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

On Instagram: @unionbaywatch

Friday, May 24, 2013

Life After Eddie - Eva's New Eaglet

The new, 2013 eaglet in the Broadmoor nest still has remnants of fluffy, white "peach fuzz" on the back of its head. 
This is the second spring since Eddie the Eagles demise on the 520 bridge. This year there have been a some changes around the nest that Eddie (and Eva) built. 

For one thing Eva and Albert (Eddies replacement) have only one eaglet this year as compared to the two they raised last year. In addition this year's eaglet appears to be three or four weeks ahead of last year's schedule. The core of the eaglets new feathers can be seen protruding behind each wing like a row of parallel straws. This looks strange but it is normal.
The same thing happened last year, to the eaglets Beatrice and Eleanor, but the timing was closer to mid-June, not mid-May. Most likely the reason for this change in timing is beyond knowing, but it does make one wonder if the earlier hatching could be due to the warmer spring. On the other hand maybe the hatching was around the same time but since there is only one eaglet the growth has been accelerated. It is hard to know.

Still in 2013 more things are the same with the 520 eagles than are different from 2012. For the last few months Eva has been almost constantly at the nest. To begin with there was the mating in the nesting tree. 
Then once the eggs were laid, nearly constant warming was required and lately Eva has been at the nest protecting the eaglet as it grows.

Also like last year Albert has been doing most of the grocery runs.

By the way for the last couple of months the eagle sitting on the 520 light pole was most likely Albert, since Eva has been at the nest most of the time. During the rest of the year, when Eva is not nesting, she is more likely to be the one on the 520 light pole and Albert gets relegated to one of the cottonwood trees along the shore. Female eagles on average weigh about 50% more than the males, so they tend to get their choice when it comes to hunting spots, how the nest is built and who gets to eat first. Since the male birds are smaller it seems logical to assume that they may be the more agile hunters. Since Albert is the primary provider, when the family is in the nest, it seems appropriate that he should be very good at finding food. 

Last year Albert caught a gull for dinner (read the story here). 
Even though he stopped to rest on the way back to the nest, he did not take a single bite to eat. As a matter of fact it seems that all the food that he brings to the nest seems to be fresh and whole. Usually the diet seems to be fish, fish and more fish. Once the food reaches the nest Eva immediately takes over. Whether it is removing feathers or strips of meat she is the one who begins the food preparation. 
Then she feeds the eaglet, herself and then finally Albert gets a turn. quite often Albert simply leaves the nest without even eating. He just heads out to find more food.

Folks quite often ask how they can tell Eva and Albert apart. It is fairly easy when they are side by side, since Eva is clearly larger. However if the two birds are not together the challenge is considerably more difficult. Unlike our local pileated woodpeckers there are no obvious color differences between the mature, male and female eagles. 

The only clue that maybe seems to work for me is comparing the diameter of the eye to the distance from the top of the eye to the top of the head. Admittedly this distance can change depending on how the feathers are laying. However in general it seems that for Eva the top of the head is often slightly greater than 1 eyes distance away, while for Albert this distance is usually less than or equal to the diameter of an eye. Still these two photos of the same eagle, taken last month in Interlaken Park, show that this method is not clear cut and cannot be used if the feathers are ruffled.

Still I do think this is Albert.

Last year's initial post about Eva and Albert's first set of eaglets was titled, Life after Eddie. Just like last year once again there is new life, and hope for the future, in the nest that Eddie built.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Cavity Nesters of Hazel Wolf Wetland

Ted Burris at Hazel Wolf Wetland

Before you read any further you should check out this video link to a Wood Duck nesting box in near Richland, Washington, the link was forwarded by Ted Burris.


The young ducklings have just hatched and are expected to leave the nest in the first day or so. Inside the nesting box are at least 9 ducklings. They can quite often be seen crawling around, under and over their mother. 

Update:  The young, Richland Wood Ducks have left the nest. They used the little claws on their feet to climb the wooden walls of the nest and one after the other hopped out into the world. Hopefully, the video will be repeated.

