Tag Archives: Sandwich Tern

Summer at the Salt Marsh. Beach Party. Rivalry. And Construction Plans.

Hello friends! I’m still on my summer break, but since I’m at home right now I want to give you an update on the affairs at the salt marsh. H.J’s visit early this month brought in the regular thunderstorms with downpours that belong to our summer. At the salt marsh, water levels are up and everything is fresh green.

salt marsh ud73

salt marsh ud73A couple of days ago I took a walk on the beach and was invited to a beach party attended by hundreds of feathered guests. It was a jolly event with Black Skimmers, Royal Terns, Sandwich Terns, Laughing Gulls, Herring Gulls, including juveniles, enjoying the freshwater ‘lake’ formed on the beach by the frequent torrential downpours. The ‘lake’ occupied almost the whole beach, leaving only a wet, narrow strip of sand next to the salt marsh.

beach party after the rain UD73Some partygoers were flying back and forth looking for the perfect spot, others were catching up on the latest, bathing or preening. It was lively indeed.

birds on the beach 2 ud73

royal tern UD73

juvenile gull ud73Some guests were resting, and yet others had partied enough and fallen asleep on the sand. But in such a crowd you’d better sleep with your eyes open, like this Black Skimmer.

black skimmer sleeping ud73Despite being attired with my newly acquired cheerful rain boots, I decided not to test the water depth in the ‘lake’, but instead to walk to the salt marsh through the bay side.

my new rain boots ud73.jpgThat was a great decision. I was rewarded with a pleasant discovery. Papa Stanley had returned from his 4-week vacation!

papa osprey ud73He was perching on the wind measurement device at the Sailing Center, obviously planning his next fishing trip. I could hardly see him as the sun was right in my eyes, but looking at my photos I realized he had definitely recognized me. From there I went to see Mama Sandy. She was ‘babysitting’ the nest again, and greeted me with a friendly nod. And I thought she tried to tell me about the dismal condition of the nest. We both agree that the nest will not make it through the nesting season starting in December.

mama osprey ud73I was happy to let her know that I’ve finally started the process of getting the nest repaired – or perhaps replaced. This will involve several steps: evaluating the nest pole to see if it has hollowed and will need to be replaced, and if that is the case, evaluating the ground to see if it can carry the heavy equipment needed to replace the whole structure with a new, more durable one. If the answer is yes, then I’ll have to get busy approaching sponsors to get help with the fairly high cost of this project. If the answer is no, then we’ll need to come up with plan B and only replace the nest platform that is falling apart. I hope to have these answers in the next few weeks through the Clearwater Audubon Society. While they don’t have the money to pay for this project right now, they have the required permits and the connections to suitable contractors, and have kindly agreed to help. Wonderful news for our Osprey family.

mama osprey at the nest ud73I promised to keep Mama Sandy updated. As I walked around the marsh, I observed something quite interesting. Both the younger Great Blue Heron and the Mayor were present. Staring at each other from opposite ends of the marsh. Measuring strength. As many of you know, the young one is a colorful character. He is still much smaller than the Mayor, but clearly has the desire to be the king of the hill, so to speak. He has been frequenting the marsh over the last three months, while the Mayor has taken care of his family on the ‘bird island’ in the bay. Last spring the Mayor told us ‘I’ll be back’ – and he has kept his promise.

young great blue heron ud73
Young GBH
great blue heron Mayor ud73
Older GBH, the Mayor

A Great Egret was following the developments with keen interest from a tree in the middle of the marsh.

great Egret ud73And a female Cowbird was excitedly cheering on the Mayor from a nearby tree.

female brown-headed cowbird ud73Miss Rosa was seeking shelter from the sun at her usual spot, but kept an eye on the two rivals as well. Particularly the youngster. She didn’t cheer.

roseate spoonbill ud73The Snowy Egret was staring at the young heron too, and he didn’t cheer either.

snowy egret UD73A family of White Ibis was foraging in the grass close by, probably hoping their youngster wouldn’t need to witness any brouhaha on such a beautiful day.

Juvenile ibis ud73Their wish was granted. The truce lasted, and each heron held on to its end of the marsh. I walked home and shot some pictures of flowers in our garden on my way in. Pink flowers. Just to celebrate summer.

