Beginning in late April of 1996 I relocated my old Sportsfishing boat, the Rubaiyat, from the Sombrero Marina to a small private dock on Coco Plum in Marathon, Florida, where I continued to live aboard.
The Rubaiyat; name after the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam
The unmistakable sound of a baby Osprey crying for food awakened me one morning and I went out on deck to see if I could locate the bird. When I discovered him sitting on the 3rd floor balcony railing of a condo directly across from my boat, * I retrieved my old video camcorder and starting taping the hungry baby. As you will note when you watch the video that follows this article, the wind was blowing hard – rocking my boat and making it very difficult to hold the camera steady. I managed to get a couple of rather shaky pictures of the fat baby as he squawked loudly to his parents that were circling far overhead before he flew away; then I went back inside the boats cabin to prepare my breakfast.
Baby Osprey on Condo Balcony
Late that afternoon I went out on deck again; this time to see if I might be able to catch a fish for my dinner; preferable a nice fat Mangrove Snapper. Although I did most of my more serious fishing off shore, a variety of edible fish hung around the docks and it only took me a few minutes to catch a nice snapper. As soon as I started to scale the fish, Omar, The Egret, landed at the foot of my dock. He was also hungry; in fact, Omar was always hungry – and he loved filleted snapper.
A Close-up of Omar, The Egret
About a week earlier a really sickly looking White Egret came out of the mangroves growing across the path behind the stern of my boat and slowly approached the dock. He would take a wobbly step or two; then pause – then take another couple of steps toward me. Unlike the beautiful and well-groomed White Egrets that hung around the boats, this poor guy was very untidy. His feathers were disheveled; he was trembling, and I could see what looked like a hole or tear in his neck. My first thought was that the bird had swallowed a fish with a hook in it while it was still attached to a fishing line, and that a fisherman had pulled the hook back out of his throat. In any case, the Egret did not look like it was going to live much longer. On the other hand, I knew that it had to be hungry because the site or smell of the fish that I had caught had to be what attracted it to my dock. I quickly filleted the snapper and tossed a small sliver of fish toward the animal. I could see that he wanted the fish, but he was afraid to come any closer to me, so I climbed back down, into my boats cockpit and stood as far away from the Egret as I could. He startled me by quickly lunging forward and spearing the fish fillet with his long bill. Then he raised his head up, tossed the fish around so that the narrow portion of the fillet was pointed toward his throat, and swallowed it whole. He had to struggle a little to get the piece of fish passed the tear in his neck, but he managed somehow to get it all the way down. Then he stood there and stared at the rest of the half-filleted fish remaining on the cleaning table, so I decided to feed that to him, too. When I stepped back up, onto the dock, the bird turned and staggered back toward the bushes; but he only went a few feet; then he turned and looked back at me . I filleted the other half of the fish; cut the fillet into two strips, and tossed it onto the edge of the dock closest to the path. The bird trembled all over and continued to stare at the fish, but he refused to move forward until I stepped back down into the cockpit. Then he almost ran to the dock and gobbled up the rest of the filleted snapper.
Omar enjoying a swallow of fresh water from his bucket
Feeding and carrying for the Egret became a daily routine – for both of us. For a couple of days, the bird would show up at the same time; about the time that I had caught that first fish that I fed to him. Then he started coming to the dock for breakfast and dinner; and eventually, for breakfast, lunch and dinner! I named the Egret Omar; and that seemed perfectly logical to me since my boat was named after the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. After a couple of days, I realized that Omar was probably thirsty, too. There were no pools of fresh water on Coco Plum at this time, so I filled a 5-gallon PVC bucket with water and placed it on the dock, fairly close to the street. As you will see in the following video, he drank lots of water! Within about a week, Omar began to look good again. The hole in his neck seemed to be healing rapidly, and he was apparently able to resume grooming himself because he was loosing that shaggy, untidy look that he had when I first saw him. For another week or so, my life centered around rehabilitating Omar. I kept a string of small fish over the side of the Rubaiyat, and refreshed the water bucket a couple of times each day. Then one day, Omar flew away, never to be seen (by me) again.
Omar stretching his neck to get a better look at something
A weird heads-on view of Omar
*Please note: A few days ago, I copied the film clips that make up the attached video from an original VHS tape that was taken by me on a 20-year-old VCR in May of 1996 to my computer.. Then I edited them to the best of my ability. and copied the result to a DVD. I was not able to eliminate the dates and tracking information that appeared on the some of the clips; nor was I able to compensate for the fact that “Omar” was filmed from a rocky boat on a windy day! (I also have no idea now as to why I did not film the first week of Omar’s visit to the Rubaiyat).