Tag Archives: Salt marsh

Papa Osprey’s Fake Wings. And a Flying Mattress Delivery.

It’s good to be away, particularly if you can spend some quality time with your grandkids. And then happen to stumble on a bird photographer’s paradise. But that’s for the next post. Here only one picture of last weekend’s adventures. As a ‘teaser’.

nesting birds st augustine ud160But first things first. News from a place where I belong.  There have been some new developments at the salt marsh since we last spoke, and a quick update might be called for. The youngest member of the Osprey Family is now over seven weeks old. Dylan and I went to check on her yesterday morning and arrived at the nest right after the family breakfast. Papa Stanley was sitting in the nest with the chick but Mama Sandy was nowhere to be seen.

papa osprey and the chick ud160Stanley greeted us with a friendly nod, but the little one was busy observing the skies. Then she realized it was time for her daily exercise routine. Stanley suddenly got wings sprinkled with white feathers, typical for osprey chicks. Those ‘fake’ wings made me smile.

papa ospreys fake wings ud160The chick should be fledging in less than two weeks and I was happy to see her ‘wingersize’ vigorously. That’s when Sandy’s head popped up from the back of the nest and I realized she had been there all along. She was busy working on something.

osprey family ud160Soon Stanley decided it was time to retreat onto the perch. Or maybe he just wanted to show the chick how it’s done. Actually flying.

papa osprey flies to the perch ud160And Sandy decided it was time to run errands. She flew away in the direction of the bay.

mama osprey flies away ud160The chick was alone in the nest, but under tight supervision by Stanley on the perch. She was looking into the distance after Sandy.

osprey chick ud160And I was focusing on taking pictures of her. Suddenly I felt something fly right over my head! And a second later Sandy landed on the nest. With a new mattress for the chick. Lightning fast express delivery. No lines at the mattress shop as the whole trip took less than two minutes.

mattress delivery by mama osprey ud160I was not the only one taken by surprise. Typical Sandy, always fast and efficient. When she wants something she goes and gets it.

mama osprey returns ud160She landed in the middle of the nest, right on the spot where she wanted to place the mattress. Then she had a mother-daughter moment with the chick. Nothing needed to be said.

mama osprey and the chick ud160But the chick understood mama would like to see some more exercising…and she went for another set of wing flaps. She still looks quite tentative in her movements and stands with her legs wide apart. She’ll need several practice sessions a day if she’s going to fledge in the week after next.

osprey chick flexes her wings ud160She is  a beautiful osprey girl and she’ll need a name. So Dylan and I will do the ‘same procedure as last year’ and have a lottery. The prize will hopefully be worth putting on your thinking hat: a 60″/152 cm round beach/picnic towel featuring Sandy and Stanley. And the drawing itself, to be conducted by Dylan on May 15th, promises to be exciting…and super fast. We’re talking about treats here.

Mama and Papa Osprey beach towel UD160

Rest assured that the names already submitted by some of you are safely in the hat. Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend. We hope to hear from you. Much love.

Sshhh…Mama and Baby Are Sleeping.

This week has been sunny and warm, until today. And it’s been busy. Exacerbated by my laptop’s moody behavior. On its fourth birthday, it decided to go on strike. Not to work at all. I had to use all my tech wiz skills to wake it up. Since then it’s been misbehaving to the point I ordered a new one. And have to set it up later today. But before I say goodbye to this old blogging veteran, I want to give you a short update from the salt marsh. I’m asking it to cooperate for one last time.

osprey family portrait 2 april 14 ud158Finally yesterday, my assistant and I had an opportunity to get out and check on the osprey chick. We arrived soon after the family brunch. Papa Stanley was still on the perch, guarding his little family from intruders. The baby was sleeping and Mama Sandy nodded off for a while as well. She shielded her baby from the sun and the wind that was already picking up.

mama osprey and chick ud158But soon Stanley saw a danger in the skies (beyond my horizon) and sounded frequent loud warnings.

