IN A BARRIER ISLAND STATE OF MIND

Ospreys are plentiful here on this restless ribbon of sand. There’s usually one on the tree not far from my porch.

My Hutchinson Island neighbor

 

I call him ‘O’.  His peeps and squeaks are a summons to worship.

 

I’m in awe of O’s aerial displays. He wheels high overheard, then lands on his preferred branch to devour fish after fish… after fish… after fish.  O is a fiercely determined fisher.

 

I read everything the FWC (Florida Wildlife Commission) writes.  They know it all and are happy to share.  Every piece they publish makes me curiouser and curiouser.  I learned that osprey fly hundreds, yes hundreds, of feet up before diving in quickly for the kill. O’s flight ritual is to fly gimlet-eyed above the water, grooved talon pads grazing the surface, then closing in a mortal-lock cinch to snag a meal. The Birds of Florida Field Guide says the osprey is the only raptor that plunges (sometimes up to three feet) into the water.  Cool, with an attitude.  (I could like swimming/diving if I had osprey nostrils with closable valves, no water up my nose.)

Introducing the Osprey couple. The male is at left and can be identified by his white breast. The female is at right and can be identified by the brown mottling on her breast. If only it were that simple.

I’m pretty sure O is a male.  Clearly, courtship is definitely in progress. O shows off his catch. A lot. See, ladies, what a good provider I am! 

But I’m a birding newbie. Identification is pretty subtle stuff. FWC says that males tend to look goggle-eyed; females look squintier and smaller-eyed. If the bird has dark brown chest markings, it’s a female.  But wait! Unless it happens to be a male with dark chest markings, because that happens, too.  Or it might be an immature. The crown of an immature osprey is more heavily streaked with brown than that of an adult. Unless it’s an adult with a streaky crown. See? Subtle stuff.

What’s your best guess?
If everything goes as planned, a female will respond to O’s show-off-i-ness. I hope to see one cozy up and eat the fish he brings her. Then my hunt can begin.  I’ll be looking for their nest engineering marvel of sticks, twigs, and seaweed.  Like the one I saw last year.

 

O’s feathers are very oily for extra waterproofing.  I’ve seen him emerge carrying a large fish, shaking the water from his feathers like a dog.  Beguiles the eye.

 

O is my Island BFF.  We share the sunny and windy days of January. He’s showing me that you can put your head under the (emotional or otherwise) water and still survive. He doesn’t wait for the fish to jump out of the water to meet him, but splashes in headfirst like an air-to-ground missile. Yet for part of every day, O sits on his perch and just watches. Like Alan Lightman. I loved Lightman’s book, In Praise of Wasting Time.  He says let your mind roam, sometimes the best thing to do is to do nothing at all.  I agree.  So does O.
Toni 2/1/18
Toni 2/1/18

 

 

 

 

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Did Someone Say #TBT?

Last year I wrote a post, Is That A Bird On Your Head?, about the heyday of the feather trade.

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Ah, those feathers. Women feel so beautiful under wafts of dazzling plumage.

Personally, I think feathers look better on birds than haute couture. So did Frank Chapman who became the savior of pelicans.

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Awkward and gangly on land, pelicans soar with unmatched grace.

The charm of every waterway is increased by the quiet dignity of their presence.

Chapman was joined by Paul Kroegel who served as a warden of Pelican Island, an unobtrusive little patch of earth huddled under mangroves and shrubby trees.

 

About The Refuge with Credit Indian River By AirThe island is a natural wonder, a rookery just north of me where pelicans return year after year.

Gallery Landscape Teddys

Both men lobbied lawmakers to stop the plume hunters.  Eventually, Teddy Roosevelt ~ loose cannon, Rough Rider, bird lover ~ signed an executive order declaring Pelican Island a federal bird reservation.

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Pelican Island and its surrounding 5400 acres of protected waters and lands are known as the Pelican Island National Wildlife Refuge.

History Page Kroegel

Paul Kroegel is a hero of the wild. The National Wildlife Refuge was born on this tiny island of the Treasure Coast.  It may be just a scrap of mangrove and guano-covered sand, but it’s a wonderment.

Gallery Landscape Rainbow

What’s found at the end of this rainbow is worth more than any pot of gold.

Toni 1/28/16

Hey, why don’t you take a picture? It’ll last, well, forever.

It’s all about the photos. That’s why I love my iPhone.

 

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Today everything exists to end in a photograph.

— Susan Sontag

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It’s a meditative thing, taking photos. It keeps me present.

 

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The best thing about a picture is that it never changes, even when the people in it do.

— Andy Warhol

 

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My iPhone camera is a storyteller with a unique eye, always there to document the ordinary and the extraordinary in a single frame.

The joy of the harvest. The blessing of 45 years married. The fifty-carat faces of family and friends. An espresso.  A good book.  Summer’s exuberance, winter’s hush.

 

 

What I like about photographs is that they capture a moment that’s gone forever, impossible to reproduce.

— Karl Lagerfeld

Like this set of images from Christmas past.

 

I’m fresh off a wildlife photography workshop with Florida master naturalist John Nelson.

03-3He’s the voice of “The Audubon Moment” on NPR. Each episode provides listeners with tips on how to identify a specific bird that is found in Florida.

Nelson is also the Martin County Audubon president and travels the world shooting Oscar-worthy videography for National Geographic. One of his tips? Always go for a glint in the eye.

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Backyard Baby, 2013 ©tgiarnese

 

 

Which of my photographs is my favorite? The one I’m going to take tomorrow.

— Imogen Cunningham

Toni 1/18/16