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

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Saturday, July 28, 2018

Hugo's Hope

This April 25th, 2018 photo is one of my favorites. If I had unlimited time and skill I would attempt to carve a statue of Chester and Lacey, our Union Bay Osprey, in this pose. I love that Lacey is twisting and turning in an effort to support their weight while Chester, with wings extended, is fighting to maintain their balance. Every feather on Chester's wings appears perfectly developed and aligned. They have just completed the ever hopeful act of procreation. Two creatures with a single shared goal. They appear perfectly prepared to fill the future with their progeny.

If you click on the photo and enlarge it you can see that between Chester's beak and the dark mark on top of his head are two symmetrical white spots. On Lacey's forehead the white marks are less extensive and also less symmetrical. 

Two days before Chester completed The Air Dance which was apparently quite successful in gaining Lacey's affection. Click on the highlighted link to read the earlier post.

On May 14th Lacey settled down into the nest and appeared to be on-eggs. I heard reports that she was occasionally away from the nest after this time. This seemed like unusual behavior for a mother incubating eggs. I wondered if some of our exceptionally warm weather might explain her freedom to leave the nest, still it seemed odd for her to leave the eggs unattended.


On June 17th an adult was still incubating the eggs. Before the end of June the eggs were expected to hatch.


On June 28th, thanks to guidance from some eagle-eyed birders, I found and photographed this new pair of Osprey which have been trying to build a nest near the UW driving range. Given the time of year and the incomplete state of the nest it seems highly unlikely that they will be successful this year.

I find it interesting to compare the amount of brown on this female with Lacey's necklace. (See below) Female Osprey tend to have brown feathers on their breasts while the males have nearly pure white chests. 

This July 11th photo shows Lacey with her more delicate and restrained necklace. 

This was the same day that I first saw their two new hatchlings. Due to the size difference I have been calling them Hugo and Tiny. In the middle of the morning Lacey left the nest and flew east towards Yesler Swamp. As she disappeared in the distance it appeared she had left to go hunting. 


I did not see Chester on any of his usual perches. I was concerned to see the young birds alone in the nest. During the prior two years I do not ever remember seeing both parents abandon such young and defenseless birds. It was nearly forty minutes before Chester appeared in the area. As I headed home, I tried to persuade myself that his eyesight is much better than mine and he had probably been watching the nest at a distance. 


July 15th was the last time I clearly photographed both of the young in nest.

On July 19th I thought I only saw one young bird, however this photo shows glimpses of a lot of different body parts and it is possible both of the little birds might be in the photo. It is also possible one of the young could have been laying down in the nest, totally unseen. While the absence of data cannot generally be used to prove a point, I was becoming uneasy. Had something happened to one of the young?

I think the two tallest sets of feathers in the previous photo are tail feathers in the early stages of development.

Yesterday, on July 26th, there was no doubt about the progress of this young osprey. I assumed that this must be Hugo given his previous size advantage and this impressive array of new feathers.

While I watched him, he occasionally watched me as well. Clearly, these wings are not yet ready to hold air but he (or she) is working on developing the required strength.

When Chester came in with food, the young bird stood up and expressed interest.

Chester held his wings nearly vertical as he dumped air and prepared to settle into the nest. Lacey, on the right, also expressed her pleasure at seeing airmailed sushi.

At this point I concluded the absence of the second young bird was proof that the bird no longer existed. I have never seen a young, growing and hungry osprey sleep through the welcoming cries which accompany a food delivery. 

Thinking about food deliveries and things I have never seen reminded me of this July 3rd photo. Here Chester is bringing in big chunk of a large fish. I wondered if he caught a salmon somewhere and was unable to bring the whole fish to the nest. Maybe he ate his fill and then brought the biggest remaining piece back to the family.

Yesterday, as Chester settled into the nest the camera caught his wings in a very unique position. The feathers which are in the sunlight and facing forward toward the end of each wing, are his primary flight feathers. Osprey have ten primaries on each side. The top feather on each wing is called primary number ten. Click Here to see a photo showing the individual primary feathers. The first three feathers, e.g. primaries 10 - 8, are strongly notched.


This photo shows a notched primary feather I spotted below the new attempted nest. By comparing the shape to the photos on the previous link and I am guessing this was a number nine primary.

This photo, and the previous one of Chester, make me wonder if Chester has lost his eighth primary on each side and is growing new ones or whether we are just seeing a very strongly notched primary number nine.


Did you notice that Hugo was orange irises? It will be interesting to see if they change to yellow before he heads south in the Fall.

