February 21, 2015

Good Morning!

Sanibel Sunrise
The cold temperatures made it all the way down to Sanibel.  It was 36 degrees (with a 28 degree wind chill) yesterday morning, but that didn't deter me from heading out for this sunrise.  It was beautiful! The wind was howling off the Gulf of Mexico, so I tucked behind a stand of sea grapes and sea oats along the beach to keep warm as dawn transitioned into sunrise. Within seconds the sun was completely over the horizon and seemingly out of no where hearty souls materialized on the beach to shell and even exercise. I've noticed that sunrise here is much different than sunset.  Sunrise offers shades of yellow and orange, while sunset includes an array of blues, purples and oranges. Happy weekend!

February 19, 2015

I See You

Island Lunch 
To say that a lot of ospreys inhabit Sanibel would be an understatement.  I'm seeing and hearing them all over!  This was one of the closest encounters yet -- maybe 15-20 feet directly above a residential street where I was bicycling.  The fish was so fresh it was still flopping around.  After taking a few photos, the osprey gave me a yellow beady-eyed stare and bobbed its head up and down.  I interpreted that to be a defensive posture and figured it found me to be a potential threat, so I bicycled away.  Gosh…I don't get tired of incredible wildlife scenes like this.

February 17, 2015

Eye to Eye

 Osprey Lunch 
An island pictorial of natural order.

February 15, 2015

In-Flight Fight

Just by pausing and taking in your surroundings, you can notice some amazing activity...especially when it comes to Mother Nature.  I was taking a stroll on the beach on Sanibel yesterday afternoon when I noticed an osprey flying over the Gulf of Mexico with something in its talons, presumably a fish.  Although it was a good distance away (at least 60 yards), I figured I'd look through my telephoto lens and confirm what it was, and maybe even get a picture.  As I was zooming in, my friend exclaimed "It dropped it!" (referring to the osprey releasing the fish) and simultaneously another bird appeared in my viewfinder.  If there's one species I can spot a mile away, it's a bald eagle -- and that's what it was!  Bald eagles have a reputation for being aggressive and taking meals away from other birds of prey right in mid-flight.  That's what was happening! The eagle was unsuccessful…but, get this:  after a very brief in-flight skirmish, the eagle took off --- and the osprey chased it!  Unbelievable!  It was such a neat experience to see unfold right before our eyes.  And, no one else on the beach was aware of the wildlife turmoil going on.  Although this isn't the best of photos, I was thrilled that I happened to capture the eagle's aggressive posture before it fled the scene.  Hope everyone in the blogosphere has been doing well!  

November 23, 2014

No Nest

Unfortunately, there are no signs of nesting in the cell tower. When I saw the bald eagles four days ago, they appeared to be frantically trying to build a brand new nest.  As I left the cell tower that evening, though, I noticed them behave out of character by flying away together (unusual) in a direction they usually don't go.   Seeing that, I had a sinking feeling they wouldn't be back.  It was just too much work to build another nest so close to egg laying time.  I've been there every day since at various times and haven't seen them.  (If you look closely between the trees, you can see the stadium lights which are adjacent to where the eagle nest was located.  The tower and lights are about the same height.)

So, over the past week, since Sarasota County legally destroyed the bald eagle nest, bright orange netting has been installed around all the stadium lights.  Theoretically, according to state wildlife officials, the netting is supposed to prevent the eagles from landing in the lights and trying to nest again.    They also have said that a protective net of some sort surrounded the left field lights this year -- but, the eagles somehow managed to finagle their way through it and build their nest.  (My photos from earlier this month do not show a net…black, or orange, or any color.  In fact, I watched the eagles fly in and out of their nest without any impediments from two different directions.)

So, this is what's around the lights now.  Meanwhile, the Eddies are long gone.  

November 19, 2014


SDP 11-19-14 

Good news: the bald eagles (the Eddies) have returned to the area; however, it's unclear whether they are attempting to nest or if they will have time to do so before they lay eggs.  Let me bring you up to speed.

