Tag Archives: Wildlife

Go Ahead, Take a Picture!

Have you ever been to an Owl Festival? And I don’t mean any festivals for night owls you may have frequented in your youth. I mean real Owls. I hadn’t either, until recently. The annual Burrowing Owl Festival took place last Saturday in Cape Coral on South Florida’s Gulf coast. It’s the home town for many colonies of these pint-sized owls, and I wanted to see these expressive, tiny birds in person for the first time.

Burrowed Owl UD152If I wanted to go on the “Photographer’s Tour”, I had to be at the festival grounds at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. So I drove south in the congested traffic on Friday afternoon for over three hours and spent the night at a hotel. But only after filling my ‘tank’ at a great Mexican establishment. Fajitas (enough) for two enjoyed by me and myself.

Fajitas for two UD152_edited-1Appropriately fortified by a rare 6 a.m. breakfast, I arrived at our meet-up-location on time. And boarded a Parks and Recreation bus with The Photographers. Most with their massive 600mm lenses and tripods, weighing over 10 lbs/5 kg. I tried to carry one of these combinations. Ouch. To tell you the truth, I’d need to go to the gym just to be able to lift that kind of equipment to eye level. So there I was with a ‘tiny’ 70-300 mm lens on my Canon and my “jogging camera”, a light-weight compact superzoom. Feeling a bit intimidated, but hopeful the owls would treat me well. And they did. Relatively speaking.

burrowing owl 3 UD152_edited-1We arrived at a sports field. There was an active burrow with both parents preparing for the nesting season. Only one greeted us when we arrived, but soon the other parent (I believe the female) also came out and they posed for us together. Too cute.

burrowing owl couple ud152Soon one of them, I believe the mom-to-be, decided it was time to continue to make their home ready for the little ones…

two owls at the burrow UD152_edited-1…and disappeared down in the burrow. The dad-to-be stayed above ground to keep an eye on us.

burrowing owl male UD152Although we were well-behaved, I could see he was on his guard. We soon discovered there were Monk Parakeets on the sports field. Among them a sweet courting couple.

a MOnk Parakeet couple ud152I was delighted to be able to observe this couple as we do not have this species in our area. Beautiful love birds.

monk parakeets ud152From there our journey continued to another site known to host much larger owls, namely Great-horned Owls. We discovered they already had fledglings. One ‘baby’ was sleeping high up in a pine tree.

great-horned owl baby is sleeping UD152 His mother was nearby, well camouflaged behind branches in the same tree.

Mother Great-horned Owl UD152_edited-1Perhaps we made some unintended noise because the ‘baby’ woke up. And seemed to nail his big yellow eyes right on me. Howdy!

young Great-horned Owl UD152Just for the record, we saw the other ‘baby’ in a close-by tree, but papa Great-horned Owl was nowhere to be found. We believed he might be sleeping in a another tree away from the mom and the babies. Perhaps seeking some privacy after a night of hunting.

We continued our journey to a field close to the owl nest in an effort to locate a family of the rare and threathened Florida Scrub Jays. We were lucky! There was a family of four residing in the scrubs on a grassy field. They are beautiful birds, a bit like the more common Blue Jay.

Florida scrub jay nat env UD152After a while they became curious. And before we knew it, two of them came to greet us! They sat on heads of photographers who wore hats…

…and one of them even wanted to specialize in photography, thoroughly examining the equipment of a fellow photographer. What a treat!

Florida Scrub Jay on Camera UD152On that field I also captured more familiar birds, a couple of Mourning Doves on a wire in the distance.

twp mourning doves ud152But I missed the Eastern Meadow Lark’s brief appearance while trying to zoom in on an approaching young Bald Eagle. And didn’t get good pictures of several other smaller birds. You just can’t have everything.

