Tag Archives: Sand Key Park

The Salt Marsh. Our Favorite Place.

After learning about this week’s photo challenge, my first thought was that it will be impossible for me to select one favorite place. There were too many great candidates for that title. Victoria Falls? The pyramids in Giza? The many great wildlife spots in Africa? The ancient treasures in Italy or Greece? My childhood lake in Finland? The Old Town in Stockholm? The list was long. But thinking about it I always came back to a place I can see every day right through my office window. The salt marsh at the north end of our barrier island. It’s always there. At sunrise and sunset. Rain or shine. Its mood constantly changing.

sunset at salt marsh 3 ud155

marsh at sunset UD155

salt marsh w iphone UD155And Dylan agrees with my choice. Whenever I say let’s go to the park, it’s clear from the speed of his tail that I’m on the right track. He loves to play at the dog park next to the marsh with his amigos, Saki, Eli, Snickers and others.

saki smiles 2 ud155

Eli march 23 UD155

snickers march 23 UD155So here we are, on ‘hatch watch’. From what we have been able to glean looking at the osprey nest from our terrace, the osprey couple now has hatchlings. While Mama Sandy is not yet allowing her chicks to be shown in public, her moves in the nest reveal that she is in the ‘mothering mode’. Sorry for the poor picture quality as these two images were taken handheld from almost 300 yards on my compact superzoom camera.

mama osprey attends to chick ud155Sandy gets up often and bends her head down into the nest cup. And after Papa Stanley has brought in a fish, her head stays down for several minutes. She moves around as in feeding more than one chick.

mama osprey feeds hatchling ud155Last night around sunset time, when we passed the nest and Stanley had just left to get dinner, she even stood up in the nest to preen herself. A sure sign that the eggs have hatched this week.

mama sandy at sunset ud155The nest cup is so deep that it will probably take a week or two before I can get ‘proof’ of the newly hatched chicks in the form of a grainy picture from my terrace. And a couple of more weeks before I can get the first baby portraits from the ground. Patience girl. Patience.

papa osprey ud155Papa Stanley is guarding the nest whenever he is not on a fishing trip. Yesterday, again, there was another osprey flying around the nest.

another osprey ud155Stanley sounded alarm and when that was not effective, he promptly went to chase it away.

papa osprey lands at the nest UD155When we passed under the nest a few minutes later, he was back on his guard post and nodded a friendly greeting.

papa osprey UD155I’m sure he had noticed that both the Mayor and the younger Great Blue Heron were present close to the nest. Staring at each other from the opposite sides of the deep water.

great blue heron Mayor ud155

younger Great Blue Heron ud155The Mayor’s presence was a good thing. It was less likely that the younger GBH would get bad ideas. Like considering attacking the osprey nest. He may remember that any attempt to approach the nest will not be tolerated. He would get his butt feathers ruffled by Stanley.

mama osprey UD155 9x16Mama Sandy was alert too. Maybe she remembered her dramatic encounter with the youngster a couple of years ago (below). Despite the difference in size, she did give the young heron a lesson.

mama osprey prevents attack by blue heron ud155But there was one fellow who only had time for himself … and the camera. As soon as the Reddish Egret, aka the Clown, saw my camera, he started his usual hunting dance.

reddish egret 1 UD155

reddish egret 2 UD155

Reddish Egret hunting UD155I always enjoy watching his performance, but this time he didn’t catch a fish. Someone else did. A young Great Egret walked around at the far end of the marsh showcasing his catch.

great egret with a fish ud155He kept an eye on us so we didn’t dare to move closer. Instead we spotted a Tri-colored Heron hunting for crustaceans in the shallow water.

tri-colored heron hunts ud155I was wondering if it was the same bird now being exhibited at the Florida Museum of Photographic Arts (below). Whatever the case, I am happy that one of the salt marsh residents made it to the “Forever Young” exhibition.

tri-colored heron Sand Key Park AHK UD155Just before leaving the park, we discovered something you can only see at the salt marsh. A bird reading a sign.

great egret read a sign ud155The Great Egret was wet. He looked relieved to see the no swimming sign pictured a human rather than a bird. He had already been swimming.

We all wish you a pleasant weekend and a great week ahead. Thank you for visiting our favorite place.

