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

On Instagram: @unionbaywatch

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Monty, Marsha and...

Is this Monty or Marsha?

If you have not seen last month's post regarding the new pair of Bald Eagles in Montlake, you may want to take a moment to catch up. The post was titled, New Neighbors. Click on the green highlighted title if you would like to see how they built their new nest in Montlake.

I must admit, I have paid significantly less attention to my old favorite eagle pair, Eva and Albert, since Monty and Marsha built their nest quite close to my home. This week I just happened to notice that Eva and Albert have not two but three healthy-looking eaglets in their nest. 

As luck would have it, Peter Reshetniak, President of Raptor Education Foundationsent me a link to his beautiful video which documents that Eva and Albert have three young in their Broadmoor nest. Click Here to watch his wonderful update.

Identifying individual eagles might seem frivolous, but my assumption is that to truly appreciate and learn about our new neighbors we must first figure out how we can recognize them. 

In the earlier post regarding Marsha and Monty I mentioned noticing a difference in their 'eyebrows'. I have tried for years to see physical differences in Eva and Albert, other than size, but I have never felt very secure in identifying them. This could be partially due to the height of their nest. Even with closer access to Monty and Marsha's nest my progress has been a slow and humbling process, but I think I am finally making headway.

In this photo from January, the smaller Monty is sitting in front. Clearly, he has less of an overhang above his eye. Marsha's 'eyebrow' hangs down above and slightly in front of her eye. If you look back at the first two photos in this post, which were taken in late May, you can clearly see Marsha's distinctive eyebrow. The fact that the difference has been consistent for a number of months increases my willingness to rely on the distinction.

Of course the flip side to the issue is, can we also see a consistent distinction for Monty? Here is a similar photo of Monty in May and we can see that his eyebrow has remained fairly horizontal and without the slight downward protrusion, like Marsha's.

Here is another example, with their heads in the shadows, it is less obvious that Marsha is the closer bird. However, there is just enough of a difference to tell them apart.

One of the things this distinction has taught me is that Monty spends much more time on the nest than I had expected. While this tiny distinction is sometimes helpful it is not always a functional distinction. For example, when the eagles are in the air they seldom slow down and allow me to examine their eyebrows.

Although in this case, when Monty was just leaving the nest, I did get a clear look at his eyebrow. As luck would have it, there is currently another notable distinction between these two eagles. 

On Monty's right wing, just beyond the halfway point, Monty is missing one of his feathers. In this photo there is just a tiny gap through which the sky is visible. It takes at least two years for an eagle to replace all their feathers, so while Monty is regrowing this feather we will have a larger personal indicator.

This photo from January shows Monty has been missing this feather for a few months. The missing feather is near the border (I think of it as his elbow) between his primary and secondary feathers. I believe Bald Eagles have ten primary feathers. If my counting is correct Monty is regrowing his third or fourth secondary feather.

Occasionally I get lucky. Here is a photo of Monty in-flight with both his partially missing feather and his horizontal eyebrow on display.

Of course the next question is how do we identify Marsha in-flight. This photo from late in May shows that she is regrowing two secondary feathers on her left wing. One near the mid-point and one is closer to her body.

This photo from early March shows that she has been missing these feathers for a few months. Being able to identify them individually also helps us to learn the boundaries of their territory. Previously, I have had to watch the eagles until they returned to their nest to identify them.

For nesting Bald Eagles it seems like their most consistent challenge is defending their eggs, and then their young, from crows. 

Sometimes they see the challenges coming, and sometimes they don't.

Monty seems to react to the crows a little more than Marsha. I wonder if her indifference is somehow due to her larger size or just a generally calmer personality.

If I remember correctly, Monty was a bit upset by the crows in this photo.

Still, when Monty returns to the nest Marsha can also get a bit vocal.

The most exciting Marsha and Monty moment in May was getting to see the head of a young eaglet (or two) in their nest. A kind and generous neighbor allowed me access to their strategically placed deck, which enabled this special and unique view.

These young eaglets create some new challenges for us. Will we be able to identify the individual young birds? What will be appropriate names for Monty and Marsh's offspring? Luckily, we do not have to worry about protecting and feeding the young.

In this photo, we see Marsha returning to the nest with baby food.

By the way, if you have an extra few minutes you might want to read these wonderful posts regarding, Valuing Nature and Decoding the Audio Mysteries.

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


Wood Duck Update:

Off the top of my head, I can no longer count the number of Wood Duck ducklings that have been reported in the last week. This is a great time to be visiting the shores of Union Bay.

This duckling was already wandering around on its own, which makes it helpful to be able to tell the difference between a Wood Duck... 

...and a Mallard duckling. Not counting their size, Do you see a key difference? Answer below.

Going Native:

Without a well-funded Environmental Protection Agency, it falls to each of us to be ever more vigilant in protecting our local environments. Native plants and trees encourage the largest diversity of lifeforms because of their long intertwined history with our local environment and native creatures. I have been told that even the microbes in the soil are native to each local landscape. My hope is that we can inspire ourselves, our neighbors and local businesses to respect native flora and to support native wildlife at every opportunity. I have learned that our most logical approach to native trees and plants (in order of priority) should be to:

1) Learn and leave established native flora undisturbed.
2) Remove invasive species and then wait to see if native plants begin to grow without assistance. (If natives plants start on their own, then these plants or trees are likely the most appropriate flora for the habitat.)
3) Scatter seeds from nearby native plants in a similar habitat.
4) If you feel you must add a new plant then select a native plant while considering how the plant fits with the specific habitat and understanding the plant's logical place in the normal succession of native plants.

My intention in my weekly post is to include at least one photo each week and visually challenge us to know the difference between native and non-native lifeforms.

What species of butterfly is this? Is it native to Union Bay?

Scroll down for the answer.


Western Tiger Swallowtail: Yes, it is a native. Click on the name to learn more.

(In the case of the ducklings notice the difference between their dark eye lines. Another difference is that the light-colored feathers on the Mallard duckling are a slightly brighter yellow.)


The Email Challenge:

Over the years I have had many readers tell me that Google is no longer sending them email announcements regarding my posts. Even more frustrating when they go to 're-sign-up', hoping that will enable them to once again start receiving the announcements, they get a message which says 'Sorry, you are already signed up.' Google has not responded to my requests for help with this issue. 

My functional work around is to setup my own email list and each week I manually send out a new post announcement. If you are experiencing the issue and would like to be added to my personal email list please send me an email requesting to be added. Thank you for your patience!

My email address is LDHubbell@comcast.net


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