Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife on and around Union Bay and a higher level of harmony between humanity and nature.

(It is fine for educators and artists to use any of the photos on this blog as long as when publicly displaying the photo or related artwork the following comment is included, "The original photo sourced from http://unionbaywatch.blogspot.com".)

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fledgling - First Flight


Early in August the older eaglet, Beatrice, first flew. There have been no documented photos of Beatrice since she left the nest. The US Fish & Wildlife stated that in early August there have been no reported cases of injured eagles in the Seattle area. So even though we do not know where Beatrice is, we have reason to hope that she is healthy. Apparently she is also a quick study. It seems she must have she learned to hunt in short order, since she does not appear to return to her parents for food.

Last week the younger eaglet, Eleanor, with great calm and serenity, finally learned to fly. This was unlike Beatrice who practically bounced all over the nesting tree prior to flying. Eleanor also differs from Beatrice in that she frequently returns to the nest. She has been seen leaving the nest early in the morning (sometimes after being fed by one of the parents) and returning around dusk. Often one or both of the parents have been seen near 520 just before dusk and sometimes one will also return to the nesting tree.

The first known photo of Eleanor in flight occurred as she circled from a branch in the nesting tree back to the nest. This all started with a small clump of twigs, which Eleanor decided to attack. She leaped and landed half in the twigs and half on the branch.


This was apparently not the desired result. Her second attack was in a more committed fashion. She landed with her full body weight on the twigs. They broke free of the branch and suddenly Eleanor was in the air, gliding serenely and circling slowly to the nest.


With the twig firmly “in hand” her sprinkling of youthful, light-colored feathers created a startling contrast against her dark wings. In four or five years when Eleanor matures the light feathers under her wings will be gone, the dark feathers on her head and tail will have been replaced by white ones and her beak will have turned bright yellow.


With maturity being years in the future is the nesting instinct so strong that she feels compelled to return the twigs to the nest at an age of 12 to 13 weeks? It is amazing to think that a bird, which could live for more than 25 years, has hatched out and grown to size of her parents in less than 3 months. This is basically the equivalent of a nine-month-old baby growing to the size of an adult human. By the time she is 6 months old, the equivalent of one and a half in human years, she will need to be totally self-supporting. (If this timing worked for humans it might reduce the cost of raising children, however it might create a few other issues.)

Please keep your eyes open on 520 north of Broadmoor and on Lake Washington near Madison Park. It is fairly common to see the adult eagles, but watch to see if you can spot the dark-headed, Eleanor. The last time she was spotted leaving the nest she headed south, but where she goes remains a mystery.

Good Luck!

Larry

Monday, August 13, 2012

Life After Eddie - Mystery

Since the first eaglet photos taken on June 2, in the nest that Eddie built, the most common question has been, "When will they fly?" The anticipation has been building. On August 2nd the older eaglet apparently fledged (e.g. learned to fly and left the nest). 

For the last week and a half the goal has been to photograph Beatrice, the fledgling, in flight.  From the skies above Union Bay to the 520 light poles, to the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary (BLS), to the cottonwood trees on Foster Island, to Webster Point and of course the nest itself have all been closely watched

On Thursday, the 9th, while we were looking for Beatrice an eagle-eyed young man spotted this bird at the BLS. Can you guess what type of bird this is?


My good friend Marcus Roening identified it as a juvenile, Spotted Sandpiper. (This was a first for me on Union Bay.)

The parents have been seen fairly regularly on the 520 light poles or in the cottonwood tree east of BLS. This photo was taken Friday the 10th above 520.
Twice this week one of the parents has been seen returning to the nesting tree at dusk to visit Eleanor. Here is a short clip.

http://youtu.be/czhv5gX6Mf8

Eleanor in the last week has branched out and moved about the nesting tree. Her latest move (Sunday night) was nearly to the top of the tree. This is the same process Beatrice went through just before she left the nest.

While checking for Beatrice on Foster Island on Saturday a Pileated Woodpecker was seen working away a few feet off the trail, seemingly unaware of people passing by, but Beatrice was no where to be seen.



Thinking that maybe Beatrice had left Union Bay to find a more plentiful supply of food a visit was made to the Ballard Locks. There were plenty of salmon and even an osprey nest but no eagles.
The young osprey was shortly visited by its father, who came bearing fish. 

On Sunday morning near the southwest bridge to Foster Island this Coopers Hawk was seen, but once again there was no sign of Beatrice.

