Tag Archives: Wood stork

A Marriage Proposal. And Happy New Year from the Salt Marsh.

Hello everyone! I hope the Holiday Season has treated you well. I’m back home from my Christmas adventures with family on the Atlantic seaboard in North Florida and Georgia. It was a precious time with our son and his family.

st-simons-island-pier-georgis-fb-ud98Lots of little adventures and places to see. Here a few pictures from our trip to St. Simons Island in Georgia: the lighthouse from 1807, rebuilt in 1872, the Christ Church from 1808 and the beautiful Avenue of Oaks planted sometime before 1850.

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the-avenue-of-oaks-st-simons-georgia-ud98I did do some bird watching as well with my 6-year old granddaughter. Here’s our catch from Georgia, Double-crested Cormorants and gulls.

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cormorant-and-gulls-georgia-ud98I am happy to say she is also into nature and photography, shooting away with her Nikon Coolpix. Here she discovered some ‘interesting plant’ that needed to be captured close up.

little-photographer-ud98We also did a birding walk in her neighborhood with Dylan in tow. And to my delight I captured my first shots of a Hooded Merganser.

hooded-merganser-2-jax-ud98The rest of the neighborhood birds included a family of Canada Geese, a serious-looking Little Blue Heron and a Snowy Egret.

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snowy-egret-jax-ud98That was so much fun!

Yesterday morning I checked on my friends at the salt marsh. A New Year’s celebration was clearly in the making. So many birds! A large family of Wood Storks, many Great Egrets, and the Mayor, of course, were all enjoying the cool sunshine – and plenty of food offerings.

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great-egret-and-great-blue-heron-ud97As usual, the Reddish Egret was entertaining the crowds and shaking his booty. And for the first time I captured him in full flight.

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reddish-egret-flying-ud97Miss Rosa was there too, delighting everyone with her colorful presence. She always notices me and nods her greeting. I thought she said Happy New Year. How sweet of her.

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roseate-spoonbill-ud97Mama Sandy was sitting on her new perch. Papa Stanley flew by and they had a brief exchange. At the time I was not aware of the importance of the moment.

mama-osprey-at-her-perch-ud97Below the Osprey nest, I spotted a Tri-colored Heron. When I came home and looked at my pictures, I realized she was not alone. A Green Heron was lurking in the shadows right behind her, and another bird further in behind him.

tricolored-heron-and-green-heron-in-shadows-ud97And I witnessed some rivalry between two of the Great Egrets. There was a loud exchange followed by a flight competition.

two great egrets flying 2 ud97.jpgEven the big Wood Stork wanted to get away from such a disturbance to the otherwise peaceful New Year Eve party. He hurried his steps, then ran and flexed his huge wings.

wood-stork-fishing-ud97But the Little Blue Heron was brave. He was a bit startled, but stayed put on the water installation and stared curiously at the big boys’ silly competition.

little-blue-heron-ud97The juvenile Night Heron also observed the hullabaloo from the relative safety of his tree below the Osprey nest.

juvenile-night-heron-ud97I was happy to find everyone in good spirits on the last day of the year and walked home. On my way, I spotted an industrious couple, Mr. and Mrs. Red-bellied Woodpecker. But I was yet to get my biggest year-end surprise.

male-and-female-red-bellied-woodpecker-ud97An hour or so later, when I happened to look out from my office window towards the salt marsh, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I ran out to the terrace and could confirm that Papa Stanley was in the new nest for the first time!

papa-osprey-in-the-nest-ud99And Mama Sandy was happily enjoying her proposal gift on the perch. Wow! The proposal gift was not a fish, but a small mammal, perhaps a squirrel.

mama-osprey-with-her-proposal-gift-ud99If Osprey eats something other than fish, it will probably be at the time when the male makes his annual marriage proposal. I have seen Sandy receiving a mouse in 2015, and that’s the only time before yesterday I’ve seen her eat other than fish. Now this gift was very special, and it was given 11 days earlier than last year.