Juvenile Bald Eagle UD152We continued our journey trying to locate a Bald Eagle nest. We found both Papa and Mama Bald Eagle. With mixed feelings.

bald eagle couple UD152A note on the road side told us that this couple had lost all three of their hatchlings for unknown reasons about two weeks earlier.  The note further speculated that  the reason the parents hadn’t left the nest might be that a second clutch of eggs was forthcoming. I hope the author was right as Mama Eagle stayed firmly in the nest…

mama eagle UD152And Papa was guarding their home just a branch or two higher up.

papa bald eagle UD152I wished them the best and took a portrait of them both.

Our last stop was another active burrow, where we found a rare Burrowing Owl with black eyes. Based on the apparent division of labor I concluded he was the male.

Black-eyed burrowing owl UD152_edited-2After he trusted us a bit more, he flew closer to the burrow and soon we saw his ‘better half’ for a brief moment.

second burrowing owl couple UD152After posing for us, she went down again and started working on their burrow. Fine sand flew out in waves right on the face of her hubby.

sand blast UD152She demonstrated an ability which is unique to Florida Burrowing Owls, namely that they dig their own burrows. At first her hubby closed his eyes and took the intense sand blast, but soon realized that the remodeling effort had just started, and flew up on a perch nearby.

burrowing owl at his burrow UD152I truly enjoyed this tour with our fantastic guides, Tammy and David McQuade. And needless to say, these tiny owls captured my heart. I hope I can go back to see them next year. And if I do, I will be a little better equipped. My new 3.62 pound ‘baby’ arrived a couple of days ago.

new lens ud152The good thing is that I will not need to go to the gym to be able to hold it. I just need to be a good parent and teach it to do exactly what I ask for 🙂 Wish me luck.

I hope you enjoyed the short visit to the owls. Thanks for coming along.



Ospreys and Nests. The Joys and Challenges of Home Ownership (WPC: Variation)

Last Sunday when the temperatures finally crept up into the normal range for us here in Florida, Mr. Dylan took me for a hike on Honeymoon Island. We hiked the 2.2 mile Osprey Trail. His nose was pointing down and my eyes were looking up. This state park is known for its many Ospreys and soon I spotted a couple in a large well-built nest. It appeared to be ready for egg laying, soft nest cup materials falling over the sides.

Osprey parent on Honeymoon Island UD150This nest had weathered Hurricane Irma, while some others had not. Soon I discovered a female Osprey working on a new nest. It was still very small and far from ready for eggs. And I couldn’t help wondering if her nest had been blown down by Irma. And where was her hubby? He should be busy shuttling in building materials.

female osprey at a new nest UD150 Soon enough I found him. He was taking a break in a nearby tree. I sure hoped he was hatching plans for a lengthy work shift in the afternoon.

male osprey UD150We continued our hike and Dylan greeted about a dozen dogs who had taken their moms or dads out too. Then I spotted yet another variation on the osprey nest. But there was something odd about it. There was no Osprey. Instead I saw two ears sticking up from the middle of the nest. Look carefully and you’ll see the ears of mom Great-horned Owl. It appeared she was already incubating.

Mama great-horned owl ud150Oh dear. Could the nest she had been using have blown down by the hurricane? And she just settled in this osprey nest instead? Might this be the nest of the couple now working on new construction? It certainly looked like that. You see, Great-horned owls do not build their own nest. Instead, they raise their young in nests built by other birds.  I knew dad Great-horned Owl had to be somewhere in the vicinity of this nest. Although well camouflaged I found him soon enough. He was napping at the top of a very tall pine tree.

daddy great-horned owl ud150Dylan almost lost his patience following me around the tree as I was trying to get a clear picture of him. But despite our best efforts to get his attention, he continued to sleep among the long needles and branches. He never looked down.

papa great-horned owl ud150Dylan even asked me if he should start barking, but I told him no. Maybe that poor owl had been hunting all night. A Mourning Dove offered a consolation prize. She was readily available for a photo session.

mourning dove ud150We continued our hike and discovered a great variety of dead trees available for new nests.

