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

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Saturday, December 27, 2014

2014 - One Last Look

Union Bay is a special place. For thousands of years creatures have come from far and near to share in the bounty of this small little watershed. 

In the last hundred years we have polluted the water, diverted the streams into underground pipes, dropped the water level by almost 10 feet and dumped our garbage on the exposed lake bottom. We have cut down the native forest, brought in non-native species from all over the world and paved a large portion of the fertile earth surrounding the bay. 

Fighting against the trend are the efforts of the folks who:
- Capped the garbage with soil and created the Union Bay Natural Area,
- Created parks like the Arboretum and Interlaken and lately,
- Are returning native plants to places like Interlaken Park, Yesler Swamp and along the Burke-Gilman trail.
Thanks to these folks, and to the fierce, unwavering desire of native creatures to procreate, we still have unique opportunities to experience nature around Union Bay. 

Abundant nature in the city is a rare gift that provides us peace and joy in the midst of our hectic, 21st century lives. Lets take a look back at some of the beautiful creatures, with whom we share our neighborhood, and consider how intricately their lives are intertwined with our own.

In January we saw the beautiful trumpeter swans return after spending the summer having young and feeding in Alaska and northern Canada. 

In the background are buffleheads and coots who also come south to Union Bay for their winter break. You can see more of the swans, here.

We also saw double-crested cormorants. In particular, we saw Harvey, who came to Union Bay from the mouth of the Columbia River. We have cormorants year round on Union Bay, so their migration can be a bit hard to notice, but Harvey shows that they do come and go. These cormorants may look like dull birds, but they have orange faces, bright green eyes and the interior of their mouth's are light blue. You can see more about Harvey, here.

Later in the month we noticed huge flocks of wigeons among the coots. The wigeons also come south in the winter, looking for warmth and food on Union Bay.

The mallards, on the other hand, live on Union Bay year round.

Our resident bald eagles, Eva and Albert, live on Union Bay nearly year round. They leave for a month or so in August or September. Such a brief departure surely does not qualify as a migration, it seems more like a vacation. More January photos can be seen here.

In February we saw a red-tailed hawk…

…and Elvis, the pileated woodpecker. Both of these birds are year round residents just like...

…the crows, who may have adapted to our city even better than we have. See more photos here.

This yellow-rumped warbler, photographed in February, is the only warbler who is supposed to live on Union Bay year round. Although in February we were also visited by…

…a Townsend's warbler. The Townsend's is "supposed" to be a summer time visitor to Union Bay, but maybe they are extending their winter territory further to the north. 

 This week my brother photographed this one

... in the Arboretum. The dark black against the yellow makes a beautiful contrast.

Back in February, we were also visited by this palm warbler who really belonged some place much warmer. See more about the warblers, here.

This February photo of snow geese was not taken on Union Bay, but I did see one pass over Union Bay this year, which makes me wonder if in the past they wintered here. See more snow geese, here.

In March we saw this flicker, which is also a year round resident, and

…more of the larger pileated woodpecker, Elvis and his mate. You can try and pick out Priscilla, here.

We also had the chance to see one of our year-round resident Anna's hummingbirds in March. See more hummingbird photos, here.

Also in March we saw three types of wrens, two types of chickadees, a creeper and a nuthatch, all of which are year-round residents of our neighborhood. You can test your knowledge of wrens, here

We closed out March with a pictorial depiction of a Stellar's jay. I think this was the first time I really noticed the parallel light blue lines on the jay's forehead. The Stellar's is also a year round resident. You can see more, here.

In April we learned of the demise of one of the Interlaken barred owls. Even though the barred owls were not originally residents on Union Bay, they are especially welcome because of their ability to control the rats, which with human help, also arrived in Union Bay during the last century or two. You can see more owls, here.

Later in April we got the rare chance to see a Franklin's gull on the other side of the hill near Magnuson Park. This little gull usually summers in the interior of North America and seldom visits our neighborhood. You can see more, here.

This Cooper's hawk, a year-round resident, was also seen in the same post.

Later in the month we could see that spring was approaching as we watched this male downy woodpecker make a nest for his mate and their future progeny. You can see more of our year-round resident downys, here.

In the same post, our resident wood ducks seem to be feeling some spring attraction.

A week later, an immature bald eagle hunted the area around Oak Point. While the mature bald eagles are almost year-round residents the immature birds, once they leave the nest, seem to visit rather than reside on Union Bay. You can see more photos, here.

In May we saw our first new 2014 birds. While the mallards had completed the reproductive process, the downy woodpeckers were just beginning. You can see more of the downy's, here.

In the next post a white pelican was spotted flying over Union Bay. These birds are very rarely seen anywhere near Union Bay. 

