Tag Archives: White Ibis

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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ringbilled-gull-ud105

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.

Love and Circumstances.

Love’s in the air. Big time. After just renewing their marriage vows on New Year’s Eve, Sandy and Stanley are madly in love. It’s a fairly balanced relationship, as we know from the past. Both of them contribute to everything, including the annual nest remodeling project. Lots is already getting done this year, as you can see.

papa-osprey-and-mama-osprey-at-the-nest-jan-10-ud102But if you ask me, Mama Sandy is the one calling the shots. Yesterday afternoon she gave Stanley detailed instructions on what to bring next. And away he flew. I decided to wait for his return. I wanted to see what he would bring and whether or not Sandy would approve of it. The latter is not always a ‘given’, I’ve learned. After a few minutes, Sandy got a bit frustrated and asked, quite loudly, what was taking him so long.

mama-osprey-calls-out-ud102Unmoved by Sandy’s call, the Mayor sat quietly hunched in a tree just below the nest. This was going to be interesting.

great-blue-heron-ud102I thought Stanley may have been caught in long lines at ‘Home Depot’, and when I spotted the Reddish Egret, I walked away from the nest.

reddish-egret-ud102That’s when Stanley returned, of course. Shooting against the sun from a distance, I captured him bringing in a sturdy piece of wood. The straight ‘rod’ and its perfectly rounded top made it look manmade. I wonder if he had ‘borrowed’ it from the garden of the nearby resort or from one of their beach game sites. Risking a lot to please Sandy, for sure. Good for him.

papa-osprey-returns-2-ud102And Sandy approved. This new addition seemed to fit in her overall design for the new nest. They worked together for a while, rearranging the furniture.

papa-osprey-and-mama-osprey-at-the-nest-2-ud102Then Stanley checked me out. I’m sure he found me a harmless observer, because after a short discussion with Sandy he flew a few feet up in the air – and I witnessed a romantic moment between the two.

osprey-mating-ud102The other birds in the vicinity of the nest reacted to this expression of affection each in their own way. The Major started scratching his head. Perhaps wondering if his nesting calendar was up-to-date.

great-blue-heron-scratches-himself-ud102The female Yellow-crowned Night Heron, who also was perched close to the nest, turned away shyly.

yellow-crowned-night-heron-ud102Perhaps it was a hint to her hubby who was sitting close-by, as always in the past few weeks. But he too looked away.

male-yellow-crowned-night-heron-ud102An Anhinga, visiting from the bay side, was curious and stretched his neck to see what was going on.

anhinga-ud102But the Little Blue Heron pretended not to see or hear anything at all. She continued her search for that perfect bite.

little-blue-heron-2-ud102The same applied to the blue eyed White Ibis and the Great Egret, both of whom kept me company on dry land.

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great-egret-ud102As you can see, the egrets are also growing their beautiful breeding plumage at this time. That’s when I discovered something large moving quietly in the sky. It was an airship, Wingfoot One, carrying a few passengers. They certainly had a good view of the happenings at the salt marsh.

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airship-passenger-cabin-ud102Once the ‘big bird’ had moved on, I decided to walk home too. But I have one more picture to show you.

In the early evening Dylan, as usual, told me it was time for our walk. I looked out to check the weather. And  saw a huge full moon climbing up on the sky. I ran to fetch my camera and we both rushed onto the terrace. You see, Dylan always cheers me on when I discover something worth ‘shooting’ out there. So there it was – a huge, red full moon.

full-moon-rising-over-the-bay-ud102And if you look carefully at the very bottom of the picture, you can see a faint point of light in the otherwise dark salt marsh. The light was still on at the home of the Osprey couple.

Peace and love from all of us at the salt marsh. Have a great weekend.

Anticipation. And Action.