And before arriving back to the parking lot, we spotted one more Osprey mom at her nest.

another female osprey UD150Closer to home, Mama Sandy and Papa Stanley have made tremendous progress on their nest left thinly furnished by Irma. We found them both at home yesterday.

papa osprey in the nest UD150_edited-5Stanley had guard duty, while Sandy was working an a large Hogfish presumably brought home by hubby.

mama osprey works on a big fish UD150Dylan’s employment contract as my photo assistant is conditional to first visiting the dog park. So we left the happy couple to enjoy their lunch.

Coming back we walked around the marsh and found a Great Egret in breeding plumage. He was walking right on our path. Dylan discovered him first. But true to his new role, he didn’t lurch forward to catch the big bird.

Dylan below the Osprey nest UD150We approached carefully, but finally he discovered us too.

great egret 2 ud150We noticed from the distance that the osprey nest was empty. I assumed Stanley, faithful to his habits, had taken the rest of the fish and gone to eat his lunch in privacy. And that Sandy had taken an exercise flight after all that eating. Right then Sandy landed back on the perch.

mama osprey returns UD150And I soon understood why she had hurried back. A Turkey Vulture was approaching the nest.

turkey vulture UD150_edited-1Sandy let him know in no uncertain terms that he was not wanted in the vicinity of her home.

Mama Sandy sees a danger UD150_edited-1He left. She calmed down. And we walked past her right below the nest.

mama osprey at the nest UD150_edited-1She doesn’t like to see dogs right next to the nest. I have witnessed her dog alarms on multiple occasions. But she didn’t say a peep. Nor did she move her head back and forth – a sure sign of irritation. She just took a long glance at Mr. D. and decided he couldn’t fly. Or maybe she trusts the two of us?

mama osprey sees Dylan UD150The only other bird we spotted at the marsh yesterday was the older Great Blue Heron, aka the Mayor. He was patrolling the shallow waters and looked happy with the peaceful scene.

mayor great blue heron ud150When we got back on the trail to go home, we saw the Great Egret again. His beautiful breeding plumage and the green ‘wedding painting’ on his face told me he was looking for a mate.

Great egret ud150Thanks for coming along to see some variations on the theme ‘Ospreys and Nests’. We all wish you a great week ahead.

New Year. New Dreams.

Mama Sandy is flying high. It’s January and that always brings a new proposal from her faithful husband Stanley. A brand new nesting season. And new dreams.

mama and papa oprey flying together January UD147Early on Sunday morning Papa Stanley brought her the proposal gift. A big fish she enjoyed on the perch while Stanley was watching her feast. I witnessed this annual ritual from my living room window while having my first cup of coffee. In the afternoon I went out with Dylan and found Stanley eating his own fish on a lamp-post close to the nest. We wished him Happy New Year and he nodded in response.

papa osprey eats fish UD147Sandy was watching him from the perch at the nest.

mama Sandy UD147And when he had finished his meal, he flew to the nest. Before long Sandy sent him back to the ‘home depot’. While there was evidence of hard work already that morning as large branches were sticking out from the nest, more building materials were needed.

papa and mama osprey in the nest UD147After Stanley left, we walked around the marsh and wished Happy New Year to Sandy too. She looked a bit stern, but I’m sure she was just inspecting Dylan’s new haircut.

mama osprey looks at us UD147The salt marsh was quiet. Most birds were still in hiding after the week-long cold spell. We found one Black-crowned Night Heron in a sunny patch close to the nest. He was wide awake. That was it.

black-crowned night heron ud147Walking back home we spotted only one Cormorant at the Sailing Center, where they usually like to congregate in large numbers. It was still very cool and windy.

cormorant ud147_edited-1Yesterday the weather had warmed up somewhat and we went to the dog park again. We noticed the salt marsh was getting more lively. Mr. Mayor was huddling right below the Osprey nest…

the mayor UD147… where Sandy was having lunch on the perch, while Stanley observed her from the nest. I noted considerable progress in their remodeling effort.