papa osprey sounds an alarm ud158The chick woke up and peered out from behind the baby gate with its head lowered. Sandy became alert too, but nobody came close to the nest.

mama osprey and baby ud158The salt marsh appeared deserted. The only other bird present was the Reddish Egret. And he was completely absorbed in his hunting dance.

reddish egret ud158At sunset time Dylan took me for another walk. He loves to walk on the bayside and look down to the water. I don’t mind such a detour because I often spot birds enjoying the low tide next to the sea wall. And we were lucky. Two Oystercatchers were looking for supper.

two Oyster catchers ud158And a bit further away, a Great Egret was enjoying the last rays of the day.

great egret on the bay side ud158The sun was still up when we reached the salt marsh. We found the younger Great Blue Heron, aka Henry the Troublemaker, on his usual spot staring at the osprey nest.

young great blue heron ud158And a beautiful Snowy Egret was looking for her evening meal. And checking us out.

snowy egret at sunset ud158A Yellow-crowned Night Heron had woken up to get his breakfast. He was planning his hunt on the little islet that also serves as the Mayor’s office. The Mayor was nowhere to be seen.

yellow-crowned night heron ud158When we approached the Osprey nest we heard the typical whistles of the Red-winged Blackbird. Finally I spotted one smack in the middle of the marsh.

redwinged blackbird male UD158Then Dylan alerted me to a lovely Mourning Dove walking right on our path. It was not eager to meet us and hurried away.

mourning dove ud158We found Stanley on his guard post. He nodded a friendly good evening to us. But Sandy was hunkering down over the baby and we could only see a few feathers sticking up.

Papa osprey at sunset ud158Just before dark we finally reached the dog park and my assistant got a well deserved rest after walking around the marsh and running back and forth at the park.

Dylan at sunset ud158When we returned to go home it was already dark. Stanley had gone to his sleeping quarters, but we saw Sandy in the nest beautifully silhouetted against the sunset’s after-glow.

mama osprey at dusk ud158This afternoon the skies darkened and the storms arrived. Right now I can hardly see the osprey nest from my terrace through the heavy rains. Gray walls of water are swept sideways by the strong winds. I went out quickly and took one picture. Sandy had placed her baby in the nest cup and was shielding it from the elements with her wings. Even her head was down. Possibly to reassure the baby that this too shall pass. She knows her stuff.

sandy in the storm Ud158With that we wish you a great week ahead and hope it will be sunny and bright. Thank you for visiting.

Sunrise, Sunset and All the Birds in Between.

This time of the year it’s a bit easier for this night owl to get up and witness the sunrise. The silent hour when nature is waking up brings incredible colors over the bay and beautiful reflections in the clouds over the ocean. Peace reigns.

sunrise on the ocean UD156Creatures living in harmony with nature start their day. Some sit and enjoy the sunrise, others get on with breakfast preparations.

birds at sunrise all varieties UD156Papa Stanley returns from his first fishing trip of the day, one of many to come …

papa osprey brings a fish UD156A few minutes later, he nods off on the lamp-post just outside the marsh border. As we know, taking care of babies is quite tiring for the parents. He has eaten the fish head and takes a short nap before bringing the meaty parts of the fish to Mama Sandy and the kids.

papa osprey sleeping with a fish UD156And so the day has started. Late morning yesterday, when Dylan and I were spying on the osprey family from our terrace, we finally spotted a little chick! Or perhaps two? The first born should be almost two weeks old now. Here is the first grainy family picture of 2018. We hope for better ones soon.

first osprey family portrait 2018 ud156Throughout the day many other birds made appearances. My assistant and I went on a short walk in another park nearby and spotted a Limpkin, a Double Crested Cormorant and a couple of White Ibis.

