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

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Sunday, June 16, 2019

Osprey - Hope

Three young Osprey preparing for their first flights from the nesting platform in 2016.


The osprey pair nesting on the platform at the Union Bay Natural Area (UBNA) has had seven young between 2016 and 2018. Five of their young successfully learned to fly and left the nest. Sadly, the two from 2018 did not survive.

This Spring has been filled with equal measures of anxiety and hope. Would the adults return? Will they successfully raise young in 2019? Will the young learn to fly e.g. fledge? It has been a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Happily, the adults Chester and Lacey have returned. By early May, their preparations for nesting certainly appeared to be headed in the right direction.

You can read about their April efforts and find a link to last year's story by Clicking Here.


On May 9th, the female, Lacey, was sitting on the nesting platform and loudly begging her mate, Chester, for food. A male Osprey often brings food to its mate, especially when they think the female may be interested in mating or is incubating eggs. When the eggs hatch this responsibility grows dramatically. The males must then supply the bulk of the food to feed the young. 

During the previous three years, by May 15th, Lacey has settled lower in the nest and appeared to begin the incubation process. Given this perspective, it was not a surprise to see Lacey at the nest site and still not incubating on May 9th. Maybe her 'early' begging was an attempt to reacquaint Chester with his future responsibilities.

Chester who was sitting right overhead ignored her calls for almost ten minutes.

Finally, after a shivering shake, Chester appeared to come awake to Lacey's expectations. A few moments later he flew out over the bay and began searching the water for fish.

Sadly, May15th has arrived and passed and I have seen no sign of incubation at the nesting platform. However, there have been a number of interesting Osprey developments. Curiously, Chester and Lacey do not appear to have abandoned the area. As of earlier this week, they are still hanging around their traditional Union Bay territory. If they are constructing a new nest somewhere nearby I have not seen it. On the positive side, another pair of Osprey have established a new territory just a quarter of a mile to the north.

This part of the story started with a new nest being built above the Intramural Activities (IMA) field in 2018. In this July 2018 photo, the new pair's initial nesting attempt was evident. However, the new nest was not complete in time to lay eggs last year.


By May 8th, 2019, the new nest was much larger and both Osprey were actively involved. Here, the male is landing and the female is mostly hidden behind the crossbar. They traded off sitting in the nest, almost as if they were already on eggs, and the male brought the female food! (If I had the skill to accompany my posts with music, this is where I would cue in Handel's Hallelujah Chorus.)

One of the challenges, when watching four unique, and occasionally interacting Osprey, in close proximity, is trying to keep them straight. The brown necklaces on the females versus the pure white chests on the males helps distinguish them. Knowledge of their respective territories also helps but they do not always respect the invisible boundaries. 

Luckily, the markings on their foreheads are unique. Here we can see that the markings on this male's head are distinctive from the markings on Chester's head (in the following photo).

Since the male Osprey is primarily in charge of providing food for the family, and since the Steward on a ship is the officer in charge of provisions, I am suggesting we call this particular Osprey, Stewart. I certainly hope he can live up to his name and provide his mate and their future young with all the fish they require.

Chester completing his meal above UW Baseball Field - June 8th, 2019.

After Stewart landed at the IMA nest the female picked up her food and retired to a nearby tree to eat.


Luckily, the necklace on her chest has larger and darker spots when compared with Lacey's. In addition, her forehead, specifically the area between her eyes, is much lighter. The photo below helps to at least partially display these distinctions. You will find the differences are reinforced further in future photos.

Given that this female is now the only female Osprey near Union Bay who is currently incubating eggs naming her, Hope, seems like an obvious choice.

Lacey on the UBNA platform - May 9th, 2019.

Last year, occasionally a third Osprey would visit Chester and Lacey's nest. Prior to 2018, whenever an Osprey flew anywhere close to their nest it was rapidly chased away. I suspected the third Osprey was more acceptable because it may have been one of their offspring - possibly one of the three in the first photo above from 2016. 

