Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Tuesday Started Out So Normal ... and then a mullet fell from the sky.

Tuesday turned out to be far more interesting than I expected, but isn't that always the way.
 As I walked Bear and Coquina early that morning, the day before me looked to be a pretty routine, ... even dull one.
My main task was to get back in my classroom and finish the clean up and toss out routine now that school was out for the summer.

After our walk and some breakfast, I headed out to Cedar Key to finish those end of year chores. 

As I pulled into the field behind the school, the resident osprey chicks were in plain view and making a hungry racket.
I parked near the nest platform, cranked down the windows and proceeded to photograph the chicks as they flopped around the nest.
They're big now with decent feathers and looking more ospreyish than chickish.

It started to get warm in the car "blind", but I kept telling myself that one of the osprey parents was bound to return soon with a fresh fish for the chicks ... and wouldn't that make some nice photos?
So I stuck it out.

After a bit, the adult osprey returned with a fresh, flipping mullet and landed just long enough to drop off the fish to the eager chicks.
Almost as soon as it left, the chicks fumbled the mullet out of the nest and down it fell into the thick brush beneath the nest platform.

In the nest, the chicks looked around, and then began squawking again.

Dang it.
I got out and walked over to the nest platform pole.
(Note: These ospreys are totally acclimated to close human activity as they are literally in the event parking/ athletic field area at our prek-12th school.)

The nest pole sits just outside a chain link fence. Behind it, the land slopes quickly down to the bayou behind the school. This narrow strip of woods is a mix of palm, oak, black mangroves, and ... smilax ... lots and lots of smilax... aka "Green Briar" ... aka "The Thorninator".

The way in from near the nest pole is completely blocked by a mix of grape vines and the biggest, densest mass of smilax that I have ever seen.
It was a classroom grunt work day and I dressed in cargo shorts and a muscle T, lots of exposed skin, ... those smilax vines will eat me alive if I try and power through them to find the dropped mullet.
Oh, did I mention yet that I was on a quest to recover the chick's dropped mullet?

I couldn't see the fish, but I heard him flip once in awhile somewhere ... beneath the smilax briars.
Looking over the smilax clump, I saw a game trail of sorts that came up from the saltmarsh almost to the nest pole.
Maybe it was created by raccoons foraging for scraps beneath the nest platform.
Whoever made it, just gave me a way past the smilax, but I would have to come up from the marsh.

I moved along the chain link fence until the forest opened up a little and hopped over it to the other side.
As luck would have it, the tide was out which allowed me to move pretty quickly along the muddy shoreline instead of weaving through the little woods.

In a few minutes I was opposite the pole and the little game trail beckoned.

I worked my way up the game trail (EEK! SPIDERS!) until I was standing directly under the nest.
Okay mullet, I need you to flip-flop one last time if you are still among the living.

In the thicket, I was hoping to locate him by sound, even though, the poor thing had been gored by osprey talons, snatched from the water, dropped 40 feet from an osprey nest, and ... been out of the water for at least the 15 minutes since the parent bird had deposited it in the nest.

It was quite possible he just didn't have any flip left in him.
And then he flipped!
There he was, under the thorns and half covered with leaf litter.

The mullet!
What a tough beast.
I snatched him up and retraced my steps, hopping over the chain link, and depositing the mullet on the lawn near the nest.
I got back in the hot car and hung around hoping for a shot of the osprey swooping down to snatch the mullet from the ground, but the parent came back in the meantime with a new mullet and that got everyone's attention.

Oh well, I had lots of classroom cleanup work to do and the morning was just getting hotter, so I started the engine and drove to my usual parking area.
(Later, the mullet was gone, so I think they did recover it)

Back in my classroom, I began sorting through old papers and ancient junk.
I was pretty sure that my "interesting day" quota had been filled before lunch, which is pretty cool, ... and then I stepped into the school elevator.
As it turned out, chasing sky mullet was just a warm up for a most interesting Tuesday.
More on that in the next post.


threecollie said...

Up here in the far, far north a mullet is a hair style. And I have one.....Hope I am safe from Ospreys. lol Every now and then we see one over the river, but they sure don't nest in the school parking lot. You live in the BEST place!

Elizabeth (*eli*) said...

The lengths we'll go to for a "good shot". :-)

R.Powers said...

So true.

R.Powers said...

It is pretty awesome.

Julie Zickefoose said...

What was going through that poor mullet's mind? ("What else is gonna happen today? Here I was, schwimmin' along, I get snatched up and airlifted, dropped in a buncha sticks; beaks chewing on me; I fall through the air again, land in briars, hear something crashing around, get picked up, put on a blog, then tossed back over a fence, snatched up I'm brainfood for fish hawks.") Way to save it FC.

Laura L. said...

Thank you for the good belly laugh! You made my day (but probably not the mullet's). I can't wait to see what see what else happened in your day.

Mark P said...

I guess a mullet's highest calling is protein for baby ospreys.

crybrug said...

Sometimes forget how much a like all babies are. They all make messes at lunch.

R.Powers said...

Julie, Mullet just can't win. They are the bunnies of the sea. This one at least had an adventurous life.

Good to be back! Thank you.

Here at Cedar Key, some would argue that split, marinated in brine, and smoked is their highest calling.

So true, from humans to puppies to ospreys. Babes will be babes.

Pablo said...

I fully expected this to end with you climbing that pole and depositing the mullet on the platform.