Tag Archives: Storm

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

 

Snapshots of the Now. Waiting.

I have finally reached the point on my journey to acceptance of what happened in July, where I would love to get back to blogging. But I am not ready to write my usual ‘light touch’ nature stories. Nor have I been able to engage in photography like I used to. Or to focus on reading.

I have realized, however, that life is a string of snapshots of the now. I will be attempting to post frequent snapshots of my life ‘now’ as it unfolds for the next few weeks. Maybe just an iPhone shot, a short poem or something similar. Simple. Often mobile. Comments closed.

To get started, I am sharing a few snapshots of my life in the past two weeks.

Waiting for some dolphins to appear on the Labor Day weekend, when Hurricane Irma was still churning far out on the Atlantic.

labor day 2 watching dolphins ud137.jpgAnd they did…playful as ever. Good times. Grief slowly fading into the background.

labor day 2 dolphin ud137And then there was the quiet before the storm. Calm seas. An eerily beautiful seascape on a perfect day. But nobody was enjoying it. The lonely lifeguard shack was waiting to be moved to safety. Like most of us.

beach view before Irma ud137This peaceful scene was in sharp contrast to my frantic search for a flight to get out of here with Dylan. Paradise in Zone A. Mandatory evacuation.

I have crisscrossed the globe, but seldom been happier to finally see a plane at the gate. One of the last planes to leave the airport before it would be closed. Our temporary home would be wherever that plane flew. A ticket to anywhere.AA plane ud137Flashback. The last plane out from Addis Ababa at war. 1990s. A week after husband and son had been evacuated. Essential personnel.

philly studio ud137_edited-1A small studio apartment at a hotel in Philly. Waiting with Dylan and Wolf Blitzer. Wanting to go home. Whatever that might mean. Waiting.

Snapshots of the Now Series (1)

Breaking the Law. But It’s Complicated.

Friends, I have a confession to make. I’ve been breaking the law at least on one occasion this past weekend. But before you judge, I need to tell you it’s not that straight forward. It’s complicated. I’m guilty, but not guilty. You see, last week mom was very busy with work. That means she didn’t have the time to go on what she calls ‘photo walks’. In plain English, walks without me to wherever she pleases.

So on Saturday, she said it was a good day for a walk. Everyone walked on this Saturday, she said. And in solidarity, we should walk as well. Even if it meant a walk to the doggy park at the salt marsh. Although it was windy, I was all for it.

dylan-in-dog-park-ud104The doggy park was quiet. Only two other dogs. On the ‘large dog’ side of the park. A Pit Bull and a Golden Retriever. I sniffed at both through the separating fence. But otherwise I was running solo, and that was fine. Lots of news to ‘read’ in the grass.

dylan-2-at-dog-park-ud104On our way back home through the salt marsh, mom was walking very slowly. I had to sit all the time. She was spotting one ‘friend’ after another, and photographing them. Oh, there’s the Reddish Egret, she would say. Sit.

reddish-egret-2-ud104And there’s the Tri-colored Heron! Sit. I did. Although I could’ve made a run for this bird. She was so close to the shore. But I’ve learned mom doesn’t want that. Happy mom, happy dog. And bird.

tri-colored-heron-ud104We walked around the marsh. And there she was, a Little Blue Heron who was curious about something. Her neck all stretched out.

littel-blue-heron-1-ud104Of course mom would need to investigate. And she found it! A bird hiding in a tree. That’s a Green Heron, rarely seen at the salt marsh, she said. I had to respect that. So I sat before mom even asked me to.

green-heron-ud104And that’s when we arrived at the Nest. I sat. And tried not to breathe too hard. You see, when I pant mom says her hand holding my leash is shaking. That means no good photos. Unhappy mom. So I sat still for one whole minute.

papa-and-mama-osprey-at-the-nest-ud104Mom’s always talking to the birds up there. That’s silly because they never respond. They just look at her.

mama-osprey-ud104And she’s all happy for the acknowledgement. So be it. I get to run at the doggy park and she gets her photos.