Limpkin ud156

cormorant ud156

two Ibis ud156We also found two different blackbirds…

red-winged blackbird ud156

blackbird UD156…and a few turtles enjoying the water and the mild spring weather.

turtle ud156

turtle swimming ud156Later on, around sunset time, we walked through the bay side to the salt marsh and discovered a beautiful Snowy Egret enjoying the low tide and the last rays of sun.

snowy egret ud156We noticed that Sandy was on her dinner break at their usual lamp-post table. She had left Stanley to look after the kids.

papa osprey at the nest ud156We also spotted Ms. Rosa! Long time no see. There was just about enough light to see that she still looks great.

Roseate spoonbill at sunset ud156She forageed around the shallow water as we watched her. Then ended up posing for another picture with Mr. Blue-winged Teal.

a blue-winged teal and a roseate spoonbill UD156The younger GBH was watching the osprey nest, as he had been for the past few nights. But Stanley seemed relaxed. He might know the youngster has now grown up and adopted better manners. The latter was evidenced by a short nod in our direction.

younger Great Blue Heron at sunset UD156Before we knew it the sun had gone down and the marsh filled with shadows. We saw some movement in the bushes but it was too dark for pictures.

dog park trees at sunset UD156

salt marsh 2 at sunset ud156We enjoyed the peace of the evening for a while on ‘my’ bench. When we finally wanted to leave, the park gate had already closed. We had to use our secret escape path out of the park. Dylan led the way in the moonlight. He had done this before.

full moon ud156Thank you for visiting us between the sunrise and the sunset. And Happy Easter to all who celebrate! I leave you with my one of my favorite sunset pictures from our beach. Sail well into the new week.

sailboat at sunset UD156

New Year. New Dreams.

Mama Sandy is flying high. It’s January and that always brings a new proposal from her faithful husband Stanley. A brand new nesting season. And new dreams.

mama and papa oprey flying together January UD147Early on Sunday morning Papa Stanley brought her the proposal gift. A big fish she enjoyed on the perch while Stanley was watching her feast. I witnessed this annual ritual from my living room window while having my first cup of coffee. In the afternoon I went out with Dylan and found Stanley eating his own fish on a lamp-post close to the nest. We wished him Happy New Year and he nodded in response.

papa osprey eats fish UD147Sandy was watching him from the perch at the nest.

mama Sandy UD147And when he had finished his meal, he flew to the nest. Before long Sandy sent him back to the ‘home depot’. While there was evidence of hard work already that morning as large branches were sticking out from the nest, more building materials were needed.

papa and mama osprey in the nest UD147After Stanley left, we walked around the marsh and wished Happy New Year to Sandy too. She looked a bit stern, but I’m sure she was just inspecting Dylan’s new haircut.

mama osprey looks at us UD147The salt marsh was quiet. Most birds were still in hiding after the week-long cold spell. We found one Black-crowned Night Heron in a sunny patch close to the nest. He was wide awake. That was it.

black-crowned night heron ud147Walking back home we spotted only one Cormorant at the Sailing Center, where they usually like to congregate in large numbers. It was still very cool and windy.

cormorant ud147_edited-1Yesterday the weather had warmed up somewhat and we went to the dog park again. We noticed the salt marsh was getting more lively. Mr. Mayor was huddling right below the Osprey nest…

the mayor UD147… where Sandy was having lunch on the perch, while Stanley observed her from the nest. I noted considerable progress in their remodeling effort.

Mama osprey eats fish UD147

papa osprey at the nest UD147Some Wood Storks were visiting again. And a little Snowy Egret bravely shared their accommodations.

wood storks ud147_edited-2The Reddish Egret had recovered from his New Year celebrations and was doing his magical dance in search of a bite for lunch.

reddish egret 2 UD147_edited-2

reddish egret fishing UD147

reddish egret UD147And finally we spotted Miss Rosa on the other side of the marsh. But she didn’t see us. She was taking a nap in the sun.

