Tag Archives: Sanderling

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.

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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.

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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.

Rise and Shine. Fall at the Salt Marsh.

We have gorgeous fall weather here on Florida’s Gulf coast. I want to invite you all to join me on a morning walk on the beach, in the park and at the salt marsh.

love-grass-2-ud87Being “evergreen” we do not have the typical fall foliage, but there is plenty of color for us to enjoy right here in our garden.

And the beach is lively with shorebirds, particularly Sanderlings and Willets, in addition to the usual gulls and terns.

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willet-ud87From the beach we walk to the fishing piers at north end of the park. Sun is shining on the bay and the Clearwater Pass.

shine-ud87People are fishing and birds are flying over the water.

bridge-ud87We spot two familiar birds: the “other osprey” who was pestering Mama Sandy last week, and Henry, the younger Great Blue Heron.

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younger-great-blue-heron-henry-ud87For some reason, Henry is not at the salt marsh, but has flown into a kayak enclosure next to the fishing piers. Perhaps hoping for a free meal from one of the fishermen.

sand-key-park-ud87From there we walk south through the park to the salt marsh. And spot more fall colors on the way.

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pink-flowers-ud87Arriving at the marsh, we immediately notice the visitors. A family of eight Wood Storks mingle with Great and Snowy Egrets.

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great-egret-ud87The Great Egret wants to show the visitors who’s the boss, and some loud exchanges follow. But where is the real boss, the Mayor? We walk towards the osprey nest and find him hiding in the bushes right below the osprey nest.

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older great blue heron 2 ud87.jpgIt seems he doesn’t want to get involved in any squabbles, but rather prefers to take some quiet time to enjoy the morning. And the same goes for Mama Sandy. She has just caught a fish and turns to greet us before starting her breakfast.

mama-osprey-with-a-fish-ud87Then we spot the showman. The Reddish Egret performs his hunting dance. The clown of the marsh, as I dubbed him two years ago, draws his energy from a large audience. And today is no exception.

reddish-egret-hunting-ud87But the smaller herons, apart from the Snowy Egrets, have decided to stay away from the ‘big boys’.

snowy-egret-ud87Walking home, we find one of them, the Little Blue Heron, hunting alone on the bay.  The low tide has revealed new and interesting fishing grounds.

little-blue-heron-in-the-bay-ud87I hope you enjoyed this three mile walk in the crisp autumn air – a rare treat for us this early in the season.

At home another treat is waiting. The Audubon Society has received a grant from Duke Energy, our power company. Yay! Thank you to all who have contributed! We are now much closer to having the new dish platform for the Osprey couple installed on time. We all wish you a wonderful week.

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 ~

Fall. Salt Marsh Kindergarten. And How Mama Osprey Tricked Me.

It’s mid September. The weather here in Florida is still very much summer like. But the fall activities have definitely started. Migrating shore birds have arrived in hundreds. The beach is swarming with large flocks of Sanderlings and Dunlins, mingling with Willets, Black Skimmers, and all kinds of terns and gulls.

sanderlings and dunlins on the beach ud24Some of the Sanderlings must’ve been practicing with a marching band over the summer up north. They still have the rhythm.

sanderlings 2 running ud24 16x9Pelicans, old and young, are also present in much larger numbers than usual. Their waterskiing, formation flying and diving presentations are highly entertaining.

theee pelicans ud24

And I love watching the antics of the Royal Terns.  There is always something happening in their large community. They fish, chase each other and take breaks for contemplation and rest. And their landing styles are highly varied.  From clumsy one footers to gracious gliding.

royal terns return home ud24tern coming home ud24The Black Skimmer community is also lively. Lots of talking. Low bark-like calls, occasionally loud. And skimming for food at the water’s edge at sunrise and sunset.

black skimmers ud24Some “snow birds” have arrived at the salt marsh as well. Like the Mallards, who haven’t been here for months. And many more Great and Snowy Egrets than usual.

a male mallard duck molting into breeding plumage ud24great egret on the top ud24 snowy egret ud24The newly hatched Moorhen chicks have started in kindergarten. They are just tiny balls of fluffy black baby feathers,  but already bravely exploring the pollen-filled shallows.