I watch the bird. It seems to float on a current, but there is no wind. Not where I stand under a blooming tree. Petals of its tiny flowers are breathless in anticipation of a visitor.

butterfly-monarch-ud95A Monarch approaches. Its wings flutter and its feet reach for a flower. Soon it enjoys life-giving nectar. Unpretentiously. Expecting it to be there. Always.

fly-and-the-monarch-butterfly-ud95As on cue the rest of the company arrives.  I am in awe of the rare sight of a butterfly tree.

butterfly-tree-ud95And I pray. For more butterfly trees. And continued protections of the earth. Less greed. And less sacrifice by nature for human activity.

pelicans-in-flight-16x9-ud95I hope the skies will be filled with birds for generations to come. Birds that can glide on the currents of unseen winds. But that’s not what we should anticipate. Unless we take action.

Moonlight. Cinderella. And Operation Osprey at the Salt Marsh.

A text message flashed on my screen late on Thursday afternoon. The countdown to replacing the osprey nest platform had begun. Yay! I gathered my two cameras and called my friend Gladys. We arrived at the salt marsh just when the last rays swept over the water. We noticed right away that the Mayor had come to oversee the construction project. As he should.

the older great blue heron mayor ud90.jpgAnd so had the Tri-colored Heron, who appeared quite surprised encountering visitors at this late hour. But tonight he would see something he hasn’t seen before.

tricolored-heron-ud90We walked around the marsh as the sun plunged into the ocean. Dusk arrived fast. We could hardly see a family of White Ibis feeding at the shallow part of the marsh.

white-ibis-ud90We returned to the bay end of the marsh to wait for the contractor’s truck. A Little Blue Heron was relaxing right below the nest. She had no idea what was to come.

little-blue-heron-2-ud90We sat in the swing. We chatted. It was 6 p.m. and no truck in sight. We learned they were heading our way, so we walked onto the road hoping that they would arrive before the gates were set to close at 6:30 p.m. Standing there we suddenly heard something unusual. Hooves. Cinderella and her prince rode past us in a lit carriage. We cheered them on. What a romantic wedding transport.

cinderella-wedding-2-ud90We waited. And suddenly Mama Sandy flew towards the nest. Oh no! She shouldn’t be witnessing this particular project. It could be traumatic. So I shouted to her not to come to the nest – and luckily she flew away.

mama-osprey-flies-by-at-night-2-ud90The moon appeared in the sky and the blue hour soon turned into darkness. That’s when a huge truck turned into the park and into the salt marsh. Phew. Blake and Matt from Powertown had made it with only 15 minutes to spare before nobody could enter the park, only exit.

truck-arrives-ud90The tree trimming undertaken by the park personnel a few weeks earlier made it possible to park the truck right next to the nest.

truck-at-the-nest-ud90I took the last picture of the completely run down nest platform. It had seen many nestlings grow and fledge over the years. But it was time for this Osprey couple to move into a safe, new home for the next nesting season.

last-picture-of-the-old-osprey-nest-ud90We got a first glimpse of their new ‘mansion’ next to the truck, before the lift arm was deployed and Blake went up to remove the old platform.

nest-dish-ud90

hard-hat-going-up-to-the-nest-ud90-2It was exciting to watch, but we could not see much in the pitch black night.

at-the-nest-ud90The mosquitoes had now come out in full force. And it was well past the time for Dylan’s nightly walk. So we decided to go back home to take care of dinners, walks and the like. After I came back from our 1.5 mile walk, I went out onto the terrace. It was 7:45 p.m. As you can see the park was pitch black, but work was still going on at the nest.

working on the nest at night ud90.jpgOn Friday morning I was up early. And took a camera with me for Dylan’s morning walk. At the Sailing Center, Cormorants and Anhingas had gathered to greet the misty sunrise.

morning-meeting-ud90Up on a lamp-post opposite the salt marsh, Mama Sandy was inspecting her new mansion from the distance.  When she turned to greet us, I told her to muster the courage to check it out in person sooner rather than later.

mama-osprey-morning-after-ud90Dylan and I walked into the park to check out the new dish. It looked great! Unlike the old platform, it could easily accommodate both parents and 3-4 chicks.

