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

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Friday, July 15, 2016

Something to Celebrate!

For the first time in decades, and quite possibly in over a hundred years, there are young Osprey in a nest on Union Bay! Under time pressure and against the odds Chester and Lacey have produced three beautiful young chicks. Chester is the male with extended wings while Lacey, the female, is the larger bird who is ducking down on the left.

Connie Sidles (Master Birder and renown Union Bay Author) says that while she has been birding Union Bay, since 1982, she has never before seen an osprey nest here. She also looked up an account in the 1951 book "Union Bay: Life of a City Marsh". The book relayed an earlier story about an osprey nest in Union Bay being shot up, presumably by fishermen, during a time when Seattle was growing rapidly. Connie guessed that the most likely time frame for the incident was between 1900 and 1915, which implies that it may have been a hundred years or more since osprey where allowed to nest on Union Bay. Either way, it has been a very long time and hopefully this nest full of young osprey is a sign of a growing harmony with nature.

The parents have had a challenging spring. Their first nesting attempt was dismantled, just before they could lay eggs, because the light pole location which was deemed unhealthy for the UW baseball fans. 

At the last possible moment the osprey finally decided to use the new platform and pole, graciously paid for by the UW Athletic department, built by Jim Kaiser from Osprey Solutions and located in the Union Bay Natural Area. A special thanks to Fred Hoyt and David Zuckerman for accepting the nesting platform into the UW Botanical Gardens. 

Due to the abrupt, last minute decision, the osprey did not get much of a nest built. Now, even while young are wandering about the nest, they are still building.

Chester brings in the lumber.

Lacey, who actually spends more time in the nest, takes over the actual renovations. Chester's name comes from the fact that he has a pure, white chest.

I suspect their current nest building goal is primarily to erect guard rails. 

When you look at the skinny, flightless wings of their young it is easy to see why keeping them in the nest is critical.

Just like with humans the young mimic their parents. 

Lacey notices another issue.

She springs forward and makes an adjustment. 

Lacey's name comes from the fact that females often have a necklace of brown speckles across their chests. You may also want to note the dark brown shape on her forehead.

The markings on Chester's forehead shows a bit more white than Lacey's and a slightly different shape. I do not believe the forehead markings relate to differences between males and females. I am wondering if they might be like fingerprints among humans and turn out to be unique among individual osprey.

After suppling food for the family Chester went out and got his own lunch.

While Chester was attempting to eat, this third osprey approached the nest. It did not take Chester long to react. 

Note: This is a good opportunity to note that mature osprey have yellow irises.

Chester grabbed his lunch and gave chase. The intruder was soon sent on its way. 

In this photo of Chester you can see another feature that, at least currently, makes him easier to identify. The third primary from the front (P8) on his left wing is only halfway grown-in. Unlike mallards, osprey do not lose all their flight feathers at once. This means that osprey are able to fly and fish everyday, all-year-round and do not have to go through a annual, flightless-stage.

You can see a similar situation regarding Lacey's first primary (P10) and two of her middle retrices or tail feathers, which are not fully grown-in.

So now that you have had a chance to get to know our two adult Osprey, Can you tell whether this is Lacey or Chester? It is pretty obvious when you look at those tail feathers, isn't it.

When the sun comes out Lacey often moves to the south side of the nest. If you look close you can see that she has her wings slightly extended. 

This mantling is usually done to protect something. In this case I believe she is protecting the young from the heat of the sun.

There are however other issues of protection. Approximately once an hour, one of the local bald eagles from the Talaris' nest flew across Union Bay, while I watched. Even though the eagles were not flying directly toward the the osprey nest, one or both of the osprey immediately sprung into action. 

Chester gets the upper hand and dives toward the larger eagle. The eagle rolled over in  mid-air and exposed its talons. Even though the eagle is the dominant bird each time it moved on and left the osprey alone.

During the next few months there are a lots of questions that will get answered. 
  1. Will the osprey be able to successfully raise their young and defend their nest from the larger more dominant eagles? 
  2. Will the irises of the young osprey's eyes turn a bright orangish-red as they grow? Some times they just turn brown, before ultimately turning yellow like the adults. 
  3. Will there be enough food to feed all three young birds? Often only two survive. 
  4. Will all the young birds successfully learn to fly? Fledging can be the most dangerous time in a birds life. 
  5. Will the young birds spend the winter in Seattle or migrate south like their parents? 
After a hundred years young osprey are growing up on Union Bay and it is certainly something to celebrate, however, it is just the beginning. It is the beginning for the young birds and the challenges they must face. It is also a beginning for us - Union Bay residents. We have made a step in the right direction, but we still have many opportunities in front of us, if we want to truly live in harmony with nature.

Have a great day on Union Bay...where once again osprey nest in the city!


A Little Osprey History:

2016 - May - Osprey Update - Nest Building

2016 - May - The Aerie Life - Platform Accepted (Scroll Down in the Post)

2016 - April - A Symbiotic Hope - Lightpole Nest Rejected

2016 - April - Dancing With Osprey - Platform Rejected

2015 - June - Development - Platform Approved (Scroll Down in the Post)

2015 - May - Opportunity Knocks - Platform Suggested


  1. We had the pleasure of watching the male fish for his family this past Sunday while we took a break on our paddleboards. The male took quite the amazing dives before heading back and forth to the nest with his catch. Thanks for the post! Without it, I would not have positively identified the osprey!

    1. Excellent! I would love to catch a photo of Chester or Lacey diving in and catching a fish. I suspect it will take a lot of luck and a lot of hard work too. Congratulations on being there to see the process!