This morning on my early morning walk with Dylan, but without my camera, I saw that both Sandy and Stanley were sitting in the nest together. And I noticed that some soft nest materials had already been brought in. Sandy and Stanley have renewed their marriage vows once again, and this New Year’s Eve marked the official start of their 2017 nesting season. What a resilient couple they are!

fireworks-2017-ud100I want to thank all blogging friends for a wonderful year. You have inspired me with your thought-worthy posts and generous advice, amazing stories, wonderful poems and beautiful photos and other art! And you have given me laughs when I most needed them 🙂 You have also encouraged me by visiting here and commenting on what I have shared,  which I have immensely enjoyed. Thank you all from the bottom of my heart. My furry sidekick also sends his regards, and we both wish you a Happy and Healthy New Year.

A Weekend Holiday Party. Hosted by the Mayor.

This past weekend was a bit winter-like. Cool winds from the north, bright sunshine and then yesterday a bit warmer and cloudier with a few sprinkles. I was invited to a lively holiday party at the salt marsh. Two days of guests mingling happily in anticipation of the holidays. Residents hosting visitors who seemed happy to have escaped the real cold up north.

dozen-wood-storks-ud94And there were early signs of romance brewing in the bird community. Many couples, breeding plumages growing…and a few loud comments exchanged between suitors in some quarters.

The Reddish Egret was entertaining. Perhaps he was also trying to impress on his girlfriend, who had taken possession of the Mayor’s office. She was well put together and watched the Clown’s performance intently.

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reddish-egret-shaking-off-water-ud94And Miss Rosa was, of course, the object of everyone’s admiration. Including mine. I first spotted her hanging out with the big boys.

roseate-spoonbill-with-wood-storks-ud94Then she flew to a pond where she could fish undisturbed. Photogenic. And I think she knows it.

roseate-spoonbill-2-ud94While Rosa didn’t seem to have a boyfriend, the Yellow-crowned Night Heron did have company. She was sitting shyly in the bushes below the osprey nest, while her admirer was openly staring at her from a tree across a small ‘strait’.

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yellow-crowned-night-heron-2-ud94Mama Sandy was there too. She looked regal on her new perch. And she was in deep thought. Perhaps mulling over ideas for home decoration, which is about to start in 3-4 weeks now.

mama-osprey-on-her-perch-ud94Suddenly I heard osprey speak. I looked up and saw Papa Stanley right above the nest looking down. They talked.

papa-osprey-flies-over-talking-to-mama-ud94I would have loved to know what was said in that brief exchange! You see, he has not yet been allowed to land in the new nest. I know it will happen early January, but only after he has performed his proposal dance and brought a gift to Sandy. Then they will start decorating their new home together. That shall be interesting. I will make only one New Year resolution this year, and that is to follow their nesting season as much as I can. And then share this couple’s joys and challenges here with you.

After Stanley flew away towards the ocean, Sandy greeted me from her ‘high chair’. She is a beauty. No wonder Stanley is so besotted by her.

mama-osprey-closeup-ud94I walked around the marsh and spotted two of our permanent residents, the Tri-colored Heron and the Little Blue Heron. They are such gracious little waders and by now not a bit shy when I approach them.

tricolored-heron-2-ud94In fact, the Little Blue Heron kept me company. She walked with me quite a while along the southern border of the marsh.

little-blue-heron-ud94Soon I saw the big birds chilling out in the ‘west wing’ of the marsh. Mainly Wood Storks and Great Egrets, in clans, couples or solo enjoyed the holiday smorgasbord.

wood-stork-ud94I learned something new, namely how the Wood Storks ‘sit’ on the ground when only their heads are visible above the high grass.

wood-stork-2-ud94This is how. They actually sit on their knees – bent the other way round compared to ours.

wood-stork-sitting-ud94The older Great Blue Heron, the Mayor of the Marsh, was hosting the party. He patrolled the waters and talked to the guests.

great-egrets-blue-heron-reddish-egret-ud94At one point he said something to a Great Egret. I thought I heard “let’s compete who’s first at the osprey nest”.  I can’t be sure, but off they went.

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great-blue-heron-and-great-egret-flying-ud94I have no way of knowing who won. Or even if that matters. But when I arrived back to the nest, I found each of them in trees close to the nest…in the company of the Night Heron couple.