Here is one final photo of Lacey and Hugo. I certainly hope Chester and Lacey make a concerted effort to watch and protect Hugo. Hugo is totally dependent on his parent's protection until he or she learns to fly. I have no proof that the demise of the second nestling was related to a lack of protection. However, the change in the parental behavior this year has been noted by multiple observers. 

This leaves us with a number of questions. Did anyone see an eagle or another bird attempt to raid the nest? Why are the parents spending more time away from the nest? Is the supply of adequately sized fish diminishing in Union Bay? Is the competition for food increasing?  Do the parents have to travel further to find food?

While we cannot answer all of these questions we can review what we know. We know the population of resident adult Bald Eagles increased from four to six this year. We know the number of adult Osprey during the current breeding season increased from two to four. We have continued to see Great Blue Herons finding and eating fish in the water near the Osprey nest, but I have not noticed a change in their numbers. On the other hand there was a noticeable reduction in Double-crested Cormorants this Spring, however that may be normal behavior which I have overlooked in the past.

May be the most interesting question is, Given the extent of human development around Union Bay, do we have a responsibility to monitor changes in the health and productivity of the natural environment? 

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

Larry

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.






Is this yellow flowering plant native to the Pacific Northwest? What species is it?


I spotted these two plants just east of Foster Island in Union Bay. The purple and 'gold' color made me wonder if they might have been introduced because they are the University of Washington Husky colors.









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Scroll down for the answer










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I am not an expert on loosestrife, but I am fairly certain this is a highly invasive plant which is illegal to even buy or sell in King County. It spreads so easily that it should never even be put in your clean and green. It out competes our native cattails. This in turn reduces nesting opportunities for birds like Red-winged Blackbirds, Marsh Wrens and Virginia Rails.


This plant is also undesirable and invasive. Click on the highlighted names to learn more about dealing with these plants.







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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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Saturday, July 21, 2018

Eaglet Progress

Last Sunday, ten days after a branch broke and this eagle's sibling fell, the nest along Montlake Cut has continued to disintegrate. Day by day, the mass of sticks above the smaller branch on the left seems to be shrinking. The thin bridge of sticks connecting to the fork in the main part of the tree is also a concern.

You can see the nest building process in the post, New Neighbors.

You can also read about the parents who built the nest in the post, Monty, Marsha and...

... and you can read the initial post regarding the eaglet who fell in, Eaglet Troubles.

The latest update from PAWS regarding the fallen eaglet was forwarded by a kind and concerned reader, T. L. Stokes.

'The juvenile Bald Eagle has a fractured pelvis. We are continuing to care for the eagle to help him/her recover. This eagle is being housed with another juvenile Bald Eagle, and they get along great.'

A communication from the PAWS volunteer who retrieved the young eagle stated,

'Radiographs indicated that the eagle has a fractured pelvis near the joint. That means it has a super guarded prognosis.  Fractures near joints often don't heal well. We will continue to monitor how the pelvis heals to determine if the eagle will recover his range of motion.  We are cautiously optimistic but the nestling has a tough road to full recovery.' 


On Monday morning Lucy had moved back to the fork in the main stem of the tree. This inspired a momentary sense of relief given the sturdiness of the large supporting branches. By the way, no one knows for sure if Lucy is male or female.

A few moments later Lucy decided to return to the perch she was using the day before. It was obvious that the bulk of the nest, which was hanging from the smaller branch just 24 hours earlier, was gone. Sadly, this did not seem to impact Lucy's desire visit the site.

She slowly inched her way across the 'Sky Bridge' back towards the smaller branch. There was no indication that she could fly at this point. Her wings were wide but the feather development was incomplete. Most obvious were her missing coverts. Her coverts will ultimately cover the base of her flight feathers and unify the surfaces of her wings. This will enable her wings to function as single lift-providing units, relative to the air flow.

The white sheaths of her flight feathers, displayed on her right wing, will not be visible once the under wing coverts are fully developed.

As Lucy crawled, sidled and flapped her way across The Sky Bridge, the connecting sticks shifted and sagged beneath her weight.

As she neared the smaller branch the tension continued to build. I tried to persuade myself that even in their incomplete state her massive wings might help to break her fall. The optimistic thought did not reduce my concern.

The sigh of relief when she finally finished her sky walk was short lived. How would the parents bring her food in such a small and unstable location? Would she try to lay down and sleep there or would she just turn around and walk back? I wasn't sure I wanted to watch. Still, if she fell I wanted to be there to call PAWS as soon as possible.