mama moorhen and one chick ud24 two moorhen chicks ud24I’ve seen Papa Osprey only from afar, either in flight or scanning for fish at Marriott’s roof. But Mama Sandy is spending lots of time at the nest right now. You’ll notice (in later pictures) the greenery she’s brought in to make the bare nest more cozy.

papa osprey at sunrise B ud24

Yesterday morning Sandy was still wet after a dive, but as far as I could see there was no breakfast.

mama osprey wet ut with no fish ud24

I thought she’d already eaten, and after spending some time with her, I walked over to the bay side. It was a beautiful morning, and the young Great Blue Heron (GBH) was there too, looking for breakfast.

bay sunrise ud24the young blue heron ud24That’s when Sandy flew in from the nest. I had high hopes to get my first picture ever of her catching a fish! I’d be patient. I’d pan. I’d follow her every move.

She circled over the water. Back and forth for ten minutes, sometimes almost disappearing from sight. She hovered over several spots, looking intently down into the water. But she didn’t dive. And I waited with my camera ready to capture the drama. My arms started to hurt.

Suddenly she turned around and flew towards the ocean. A bit disappointed, I decided to walk home through the salt marsh to see the rest of the birds.

A few minutes later, just when I was passing the nest, Sandy came speeding in. With a fish!

mama osprey lands with a fish ud24She had tricked me. Ten minutes of circling over the bay, and five minutes to fetch a fish from the ocean, including the commute. Ha!

mama osprey sees something ud24She shook off the water, but had her eyes fixed into the sky towards the bay. The young GBH was approaching. Flying straight towards the nest.

young blue heron coming in ud24Sandy gave him a series of stern warnings. She hasn’t forgotten his blatant attacks on the nest last spring. The youngster circled around the nest once, tempting his fate. But then landed at the far end of the marsh.

young blue heron in flight ud24young blue heron lands ud24And Sandy could finally concentrate on her breakfast without interruptions.

mama osprey eats breakfast ud24I wish the young GBH would get some counseling with the Mayor. That gentleman knows how to live in peace at the salt marsh.

the older great blue heron ud24That’s it for today. We all hope your week is going great.

After the Big Rains. Long Lineup to the Smorgasbord.

Okay. The relentless storms are over. But I don’t even know how to begin to tell the story of the delightful bird invasion we’ve had around here this past week. The fresh water pooled up on the beach during the rains has been like a magnet for the shorebirds, particularly Black Skimmers and terns, among them many juveniles. They’ve been foraging in whatever little is left of the “beach lake”. (Click on the pictures for larger versions)

Terns and black skimmers Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaMany Black Skimmer parents have been encouraging their teenagers to start flying. That’s been quite amusing to watch. Like this mom and her baby. Mom nudged the baby asking her to practice flying. But she’d only flex her wings halfheartedly. While her pop, a few feet away, would dig in the sand impatiently, and “bark” at her to go up in the air already.

black skimmer mom and baby Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridablack skimmer Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Florida

And the beach has been swarming with Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns and gulls. Some practicing synchronized preening. Others fishing. And yet others arguing with their parents.

terns Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridaroyal terns preening Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaRoyal Tern diving Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridaroyal tern divig Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridaroyal tern caught a fish Sand Key beach, Clearwater, Floridaroyal tern mom and juvenile Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaAnd the tiny Sanderlings have brought their whole extended family to enjoy the beach.

sanderlings Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaWhere they were mixing with Willets and American Oystercathers. So many birds!

young willet Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaAmerican oystercatcher Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaAnd for the first time ever, I’ve spotted a baby Ruddy Turnstone. She was tentatively examining the beach with her mom fairly close by.

juvenile Ruddy Turnstone Sand Key beach, Clearwater, FloridaThe same has been true for the park next to the salt marsh. Long lines to the smorgasbord at shallow ditches still filled with fresh rainwater. Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets, Spoonbills, Ibis, Night Herons, you name it. All sharing the rare treat of fresh water.

egrets foraging in flood waters Sand Key Park, Clearwater, Floridasnowy egret and roseate spoonbill Sand Key Park, Clearwater, Floridajuvenile white ibis Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaAt the salt marsh, Mama Sandy has taken charge. I guess the Mayor is on vacation as I haven’t seen him since last week.

female osprey Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaSandy has been sitting at the front edge of the nest following the developments with a keen eye. For the most part things have been going smoothly, but I noticed some competition about great scanning posts among the many egrets. At least forty of them.