Mama Osprey’s Two-front War. And Free Fish Tasting at the Pier.

Some of you might have noticed that I’ve been MIA for a while. All kinds of work have been interfering with life. When I finally got back up for air, my first priority was to take a walk in the gorgeous fall weather. I walked almost four miles around the park trying to get my walk-o-meter running again. Phew. I almost felt my age.

Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaRight when I approached the beach end of the salt marsh, I knew something was up. Mama Sandy flew right over my head carrying a fish and sounded loud warning calls. Not for me, but for two other Ospreys circling high above her nest, a male and a female. It might have been Steve, whom some of you will remember, and his new bride.

male osprey

female osprey in flight Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida

I just had to zoom all out, point against the sun and shoot. Sorry for the grainy quality, but that’s the best I got. At least you can see Sandy caught a big fish. Osprey is the only bird that can carry a fish up to two times its own weight. And this fat one made Sandy work hard to get it into the nest.

osprey with a fish

I walked closer and saw the two Ospreys still hanging out in the vicinity of the marsh and looking down at Sandy. She didn’t like that one bit!

mama ospreys warning call Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaWhen I reached the nest, I saw there was a visitor. A Fish Crow was helping Sandy to defend the nest against intruders. Working for food. Or so he thought.

female osprey and the crow watch the skies Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaActually it was more like Sandy fighting a two-front war. I took a 90 second video clip so you can hear Sandy’s warning call and see how it all went down.

The salt marsh was lively with many birds, like this Tri-colored Heron and the Snowy Egret, all of whom went about their business pretending not to hear the loud exchanges of the Ospreys. And the Crow.

tricolored heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida snowy egret Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaMiss Rosa was there too, of course. And said her customary hello.

roseate spoonbill Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaThe young Muscovy Duck, who came to the salt marsh last year and disappeared as soon as he learned to fly, was back too. He was more interested in the photographer than the squabbles going on above his head.

muscovy duck Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaNext I went to visit Papa Stanley’s resort. It looked like he already had his breakfast. He was cleaning his talons.  Or brushing his teeth. It was difficult to tell.

male osprey cleaning his talons Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaFrom there I walked around the park and ended up at the fishing piers. Some of the marsh residents, like the two Great Blue Herons, were there too. Hoping to be invited for a free fish tasting.

fishing pier and a great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Floridayoung great blue heron at fishing pier Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaAnd a Snowy Egret with a broken toe inspected the nets and found a forgotten small fish. It pays to be diligent.

snowy egret at fishing pier Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaAfter meeting so many of my feathered friends, I continued through the lush pine and palm forest to the north beach.

old tree in Sand Key Park Clearwater Floridaforest Sand Key Park Clearwater FloridaSand Key Park Clearwater FloridaWalking home, I was looking signs of fall in the nature. As most of our trees are evergreens, I only found some colorful beach grass, typical of fall here,  and some particularly eye-popping seed pods.

beach grass in fall colors Sand Key Park Clearwater Floridapalm seed pods Sand Key Clearwater FloridaWith that I wish you all a wonderful upcoming weekend, and hope to catch up on you blogs in the next few days.

Flooding. Deserted Salt Marsh. And the Mayor’s Speech.

After 21 straight days of storms that dumped over 20 inches of rain on us, I’m happy to report we’re seeing the sun again here on the west coast of the “sunshine state”. When the rain finally stopped on Monday afternoon, I went to check out the flooding. And to see if I could spot any of my feathered friends.

beach and park flooding after the storms sand key clearwater florida

The beach and all the trails to the park were flooded. The new “Beach Lake” was even bigger than last week. As the rain had stopped, some boys tried to play ball at the shallow end of it. Lots of splashing.

playing ball on the flooded beach sand key clearwater florida

It was still gloomy, but the sun tried to show its face from under a hefty cloud cover. I didn’t want to repeat my wading exercise from last week, so I walked to the salt marsh on the street and the partly flooded walkways. The only bird I found on the usually lively bay shore was this Willet bathing in the floodwaters.

a willet bathing in flood water bay side sand key clearwater florida

And I spotted Papa Osprey. He was perched on a lamp-post far away, shaking his feathers and looking quite disheveled.

male osprey on a lamp post sand key clearwater florida

Entering the park, I saw flooding everywhere. All low-lying areas were under water, and the doggy park just north of the salt marsh had become a water feature for the birds.

