Friday, April 27, 2012


It has been almost a month since the osprey returned to our creek. They mated about a week ago and they mated again today..April 21  (this was posted later as you can see).  If I was not so busy I would keep actual data on their lives, but unfortunately I also have a life, such a shallow little thing that it is.

We had a nasty cold front come through this week to remind us that spring is a thrower of hissy fits.  The rains lasted for over 24 hours, light and heavy.  This was accompanied by gusts of wind that tore spring leaves from trees.  Then on the second day the temperature dropped about 25 degrees.  Ethel (I have named the osprey couple Fred and Ethel since I am full of original ideas) sat on the eggs throughout the rain.  She didn't even tuck her head but shook drops off every twenty minutes or so and opened her eyes to check out the area.  She looked at the house to see if we were stalking her, she looked around the river for eagles and other predators, and she called to her mate now and again.  BUT she sat, and she sat, and she waited in that drenching and cold thunderstorm throughout the day and all of the night.  The photo below was taken through a window but outside was drenching cold rain.

The early morning found her still there and I saw Fred leave a nearby tree and head out over the river, I am hoping to catch and bring back breakfast.

Just two days before, I was carefully sneaking down to the dock using the excuse that I had to check on the trays of un-planted water grasses that had been set aside until the following Monday.  I was approaching very quietly and slowly and remained behind the shrubs for as long as I could.  When I raised the camera, she got nervous, although she tried to pretend she did not see me.  I moved slowly and took only three or four photos including the first photo above but she cried out and .... you can see she departed fairly soon after my arrival and thus I headed back up to the house to allow her to return. I am most certain she is sitting on at least one egg, but cannot tell since my husband asked for the platform to be extra high!  He wanted to be sure they would favor it over the top of his boat. I took the image chip back to the computer and uploaded my files. As I was processing these pictures, I noticed something unusual in the one above. Do you see it?  Maybe there is an interesting backstory to this bird?

Clearly the sun's arrival did not improve her disposition.  She knows I am hiding somewhere in the tree line (collecting ticks) but is not too sure where or she would have flown the nest.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Little Blue Bill

The little blue bill is another name for the lesser scaup which comes to our waters each spring but not to my river.  This diving duck migrates from Central America to Canada on its biannual travels and has a breeding range from the Northern U.S. all the way to the Bering sea.  Scalp is a Scottiesh term for clams and oysters and that is what this little fellow eats, so some say that is how it got the name lesser Scaup.  Others say it has something to do with their call.  My photos, taken in the fog, my excuse, are poor compared to the beautiful ones you can see on the Internet.  (Click on photos for a larger view.)  Both males and females have that little blue bill with a black mark in the middle.  I took these near the Chesapeake Bay.

They like the reeds and grasses because of the availability of insect larvae.  They eat tender reeds, rices, and small fish as well as little crabs and floating insects.  They have bright yellow eyes as you can see in the photo.

If you look closely at the photo below you can see the little tuft of feathers that keeps the head from being completely round.  The bill in the photo below also shows a greater blue.  From what I have read it is hard to distinguish the greater scaup from the lesser scaup, even when seen side by side.  They hang out together and therefore populations are sometimes counted as one group.  As many as 600,000 have been counted in Alaska.  A combined breeding population of 3.2 plus or minus .2 million was estimated in 2006!  Yet, I do not see them often.

I felt lucky to get close to these as they are very shy most times.

Friday, April 20, 2012


What is spring without flowers!!??

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


This is an example of an osprey nest taken on a foggy day.  This one is several years old and much larger in comparison to the one I posted about in the entry below.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Just Excellent Part V

Some of my readers are wondering about the twilight saga that was taking place in my river this spring. The two osprey did finally settle down and began bringing sticks and small bunches of grass to the platform along with the garbage that they think adds to decor!  Their nest is new so it does not look like the traditional heavy mess of most osprey homes.  Over the years as they add detritus, it will get the lived-in look of total chaos, much like our yards and homes do over time. 

They sat for many minutes on the platform surveying the river two weeks ago and finally her "50 shades" dance captured his heart and they consummated the partnership in broad daylight. 

Another six or so days came and went while they visited the nest regularly bringing a stick or fish, but they did not stay too long at any one time.   They were whistling and flying elegantly over our yard on the windy spring afternoons.  Then yesterday, she started sitting on the nest for longer periods of time which possibly means she has laid one to three eggs.  I cannot get closer...even walking down to the dock disturbs her brooding, so I am being polite and trying to stay in the back yard with my photos and so none of them are very good!

Once the little ones are hatched all bets are off, because I know that our boating activities and my sunset photography are not going to drive her off anywhere and I hope to get better pictures.

They are messy birds and the end of my dock is dotted with white droppings as they sit on a snag in the evenings above that area.  I do not mind, but I am sure some of my neighbors wonder why I would provide rent free residence to such noisy and messy neighbors.