When I checked back on Monday afternoon she seemed to have settled in on the far side of the Skybridge.

Soon she was up and flapping her wings. The shrinking remnants of the nest continued to shift beneath her movements.


I think she may actually be larger than Monty, her father. Female Bald Eagles are normally larger than males. Lucy's relative size is the only potential hint I have regarding her gender.


I think the frequency of her loud, piercing calls are indicative of the current level her hunger. I imagine that even at a distance the parents interpret the calls as, 'Feed Me, Feed Me!'

By Tuesday morning, Lucy was back on the main stem. I was relieved.

Monty brought her food and she found adequate space to eat in the fork of the tree, where the nest originally started. Notice how the sticks from the nest are almost completely gone.

Here is what the same fork in the tree looked like around the time the eggs were laid.

After she ate, they both found secure resting sites on the major branches protruding from the original fork.

I was beginning to hope that her adventures as Lucy Skywalker were over.

I was wrong, on Tuesday afternoon, Lucy was once again on the far side of common sense.


Her sky bridge and the nest had been reduced to the point that they no longer resemble an eagle's nest. Every time I visited the site I feared finding Lucy laying on the ground.

Luckily, on Wednesday Lucy was back on a major branch.

Earlier that morning, I noticed this uneaten fish on the sidewalk below the nest. Even though Lucy missed this small meal, I have seen enough feedings to know she is not starving.


On Thursday, Lucy was still on the safe side of the sky bridge. Once again, I was starting to hope she had finally deduced that The Bridge was a death trap.

Later, I watched from a distance as one of the parents, Marsha I think, brought Lucy a rat secured from the north side of Montlake Cut.

I have met many neighbors in the area who have all been excited and welcoming to Monty and Marsha and their young. One of the questions I am often asked is, What will the parents do next year? I do not know, however, I see no reason for them to abandon a territory which appears to adequately provide for their needs. The nesting tree is still standing and at a location they like. My guess is they will rebuild the nest.

The next question which comes to my mind is, can we do anything to help the eagles succeed? Here are two suggestions. 

Avoid pesticides which kill creatures like rats and bioaccumulate in predators like eagles. It is critical for eagles, owls and hawks that we do not enable poisoned pests to become available for their consumption. Wild creatures are the most sustainable and natural means of pest control. Click Here to read the very informative thoughts and recommendations of our local experts at the Urban Raptor Conservancy.

Fish are the main source of food for eagles. One of the most dangerous chemicals impacting the development of fish is motor oil. Sadly, until the southern portion of the 520 Bridge is completed, the road runoff is still flowing directly into Union Bay. My suggestion is that for the next five years if you have a choice between driving a fossil-fueled vehicle across 520 or taking a different route (or vehicle), take the alternative. Every ounce of oil we keep out of Union Bay is healthier for the fish, which are Monty and Marsha's primary food supply.

On Thursday afternoon, Lucy was still on the safe side of the Sky Bridge. My hopes were rising.

On Friday, not only was Lucy still on a large branch attached to the main part of the tree, but her behavior was also starting to change. She appears to be starting to branch. Branching is just like it sounds. It is the process through which a young eagle learns to fly. They will often sit and flap their wings to develop strength, while occasionally making short hops to other branches in the nesting tree.

So far I have not seen her hop to a new branch, however she has been moving progressively further out on one of the large sturdy branches. Plus, she is flapping her wings more and preening her feathers. If you look closely at the photo above, you can see a white downy feather floating in front of her chest. Part of flight development is maintaining and spreading out her new feathers so they are completely functional. No doubt this process includes the removal of any old nonfunctional feathers as well.

It is exciting to see Lucy making progress in her development. I suspect that sometime in the next few weeks she will learn to fly. The parents are doing their part to bring her food. Lucy is finding adequate space to sleep and appears to be proceeding with normal development. Most importantly, it appears her decision making is improving and she is no longer sidling across an eaglet's version of The Bridge to Nowhere.

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

Larry


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.







Is the bee (in the lower right part of the photo) native to the Pacific Northwest? What species is it?


For bonus points identify the plant, which was close to 18 inches high and growing in area which was disturbed during the last year.









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Scroll down for the answer










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I believe this bee is a male native Agapostemon Texanus. Click on the highlighted name to download the source pdf behind my conclusion. See bee number two. 



My best guess, is that the plant is Trifolium Arvense. If I am correct it is of European origin and invasive. Click on the highlighted name for more information.







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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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