flooding in the park sand key clearwater floridadoggy park under water sand key clearwater florida

Otherwise the salt marsh was deserted.  I walked around looking for my friends, water sloshing around my boots. The only birds I could find, in addition to those at the doggy park, were the young Great Blue Heron and Mama Sandy.  The heron was walking in the high grass, and Sandy was roosting at the nest. She was clearly tired of the rains. Just like me.great blue heron inspects the marsh sand key clearwater floridafemale osprey perching at her nest Sand Key park Clearwater FloridaThe water level in the marsh was too high for many of the birds to hunt there…and still rising. So they had evacuated.

salt marsh under water Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Yesterday afternoon, after three days of sunshine, I went back there to check how things were progressing. The flood waters in the park had receded considerably, but the marsh was brimming with water, and the beach was still flooded.

To my delight, I found that many residents had returned. The old Great Blue Heron, the Mayor, was surveying his little village at the west end of the marsh. He was addressing the community. Saying it was safe to return, I gathered.

great blue heron inspects the marsh Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

I had to laugh when I saw the crowd on the fence of the doggy park. They were listening to the Mayor while trying to dry up in the sun. The park was too soggy for the dogs to come back, so it was a safe place to roost.

egrets and ibis perching on the fence in the dog park Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Egrets and Ibis were perching on trees and bushes in big numbers. Like white dots sprinkled all over the marsh. And the Roseate Spoonbill was enjoying some shade at her usual spot below the osprey nest. She kindly agreed to a photo shoot.

birds in the salt marsh after the storms Sand Key park Clearwater Floridaa roseate spoonbill Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

The young Night Heron was back too, drying his feathers next to the deep water. It looks like he’s become a permanent resident. Decided the salt marsh was a safe place to grow up.

juvenile night heronSand Key park Clearwater Florida

The tiny Tricolored Heron surveyed the water levels at the east end of the marsh, looking a bit anxious. She probably understood it’d be some time before she could go hunting there again. The grassy little pools where she’d normally go fishing were now part of the “lake”. Full of big, scary fish.

tricolored heron on a stormy day Sand Key park Clearwater Floridafish in the salt marsh Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

The Mottled Ducks were happily cruising the waters, and so were the Moorhen families. With kids of all ages.

moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

moorhen chick Sand Key park Clearwater Floridamoorhen chick and a juvenile moorhen Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

And Mama Sandy was perched in her “watch tower”, monitoring the busy air traffic between the bay and the beach. I saw the young Great Blue Heron fly over the nest, and heard Sandy give a stiff warning. She has no tolerance for fools who’ve attacked her nest.

female osprey Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Before going home, I had to check on Papa Stanley too. He was back in his resort, looking much more put together. And really paying attention to me. I felt tiny under such scrutiny.

male osprey Sand Key park Clearwater Florida

Life at the salt marsh is slowly returning to normal.  We all wish you a wonderful weekend and thank you for coming to see us. Much appreciated. Just like the sunshine.

Commotion. Surprises. And Demolitions at the Salt Marsh.

Sindile, the youngest of the three Osprey chicks, was alone and asking for fish. She was also the only one in the Osprey family I had seen in the nest (looking with binoculars from my terrace) since my return home. Nobody came to keep her company even at night.

Osprey fledgling in her nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sindile was in the nest asking for fish…

I found her two siblings each perched on their own lamp-post on a parking lot, just outside the park boundary and fairly close to the nest. I was happy to see for myself that the chicks had made it through the storm that hit our area while I was away.

But the signs of the storm were still visible. Decorations, railings and loose sticks had been blown off the nest. Palm fronds and other debris from trees and bushes were scattered throughout the park. Only the immediate area around the salt marsh and the trails had been cleaned up. You may remember the old palm trunk (aka the condo building) that used to house Papa Stanley’s man cave, and homes for the Nanday Parakeets, Red-bellied Woodpeckers and European Starlings. It was now laying on the ground, demolished by the storm. Luckily the little ones living there had already fledged.

an old palm trunk taken down by the storms Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The condo building had been demolished by the storm…

After locating all three chicks, I wanted to find Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley. And I was lucky. Sandy had parked herself on a street light a quarter-mile north of the salt marsh, and Stanley was on his usual spot in front of the Sailing Center on the bay side. They were both still wet after recent fishing trips.