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great-egret-and-night-heron-ud94But were there no small birds at the party?  Of course there were. But these birds make me work too hard to get even one acceptable picture 🙂 I managed to make two of them to pose just for half a second, a Northern Mockingbird and a tiny Least Flycatcher who moved all the time. And I mean all of the time, which is obvious from my soft picture.

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alder-flycatcher-2-ud94After being hosted by the Mayor, entertained by the Reddish Egret and greeted by Mama Sandy and Miss Rosa, I left the party and walked home by the bay side. There I spotted only one bird, a Brown Pelican at the Sailing Center pier. The pelicans prefer the bay or the ocean for their smorgasbord.

brown-pelican-ud94I hope you enjoyed this holiday party as much as I did. We all wish you a wonderful, stress-free week.

 

 

Thanksgiving Feast at the Salt Marsh. Pure Magic.

Yesterday morning I lifted my head from the legal language on my screen and looked towards the salt marsh. I immediately saw that we had visitors for Thanksgiving. Many of them. I left my project in mid-sentence, grabbed my “birding camera” and ran out of the door. Looking towards the marsh from our driveway, I spotted Papa Stanley and Mama Sandy on lamp-posts at the parking lot next to the marsh.

papa-and-mama-osprey-ud91They were discussing something. Perhaps planning the furnishings of their new home. And they were watching the skies, sounding an occasional ‘double warning’ to a male Osprey flying around overhead. Stanley had a fish, but Sandy had probably already eaten.

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mama-osprey-ud91Do you see what I see? No, I don’t mean the bright blue autumn sky. But Sandy is clearly ready for the nesting season. She has gained weight, as she should.  She knows she will always eat last when there are other mouths to feed in the nest. And that time is not too far away now.

birds-at-salt-marsh-ud91When I arrived at the salt marsh, I saw birds everywhere. Many different species – see Miss Rosa there on the left with the big boys? Every single islet and shallow pond was sprawling with birds. Early in the morning when Dylan and I passed by the marsh, it had been almost deserted – this was pure magic. I was guessing many of birds were visitors on the move to their final destinations, like the 20+ Wood Storks and some of the Great Egrets.

older-wood-storks-ud91There were teenagers, parents and grandparents. It was great to see how all the different birds enjoyed a Thanksgiving feast together. Everyone was accepted and welcomed. The Mayor did set the tone, of course. He was staying a bit away from the biggest crowds, keeping an eye on everything.

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younger-great-blue-heron-ud91Fishing was great. And the styles were many. But it was difficult to capture much of their acrobatics through the very high grass.

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wood-stork-fishing-ud91To my amazement, there was not one Reddish Egret but two. I had to observe them to know which of them was our Clown. One of them was a bit shy and just stayed quietly next to the bigger birds.

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wood-stork-and-reddish-egret-ud91I concluded it was not the Clown, but perhaps his girlfriend. Then I walked to the far end of the marsh and knew I had found him. His hunting dance was on.

reddish-egret-hunting-ud91When a Wood Stork walked close to where he was fishing, he asked – in no uncertain terms – to be left alone.

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reddish-egret-the-clown-ud91I had to smile. Definitely the Clown. And he was in a feisty mood. The Wood Stork decided to move a bit further. There was plenty of fish for everyone.

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wood-stork-ud91I was looking for Miss Rosa. I had seen her fly away, but was not sure where she had landed. I walked around the marsh again and finally spotted her in a busy pond with several Snowy Egrets and juvenile Wood Storks.

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roseate-spoonbill-ud91It was great to see her again. She looked at me to say hi, and went on to demonstrate that she too was a great fisher(wo)man. And she proved her point by catching the biggest fish of the day.

roseate-spoonbill-caught-a-fish-2-ud91Not far from her, I spotted two other permanent residents, the Tri-colored Heron and the Little Blue Heron.

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little-blue-heron-ud91Then my attention was captured by a call that I didn’t recognize. I walked towards a tree where I thought it was coming from. And spotted the tiniest bird, about 3″ from top to toe. It was a Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, perhaps a juvenile. This very fast bird made me work hard for a few glimpses.