I look forward to visiting my family in northern Europe early August. I may do a short mobile post from there. Otherwise I’ll see you after mid August. Lots to catch up on by then.

Thanks for coming along. I hope you are enjoying your summer too. Much love.

Breakfast on the go. Morning Meditations. And Gardening at the Salt Marsh.

She is a very good gardener, Mama Sandy. She “planted” some greens in the nest about 10 days ago, and they are still green, in fact in great condition as of this morning. And standing tall despite some breezy days in between.

female osprey babysitting the decorated nest.I’d like to know her secret, but she’s tight-lipped, as always. She and Papa Stanley are still molting, but start to look more put together day by day. They both even posed for a portrait photo last weekend.

female osprey sand key park clearwater floridamale osprey sand key park clearwater floridaSandy in the nest and Stanley close by at his resort. But he didn’t look as representable this morning when I caught him coming fresh from the bay with his carry out.

male osprey caught a fish sand key park clearwater floridaI took a swing to the bay side and saw a beautiful Great Egret in the middle of his morning meditation, and several Brown Pelicans flying back and forth in search of breakfast. They seemed to be quite successful.

great egret at clearwater bay floridabrown pelican takes off clearwater floridapelican eating a fish clearwater bay floridaWalking back to the salt marsh, I spotted a Northern Mockingbird. I love their brilliant medley performances, and have smiled many times  at their Osprey imitations. But she didn’t sing for me today. She had something else on her mind.

northern mockingbird sand key park clearwater floridaI stopped to have a gulp of water and saw this little fellow in a tree right behind me. He looked at me suspiciously when I raised my camera, and then ran away.

squirrel sand key park clearwater floridaThe migrating birds have not yet arrived in any big numbers, but the salt marsh was spotted with white birds, lots of Snowy Egrets and White Ibis.

ibis and snowy egret hunting sand key park clearwater floridaI also saw a new juvenile Night Heron busy grooming herself, and an Anhinga stretching out on a branch.

juvenile night heron sand key park clearwater floridaanhinga sand key park clearwater floridaFor those of you, who’ll wonder about the Mayor, I can tell he was there too. But it seemed he was taking an after-breakfast-nap in the high grass, so I didn’t get a picture of him this time. I walked home through the beach and the trail was surrounded by wild flowers, brilliant colors from yellow to purple to pink.

beach wild flowers ud 24wild flowers 2 on the beach ud25The beach was lively, as usual, but I’ll just leave you with a couple more pictures. A Sandwich Tern, who shows us how best to get breakfast on the go. Just dip your bill into the water in mid-flight and you’re good to go.

gull eating on the fly sand key clearwater floridaAnd a Oystercather who was half asleep and let me walk fairly close to take his portrait.

oystercatcher sand key clearwater floridaWith that, I’ll wish you all a wonderful upcoming weekend. Cheers from all friends at the salt marsh ~

Search and Rescue. And Storms over the Salt Marsh.

Wishes do come true. Erica, the tropical storm, died last Saturday. But she left a large blob of moisture churning on the Gulf. And that brought strong storms over our area late last week and early this week. The “beach lake” was reborn, and there are some fresh water pools in the park around the salt marsh. But luckily no bad flooding.

Early in the week, I managed to get in a couple of walks just before the storms rolled in. While the bay bathed in sunshine under blue skies both mornings, the storm clouds were gathering on the ocean.

Clearwater BayMama Sandy hasn’t visited the nest much lately, but I’ve usually found her somewhere on the bay side. One of these mornings she was having breakfast on a lamp-post, but keeping a keen eye on the skies at the same time. She seemed to be in a hurry.

Female Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaFemale Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaYou see, she was aware of Papa Stanley circling high in the skies with another Osprey. First I thought his pal Steve might have returned, but then managed to get a couple of pictures that proved me wrong. It was a juvenile! Likely one of their chicks, but it was impossible to tell for sure which one. I was betting on Lofty.

Juvenile Osprey Sand Key Clearwater Florida Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaAfter finishing her breakfast Sandy joined them over the bay. She was talking non stop. Maybe she was telling them to focus on getting breakfast before the storms would roll in. Who knows. But Stanley obliged.

Female Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaI noticed (from very far) that he flew back to Marriott and took up a scanning position on the lower roof.

