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

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Si'ahl : Fledgling 520 Eagle - Learning Patience

Fortunately for us Si'ahl appears to like the neighborhood. Friday morning as the sun rose Si'ahl sat, for a short while, in a tree just south of 520 along the north shore of Madison Park.

For the last week the fledgling Bald Eagle, from the Broadmoor nest, has spent a good deal of time on the south side Union Bay. This is a refreshing change from last year when Beatricethe older eaglet, apparently left the area as soon as she could fly. 

Last Sunday morning Si'ahl spent some time surveying Union Bay from the cottonwood tree on the north side of Foster Island.

It was interesting to see, when Si'ahl looked toward the nest and prepared to leave Foster Island, the variegated mixture of light and dark feathers under the wing and along the side of the body.

On Monday evening Si'ahl settled down and silently watched the setting sun from the nesting tree.

On Wednesday evening Si'ahl and Albert sat in Albert's favorite tree just south of 520. The tree is roughly a hundred yards east of the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary along the north shore of the Madison Park.

Although Bald Eagles are undoubtedly the strongest birds around Union Bay they are not the fastest or the most agile. In fact their eye sight is at least as important and useful to them as their strength. Whether they are on a 520 light pole, in one of the trees along the shore or riding the thermals high over head the adult eagles are always watching. This is their most common approach to hunting. 

None of these methods of hunting require much energy but they do require vision. Sooner of later the eagles spot an opportunity. Using gravity to increase their speed they swoop down on the unsuspecting fish or fowl. Sometimes they swoop down on both at once. In which case they generally use intimidation to take the fish away from the bird that just caught it. But in either case it is their eye sight that allows them to spot these opportunities.

Their eye sight and strength are gifts that they are given. On the other hand having the patience to make use of these abilities appears to be a skill that must be learned. On Wednesday evening at sunset Albert sat silently demonstrating patience. Si'ahl, sitting close by, appeared completely oblivious to the lesson. 
Si'ahl was making a nearly constant, short, soft call. It was not the urgent "feed me" call that is made when food is near by and it was not the musical trilling that the adults sometimes use as a greeting. The soft, insistent call seemed strikingly similar to a bored teenager humming and tapping their fingers while waiting for their parents finish a phone call, get ready to leave the house or to simply get to the point.

Finally when the youthful energy could no longer be contained Si'ahl began walking the branch... 

...with of course some wing flapping to maintain balance.

Ultimately even this was not enough movement and Si'ahl burst out of the tree, circled a few times and then headed north across Union Bay.

It is fortunate that Si'ahl has patient parents. For now Eva and Albert are bringing food to Si'ahl. This is good because Si'ahl's  constant noise and movement will not allow many opportunities to sneak up on prey. However Si'ahl has the rest of summer and most likely into the fall to learn patience, hunting skills and how to be self-sustaining. Winter will be the ultimate test.

The situation is similar in someways to what we face. Much like Si'ahl depending on parental support our society depends on resources that may not be available in the future. In the Northwest we are lucky to use hydropower, but for 90 percent of the nation this is not the case and most of us do not use hydropower to run our automobiles. Hopefully, watching Si'ahl will remind us that our society is just a fledgling as well. When our society becomes truly self-sustaining it will have reached the first stage of maturity.

In any case we are very lucky that  Si'ahl has remained around Union Bay where we can watch the process and see the growth

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


Odds and Ends:

Here are a few bonus shots of what Si'ahl was missing while making all the noise.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Fort Worden and The Ancient Eagle?

The sun rising over Admiralty Inlet on Tuesday. 

Visiting Fort Worden, which is strategically located where the Strait of Juan de Fuca meets Puget Sound, has been an annual excursion for our family and friends for over 20 years. During the last century Fort Worden has evolved from a place of great destructive power to a state park where nature is preserved in the forest and the water. In particular the Marine Science Center (MSC) has many special creatures to view.

