Some 25 feet up in the air, towering over Coquina Key, sits an osprey surveying the park below.
It is on the hunt for any bit of material so it can prepare a nest for future hatchlings. Whether it be sticks, hay, palm leaves, a trash bag or Michael Maiello’s 6-foot-long scarf.
The osprey may have stolen it, but Maiello doesn’t mind. He enjoys telling the story.
"I’m honored," said the 64-year-old.
It was his favorite scarf. For nearly two decades he’s used it when he traveled up North or during Florida’s few frigid cold snaps. It’s cozy, reliable and so large he can wrap himself up in it twice.
He was sure to have it with him on a recent daily walk with his German shepherds Sophie and Boomer when Tampa Bay’s morning temperatures dipped into the 40s.
But on his way home in his van, he realized the black and gray plaid scarf was missing.
"I flew back," he said. "I scanned the whole area."
He twice circled the route where he takes his dogs along the island. No scarf. He was ticked, and imagined someone found it on the ground and kept it for themselves.
He went back to his van. It wouldn’t start.
"It’s going to be one of those days," he thought to himself.
It was an issue with his battery; a loose cable he was able to fix with tools he had in the van. A small victory — but still no scarf.
Before pulling away for good, he stopped to ask a man running soccer drills with a few kids if he’d seen the black scarf.
The man said he saw a bird — resembling an osprey, also known as a fish hawk — scoop up something large and black and fly it up to the tallest pole near the soccer field.
"This is bull," Maiello recalled thinking. "This guy took my scarf."
It didn’t seem possible that an osprey could carry the heavy cashmere scarf up dozens of feet with the wind whipping against it.
"Ever try carrying a piece of plywood in the wind?" Maiello said. "It had to be like that."
Because sure enough, through the twigs and sticks, he could see the fringe end of his beloved scarf.
A few days later he returned to the nest with a friend who had a drone to take photos — he assures from a safe distance above — of the massive nest.
His scarf is woven in among the branches, grass and twigs.
"They’re working really hard," he said, as he has watched the nest grow bigger each day. "But the fact the hawk carried that scarf? I can’t even believe it."
He’s named the osprey ScarFace. He plans to watch the nest, maybe even use his background in film to put together a little documentary.
He said the couple of ospreys now have the coolest and warmest pad on Coquina Key.
"That scarf kept me warm for 18 years," he said. "They can have it now."
Contact Sara DiNatale at [email protected] Follow @sara_dinatale.