salt marsh birds Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaSandy also kept an eye on the skies. And when I followed her line of sight, I saw a Red-shouldered Hawk flying high above the marsh.

redshouldered hawk Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaI was hoping the hawk didn’t spot the ducklings performing synchronized diving in the deep waters.

mottled ducklings diving Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaRosa, the resident Roseate Spoonbill, had not cared to venture out of the marsh to see her cousins feeding in the remaining floodwaters elsewhere in the park. She was at home, in the shade under the osprey nest as usual.

roseate spoonbill Sand Key Park, Clearwater, FloridaI hope you enjoyed the many birds saying hello to us here on the beach and at the salt marsh. I’m flying away too for a few days (this is a scheduled post). I’ll try to stay in touch on my mobile devices. In any case I’ll catch up early next week.

terns on the beach Sand Key, Clearwater, FloridaI wish you all a wonderful weekend. Remember to enjoy what nature has to offer. Fly high!

Wordless Wednesday: Little Feet. And how to use them. Frame by Frame.

You can use your little feet to run around among the treasures on the beach...
You can use your little feet to run around picking shiny bargains…
two sanderlings on the beach
…or you can lean on one foot to have a lengthy, relaxed conversation
two royal terns
…or you may stand on one foot to rest the other while learning to know your neighbor
royal tern mom and teen
…or you can run after mommy or someone else important you need to talk to
gull taking off
…or you could use them to get away from sticky situations
...or you can use them as landing gear
…or you might use them as landing gear to ensure a soft landing
northern mocking bird
…or you could park your feet on the top of a tree and sing your heart out
mourning dove
…or you can curve your toes around a safe branch to ensure stability in life
house sparrow
…or you might just sit on your little feet in deep thought – and go nowhere at all.

 

Papa Osprey and His Friends. Important Introductions.

This past weekend was a delight. The weather was gorgeous between two cold fronts, but even more importantly our son popped in for a short visit. After all the good eating, I took him on a walk to enjoy the beach and to introduce him to my winged friends in the salt marsh.  I hoped they would behave. Or at least not go into hiding.

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A sailing boat on the calm, blue Gulf…

The ocean was sky blue and calm. Sailing school students were gathering for a class little further out.

sailing school nov 16
Sailing school students gather for a class…

Pelicans were flying back and forth close to the water, tiny Sanderlings were running around on the sand picking food, and to my surprise a Snowy Egret was fishing in the calm waves rolling in. A welcome committee already on the beach.

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A Pelican flies close to the calm waters…
sanderling
A little Sanderling picks for food…
A Snowy Egret fishing on the ocean shore...
A Snowy Egret fishing on the ocean shore…

When we reached the north end of the beach, Mister Blue Heron had courteously come to welcome us to the park and the salt marsh. I made introductions and we got some nice pictures.

mister blue heron on the beach
Mister Blue Heron shows off his welcome pose…

As we walked through the park, we spotted a beautiful Mourning Dove in the grass. And reaching the salt marsh we observed a Tricolored Heron fishing in the shallow waters. I was happy to see we still had some visitors. A team of Wood Storks was guarding a sleeping Spoonbill. He was taking an after lunch nap, I assumed.

mourning dove
A graceful Mourning Dove…
wood storks and roseate spoonbill
Visiting Wood Stork team and a Roseate Spoonbill…
tricolored heron
A Tricolored Heron patrols the marsh…

I made some quick introductions again, but was in a hurry to see if I could introduce my most cherished friend, Papa Osprey. And he didn’t disappoint.

papa osprey with a fish
Papa Osprey says hi to Tiny & son…

He was having lunch. He saw I had someone important to introduce so he interrupted his eating for a while to say hi. So very thoughtful of him. After saying our goodbyes to him we walked back home. And saw a new guy on the block circling high above the beach, a Turkey Vulture. I have no idea whether he’s moved in or was just visiting over the weekend.

Turkey vulture in flight
A Turkey Vulture circles high up…

It was a great weekend, but now we’re all back to work. Mine being to finish the first draft of my second book before the end of the month. I’ll need to catch up on my word count as writing was not a priority over this particular weekend. I’ll try to catch up on your blogs as well this week.

Have a great week, my friends.