mama osprey on her perch Sand Key Clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy was drying herself on a street light…
Papa Stanley said hi from his perch close to the nest…

It was great to have found all of them in good health. Lofty and Aspire fledged about three weeks ago. They are now following Sandy and Stanley on fishing trips and learning to dive for fish by themselves. An adult Osprey catches a fish in one out of four dives, on average. Sometimes the success rate is as high as 70%. I believe Sandy belongs to that champion category. I’ve seen her come back with a fish in three, five and seven minutes! One time she went fishing right there in the salt marsh and brought home a fish in 30 seconds 🙂 Stanley usually takes closer to the average of 12 minutes. But for the chicks fishing is a tricky business. And they have to master this unique skill in 4-5 weeks after fledging. Their lives will depend on it.

an osprey fledgling in the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sindile was chilling in the nest…waiting for food.

I’ve been worried about little Sindile. She was born about a week after the other two, but had not fledged when I left on my trip early last week. And there she was, perched on the edge of the now bare nest. I spent some time with her and then decided to walk to the other end of the marsh. I wanted to see if I could spot any of the other residents. And I did.

great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The young Great Blue Heron was at home, drying himself after a fishing trip…
a snowy egret juvenile Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A juvenile Snowy Egret still had some baby hair on her head…
reddish egret fishing Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Reddish Egret was fishing, but this was a young one, not the older “showman” with a long, red hippie hair…
tri-colored heron hunting Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Tri-colored Heron was also looking for food…
great egret Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Great Egret scanned for fish too…

I was happy my feathered friends had weathered the storm well. I spotted most of the usual suspects, apart from the Spoonbill. To my delight I also saw two Black Skimmers at work in the salt marsh.

black skimmer skimming Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Black Skimmer was skimming the surface with her longer lower bill…
…and left a long trail in the water.

They prefer to skim on the ocean or on the bay, so it was a treat to see them in action right there. I was watching them when I heard some commotion at the osprey nest in the other end of the marsh. I raised my camera and started shooting. Sorry for the quality as I had to shoot right against the sun and crop these images heavily. But at least you can see what happened. Life is not easy for the youngest chick.

male osprey brought a fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley had brought a fish to Sindile, and Aspire wanted it too…
osprey chick lands in the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…she landed just behind Stanley…
osprey chick tries to push the male osrey off the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and it looked like she was trying to push Stanley away…
a scuffle ensues between the osprey chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sindile tried to eat fast…and Stanley flew away…
Osprey chick has taken the fish from her sibling Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
As soon as Stanley left, Aspire got the fish (in her right talons) and Sindile resigned.

I felt for Sindile, and hoped she had managed to keep at least a small piece for herself. I started walking back towards the nest. And the next that I knew, Lofty landed in the nest. He wanted to inspect if there was anything left of the fish.

an osprey chick lands in the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty landed in the nest and Sindile hunched to protect  herself…
osprey chicks scuffle over a fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…they scuffled for a few seconds…
osprey chick in the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and Sindile was left alone in the nest.

I didn’t see if Lofty got any fish. But at the end of the scuffle Sindile was alone in the nest. That’s when she surprised me. She spread her wings and took chase. Wow! She had fledged while I was away. And she was fighting back! She probably flew after Lofty just to show him she was angry. She didn’t get to him, but got excellent flying exercise at high speeds for a few minutes.

osprey chick in flight Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sindile flew several rounds above the salt marsh chasing Lofty…
osprey chick lands in the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…then she landed elegantly back in the nest.

All this happened on Tuesday afternoon. I also went to see them quickly yesterday morning. Aspire was in the nest. She was wet, which means she’d been diving for fish. I guess she had chased away Sindile who was perched on a lamp-post nearby.

osprey chick Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Aspire had taken over the nest…
osprey chick perching on a lamp-post Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and Sindile was perched on a lamp-post nearby.

Sindile was looking at Papa Stanley who was flying overhead with big brother Lofty, and a fish. I’m thinking Lofty had followed his Papa on a fishing trip, but didn’t catch anything himself this time.

osprey chick in flight Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Lofty flew with Stanley…
osprey carrying a fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…who was carrying a small fish.