We are lucky to have multiple nesting boxes like this on Union Bay. In particular the one just S.E. of Foster Island is active and the eggs in that box should be hatching at anytime. (You can see proof of nesting on the video link in the Young Love post.) So not only is this Richland video fun to see but it is a great example of what to watch for on Foster Island.

This story began in March with the publication of the Ducks in Trees? post. Ted Burris saw the post, contacted me and graciously offered to take me along when he and Jim Nicholson did their spring check of their nesting boxes and cameras at the Hazel Wolf Wetland. 

Jim Nicholson at Hazel Wolf Wetland

Ted and Jim donate their time, funds and considerable effort to creating and maintaining nearly 50 nesting boxes. They do this work for a number of reasons:
  • They provide cavity nesting birds, like Wood Ducks and Mergansers, with places to reproduce. In nature the major source of nesting cavities of similar size results primarily from the work of the Pileated Woodpecker.
  • They take local high school students out to introduce them to the wonder of cavity nesting birds and their eggs.
  • They are providing input to scientists who are trying to determine if the "camo" on the nesting boxes reduces the number of eggs that are abandoned.
A couple of weeks ago the time arrived and I got the chance to see this operation in action.

This box was inhabited by the female merganser and her in-process, eggs.

As we worked our way around the wetland, Jim carried the ladder the whole way, there were repairs to be made to boxes,

 adjustments to cameras needed 

and beautiful flowers, trees and birds to be seen along the way.

Some boxes contained live birds and eggs and some did not. 

In this next case all but one of the eggs from last year hatched successfully and this single Wood Duck egg never realized its potential.

Ted and Jim told a number of interesting stories as we circled the wetlands. From the bear that was captured on film as it inspected one of the nesting boxes, wanting eggs for breakfast no doubt, to the stories of high school students developing a life long love of nature as they learn about what really happens in the wetlands.

If you would like to learn more here are two links to pages that Ted maintains about their work.

Volunteers like Ted and Jim deserve our respect for all the hard work they do to help nature perserver and even thrive in a world of human-induced changes.

Thank you both!


PS: Time to go. I don't know about you but I am heading out to Foster Island hoping to see our local Wood Duck Ducklings as they leave the nest. From watching the live feed above I know this will be a very quick process. So if you are the lucky one who actually sees the process please leave a comment below or send in photos if you are very lucky. Thank you!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

A Mother's Love - Goslings +

A Mother's Love is unconditional... 
...no matter which direction the children wander...

...to the left ...

...or to the right.

On the land..

...or on the "sea"...

...or in the air.
O.K. so maybe the last photo is a bit of a reach for those "winglets", but you have to give the Gosling an "A" for effort.

The best guess on the age of these goslings is about one week. Two weeks ago a Canada Goose was photographed nesting on the 520 bridge structure immediately north of the Arboretum where these birds are consistently seen.

On Friday the nest was empty except for some feathers. While these gosling may not be from that particular nest, given their size, the timing seems likely.

In formation...

...or taking a little rest...

...and relaxation the mothering instinct is so strong they are never alone.

Someone mentioned, shouldn't there be a second parent watching out for the goslings. If you take a look at the fourth photo from the post one year ago ( Click here to see ) both parents are clearly in attendance.

It would be interesting to know which is the usual situation, one parent or two. Cornell gives more information, like  the parents can have a wingspan of over 5 feet and weight can be nearly 20 lbs, but it does not address the issue of how long the male bird hangs around. If anyone visiting the Arboretum sees the second parent feel free to leave a comment below.

One thing seems certain there is no question about the Mother's love and devotion.

Happy Mother's Day to one and all...and in particular to my own mother and to the mother of my children! Thank you, both!!


Some parting shots:

A gosling through the leaves.

With this mallard family, also seen this week in the Arboretum, there is no question about whether both parents are involved. Did you see the ducklings on shore?

A short time later they trailed just a bit behind the parents.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Nesting in progress: Start vs Finish

Yesterday, while passing by the first dead tree east of Elvis's Chinese Empress, it was impossible to ignore the incessant cries of this bird.
In a just a few moments it became obvious there was a nest in the tree and more than one bird involved. The initial assumption was that the noisy bird was a fledgling that had just recently learned to fly, had not yet figured out how to find its own food and was crying for its parents to bring it food. However further research at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology brought a number of surprises to light.