The next post did not introduce any new birds, but focused on identifying native flowers. If you are up for the challenge click, here.

Toward the end of May we got to see Priscilla out of the nest and at work in the park. This may have indicated her eggs had hatched, but at this point her nesting site was unknown.

Two weeks later the nest and the young birds were found. See more photos, here.

A week later the young pileated woodpeckers had left the nest and were being pursued by this shady character. Raccoons are native residents to Union Bay. You can see more about the young birds, here.

Even though the 520 eagles and the Interlaken barred owls were unable to reproduce in 2014, the barred owls in the Arboretum were successful. This photos shows one of their four young birds learning to hunt. See more, here and in the prior post.

In early July we took a look at some earlier photos of Eva in flight.

This photo, from mid-July, was not taken on Union Bay, but near Protection Island, not far from Port Townsend. I found this surprisingly close for such exotic birds. See more, here.

Later in July, this osprey was spotted on the north side of Union Bay. Osprey are spring and summer visitors to Union Bay. They come north, from as far away as South America to feed, breed and raise their young. We suspect our resident bald eagles keep them from nesting on Union Bay, but they still come here to fish. See more, here.

Toward the end of July, this gadwall was spotted providing shade for her single remaining duckling. Gadwalls live on Union Bay year round, but many spend their summers much further north and their winters much further south, which makes me wonder if we are seeing the same or different gadwalls through out the year. See more duckling photos, here.

Early August provided this bushtit photo. These beautiful little birds live around Union Bay all year, however we are very close to the northern most point of their year round habitation. In the same post you can see rabbit, squirrel and more cooper's hawk photos.

In the next post we see the pileated woodpeckers feeding in the non-native magnolia blossoms in the Arboretum. It seems our native birds can sometimes adapt to new and exotic food sources.

Later in August, we see an osprey in action. See more, here.

As August comes to a close, we see a pacific-slope flycatcher, which is a summertime visitor to Union Bay.

In the same post we see a green heron. Unlike the great blue heron, which is the Seattle city bird, the green heron is a summer time visitor to Union Bay.

We also saw a female Kingfisher on a different branch of the same snag a few days earlier. The Kingfisher is another year-round resident of Union Bay.

September started with this up front look into the eyes of a young Cooper's hawk. See more, here.

In the next post Dan Pedersen supplied vivid photos, and the interesting story of sapsuckers that visit his place on Whidbey Island. (At this point I had not yet seen a sapsucker around Union Bay.)

Mid-September, the great blue heron was spotted in action. See more, here.

September ended with this rather mysterious photo of a crow. See more, here.

October began with my first sighting of a Wilson's snipe. While they are year-round residents, snipes are rather reclusive and difficult to spot. See more, here.

The next two posts covered this particular bird which I initially identified as a western grebe. It was then pointed out that it looked more like a Clark's grebe and later the experts seemed to come to the conclusion that it was a mix between the two. No matter its heritage, it is a very elegant bird. You can read more here and here. The western grebe is a winter visitor to Union Bay, while the Clark's grebe is very rarely seen near here.

The next post made me wonder if this hawk's idea of eating crow might be a bit more literal than the way I think of the phrase.

The month concluded with this posting of a great egret. The photo was taken in Vancouver, Washington and it would seem that Union Bay is just a bit beyond this bird's natural habitat or territory. Still, the post showed some interesting great blue heron behavior. To see more click, here.

November started out with my first photos of a northern shrike on Union Bay. The northern shrike is a winter visitor to Union Bay and it is also a predatory songbird. If you would like to find out more about this seeming contradiction click, here.

In the next post we see an American goldfinch and…

…from Whidbey Island a harlequin duck. The goldfinch is a year-round resident, while the harlequin duck would be a real surprise on Union Bay.

In mid-November we see a pair of green-winged teals. While they are considered year-round residents, they do seem more plentiful in the winter months.

The same post also showed the antics of a female northern shoveler. If you have ever wondered how she got her name, you should watch one in action. See more, here. The shoveler is also known as a year-round resident, but I do think they are easier to find in the winter as well.

The next post focuses on a red-breasted nuthatch. Another year-round resident of Union Bay.

The final post of November covers a pacific loon. This loon is a rare visitor to Union Bay. See more, here.

The male golden-crowned kinglet may be the most striking bird from December. See more, here.

This red-breasted sapsucker, on the other hand, has obviously done a lot more striking to create all the sap wells in this tree. See more, here.

While we have seen dozens of different types of birds on Union Bay in 2014, there are many, many more that have passed by unnoticed. As humanity expands into natural areas, the challenge of retaining habitat for these creatures will grow ever more intense. Hopefully, we can protect and replenish Union Bay so that it can become an even better example of humanity in harmony with nature.

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