And so it begins

Today! March 3, 2018, I knew that Osprey season had officially started (at least for me).

Jerri and I drove into the parking lot at Battery Worth and I had no sooner taken the camera out of the car than THIS happened!

fighting-1

Yep. That’s Big Mama — upside down, defending her territory. I’m not sure if her antagonist is a male or a female. But she was having none of it.

fighting-2

Best I can tell, this is another female, challenging her for her traditional nest site, even before she gets started on repairs and rebuilding after a really hard winter — lots of wind and rain since she left for somewhere South last August.

But she’s back. At least I think this is the same bird I followed last year. I’ll have to compare some shots from that bunch and look carefully at her chest markings before I can be sure.

A couple of hours later we went back there and I was told that she had just “coupled” with a mate. Damn! Sorry I missed that. But, oh well. I’ve photographed it before. If he’s right, and they really did mate, she’ll be very busy getting that wreck of a nest in shape before the kids stat arriving. And the boyfriend had better start pitching in. Big Mama does NOT tolerate malingerers and goof-offs! He needs to take lessons from this guy.

more-gathering

So, like I said — Osprey season is here. I’ll be keeping a close eye on Big Mama’s nest as well as a few others I generally keep track of, so — stay tuned.

back-lighting

Oh, and by the way, if you see something here you’d like to have a print of please contact me at jmmcdade@mac.com.

New Gulls

waves-1Two days ago, while sitting on the sand at Langdon Beach (GINS), watching some beautiful waves,  I watched three large gulls soar in from somewhere out over the Gulf and settle on the sand right in front of me.

ring-bill-1

As they walked about slowly, they seemed tired – as if they’d just completed a long journey or something.

I thought they were Herring Gulls, which are fairly common around here, but I later discovered that they’re Ring-bill Gulls, which are not common at all on this part of the coast.

ringbill-3

Except at this time of year, when they’re migrating back toward their natural homes up North.

As I said, they seemed tired. Had they just flown in from somewhere down in Mexico? That’s where they spend the winter, according to my Audubon guide. And are they headed for Canada?

Anyhow, they’re beautiful. I hope they make it home safely. Heck! These guys might be from Nova Scotia.

Ring-billed-gull

P.S. We’re sitting out on the patio this morning, drinking our coffee and pecking away on our MacBooks. It’s another beautiful morning on the Gulf Coast.

No sight of Trevor, the GBH,  today. I’m guessing he’s hanging pretty close to the colony down at Fort Pickens, and courting the ladies. It’s that time of year.

Kind of a So-So Day

I haven’t been out to Fort Pickens since before Christmas. But Jerri convinced me that it was time for me to go and check on Ospreys and such. So I ventured out today, parked at Battery Worth (as usual), and headed west on the bike trail. It was warmish and cloudy, but not at all bad for a late-January day.

The bike and I made it to Turtle Bridge and stopped for a while. No Ospreys to report yet, except for a couple that I saw off in the distance (probably some of those young males that hang around here all winter because the instinct to migrate hasn’t kicked it yet (or maybe, so I imagine, they’re just typical teenagers who want to hang out in the old neighborhood while mom and dad go off to South America for the winter.)

So – no Ospreys. But I did see some unusual Great Blue Heron behavior that seems note-worthy. For one thing, they’re all wearing their finest feathers and fluff, so they’re at their most beautiful and colorful.  Like this guy who just happened to fly past.

GBH-soaring

But while I was standing on Turtle Bridge talking to some folks, we noticed GBHs soaring in and settling back in the tall grass, near the Sound. First one, then another. And finally a third.

GBH--landing

I’m not sure you can see it, but there’s a GBH down there in the grass just below where this guy is about to settle down.

I didn’t hang around to see what they were going to do, but I’ve never seen them congregate like this before – especially not on the ground. These birds are most at home in the tall Pines. It’s very unusual to see them on the ground at all, unless they’re stalking some unaware fisherman’s bait bucket.

Soon it was time to return home (which for the next couple of months is a condo just outside the gate to FP), for lunch.  UUUMM! Left over pizza from Georgio’s and an Ultra Amber.

Then Jerri spotted pelicans diving into the shallow water right out front. So they were fun to watch for a while, although still pretty far away.

about-to-splash-down

I thought this guy looked pretty comical, flaps down and about to hit the water.

And then …

Peli-splashing

… the tremendous splash. I couldn’t tell if it was a successful dive. But there were two or three pelis out there plying the waters – just for our entertainment, of course.

Meanwhile, back at Turtle Bridge … sometimes I just look around, and appreciate what a beautiful place I have before me. The water, the woods, the light, are all different every time I’m out there. And today, for whatever reason, this little scene at the base of the bridge caught my eye.

Reeds-and-stuff

So, I’ll close today’s entry with that. Just some fallen reeds, and a jumble of leaves, against the calm, black waters.

I wonder if this little body of water even has a name. Or does that even matter?

The New Neighbors

We ventured out for a walk around the neighborhood yesterday and came more or less face to face with our largest and most prominent avian neighbor, whom we have named Tevor. He was standing down on the walkway that transects the several ponds making up our front yard, and quite happy with his status … until we approached.

As we walked slowly and respectfully, closer and closer, he showed no intention of bolting, so we kept coming. At last we were within 10 feet of him. The perfect opportunity to grab a few closeup shots with my trusty little Canon SX40.

And here are the results:

trevor-closeup

Trevor appears to be in full breeding plumage, with all his fancy chest and back feathers flying in the wind, and his top-knot in full display. The tops of his shoulders are getting the distinctive brown feature and his bill is beginning to turn bright blue up near his eyes.