Theoretically, it takes young Osprey two years, after their initial, first-year migration south, to mature and then return north to establish a breeding territory. I am wondering if the third Osprey, from 2018, might also be one of the new pair of Osprey who are nesting on the IMA light pole.


Last week, I saw two interactions that seemed to reinforce this idea of a family relationship. One example was when a second female approached the pair sitting on the IMA light pole. The response from the two resident Osprey was not particularly aggressive.

As the second female (I suspect it was Lacey) attempted to land on the light pole the male, somewhat reluctantly, hopped over and escorted her away from the nest. During the chase which followed it seemed like Stewart was going through the motions but not very concerned about the situation. This was all seen from a great distance so I was not able to establish the identity of the individual birds with great certainty.

Later, while Chester was eating on the northwest light pole above the UW Baseball Field (see the last Chester photo above), Hope (above) could be seen and heard begging from the northeast light pole above the same field.

This attracted the attention of Lacey, who suddenly appeared and bumped, Hope, off the light pole. Like the previous example, this interaction did not appear to be highly aggressive. It seemed more like a point was made without anyone getting hurt.

I have no doubt about the bumped female being, Hope, because of the obvious darker marks on her necklace. Lacey's motivation seemed fairly obvious. I suspect she did not want another female begging for food from her mate, especially while sitting in Lacey's territory. (Food deliveries among breeding birds are often consummated with mating.)

Finally, this photo of Lacey, immediately after the bump, clearly displays her more delicate necklace and helps to reinforce my identity assumptions. 

I find the interactions between the two pairs of birds extremely interesting. Also, I wonder why Chester and Lacey have chosen not to incubate eggs this year. If Bald Eagle harassment was the motivating factor then I would expect Chester and Lacey would relocate to a safer place and establish a new nest. However, they appear to be staying on in their UBNA territory, and apparently are defending it, at least from other Osprey. It makes me question whether the local Bald Eagles are truly the issue.

I am very curious to see if young Osprey will successfully fledge from the new IMA nest. I am excited by the prospect of Stewart providing a sufficient supply of food and I am also enthused that Chester and Lacey may provide a buffer between the new nest and the Bald Eagles who traditionally hunt above Union Bay. I also wonder if and how Chester and Lacey may interact with new youngsters from the IMA nest. I wonder if the Ospreys comprehend the concept of grandkids. Will they all be one big happy family? I sure hope so!




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Last week, one of my neighbors sent in a suggestion for a product called Birdsbesafe. It is a brightly colored cat collar which visually alerts birds to the presence of an approaching feline.

Hi Larry!

PAWS Cat City of Roosevelt in the U-District will start carrying the Birds be safe collars very soon. (Nice to buy from them. :)

Here is the link to their website: https://www.birdsbesafe.com

And I can't help but include some pics of my cats modeling them. 


Thanks!
Lynn



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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 a native or non-native plant?










Scroll down for the answer.














***************











Pacific Ninebark: You can read more about this native plant by clicking on the highlighted link.













***************




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 workaround is to set up 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






Saturday, June 8, 2019

Counting Eaglets

In early April, Marsha's vocal defense of her Montlake Cut nest seemed to imply the existence of eggs. The invisible tether which kept either her, or her mate Monty, constantly close to the nest reinforced the idea that they were defending eggs. Given the height of the nest, I am not positive when the eggs were laid, but my best guess is the last week of March.

Surprisingly, Bald Eagle eggs are not as big as one might expect. All About Birds gives the maximum length as 3.3 inches and maximum width as 2.5 inches. A large Bald Eagle egg is probably similar in volume to a professional baseball, which is just under 3 inches in diameter. 

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By the way, Why might we say that Monty and Marsha's nest is the most strategically placed eagle's nest in all of Seattle? Read on for the answer.

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It takes roughly five weeks to properly incubate Bald Eagle eggs. Which means the eaglet(s) most likely hatched out in early May. In this May 3rd photo, Marsha may be looking down at a helpless little hatchling. It is also interesting to note how the cottonwood leaves have grown and were beginning to hide the nest.