First of all juvenile Red-Breasted Nuthatches (RBN), unlike adults, have yellow on their beaks. 
So this loud little bird is an adult not a young nestling who has just learned to fly. Another surprise was to see this busy little bird carry wood chips out of the nest in a manner very similar to a Pileated Woodpecker or a Flicker. In this video the wood chips are rather small and towards the beginning.

Nest Building Video 

Again the first assumption, e.g. that this bird had taken over a nesting hole created by a Downy Woodpecker, was wrong. Not only does Cornell state that these birds excavate their own nests but in addition they place resin around the nesting hole to deter other birds from entering their nest.

Since the Nuthatch feeds on small creatures that it finds in the nooks, crannies and crevices of the tree it needs the strength to go after the food from any direction. If you glance back at the first photo and take a look at the feet of the RBN you will notice not only are they huge for the body size but the single rearward facing claw is very large. This allows the bird to easily perch at any angle.

In addition RBNs need the ability to watch for danger and look into the dark crevices at virtually the same time without loosing their balance. Their extremely short necks allow them to shift their direction of focus without a great change in the distribution of their body weight. This along with their speed makes it seem like they can almost look in two directions at once. (Technically, with eyes on both sides of their heads they actually can look in two directions at once.)

So if you happen to stop by the Arboretum and walk towards Foster Island watch for the active little RBNs and their nest. 

They can be rather hard to see if you are not watching closely, for example did you miss the bird in the previous photo?

On the other hand if you listen for the sound of the Nuthatch you are far more likely to find the source of the call. My best guess at this point is that the RBN was singing out to proclaim its territory. Here is a prime example:

So hopefully this pair of RBNs is just starting the nesting process. It will be wonderful to watch and see if they produce a young bird with yellow on the underside of its beak.

5/15/13 Update  

Ellen's comment below inspired me to listen to the RBN calls or Cornell. My best guess is that the call in the previous video is a territorial call. If you would like to check out the calls for yourself here is the link:

Update from Bill Anderson:

Good shots.  The red-breasted nuthatch is one of my favorite little bitty birds.   The ones at my feeder are very picky and toss away sunflower seeds like frisbees.  The prefer peanuts and hide them in the crevices of the rough bark of my Doug firs.


Thank you Bill for the very lively and vivid description.


I hope to run into you somewhere near Union Bay while observing the beauty and wonder of nature. If you need encouragement to get out and about take a look at the Odds and Edds for a few highlights from the last week.

Larry Hubbell

Odds and Ends:

On my way back from the Nuthatch nest, a Downy Woodpecker stopped to inspect holes in the dead tree just to the west of the Chinese Empress. (By the way the folks at the Arboretum have completed the modifications to the Empress just as described in this earlier post about Danger in the Park.)
Note the freshly-cut, wood glow inside the lower hole which makes one think this is a fresh nesting spot that could bear watching closer.

However the Downy has a different point of view.

Earlier this week I saw my first Pied-Billed Grebe nest (with an egg exposed) and watched two Pileated Woodpeckers mating. I couldn't get a close enough to determine if the male was Elvis, but in any case it is good to see Pileated Woodpeckers around the Arboretum area.

The Broadmoor eagles continue to be very protective and attentive to their egg(s). As the sun was setting last night the parent on the nest had its mouth open and its tongue hanging out and the temperature hasn't even reached 80 degrees yet. Parenting can be hard work.

I also got photos of a Bald Eagle sitting above the Barred Owl nest in Interlaken Park this week. 
Neighbors had reported the eagles were harassing the owls. However the next night I saw one of the Barred Owls and heard both of them calling, so hopefully their nesting was not disturbed too much. (By the way: To the woman who was taking photos at the same time I was if you send me an email describing what you lost on the trail I will tell you where to find them.)

The Union Bay area is full of nests and lots of potential for the future.