Trevor-who-dat-

At one point he turned to look directly at me, as if to demand “Who Dat?” (Which is an epression I had to explain to Jerri). Maybe he’s from Louisiana. Anyhow, I love this expression.

Then he decided we were, indeed, too close and he jumped up on the rail and slowly walked away.

trevor-walking-six-feet-away

Notice the pinkish tip on one of his toes. And the claw is missing. I’m guessing that it might have once been caught in some fishing line and he lost it. I’ve seen GBHs in the past with feet terribly gnarled and scarred by fishing line that was carelessly left lying around.

Shortly, he decided that he’d had enough of us and flew away, up onto one of the many second or third level patios he can choose from since Baywatch seems to be about 90% empty right now. And that’s when I caught this shot – showing us exactly why they are called “Blue,” not to mention “Great.”

this-is-why-they're-called-Great-Blue-Herons

Then, as we walked farther out and onto the pier we also got a pretty close view of the Snowy Egret that Jerri has decided to name Oscar. He’s a pretty thing, and although I was fairly sure that he was a Snowy, I wasn’t positive until I got a good look at his bright yellow feet. That nails it.

Oscar-is-a-Snowy-Egret

Oscar seems to be fishing the shallows of these ponds, so I assume they must be stocked with some kind of little fish. But I haven’t seen Trevor fishing here yet, so I doubt that there are any fish that would be large enough to tempt him.

So … Our new neighbors, Trevor and Oscar. There’s also a beautiful, and very active, Kingfisher that perches on a lamp pole not far from our balcony. But they are notoriously skittish and bolt at the slightest movement, like us opening the patio door to go outside and get a close look. So … maybe later on the Kingfisher.

 

 

 

Happy 2018

Today I begin posting for the new year.

It’s been a few weeks, but I’ve been travelling – flew into Philadelphia on December 27. Then Jerri and I packed her little Honda full, and headed South on the 29th. We arrived on Pensacola Beach on New Years Day and moved into our condo. But along the way, we wandered around my home town, Knoxville, on the second and third days of the trip so that I could show her where I grew up and went to school, and got into all kinds of trouble as a kid. Then the next day, up into the Smokies – the mountains I love! – for a drive through Cades Cove, where we spotted a couple of deer and wondered at the frost (no snow) atop the higher peaks that surround the cove. Back when I was a teen-ager I hike across the tops of all those mountains, and slept a night or two on their peaks. But that was long, long ago.

cades-cove-panoJerri braving the cold to grab a few shots of Cades Cove

After a quick trip down to Lenoir City to visit my sister and brother-in-law we headed south again, and decided to stop for the night in Gadsden (EEK!), AL, the place good-ol Judge Roy Moore is from, and where he developed a liking for young Alabama girls.

But we escaped without being assaulted. The hotel there, a Holiday Inn Express, was the nicest place we encountered along the way, and their free breakfast was outstanding.

But now … to the new neighborhood, and our new neighbor(s). So far it’s really been too cold to venture out much, so we’ve had to settle for bird-watching from inside or out (briefly!) on the balcony.

Our regular visitor is this huge Great Blue Heron, all decked out in his breeding season best.

ready-for-the-show

He doesn’t seem to have any place particular to go, so he just sits there, trying to catch the warm rays of the sun, sheltered from the wind by the building behind him. He’s hanging out right now on the third floor balcony across the way. This place is fairly sparsely populated so he probably has his choice of many balcony rails to hang out on.

Today he’s hardly moved, only preening occasionally, and stretching. But he’s been in this one place since early this morning and shows no signs of leaving any time soon.

Should we give him a name?

A Winter Day

Well, it’s not really winter, of course. But it’s about as close as we get around here. So I had to go out exploring.

First things first, there’s this guy: eagle-1

Just hanging out atop a very tall tree, in order to have an advantageous view of all that surrounds him. I believe this one is still not quite fully mature – the white head still seems a bit flecked with brown – but this brings to three the number of Bald Eagles I’ve seen at Fort Pickens in the past week or so.

Then a stroll out to the Sound, along the trail that runs beside Big Mama’s nest. I spotted several Pelicans fishing and thought I’d go out to see what was going on. This view along the shoreline shows how low the tide was.

december-shoreline

There were four Willets grazing the shallows, but they were pretty boring, so I trained my lens on the Pelis. Never did get a goods shot of one diving – which is what I was hoping for. But I did catch these two in flight.

peli-1

about-to-dive

 

As I walked back toward the car I looked up at Big Mama’s nest silhouetted against the cobalt blue sky. First I noticed how raggedy the nest itself has become, with no residents to tend it since August.

bib-mama'sn-nest

But then I took a look at the tree itself and realized that that trunk is very nearly rotted away.  I wonder how much longer it will last. Winter winds and rains bring down a lot of these dead Pine trees.

Most of these – and there are thousands of them around Fort Pickens – were killed by the overwashing of the Gulf during Hurricane Ivan in 2004. So this one has been there a long time. And Big Mama’s nest has been in this exact place for at least five or six years that I know of.

I wonder what she would do if, when she returns in early March, her old nest is gone. There are other snags nearby. But she has had command of this particular spot for quite a while, and she’s raised a lot of chicks there.

It is a particularly advantageous spot, standing as it does out in the open, in such a way as to afford a commanding view of the surrounding trees and airspace. And I’ve watched her and her mate fight off more than one would-be attacker, including other Ospreys and at least one Bald Eagle.

If it is to come down soon I just hope it happens before she returns and rebuilds. I’d hate to see that nest fall after there are eggs in it, or chicks.

I suppose we shall see …