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blue-gray-gnatcatcher-2-juvenile-ud91After that I walked back home to continue my work. Later in the afternoon I saw Mama Sandy again. She was perching at her new nest, and I think she spotted me spying on her from our terrace more than a block away.

mama-osprey-at-her-new-nest-ud91We wish everyone Happy Thanksgiving and a great weekend.

No Election Stress. At the Salt Marsh.

It’s election day. The salt marsh is right next to our polling place at the Sailing Center.

election-day-ud89Early this morning as voters started to stream in, Papa Stanley was stationed right there, on the wind metering device, keeping watch. He was very alarmed, to say the least.

papa-osprey-sounds-alarm-ud89To my relief I discovered that he was alarmed about something completely different. Another male osprey flying over the salt marsh, where Mama Sandy was minding the nest.

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mama-osprey-ud89Sandy and Stanley are dating now, and he doesn’t venture far from her side. I bet he is already rehearsing his proposal dance to be performed in late December. In any case, the bay side was as lively as the polling place. Pelicans had gathered around the pier, and lots of fishing was going on.

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pelican-2-ud89I decided to visit the salt marsh. And the turnout of birds did not disappoint. Although Mama Sandy had now flown away from the nest, there was a lively crowd of ‘big boys’. Like the Wood Storks.

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wood-stork-ud89And the Great Egrets. Although a few of them decided to move to the bay side. More excitement there, I assumed.

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great-egret-flies-away-ud89But most importantly, the Mayor was in the ‘office’ on his favorite islet. He was keeping an eye on everything.

great-blue-heron-mayor-ud89In addition to the big guys, I spotted some smaller fellows. Like this Black-crowned Night Heron. He was trying to take a nap, apparently unsuccessfully, in the bushes below the osprey nest.

black-crowned-night-heron-ud89Then my attention was drawn to a rare visitor, a Belted Kingfisher. He was flying and hovering above the marsh for a long time, and finally sat down to rest in the middle of the marsh.

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belted-kingfisher-ud89I decided to take a swing on the beach. But I felt watched. A drone was circling above the beach. It was watching me, so I decided to watch it too. Tit for tat.

drone-ud89I didn’t like the drone and decided to return to the salt marsh. Just in time to see Mama Sandy return to the nest. I was secretly hoping she would not like the artificial ‘bird’ in the skies above the beach. But had to assume she had not seen it.

mama-osprey-lands-in-the-nest-ud89She had no fish. I believe she had already eaten her breakfast and was just taking an extra exercise round above the bay.

I then spent some time observing a few very small birds. They moved fast, but finally one of them sat down for a photo shoot. After looking at all my pictures, I think it might be a Pine Warbler, but stand to be corrected by friends who know these small birds much better than I do.

pine-warbler-ud89After getting my shot, I decided to walk home. Just when I got onto the street, I saw Papa Stanley fly over my head. With a fish. He landed on a lamp-post close to the marsh – with a direct line of sight to the nest where Mama Sandy was perching. Everything was in order.

papa-osprey-caught-a-fish-ud89Whatever happens tonight, I hope we will find peace. Individually and collectively.

Halloween at the Salt Marsh. Everything Transmogrified.

A few minutes after midnight I stepped out into the cool night. As I approached the end of our driveway, the pale crescent moon suddenly disappeared in red haze. It was pitch black. Then, slowly, a sparkling full moon appeared. I thought that was strange. But knew it would aid me on my visit to the salt marsh.

halloween-moon-3-ud88The gate into the park was closed, of course. But unlike any other night, a mean looking bird was guarding it.  His long bill was sharp and his left foot was raised as in a warning.

nature-reserve-forest-and-snowy-egret-halloween-2-ud88No admission. But stubborn as I am, I decided to climb over the low stone wall a little further down.

salt-marsh-stone-wall-3-ud88Right away I could see some hunching shapes on one of the small islands in the distance. A gathering of the ghosts perhaps? Halloween party? It was impossible to tell.

wood-storks-and-great-egrets-halloween-2-ud88Bang! The ground shook and lightning struck from the clear sky. It illuminated the osprey nest. From afar, it looked deserted and seemed to glow faintly in the moonlight.

