Big Mama’s BACK!

(Sorry it’s been a while since I’ve posted)

 

Yesterday at Fort Pickens I finally got what I was hoping for – the return of Big Mama to her traditional nest. This is the seventh or eighth year I’ve followed her from season to season.

Big mama is here(?)

As always, she was bossing somebody around. And this time it’s her new beau, who’s busy trying to get the old nest repaired to her satisfaction. But then he gets a little excited by the sight of her, and he just can’t resist.

But it’s way too early, sonny boy, just cool your jets for a while.

this is my favorite place

Still, she seems to like him just fine. And I’m sure he’ll learn. And once he gets that nest perfect … well …

BM says here's my guy

I’m still concerned about that old tree though. It’s sluffing off bark and part of the trunk’s core. And I’d swear it’s leaning more than it used to. A good wind could come along at any time and take it down.

But, for now, Big Mama’s back. And life is going on as usual in Osprey country.

She told me so herself.

I'm the top bird. Any questions?

Ms. Gertie Greenbean

There is quite a size difference between Ruby Throat Hummingbirds and full-grown Ospreys.

Here we have Ms. Gertie Greenbean of Wayne, PA (my northern home):

ms greenbean

She’s maybe 2 1/2 inches from stem to stern, unless she’s sticking her tongue out. In which case, you can add at least another inch.  Perhaps more!

lulu tongue

She needs that long tongue to reach the nectar we’ve provided in the feeder on Jerri’s balcony. And the feeder is positioned so that Jer can watch her from indoors, sitting on the couch.

gertie feeding

 

Ospreys, on the other hand, are BIG.

bm-takes-a-break

I’m guessing the wingspan on this adult female Osprey to be at least 4 and a half feet. And some are even larger! In fact, this is my favorite Osprey of all time. I call her Big Mama because I’ve followed her for at least five or six years, as she returns to the same nest over and over. She’s changed mates a couple of times. And her brood has varied from 1 (this year) up to four.

By the time We get back down to Florida this year it’ll be mid-September. So I’m pretty sure Big Mama and all the rest of the Ospreys will have left for the Caribbean or South America.

The Hummingbirds are building up and preparing for their big migration too. Down to Mexico most likely, although some will be traveling as far south as Costa Rica.

A “Love” Story

Saturday, July 20, and I went in search of Least Tern activity at Opal Beach. It was apparent that the recent over-washing along Fort Pickens Road (again!) had seriously disturbed the chick population there. So I was hopeful that the area around Opal Beach (being a bit higher) might have fared better. I only spotted one fur-ball chick, and a couple that had already fledged. But what was most interesting was their apparent intention to start all over again, even this late in the season.

Nowhere was this more apparent than this dramatic series:

(I’m imagining the dialogue. And somehow it works better if you affect a French accent.)

may I offer you ...

Hello, my beauty. May I offer you this nice fresh fishy I just caught?

It's really quite a nice one

It’s really quite a nice one. See how fat it is? Now if you’ll just …

If you will just turn this way, it can be yours

Yes, that’s right. A little lower perhaps, and turn …

carefully now ...

Perfect! Now just hold steady there. And this little fishy will soon be yours.

Damn! Dropped it too soon.

Damn! I let it go too soon. No! No! Not yet …

but darling! I'm not ...

But, Darling. I wasn’t … 

And, so it goes. Another day at the beach.

Morning on the porch

Since I’m (we’re) not in Florida for a few months, I’ve had to figure out another way to enjoy taking pictures of birds. And since Jerri’s apartment has a wonderful porch where we can sit with our coffee in the morning and drinks in the afternoon, this has become my shooting perch. (By the way, we’re in Wayne, PA – a beautiful community just west of Philadelphia.)

