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

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Saturday, November 30, 2013

Ripples of Power

On Monday, not too long after dawn, cormorants were on standby near the Waterfront Activities Center, waiting for the power of the sun to penetrate the fog.

A few birds did venture down to wait, on the "Apple-Cup" buoys, hoping for enough light to begin hunting for breakfast.

Nearby a bufflehead water-walked its way to flight and safety.

Wigeons huddled together as the weight of the fog on the water seemed to make waves nearly impossible.

Commuters were also on standby as they waited for President Obama and his entourage to reach the airport.

The sun, looking more like the moon, seemed mystified by the baffling clouds. The swans and the bittern that were sighted on Sunday were no where to be seen and the lack of sunlight was not exactly a photographer's dream. I paddled on feeling almost like the only human in the world. 

While a gull bathed nearby the quiet of nature bathed me in peace.

Eva tried to survey her domain no doubt frustrated that the fog was inhibiting her search for breakfast.

Momentary shafts of sunlight illuminate the dried cattails near Yesler Swamp,...

... a cottonwood at the Union Bay Natural Area and most likely some wigeons as well.

Faster than the camera could focus Eva headed north across the bay. She made a single pass across the surface of the water before turning south. It took her less effort and time to pickup breakfast than it would take for you to go get an egg McMuffin.
Eva landing on the log boom, where cormorants often dry their wings, with what looks to have been a wigeon. 

Before she can take a bite a pirate, possibly The Pirate from Kingfisher Cove, attempts to scare her away from her food. Eva flaps her wings once and the hawk decides to look for an easier meal. It makes one wonder, What the hawk was thinking? Possibly the hawk has a habit of scaring the cormorants, that often use this log, away from their fish. Apparently that concept does not scale up to large female eagles.

While Eva eats Albert nonchalantly waits near by. It would seem the pecking order on Union Bay is clear. Eva being fifty percent heavier than Albert is at the top.

However in less than 10 minutes Eva was full enough to allow Albert a turn.

Still power has its prerogatives and Eva takes along a choice morsel for desert.

A few minutes later a crow shows up. Being smarter than the hawk the crow simply gets in line to wait its turn.

As Albert moves away to inspect what else Eva has left behind the crow is rewarded for its patience.

Albert and Eva appear appropriately thankful after their meal. Clearly the Union Bay power pyramid starts with Eva, then Albert, the Pirate, the cormorants, the crows and some where near the bottom are the wigeons and the fish.

It gave me pause to compare Eva, the most powerful bird on Union Bay, to President Obama, the most powerful person on the planet. What Eva wants she simply takes. On the other hand on Sunday President Obama crossed over Union Bay and the worst thing we had to fear, was being stuck in traffic. It certainly makes one thankful for democracy.

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


PS: By the way in January the UW Botanical Gardens (by the Union Bay Natural Area) will be hosting my first solo art show at the Miller Library. There will be photos, paintings and a few sculptures. There will also be additional, unpublished eagle photos from this kayak trip as well.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Patriots, Pilgrims & Perennials

As we approach Thanksgiving some birds have left Union Bay for the winter, some are new arrivals and some have been here all year round. Do you know which are which? This week's challenge is to look at each of the photos and decide if the bird is likely to be seen on The Fourth of July, on Thanksgiving Day or both. To help with your classification you can sort the birds into three groups:
        • Patriots. 
        • Pilgrims &
        • Perennials. 
Note: Because the independent minded bird can be seen anywhere at anytime there could be exceptions when a Pilgrim was seen on July 4th or a Patriot on Thanksgiving Day. However in this quiz we are looking for the patterns not the exceptions. Good Luck! 