The hawk was carefully eyeing a number of crows that were quite upset and vocal about the hawk being in the area. What is especially interesting in this photo is how the hawk's pupils are dilated differently depending on the amount of sunlight hitting each eye.

Today around noon there was still no sign of Beatrice but one of the parents was hiding in the shadows near the top of the cottonwood tree on the north side of Foster Island. The eagle was obviously avoiding the heat of the sun. A few minutes later this Stellars Jay, who seemed to be a little more cold blooded, was clearly enjoying the heat of the sun.

With each day that passes the mystery of Beatrice's whereabouts deepens. She should be relying on her parents for food while she learns to hunt. If you see any sign of Beatrice please leave a comment at the end of this blog. Thank you!

Where has the elusive Beatrice gone?

Larry

PS: Maybe the lesson to be learned is that we should watch Eleanor very carefully during the next week as she takes to the air and leaves the nest. :-)


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Eagles Disappear

Thursday morning for the first time in her life Beatrice, the elder eaglet, was not to be found in the nest or the nesting tree. Also both parents were gone. For the last four months the parents have almost always been near the nest or on a 520 light pole looking for more food. 


Thursday night the situation was the same. 


On Friday morning a more thorough search of Foster Island, the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary, the 520 light poles and the skies above Union Bay revealed no trace of the parents or Beatrice. Beatrice has apparently learned to fly, left the nest and moved up from eaglet to fledgling. This leaves Eleanor, the younger eaglet, all alone in the nest.

Even though she has not yet learned to fly she is as large as her parents and should be able to defend herself from most any creature that can reach the nest. There is no reason for concern. It is possible the parents have just taken Beatrice on her first hunting trip. 


The most important lessons for the young eagles this summer are:
     a) Learning to fly and
     b) Learning to hunt.
By winter they will need to be completely self-sufficient in order to survive.


If you see the fledgling please be aware that an eagle learning to hunt may appear to be doing nothing. While simply sitting in a tree above the bay they may be watching a distant fish or bird that you or I cannot even see. At any moment they can dive out of the tree and attempt to catch their prey. It is important for the young birds survival to not interrupt this learning process.


All of us who visit this blog have a healthy curiosity to learn more about these beautiful creatures. So this weekend if you happen to visit Foster Island or Beaver Lodge Sanctuary, if you are sailing on Union Bay or even just driving over 520 please watch for the eagles. If you do see them please add a comment at the end of this blog. The more we learn about these creatures the more we can do to ensure that the neighborhood we share is a viable place for eagles, as well as humans. to live and raise their young.


If you are curious about what Beatrice looks like the August 1st posting (just below this post) has a number of up-to-date pictures.


Thank you for your help.


Larry Hubbell




Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Eaglet - On the Edge

Earlier this week Doug Schurman, continuing his incredible video work, caught a very scary moment.  
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A0LrOjYCc2A&feature=youtu.be


It is possible and maybe even probable that the eaglet could survive a fall from the nest at this point. However just like a human learning to walk or ride a bike confidence is critical. At some point the internal switch will be thrown. It will go from "I think I can" to that crystal clear knowledge, "I Can Fly!"


For all the differences between humans and eagles what's most amazing is the things we have in common.


At a time when he could not see both eaglets in the nest Doug saw an immature eagle fly by. He thought for a moment, Could it be one of the eaglets? What do you think?

Doug realized that the beak was far more yellow than the current eaglets. In addition you can see the white feathers beginning to come in around the head. This is a juvenile eagle that is nearing maturity, which usually occurs in the 4th or 5th year.


Both of the current Broadmoor eaglets still have mostly dark heads and beaks, but they are beginning the branching process.

This is the process of hopping/flying from the nest to nearby branches. 

In particular the elder eaglet, Beatrice, is moving further and further out on the limbs and away from the nest. First to the left.

Then back above the nest.

And then way above the nest.


Even at this distance above the nest every move was a short "hop" from one branch up to the next. Still it is obvious this is the last step in the process of learning to fly. There is nearly no where else left to go.


More to follow.


Larry Hubbell


Odds and Ends:


The eaglets appear to watch a jet pass by with great interest in the idea of flying. See at:


http://youtu.be/Bd41b-hXvhM


***


This is what used to be called a Rufous-Sided Towhee. It was spotted in the Arboretum this week.
The western version of the RST is now called the Spotted Towhee to distinguish it from the eastern version of the RST.