Mission: To promote the appreciation of wildlife and increase harmony between humanity and nature.

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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Lucy Leaves Home

During the last week Lucy prematurely left home. If she were human we might call her an underaged runaway. However, such a simple description oversimplifies her situation. For example, her nest actually left home before she did.

Lucy (on the right) about twenty feet below the last remnants of the nest.

On Sunday morning Lucy was no longer in the fork of the tree where the nest had been. Lucy is one two siblings who are apparently Monty and Marsha's first offspring. Before it disintegrated their nest had been located near the S.E. corner of Montlake Cut. Lucy's sibling, Charlie, is currently at PAWS recovering from a cracked pelvis which was suffered when a branch broke and the nest first began to fall

Around 8 a.m. on Monday, one of the parents returned to the nest site with food. The adult sat and consumed what looked like a fresh fish. The sticks in the lower left of the photo were all that was left of the nest.

Lucy sat on a limb below, looking up and crying incessantly. The adult glanced down at her but made no move to share. I wondered if this was 'tough love'. Was the adult trying to motivate Lucy to fly or was the adult apprehensive about landing in the thick foliage next to Lucy. The adult finished and left. Lucy's cries subsided. She seemed healthy and alert, but I was concerned. Could she fly? If not, how would she get food?

On Tuesday morning around 7 a.m. my friends, Tom and Helen, texted me. At first they could not find Lucy at all. Finally, they spotted her only 20 feet above the ground. She was in the next tree south of the nest tree. At the very least she must have glided to her new location. I arrived quickly and began hoping for encouraging signs.

Through out the morning Lucy sat, quiet but alert. She only lifted her wings and turned around two or three times. She did not practice flapping her wings or spend much time preening, which made me think she really wasn't ready to fly.

The parents did not feed her, she did not leave the branch to hunt and she did not cry out for food. This did not feel like a path to success. Around 11 a.m. Susan Ott, an observant and caring neighbor, showed up to check on Lucy. Susan had only stopped for a moment, but when she realized the uncertainty of Lucy's predicament she stayed.

Lucy slowly grew more active and started looking around apparently searching for nearby perches.

During the next hour Lucy hopped to a neighboring branch. Then, around noon she flew nearly fifty feet. Her flight was slow and awkward. She collided with low hanging leaves while steadily losing altitude.


Ultimately, she did a head-first, crash-landing into an old ivy-covered snag.

She flapped and fluttered futilely against the ivy, but appeared unharmed.

Finally, she gave up and let go. She came to rest in a mix of ivy and blackberry vines. For the next few hours she took turns resting and fighting through the foliage. She never got more than a single hop above the vines. 

We called Jeff Brown at PAWS. (Jeff previously rescued Charlie, Lucy's sibling.) While we waited Susan made a trip home and kindly returned with food. Jeff called back and suggested that officers from the Seattle Animal Shelter might be close by and hopefully available to rescue Lucy.

Lucy wandered deeper into the thicket and finally disappeared from sight. At this point, we were certain Lucy could not fly well enough to find food and feed herself. Her parents had not delivered any food for at least eight hours. Plus, it also appeared that they, Monty and Marsha, had no idea where she was. Lucy was essentially on the ground and unprotected.


Susan Ott slowly and carefully worked her way into the jungle of vines in an effort to relocate Lucy. When the Seattle Animal Shelter officers arrived she guided them to Lucy's location.

The officers, Robert Linke and Jon Wieringa, carefully secured Lucy and took her to PAWS where she could be fed, evaluated and temporarily reunited with Charlie. 

From left to right; Jim Green and Jeff Brown from PAWS along with Ed Deal and Patti Loesche from the Urban Raptor Conservancy.

By Thursday morning, Jeff had determined that Lucy was unharmed and could potentially be returned to her parents. Jeff also arranged to meet with Ed and Patti so they could give Lucy the appropriate federal 'wrist' band. The band was applied to her right leg. 

With exceptional eyesight, quality binoculars and a lot of luck you might be able to read the number, 629-45004. However, simply seeing the location of the band on the right leg may help with future identification.