Male Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaI also saw a woodpecker family on the bay side. It might have been the same couple of Red-bellied Woodpeckers who nested in the demolished “condo building”. Now there was a new juvenile in the family.

redbellied woodpecker Sand Key Clearwater FloridaAnd since I also had my eye on the sky, I decided to leave a proper visit to the salt marsh for later. And soon was happy I did. An impressive thunderstorm rolled in.

The next morning I found only Sandy. She had decided to borrow Stanley’s resort to keep an eye on the approaching storms. And on me. That penthouse has the best views. Stanley may have embarked on a fishing trip little further out. Perhaps a father and son outing with Lofty.

Female Osprey Sand Key Clearwater FloridaI decided to tempt my fate and visit the salt marsh. But it was practically deserted. There was an eerie silence. No bird song, no nothing. The birds had already gone to their rain shelters in anticipation of the storm. The only one seemingly still around was the young GBH. His head stuck up from the high grass as he peered towards the ocean.

young great blue heron Sand Key Clearwater FloridaThen I heard Papa Moorhen.  I spotted him hauling heavy materials to reinforce the family home. Last-minute preparations for the impending storm.

moorhen repairing nest

Just before I reached the beach, I almost stumbled on a young Sandwich Tern. She was laying in the grass next to the trail. She looked away when I approached, but didn’t move. I thought it was odd for her to be there alone when all the other birds had sought shelter. I snapped a couple of pictures of her, and then ran (yes, ran) home through the flooded beach.

rainbow over the ocean Sand Key Clearwater FloridaIt was already raining on the ocean so I decided to take a shortcut through some trees and bushes into our garden. But failed to jump all the way over the ditch, or rather a newly formed four-foot wide “river”.  My old hiking shoes got a through soaking, but luckily I didn’t land on my tummy in the water. Then the first fat rain drops fell on me. The storm was upon us.

Once safely inside, I sat down at my laptop, had my second cup of coffee, and looked at the pictures. This is what I saw.

sandwich ternThe little tern had a fishing hook sticking out of her mouth. And it had also pierced her throat. She couldn’t even close her beak, and must’ve been in terrible pain. I hadn’t noticed the hook when I saw her, and now she was out there in the storm badly injured by human activity.storm over salt marsh Sand Key Clearwater FloridaTo make a long story short, I reached my friend, the Ranger, on the phone. She is also a bird rescuer. I told her about the little tern and where she’d been when I spotted her. The Ranger went out to look for her. About fifteen minutes later I got a call from her. The little tern had been found and was on her way to the vet. The Ranger told me she’d seen fishing hooks in birds many times, but never one so badly tangled into the skin.

little tern So there would be a small surgery, and maybe some recuperation time at the sanctuary. But this little tern would make it. Yay!

On that happy note I wish you all a great weekend ahead.

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!

Weekly Photo Challenge: Motion in Nature (9 Images)

This week’s DP photo challenge is “motion”.  Since I love to capture motion in our precious natural environment, I thought it’d be fun to participate. So here are some images representing four different types of motion in nature. In addition to the butt-shaking, water spraying motion demonstrated by Mama Osprey in the featured image.

I hope your week has started well.

Slow motion.  Enjoyable, hardly noticeable, purposeful. Often lovable.

mama and baby bottlenose dolphin slowly gliding by Caladesi Island Florida
Mama and baby Bottlenose Dolphin glide slowly on the surface of the calm ocean.
mottled duck with ducklings Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Mama Mottled Duck swims slowly with her ducklings in tow.

Quick motion. Fast and furious. Gone in a blink. Always momentary.

sandwich tern flying in the surf Sand Key Beach Clearwater Florida
A Sandwich Tern flies fast to get out of the furiously moving surf.
A great egret eats a fish sand key park clearwater Florida
A little fish pops extremely fast into the mouth of a Great Egret.

Accelerating motion. Rising. Upward. Onward. Often sudden and surprising.

A brown pelican takes off Sand Key Beach Clearwater Florida
A Brown Pelican takes off.
A Great Egret takes off Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
A Great Egret takes off.

Decelerating motion. Slow-down. Approach. Touch down. Most often anticipated.

Royal Terns and Sandwich Terns come in for landing.
papa osprey lands in the nest in Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
Papa Osprey lands…for a romantic interlude a couple of months ago. Now he’s landing to feed three chicks 🙂

You can find other DP Weekly Photo Challenge entries on Motion here.

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.