Red-headed Woodpeckers at Blackwater NWR

Going back through my photos taken at Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge the last few months, I found these to share of a Red-headed Woodpecker, this first one making his way up a dead tree.

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Red-headed Woodpecker

 

Arriving at the top, he checked his surroundings.

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Red-headed Woodpecker

 

He then  proceeded to snatch up the insects from the decaying snag.

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Red-headed Woodpecker with insect

 

Another Red-headed Woodpecker who appears to be deep in thought.

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Red-headed Woodpecker

 

The background in the last photo shows just a few of the numerous dead trees still standing in an area on the Wildlife Drive that is home to a large population of these beautiful birds.

 

 

Bella & Beau: Bella Is Still Here

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

August 28, 2018

As mentioned in Bella & Beau’s last post on Osprey migration, the female adult Osprey is the first to leave for migration; and it usually occurs during the month of August, with female breeders leaving late in the month.

It was nice to see Bella is still around as of today.  Until she leaves for her tropical winter vacation to South America, she is continuing to provide and protect her OspreyTeens.

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Bella in flight

 

As in past weeks, it continued to be hot and humid.  The OspreyTeens are out and about much of the day, flying and learning to fish, maybe even perched somewhere in the shade.  Yet they still return to the nest platform to beg for food.  And so both Bella and Beau continue to deliver fish after fish.

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Beau delivers a fish to a hungry OspreyTeen.

 

 

Beau quickly left the nest while the OspreyTeen checks out its meal.

 

The next two photos with both OspreyTeens eating on the nest platform are getting more rare.

 

 

OspreyTeens briefly together, sharing the platform with a fish delivery each.

 

Just as quick as a second OspreyTeen gets a meal delivered, one of them will leave the platform and head over to a telephone pole across the creek to eat alone.  No fighting or sharing any more!

 

OspreyTeen leaving the nest platform with its meal.

 

Twice in the last few days I’ve seen Bella bringing a fish to the nest platform where an OspreyTeen already had one from Beau.

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Bella sees the OspreyTeen has a fish and does a fly-by and heads over to the other OspreyTeen on the telephone pole.

 

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Bella goes and finds the second OspreyTeen also has a fish.

 

 

Bella returns to the platform.  Hmmm….neither OspreyTeen needs a fish meal from her.

 

 

So Bella took the fish she had and went to the crane and ate it herself.

 

Here’s the other attempt with Bella trying to deliver a fish.  The OspreyTeen on the platform had one already, so Bella flies to the second OspreyTeen on the telephone pole, where she finds it has one too.

 

Another attempt by Bella trying to give one of her OspreyTeens a meal.  Neither is in need of a meal so Bella flies up past Beau on the crane and into the tree behind him where I’m sure she devoured the fish herself.

 

I took photos throughout today of parents, Bella & Beau, perched on the tower, keeping an eye on the empty, quiet nest platform.  They had to love the quietness!

 

Bella & Beau perched most of the day on tower, overlooking their nest platform.

 

It wasn’t until late afternoon when an OspreyTeen arrived at the nest.  Shortly thereafter, the second OspreyTeen arrived, and this one was wet.  No sooner than it landed, it began to beg quite loud.  I wondered if it had been out trying to catch a fish but was unsuccessful and gave up.  The first OspreyTeen joined in with chorus.

 

Hungry OspreyTeens

 

Bella & Beau stayed perched on the tower ignoring the cries, but not for long.  After only five minutes one of the parents took off, I’m guessing to go catch a fish.  I had to leave home and wasn’t able to wait for a fish delivery that I am sure came shortly thereafter.

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Either Bella or Beau in flight from the tower to go catch a fish for the OspreyTeens.

 

With Bella’s fish deliveries becoming less needed by the OspreyTeens (whether it’s because Beau is keeping pace and/or the OspreyTeens are starting to fish for themselves), it makes sense this might be one of the signs the female adult Osprey gets that it’s time for her to migrate.  Her care and duties are no longer needed.

Here’s my latest (and maybe final shot) of Bella with her precious babies taken this past week.  Doesn’t it look as if Bella is talking to her chicks?  Wonder what she’s saying?

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Bella having a talk with her chicks before she leaves for migration.

