Is it Tiny Tot Tumbles?

There is never 100% certainty in identifying a bird four months or a year or two after it has flown off the nest unless there are Darvic rings and bands. For ospreys, there are facial features – the head – that remain the same for their entire life once they have reached the age of fledging. I have been told, by Osprey experts that I respect, that an osplet born in the spring of 2021 could no longer have the white curved feathers on its wing tips. I am trusting that information to be true.

As many of you know, I have a very special interest in Osprey third hatches. I am particularly focused on these little ones that survive but who have been denied food by their siblings and who might have died due to siblicide. I will be collecting data from nests for the next decade to see if there are any patterns on these particular survivors. Do they do better in the long haul than their siblings? It is extremely difficult if they have not been ringed. The best way to study their survival is both a Darvic ring and a sat-pak with a battery that would last for four years, like the one on Solly who hatched in 2021 at the Port Lincoln nest.

Over the past month or so, a number of Ospreys have landed on the Achieva Osprey Nest in St Petersburg, Florida. Several remind me of the intruder that Tiny Tot Tumbles battled last summer. Have Jack and Diane visited? Maybe. I admit to being so focused on Tiny Tot Tumbles that I ignored the other two siblings and parents in terms of identification markers.

On 30 October an osprey landed on the Achieva nest. I stared at that ‘face and head’ for two days. Could it be?

Staring at me every time I open the fridge or close it is a large magnet of Tiny Tot Tumbles. The screen capture was on 20 June, two weeks before she left the nest for good. Tears began to flow.

There are thousands of images of Tiny Tot in my external hard drives. From the moment she hatched, to the little one running around the rim of the nest trying to get some food. There were days that I counted each bite of food that she got. Notebooks full. That fridge magnet image was taken on a day when Tiny Tot was at her loveliest. She would sit on the perch for hours – she was elegant! And she was a formidable opponent. Any intruder was ousted from the nest. She often battled them alongside Jack, her dad.

A slider to move back and forth to compare.

I am convinced that the amazing osprey that landed on the Achieva nest in St Petersburg at 12:57 on 30 October is, in fact, Tiny Tot Tumbles. She has been away and survived for four months, grown and matured. The white plumage forming the V is very thin on both of those images.

There have been visitors that have, of course, a similar V but the amount of white plumage varies with each of them. The bird below has visited the nest often but it is not Tiny Tot.

This was Tiny Tot Tumbles on 3 July. Look at the white lines from the beak forming a ‘V’. They are thinner on Tiny Tot than on the bird above.

Here is Tiny Tot Tumbles on 27 June mantling.

This is an image of Tiny Tot Tumbles on 26 June. I had enlarged it from a screen capture so that everyone would note the very specific head – the thin white lines, the heart shape of the white. Sadly, the resolution is not good.

These following two images were posted on 20 and 21 June, respectively. The top one is the one on 20 June that I used for my fridge magnet. The next one is the following day, Tiny Tot on the perch.

She is so elegant. She has grown and filled in since she flew off the nest. There she is on the perch looking like she is applying to be on the runway for the most beautiful Osprey of 2021!

Here she is as a wee babe. It was easy to imagine with the difference in age and size that Big Bob might cause problems. In the end, both Big and Middle Bob, sibling 1 and 2, prevented Tiny Tot from eating for a total of 12 full 24 hour periods during the first six weeks of her life.

There is Tiny Tot submissive and hungry over to the right. Big Bob has been unmerciful in its attacks on her on this day.

What changed on the nest was Diane going out and fishing. She began to bring back big catfish and there was always enough to feed Tiny Tot. By 7 April, Tiny Tot has grown and is getting big enough that the older siblings might try to thwart her from eating but she is unstoppable. If she did not get enough to eat, Tiny Tot would root around in the nest. She always found scraps and was known for even cleaning off fish flakes from discarded bones. It is difficult in the ‘real world’ and it takes this kind of tenacity to survive.

Tiny Tot has a nice big crop on 9 April! Just look at her there in the middle of the image below.

This is 10 May. Tiny Tot is gorgeous. She is beginning to get that characteristic head that we all recognized. Her juvenile feathers are coming in and she has survived! In the end, Sibling 1 fledged and returned to the nest once, the following day. Sibling 2 fledged returning for a bit for food. Then Tiny Tot was all alone. Jack brought in fish for her and she stayed – as she should – honing her flying skills and getting ‘street smart’ protecting the nest. On 5 July, precisely four months after she hatched, she flew off the nest. We never thought we would see her again.

I am grateful that Tiny Tot has paid a visit to the nest to show us all that she is thriving. She has put on weight from the elegant pose on the perch post but that striking head remains the same.

I hope that Tiny Tot visits the nest over and over again. She was gallant in her protection of it for Jack, her dad, and with him on occasion. And, for the record, she could be a he. There were never DNA tests taken or any banding. Just keep your eye out for this beautiful osprey. Could we be lucky enough to see s/he raise osplets on this very nest in the future?

Take care everyone! See you soon.

Thank you to the Achieva Credit Union for its streaming cam in St Petersburg where these screen shots were taken.

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