But yesterday it got worse. Let me explain. You see, on Saturday mom had discovered that some people were kiteboarding on the bay. I assisted her in taking some shots from our terrace.

three-windsurfers-portrait-ud104And yesterday she discovered they were back. The weather was really stormy. No weather for a walk, but I take what I can. So she took her camera and out we went, onto the bay side. I looked down from the sea wall and saw the water splashing high up, almost up to my feet. And white hats everywhere.

bay-before-the-stom-ud104A few tiny boats were struggling against the wind on the bay. Someone had already fallen into the water. You could offer me ten chicken biscuits and I wouldn’t go there!

young-sailors-2-ud104And that’s when it happened. Mom took me right onto the bay beach. You see there’s a sign that says dogs are not welcome there. Although the dog symbol is hardly recognizable, I can see there’s a red cross over it. Earlier we’ve always turned away right there. But not yesterday. Mom spotted this kiteboarder and that was it. We went just a little bit on the sand. She made me break the law. And sit on the sand.

kiteboarder closeup ud104.jpgI tried to be invisible, while she took her shots. But couldn’t help marveling about the man who flew high above the waves…and the buildings on the other side of the bay. Almost like a bird.

kiteboarder 2 ud104.jpgLuckily there was no enforcement of the law and we could run home pushing against the wind. I told mom this was an one time incident. It would not be repeated. I hope she listened to me.

dylan-december-2016-ud104In any case, I’m safe and relaxing at home. I wish you all a week filled with goodness. Love, Dylan

Warm Up. At the Salt Marsh.

This morning, waking up to rare Florida winter temperatures of 36F/2C, strong northerly winds and 5-8 foot/1.5-2.5 meter waves on the Gulf, I decided to pull together a post about my short walk earlier this week. The weather was balmy, partly sunny and the temperature hovered around 70F/20C. Just seeing the pictures now makes me feel warmer. And I hope they have the same effect on friends who are experiencing snow, ice and freezing cold right now – up north in the US and Canada as well as in Northern Europe. I still remember the truly cold weather from my youth…and the blizzards up in D.C.  And can’t honestly say I miss the snow.

winter-snow-at-home-up-north-ud101On Thursday morning I took a short break from working on my current project and walked to the salt marsh. Mama Sandy was sitting on her new perch, but Papa Stanley was nowhere to be seen. Sandy might have sent him to Home Depot for more supplies for their nest remodeling efforts, which obviously have already started.

mama-osprey-at-the-nest-ud101She greeted me in her usual friendly manner. And sometimes I wonder if she knows that I had something to do with the new nest she suddenly found one morning last November. I’m suspecting she does.

mama-osprey-at-her-perch-ud101In any case, I am happy not needing to worry that the winter storms might take down her nest.

The older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor, was standing guard on the same small islet he has favored in winters past. It’s always great to see the Mayor in his ‘office’.

great-blue-heron-ud101I spotted two Yellow-crowned Night Herons close to the Osprey nest. They had received the Mayor’s memo urging everyone to rest on one leg. And I think they might be a couple. I’ve seen them together many times in the past few weeks. If they’ll nest at the salt marsh, we might see little babies come late spring. If they choose to nest on the protected ‘bird island’ in the bay, we’ll see juveniles as soon as they learn to fly next summer.

yellow-crowned-night-heron-ud101

yellow-crowned-night-heron-2-ud101Otherwise the marsh looked deserted.  I wondered why that might be.

Just when I was leaving, I spotted something bright blue moving on the ground a bit further away. I realized it was a Blue Jay.  They are extremely skittish so I tried to be invisible when I slowly moved closer. Of course he discovered me, Tiny is 5′ 6″ after all, looked at me and was gone. Hence only one ‘soft’ picture of him.

blue-jay-ud101I walked home through the bay side. To my surprise I found many of our salt marsh friends there. They were enjoying the ‘fast food’ provided by the low tide on the bay. The Great Egret was hurrying to the table.

great-egret-in-flight-ud101

great-egret-ud101The Snowy Egret was already there and so was the Little Blue Heron. The latter appeared truly blue in the weak sunlight, but seemed to be reasonably happy.

snowy-egret-ud101

little-blue-heron-ud101I saw several Brown Pelicans on the other side of the Sailing Center pier. And almost fell down from the seawall trying to get a straight shot of one of them between the pillars. It goes to say that trying to frame a shot can be risky at times.

brown-pelican-ud101Now, looking at the part of salt marsh I can see from my windows, it appears completely deserted. The birds have taken shelter from the cold wind. Even Sandy, whom I saw at the nest first thing this morning, has gone to some more sheltered location in the woods. But I hope this little greeting from the recently warm world of our feathered friends, made you feel a bit warmer. Have a great week ahead.