osprey-nest-halloween-4-ud88I was frightened, but there was no turning back. So I walked closer. Suddenly I heard heavy wing beats right above my head. A large bat? I saw a huge creature land on the nest. He looked right at me and I thought his eyes were somewhat familiar. He didn’t say anything, just stared at me flexing his enormous wings.

papa-osprey-halloween-3-ud88Just under the nest, I could discern a glowing figure on the ground. Someone else was observing me too. It was spooky. And eerily quiet.

yellowcrowned-night-heron-playing-halloween-3-ud88The silence was broken by a bone-chilling scream. An apparition with a huge bill drifted right next to me. I started running.

papa-wood-stork-halloween-2-ud88Further out, I saw more dark shapes starting to gather at the far end of the marsh. Curiosity won over fear and I decided to investigate. Walking along the water line, I spotted large glowing fish in the deep pond. Monsters over three feet long.

fish-tarpon-in-the-salt-marsh-halloween-ud88I sensed many pairs of eyes were following my every step from the deep shadows. It was unnerving. But I kept going.

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squirrel-halloween-ud88As I came to the far end, I noticed action on the water. Someone was running for his life!

mottled-duck-run-on-water-halloween-ud88The poor fellow was chased by a much bigger creature, who was flapping his wings as he ran on the water. I could feel chills go down my spine.

reddish-egret-hunting-halloween-ud88Suddenly I came to a halt. A creepy feathered being was blocking the trail. He was huge! And he was scrutinizing me from top to toe from the corner of his eye.

great-blue-heron-halloween-2-ud88I started shaking, but finally he let me pass. I took cover under some short palm trees next to the water. That’s when I saw her. Her pink skirt was flowing in the cool breeze as she performed her dance at the edge of the pond.

roseate-spoonbill-halloween-2-ud88All action stopped. No running, no chasing, no fooling around. Complete silence as if all the creatures were holding their breath. Then wings started flapping. Loud applause reverberated in the night. I tried to clap too, but couldn’t. Something heavy was weighing down my left arm. It didn’t move.

dylan-halloween-ud88I woke up. And Dylan turned to look at me. I must have been screaming because the hair on his head stood up. I had dozed off and been dreaming about my friends at the salt marsh. All transmogrified just in time for Halloween. I turned off the TV and the light, petted Dylan and went back to sleep. Who knows what the night might bring. Happy Halloween folks!

Rise and Shine. Fall at the Salt Marsh.

We have gorgeous fall weather here on Florida’s Gulf coast. I want to invite you all to join me on a morning walk on the beach, in the park and at the salt marsh.

love-grass-2-ud87Being “evergreen” we do not have the typical fall foliage, but there is plenty of color for us to enjoy right here in our garden.

And the beach is lively with shorebirds, particularly Sanderlings and Willets, in addition to the usual gulls and terns.

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willet-ud87From the beach we walk to the fishing piers at north end of the park. Sun is shining on the bay and the Clearwater Pass.

shine-ud87People are fishing and birds are flying over the water.

bridge-ud87We spot two familiar birds: the “other osprey” who was pestering Mama Sandy last week, and Henry, the younger Great Blue Heron.

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younger-great-blue-heron-henry-ud87For some reason, Henry is not at the salt marsh, but has flown into a kayak enclosure next to the fishing piers. Perhaps hoping for a free meal from one of the fishermen.

sand-key-park-ud87From there we walk south through the park to the salt marsh. And spot more fall colors on the way.

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pink-flowers-ud87Arriving at the marsh, we immediately notice the visitors. A family of eight Wood Storks mingle with Great and Snowy Egrets.

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great-egret-ud87The Great Egret wants to show the visitors who’s the boss, and some loud exchanges follow. But where is the real boss, the Mayor? We walk towards the osprey nest and find him hiding in the bushes right below the osprey nest.

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older great blue heron 2 ud87.jpgIt seems he doesn’t want to get involved in any squabbles, but rather prefers to take some quiet time to enjoy the morning. And the same goes for Mama Sandy. She has just caught a fish and turns to greet us before starting her breakfast.

mama-osprey-with-a-fish-ud87Then we spot the showman. The Reddish Egret performs his hunting dance. The clown of the marsh, as I dubbed him two years ago, draws his energy from a large audience. And today is no exception.

reddish-egret-hunting-ud87But the smaller herons, apart from the Snowy Egrets, have decided to stay away from the ‘big boys’.

snowy-egret-ud87Walking home, we find one of them, the Little Blue Heron, hunting alone on the bay.  The low tide has revealed new and interesting fishing grounds.

little-blue-heron-in-the-bay-ud87I hope you enjoyed this three mile walk in the crisp autumn air – a rare treat for us this early in the season.

