Tag Archives: Walking

Move Faster! And a Romantic Date Night.

I feel like a turtle. I just want to continue the leisurely stroll of the holidays. Soak in the sun and contemplate life in peace and quiet. But I feel the push to start moving faster. We are almost three weeks into the new year. Can you believe it?

I hope to make this fresh year more balanced than the past. Alternating work and play, just like in the high intensity interval exercise I’ve become to like lately. I’m envisioning myself at times flying fast like Mama Osprey…

… and then just enjoying life like a turtle. With all time in the world.

So far so good. Dylan and I were exploring the Taylor Park again last week. The Anhinga and the Moorhen were present in big numbers as usual.

And we spotted many feathered friends looking for a tasty breakfast, like this Wood Stork, Tri-colored Heron and Little Blue Heron.

We were trying hard to find at least one gator, but they seemed to be lying low(er than usual) due to the cooler winter temperatures we’re having right now. So instead we enjoyed spotting more birds, like this Ring-billed Gull and a Great Egret.

Then we heard a loud group of Boat-tailed Blackbirds. The males were fighting in the reeds and refused to be photographed. But this female, who is actually brown and may have been the reason of the fight, stepped out to hunt for food. Click.

There are always several Pied-billed Grebes on the lake and I love photographing them.

But this cutie stretched my patience – and even Mr. Dylan’s who had to sit and wait for me. This little one was diving non-stop and staying up on the surface less than a second at the time. It was a comical exercise. There he is. Gone. Repeat. I got numerous pictures of bubbles and rings on the water and some tail feathers at times. But finally my patience was rewarded and I managed to snap a picture. Oops!

That’s when I saw something in the water further out in the shady part of the lake. It was, indeed, a very quiet gator.

After that discovery we ran our last stretch before leaving the park happy with our intermittent “osprey-turtle” exercise.

But what about the salt marsh, you may wonder. We have been there too. After returning from my holiday trip to Sweden, I hadn’t seen much of the Osprey couple. They usually start their nesting season in early January by refurbishing their home, but it had been quiet at the nest. We walked past the nest on our way to the dog park and I thought I could see some signs of remodeling, but nobody was there. And I started to get worried.

The perivious week I had seen Mama Sandy fly by my office window…

… and Papa Stanley eating on a lamp-post close to the nest, but hadn’t seen them together or working on the nest. Knowing that ospreys don’t opt for a divorce at the first sign of disagreement, I concluded there has to be some valid reason for their wait.

Finally last week on Saturday night I saw a beautiful sight from my terrace. Sandy and Stanley were having a date night at the Sailing Center

I grabbed my camera and out we went, my assistant and I. I was hoping the happy couple would still be there and the light would be enough to capture the evidence of this romance. And we were in luck. Both Sandy and Stanley greeted us with a friendly nod.

They were enjoying the last light on the bay side as much as we were…

…and we also spotted a a Snowy Egret and a Great Egret down at the water’s edge.

So finally, and quite late this year, mama and papa osprey had come together to start their nesting season. The sixth one I look forward to observing.

Earlier this week, Dylan and I visited the dog park on a cool, partly loudy day. And discovered the little salt marsh village was lively indeed. The Mayor was in the office and surveyed the marsh in his typical, calm manner.

Further out, in a difficult spot to ‘shoot’, several residents were huddling to seek shelter from the cold wind coming from the north. Even the Clown, aka Reddish Egret was calm, with no intention to perform. Maybe his enthusiasm was dampened by the presence of the Wood Stork, who had only recently given him a lesson.

But he couldn’t help himself, he had to follow the bigger bird into the water and keep him under surveillance.

Closer to the Osprey nest, at the east end of the marsh, Several residents had sought shelter in the bushes. I was happy to see the Snowy Egret had already developed a breeding plumage and to spot both a Black- and Yellow-crowned Night Heron for the first time in quite a while. Most residents seemed to be back from their holiday travels.

To my delight, both Sandy and Stanley were at the nest, which now clearly was under renovation. Sandy was happily munching on a fish, likely provided by Stanley. And he seemed to be musing on the fact that he would be dad again…

…and watched us with great interest. Or maybe it was bride. In any case, I promised myself to make time to follow their, hopefully successful, nesting season in my “turtle time” between travels. Thank you for being here. Be good and keep warm.

Walking Stockholm. With Gifts and Christmas Snow.

She smiled and greeted me when I stepped into the British Airways lounge area close to my departure gate at Chicago O’Hare airport. I greeted her and handed over my two remaining boarding passes on this “points trip” to celebrate Christmas in Sweden. She lifted her head and with a big smile she asked if I would like to sit in the first class on my trip to London. I said I would love to but didn’t have enough points to do the upgrade. She smiled even wider and handed me my first class boarding pass. “You’re worth it”, she said.

