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Sunday, October 6, 2013

520 Eagles? | Waxwing Invasion

Last Sunday was my first sighting in weeks of Eva and Albert in their nest. They have been seen in and around the nest 4 or 5 times this week.
Yesterday Albert was photographed sitting in his favorite cottonwood tree on the south shore of Union Bay.

The eagles have been "on vacation" or at least away from Union Bay and the nest for roughly 2 months. This is similar to what happened last year. No one seems to know precisely where they go. Dan Reiff suggests that many eagles go to the upper river watersheds for a couple of months. After spending 4 or 5 months tending the eggs and the eaglets in the nest it seems logical that the adults would need to get away. Still it makes one wonder, Where do they go?, Do they go to the same place every year?, Is it instinct or do they follow  a food source, like maybe salmon?

Here is one of the last photos taken towards the end of July, just before they left.
Si'ahl was the lone eaglet (and fledgling) from the Broadmoor nest this year and he looks very different from the adults. It will be four or five years before he matures and develops the white head and tail. Also similar to last year the adults returned without their young. Si'ahl may not be mature but young eagles apparently get only 4 or 5 months of coddling and then they are on their own.

One week is not an adequate sample size to say much about changes in eagle behavior. However it does seem odd to have not seen either of the adults sitting on the the 520 lamp posts this week. Not being a 520 commuter it could be I have just been missing the opportune moments or it could be that the new 520 construction is causing the eagles to avoid their old haunt. If you are a 520 commuter it would be wonderful to hear your next week's worth of 520 eagle sitings or sightings e.g. which mornings and evenings you spot the eagles on the bridge.

In the past Eva has tended to be on the bridge more often than Albert and he could often be found in the cottonwood where he was yesterday. Although there have been times when both birds were on 520 lamp posts at the same time. It will be very curious to find out if they return to sitting and hunting from 520 as they have in the past. If they don't, Will they still keep the nest? Will we still be able to call them the 520 eagles? We will just have to watch and wait to find out the answers.

On Friday Cedar Waxwings invaded a hedge (Could this be a Laurel hedge?)  along the east side of the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary. 
The waxwings are migrating south to warmer weather and looking for fruitful feasts along the way.

On Friday they found the fruit they wanted. 
The mottled coloring on the breast of this bird indicates it is an immature bird. 

The mature birds have more of a smooth yellow breast. This bird also shows one little drop of "red wax" on the wing tip. 

Seeing only a single dot of red makes one wonder if later in the fall more of these red drops will appear. (You can see more in this post from last November. Click Here In this post the Waxwings were eating Hawthorn berries in November. Which could imply that they will be hanging around Union Bay for another month or two.)

On Saturday morning dozens of Waxwings were sitting in the sun near the top of an alder tree in the Arboretum. 
How many waxwings can you see in the photo?

Every few moments one or more of the birds would fly across Foster Island Road to feed on the berries of a Black Gum Tree. The Waxwings do not seem to mind at all that this North American tree is not a native of the Northwest.
The Waxwings are not very particular about which fruit they eat, as long as the fruit is ripe and fits in their mouths. 

On Friday and Saturday a Flicker was seen hanging around the Waxwings. At one point it chased one of the Waxwings from the Gum tree back to the Alder. Maybe the Flickers are just too big to sit on twigs and pick their own fruit like the Waxwings. It must be irritating to watch the smaller Waxwings eating their fill of food that only needs to be picked.

Actually in this case with so many Waxwings feeding all at once it looks like it is raining fruit.

It has certainly been a beautiful weekend and a wonderful time for waxwings and eagles to be returning to Union Bay.

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

Larry Hubbell

PS: By the way I counted 9 Waxwings in the 8th photo.


  1. Thank you for this great information. I didn't know the eagles sometimes left the area and had been concerned I hadn't seen them for awhile. I did see an eagle I think on Monday on the north side sculpture in midmorning. We also saw one this Satuday at about 5:00. I always look forward to Saturday when you post!

    1. Thank you for the updates. Hopefully as winter progresses we will see more and more of the eagles around 520 and my worries are put to rest. Have a great week! :-)

  2. This past Saturday I did not spy either eagle on a lamppost on 52, but around 1 PM one of them was eating on a floating log north of the bridge while another one was sitting above the nest in the golf course.

    Years ago one rehabilitated young eagle released by the Zoo was outfitted with an FM transmitter. I was fortunate enough to have the shift tracking the bird when it left town and headed north (in early August while its parents stayed in town a few more days). I last had its signal at Deception Pass (north end Whidbey Island), still heading north. And yes, the theory is that many eagles head north to rivers with predictable, abundant food sources. In this case presumably instinctive behavior (heading north) will take it to abundant food (rivers with salmon runs and most likely other eagles the youngster can spot from many miles away pointing out the food source...).

    1. That is wonderful to hear. Thank you so much. I have been thinking if there is no way to put a transmitter on the adult eagles maybe I can find a unique marking which would allow us to identify the eagles when they are at a different location. No luck so far but I am still looking.

  3. Hi crows do the same thing and join big roosts in Renton and the UW. I call it the big pumpkin party. Perhaps the eagles share stories with their extended family like crows and find mates for the young. Of course I can't prove any of this yet, still working on that. R

    1. Your comments remind me of the story I read about a woman who identified the meanings of different crow calls...I wonder if the same could be done for eagles?

  4. Sometime mid last week around 3:45pm I saw BOTH of the eagles on the SAME lamp post on the bridge. It was one of their usual posts near the sculptures at the west end of the bridge. It was an amazing sight and I wish I had a picture. I've seen one or another of them on the lamp posts with increasing frequency on my evening commute over the last few weeks. It doesn't seem like the construction is bothering them (yet). When they start working on the west end approaches that might be another story.

    1. Thank you! I have heard from other sources as well that they have seen the eagles out on 520. It is looking good so far. It is certainly nice to have them back on the bay.