Mama osprey eats fish UD147

papa osprey at the nest UD147Some Wood Storks were visiting again. And a little Snowy Egret bravely shared their accommodations.

wood storks ud147_edited-2The Reddish Egret had recovered from his New Year celebrations and was doing his magical dance in search of a bite for lunch.

reddish egret 2 UD147_edited-2

reddish egret fishing UD147

reddish egret UD147And finally we spotted Miss Rosa on the other side of the marsh. But she didn’t see us. She was taking a nap in the sun.

Roseate spoonbill UD147Walking back towards the nest we noticed from afar that Sandy was in the middle of her daily exercise routine. Right foot up, left foot up. Dylan sat down and I tried to capture her movements.

mama osprey morning gymnastics UD147From a nearby islet a Tri-colored Heron was watching how it’s done. She stretched her neck to get a better view.

tri-colored heron ud147And a Blue Jay was paying attention too. He was exercising his neck trying to find a straight line of sight between the branches.

blue jay ud147Walking home, we spotted a small songbird with raptor’s habits. A Loggerhead Shrike was waiting for lunch to appear in his line of sight.

loggerhead shrike ud147_edited-1Exciting times! We will be sure to follow the highs and the lows of Mr. and Mrs. Osprey’s nesting season. I am certainly hoping there will be less drama and more highs than last year…for them and for us humans.  Thanks so much for visiting the salt marsh gang.

Arlene’s Farewell Concert. And Mischief at the Salt Marsh.

I feel lucky. I didn’t miss Arlene’s farewell concert on Thursday night. She sang the now familiar Aria di sorbetto ‘I Want Fiiish, a Big Fiiish’ to Mama Sandy, Dylan and me. She sang from the heart and closed her eyes to reach the highest notes.

osprey chick arlene asks for fish ud132Tired after the hot day and, I’m sure, many fishing attempts, she was perching at Papa Stanley’s usual summer resort in the park. Mama Sandy was sleeping on a lamp-post close by. She turned her head towards Arlene and just listened. She didn’t open an eye.

mama Sandy ud132Soon Arlene was sleeping too. Her crop was fairly full, but it never hurts to ask for more fish when mama is nearby.

osprey chick arlene is sleepy ud132_edited-1Early on Friday morning Dylan and I spotted her at her Marriott roof top suite, but during the day she had left. Almost four weeks after fledging she started her independent life. I had anticipated her departure, but little did I know these would be the last pictures of her. For now.

Papa Osprey at Marriott ud132_edited-1Dylan and I have looked for her every night since, but we have only found Papa Stanley and Mama Sandy. They have stayed in the area, and on Friday night we spotted both of them with a half-eaten fish. Perhaps in case Arlene would regret her move. But she didn’t. Osprey chicks rarely return once they ‘move out’, unlike many humans.

mama osprey on Sunday ud132But this morning when I was driving on a bridge to the mainland about five miles south of us, I spotted an Osprey chick. And an adult osprey was perching on the opposite lamp-post. I could not stop the traffic to look closer, but it could very well have been Arlene with one of her parents still keeping an eye on her. That would confirm my theory that one of the parents still support them after they leave. The presence of Osprey chicks is transient. They hatch, the lucky ones fledge and move out from the immediate nest area once they feel confident of their fishing skills. I certainly hope to see Arlene visiting the salt marsh one day. I’ll leave you with a funny picture I’ve not shared before. Arlene became a big girl and learned to potty before she learned to fly 🙂

osprey chick going to toilet ud126_edited-2Adieu Arlene, we wish you a happy life! And we’ll miss you.