However it was the wildlife outside the MSC that was most impressive. For example follow the link below to see a rather surprising jellyfish. Can you guess what it is called?

Jellyfish video!

In 1992 boxes were installed under the Marine Science Center to provide homes for Pigeon Guillemots. 
By studying these birds scientists are learning about the health of Puget Sound. 

Photographically, the most curious thing about these birds is their mouths. The inside glows as if they have a fire in their belly.

While boaters were out on the water fishing for King Salmon this Kingfisher was back at the dock looking for smaller "fish to fry".

These gulls take a different approach to fishing.

Diving Gulls

Still the most impressive, but somewhat awkward, creature around the dock was this young Bald Eagle. It takes as many as five years for a Bald Eagle to mature and this one is most likely somewhere in the middle of that process.

Not all the wild creatures around Fort Worden are found near the water.

Still the most compelling story from Fort Worden may be about the nesting pair of Bald Eagles. Last year this eagle was photographed in a tree top over looking the Strait while its mate was tending to the egg or eggs in the nest. Neighbors living just west of the park told how the male eagle did not appear to be bringing the usual quantity of food to the nest.
Note: In the photo above the eagle appears to be using its nictitating membranes to moisten its eyes. The wind along the Strait can be rather brisk and whisk away the moisture.

Given the neighbor's eagle observations the first thought was that maybe the male eagle was experiencing an age related slow down. Bald Eagles, which mate for life, can live for over 25 years in the wild. Is this what an old eagle would look like?

This year when I returned to check on the nest another neighbor explained that about 2 to 3 months ago the nesting tree broke and the nest fell.  She said the nest seemed to disintegrate on impact. She also mentioned hearing a distraught eagle making mournful cries near the nesting site in the days afterwords.

While searching the area for any sign of the pair only one mature eagle was found.

This eagle was seen daily and it appeared to be patrolling the waterfront along the Strait between the nesting site and Point Wilson. Initially, from the right side, it appeared healthy and normal. However seeing the bird from the other other side brought a number of questions to mind.

How was this bird injured? Was it defending its territory from a younger bird? Was it sitting in the nest when it fell? Do the scars on the beak and the heavy discoloration of the facial feathers imply this is an elderly eagle? Is this the male from last year? If so, after the poor support and the loss of the nest, has the female given up on the idea of mating for life? If the female does return will they build another nest next year? Will the nest be in the same territory? On the other hand, Is this the female that might have been in the nest when it fell? If it is the female where is the male bird? 

If during the next year, you should happen to find yourself walking the northern beach at Fort Worden, please watch for a pair of mature Bald Eagles building a nest. You might consider bringing your binoculars so you can spot the "Ancient Eagle" (look for the scars on the left side of the beak). One thing is for sure this bird should be easy to identify when we see it in the future.

Have a great day on Union Bay..or if you should stray have a great day at Fort Worden!


Saturday, July 13, 2013

The Eaglet Flies - What's Next?

In only 2 to 3 months Eva's eaglet has grown to its mature size and now learned to fly.

The last two mornings as the sun rises the fledgling was seen flying in circles around the nest that Eddie built in the Broadmoor Golf Course. It was almost as if you could hear the cries, "Hey, Mom look at me! I can fly...

I can fly!"

There is no longer any doubt Eva and Albert's young eaglet has fledged!

Last year Si'ahl was one of the names suggested for the 2012 eaglets. Chief Si'ahl was the chief of the Duwamish people and the person for who the city of Seattle was named. Naming this year's bird Si'ahl links it to a strong and peaceful leader in a time of great change. It also links the bird to the native people who historically lived here in an environmentally sustainable fashion. Finally, it links the bird to all of us who live in the current and future city of Seattle. The hope is that this young eagle will be a living symbol to remind us of our past and challenge us to consider our future.

Even though Si'ahl has learned to fly and is as large as its parents the fledgling is not yet as mature as its parents. This morning the youthful Si'ahl seemed to be trying to figure out its role in the world. Si'ahl spent a great deal of effort attacking..