It was an early Christmas gift I was grateful for and thoroughly enjoyed. After a delicious dinner and some champagne, I changed into my provided pajamas, received my pillows and a comforter, and slept practically until touchdown at Heathrow. For the first time ever, I slept through the breakfast service! But there was one more ribbon on my gift yet to be opened, a wonderful sit-down breakfast in the 1st class arrival lounge.

I felt rested and well fed for the rest of my journey to Stockholm. When we approached the Arlanda airport I glanced out of the window – and saw snow! I would experience my first white Christmas in over 20 years. Another unexpected gift.

I thoroughly enjoyed the long walks that Beppe, the poodle, took us on every day along Stockholm’s snow covered sidewalks and paths through the many parks. As you can see this Florida girl was properly attired for the winter weather with a hooded buffer jacket, snow boots and borrowed warm gloves.

I made some interesting discoveries on our walks, like this Santa climbing up the side of a tall condo building in my sister’s neighborhood. And the sentinel cats guarding a shop door.

The blue hour was always beautiful…the snow adding a magical hue.

And the late night walks allowed me to immerse in the feeling of warmth of the Swedish Christmas – despite the below freezing temperatures. Most windows in the city were lit with chandeliers or Christmas stars, like this one at my sister’s…

… and many courtyards of these over a century old buildings were decorated with lit trees.

Very festive and beautiful indeed.

On the Saturday before Christmas I visited my aunt in Gothenburg. A convenient MTR Express speed train now provides a three-hour connection between the two cities. It was great to see her after 13 years! And I couldn’t complain about the all natural Christmas decorations at the Central Station in Gothenburg.

On the Sunday before Christmas, as is customary in Sweden, we visited the grave site of a recently departed loved one. The cemetery was beautiful in its all white outfit. And light snow was still falling.

After some silent moments of remembering our loved one, we felt it was time for an afternoon ‘fika’. And the nearby café offered coffee and lots of goodies to choose from.

Warmed up by a good fika I decided it was time for an afternoon solo walk. I wanted to see some of my favorite places again.
The old town was charming with snow-covered sidewalks and lots of lights outside and inside the shops.

I walked the narrow streets and slippery cobble stone alleys to the Royal Palace, which rises at the north end of the Old Town.

The Old Town is sometimes called “the city between bridges” as there are seven bridges connecting this island, first inhabited in mid to late 1100s, to other islands that form the city of Stockholm. I walked out from the Old Town via the Riksbron bridge.

From that bridge I admired the City Hall and the Centralbron bridge on one side and the Royal Opera House and the Strömbron bridge on the other.

I loved the beautiful Christmas lights on and around these bridges.

By now I was really cold and needed something warming. I stepped into a busy bistro and Santa kindly offered me a tasty Irish coffee.

I lingered inside long enough to feel my toes again. Then stepped back outside on the busy Queen’s Street full of shoppers making last minute gift purchases.

I walked to the Central Square and took the metro for a couple of stops back to my sister’s. My walking quote for the day was full.

Now it was the time to carry home and decorate the live tree… and bake the Christmas tarts. While my sister decorated the tree, I baked the tarts. To be enjoyed with a cup of warm glögg, of course.

In Sweden the Christmas Eve is the time for a sumptuous Christmas dinner, glam and gift giving, while the Christmas Day is more for quiet contemplation and celebration of the real gift of Christmas.

Our dinner was delicious with all the traditional Christmas dishes, from two kinds of hams, all the vegetable casseroles and Janson’s Temptation to small sausages, meat balls, beet salads, red cabbage etc. etc. Poor Beppe was left guarding the presents under the tree while we lingered at the table enjoying all that food. Finally Santa came and Beppe could open his presents, among them a toy squirrel from Florida. He thoroughly enjoyed chasing it.

Needless to say my Christmas was warm and wonderful. Full of love…

… and good food 🙂 Luckily Beppe took us out several times a day, and on Boxing Day we did a long walk around the Karlberg Kanal in the bleak winter sun.

At a marina out there, I spotted an interesting weather forecasting device. A hanging stone.

Since many of my readers don’t speak Swedish, I will provide the translation of the forecasting guidance here:

CONDITION OF THE STONE FORECAST
The stone is wet Rain
The stone is dry No rain
The stone casts a shadow on the ground Sunny
The stone is white on the top Snow
The stone is not visible Fog
The stone swings Strong winds
The stone jumps up and down Earthquake
The stone is missing Tornado

That made me smile. And I saw a faint shadow of the stone on the snow, a treat during a long walk in nature.