That brings me to the happenings at the salt marsh. On Sunday I finally decided to defy the heat and go for a long walk. The first thing I spotted was quite shocking. An Anhinga had occupied the Osprey nest. Or more accurately, the perch.

anhinga at the osprey nest ud131Birds in the vicinity of the nest reacted too. An intruder was not welcome. Some looked up, dropped their jaw in horror, but said nothing. Like this Common Grackle.

grackle ud132Others, like the juvenile Green Heron, got really upset and just stared at the nest.

juvenile green heron ud132Despite the reactions, the Anhinga perched there for quite a while. That is, until he saw a big bird high in the sky. A Swallow-tailed Kite.

swallow-tailed Kite over salt marsh ud131_edited-1

anhinga ud131One could not risk that he was the owner of the nest. So the Anhinga quickly flew back to his friends on the bay side.

Just when I thought enough excitement now, there was more. The Reddish Egret I have dubbed ‘the Clown’ was doing his song and dance performance.

reddish Egret UD132

reddish egret 2 ud132He was moving swiftly, running sic-sack and talking to himself. He was almost too fast to capture on ‘tape’. Oh sorry, there are no tapes. Just some blurry photographs of his wild performance.

reddish egret 3 ud132Someone was watching this spectacle. As there always is. The Mayor was standing in the bushes nearby, and he was growing annoyed.

great blue heron the mayor ud132He started walking towards the Clown. Determined to stop the loud performance.

great blue heron ud132The Clown quickly calmed down. He was like nailed to the mud. Completely motionless he watched the Mayor walk by.

great blue heron and reddish egret ud132_edited-3A female Mallard was observing the power-play from the trail. She was keeping her distance, probably not knowing what to expect.

female mallard ud132But there was no confrontation. The Clown walked away, calmly. Despite some Black Skimmers flying back and forth right in front of his nose.

reddish egret and black skimmer ud132But he soon regained his resolve. And challenged the mayor, all puffed up.

reddish egret 4 ud132What he didn’t understand was that the Mayor is a stable, thick-skinned adult. Not to be easily provoked. And suddenly everything was calm again. The little Mottled ducklings swam by completely oblivious to the previous tension.

two mottled ducklings ud132The Tri-colored Heron continued her search for a tasty bite. And the Great Egret at the other end of the marsh gave a sigh of relief. He’s had his disagreements with the Clown.

tri-colored heron ud132.jpg

great egret ud132And I walked home. Now that the nesting season is over, I might take some time off too. I want to do some travelling. And approaching my fifth blogging anniversary next month, I also feel the need to refresh my blog. In the meantime I may blog less…and/or different. Although we’ll probably ‘see’ each other over the summer months, I wish all our friends a wonderful summer. A huge thank you from all of us at the salt marsh for being here.

The Natural Order.

I have come to the conclusion that expressions of order in nature are captivating. Much different from any man-made order, however neat, and more beautiful. In my book, order in nature is of higher quality and its many manifestations are fascinating. I have been digging in my photo archives to show you a few expressions of order in nature as I see them through my lens – with some humor.

Flying in formation: Six White Ibis (featured image) and five Brown Pelicans.

five pelicans in formation UD129Standing in line: Four Willet all standing on their right foot.

four willets on one leg ud129Marching order: Mama Mottled Duck with her ducklings.

mama duck and ducklings ud129Tight formation swimming: Mama Mottled Duck and her ducklings.

mama mottled duck with ducklings ud129Pecking order: 2015 season’s Sand Key Osprey chicks (from the left) 3rd born Sindile, 1st born Lofty and 2nd born Aspire.

three osprey chicks May 27 2015 ud129Landing lineup: Royal Terns’ approach to landing in formation.

royal terns landing order ud129Departure lineup: A group of Wood storks departing in the Everglades.

three wood storks departing ud129Above and below: Four Brown Pelicans flying in “layers”.

four pelicans in flight ud129_edited-1 Backorder: father, mother and baby elephant and three zebras on the savannah.

three elephant butts ud129

three zebras ud129Side order: Two Black Skimmers and two Brown Pelicans flying side by side.

two black skimmers ud129

two pelicans flying tandem ud129Front and back: A Roseate Spoonbill and a Great Blue Heron upfront and a Wood Stork at the back on a small islet.

wood stork blue heron and roseate spponbill ud129_edited-1Law and order: A Reddish Egret chases away a Great Egret, who didn’t have a fishing permit.