new-osprey-nest-ud90We did not walk around the marsh, but caught this Great Egret greeting the rising sun right next to the new nest.

great-egret-2-ud90When we walked home, I spotted Mama Sandy. She was flying past the nest. She did not go there as yet, but I was sure she would find it very comfortable. Her old ‘furniture’, which (minus some red ants) was carefully carried back into the new nest, should make it feel familiar.

mama-osprey-flies-by-the-nest-ud90Once the nesting season begins, I’m sure Papa Stanley will find the new perch very useful. He no longer needs to find another perch in the woods or on a lamp-post when he wants to stay close by.

On Saturday, Sandy was still in the watching mode. She perched very close to the nest and observed it intently, but she didn’t go there. Then this morning – voilà! She had convinced herself that the new ‘mansion’ was safe – and all hers. The best sight ever!

mama-osprey-on-the-perch-ud90Later this morning I took a walk at the salt marsh. Sandy was still there, visibly happy for the new perch and her new home. Soon she flew away, and I heard her tell all about their new home to Stanley. There was a lively discussion in the sky above the bay. Perhaps they were planning for additional furnishings. And trips to Home Depot by Stanley.

mama-osprey-at-the-new-nest-ud90The marsh was busy. The Mayor was there again. And the Reddish Egret entertained me with his hunting dance.

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white-ibis-and-reddish-egret-ud90

reddish-egret-hunts-ud90The smaller wading birds were back too. I spotted the Little Blue Heron in deep thought. And the Tri-colored Heron was happily hunting around. Everything was in good order.

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tri-colored-heron-ud90Operation Osprey was a great success. I want to express my sincere thanks to Duke Energy  for their generous grant and all others who contributed to funding this project, including Sand Key residents, blogging friends, and Sheraton Sand Key Resort. My thanks also go to Kathy, the Chief Ranger at Sand Key Park, and her staff for all the tree trimming that was necessary to make this project possible. And to my friend Gladys for her help on the fundraising and always being there despite the fact that mosquitoes liked her more than they liked me. Last but not least, my thanks go to Barb at Clearwater Audubon Society and to Steve, Blake and Matt at Powertown Line Construction for making this all happen.

We all wish you a peaceful week ahead.

Flying High. Alarm Event. And Other Local News from the Salt Marsh.

To me, local is not only places and people around us. It is also animals around us. And many of you will know I am talking about the salt marsh and its residents. That’s where my heart is. But I have to confess I have not been able to visit my friends for a while. Severe interference by something I call work.

When I finally got time to visit, I found myself right in the middle of a significant alarm event.

mama-osprey-is-alarmed-ud86Mama Sandy was vigorously defending her run-down nest against another osprey couple. Soon Papa Stanley appeared on the scene to support her. He chased the other male out of the marsh.

papa-osprey-chases-away-intruders-ud86But the female was a tough cookie. She continued to circle above the marsh. She was looking right down on Sandy and made a couple of dives towards the nest. Tension was mounting.

another-osprey-2-ud86A light blue juvenile Little Blue Heron in the bushes right below the nest looked frightened. She stayed putt in her hiding place to wait out the storm.

juvenile-little-blue-heron-ud86And the Yellow-crowned Night Heron who had been nodding off in a tree nearby woke up to follow the drama.

yellowcrowned-night-heron-ud86Mama Sandy did not take this provokation lying down. I have never seen her screaming from the bottom of her lungs like this. She sounded like she meant it. And that did it. The female osprey finally followed her hubby and flew towards the north end of the park.

mama-osprey-shouts-alarm-ud86Phew. Peace was restored and everybody was minding their own business again. Like this White Ibis, who was just chilling. Quite beautiful, I thought.

white-ibis-ud86And an adult Little Blue Heron, perhaps the juvenile’s mom, continued her search for that perfect bite.

little-blue-heron-ud86But the Snowy Egret had already spotted her favorite menu item. She flew across the pond…

snowy-egret-flying-2-ud86 …and performed daring acrobatics to fetch her brunch. I was impressed by her reach.