Time flies when you’re having fun, and soon it was time to travel back home. But the good memories last. I am still musing on the wonderful time I had.

I wish you all ‘happy continuation on the new year’ or ‘god fortsättning’ as we say in Sweden. May this year bring you many blessings.

Devoted Parents Hide the Baby. And Other News from the Salt Marsh.

I don’t even know where to begin the salt marsh news as I’ve been away far too long from here. Completely buried in work trying to get my project finished. But there’s been a couple of walks around the salt marsh, one around sunset more than a week ago and one yesterday morning. And there’s been looking for a small homeless dog to adopt. Bumble whispered to me from the rainbow bridge that it was okay to fall in love with another homeless poodle. So we’re in the process of applying for a job as adoptive dog parents. Again.

sunset at salt marsh 2 ud50It was late. Hardly any light reached beyond the beach where the sun was about to dive into the ocean. I spotted Papa Stanley on a lamp-post at the parking lot next to the marsh. As per his usual routine, he was eating the first part of the fish before bringing the rest to Mama Sandy, who was still sitting on the eggs in the nest. I heard her calling to him asking for dinner.

papa osprey eats dinner ud50While working on the fish he was constantly checking on Sandy. He knew she was hungry too. And that the hatching was imminent.

dinner delivery ud50He landed very close to Sandy who was not even visible from the ground, and sat on the egg(s) immediately.

papa osprey sits on the eggs ud50

So that Sandy could take the fish and have her late dinner. I was really taken by his loving look when Sandy took off with her half of the fish. She settled down to eat it on the same lamp-post close the nest.

mama osprey flies away with her dinner ud50I walked around the marsh and spotted a few birds that had not yet settled down for the night, like this tiny Snowy Egret who was still fishing in the shallow waters.

young snowy egret ud50And the White Ibis, who was patrolling the marsh, no doubt in search for some munchies before the night fall.

white ibis ud50Then I walked on to the beach just in time to see the sun dive into the ocean. And the darkness fell over the earth.

sunset 3 ud50I kept an eye on the nest from my office window during the whole last week. And discovered a change of pace. There was no quick shift change when Stanley came in with the fish. Instead both stood up and it looked like Sandy was feeding a tiny hatchling while the proud father looked on.

papa and mama osprey feeding the chick ud52So yesterday morning I went to see them again. Sandy was sitting in the nest, probably brooding the newly hatched chick(s). She will do that for about ten days, until the hatchling(s) are too large to fit under her. It was hot and humid, and she was cooling herself with her tongue hanging out. She acknowledged my presence, but Stanley was nowhere to be seen.

mama osprey ud52So I continued my walk and spotted the young Great Blue Heron. He was very close to the Mayor’s office, but didn’t dare to step on that little islet in his elder’s absence. That was good.

young blue heron ud52At the other end of the marsh I found a couple of Florida Mottled Ducks, but got a picture only of the female.

florida mottled duck female ud52That’s when I realized Stanley was back at the nest. I quickly walked back and found the Osprey parents attending to the hatchling(s), whom they were effectively shielding from all attention by the paparazzi.

papa and mama osprey 16x9 ud52Stanley was wet. He’d obviously been fishing. And Sandy was eating the fish and I assume, also feeding small pieces of fish to the chick(s). So I sat there, walked round the nest and climbed up on benches in the hope of capturing a small head or hearing a little peep. But nothing. Not yet.

papa osprey with his fish ud52Then Stanley flew off with the rest of the fish. I spotted him and his fish on a tree branch nearby when walking home. He looked at me as in saying “have patience lady”. So I walked home happy knowing that things seem to be fine with the Osprey family.

northern mockingbird ud52This Northern Mockingbird and I wish you all a great week. Keep well. Peace.

 

Sunrise Walk with Surprises. Both Good and Bad.

This morning I woke up to a glorious pre-dawn glow. I felt I needed exercise and decided to head out for a walk. While it was still cool. That’s a relative term here in Florida, of course.

Clearwater Bay Florida before sunrise
Pre-dawn sky over the bay.

This first morning after the July 4th weekend, I wanted to check on the birds after all the fireworks on the beach and around the bay on Saturday, and even on Sunday. I was hoping my feathered friends had been huddling in the salt marsh during the festivities, and not flying in the path of any of the hundreds of “rockets” reaching for the skies.

july 4 fireworks clearwater florida
July 4th fireworks over the bay.