Reddish Egret chases a great egret ud129_edited-1Taking turns: One Great Egret eats first, the other one eats second.

two egrets ud129Even disorder in nature can be beautiful: Three White Ibis, one standing on the left foot, two standing on the right foot…

three white ibis ud129…and Monarch Butterflies on a tree in no order at all.

butterfly tree ud129And finally, for our regular readers, there is the current order: The Osprey chick joins her parents to enjoy the sunset glow at the sailing center after a good meal on Marriott’s roof.

osprey chick eats on the roof ud129_edited-1
Arlene has supper on the roof at 7 p.m.
osprey chick hanging out with Mama osprey ud129_edited-1
Arlene and Sandy at the sailing center after sunset around 8:30 p.m.
osprey chick enjoys sunset ud129
Arlene looks for a small “dessert fish” in the water below
mama osprey after sunset ud129
Mama Sandy proudly watches Arlene
papa osprey looks at chick ud129
Papa Stanley lovingly watches his family

I hope you agree that order in nature has many amazing expressions. Have a great weekend!

Enough Drama Already!

This Memorial Day weekend was like one long suspense novel. And I’m afraid this post is also novel-length compared to my usual posts.

It all started on Friday evening when Dylan and I passed the nest on our way from the dog park. I could see the Osprey chick was flapping her wings vigorously and actually getting up, a foot or so,  in the air. Finally the survivor would fledge!

osprey chick pepares to fly ud126_edited-1So on Saturday morning I took my camera and went to the nest to observe her flying exercises. She flew from one side of the nest to the other. Repeatedly.

ospery chick lifts off ud126

osprey chick in flight ud126_edited-1

osprey chick lands ud126Mama Sandy was watching her from the perch. I’m sure she was proud and relieved. And when a juvenile Bald Eagle flew by, she was sounding a sharp alarm.

mama osprey alarm ud126_edited-1

juvenile bald eagle 3 ud126The chick watched curiously, but didn’t say a peep. Maybe she didn’t know why this was such an alarming situation, or maybe she has yet to learn the alarm call.

osprey chick looks at the big bird ud126_edited-2It was wonderful to see her up in the air, but she didn’t leave the nest while I was there. At times she was looking at me as if saying look I can fly.

mama osprey and chick at the nest ud126_edited-1So on Saturday night when Dylan and I went to the dog park, I took my camera along. The chick was still busy practicing.

mama osprey and the chick sat evening May 27 ud126On Sunday morning I was full of anticipation. I would see the chick fledge! I looked out from my bedroom window – and saw Mama Sandy alone in the nest. The chick had already fledged!

Mama osprey waiting for chick ud126So after breakfast I hurried out to the nest to see her return. Sandy had flown away, but Papa Stanley was waiting for the chick on the perch.

Papa osprey waits for the chick ud126He was looking keenly toward the tall trees in the park. I didn’t know why. I waited at the nest. No chick. Finally I decided to walk around the marsh to greet the other residents. First I spotted a beautiful, young Roseate Spoonbill. She had not yet developed the characteristic dark band around the base of her head, had a few feathers on the top of her head and was much smaller than Miss Rosa. Perhaps a relative, or even an offspring. I named her Rosanna.

young roseate spoonbill ud126Next I spotted another juvenile. This was not a Snowy Egret, but a young Little Blue Heron. She was still almost white, but I could see the first light blue spots developing on her back and wings. This was a day of juveniles and the fledging day for the osprey chick. But she was nowhere to be seen.

juvenile little blue heron 2 ud126I continued to wait…and walk. I spotted both Mama and Papa Moorhen…

Mama moorhen 2 ud126

Papa moorhen ud126…and the Mayor. He was walking past his office inspecting the surroundings.

