Looking Up

Recently we spent several days at Bayou Hammock on Longboat Key, Florida. It was a “forced” vacation due to fumigation of our house, but a nice respite in any case. One of the hallmarks of our time there was the chance to become familiar with a pair of nesting osprey.

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The “bayou” part of Bayou Hammock is a shallow finger of the inland waterway as it curves into Longboat Key at the northern end. From the dock where we view it, it looks like a river and we can easily see the opposite bank. This is a populated area with houses and docks and boats. Because the water is shallow and warm, we often see fish jumping, ducks and other water birds, and occasional manatees. Mangrove thickets line the shore along the property where we stayed. Banyan, juniper, sea grape and Norfolk pine are further up in the yard. It is the Norfolk pine, situated just outside the pool cage, that drew our attention.

This tall, narrow tree sticks up far above the rest of the canopy and has on its top a messy nest, almost like a crown. I can imagine that the view is great from up there. But it was the frequent whistles and calls that drew our attention skyward. A pair of osprey had set up housekeeping and were actively flying to and from the tree top. Think of an osprey as a “fishing eagle”. They are large birds and have a diet, almost exclusively, of live fish.

They are well designed for fishing. Get this, the average time fishing before they catch something, is twelve minutes. What fisherman wouldn’t like that! They have one reversible claw on their feet enabling them to put two claws on each side of their catch. They can only do shallow dives, up to three feet, but their rate of catch is 70%, which is admirable. They can carry a load of one to two pounds, and interestingly, they align their catch head first when flying to decrease wind resistance.

Our pair of osprey were easily identified because of their white underbelly and chest.  Another trait is their wing position when flying. They have a bent wing, giving them an “M shaped” profile when flying. We thoroughly enjoyed living alongside this interesting part of God’s creation and wish them well in raising their brood.

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Coming in for a landing
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The “bent wing” characteristic can be seen here

Oh Look!

We were just walking along, talking more than looking where we were going because we were both very familiar with the street.  Then my walking buddy said “oh look, this guy feeds the parrots”.  She knew the guy and had been aware of his birding hobby.  It had started small and grown exponentially to three feedings per day for hundreds of birds.

they are larger than  most parakeets, more parrot sized.
they are larger than most parakeets, more parrot sized.

We were only a few feet away from the bird feeder in his yard which was draped, top and all sides, with large bright green birds with black feathered heads.  They were taking turns, in what seemed like family groups, coming to the feeder and then retreating to surrounding trees and electric lines.  I started looking around to see other groups of the same bird in all directions until I was amazed at their numbers.

“How does he afford this? Sunflower seeds aren’t that cheap?” My friend didn’t know.  I wondered if the easy food hadn’t figured into their increasing numbers.  I hadn’t seen the parrots anywhere else and yet they must live somewhere when they weren’t here.  How did they know to come at certain times? What made them so orderly?  I walked close and took pictures and it didn’t seem to bother them.

Later the man who did the feeding rode past on his bike.  He had seen me taking pictures and we already had a bond over our bird excitement. I asked him if the noise they made bothered the neighbors.

“Not as much as when the crows come and chase them away,” he laughed. Black hooded parakeets, that’s what he said they were.

I couldn’t quit thinking about how unusual it was to see that kind of animal/bird gathering, not an everyday experience for me.  I could have walked past and not paid attention, but thankfully this time I noticed and enjoyed and decided to share this little gift with y’all.  Just sayin’.

Black hooded parakeets having breakfast.
Black hooded parakeets having breakfast.