Roseate spoonbill UD147Walking back towards the nest we noticed from afar that Sandy was in the middle of her daily exercise routine. Right foot up, left foot up. Dylan sat down and I tried to capture her movements.

mama osprey morning gymnastics UD147From a nearby islet a Tri-colored Heron was watching how it’s done. She stretched her neck to get a better view.

tri-colored heron ud147And a Blue Jay was paying attention too. He was exercising his neck trying to find a straight line of sight between the branches.

blue jay ud147Walking home, we spotted a small songbird with raptor’s habits. A Loggerhead Shrike was waiting for lunch to appear in his line of sight.

loggerhead shrike ud147_edited-1Exciting times! We will be sure to follow the highs and the lows of Mr. and Mrs. Osprey’s nesting season. I am certainly hoping there will be less drama and more highs than last year…for them and for us humans.  Thanks so much for visiting the salt marsh gang.

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

 

Nightly Adventures. And Some Spying Activities.

On the last evening of ‘winter time’, Saturday last week, Dylan and I headed towards the dog park for the first time in almost two weeks. My foot had finally healed and Dylan had overcome his tummy troubles caused by the anesthesia earlier in the week. I carried my smaller camera just in case I’d be able to capture a few moody twilight pictures. Although the sunset still colored the sky in the south-west over the bay, the almost full moon was already high up on the sky.

almost full moon 2 ud112Arriving at the salt marsh, we saw Papa Stanley fly away from the nest. Perhaps after giving Mama Sandy, who was patiently sitting on the eggs, a good night kiss.

mama osprey in the dusk 2 ud112Otherwise the marsh looked deserted for the night. Suddenly I spotted something bright and familiar behind the bushes. Miss Rosa, whom I hadn’t seen for several weeks, was out and about having a late night snack. I was happy to see her even if I couldn’t get a clear shot.

miss rosa hiding ud112There were no other dogs at the park, but Dylan wanted to run around for a bit. It was getting so dark I could hardly see him, but I got this funny picture of him ‘flying’ past me across the grass. Obviously I had not set my camera properly.

dylan at thye dog park ud112The park is not lit at night and the gate was about to close when we headed back towards the street. We could see Sandy’s head sticking up from the nest right next to the perch.

osprey nest at disk ud112I’m sure she was already sleeping. Suddenly something big flew low past us. First I thought it was a Night Heron as I have sometimes spotted them this late at night. But this bird was much bigger. I took a shot when I saw him between the bushes.

older gbh the mayor in flight ud112It was the Mayor, the older and larger Great Blue Heron. No doubt about it. Hmm. My old suspicion that he might have a nest in the middle of the marsh came to mind again. Why would he otherwise visit the marsh at nightfall?

We walked home through the darkening bay side. It was peaceful despite the fact that the ongoing spring break had brought thousands of visitors to our area.

bay after sunset 3 ud112Then this week hit me with tons of work. But I kept on spying on Sandy and Stanley from our terrace from time to time. During the windy cool spell earlier in the week, Sandy was sitting tight with her head against the wind and I hardly saw her moving. Yesterday afternoon the temperatures reached balmy 62 F/17 C and I spotted Stanley on the perch looking at Sandy who was sitting on the eggs.

mama and papa osprey at the nest ud112Suddenly Sandy got up and checked on the eggs for quite a while. Maybe she was turning them to keep them evenly heated. You see, she can feel the temperature of the eggs through the receptors in her brooding patches.  Once she was up and moving around, I tried to peek into the nest cup with my zoom. It is surprisingly deep. Even enlarging my pictures by 200% and lightening them, it was impossible to see how many eggs she has. In one picture, I thought I saw three, but can’t be sure. You know my lively imagination. But we will know soon enough, in just a few days, how many eggs will hatch.

Sandy checks on the eggs ud112Then last night, Dylan and I went to the dog park again to celebrate that my busy work week was coming to a close. The sun was still up over the ocean, painting the skies and our garden in flaming colors. What a difference one hour makes!

sunset over the Gulf ud112

sunset tonight ud112The bay was basking in the glow as well. And we found a Great Egret fishing next to the Sailing Center.

the bay at sunset tonight 2 ud112.jpg

Great egret at night ud112And two American Oyster Catchers were having their dinner on the top of the rocks bared by the low tide.

two Oyster catchers ud112Part of the salt marsh was still basking in the last rays of sun, here seen through one of my usual hideouts. And Dylan had a few friends to run with at the park.

saltmarsh at sunset ud112I am hoping to get in a long walk this weekend to catch up with the latest ‘gossip’ at the marsh and its surroundings. And to catch up on your blogs as well.