 

We’ll see what the next week brings with any sightings of Bella and the rest of her family…..

 

(For all the posts on Bella & Beau’s 2018 season, you can click HERE.)

 

 

Bella & Beau: Osprey Migration

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

August 21, 2018

As is usual with our Chesapeake Bay Osprey, the adult female Osprey is the first to migrate, leaving during the month of August, with nonbreeders leaving sooner and breeders leaving later in the month.  Bella’s final days with Cambridge are numbered.  My goal is to keep an eye out for Bella when I can to know whether she is still around.

I actually saw Bella, Beau and both OspreyTeens all at the same time shortly after 7 pm today.  She is still busy chasing intruders away from the nest platform….

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Bella pursuing a Turkey Vulture flying around the nest platform (and out of my shot).

 

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Bella chasing a Turkey Vulture away from the nest platform.

 

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Bella has her talons extended as she neared the Turkey Vulture and they disappeared behind the trees.  I hope the Turkey Vulture is okay!

 

….and delivering fish to begging OspreyTeens on the nest platform.  In this next series, the other OspreyTeen already has a fish when Bella drops in.

Bella drops in with a fish and tries to give it to the begging OspreyTeen.

 

Surprisingly, Bella decides to not release the fish and instead feed the OspreyTeen.

 

The male Osprey will stay on for up to another month after the female leaves to continue to assist the chicks with mastering their fishing skills and feed them as needed. Once the fishing skills are acquired, each Osprey chick will get an instinct to leave and will go.  Once the last chick has left, the adult male’s final duties are done, and he will head south as well.

There is still a lot of begging from the OspreyTeens while perched on the nest platform, you should hear the commotion at sunrise now.  I no longer need to set our alarm clock.  Beau also has been keeping up with fish deliveries.  To date, I have not seen a wet OspreyTeen arriving or eating a fish, a sign it might have caught it itself.

 

Beau delivering a fish to an aggressive OspreyTeen.

 

An OspreyTeen spending over 20 minutes watching the water below, seeing small fish perhaps?

 

The OspreyTeens are still actively flying around, chasing each other for fun, and chasing the gulls.  They still leave other intruders to Bella & Beau.

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Terrible photo of OspreyTeen after a gull today.

 

Just days ago, one of the OspreyTeens left the nest platform and swooped down to the water (to my horror!) at precious little Cassie Canvasback.  I screamed, “NOOOOO, that’s Cassie!”

Cassie dove under the water and popped back up while the OspreyTeen turned and flew off (maybe it heard my scream, lol).  Cassie looked shaken and quickly swam to the safety of the docks.  My photos show how shaken I was with the poor shots, lol.

First time I got mad at one of the Osprey.  😉

 

So where do Osprey migrate?

U.S. Northeast/Chesapeake Bay Osprey – migrate to South America, some to the Caribbean
U.S. Midwestern Osprey – migrate to Mexico, Central & South America, some to the Caribbean
U.S. Northwest Osprey – migrate to south Texas, Mexico and Central America
Australasian Ospreys – most do not tend to migrate
Europe and northern Asia – migrate to Africa, India and southeast Asia

In the U.S., there are scattered numbers of Osprey along the Pacific coast of Washington, Oregon, and California, as well as Arizona that do not migrate, nor do the Osprey along the entire Gulf Coast, Florida, and the Atlantic coast of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Migrating adult Osprey will usually return to their previous wintering grounds.  They will typically fly alone, although there have been flock sightings of up to 92 Osprey in the Cuba and Haiti regions.  Osprey will fly day and night, instinctively following their repeated migration routes, stopping to fish, eat, and rest as needed and if they can.

Unlike many raptors, Ospreys do not use updrafts and thermals to fly.  It is thought that Osprey use a variety of techniques for navigation, including the stars and the changes in the earth’s magnetic field.  Their average distance per day ranges from approximately 60 to 235 miles/day (95 to 380 km/day).

As with Bella & Beau and the OspreyTeens, the U.S. Northeast Osprey will inevitably be making 12+ hour-long flights at night over water to South America, which is possible because of the Osprey’s wing morphology and wing-loading characteristics.