As Patti applied the band, Ed explained that for most birds bands can be simply crimped into place. However, Bald Eagles are strong enough and smart enough to remove crimped bands. So, their bands must be locked with a rivet. The bands are carefully sized so they do not interfere with any of the bird's activities.

From Left to Right: Jim Green, Drew Foster, Clif Edwards and Michelle McCorran

Jeff also arranged for Drew and Clif, Arborists' from The Washington Park Arboretum, to return Lucy to her nest site. Michelle, from the United States Army Corp of Engineers, helped protect the public during the operation. (Michelle was also the one who originally called PAWS and got Jeff involved in rescuing Charlie.) In the background Jim from PAWS is working out technical details related to the eagle elevator. 

Clif begins the ascent to Lucy's nest site. 


I estimate the nest site at being about 100 feet in the air. In this photo Clif is about two thirds of the way to the site.

Drew and Clif trade off on the climbing. On this day Drew was providing ground support while at the very top of the photo you can see Clif has reached the nest site.

Here, Drew was preparing to send up materials for a temporary nest-like platform. The idea was that if Lucy could be returned to the site of the nest, hopefully the parents would resume feeding her and she could complete the normal branching process, which would end with her being strong enough to fly. After young eagles learn to fledge they usually spend a period of time with their parents learning to hunt, which would be the optimal way for Lucy to learn.

Clif preparing to receive materials

Jeff and Jim locking the escape hatch on the eagle elevator.

Cliff with the temporary platform installed and ready to receive Lucy.

The Lucy Lift in operation.

Sadly, just as Lucy was released the Blue Angels flew over and for whatever reason she was skittish and flew away. With great fear we watched as she flew all the way across Montlake Cut. Once again, she lost altitude the whole way. After she landed, she was unable to get airborne again. Luckily, Jeff and Jim were able to recapture her, unharmed. She was returned to PAWS, where she got another square meal. 

On Friday the process was repeated. This time the process was scheduled for after the Blue Angels completed their flights and her release was initiated from the ground. None the less she was still uncomfortable and as she was released she flew south and landed about halfway down in a large cottonwood behind the nest tree. (As of this morning she was still in the same location.)

The current assessment is that Lucy is too old to be returned to the nest site because she has consistently demonstrated the ability and desire to fly away. However, since she seems to only be able to fly down-hill, she is effectively only half-fledged. From my perspective half-fledged means she is capable of getting into trouble, but not capable of getting out. For example, she can fly well enough to land on the ground uninjured but she is apparently unable to get back to the safety of an overhead branch. The fear is that she could not escape from a coyote, raccoon or even an off-leash dog. 

If during the next few days you visit Montlake Cut or Montlake Park East (where the old Museum of History and Industry was located) please watch for Lucy. If you spot her on the ground please do not attempt to catch her but rather call PAWS or the Seattle Animal Shelter.

The phone number for PAWS is: 1-425-787-2500

The phone number for the Seattle Animal Shelter is: 1-206-386-7387

This is a unique situation where it would be best if the whole Montlake Community was watching for Lucy. So please feel free to forward the link to this post and ask your neighbor's for help.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Larry 


Going Native:

Without a well-funded 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 our local environment and 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 respect native flora and to support native wildlife at every opportunity. I have learned that our most logical approach to native trees and plants (in order of priority) should be to:

1) Learn and leave established native flora undisturbed.
2) Remove invasive species and then wait to see if native plants begin to grow without assistance. (If natives plants start on their own, then these plants or trees are likely the most appropriate flora for the habitat.)
3) Scatter seeds from nearby native plants in a similar habitat.
4) If you feel you must add a new plant then select a native plant while considering how the plant fits with the specific habitat and understanding the plant's logical place in the normal succession of native plants.

My intention in my weekly post is to include at least one photo each week and visually challenge us to know the difference between native and non-native lifeforms.




What type of plant is this? Is it native to Union Bay?








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Scroll down for the answer










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This is not the worst invasive plant, but it is not native to Union Bay. It is currently flowering in the Union Bay Natural Area. The highlighted links will take to two different sites, which will give you either a King County or a British Columbia perspective. 

l may be offline for a few days but I would love to hear if anyone can explain who and what  the wasp-like creature is doing on this plant. If you leave explanations in the comments section below the conversation can continue with or without me. (I think I understand what the Honey Bee is up to.)