Sandy was drying herself on a lamp-post on the bay side, also watching Lofty and Stanley.

female osprey drying herself Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Sandy was drying herself after breakfast dives.

I’ve noticed that Lofty is not around much any more. I haven’t seen him since that flight yesterday morning. He may have learned to fish well enough to take off on his own. But I’m guessing he’ll not go very far from home, as yet. Aspire will probably stay around at least for another week practicing her fishing skills. And Sindile, the little survivor, maybe two-three more weeks. Then they’ll start their independent lives as young Ospreys, and their fantastic parents get a well deserved vacation.

I hope your week is going great. Love from all of us around the salt marsh.

Papa Osprey Hauls in Fish. Mama Bakes. Two Chicks to Feed.

Oh chick! Just after last week’s update I thought I saw two tiny hatchlings in the Osprey nest, but couldn’t get a confirmation until this morning. I was having my second cup of coffee on the terrace when I saw Papa Stanley fly in with a fish. I ran in to get my camera.  And discovered Mama Sandy was feeding not one, but two chicks! They seemed to be about the same size and must have hatched a day or two apart about 12-14 days ago.

Papa and Mama osprey with two chicks Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Stanley is checking the surroundings…
osprey chicks sand key park clearwater florida
…while Mama Sandy feeds the chicks.

Two little heads came up every time Sandy took a bite. I guess they can now eat tiny pieces of fish, and seem to be growing fast! That means a fishing trip after another for Stanley. From what I’ve observed, he brings in three to four fish a day, maybe more.

osprey flies low sand key park clearwater florida
Papa Osprey flies low coming back to the nest.

That’s tiring. The other day I caught him dozing off in a pine tree near his man cave – with what was left for him of the fish. It’s a full time job to feed a family of four, and he seems to be doing it pretty well. I thought he deserved a nap on his lunch break so I didn’t go too close.

osprey with fish taking a nap sand key park clearwater florida
Papa Osprey takes a lunch time nap.

And Mama Sandy is not brooding the chicks anymore as they are now older than 10 days. But because the little ones don’t have any way to cool themselves as yet, she is still protecting them from the sun with her wings most of the time.

Mama Osprey protects the chicks from sun.

One morning I discovered she had started baking. There was a fish hanging on the side right below the nest, baking in the midday sun. Maybe dried fish was on the menu at a later date 🙂 I have no idea how she did it.

mama ospey bakes a fish sand key park clearwater florida
A fish is baking in the sun below the nest.

Sometimes Sandy flies away briefly to fetch something small for the babies from nature’s huge supermarket, and leaves Stanley to look after them. One morning, she left the nest twice and came back with something green, both times. It looked like a small bunch of leaves. I gathered the babies must be ready for some salad with their fish. Or maybe they just needed additional vitamins.

mama osprey leaves the nest sand key park clearwater florida
Mama Osprey leaves the nest to get some greens for the chicks.

This week I’ve also checked on the residents in the condo building. They seem to be doing fine. The Parakeet couple has chosen a particular pine tree for their hugging sessions when not in their apartment. It’s much roomier outside, of course.

parakeets sand key park clearwater florida
The affectionate Nanday Parakeet couple on their perch.
palm trunk condo update
Parakeet and Starling on their balconies.
red-bellied woodpecker in his nest sand key park clearwater florida
The red-bellied Woodpecker in his apartment on the other side of the building.

The Starling and the Red-bellied Woodpecker still live there too. And I’ve not seen any evidence of neighborly disputes, even when Papa Stanley still occasionally uses his penthouse-level man cave.

I’ve come eye to eye with many other salt marsh residents as well, like this Mockingbird who was imitating osprey calls. Big dreams in falsetto for this little fellow.

a mockingbird sand key park clearwater florida
The Northern Mockingbird imitates osprey calls and is surprised to see Tiny.

And the Reddish Egret, who put on quite a show for me and then paused as in waiting for the applause. But that’s for another post.

reddish egret sand key park clearwater florida
The Reddish Egret waits for the applause after his show.

That’s all for this week. Salt marsh residents, from the biggest to the smallest, wish you all a wonderful weekend. ❤ Tiny

Parents Shield the Newborn from Paparazzi. And Other Late Breaking News from the Salt Marsh.