Osprey chicks’ first migration is tricky.  They sometimes wander in wrong directions, hang out in areas too long, and can even get lost.  These mistakes can be detrimental.  The mission is to get to the Caribbean or South America and hang out there for another year and a half, then returning usually back to their birth area, ready to find a mate and begin their adult breeding lives.

Unfortunately, the survival rate of an Osprey chick’s first migration is less than 50%.  If they do survive and reach 3+ years old, they have an increased 80-90% survival rate.  Alan Poole summarized this as:  “On average, out of 100 young fledged in any year, 37 will be alive 4 years after fledging, 17 eight years after, and only 6–8 twelve years after.”

On a happier note, the following is a successful, amazing recount of a 2008’s Osprey chick’s first migration journey, learned through data obtained from a small, lightweight backpack containing a satellite tracking device (GPS) that was attached to her back.

“On a clear morning in early September 2008, a three-month-old female Osprey named Penelope pushed off from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, and flew, alone, 2,700 miles to French Guiana in 13 days.  She touched down in coastal Maryland and North Carolina for three days, lazed along the Bahamas for four, then blew through the Dominican Republic in 29 hours. At dusk she launched out over the Caribbean, flying all night and the next day to a tiny island off the coast of Venezuela. A week later she was exploring rainforest rivers in French Guiana, her home for the next 18 months.”  Written by Alan Poole, Osprey expert

Here’s a map showing Penelope’s first migration journey from Massachusetts to French Guiana, South America, in 13 days.  Amazing!

OspreyMap

Copyright © Cornell University, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds

 

Today, there are many groups around the world involved with tracking Osprey, using banding and satellite backpacks, gaining data to help focus on conservation efforts and migrational differences within their species.

Now back to a few more images of Bella, Beau, and those wonderful OspreyTeens while they are all still here with us to enjoy!

 

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Beau in flight

 

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Bella in flight

 

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Bella and her OspreyTeens

 

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Beautiful OspreyTeen wings

 

OspreyTeen begging because it doesn’t have a fish.  A few minutes later another fish was delivered.

 

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OspreyTeen home alone

 

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“Sorry, but you look delicious!”

 

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OspreyTeen’s defense stance, protecting it’s nest platform.

 

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OspreyTeen getting a louder, as an intruder flies overhead.

 

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OspreyTeen staying with eye-contact on the intruder, and louder still.  The intruder flew off.

 

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“Who’s leaning, us or you?”

 

For an Osprey to survive their migration’s physical and mental challenges of extreme weather, crossing large bodies of water, finding food, avoiding predators, AND not get shot by fish-farmers seems like a small miracle.

Maybe when you see an Osprey return next Spring (usually March), a smile will cross your face, knowing the miracle of migration you are witnessing.  🙂

Fingers crossed Bella is here with us a few more weeks!

 

(For all the posts on Bella & Beau’s 2018 season, you can click HERE.)

 

 

A Black-crowned Night Heron in the Morning

With a cup of coffee alongside my camera, the quiet early mornings are a favorite time on my balcony, watching the antics of Osprey Bella & Beau and their chicks as they start their day, while the creek itself begins to awaken with activity.  You know me, I also keep a keen eye open, never knowing what else might appear.

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Black-crowned Night Heron (adult)

 

On one of those cloudy mornings a couple weeks ago, I was pleased with an appearance by a Black-crowned Night Heron walking along the dock, stalking the waters that were well below.

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Black-crowned Night Heron (adult)

 

True to its name, the Black-crowned Night Heron normally feeds between evening and early morning.

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Black-crowned Night Heron (adult)

 

I wasn’t sure how the Black-crowned Night Heron thought he was going to reach the water if he did see something to snatch, so I stayed with the him to see what would happen.

Nothing happened, of course.  After a few more minutes, he suddenly took flight.

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Black-crowned Night Heron in flight

 

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Black-crowned Night Heron in flight

 

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Black-crowned Night Heron in flight

 

This time he was smart.  The Black-crowned Night Heron landed underneath another dock where fishing opportunities had to be much better than on top.

I could no longer see him but I wished him success!

 

 

Bella & Beau: The Nest Platform is Still Home Base

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

August 12, 2018

Bella & Beau’s two OspreyTeens have been another week ‘on the wing’, mastering their flight maneuvers, water skimming and lift-outs, and disappearing for long periods of time, most likely out exploring the open waters of the Choptank River and Chesapeake Bay, observing and learning this wide-open new world to them.