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The Email Challenge:

Over the years I have had many readers tell me that Google is no longer sending them email announcements regarding my posts. Even more frustrating when they go to 're-sign-up', hoping that will enable them to once again start receiving the announcements, they get a message which says 'Sorry, you are already signed up.' Google has not responded to my requests for help with this issue. 

My functional work around is to setup my own email list and each week I manually send out a new post announcement. If you are experiencing the issue and would like to be added to my personal email list please send me an email requesting to be added. Thank you for your patience!


My email address is LDHubbell@comcast.net




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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Hugo's Hope

This April 25th, 2018 photo is one of my favorites. If I had unlimited time and skill I would attempt to carve a statue of Chester and Lacey, our Union Bay Osprey, in this pose. I love that Lacey is twisting and turning in an effort to support their weight while Chester, with wings extended, is fighting to maintain their balance. Every feather on Chester's wings appears perfectly developed and aligned. They have just completed the ever hopeful act of procreation. Two creatures with a single shared goal. They appear perfectly prepared to fill the future with their progeny.

If you click on the photo and enlarge it you can see that between Chester's beak and the dark mark on top of his head are two symmetrical white spots. On Lacey's forehead the white marks are less extensive and also less symmetrical. 

Two days before Chester completed The Air Dance which was apparently quite successful in gaining Lacey's affection. Click on the highlighted link to read the earlier post.

On May 14th Lacey settled down into the nest and appeared to be on-eggs. I heard reports that she was occasionally away from the nest after this time. This seemed like unusual behavior for a mother incubating eggs. I wondered if some of our exceptionally warm weather might explain her freedom to leave the nest, still it seemed odd for her to leave the eggs unattended.


On June 17th an adult was still incubating the eggs. Before the end of June the eggs were expected to hatch.


On June 28th, thanks to guidance from some eagle-eyed birders, I found and photographed this new pair of Osprey which have been trying to build a nest near the UW driving range. Given the time of year and the incomplete state of the nest it seems highly unlikely that they will be successful this year.

I find it interesting to compare the amount of brown on this female with Lacey's necklace. (See below) Female Osprey tend to have brown feathers on their breasts while the males have nearly pure white chests. 

This July 11th photo shows Lacey with her more delicate and restrained necklace. 

This was the same day that I first saw their two new hatchlings. Due to the size difference I have been calling them Hugo and Tiny. In the middle of the morning Lacey left the nest and flew east towards Yesler Swamp. As she disappeared in the distance it appeared she had left to go hunting. 


I did not see Chester on any of his usual perches. I was concerned to see the young birds alone in the nest. During the prior two years I do not ever remember seeing both parents abandon such young and defenseless birds. It was nearly forty minutes before Chester appeared in the area. As I headed home, I tried to persuade myself that his eyesight is much better than mine and he had probably been watching the nest at a distance. 


July 15th was the last time I clearly photographed both of the young in nest.

On July 19th I thought I only saw one young bird, however this photo shows glimpses of a lot of different body parts and it is possible both of the little birds might be in the photo. It is also possible one of the young could have been laying down in the nest, totally unseen. While the absence of data cannot generally be used to prove a point, I was becoming uneasy. Had something happened to one of the young?

I think the two tallest sets of feathers in the previous photo are tail feathers in the early stages of development.

Yesterday, on July 26th, there was no doubt about the progress of this young osprey. I assumed that this must be Hugo given his previous size advantage and this impressive array of new feathers.

While I watched him, he occasionally watched me as well. Clearly, these wings are not yet ready to hold air but he (or she) is working on developing the required strength.

When Chester came in with food, the young bird stood up and expressed interest.

Chester held his wings nearly vertical as he dumped air and prepared to settle into the nest. Lacey, on the right, also expressed her pleasure at seeing airmailed sushi.

At this point I concluded the absence of the second young bird was proof that the bird no longer existed. I have never seen a young, growing and hungry osprey sleep through the welcoming cries which accompany a food delivery. 