There may be more drama this spring as I have read that bald eagles will sometimes drive the osprey out of the area.  As you know we have a bald eagle nest just on the other side of the peninsula.  Guess we will wait and see if any drama ensues.  This place has more drama and sex than many movies I have seen!

Taken on a windy day in a moving canoe!!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Sunset Peace

Seems that I have some type of activity every single day in the coming weeks.  I have signed up for too much stuff and all the stuff falls in rapid sequence.  I miss writing and thinking, but those activities will have to be put off until that "tomorrow and tomorrow" which in my life does not creep into a petty pace but pretty much rushes by like a full throttle ahead storm.  (Can you tell I have been reading a British mystery that includes a protagonist who is studying Macbeth?) 

Anyway, I have yesterday's sunset to share with you as recompense.  There is something so breathtaking about how the sun will reflect off the water bathing everything around it in golden light.  The skies do not reflect much color when there is low humidity and/or low air pollution as in the spring, but the air is so crystal clear that it compensates for the missing.

Across the river.

Last of the dogwood blossoms with underlighting.

Water reflecting the ropes from oyster nursery cages.

My neighbors sailboat.

Thursday, April 12, 2012


Spring is weather on teenage tantrums.  One moment the day is warm and sunny and the next second it has dropped 20 degrees and winds are 30 MPH.  Yesterday was a beautiful day and the sky changed to this in a second.  The blockbuster above did not drop a single drop of rain, but certainly looked threatening as it joined a second cloud and then both of them turned the sky cold and gray.

I must say that our wild dogwoods have been stunning this year.  They loved the mild winter and have thousands of blooms throughout the edge of the woods looking like white lace shawls draped everywhere.  When we first moved here I spent days removing vines and weeds from around the dogwood trunks as well as cutting away some limbs for balance and sunshine and I think it is beginning to pay off.

In the photo below you can see my rose arbor just filled with rose blossoms---actually you can't and you will have to take my word for it.  The poor pink dogwood in the lower center we planted a few years ago and it had a huge tulip tree fall on it and most of its symmetry is gone for a few years.  I will attempt to get it back in balance by pruning each year.  On the far left you can seen another dogwood that really looks more impressive than I was able to capture in this photo.

And what looks likes a nice green lawn is really clover and weeds, but I won't tell.

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Fight Club

My husband was out working in the yard when he saw something and came to the door to call me outside.  He said he saw a bird fight.  Bird fight?  I was thinking maybe hawk vs osprey or osprey vs eagle.  But no...this was bluebird vs bluebird.

Not the best photo of them behind a bird house pole, I know.  I had the telephoto on and it was hard to focus rapidly.  They were really going at it beak and claw.  They were fighting over our fancy new bird house.  Little did we know we would be the cause of such behavior.  They were fluttering and fighting and I could not even take time to check camera settings.

In the photo above one male has the other pinned to the lawn.  He was not holding back one bit and calling angrily.  For a while I feared we would have a dead bird at the end of this.  But finally the bird underneath caught wing and was chased out of the yard and right passed me by the one on top...within a foot of my chest at they headed up and over the house.  During this time there were two female blue birds flying above and cheering their mates on.

Then the victor returned in all his glory to sing his territorial victory song in the tulip tree.

He was owner of all he surveys.  Guess there will be baby blue birds in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

The Call of the Siren

(This post was pre-written because today, hopefully,  I am sitting on a beach with my grandchildren in sunny Florida...unless it is raining today.)

According to my research, the sirens of ancient mythology were not sea life. They were maidens that resided on an island in a flowery meadow and lured mariners to their death by singing songs that caused sailors to swoon in anticipation and thus to sail too close to the rocky shoreline of the island.  According to Walter Copland Perry, "Their song, though irresistibly sweet, was no less sad than sweet, and lapped both body and soul in a fatal lethargy, the forerunner of death and corruption."  

I have my own siren singing such a song in my woods.  It is my little screech owl that resides just on the other side of the ravine.  Every evening as I tuck into bed I hear his thrumming song.  It is gentle, persistent, and most attractive.  I do not know if he is singing a love song of home or calling gently for a mate.  Now that spring weather allows me to open the bedroom window I hear him even more clearly just a few hundred yards away.  He sings for hours and then his lullaby puts me to asleep.

Last night I gave into the addictive call.  I put on sandals, and with torchlight in hand and hubby leaning out over the balcony to witness my demise, headed out across the dewy wet back lawn determined to find which tree hole he calls home.  The sound is so subtle that I had to walk all the way to the dock to triangulate and narrow down the area.  Much like the tapping of a woodpecker, the sound resonates across the space of the evening and confuses and is very difficult to target.

I wandered dangerously close to my "rocky shoreline" and with much luck did not break my neck or twist a second ankle, but it was too dangerous to actually leave the yard and enter the tangled woods with its many downed trees in the black of the night.  (Please excuse the primitive graphics indicating the general area of the sound in the photo above of the ravine between my house and that of my neighbor.)  After several minutes I gave up as I could not see the little fellow.  Tonight he is not singing...I wonder if that is my fault...or perhaps it is the pending rainstorm?