Yesterday, just four days after the eagles' nest at the Baltimore Orioles' spring training stadium was legally destroyed by Sarasota County, I spotted one of the birds in a nearby cell tower.  This tower is where they've nested since the County destroyed their nest in the stadium in 2010.  So, it's been hoped they would return here.

I've been observing these eagles for four years and I've become accustomed to their behavioral patterns. When they're roosting high up on the cell tower, usually they gaze into the distance and their movement is minimal. Not yesterday. This eagle was swiveling its head almost continually and seemed agitated.

  SDP 11-19-14

While I was at the base of the tower, the other Eddie materialized, soaring through the dreary sky.  What I couldn't see at the time (even with my long lens), was a trail of plant material streaming behind its tail feathers.  Nesting material!  Yes!

  SDP 11-19-14

Fast forward 4.5 hours.  I arrived at the tower under blue skies as one of the Eddies landed and greeted the other.  Lots of activity!  And, now…there's a lengthy branch up there!  To me, that's a fairly positive sign of nesting.  But, it also seems like a frantic response to unexpectedly losing their home.  Now, by instinct, they're racing against the biological clock, hunting and gathering, trying to build a new nest stick by stick.  This seems like such an unnecessary physical and emotional toll on our national bird.

  SDP 11-19-14

The Eddies were very intent, gazing down at the ground -- perhaps searching for just the right branch or clump of Spanish moss to carry up into the tower.  Recently, I've heard officials with the Florida Wildlife Commission (one of the agencies which said the destruction of the nest was in the birds' best interest) say that eagles can have more than one nest in an area.  So, there's a possibility that in addition to the stadium nest, they built another one.  For the Eddies' sake, I hope that's true.  I'll also hope they keep building in the cell tower.

November 15, 2014


The national bird is not welcome at the Baltimore Orioles' Birdland.  This, believe it or not, is what's left of the bald eagle nest after it was pulled from the left field lights at Ed Smith Stadium early yesterday morning and unceremoniously dropped in the dumpster.

Before I go further:  yes, the required state and federal permits were obtained to legally destroy the nest.    But, for those of us who have followed these eagles for years, the rationale for issuing the permit is fuzzy at best.

(1) Sarasota County (which owns the property) states it just learned about the nest a few days ago.  The Orioles, who have work crews there every day, must have dropped the ball notifying the County, because I've been observing that nest for the past week and a half, maybe two weeks.  Why would they allow the eagles to continue to build their nest, as egg laying season draws closer, only to destroy it?

(2) State wildlife officials say destroying the nest was for the birds' safety and in their best interest.  But, how is it in their best interest to oust them from their home and place undue stress on them right before egg laying season?  (Note:  a drone with a camera was sent up to the nest and no eggs were seen.  So, that was good news.)  But, will the eagles have enough time in their newly distressed state to build a nest before they lay eggs?

(3) There is a designated process for issuing a nest disruption permit.  That process, from what I understand, includes a time period for public input.  I'm hearing that process was skirted because the state wildlife agency deemed this to be an "extreme" case, and the "eagles had nested there previously". 

(4) Wildlife officials are now blaming the arrival of the eagles at the stadium on the fact that their nest in a nearby cell tower "disappeared".  They say the nest vanished in September and there's an active investigation into what happened.  That's interesting.  Over the summer, I witnessed 2-3 men in the cell tower working near the nest.  The next day, the nest was gone.  Do you think the state has contacted the cell tower company about their investigation?

State wildlife officials hope the eagles will return to their old perch across the street in the cell tower -- and build a new nest, stick by stick, branch by branch.  The last time the County and the Orioles evicted the eagles, the birds did not return to the area immediately.  It took at least one year.  I'll keep my eye to the sky.

The top two photos I pulled from a local TV reporter's Twitter feed.  There was lots of activity about the nest destruction on social media as well as traditional news media.