The salt marsh was quiet and serene. Just me and a few birds. And the sun trying to peek over the horizon, while the moon was still hanging on high up in the sky.

sunrise at the salt marsh Sand key Park Clearwater Florida
Sun peeks over the horizon at the salt marsh…

vaning moon at sunrise Sand key Clearwater Florida
…but the moon lingers on…

Many of the residents were sleeping in their hidden night quarters, but the Great Blue Heron was already patrolling the shallow waters.

great blue heron at sunrise Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
The Great Blue Heron is an early bird…

And so were the Florida Mottled Ducks. I think these might’ve been juveniles from the brood I spotted in April.

two mottled ducks at sunrise Sand Key Park Clearwater Florida
…and so are the young ducks.

I also spotted a bird that I couldn’t identify. My friend H.J. thinks it might be a Mississippi Kite – thank you!

Loggerhead Shrike
Loggerhead Shrike

Seeing the empty nest reminded me that I thought I’d seen Mama and Papa Osprey flying together on Saturday afternoon. I’d had my binoculars and made a positive ID on both.

empty osprey nest sand key park clearwater florida
The empty Osprey nest, now barebones after the storm mid June.

I decided to walk onto the bayside to see if I could find them. I walked past the Sailing Center where Papa Stanley used to have his feeding perch when Sindile was still in the nest. He was not there.

sunrise on the bay at the sailing center sand key clearwater Florida
Sunrise on the bay…

I admired the bay basking in newly acquired sunlight, when I spotted Mama Sandy on a lamp-post close to the sea wall! She’d gone away when the two older chicks left the nest, about three weeks ago. I’d been right when I saw the two of them. She was back!

female osprey with a fish at sunrise sand key clearwater florida
Mama osprey is back! I missed to check what she was looking at…maybe it was Papa flying by.

She was turned towards the rising sun, drying her still wet feathers, and eating a big fish with great appetite. And she didn’t look like she’d been on vacation. Her crop looked empty, and she had lost even more weight from the time I last saw her. She may have followed the chicks and been teaching them how to fish…getting very little food for herself.

female osprey eats fish at sunrise sand key clearwater Florida
Mama Sandy at sunrise, still wet after her breakfast dive.

Now she was back to keep an eye on the nest, exactly like last year. I left her eating breakfast and walked across the marsh back to the beach.

sunrise sky on Sand Key beach clearwater florida
Early sunrise sky as seen from the beach.

In addition to many gulls, I spotted a Ruddy Turnstone, and a Willet. Both were running back and forth at the water’s edge, busy getting breakfast.

ruddy turnstone on sand key beach Clearwater Florida
A Ruddy Turnstone on the beach.

willet on sand key beach at sunrise clearwater florida
A Willet in the waves.

But I also found something left behind by much bigger, and supposedly wiser, bipeds.

fireworks paraphernalia left behind on the beach clearwater florida
Fireworks paraphernalia left on the beach…

TNT Dark Revenge. Very close to a clearly marked Sea Turtle nest. Frustrating, and dark indeed. I’m just hoping the bangs didn’t disturb the 100+ eggs recently laid there by Mama Sea Turtle.

sea turtle nest on the beach clearwater florida
…next to a marked Sea Turtle nest.

Mother Nature is amazing, but her caretakers not always so. Luckily She is quite resilient. Constantly producing new life for us to enjoy. Like this blue-eyed juvenile Ibis and these fluffy Moorhen babies, both spotted over the weekend.

 juvenile ibis sand key park clearwater florida
A juvenile Ibis.

moorhen chicks and mom sand key park clearwater florida
Moorhen chicks listen attentively to their Mama.

Thanks for coming along. Have a great rest of the week.

Not Crowded. After Thanksgiving in the Salt Marsh.

After neglecting my exercise routine for almost a month, and eating far too much over the holiday, I decided it was time to get out. Not to the malls or other crowded venues offering black stuff for mere pittance, but to the salt marsh to check on my feathered friends. The weather was finally sunny and the strong winds had calmed down quite a bit.

salt marsh flower tree nov 29
Sunny in the salt marsh…

I was eager to see how the residents had fared the stormy weather and whether or not Papa Osprey would still recognize me.

after the storm in the nature reserve nov 29 tm

There we signs of minor wind damage, dead palm branches and small debris scattered everywhere. And very few birds out and about. I almost got worried. But then I spotted this Great Egret. He was hunting. Looking intently into the grassy pool of water, waiting patiently, and then making his move.

Great Egret hunting in the marsh nov 29
A Great Egret hunts…

He caught a little frog (click to enlarge, and you’ll see). He ate it and flew away to the sunny side of the marsh.

great egret catches a frog nov 29
…for a little frog

great egret flying 3 Nov 29
…and then flies away.

