all ten of them. Juveniles definitely ruled the day 🙂

moorhen-ud80

ten-ducklings-ud80I finished my walk at the Osprey nest. Mama Sandy was having her brunch and checked on me between the bites. I wanted to tell her that on Sunday, I would be visiting again – with the contractor who will be repairing or replacing (if required) the nest. But I let her eat in peace.

mama-osprey-eats-lunch-ud80I didn’t see Papa Stanley, but I know he is around as I saw him just the previous day. He flew low over our garden and tipped his wings to me and Dylan. Instead I spotted a Red-bellied Woodpecker on my way home. He was showcasing his reddish belly.

redbellied-woodpecker-2-ud80But that was not all. Approaching home, I saw a juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk fly past me towards our garden.

hawk-ud80I decided to see if I could spot her again and walked around among the trees where I thought she might have landed. And I found her! She was sitting in a dense tree – on our neighbor’s side. It was an awkward spot to try to ‘shoot’ her. Sun right in my eyes, a thick, high hedge on one side and a large ditch with some remaining flood water on the other. I tried to balance on my toes so I could get a clear shot of her, but this is the best I could get. What a beautiful bird.

juvenile-red-shouldered-hawk-ud80She flew away to continue her hunt, and I spotted another bird in a tree right above me. A Black-crowned Night Heron had settled there to sleep for the day and I inadvertently woke him up.

black-crowned-night-heron-ud80Luckily he didn’t seem to be angry. I was happy to find so many of my feathered friends. I concluded that things are slowly returning to normal around here, but unfortunately the damage assessments still continue elsewhere not too far from here.

We all wish you a very happy weekend. Peace.

Face it! Birds Have Expressive Faces Too.

Papa Osprey’s expressive face is definitely one of my favorites! Here he’s watching me watching him. He tilts his head slightly, curious about the long black tube pointing at him. Click. Click.

Miss Rosa, the Roseate Spoonbill, has a photogenic face. Despite her very long spoon-like bill. And I think she knows it. Always poses happily for the camera.

roseate spoonbill FACEForaging birds often have that highly focused expression on their face. It’s necessary to focus all their attention on finding that one delicious piece of food. Here exemplified by the gracious Tri-colored Heron.

tri-colored heron FACEAnd the Little Blue Heron. Look at those eyes! Nothing can escape that stare.

portrait of little blue heron FACEThe reddish Egret often has a his clown face on, particularly when starting his hunting show. But don’t get fooled, he’s highly concentrated on his mission.

reddish egret all buffed up FACEWhen these birds catch a fish, or three, they show a happy face! Demonstrated here by the Great Egret.

great egret with three fish FACEThe Red-bellied Woodpecker has her sharp pecking tool embedded in a surprisingly soft face.

female red-bellied woodpecker FACEBut I can’t say the same about the Snowy Egret, especially when she has an itch right under her chin. Her face shows determination. Away with the itch. Scratch. Scratch.

snowy egret FACEThe Green Heron has a shy face. He looks away when noticing he’s observed. And pretends he’s nowhere to be seen.

green heron portrait FACEBirds, too, can have an old face. Scarred by life and full of wrinkles. Like this old American Black Vulture.

an old american tblack vulture FACEAnd they can have a face of a curious teenager. Just check out this young Muscovy Duck who has yet to learn to fly.

muscovy duck FACEAnd birds can have a face that shows contentment. Everything they need is right here. Right now. This is aptly demonstrated by the Yellow-crowned Night Heron. Here captured in the morning, after what I believe was a successful hunting session the previous night.

yellowcrowned night heron FACEI will have to end this “Faces from the Salt Marsh- series” by showcasing Mama Osprey. Her dancing face is as beautiful as her flowing dress 🙂

mama osprey FACEThe “salt marsh gang” wishes you all a pleasant week. You can find other interesting faces here.

Drama and Entertainment. At the Salt Marsh.

I hear a stern warning from the nest. I hear another warning from somewhere close by. Then I hear a perfect duet of loud Osprey warnings. And I look up and around. Up in the air a male Osprey is circling low over the nest, looking down and making sweeping fly-bys towards the nest where one of the parents is sitting on the egg(s).

another osprey ud49The parent in the nest turns out to be Papa Stanley. Because Mama Sandy happens to be on her break. She is perching on a lamp-post at a parking lot just outside the park boundary. She has a straight line of sight to the nest and helps Stanley to warn the unwanted visitor.

mama osprey on her break ud49The “Mayor”, a Great Blue Heron, happens to be just below the nest when all this unfolds. Being an old friend of the Osprey couple, he finds such a disturbance highly unfortunate too. Hair-raising in fact.

great blue heron follows the drama ud49As the drama progresses, and the guy in the sky continues his stalking, Sandy decides it’s best to return to the nest, take over from Stanley and let him handle the defense department.

shift change papa osprey leaves ud49The shift change is fast, two-three seconds tops. Stanley leaves immediately to take care of the threat.

papa osprey leaves ud49He chases the intruder away from the salt marsh. And continues patrolling the sky above the nest for at least 20 minutes afterwards. Impressive.

papa osprey gives chase 2 ud49Peace returns and I can move on to enjoy the entertainment provided by the Reddish Egret at the other end of the marsh. The “Clown” has returned while I was away. He is as exuberant as ever and puts up quite a show. So please check it out.