This mid-May photo shows a first glimpse of a young eaglet in the nest. Is this eaglet an only childAll About Birds states that the brood sizes can range from one to three birds. Unlike ducks, a clutch of eagle eggs does not hatch at the same time. Younger eaglets tend to be smaller and can lose out in the competition for food. In fact, they can even become food for older siblings. The parents bring lots of food and offer it freely, but the older and stronger eaglets are more aggressive and generally eat better. 

During the last week of May I caught my first sightings of multiple eaglets in the nest. Clearly, a feather transition was taking place. As the eaglets get older their initial downy white/gray feathers disappear and new darker feathers grow in. 

At the same time, the cottonwood leaves and limbs continued to grow. It felt like a curtain was being drawn around the nest. The mystery deepened. Are there just two eaglets in the nest? Could there be three?

The adults with their white heads and tails and their larger physical size are generally pretty visible in the nest. The young, on the other hand, are often invisible when resting below the rim of the nest. Many times all that can be seen of a young eaglet is a momentary flash of a dark little wing tracing an arc above the rim as the small bird twists or turns.

In this photo, the adult eagle on the right is Monty. His 'eyebrow' does not hang down over his eye. This is one of just a few photos which shows the heads of two eaglets and parts of both adults all at the same time. 

Monty's open-eyed appearance (on the right) gives him a less ferocious look, when compared with Marsha.

In the top center you get just a profile glimpse of Marsha's perpetual frown. From this angle these two eaglets appear to be fairly similar in size. When these two snap at each other it looks like a fairly, evenly-balanced sibling negotiation. Maybe they are simply focused on gaining elbow room for their growing wings.

When this eaglet stands tall the transition away from soft grey feathers becomes even more apparent. Clearly, this one is an older eaglet.

This photo was taken on the same day as the previous few photos. The question is, Do the white fuzzy feathers indicate a third younger eaglet or is this just one of the two previously seen eaglets who is uniquely illuminated so that the fuzzy feathers stand out?

When I took the photos the idea of a third eaglet did not come to mind. I am reconsidering.

The next day, I caught a few more photos. In this one there are two eaglets visible. The one on the left looks older and darker, although the shade may be a factor. The eaglet in the center still has some light downy feathering. 

Getting an accurate count of eaglets in the nest remains an unresolved mystery.

As they get older and larger the answer will become apparent. If you are the first to spot three in the tree, I would love to hear about it.

In just three months, e.g. by August 1st, the young Bald Eagles will probably have an average weight of about ten pounds. At that point, each of the eaglets should weigh more than their parent of the same gender. Males will generally weigh less then average while females usually weigh more. Between now and August the changes will be rapid, they will be putting on weight, growing flight feathers and hopefully in late July we will get to watch them exercising their wings, while bouncing around from one limb to the next, just prior to taking to the air.

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In 1916, when the Montlake Cut opened for business it rerouted the drainage of the Lake Washington Watershed. The Black River, which was the original southern outlet for the lake, dried up. When the river disappeared so did many of the native salmon runs which accessed their spawning grounds via the river and Lake Washington. You can read more details of the story by clicking on History Link

Additional salmon, and other species of fish, have since been introduced to Lake Washington. For migrating fish the only connection between the Lake Washington Watershed and the Pacific Ocean is via Montlake Cut. Young salmon, and any other migrating fish must pass through The Cut on their way out to sea and years later when they mature they must return the same way to reach their spawning grounds.

To the best of my knowledge Monty and Marsha are the first pair of eagles to locate a nest almost directly over The Cut. From their nest in the Cottonwood tree, on the Southeast corner of The Cut, they have a clear view of the water and easy access to passing fish. Their Montlake Cut nest may be the most strategically located eagle's nest in all of Seattle.