 

Baths and Mirrors. Open and Closed.

The salt marsh is still closed after the flooding from Hurricane Hermine. Only the birds can fly in there at the moment. But it appears  almost deserted (looking out from my terrace) apart from a few Ibis foraging in the grass and a couple of large Wood Storks. The water levels are still too high for ‘normal sized’ wading birds to find food. Even the ‘lake’ formed by the heavy rains on the beach is still too deep for the birds to enjoy it. Or for me to walk through there to the salt marsh. So yesterday I visited the bay side with Dylan. That beach is open.

willet-taking-a-bath-ud78I found a couple of birds bathing in the puddles formed on the beach, a Willet and a Royal Tern.

tern-bath-ud78And a bit further on the bay, a Brown Pelican was enjoying a refreshing bath.

pelican-bird-bathing-3-ud78As I am not able to get any new pictures of other feathered friends at the moment, I thought I would dig in my archives for some images for this week’s photo challenge. It is all about reflections. And I found a handful of pictures presenting the salt marsh and some of its residents – in the mirror.

The first one is from spring of 2014, when Mama Osprey had hung a fish to bake in the sun. Remember that? You can see it dangling from a blue rope under the nest upside down, reflected in the water.

osprey nest reflection sunrise UD78.jpgThen I found images of the Great Egret, the Snowy Egret, the young Great Blue Heron…and Miss Rosa. All these are taken around sunrise early in the morning, when the marsh waters usually are calm like a mirror.

great-egret-reflection-at-sunrise-ud78

snowy-egret-reflection-at-sunrise-ud78

young-blue-heron-ud78

roseate-spoonbill-at-sunrise-ud78Some of you may have noticed the baby-like chubbiness of the young Great Blue Heron 🙂 He sure looks a bit more adult-like today.

I hope Hermine was more lenient in other areas it visited on its way up the east coast. And I hope to be able to get into the salt marsh late in the week or next weekend to check on the residents. Best wishes for a great week to all of you.

 

In Hermine’s Arms. Wet and Windy.

No, Hurricane Hermine did not make a landfall here in central Gulf Coast. But being on the east side of the storm brewing on the ocean we came to experience the worst weather in its feeder bands. Relentless downpours and tropical storm force winds from Wednesday until this afternoon. And it’s not quite over as yet. We are fine, just now surrounded by much more water than I have ever seen here. The beach has only a narrow strip of sand before the ‘lakes’ take over. All the paths to the salt marsh are heavily flooded too. And our garden has an extra pond where I usually walk Dylan at midday.

flooded lake on the beach from Hermine UD77

flooded beach hermine UD77

hermine extra lake UD77But there has been lots of drama in our area. Rescues from sinking cars, flooded streets, homes and businesses, a hospital evacuation and house fires. A storm surge in some places north of us reached 12 feet, while ours was only 2-3 feet. Luckily no lives were lost.

hermine damage channel 8 ud77It was difficult to stay inside for over two days. Apart from some challenging bathroom breaks for Dylan. The cabin fever set in. I had gone to the terrace a couple of times during short breaks in the rain to take pictures of the ocean, the salt marsh and the bay .

hermine at the jetty UD77

hermine bay ud77And I had tried to take a few pictures from inside as well. With varying degrees of success 🙂

rain and the bay Hermine UD77

hermine on the bay rain ud77So late this morning when the rain did let up for a couple of hours, I went out with my camera. I wanted to check on the flooding and the waves pounding the beach. Or so I thought.

hermine winds UD77I walked through our back garden and among lots of debris from palm trees, I found our resident Northern Mockingbird.

northern mocking bird UD77Then I steered towards our ‘board walk’, which leads to the beach. It was not under water, but I could see ‘lakes’ on both sides, normally dry land.

extra lake from hermine UD77

flooding from hermine UD77And when I arrived at the end of the walk, I discovered the path to the beach was flooded. Much more water than my rain boots would take.