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OspreyTeen (chick) in flight.

 

I’ve even seen the OspreyTeens practicing by chasing each other.  Practice makes perfect!

The OspreyTeens are also probably getting fishing lessons from Bella & Beau, who still stay nearby and follow their wandering chicks.

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Bella perched close by the nest platform, keeping an eye on the OspreyTeens.

 

To date, I have not seen an OspreyTeen return to the nest platform or a nearby perch with a fish.  Both Bella & Beau are still delivering fish to the nest platform, usually to find one if not both OspreyTeens waiting.

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Bella bringing in the early morning breakfast to two hungry chicks.

 

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Both OspreyTeens patiently wait to see who is fed first as Bella lands on the perch.

 

Even in this past week’s heavy rain, the OspreyTeens waited for food at home base.

OspreyTeens waiting for a parent to bring them food in the heavy rain.

 

Protecting the OspreyTeens, nest platform, and their surrounding territory has never ceased for Bella and Beau.  Although not mentioned much in the most recent posts, there has still been constant chases and attacks on intruders who enter the nest platform territory.

Bella & Beau’s list still includes other Osprey….

Bella chasing another Osprey who flew too close to the nest platform.

 

Eagles…..

Beau in pursuit of a Bald Eagle passing through the area.

 

Double-crested Cormorants…..

 

and Great Blue Herons.

Bella chasing and attacking a Great Blue Heron.

 

Another day, another Bella attack on a Great Blue Heron.  This is just 4 of 27 swoop attacks I photographed.  This ‘attack’ lasted seven minutes before the Great Blue Heron gave up his perch and flew away.

 

 

A Great Blue Heron quite agitated by Bella’s attack.

 

I’ve even noticed recently that warning calls are sent out to Vultures that pass over, which is unusual.

The OspreyTeens are still practicing the need to protect themselves as well, but I’m still seeing only gull chases.

 

The OspreyTeens do keep their eye on overhead Osprey and the Great Blue Herons and Cormorants below them but leave that scare attack to Bella & Beau for now.

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Bella alarming at overhead Vultures but doesn’t pursue a chase.

 

If an OspreyTeen belly isn’t hungry, the nest platform sits empty most of the time now.  On occasion Bella herself will perch on the home she established, enjoying the quiet solitude.

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Bella “home alone”.

 

September is quickly nearing, which means Bella, Beau, and the OspreyTeens will soon get their instinct to fly south, each alone, as far as Central or South America for the winter.

I’ll discuss more in detail about this upcoming migration in my next Bella & Beau series post.

In the meantime, let’s hope the OspreyTeens master their fishing skills!

(For all the posts on Bella & Beau’s 2018 season, you can click HERE.)

 

 

Bella & Beau: All That New Flying Works Up An Appetite

(Osprey nest location:  Cambridge, Maryland, USA)

August 5, 2018

Bella & Beau have gotten more reprieve from the past constant 24-7 care of their two OspreyTeens that are now eleven and ten+ weeks old.  No longer does either parent have to stay perched on the nest.

Both OspreyTeens are now constantly flying about the area, mastering maneuvers, practicing landings, and even challenging intruders at a low-level (chasing gulls and swooping a Mallard).

OspreyTeens in flight.

 

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OspreyTeen in flight.

 

When a rest is needed, the OspreyTeens will land and perch close-by or on the nest platform.  Bella and/or Beau are usually perched nearby to still keep an eye on them.

A lightpost a favorite perch.

 

OspreyTeens each on a piling.                                    No longer the need for rooftops!

 

All that new flying works up an appetite!  The OspreyTeens have not yet mastered how to hunt for fish; and boy, are they hungry.  When an OspreyTeen thinks it’s past feeding time, it will perch on the nest platform and beg loudly to whoever will listen….

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OspreyTeen begging for food.

 

Or even go where Mom or Dad are perched and beg to them from there.

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Dad Beau (left) ignoring one of the OspreyTeens begging.

 

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OspreyTeen (on the crane top) begging Mom Bella who is on the cell tower.

 

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A hungry OspreyTeen begging one of the parents.