It’s really hard to be a paparazzo. While some “duckies” are happy to be photographed, and even pose for the camera with their kids at times, that’s not the  case with the Osprey family. The happy parents announced their baby news when I returned from my travels earlier this week. My guess is the baby was born between Thursday and Saturday last week. I could see both parents bent over the depression in the nest tending to the baby. But all my attempts to get a picture of the tiny hatchling have been thwarted by the protective parents. Almost.

Baby food transport arrived and feeding started.
Baby food transport has arrived and feeding started.

I have leaned far out over my terrace railings trying to get a clear line of sight into the nest, or a better angle. That’s not a totally risk free undertaking when your terrace is on the 14th floor and you’re trying to hold a 200x/1200mm zoom steady. When visiting the salt marsh, I’ve have climbed up on benches closest to the nest. And even considered using stilts or climbing a tree. But despite my best paparazzi tricks, the only picture that I might have of the baby is below. I’m not sure if it’s the hatching, it could be wishful thinking. What do you think?

osprey nest
Mama Sandy…and the chick?

The parents have now built a bit higher baby fence on the side facing my terrace so picture taking will be even more challenging. Good for the baby, bad for the paparazzo.

I’ve walked around the nest yesterday and today. And while I will not be able to see the little one from the ground for a few weeks, I’ve observed interesting parenting stuff. Check out this photo story.

Mama Sandy broods the chick...
Mama Sandy broods the chick for the first 10 days…it’s quite warm and she’s getting sweaty.
Papa Osprey comes in with a lunch bag of fresh fish, flies over the nest to show it to Mama...
Papa Stanley comes in with a lunch bag of fresh fish, flies over the nest to show it to Mama…
...and goes to eat the head in his man cave, then brings the best part to Mama and baby...
…and goes to eat the head in his man cave, then brings the best part to the nest…
...where Sandy starts feeding the baby...
…where Sandy immediately starts feeding the baby…
...while Stanley watches and learns...
…while Stanley watches and learns…
…until it’s his turn to feed the baby … under strict supervision by Sandy.
...then they both bend over the baby and feed it in turn...
Then they both bend over the baby and feed it in turn…
...until the feeding is done and Sandy has eaten. Then Stanley flies away with the rest of the fish...
When the baby has been fed it’s Sandy’s turn to have a bite, if she’s hungry. Finally Stanley flies away with the rest of the fish.

I’ve seen this routine several times now. But I should add that Stanley is even more protective of the nest now. Yesterday I saw him fly away with his fish and return almost immediately. Osprey Steve was flying by and Sandy sounded an alarm.

Papa Stanley returned back home...
Papa Stanley returns back home…
...to defend the nest...Mama Sandy is still sounding a stern warning to Steve...
…to defend the nest…Mama Sandy sounds a stern warning to Steve…
Osprey Steve over the marsh
…who flies over the marsh.

And only when everything is calm again will Stanley go to his man cave to finish his meal.

Finally everything looks peaceful and Stanley leaves for his man cave again to finish his meal.
Finally everything looks peaceful and Stanley leaves for his man cave again to finish his meal.

I think Sandy and Stanley are amazing, doting parents. And I’m happy they are not alarmed when a clumsy paparazzo lurks around the nest. They are just not yet ready for a photo shoot with the baby. I get that. Later will do.

When I was saying goodbye to Mama Sandy yesterday afternoon, I discovered a drama playing out in the deep water just below the nest. It was the Cormorant. Again. This is how it went down. The fish, I mean.

The Cormorant caught a fish...
The Cormorant caught a fish…
...and it's a big one!
…and it’s a big one!
He swings it up...
He swings it up…
...and down it goes!
…and down it goes!
Slowly.
With some effort, slowly but surely.

Such is life in the salt marsh. Never a dull moment in this beautiful place, where wildflowers greet the newborn. The little hatchling will learn all that in time.  Bless his/her heart.

Birthday flowers for the newborn. You can see the reflection of the nest pole in the water.
Birthday flowers for the newborn. You can see the reflection of the nest pole in the water.