A Female Gadwall with her Chicks:

A Young Barn Swallow:

 A Male Wood Duck:

Male Hooded Merganser:

Eurasian Wigeon:

Ruby-Crowned Kinglet:

White-Crowned Sparrow:

Golden-Crowned Kinglet:


Cliff Swallow at the Nest:

Northern Pintail:

Male Red-Winged Blackbird:

American Crow:

Female Pileated Woodpecker:

Male Northern Flicker:

Male Downy Woodpecker near the Nest:

Trumpeter Swans (and maybe Tundra too):

Male Common Mergansers:

Bald Eagles (Eva and Albert at the Nest):


Peregrine Falcon:
(Thank you to Tom Talbott Jr for the use of this photo and to Barbara Deihl for arranging permission.) 

Canada Goose with Goslings:

Tree Swallows:

Male Northern Shoveler:

The Answers:

Gadwall - Perennial
Barn Swallow - Patriot
Wood Duck - Perennial
Hooded Merganser - Pilgrim
Eurasian Wigeon - Pilgrim
Ruby-Crowned Kinglet - Pilgrim
White-Crowned Sparrow - Perennial
Golden-Crowned Kinglet - Pilgrim (Not a sparrow)*
Flycatcher - Patriot, A reader* suggested this might be a Western Wood-Pewee (it would still be a summer time bird). Apparently I am still learning the differences between these birds. The Pewee looks browner while the flycatchers are more greenish. I apologize for not being conclusive on this one.
Cliff Swallow - Patriot
Northern Pintail - Pilgrim
Red-Winged Blackbird - Perennial
American Crow - Perennial
Pileated Woodpecker - Perennial (It has been a couple months since my last siting.)
Northern Flicker - Perennial
Downy Woodpecker - Perennial
Trumpeter Swan - Pilgrim
Common Mergansers - Pilgrim
Bald Eagles - Perennial (However they do seem to take vacations.) 
Osprey - Patriot
Peregrine Falcon - Perennial (Not a Merlin)*
Canada Goose - Perennial
Tree Swallow: Patriot
Northern Shoveler - Pilgrim

Patriots = 5
Perennial = 11
Pilgrims = 8

The Pilgrims are highlighted to help remind you that these are newly arriving birds you may currently be able to find. In spite of the freezing temperatures at night these "pilgrims" have come south to enjoy our nice warm winter weather.

*Thank you to Harsi Parker for catching my oversights!

I hope you have enjoyed the challenge. Have a great day on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city!


PS: By the way Connie Sidles sent an email to say she has published a new book "Fill of Joy" which could make a nice Christmas gift. You can find out more at her website:

Saturday, November 16, 2013

In The Balance

This turtle seemed to want to remind us of how precariously we are balanced. It is now our actions that determine the fate of life on this planet.

Some creatures strike a chord in hearts...
...and make us fiercely protective.

Some strike a more humorous note.

Some more common creatures we take for granted and generally just ignore them. Can you guess what bird this is?

If we stop and pay attention we see that even the common creatures can have moments of beauty and elegance. Life is beauty. I would guess that ninety five percent of art attempts to reflect the beauty of life.

The last two photos were a Canada Goose and an American Coot. Honestly, I seldom take a second look at either one. But when the sun came out on Monday both birds took the opportunity to preen a bit and they each had some moments.
As the coot stretched not only was it elegantly balanced...

...but you could also see that its foot is lobed instead of webbed.

Here are a couple more shots of the coot.

But it is was the Canada Geese that were truly the "Bathing Beauties".

Twisting and turning they churned up the water. 

They even turned themselves upside down (or downside up) while attempting to clean all the right spots.
(This photo provides an easy view of how a webbed foot is different from the lobbed foot of the coot.)

While the splashing and thrashing was fun it was actually the drying of the wings that showed off the majesty of the Canada Geese..

This goose looks a bit like it is conducting a symphony, don't you think?

Particularly in the dark days of November appreciating the beauty of life should help inspire us to protect and nurture. Someday our children will thank us for the life and beauty we save.


PS: My friend Laurence took some interesting goose photos while in Kauai. If you would like to compare the Canada Goose to the Hawaiian Nene, Click Here.