 

It’s usually not long before Bella or Beau will show up with a fish.  Yes, even Bella is now helping to supply meals.

Bella incoming with fish.

 

When Bella comes in with a fish and a chick is present (if one isn’t, it comes flying quickly from a perch), the OspreyTeens are still very obedient and passive.  Mom Bella will most times still feed them.

Bella delivers a fish to an OspreyTeen who calmly and patiently waited to be fed.

 

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Mom Bella feeding the OspreyTeens.

 

 

Mom Bella delivering a fish and is spotted by the second OspreyTeen who decides to not miss out.

 

When Beau comes in with a fish and Bella is present, Bella again is in charge of the meal and will feed the calm chick(s).

Beau arriving to an aggressive Bella while the OspreyTeens stay calm.

 

But if Bella is not there, Beau has to deal with an aggressive, hungry chick at delivery.  In this series, Beau (who was perched on a piling)  catches a fish close to the nest before the delivery.

Beau snagging a fish alongside the nest platform.

 

Beau always tries to do a quick fish drop and get back in flight and away from the aggressive OspreyTeen(s).

 

Beau’s thinking twice.  “Where’s Bella when I need her?”

 

The OspreyTeens learning curve is watching and imitating their parents.  If you recall in past posts, the OspreyTeens are imitating what Mom Bella always did and still does when Beau arrives with a meal.  Another teaching moment is that last series of Beau catching a fish alongside the nest while being watched by the begging OspreyTeen on the nest platform.

After the last eleven weeks of having practically no sibling rivalry, the OspreyTeens are now being…..well, teenagers!  Whoever gets the fish from Dad Beau no longer wants to share.  In fact, there’s been some aggression.

 

When the left OspreyTeen tries to get a bite, the right OspreyTeen becomes aggressive.  Mom Bella is watching in the background.

 

Some pushing and shoving ensues between the OspreyTeens.

 

Mom Bella made some loud noises and the scuffle stopped.

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“Okay, truce? I’ll share.”

 

And just like that, the right OspreyTeen begins to shift the fish around to share with the other OspreyTeen.

OspreyTeen begins to share fish with its sibling.

 

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Both OspreyTeens now sharing the fish.
(Darn it, a cloud took my lighting away!)

 

Another display that Mom Bella rules the roost!

It won’t be long before the OspreyTeens begin fishing for themselves.  Instinctively, Bella & Beau will slow down fish deliveries to force the OspreyTeens to go catch their own meals.

In addition, the last three days the OspreyTeens have been practicing “water dive and lift-outs” as well as skimming the water with their talons.  Yes, they are almost ready!

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A wet OspreyTeen after a practice dive and lift-out of the water.

 

OspreyTeen skimming the water.

 

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The beautiful OspreyTeens!

 

My, my, my, how those little babies have grown and progressed into fine-looking Osprey!

 

(For all the posts on Bella & Beau’s 2018 season, you can click HERE.)

 

 

Cassie Canvasback – Remember Me?

I’ve shared both in my “Bella & Beau” series and in separate posts as well on another of my Cambridge Creek regular ‘backyard’ feathered friends, Cassie Canvasback.

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Hi I’m Cassie!  How are you?

 

Cassie is a disabled female Canvasback I first started photographing back in April, with her featured post, She Is A Survivor.  She was not able to migrate back to her Northwest U.S. or Canadian breeding grounds this past Spring due to a severely injured right wing.  So she now lives here in Cambridge Creek full-time.

I am happy to say Cassie is still around, zigzagging up and down, back and forth, along the creek.

Cassie, a female Canvasback

 

I enjoy taking photos of her anytime she is near me.

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Cassie Canvasback

 

No other Canvasback ducks stayed behind with her, so she is alone.  On occasion, I have seen Cassie and a female Mallard swim along together for a while.  I don’t know who is comforted by this more – me or Cassie.

Despite her right wing injury, Cassie appears quite healthy.  She feeds along the bulkheads and pilings.  Sometimes the side of a boat water line.

 

She makes me smile and feel joy every time I see her.

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Cassie’s beautiful coloring.

 

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Cassie Canvasback (taken from our boat)

 

I am only one, but I am one.
I cannot do everything, but I can do something.
And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.
Edward Everett Hale