On behalf of all the 520 bridge commuters, I want to say,' Thank You' to Eva and Albert for all the memories. For many years, our local bald eagles have graced the light poles above Union Bay.
Each morning drivers, locked into their daily routine, search the light poles hoping to spot a flickering flash of freedom. On good days, both eagles might be seen - sitting on consecutive poles. In a city filled with cubicles, computers and nature-crushing conveyances the emotional boost of a three-second eagle sighting, even at sixty miles an hour, is universally treasured.
A few years back, I watched Eva lift off one of a 520 light poles, pick a meal out of the bay and return to eat it in front of me. For some reason, this red-tailed hawk was under the ego-inflated impression that it might scare Eva away from her breakfast. The table was quickly turned and it was the hawk who got the scare.
I have also watched Albert leap off of a light pole and snatch a gull out of the air.
Sadly, the days of watching Eva and Albert hunting from light poles may be behind us. Earlier this week, I spoke with a gentleman who drives the 520 bridge every morning. He confirmed my suspicions. Neither of us have seen the adult eagles hunting from the light poles, in quite some time.
During the last year or so, I have spotted the eagles sitting side-by-side above the Broadmoor retaining pond.
I have heard them calling back and forth while perched high above the Arboretum.
I have watched them soar peacefully above Montlake...
... and occasionally seen their silent hunting disrupted.
Last November, I saw one of them venture north to hunt from the Foster Island cottonwood tree - overlooking Union Bay.
However, ever since the new 520 construction moved in just to the east of Foster Island, I do not remember seeing Eva or Albert on the light poles. The pressing question for commuters is, When the construction is finished and all the clean up is done will the eagles return and begin hunting from the new bridge?
Sadly, when the old bridge is removed the light poles will go with it. The new bridge has no similar elevated hunting perches. In the new design, the light bulbs can all be easily accessed from the bridge deck.
In my harmony-with-nature fantasy, I can imagine two of the old non-functioning light poles being reinstalled on the new bridge as hunting perches for the eagles. In reality, the eagles will most likely be relegated to using the conventional cottonwood trees which dot the shorelines. Possibly, they may hunt from the shorter, multicolored sculptures which sit on either side of the bridge. Even though the new bridge is fairly high, I will be surprised if the eagles venture close enough to the traffic to hunt from the railings. I suspect Eva still remembers Eddie's ill-fated encounter.
On a positive note, last week, I watched one of the eagles fly over to the south end of Foster Island and break a branch off one of the cottonwoods.
The eagle then returned to the distant nest and deposited the branch in front of its mate. Given the distance, I could not be sure which eagle was which.
When Eva called out, Albert leaped out of the nest like a man on a mission.
He did a half circle around the tree, steadily gaining elevation with every stroke of his wings.
It quickly became obvious, that Albert understood Eva's invitation. They appear to be committed to their relationship and the process of reproduction.
The 520 construction may have reduced the eagle encounters for commuters and it may have caused Eva and Albert to readjust their hunting territory, but in spite of any inconvenience our local bald eagles are making memories and once again planning on raising eaglets above the bay.
Have a great day on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city!
Without a functional Environmental Protection Agency, it falls to each of us to be ever more vigilant in protecting our local environments. Native plants and trees encourage the largest diversity of lifeforms because of their long intertwined history with local, native creatures. I have been told that even the microbes in the soil are native to each local landscape. My hope is that we can inspire ourselves, our neighbors and local businesses to plant native flora and to support native wildlife at every opportunity. My intention is to include at least one photo each week and visually challenge us to know the difference between native and non-native lifeforms.
Which of the following are native to Union Bay?
Photo A shows an eastern gray squirrel eating the fruit of an ash tree in the the Washington Park Arboretum. Neither the squirrel nor the tree is native to our area. However, the ash tree is carefully tended part of the Arboretum collection and not particularly invasive. The gray squirrels on the other hand are untended, invasive and continue to expand their territory. I met a gentleman the other day who said he can remember seeing native squirrels on Foster Island. I challenge you to find anything but eastern gray squirrels on the island today.
Photo B is of a native muskrat. Their Union Bay dens are usually in muddy banks with an entrance hidden underwater. They are probably the least seen of the three creatures in today's photos.
Photo C is of an Old World or Norway rat. They are now a nearly worldwide, invasive pest, which went along for the ride with european expansion. Barred owls, cooper's hawks, coyotes and other native creatures help us by eating these rats. Sadly, the bioaccumulation of the poisons, which we use when attempting to kill the rats, often cause unintended deaths. Old fashioned spring-loaded rat traps, baited with peanut butter, work fine and do not spread poisons among native creatures, our dogs and cats, and the environment in general.