If we help salmon recover in the Lake Washington Watershed we will see life flourish in and around Union Bay. We will see the growing numbers of a wide variety of creatures. In addition to Bald Eagles a few of the other direct beneficiaries will be herons, osprey, kingfishers, cormorants, mergansers, river otters and further downstream even the Orcas would benefit. 

Changes we can encourage include improvements to Arboretum Creek (e.g. increasing water flow, removing pollutants and returning the stream to the surface) in addition someday we might also consider improving Montlake Cut. Along the edge of The Cut a protective passage could be designed to protect young outgoing salmon on their way to Puget Sound and the Pacific Ocean. It could be something similar to the work which was done along Elliot Bay. 

*******************

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 a native or non-native plant?










Scroll down for the answer.














***************











Red-osier Dogwood: You can read more about this unique dogwood by clicking on the highlighted link.











***************




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 workaround is to set up 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






Saturday, May 25, 2019

Ducklings First

 
Male Wood Ducks are one of the most beautiful birds in the world. In January, the female in this photo had the opportunity to select the suitor of her choice. 

Between January and May, priorities change for female Wood Ducks. Initially, selecting a handsome mate may be at the top of her list, but along the way egg-laying, incubating and ultimately the safety of her young becomes the top priority. On Monday, this female had clearly moved on.

Nearby carp were thrashing about and spawning in the shallow waters of Duck Bay. The noisy fish certainly looked big enough to swallow a duckling whole.

The beauty of a male Wood Duck, hanging out on a nearby log, was no longer relevant.

There was no sign of affection when the female charged the handsome male and chased him off the log.

She must have decided that the elevated perch would provide a safe haven for her young. Soon the ducklings began joining their mother. One, two, three...

 ...four, five six...

...ultimately, all seven left the water. While the early birds preened, the stragglers slowly ascended the log.

The last duckling struggled a bit trying to find an elevated opening between its siblings.

Finally, with all seven on top of the log, I suspect the hen counted them just to be sure.

However, young creatures are seldom patient and still.

Soon the ducklings were slipping and sliding back into the water.

Close by, the carp continued to splash. The threat had not gone away. Plus, the fish were not the only problem. American Crows, River Otters, Red-tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, and many others could easily make off with a duckling. 

(There are also environmental threats. For example, later in the week, I came across another female Wood Duck calling loudly from under a willow along the water's edge. For twenty minutes, she called incessantly while circling back and forth between logs, mostly hidden under the foliage. Finally, just as she and her twelve ducklings emerged into view, she quieted down. A bystander surmised that one of her ducklings must have been temporarily caught among the logs and unable to get free. The mother kept up the distress calls until all of her young could proceed together.)

On Monday, all but one of the fallen ducklings made it back to safety and then...

...finally, the last duckling circled to the far end of the log and climbed up out of the water.

In the end, when the mother felt it was safe she led her young ones away from the shallow, carp-infested waters of Duck Bay. 

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This week's post is dedicated to the half a dozen volunteers who have been rising early to watch Wood Duck boxes. Since early March, our all-inspiring hope has been to watch young ducklings as they leave the nest for the first, and only, time. Amazingly, when the ducklings are only one day old they are ready and able to climb out of their nesting cavity and fall to the surface below, regardless of the height.

The ducklings will only exit the nest if their mother calls to them. The mother hens are very secretive and careful about instigating the process. The hens only call when they feel it is safe for their young to leave the nest. This year, our team's best attempts at deducing the timing of 'wood duckling departure' did not quite succeed. However, I hope we all agree that any time spent outdoors observing nature is a positive, self-reinforcing experience which is certainly worth the investment.

Hopefully, next year our luck will improve!

By the way, it is interesting to note that our first sighting of a Wood Duck duckling last year was on May 14th. This year it was on May 13th. Nature's timing is certainly amazing!

**********

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 a native or non-native butterfly?










Scroll down for the answer.














***************











An American Painted Lady: It is native. Apparently, related Painted Lady butterflies exist in many places around the world.











***************




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 workaround is to set up 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