..the top of the nesting tree.

After a few miscues..

Si'ahl succeeded in catching and retaining a fir cone.

However the process of actually eating the seeds turned out to be a bit of a sticky wicket, so to speak.

Si'ahl ultimately gave up on trying to be the world's largest Pine Siskin and was last seen heading north toward Union Bay. Hopefully, in search of the more appropriate fish or fowl.

By the way as you may have noticed in the video Si'ahl has a white spot in the middle of the chest. This mark may help make identification a bit easier at least until this set of feathers grows out.

Si'ahl and the city of Seattle have a lot in common. They are both relatively young and still figuring who they will be when they grow up. Compared to other cities like Rome, Istanbul, London and even New York, Seattle is just a fledgling. We in Seattle have choices to make about the future. Like Si'ahl we have great potential. We could show the world what it means to be a world-class, 21st-century city. The University of Washington could continue to lead the way in finding sustainable technologies. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation looks set to help the world attain new levels of health, education and food production. Starbucks appears to be focused on making a profit while still being socially and environmentally conscious. The Bullitt Foundation's new building clearly sets the bar for 21st-century construction. We have the potential to set new standards in environmentally friendly transportation. We also have the potential to develop Union Bay into a world-class example of nature co-existing in a modern city. Imagine eagles, the grandchildren of Si'ahl, feeding on salmon in the Arboretum and Ravenna Creeks, just like his predecessors did in the past.  When you see Si'ahl or his parents on the 520 light poles take a moment to consider the future of our city and Union Bay.

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


PS: A very heartfelt, "Thank You!" to Mike Anderson for the pruning, that dramatically increased the visibility and made many of these photos possible! 

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Spirits of Independence - In an Interdependent World

Eva and Albert's newest offspring is eating its way to independence.

Last night one of the parents brought a bird to the nest for dinner. The parent deposited the food and was quickly chased away by the soon-to-be, fledgling.

The young bird spent an hour eating last night and early this morning when a fish was provided the eaglet was ready to eat some more.

The young bird looks larger than Albert and maybe even bigger the Eva too. The struggle between the young bird's spirit of independence, while it remains completely dependent on its parents, is a classic example of the difficulties of the maturation process for eagles and humans as well.

This video shows the eaglet working to prepare for its first flight.


This weeks post only includes photos taken near Union Bay in the last 24 hours. These are just a few examples of how nature surrounds us, even in the city. All of these creatures are independent and yet just like us they are all interdependent on the web of life that is nature.

This gosling and family were just west of Foster Island yesterday afternoon.

This mallard duckling and its mother were just east of Foster Island.

It is interesting to compare the mallard duckling with this wood duck duckling that was near Beaver Lodge Sanctuary this morning. They are subtly different but it might be hard to pick them out if you saw them without their mothers. (Did you note the dark triangle in front of the mallard duckling's eye?)

While photographing the eaglet this young raccoon tried to sneak across the street.

While photographing the wood ducks this belted kingfisher landed nearby.
The Cornell Lab of Ornithology shows the male kingfisher as having one blue belt across the chest while the female has a blue and a brown belt. (You can see the photos here.) Curiously, this bird has a single brown belt. Possibly it is a young male whose belt is just starting to turn blue. 

Just below the Kingfisher a bumble bee was working these blossoms.

Duckling Challenge:

Watch the following video and see if you can determine which type of duckling you are seeing. It is one of the two types you saw earlier. 

Click HERE to see The Hungry Duckling.

There is a hint in the video as well.

Our houses, offices and cars insulate us from the natural world and make us feel independent. If that is not enough insulation many folks wear earbuds while jogging around Union Bay. I hope these photos and videos inspire you to observe, listen and enjoy nature. Every cell in our bodies is part of nature and our survival is one hundred percent dependent on the natural world. This week's survival suggestion, "Move electrons, not molecules".

Here is a quick little "Good-Bye" video:

Click HERE.

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