hermine flooded path UD77So I ended up shooting the waves from our board walk. The wind was still measuring at over 30 miles or 50 kilometers per hour. It was difficult to stay upright. Even the flood waters had noticeable waves.

hermain on the ocean UD77

hermine gulls and waves UD77

6 foot waves Hermine UD77The waves were still about 6 feet high and a group of terns was taking shelter at the narrow sand bank separating the ocean from the flood waters. Soon it started to rain again and I had to run inside. In the coziness of our living room I looked out towards the bay. Perfecting the art of staying inside 😉

hermine from inside 2 UD77I have not yet been able to visit the salt marsh due to the heavy flooding, but I hope to do so later on this Labor Day weekend. The only bird I have seen from my terrace is Mama Osprey. She was checking on the nest this afternoon. The water levels are currently too high for the wading birds to walk there, but I’m hoping for a rush as soon as the waters recede a bit. Happy weekend to all of you.

Naming Party. Accompanied by Colin.

So Tropical Storm Colin was a rain-maker. Not much punch in the wind department, only occasional 50 mph/80 kmph gusts, but flash floods on the roads and many flooded neighborhoods. Youngsters were kayaking on some streets in the city last night. Not good, but not as bad as expected.

lake in the garden ud65For us here on the beach it brought elevated tide levels and rip currents, a freshwater lake on the beach and another in the garden. And the salt marsh is brimming with water after 48 hours of continuous down pours. Fresh.

terns and flooring from Colin ud65Throughout the day yesterday, I was keeping an eye at the Osprey chick who was alone in the nest. At the beginning of the storm yesterday morning, I saw her standing in the nest. She was not laying down and facing the wind, as you can see. It was clear she had not yet acquired the storm savvy of her parents.

osprey chick in the the storm Colin ud65When the worst of the storm came over us around midday, it was impossible to see anything for the walls of rain moving sideways. And it became really dark. I tried to shoot pictures of the osprey nest in the salt marsh…

colin middle of the day ud65…and only after much magic in the “filter room”, I could get one picture where it was possible to distinguish the Osprey chick in the nest. Now she was laying down facing the wind.

osprey chick layig low in high winds colin ud65When the torrential rains had eased up a bit, I could see she was still “flat” in the nest. She had not flown anywhere, and her parents had not gone fishing for her.

osprey chick bracing the wind of colin ud65Finally when the wind had also eased up, at around 6:30 p.m., I found her eating supper. Probably the only meal she got yesterday. I guess Papa Stanley had managed to spot a fish in the choppy seas for her. I think this young lady learned quite a bit. Resilience, endurance and confidence.

names for osprey chick ud65.jpgMeanwhile, inside our comparatively much cozier home, I was preparing for the “drawing” to determine her name. All together 21 great name proposals were received. Thank you all!

the hat ud 65

I typed out all the names on paper strips of the equal size. Then folded the strips around pieces of Dylan’s favorite cookies. He was patiently following the whole procedure. Without snatching one single piece. Talk about self discipline. I went to get the hat while he guarded the cookie pieces. But the hat was too small for all the pieces to lay flat.

dylan waiting for the drawing ud65.jpgSo I put the cookies wrapped in paper (instead of bacon) in his toy basket. I placed it on the floor. Dylan was looking for permission to start the drawing, but didn’t move. Only when I said he was allowed to take a piece, he quickly sprung into action.

dylan doing the drawing ud65He picked one piece with the paper and all into his mouth, but I managed to grab the paper strip before he ate it. And this was the name he picked out…

name revealed ud65Lady Cawcaw!  That’s a suitable name for a great singer our chick has already proven to be 😉 Congratulations to Hariod!  Dylan got himself two more pieces of his favorite dessert once I had removed the papers.

The book arrived today and will be on its way to England as soon as I receive your address, dear Hariod.

the prize book ud65Lady Cawcaw survived the storm. And I have lots to tell you about the “day after the storm”, amusement and drama in equal parts. And a long awaited performance. Of a different kind. But I don’t want to make this post too long so that will need to wait until next time.

osprey chick Lady cawcaw ud65Tonight we will have a sunset and I’m looking forward to capturing it. Be well.