great blue heron ud126Suddenly I heard the Osprey chick. She was asking for fish and her call came from the park north of the salt marsh. I walked towards her call, but couldn’t find her. It was very hot so maybe she was seeking shade in the forest. Or perhaps she was resting on the ground just like her brother Lofty, who fledged exactly on the same day two years ago. I had spotted him on the ground the day he fledged.

lofty on the ground under the tree UD9When I came back to the nest, Stanley was still there. He was talking to Sandy. She was flying from the bay towards the forest carrying a newly caught fish. I assumed she was going to feed the chick.

female osprey with a fish 2 ud126_edited-1Finally I had to leave without seeing the newly fledged chick. Papa Stanley was still waiting for her at the nest.

Mama oprey is an empty nester ud126 on May 28In the afternoon I checked on the nest several times. Nobody at home. I checked again just before going out with Dylan in evening. Still an empty nest. I started to get really worried. Usually the newly fledged chicks fly short rounds over the park and return to the nest in minutes, or at latest by dinner time, just like Lofty had done. But not this chick.

We didn’t go to the dog park in the evening, but instead walked on the bay side. I was hoping I would spot the chick. But no. Until we were almost at home. I saw three Osprey flying together above the Marriott’s roof, a place favored by both Sandy and Stanley in summer time. I didn’t have my camera so there was no way to see who was who. But then I heard the familiar gimme fish. The chick was alive! And probably in the company of her parents.

osprey chick 2 at Marriott ud126Then on Monday I kept an eye on the nest throughout the day. The parents visited a few times, but not the chick. It is highly unusual, almost unheard of, that an Osprey chick would follow her parents from the day they fledge. But this girl was an exception to the rule. I would not spot her until Dylan and I went to the dog park at sunset time on Monday evening. I heard her right away. She was sitting on Marriott’s roof asking for fish and looking towards the bay.

osprey chick calls for mama ud126_edited-2A few seconds later, Sandy appeared next to her. But she had no fish.

osprey chick hangs out with Mama Osprey ud126_edited-4So there she was hanging out with Sandy. I was very happy she was alive and well. Soon Sandy flew away, probably on a fishing trip, and from far away I saw the chick flapping her wings.

osprey chick on Marriott's roof ud126_edited-1Soon we spotted Stanley too. He was perching at the sailing center about 150 yards away. I snapped a picture of him from the side-walk. Dylan was in a hurry to see his friends.

Papa osprey waits ud126_edited-1This was a unique scenario. Either this girl was truly exceptional and had started her fishing lessons right away, or she simply felt the nest was too small a landing strip for her at this time. When I looked towards the Marriott from the dog park, she was gone. Maybe she followed Sandy out to the ocean. Coming back much later, we found Stanley at the Marriott. On the ledge, one level below where the chick had been.

papa osprey watches the chick ud126And just when I was ‘shooting’ Stanley, I saw movement in the corner of my eye. I looked up and saw a tail of the chick. She was landing on the upper level. Soon she looked down, both on us and her papa.

Almost the same scenario was repeated last night. Stanley was at the sailing center, while Sandy and the chick were perching on the roof. This time she didn’t ask for fish so I assumed she had already eaten her supper.

osprey chick looks at papa ud126This adventurous girl deserves a great name! So today we did the ‘same procedure as last year’. Dylan picked a name from the hat – one among 16 names proposed by you, our friends. So how did we do it? I hope the pictures talk for themselves.

lottery hat ud126

Dylan and lottery hat ud126

Dylan does the drawing ud126It was difficult to ‘watch not touch’ the 16 treats in the hat, but Dylan waited patiently until I gave him a go ahead. And then, with lightning speed resulting in a blurred picture, he picked only one treat. The winner is…

the winner ud126I was very touched. And I want to tell you why. Pat proposed the name Arlene, I believe, because Arlene was a dear friend of many neighbors here on the island as well as many dog parents at our park. She had a wonderful little puppy, Hogan, who was friends with Dylan and other dogs frequenting the park. One morning in August last year, Arlene left us suddenly after being hit by a car while crossing the road right here in our neighborhood. She and Hogan were on their way home from the dog park. Tiny Hogan survived and was adopted to a good home. So now we have Arlene, this very special Osprey girl, flying the skies above all of us. And that feels just right.