Thinking about food deliveries and things I have never seen reminded me of this July 3rd photo. Here Chester is bringing in big chunk of a large fish. I wondered if he caught a salmon somewhere and was unable to bring the whole fish to the nest. Maybe he ate his fill and then brought the biggest remaining piece back to the family.

Yesterday, as Chester settled into the nest the camera caught his wings in a very unique position. The feathers which are in the sunlight and facing forward toward the end of each wing, are his primary flight feathers. Osprey have ten primaries on each side. The top feather on each wing is called primary number ten. Click Here to see a photo showing the individual primary feathers. The first three feathers, e.g. primaries 10 - 8, are strongly notched.


This photo shows a notched primary feather I spotted below the new attempted nest. By comparing the shape to the photos on the previous link and I am guessing this was a number nine primary.

This photo, and the previous one of Chester, make me wonder if Chester has lost his eighth primary on each side and is growing new ones or whether we are just seeing a very strongly notched primary number nine.


Did you notice that Hugo was orange irises? It will be interesting to see if they change to yellow before he heads south in the Fall.

Here is one final photo of Lacey and Hugo. I certainly hope Chester and Lacey make a concerted effort to watch and protect Hugo. Hugo is totally dependent on his parent's protection until he or she learns to fly. I have no proof that the demise of the second nestling was related to a lack of protection. However, the change in the parental behavior this year has been noted by multiple observers. 

This leaves us with a number of questions. Did anyone see an eagle or another bird attempt to raid the nest? Why are the parents spending more time away from the nest? Is the supply of adequately sized fish diminishing in Union Bay? Is the competition for food increasing?  Do the parents have to travel further to find food?

While we cannot answer all of these questions we can review what we know. We know the population of resident adult Bald Eagles increased from four to six this year. We know the number of adult Osprey during the current breeding season increased from two to four. We have continued to see Great Blue Herons finding and eating fish in the water near the Osprey nest, but I have not noticed a change in their numbers. On the other hand there was a noticeable reduction in Double-crested Cormorants this Spring, however that may be normal behavior which I have overlooked in the past.

May be the most interesting question is, Given the extent of human development around Union Bay, do we have a responsibility to monitor changes in the health and productivity of the natural environment? 

Have a great day on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city!

Larry

Going Native:

Without a well-funded 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 our local environment and 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 respect native flora and to support native wildlife at every opportunity. I have learned that our most logical approach to native trees and plants (in order of priority) should be to:

1) Learn and leave established native flora undisturbed.
2) Remove invasive species and then wait to see if native plants begin to grow without assistance. (If natives plants start on their own, then these plants or trees are likely the most appropriate flora for the habitat.)
3) Scatter seeds from nearby native plants in a similar habitat.
4) If you feel you must add a new plant then select a native plant while considering how the plant fits with the specific habitat and understanding the plant's logical place in the normal succession of native plants.

My intention in my weekly post is to include at least one photo each week and visually challenge us to know the difference between native and non-native lifeforms.






Is this yellow flowering plant native to the Pacific Northwest? What species is it?


I spotted these two plants just east of Foster Island in Union Bay. The purple and 'gold' color made me wonder if they might have been introduced because they are the University of Washington Husky colors.









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Scroll down for the answer










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I am not an expert on loosestrife, but I am fairly certain this is a highly invasive plant which is illegal to even buy or sell in King County. It spreads so easily that it should never even be put in your clean and green. It out competes our native cattails. This in turn reduces nesting opportunities for birds like Red-winged Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens and Virginia Rails.


This plant is also undesirable and invasive. Click on the highlighted names to learn more about dealing with these plants.







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The Email Challenge:

Over the years I have had many readers tell me that Google is no longer sending them email announcements regarding my posts. Even more frustrating when they go to 're-sign-up', hoping that will enable them to once again start receiving the announcements, they get a message which says 'Sorry, you are already signed up.' Google has not responded to my requests for help with this issue. 

My functional work around is to setup my own email list and each week I manually send out a new post announcement. If you are experiencing the issue and would like to be added to my personal email list please send me an email requesting to be added. Thank you for your patience!


My email address is LDHubbell@comcast.net




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