We hung up the hummingbird feeder a few days ago, and almost immediately got our first visitor.  And it wasn’t Gertie Greenbean, our favorite from last year. This one we’ve named Lulu. She’s a beautiful (and I’m pretty sure very young) female Ruby Throat.

lulu posingShe has just about emptied the feeder in only five days. This morning she sat on her favorite perch, which is the top of an artificial tree on the porch, and stuck her tongue out at us.

lulu tongueJerri had never seen this before. So Lulu did it again.

lulu tongue 2

There is also a privet hedge just across the driveway from our porch, and it’s filled with nesting House Sparrows. Apparently, the little ones are fledged out and fliting around, so I discovered one sitting in the middle of the drive, waiting for someone to come along and feed him/her. It was Dad who came to the rescue.

house sparrow feeding the kid

feeding the kid 2

More later …

I must go to get an eye exam and new glasses.

Some Goodies

I haven’t had time to post much lately. But I HAVE been able to get out and take some pretty neat photos.

So, since I still don’t have the time or inclination to write much, here’s a collection of images that have shown up in the past month. Call ’em “pretty birdie shots.”

Green Anole on a cactus next to the trail (obviously, NOT one of the pretty birdies)anole-on-cactus

Big Mama has chosen a mateBM-&-much-smaller-mate

This guy just looked so lonely out there in the fog that morningloner-in-the-fog-2

Big Mama gives an intruder an unwarm welcomego-away-2

The boyfriend is trying to learn the ropes. But she’s not ready yet.foreplay-1I

I think she was just showing off for me.bib-m.-wings-sread

One of the two adult Bald Eagles I’ve seen so far this year at FP.adult eagle

Big M’s boyfriend makes sure this juvenile Eagle knows he’s not welcome here. In fact, when he cruised through, every Osprey that was nearby went after him, all at once.dive bomber

 

Thanks for visiting. I hope you’ll choose to share my site with your friends. And, of course, I always like to hear from you: jimmcdade@mac.com

 

It’s A Start

Finally! It appears that Big Mama (I’m pretty sure it’s her now) has found a mate. Or maybe it’s the old guy from last year. But this one looks very young and very earnest, and determined to please her.

Today (Sunday, 3.31) was very cool and windy. But they were sticking together and very friendly. I’ll have to tell the whole story later, but here’s a shot of the pair. She’s sitting on a stump above the as yet un-repaired nest, and he’s down in it, trying to figure out where to put one of the sticks he has so rapidly brought in to prove he is worthy.

well, what?

They’re also playing at the mating game, but he seems too clumsy  to do his part.

More later. Hint: There’s a new juvenile eagle in the neighborhood …

 

Morning Light

This’ll be a short post.

The other morning, as I was walking into the Veterans Clinic in Pensacola, I glanced over to a flower bed just before I got to the door. The VERY early morning light was just raking across the flowers, and this particular one caught my eye.

morning-light-on-flower

Luckily, I had my latest camera purchase ($20 at a local pawn shop!) in my pocket, so I decided to snap a pic before losing that wonderful warm sunlight. Also luckily, I just grabbed the first shot without checking the camera settings. So this image was greatly underexposed.

But that’s what I like about it.  Whatta you think?

A Very Interesting Day

I don’t have a picture of him to show you, but the best part of my birding adventure today was a young man whose name is Arash. He’s from Orlando. But the most important thing was – he’s just completed walking the entire lenght of the Florida Trail. All  1000 miles of it!

We passed each other on the  bike trail, very near Turtle Bridge, and nodded, then continued on our way.  Little did I know that this very slim, very intense looking young man was within 50 yards of completing his hike from the Big Cypress Swamp in the Everglades to the northern terminus of the Trail, right here at Fort Pickens. That’s a 1,000 mile hike!

The actual brick monument with a brass plaque that designates the end of the Trail is right beside Turtle Bridge, although, I suppose, the actual end of the trail is a couple of hundred yards on, at the edge of the Fort Pickens parking lot.

Anyhow, a few minutes later, he came walking back toward the bridge, and me, and politely asked if I would take his picture standing beside the marker. So I did, using his iPhone. Our conversation then became about his journey. He told me that he had also already traversed the entire Appalachian Trail – from Georgia to Maine (something I’d always said I’d do someday, but never got around to it, although I have hiked many a mile in the Great Smokies where I grew up.). That’s 2,200 miles long! He was hoping to get a ride back into Pensacola Beach so that he could catch a couple of buses that would eventually get him to the Pensacola Greyhound station. He had a ticket for a bus heading south at 1 a.m.

