Another Miracle – Least Tern … and two Lazy Osprey Chicks

I’ve worked most of this past week, so I haven’t been out to check on birdies since Tuesday.

Today I drove the FP road, windows rolled down, listening for that distinct squeal the Least Terns make. The air was silent. I was pretty sure they had all left for parts unknown. It was sad. (See earlier posts for an explanation of why they’re apparently gone.)

 

So I made it down to the Osprey nest to check on those two rowdy chicks. I expected them to be flying by now. But, no. They were lazing around up there in their home nest and doing as little as possible. Maybe it’s too hot to fly. One of the parents was hanging out in a nearby tree, but didn’t seem particularly interested in what the chicks were up to.  So I assume they are still being fed, and apparently, had just had their lunch.

They’re large. And beautiful. But – right now – boring!

not-quite-ready

So I ate my sandwich and decided to leave.

On the way out I decided to cruise slowly around the #2 parking lot – where most of my Least Tern observations have happened this year … just in case I had missed something.

And there she was. One lone Least Tern, sitting stoically in a huge bare patch of sand. And, by the way she was sitting, I was pretty darn sure she was sitting on eggs.

never-give-upThis late in the season! Heck, they should all be almost ready to fly South again – in a normal year.

I watched and waited. At first she had her back turned toward me, but she was almost frantically looking from side to side and up and down.  At last, she took off.  That’s when I got my first look at the eggs. And I wasn’t even sure then,  because they were sitting so low in the nest.  I only knew for sure when I got home and brought the images up on the big computer screen.

The one distinctive thing about her is that the top of her head is not solid black, as is the case for most mature Least Terns. I wonder – is it possible that she was born early in the season THIS year? And that her survival instincts kicked in when almost the entire new generation of chicks was wiped out by those terrible rains in June, which flooded all their nests.

It’s a mystery. I did see that a few had lain eggs about three or four weeks ago, apparently as an effort to create a new crop for this season.  But they all disappeared, as far as I can tell.

But NOW? It’s so late in the season. Heck, normally they’d all be leaving by now (or soon). Of course, I’ll have to keep an eye on her. I don’t know when the eggs were laid, but it takes 19 days normally for them to hatch. Then a few weeks to fledge and fly.

Wow! This is exciting.

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It’s been almost two weeks …

… since I got out to visit the young Ospreys.

And yesterday looked rainy and dank. But I went anyway.  And was rewarded with the sight of two healthy and somewhat rowdy youngsters who are just about ready to leap over that edge and fly.

Just as I arrived, Dad flew in with lunch for the two ravenous little beasties.

delivering-lunch

And, before they could complete their meal, it started to rain. Hard!

Dad quickly grew tired of getting soaked, and left the nest. But all the two kids could do was jump up and down, flap their wings and complain loudly.

let's-both-try-to-fly

You can see the tiny white specks on their wings. Right? Those are raindrops.

One interesting feature of this shot is that it appears to be a sister (l) and brother (r) act.  I’m not positive, of course. But since females usually have a larger and more detailed necklace of brown feathers on their chests, that’s my guess for the moment. Of course, they won’t have their full adult feathers and colors until next year.

The rain only lasted a few minutes. So the kids did a lot more flapping – to dry off, of course. But also to exercise those huge beautiful wings that are going to carry them far in the days to come.

Meanwhile, after the rain stopped, there was a flash of Osprey in the Pine tree nearby. Big Mama had soared into the scant shelter the Pine offered and found her favorite perch. She hung out there for quite a while, looking bedraggled, but determined to get her wings dry.

mom's-drying-out

Whenever I see her like this, I’m reminded of the many (thousands!) of images I’ve captured of her in the past few years. And of how BIG she is.

Which reminds me: I’m having three prints framed right now. They should be available in the gallery soon. And my favorite is this shot, captured last year, just before she laid her eggs. Her mate had brought her a small fish, and she instantly grabbed it and lept from the nest, as if to say “I’ve got to get out of this house for a while and eat my lunch in peace.”

I'm-outta-here

Distractions …

I’ved been distracted the past few days and haven’t been out to check on the birdies. I hope to get out there tomorrow.

Meanwhile, here’s a link to the most important thing going on for me right now –  the publication of the book of poetry by Jerri McDermott. I edited it and launched it on Kindle. It will eventually (maybe soon) also be available as a printed book. I’ll be sure to announce that when it happens.

But grab it. You’ll love it.

Quick Update

They’re back!

At least two Least Terns are now sitting on two eggs each at my favorite spot in the Fort Pickens area.  And there are several others who look as if they’re sitting on new eggs too. I just couldn’t see it positively.

So! Good news! We will have a second hatch of Least Terns this season. The tragic loss of so many because of the devastating June rain event made it appear that the season was over.  I’m so happy that didn’t happen.  Their instincts told them to get busy creating a new batch. And they did!

Here’s proof. Taken yesterday, July 6, 2017.

two-eggs-2

A New Beginning …?

I’ve been hesitant to post anything lately. It’s been a sad time, because many, many Least Tern chicks were lost in those terrrible rains we had a couple of weeks back.

But I’ve been  back to  Fort Pickens, and up and down the coast for the past few days. And I can report that there are still a lot of wonderful and beautiful things going on.

The biggest news for me is that there have been several clusters of adult Least Tern just seeming to flounder around since the rains. A few here, a few there. All of them seeming to be lost, not knowing what to do, because their chicks were just getting started when they were just swept away by the high water.

But today! Wow! I’ve been watching this particular group, and the females seem to be staking out their space and acting as if they were sitting on a nest.  At last I saw the evidence. It’s not a great shot. But this bird is definitely sitting on a new egg, and I’m betting she’s getting ready to lay another.

definitely-a-new-egg

The others nearby are sitting tight, so it’s impossible to tell. But I’m betting that they’re sitting on eggs as well. YEA!

Meanwhile down the road – Big Mama is taking care of two healthy Osprey chicks.

big-mama-bringing-lunch

And there are plenty of Great Blue Herons

heron-in-flight

And other adult Ospreys (I think this one is a bachelor, AND an expert fisherman. Every time I see him he’s on the same limb enjoying another fish. And he always eats alone.)

got-my-breakfast

Then, down the road – at Navarre. The causeway has a large population of Black Skimmers. And those chicks are getting huge.

fast-growing-skimmer

another-skimmer-chick

 

But the most entertaining thing that happened out there today involves nothing more exotic than a Mockingbird.  While I was sitting and watching Big Mama and her Osprey chicks, this guy landed in the grass less than ten feet away.

And look what he decided to eat!

mocker-loves-his-flower

It’s just one of the thousands of blossoms of some plant I don’t even know the name of. But there are white and purple blooms. He seems to prefer the purple ones.

mockingbird-eating-a-flower

Maybe this guy doesn’t care for bugs and worms. Maybe he’s a vegetarian!

Who knows? But it made for a very interesting day.