I continued to Papa’s nest. He was there, initially awake and checking his surroundings. But he had a full crop, much like mine after the holiday.  He was sleepy. After nodding a greeting, he soon fell asleep perching on the edge of his nest to digest his breakfast. I thought that was neat. Tiny was not a threat, it was okay to doze off. He looked cute sleeping like a baby, I thought.

Papa Osprey taking a nap Nov 29
PO takes a nap…

I let him sleep and walked around for a while looking for more birds. I found the Moorhen family, all three together, on an after breakfast swim.

Moorhen family Nov 29
The Moorhen family…

And whoops, suddenly a Little Blue Heron landed almost in front of me. I assume he’d been away for Thanksgiving.  Welcome home you little one!

little blue heron landing Nov
A Little Blue Heron comes back home…

But all the others were still sleeping, hiding or just away somewhere. So I decided to walk to the bay side to look for more familiar faces. But the pickings were slim.  To my delight I spotted at least one resident of the salt marsh, a Yellow-crowned Night Heron.

yellowcrowned night heron hunting on the bay nov 29
A Yellow-crowned Night Heron on a day trip…

That was rare as they usually don’t hunt after daybreak. I always find them dozing off in the bushes, but not this one. I hope he wasn’t sleepwalking.

Yellowcrowned night heron on the bayside nov 29
…walks in the shallow water of the bay.

I feel so much better after the long walk. My “crop” feels a little smaller. I hope yours does too.  ❤ Tiny

 

 

Kids. They Grow Up So Fast.

There is a new batch of  Moorhen chicks in the salt marsh. I discovered them first about three weeks ago. They are truly the most difficult bunch to get to pose for camera, thanks to their protective mom. They’re hiding in the high grass and under the trees and bushes at the edge of water.

moorhen  kids hiding
Hiding…

I have gotten stiff branches in my face many times and almost fallen into the shallow water when trying to catch a clear sight of these little chicks. Acrobatic skills required my friends.

smallest moorhen chick swimming
Swimming between “islands”

small morrhen chick
Small explorations…

When they first came out of the nest for short adventures between the small islands, they were round, black fur balls.

moorhen middle chick
On the water…looking for mom

Then a week ago I spotted them again.  They had started their transformation into teenagers. You know, different hair and changes all over. Coupled with an attitude.

moorhen kid 6 where is mom
Where are you mom?!!

They adventured out on their own, but as soon as mama Moorhen was out of sight they got anxious and very loud.

the biggest moorhen kid 906
The biggest chick…a pretty teen

Then a couple of days ago I saw them again…exploring the world on their own. And discovering themselves too…marveling at their huge feet.

moorhen kid  looking at his foot
Oh, my feet are really huge…

Needless to say they were quite amusing to watch. They were still very small, less than half of the size of their mom, but already starting to lose their fluffy baby feathers.

moorhen kid aww
I’m still cute, right?

Please don’t get me wrong. They are still very cute. And a photo is worth every scratch on my legs and bur in my socks. ❤ Tiny

 

No Schedule. It’s Liberating.

Hi Mom, you’re  back already! I decided to jump back to bed when I saw you’d gone out for your morning run. Come and join me! But take your shower first. I’ll keep the bed warm…and you can have half of my pillow. Is that a deal, Mom?

It’s nice to sleep in when we’re not going anywhere. No visit to the Grooming Shop, no doctor, no errands and no trip to Smart Pet. No schedule! It’s liberating. And it’s Saturday. Again. Where did the week go? It’s like Labor Day was just yesterday. I remember ’cause I got to taste Wieners.  Right from the grill at sunset time. Memorable.

sailing boat at sunset Gulf Beach
Sunset on our beach…

I want to plan some unscheduled fun for today. Like taking Mom for a long walk. But we’re not going to the nature reserve. I’m tired of waiting when she sets up her portrait studio. For the birds.

tri-colored heron portrait
One of mom’s portraits, a Tri-colored Heron…

Come here. Look this way. No, look that way. It sounds quite ridiculous when she tries to get the birds to pose for her camera. And very boring.

 

bayside shopping center c
The bay-side shopping center…

So we’ll be walking south today. We’ll pass the shopping center. And on the way back we’ll pop into Carmen’s deli. Just long enough to say hi and get a treat.

Bayside waters Clearwater
The bay from the board walk…

Then we’ll walk back on the bay side board walk. And just around the corner we’ll stop again. At the ice cream shop.

Bumble in the morning
Me…just waking up…

You look great, mom! I’m not tired anymore. I have a plan. I’ll tell you after you get your coffee. Let’s go! It’ll be a great day!

I hope you all have a great day and a wonderful weekend ❤ Bumble