So, of course, I offered to drive him all the way to the bus station. And he was hoping that he might catch an earlier bus. We hit it off immediately. I wished him well on his next adventure. He has my card, so maybe he’ll send me an email to let me know he got home safely. AND what he’s planning for his next adventure.

Meanwhile, back on the trail. Still disappointed that my favorite Osprey, Big Mama, hasn’t shown up yet. But there is beginning to be lots of Osprey activity. But here are a few things I found:

is-this-nest-taken-

This young female Osprey seemed  unsure about whether or not this is her nest. Nobody else seems to be using it. So why not?

And here’s my second favorite female ( also in a nest near Big Mama’s.)

watchful-mama

She’s been here for a pretty long time … and doesn’t like me approaching too close. She’ll start screeching immediately if I get inside her comfort zone. So I try to keep my distance. She and her partner are very busy building and repairing their nest right now. And fighting off the occasional young buck who wants to butt in.

stick-like-a-fish

Meanwhile — back near Turtle Bridge. I’ve photographed this silly twig several times and finally decided to post it here. I’m not sure what fascinates me about it. Maybe it’s the bleached white, delicate little limbs against that black, black water.

And of course, there’s always the requisite turtle.

big-turtle

This is one of the Snapping Turtles I often see here. They’re all covered with a certain amount of moss. I’m guessing it’s because this body of water is still and there is no current. So things settle quietly. Thus, the moss on the turtles.

But this one …

turtle-head

… seemed to be fixated on me, and just floated there, almost motionless, for several munutes. I know it’s a face only a mother could love, but this day I found her to be sweet and friendly.

Then

turtle-tail

I noticed that she had this funny little flag of moss on her tail. Maybe she was just sticking it up out of the water so that I’d notice it. She’s not usually this attentive.

So I consider it a successful day. I met Arash. I found a few interesting birds. And I got to spend a few minutes of meditation staring into the eyes of a Snapping Turtle.

Who could ask for more?

 

 

 

Silly Great Blue Heron

I got out to FP Tuesday, February 26, for a couple of hours, hoping to see more Ospreys. And I sure did. Not so many nests to watch yet. A few are just beginning to rebuild. But I heard a lot of screeches and calls that were distinctly Ospreys.

And most exciting on that score is the possible re-appearance of Big Mama!

big-mama-

I didn’t get close enough for a positive ID. But this bird was sitting in the pine I call the Dining Room, because it’s where Big Mama and her mate, and eventually their kids, go to eat most of the time. It’s just a stone’s throw from the nest.

But she was having none of my shenanigans Tuesday and flew off into the distant pines to get away from me. So I left her alone.

Meanwhile, as I was wandering around the picnic shelter at Battery Worth I spotted what appeared to be a brown streak – racing on a flat path through the trees and brush only 5 or 10 feet off the ground. As I swung the camera around to see what I could catch, this beautiful little Cooper’s Hawk landed briefly on top of a snag.

Cooper's-hawk

First one of those I’ve seen out there. And he/she didn’t stay but a second. But there he/she was. Cool!

Seemed like a short hike to Turtle Bridge was in order, so that’s where I went next. And, as always, I was not disappointed. The GBH egg is still sitting down there in the brush, and a couple of turtles were paddling about. But what was the most fun was this guy.

bath-time

A juvenile GBH, all alone, and just having one hell of a time. First he was dipping down under the water, almost completely submerged. He’d do that a couple of times. Then he’d climb up on the top of the little island to shake.

shaking-feathers

After he’d done that a couple of times he decided that he needed some practice in stick gathering. Maybe because he’d recently been watching the grownups who were busy picking up lots of sticks, and rebuilding their nests  in preparation for this year’s crop of new kids.

gettin-a-stick

I’m not sure he ever found just the right stick, but he tried several as I watched.

another-stick

What I found most unusual about this little guy is that the same bird (I’m almost certain) was in this same place when I had been here a few days earlier. And the little island of sticks and mud isn’t really very far from the bridge. He seems completely relaxed with people coming and going across the bridge. And with fools like me who’ll stop for half an hour and point a huge black machine at him.