Have a wonderful weekend. Peace.

Halloween at the Salt Marsh. Everything Transmogrified.

A few minutes after midnight I stepped out into the cool night. As I approached the end of our driveway, the pale crescent moon suddenly disappeared in red haze. It was pitch black. Then, slowly, a sparkling full moon appeared. I thought that was strange. But knew it would aid me on my visit to the salt marsh.

halloween-moon-3-ud88The gate into the park was closed, of course. But unlike any other night, a mean looking bird was guarding it.  His long bill was sharp and his left foot was raised as in a warning.

nature-reserve-forest-and-snowy-egret-halloween-2-ud88No admission. But stubborn as I am, I decided to climb over the low stone wall a little further down.

salt-marsh-stone-wall-3-ud88Right away I could see some hunching shapes on one of the small islands in the distance. A gathering of the ghosts perhaps? Halloween party? It was impossible to tell.

wood-storks-and-great-egrets-halloween-2-ud88Bang! The ground shook and lightning struck from the clear sky. It illuminated the osprey nest. From afar, it looked deserted and seemed to glow faintly in the moonlight.

osprey-nest-halloween-4-ud88I was frightened, but there was no turning back. So I walked closer. Suddenly I heard heavy wing beats right above my head. A large bat? I saw a huge creature land on the nest. He looked right at me and I thought his eyes were somewhat familiar. He didn’t say anything, just stared at me flexing his enormous wings.

papa-osprey-halloween-3-ud88Just under the nest, I could discern a glowing figure on the ground. Someone else was observing me too. It was spooky. And eerily quiet.

yellowcrowned-night-heron-playing-halloween-3-ud88The silence was broken by a bone-chilling scream. An apparition with a huge bill drifted right next to me. I started running.

papa-wood-stork-halloween-2-ud88Further out, I saw more dark shapes starting to gather at the far end of the marsh. Curiosity won over fear and I decided to investigate. Walking along the water line, I spotted large glowing fish in the deep pond. Monsters over three feet long.

fish-tarpon-in-the-salt-marsh-halloween-ud88I sensed many pairs of eyes were following my every step from the deep shadows. It was unnerving. But I kept going.

muscovy-duck-halloween-3-ud88

great-egret-halloween-3-ud88

squirrel-halloween-ud88As I came to the far end, I noticed action on the water. Someone was running for his life!

mottled-duck-run-on-water-halloween-ud88The poor fellow was chased by a much bigger creature, who was flapping his wings as he ran on the water. I could feel chills go down my spine.

reddish-egret-hunting-halloween-ud88Suddenly I came to a halt. A creepy feathered being was blocking the trail. He was huge! And he was scrutinizing me from top to toe from the corner of his eye.

great-blue-heron-halloween-2-ud88I started shaking, but finally he let me pass. I took cover under some short palm trees next to the water. That’s when I saw her. Her pink skirt was flowing in the cool breeze as she performed her dance at the edge of the pond.

roseate-spoonbill-halloween-2-ud88All action stopped. No running, no chasing, no fooling around. Complete silence as if all the creatures were holding their breath. Then wings started flapping. Loud applause reverberated in the night. I tried to clap too, but couldn’t. Something heavy was weighing down my left arm. It didn’t move.

dylan-halloween-ud88I woke up. And Dylan turned to look at me. I must have been screaming because the hair on his head stood up. I had dozed off and been dreaming about my friends at the salt marsh. All transmogrified just in time for Halloween. I turned off the TV and the light, petted Dylan and went back to sleep. Who knows what the night might bring. Happy Halloween folks!