Late Breaking News! Just before this was going to press, I was hanging out from the terrace again and got a confirmation it really was the hatchling in the first picture. Sandy was feeding the baby, now approximately 5-7 days old, and moved aside to take another bite. I got a few pictures where the chick was moving, and also enlarged one where s/he waits for another bite with an open mouth. If you look carefully at the second, very grainy and pixelated photo (feel free to get your goggles) you’ll see a tiny brown/white Osprey, about the size of Mama’s head, in the red circle 🙂

A tiny baby Osprey between Papa and Mama.
A tiny baby Osprey between Papa and Mama.
osprey chick enlarged
Osprey chick wants food.

I hope your Easter week is going smoothly. Reporting from the salt marsh this Thursday evening, Tiny

Detective Work and a New Condo Building. In the Salt Marsh.

No baby news as yet for the Osprey Family.  Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley are still sitting tight on the egg(s), taking turns. Sandy sits from sunset until sunrise, then gets a nice break after breakfast for bath and exercise.

female osprey drying herself Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Osprey does her morning exercises. She has specialized in greeting me her head upside down   🙂

She also gets a short break in the afternoon, and a last long one just after dinner before sunset. The shift change is quick and smooth, well practiced by now.

shift change for incubating ospreys Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Shift change, Mama Osprey goes back to sit on the egg(s) after her morning break…
shift change for incubating ospreys Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…Papa osprey leaves for his break…
male osprey leaves the nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and to get the next meal.

Just a little later this day, on my way home, I found him on Marriott’s roof looking for fish in the bay, but also checking on Mama every now and then. It’s quite far from the nest, but I’m sure he could both see and hear her.

osprey on the roof of sand key Marriott resort
Papa Osprey’s lookout on the roof of Marriott Resort.

But I’ve seen some indications that hatching is imminent. Sandy gets up, exercises a bit and inspects the egg(s), which she hasn’t done before. She’s counting the days, I’m sure.

Mama osprey checks on the eggs Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Osprey checks on the egg(s)…

And Stanley has moved his perch closer to the nest. Last few days I’ve found him on a lamp-post just south of the park border and only 30 feet from the nest. I took this picture of him on St. Patrick’s Day through some thick trees. He was sleepy after eating the head of the fish and was just guarding it until Sandy would tell him she wants to eat.

osprey sleeping with a half eaten fish Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…while Papa is sleeping with full crop on his lamp-post.

A wonderful little couple. But has their week been just peace and quiet? Of course not. Osprey Steve has flown by a few times, but heeded the warnings and disappeared quickly. Maybe he’s finally learning. But that’s not the case with the Great Blue Heron who attacked the nest couple of weeks ago. He did it again.

young great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The culprit, a young Great Blue Heron is hiding close to some tall grass.

This time I had just left to go home and had reached the opposite end of the marsh when I saw a Great Blue Heron fly right over me from the beach towards the nest. I saw Papa Osprey intercepting him in the air about ten feet from the nest. I scrambled with my camera that I had already shut off and placed in my bag. And saw a wild chase over the salt marsh. The culprit was fleeing and Papa was chasing him. I managed to get them both in one of my wild shots from very far. You can see Stanley coming back towards the marsh and the Blue Heron flying over the marsh trying to find a hiding place.

Papa Osprey (on the upper left) chases the Great Blue Heron (on the right)

I just had to return and do some detective work. I couldn’t believe the culprit was the resident Great Blue Heron, whom I had named the Mayor of the Marsh, and seen around for the whole year. And I was right. Little detective work sometimes pays off. There were two Great Blue Herons in the marsh! The youngster (pictured above) who just flew in and attacked the nest, and the older gentleman. He was watching the drama from a small islet, and I had not seen him earlier. That explains a lot.

great blue heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Mayor of the Marsh checks on the residents…

I have one more funny thing to report.  You remember the old palm trunk where Papa Stanley has his man cave penthouse? Now that he’s moved closer to the nest and is not using it much, it has become a very busy condo building for nesting birds.

nanday parakeet Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Nanday Parakeet couple has the upper unit…
european starling
A couple of European Starlings have the middle unit…
redbellied woodpecker in his nest Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and a Red-bellied Woodpecker has the lower unit on the other side of the trunk.
Two residents are on their balconies, the woodpecker is obviously on his way out to run some errands.

Oh, I almost forgot. The Green Heron, whom I haven’t seen for months, returned to the marsh just in time for St. Patrick’s Day.

green heron Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Green Heron is back home!

That’s all for this week. Unless there are breaking news. I hope your week has been great so far.

Reporting from the salt marsh, Tiny