snowy-egret-bending-down-ud86I walked around the marsh and spotted another Snowy Egret hunting. She was working hard for her tiny morsels.

snowy-egret-hunting-ud86At the far end of the marsh a Tri-colored Heron was busy hunting. Everything was back to normal.

tri-colored-heron-ud86As I walked home I spotted the juvenile Red-shouldered Hawk again. She was soaring high in the sky and I felt like doing the same. Just to float above it all.

redshouldered-hawk-2-ud86Our fundraising drive for a new home for the osprey family continues…and I hope we have good news shortly. In the meantime I will try my best to catch up on news in your world.

royal-tern-flying-ud86Be well. And fly high.

 

Operation Osprey. The Fundraising Issue.

The Osprey couple of the Sand Key nest, Sandy and Stanley, can now be seen sitting together on the bay side during the ‘blue hour’ every evening. I am sure they are discussing the upcoming nesting season and the dismal condition of their home. Perhaps they are also worrying about the fact that they don’t have the $3000 required for a new home in their savings account.

mama-osprey-at-the-old-nest-ud85On Sunday I took a short walk at the salt marsh and found Sandy ‘babysitting’ the nest. I told her about my hope to have a modern and durable nest dish in place by end of November. Without them needing to take on a mortgage. I think she was listening. She must have seen quite a bit of action around the nest last week. The county did all the tree trimming required for the big truck to get close to her home. A big thanks to the wonderful rangers at Sand Key Park! They truly care about the salt marsh residents.

salt-marsh-trimmedSo now we just need to raise the funds. And we are working hard to get that done as soon as possible. We have approached two large and very successful hotels here on Sand Key, Sheraton and Marriott, to sponsor the nest project. Many of their guests walk at the salt marsh and enjoy observing the Osprey couple and their kids (picture from 2015).

papa-ospreys-fish-delivery-ud85Unfortunately we have not yet heard back from them, but many residents in the area have already sent in contributions. Some of you have asked me if there is a way for you, the friends of this Osprey couple, to contribute too. So here it is. If you want to help, please send your contribution (tax deductible in the US) directly to the local chapter of the Audubon Society at

Clearwater Audubon Society, P.O. Box 97, Clearwater, FL 33757 . Please include a note “For Sand Key Osprey Nest Project” on your check or money order. Thank you.

Now, I did also meet some other residents at the salt marsh on my ‘inspection round’. In fact, there was quite a bit going on. The Reddish Egret was performing again.

reddish-egret-hunting-again-ud85He was ‘dancing’ around all by himself. But he wanted an audience. So he moved towards the far end of the marsh where a family of White Ibis were minding their own business. Once there, he did a disappearing act. No applause.

reddish-egret-does-a-diving-number-ud85He was not happy. He sat in the water for ten minutes just sulking. That was not like him and I was getting worried. I walked to the far end of the marsh.

reddish-egret-3-ud85And finally he got up, shook his beautiful feathers and walked onto dry land to think about a better strategy.

reddish-egret-2-ud85And right away I spotted another diver,  a young Mottled Duck. He didn’t need an audience and was happy just getting a refreshing bath.

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duck-ud85When leaving the salt marsh, I was treated to a ‘fly by’. A Snowy Egret had also decided to move on.

snowy-egret-flying-ud85I hurried home along the bay side and found a successful fisherman. The older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor, had just captured his Sunday breakfast. I am sure that, in his book, this catch was as delicious as a heap of pumpkin spiced pancakes.

the-older-great-blue-heron-fishing-2-ud85We all wish you a wonderful week and hope you can get a moment in nature, away from all stress. Peace.

Operation Osprey. Alien Presence. And Family Feuds at the Salt Marsh.

