I came back home last night to the tune of strong winds and a passing cold front. By this morning, the wind had calmed down a bit and the skies were blue again, but it was cool. I would say cold, but I don’t want to offend anyone. Anyway, I felt the need to get moving again this afternoon so I went out for a walk to check on my feathered friends.
The beach was quite stormy. And completely empty, apart from a few Willets. When passing the salt marsh, I found the birds hunching in the grass or hiding in the trees. Even Papa Osprey and his friend Stanley were not perching upright as they usually do. That’s what a cold front does to you.
The birds were clearly feeling the chill. Winter has arrived to Florida. And that means the start of the nesting season for many residents in the salt marsh.
Speaking of nesting, I have to tell you something I discovered later this afternoon. I saw Papa Osprey flying together with another Osprey. And singing. I took some pictures of them on the run and when I enlarged them, I saw the other Osprey also had a “necklace”. Stanley and Steve don’t have one, but Mama Osprey does. Couldn’t be sure though it was her so I leave it like that. We’ll see soon enough.
This morning I approached Papa Osprey’s nest walking silently on the grass behind the nest. A surprise visit. I was wondering how close I could get before he’d discover I was there. I shot the first picture of his tail feathers. And was discovered right away!
In addition to sharp eyes, he has an excellent hearing too. He heard me despite a Blue Jay giving a high-pitched concert in a tree behind me. You know how they sound.
At the same time Papa was keeping an eye on a Turkey Vulture circling high overhead. This only confirms my earlier conclusion that he’s a skilled multitasker.
We talked for a while, as we always do. I told him I’d be away traveling for a few days, and he promised me to continue keeping watch on the skies for Mama Osprey.
Then I continued my walk around the salt marsh. In many places the ground was covered by “snow” from the flowering trees. Even the Moorhen was swimming in a light “snowfall”.
Next, I spotted a “long-time-no-see” Reddish Egret in the shallow waters. Initially, he seemed startled to spot me. But soon recovered and continued his search for some brunch items.
His relative, the Snowy Egret, was the third one to surprise me. He walked right up from the marsh and did an impressive shake-baby-shake routine on the grass next to me.
I decided I’d walk a bit deeper into the park to see if I could find any of Papa Osprey’s friends. I came to the dead palm trunk favored by all three ospreys around here. Nobody at home. Then whoosh! Stanley flew in with a big fish!
That impressive meal got all his attention. And I decided it was time to go home. Enough surprises for one day. Although quite wonderful ones.
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.
The ocean was sky blue and calm. Sailing school students were gathering for a class little further out.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Earlier this week, I went out for my usual greet-papa-osprey run around the salt marsh, and landed in the middle of a migration conference with over 100 participants! The place resembled a luxury resort, with guests sprawling around every table at the lunch buffet.
I’ve never seen so many birds in this salt marsh! Dozens of migrating Great Egrets, Snowy Egrets and Wood Storks were visiting. I was delighted, but the permanent residents didn’t quite share my enthusiasm. The crowd was a bit unruly at times. Tempers flared, voices – and hairs – were raised.
There were a few really loud exchanges. Followed by rearrangements at the tables. Or maybe I should say, adjustments in the pecking order.
But for the most part, the conference luncheon went smoothly. Everyone got their pickings, big or small.
After lunch some quests embarked on their exercise routines, while others chatted with their peers. Exchanging the latest. Some paraded the calm waters, showing off their beautiful gowns.
I noticed that some permanent residents tried to keep away from the hubbub, seeking calm corners to hide in until the conference would be over. Some stayed out of sight altogether, like the Night Herons.
A few elected to let it all pass, and moved to the relative calm of the bay side.
That included the “Mayor of the Marsh”, Mister Blue Heron. I assumed he got tired of policing the crowd.
But Mama Osprey wouldn’t be moved. She’d been there, done that. She knew peace would return in a couple of days.
And it did. This morning the marsh was calm again, and the twenty odd residents were able to enjoy their home in peace, like the Great Egret does in the featured image.
I know a leader when I see one. That’s how I’ve made my livelihood, at least to a part. Spotting leadership talent and helping it flourish. Now I’ve spotted such talent in the nature reserve. Ready to lead. No coaching required.
That’s Mama Osprey, of course. You knew it, right? Or you may want some proof? I have plenty.
First, she cares about her community. The salt marsh has plenty of fish, from huge footlongs to medium and small. It would be easy to just dive down from the nest and get breakfast, lunch and dinner. Like opening the fridge. But she doesn’t fish there.
She leaves the food supply for residents who can’t fish in the ocean. Like this tiny Tri-colored Heron.
Second, she ensures peace in the community. She constantly scans the skies and the grounds for any threats. And warns the residents whenever she detects a potential danger. Like dogs walking their people or bicyclists on the foot path closest to the marsh.
Or the two other ospreys, Stanley and Steve, who have settled in the area. Don’t get me wrong. Mama Osprey lets them thrive in the park. And even allows them to use her favorite dead palm trunk as their breakfast bar.
But she keeps a watchful eye on their movements. And sends a message of caution, as and when warranted. It’s clear that she has earned their respect.
Third, she’s on the top of everything in the community. Has the big picture. Gently keeps tabs on the residents’ comings and goings. Like this Great Blue Heron, who periodically takes trips to the bay-side to socialize with fishermen in exchange for free fish.
Or the Pelicans who fly in shuttle traffic between the ocean and the bay right over the salt marsh.
And the young Night Herons who practice landing at the tree tops with varying degrees of success.
And not to talk about the large Egret population that tends to move back and forth between the tiny islands in search of the best fish.
Fourth, Mama Osprey trusts her gut. I got proof of that just a couple of days ago when I met a nice bird photographer. He was a visitor, not familiar with the nature reserve . So we started to chat and I told him about the nest. After a while I heard Mama Osprey’s warning calls. Unwanted disturbance too close to the nest.
And then saw the poor guy walk away from the vicinity of the nest. After he left, I went to see Mama Osprey. She was her calm, good-looking self and turned to greet me when I walked right under the nest. Not a peep, just a friendly nod. She definitely trusts her gut.
Then we both admired the bright yellow wild flowers that had popped up right next to the nest pole. I snapped a picture, she checked on the little worm crawling on one of the flowers.
My conclusion, based on all this evidence, is that Mama Osprey is a pioneering community leader with natural clout. I hope you agree with my assessment.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Ps. This post has been edited after publishing when I discovered that PO (Papa Osprey) actually was Mama Osprey.