Thank you all for participating in the lottery and congratulations to Pat!

Osprey Chick Boot Camp. And Other Life Lessons.

The Osprey chick is in boot camp. Mama Sandy is trying to get her ‘wingersizing’. It’s time to strengthen her wings by exercising them.  And to improve her self-confidence after the tragedy that killed her sibling two weeks ago. So now Mama Sandy is often retreating to her perch to give the little one room to move around in the nest and spread her wings. Why do I say her? It is because I snapped this picture the other night at sunset time when Dylan walked me through the marsh.

osprey chick at sunrise ud125Her ‘necklace’ is very much like Sandy’s. So it’s a girl. Again. In the last few years Sandy and Stanley have produced mostly girls: one girl in 2014, two girls and one boy in 2015 and one girl in 2016.

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Now this girl needs to learn to fly. But she is not yet exercising enough. At least in Sandy’s opinion. So yesterday when I sat on “my” bench watching the nest, I saw Sandy teaching her. By role modeling flight from start to end. She walked the talk, so to speak. She took off from the perch and just flew around for a minute. And landing back on the perch she demonstrated her well-practiced “come-from-below” approach.

mama osprey flies around the nest ud125

Mama osprey returns ud125She did this repeatedly. She did not go anywhere, just flew around the nest so the chick could see her. And the chick watched intently. Even flexed her wings a few times.

osprey chick watches mama flying ud125

osprey chick streches her wings ud125

Mama osprey lands on the perch ud125I was impressed by Sandy’s home schooling skills. Then my camera battery warning light began blinking. I started to change the battery. And…like so often previously, that’s when Stanley appeared. My camera’s bottom wide open, I watched him zoom in, leave the fish to Sandy and leave. Sandy divided it into two pieces and they started to eat.

mama osprey and chick are eating ud125_edited-1The chick was hungry and wanted more. Or maybe her piece was smaller.

mama osprey and the chick ud125_edited-1In any case, after Sandy had eaten enough, she started to feed the chick.

osprey female feeds the chick ud125_edited-1Perhaps Sandy made a point right there. If you’re a baby and don’t want to learn to fly, I’m going to feed you like a baby. Or maybe that’s just my speculation. In any case, the chick’s recovery seems to be going quite well. The intensive flight preparation classes should get her airborne shortly.

After spending quite a bit of time with the Osprey family, I only had time to walk quickly around the marsh. I spotted my friend, the beautiful Tri-colored Heron.

tri-colored Heron 2 UD125And a hybrid Mottled Duck, whose friend put up quite a show for me. Or maybe I should say gave me a free preening lesson. If you have the time to actually be at the salt marsh, and need a smile, please watch the short video below.

duck ud125

A White Ibis family was foraging close by, and among them was this beautiful juvenile. She was only partly white. I am guessing she was born last year.

juvenile white ibis ud125At the far end of the marsh, the Clown (Reddish Egret) sported his red, spiked up hair do. He was busy chasing a Great Egret away from his fishing camp. The latter obliged.

Reddish Egret chases a Great Egret ud125Just when I was leaving the marsh, I spotted a Blue Jay. He didn’t care to pose for a portrait, but showcased the gorgeous colors on his back.

blue jay 2 ud125When I arrived home, a tiny Mockingbird baby was practicing her songs on the garage roof. Her repertoire was not yet well developed, but her obvious joy of just being alive was enough to give me a big smile – and something to ponder.

baby northern Mockingbird ud125Thank you for being here. Please stay tuned…the now traditional chick naming lottery is starting next week. Dylan will take care of it, just like last year. Peace.