This past week has been very busy. But the good news is that we have finally made some headway on “Operation Osprey”, as my friend Gladys dubbed the project we are working on. I had never thought that helping the Osprey family to get a safe home would be as simple as someone climbing up to the nest and putting in two new supports for the wooden platform. I had seen the platform was falling apart and knew it had to be replaced. But I had also not envisioned a big “project” involving the county, the Audubon Society, a contractor and a bunch of donors.

osprey-nest-sept-26The local Audubon Society has the required permits for this work. And we now have a commitment from the county to do the necessary tree trimming in the park so that a big truck can get close to the nest. We also have a proposal from a contractor on the installation of a new osprey nest platform. It will be a modern dish with drainage holes widely used in Florida. nest-176-disk-nest-platform-300x225-fl-osprey-watchSomething like this (Osprey nest 176, Florida Osprey Watchers), with an added perch. The perch will serve many purposes. But perhaps most importantly, it will allow Papa Stanley to stay close to Sandy when they incubate eggs and look after the nestlings. Yay!

The fundraising has also started. I’m hoping we’ll get enough donations in the next two weeks so that the materials can be ordered and the project be put on the contractor’s work schedule. Otherwise we’ll run out of time.

mama-osprey-ud83You see, Sandy and Stanley have already started dating again. It’s really sweet to watch. The other night when Dylan and I took a late walk past the Sailing Center, we found both of them perched close to each other admiring the moon raising over the bay. I didn’t have my camera with me, but this is what they would’ve seen.

sunset-and-moon-rise-over-the-bay-ud83And yesterday morning it looked like they were fishing together. First I spotted Stanley scanning for fish at the Sailing Center.

papa-osprey-at-sailing-club-ud83A couple of minutes later, I spotted Sandy flying from behind me carrying a fish. She must have been fishing a bit further out on the bay because I didn’t spot her. She settled down on the lamp-post right opposite Stanley’s favorite resort.

mama-osprey-lands-with-a-fish-ud83And a few seconds later Stanley flew over my head with a fish. He must have picked up a fish from the bay right after I left him.  He settled at his resort to have his breakfast.

papa-osprey-eats-beakfast-ud83So there they were, the love birds, eating their breakfast at the same time and very close to each other.

mama-osprey-eating-breakfast-ud83And in late December, they will start rebuilding the nest. Fingers crossed we can give them a brand new, safe home by then.

the Mayor with his crowd UD83.jpgFrom the bay side I walked into the salt marsh, where the Mayor was leading the morning preening session. The marsh had been ‘taken over’ by several families of White Ibis and Snowy Egrets. I counted about thirty individuals. And I observed some discord in one of the Snowy families. Voices were raised and feathers flew. I have a few unusable pictures of this family ruckus where one can only see white fluffed feathers.

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angry-snowy-egret-ud83A few Great Egrets were present too, but held to themselves, away from the boisterous crowds.

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great-egret-2-ud83I also spotted a juvenile Green Heron quietly sneaking in the shadows at the far end of the marsh.

juvenile-green-heron-ud83And a Little Blue Heron observing the wild stuff from a small tree with keen interest.

little-blue-heron-ud83When I was leaving, I saw the Mayor had taken a position in the middle of the large, shallow pool, where he could have an overview of the lively marsh. Perhaps he was hoping the Snowy family would settle their disputes without his intervention.

major-great-blue-heron-ud83On the beach I found hundreds of birds, mainly gulls and terns. They were just chilling. Calmly exchanging the latest news or flying around in search for breakfast.

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royal-terns-ud83

royal-tern-in-flight-ud83And suddenly I came face to face with an alien. He was big and reflected the outer space on his clothing. He was no E.T. but he didn’t frighten me too much, to tell you the truth.

jet-ski-alien-ud83I took comfort in the fact that Mama Sandy had finished her breakfast and was flying towards the ocean right over my head, keeping an eye on any aliens that might pop up on my path. I knew I would need to work harder on Operation Osprey to beat the deadline of Papa Stanley’s forthcoming proposal.

female-osprey-in-flight-ud83That’s all for today. Thanks for joining me on this walk. I wish you all a great week ahead. Peace.