He runs around, jumps, flexes his wings, covers his head from the sun so he can see the bottom, and has a generally jolly time in search of that perfect lunch item. I’m smiling. But I’m not alone watching the spectacle. A Great Egret is following the hunting party at a safe distance with great interest.

great egret ud49The newly returned Mottled Duck couple have their eyes nailed to the Clown’s performance as well.

Mottled duck couple ud49In a nearby palm tree, the female Red-bellied Woodpecker almost twists her neck trying to see what’s going on.

redbellied woodpecker female 2 ud49But at the other end of the marsh nobody cares. The gracious Tri-colored Heron has the fishing waters all for herself.

tri-colored heron 2 ud49Well, almost. The tiny Grebe and a few Moorhens are there too enjoying the sunny afternoon. But my buddy, the Muscovy Duck, has left the salt marsh – possibly to search for a mate, just like last year.

grebe ud49Another returnee, the Green Heron, and his cousin, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron, are both taking in the now peaceful scenery close to the Osprey nest.

green heron B  UD49

yellowcrowned night neron ud49And up in the nest, Mama Sandy is sitting on the egg(s) after her interrupted break. We may have some tiny hatchlings in a couple of weeks 🙂

mama osprey incubates ud49Just when I am leaving, I spot the tiny Snowy Egret I first saw in January. She may be one of the many wading birds that were born here last year.

little snowy egret ud49Walking back home, I find Papa Stanley close by on his new “nesting season perch” from where he can see and hear everything that happens at the nest.

papa ospreys new perch ud49I am happy I could finally visit my friends at the salt marsh (twice) after almost a month of absence and before my next work trip at the end of next week. I wish you all a wonderful weekend.

 

 

Homecoming. And Little Miracles.

She saw me. Looked twice. And sang a short welcome-home-song for me. Loud. From the heart.

roseate spoonbills welcome song ud35Then she looked at me as in asking whether I liked it. Miss Rosa made me smile. And I felt welcomed back to the salt marsh.

roseate spoonbill 2 ud35I had finally managed to make the time for a walk to check on my feathered friends. And there was no doubt I was back in Florida. The salt marsh was blooming in all possible colors, delicate and bold.

flower ud35 yellow flowers ud35 red flower tree ud35I found the Mayor at his favorite spot on a small islet. He was in deep thought. Maybe pondering about the upcoming holiday party. It’s always a lively event at the salt marsh.

great blue heron ud35I noticed the herons and egrets had already started changing into their festive breeding plumage. Demonstrated here by the Snowy Egret, and the Great Egret little further away.

snowy egret ud35 great egret ud35Mama Sandy was at the nest when I arrived. But she was scanning the  skies where another Osprey was circling high up at a distance. She nodded a brief hello and flew away after a couple of minutes.

mama osprey at the nest ud35I was trying to get a picture of a Yellow-crowned Night Heron, who was hiding in the high grass, and a juvenile resting in the bushes right below the nest, when I heard Osprey speak.

yellow-crowned night heron ud35juvenile night heron UD35I looked up, and saw Sandy fly right over the nest with Stanley following close behind. Courting behavior. And by flying right past the nest, I thought, Sandy gave Stanley a hint about the proposal gift and the customary dance expected to take place shortly. A strategic reminder that the time for Stanley to come back to the nest was getting close. Three weeks tops.

mama and papa osprey fly by the nest ud35They flew together for quite a while and I decided to check who I could find on the bay side. On my way there, I saw this beautiful Northern Mockingird.

northern mockingbird UD35And was offered a demonstration in magic when a leaf on the ground suddenly started walking. One of nature’s little miracles.

walking leaf ud35On the bay side I was greeted by a flock of White Ibis feeding on a patch of grass. And then strolling back and forth on the sea wall.

ibis on the bay side ud35Close by a female Red-bellied Woodpecker was working on a thick palm trunk. Most of the time only half of her body visible.

female red-bellied woodpecker ud35I was just leaving to go home when I spotted Stanley at the Sailing Center. He was not scanning for fish, instead he was staring intently at something in the direction of my home.

papa osprey looks at mama ud35Walking back home, I spotted the object of his interest. Sandy was perching on the holiday decorated lamp-post closest to our driveway. Love is clearly blooming between the two of them. He couldn’t take his eyes off her.

mama osprey ud35When I reached our front yard, I noticed Sandy was watching me. She clearly knows where I live, and I hope she had missed seeing me when I was away. At least a little bit. It will be a privilege to witness their upcoming nest renovation project and hopefully get pictures of the chick(s) when the time comes.

mama odprey looks at me ud35We all wish you a great week. Cheers from the salt marsh ~

 

 

 

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.