At home another treat is waiting. The Audubon Society has received a grant from Duke Energy, our power company. Yay! Thank you to all who have contributed! We are now much closer to having the new dish platform for the Osprey couple installed on time. We all wish you a wonderful week.

Hunching Party. And a Mystery Bird over the Salt Marsh.

Girl making a snowman digital artI hope all friends are warm, safe and dry after the blizzard and coastal flooding that hit so many states here in the US this weekend. We had gale force winds from the ocean for two days and Florida winter temperatures in the 30s, but today things are much calmer, winds only at 10-15 mph, sun and pale blue skies.

winter beach JAN ud44I finally got a chance to go check on my feathered friends at the salt marsh. And wanted to give you a quick update on the state of affairs before the work week swallows me again.

Many birds were out and about braving the cool weather. A real hunching party. Everybody was puffed up, like these White Ibis taking in the sunshine.

white ibis ud44Just when I arrived at the osprey nest,  Papa Stanley flew in with soft materials for the nest cup. In preparation for egg laying.

papa osprey brings nest materials ud44Mama Sandy seemed pleased and put it carefully in place in the middle of the nest. And then they just sat there together warming up after the cold night. The nest platform held through the storm again, which is a a good sign considering that it now seems impossible to do any repairs until after the nesting season. I’m keeping my fingers crossed it holds until summer.

papa and mama osprey at the nest ud44I spotted several juvenile Night Herons seeking shelter in the bushes under the osprey nest, some were awake, some asleep.

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another juvenile night heron ud44A Snowy Egret was huddling there too, airing her beautiful plumage in the breeze. And for the first time in weeks, I found a Tricolored Heron.

snowy agret ud44This slender heron was almost unrecognizable hunching there all puffed up.

tri-colored heron UD44I had just spotted the young Muscovy Duck, when I heard a loud discussion at the other end of the marsh.

muscovy duck ud44Based on the dialect I heard, it was between two Great Blue Herons. You guessed it, the Mayor and the youngster. When I glanced over there, I saw that the young GBH had occupied the Mayor’s Office. He clearly harbors aspirations to take over. But the Mayor didn’t like it. The impostor got chased away. He flew up to a tall cypress and settled at the top to consider his options. Sandy and Stanley were not delighted to see him either. Stanley gave a sharp warning call.

young great blue heron flees ud44When I came closer, I saw the Mayor was still very upset, probably thinking what his next step should be.

great blue heron mayor ud44He didn’t settle in his office for long, instead he flew to an islet closest to the group of trees where the youngster was. To keep an eye on his rival. Wise move.

mayor great blue heron ud44This season promises to be interesting. The youngster has not mellowed, if anything he seems to be challenging everyone.

Walking away from the drama, I spotted a Wood Stork. He was separated from his friends who were huddling in the bushes a bit away. They were not willing to pose for a photo.

woodstork ud44But the Great Egret was. He had witnessed the high-pitched discussion between the Blue Herons, and seemed happy that the peace had returned.

great egret in breeding plumage ud44I decided to walk home on the bay side. Leaving the salt marsh, I noticed a sweet juvenile Snowy Egret bravely exploring the marsh on her own.

juvenile snowy egret ud44The bay shore was almost empty. Some pelicans were fishing on the bay and another Great Egret was hunching in the sun next to the sailing club pier.

great egret ud44That’s when I saw the Turkey Vulture circling overhead. I snapped a couple of pictures of him at our driveway.

turkey vulture 2 ud44The surprise came when I looked at my pictures at home. Look carefully. Do you see anything strange? He has the letters HAX on his right wing, doesn’t he? I had to look at all my pictures to believe that marking really was there. I have no idea what that could be. Do you?

I wish you all a good week ahead. Take care.