I hope he’ll be there the next time I visit (maybe tomorrow). I’d like to get to know him better.

 

Ospreys are Back … Kinda

Yesterday  (2/21) it was very foggy here in town and over most of this area. But when I got to Fort  Pickens around 11 a.m. the air was much clearer. There were even a few patches of blue sky. Nothing to get excited about. But it was a pretty damn nice day for mid-February.

And I simply HAD to go see if there were any Ospreys out there. As I drove in, checking right and left for any signs of them, I began to worry that I was in for another disappointing day.

My first stop was at the Battery Worth picnic area where Big Mama has been ruling the roost (so to speak) for quite a while now. She’s certainly the one Osprey I’ve photographed more than any other. But no luck. She hasn’t returned yet. I’m just hoping she’s survived the winter, wherever she was, and will be back in a few days.

But that stop was going to be a good one after all. Back in the far northwest corner of that area there’s another huge nest that’s also been a favorite of mine for years. And they were home!the-old-couple

As always in the past, they seem not to like me very much, and began screeching at me when I was still pretty far away. As I approached (still at least 300 feet away) she sprang up off the nest, dodged through the pines, then directly over my head at a pretty low altitude — just to let me know I was not welcome. So I left.

Farther down the road I parked near the fort and set out on foot, toward Turtle Bridge. I wasn’t expecting any far away activity so I left the huge 200-500mm lens behind and set off with the 70-300 zoom on the Nikon and my trusty little Canon SX40, in case I did spot something far, far away that was worth recording.

There were two Snapping Turtles at the bridge and a young Blue Heron just hanging out in the reeds. The beaver has apparently decided that that huge cedar tree is more than he wants to handle, so there were no new tooth marks on the tree. And, of course, I still haven’t seen him!

But look at what I DID see!

GBH-EGG-

There in the water beside the bridge, on a little island of brush and floating debris was a very large egg. And I swear, when I got the image home and blew it up it DOES NOT look like a fake plastic egg, as someone passing by seemed to think. It looks exactly like a Great Blue Heron egg.

How it got there I have no idea. And it will probably be gone by the time I get out there again – after all, it’s surrounded by Snapping Turtles and other smaller ones, and there are plenty of egg thiefs in the area. I wonder if a female GBH was just flying by and had an emergency landing to make a quick delivery that simply wasn’t going to wait until she got back to the nest.

And so … that was the adventure around Turtle Bridge.

But the day wasn’t over yet.

I keep a good eye out for Osprey activity as I’m driving along. And I always drive with my windows down and no radio playing – so that I can hear their distinctive screech. I had just passed the large clump of dead pines where so many Ospreys nested in years past – the ones whose tops were largely stripped bare during Hurricane Michael so that now there are almost no places to build. And there’s this scrawny little pine snag that a pair tried to build on last year but finally gave it up because the supporting limbs are just to short to be good nest bases. This is the tree that’s pretty close to the entrance to campground A on the north side of the road.

testing-the-nest

I drove past and almost missed the sight of a single Osprey low down in that sad little clump of nest. So, of course, I had to make a U turn to go back and get another look. And just as I stopped the car and put on my blinkers, raised the camera to my eye, zoomed in, and focused, there was an attacker swooping in from the left.

the-invader

The female on the nest reared up in defense, but the aggressor literally knocked her off the nest.

fell-out-of-the-nest

But she came back immediately, attacked agressively, and drove the attacker away … for the moment.

fighting-back

I didn’t wait to see what happened next. But it’ll be interesting, as always, to see how the Osprey community shakes out due to the loss of so many of their favorite building spots.

Stay tuned. And let’s all hope that Big Mama gets home soon.