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

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Saturday, August 4, 2018

Lucy Leaves Home

During the last week Lucy prematurely left home. If she were human we might call her an underaged runaway. However, such a simple description oversimplifies her situation. For example, her nest actually left home before she did.

Lucy (on the right) about twenty feet below the last remnants of the nest.

On Sunday morning Lucy was no longer in the fork of the tree where the nest had been. Lucy is one two siblings who are apparently Monty and Marsha's first offspring. Before it disintegrated their nest had been located near the S.E. corner of Montlake Cut. Lucy's sibling, Charlie, is currently at PAWS recovering from a cracked pelvis which was suffered when a branch broke and the nest first began to fall

Around 8 a.m. on Monday, one of the parents returned to the nest site with food. The adult sat and consumed what looked like a fresh fish. The sticks in the lower left of the photo were all that was left of the nest.

Lucy sat on a limb below, looking up and crying incessantly. The adult glanced down at her but made no move to share. I wondered if this was 'tough love'. Was the adult trying to motivate Lucy to fly or was the adult apprehensive about landing in the thick foliage next to Lucy. The adult finished and left. Lucy's cries subsided. She seemed healthy and alert, but I was concerned. Could she fly? If not, how would she get food?

On Tuesday morning around 7 a.m. my friends, Tom and Helen, texted me. At first they could not find Lucy at all. Finally, they spotted her only 20 feet above the ground. She was in the next tree south of the nest tree. At the very least she must have glided to her new location. I arrived quickly and began hoping for encouraging signs.

Through out the morning Lucy sat, quiet but alert. She only lifted her wings and turned around two or three times. She did not practice flapping her wings or spend much time preening, which made me think she really wasn't ready to fly.

The parents did not feed her, she did not leave the branch to hunt and she did not cry out for food. This did not feel like a path to success. Around 11 a.m. Susan Ott, an observant and caring neighbor, showed up to check on Lucy. Susan had only stopped for a moment, but when she realized the uncertainty of Lucy's predicament she stayed.

Lucy slowly grew more active and started looking around apparently searching for nearby perches.

During the next hour Lucy hopped to a neighboring branch. Then, around noon she flew nearly fifty feet. Her flight was slow and awkward. She collided with low hanging leaves while steadily losing altitude.

Ultimately, she did a head-first, crash-landing into an old ivy-covered snag.

She flapped and fluttered futilely against the ivy, but appeared unharmed.

Finally, she gave up and let go. She came to rest in a mix of ivy and blackberry vines. For the next few hours she took turns resting and fighting through the foliage. She never got more than a single hop above the vines. 

We called Jeff Brown at PAWS. (Jeff previously rescued Charlie, Lucy's sibling.) While we waited Susan made a trip home and kindly returned with food. Jeff called back and suggested that officers from the Seattle Animal Shelter might be close by and hopefully available to rescue Lucy.

Lucy wandered deeper into the thicket and finally disappeared from sight. At this point, we were certain Lucy could not fly well enough to find food and feed herself. Her parents had not delivered any food for at least eight hours. Plus, it also appeared that they, Monty and Marsha, had no idea where she was. Lucy was essentially on the ground and unprotected.

Susan Ott slowly and carefully worked her way into the jungle of vines in an effort to relocate Lucy. When the Seattle Animal Shelter officers arrived she guided them to Lucy's location.

The officers, Robert Linke and Jon Wieringa, carefully secured Lucy and took her to PAWS where she could be fed, evaluated and temporarily reunited with Charlie. 

From left to right; Jim Green and Jeff Brown from PAWS along with Ed Deal and Patti Loesche from the Urban Raptor Conservancy.

By Thursday morning, Jeff had determined that Lucy was unharmed and could potentially be returned to her parents. Jeff also arranged to meet with Ed and Patti so they could give Lucy the appropriate federal 'wrist' band. The band was applied to her right leg. 

With exceptional eyesight, quality binoculars and a lot of luck you might be able to read the number, 629-45004. However, simply seeing the location of the band on the right leg may help with future identification.

As Patti applied the band, Ed explained that for most birds bands can be simply crimped into place. However, Bald Eagles are strong enough and smart enough to remove crimped bands. So, their bands must be locked with a rivet. The bands are carefully sized so they do not interfere with any of the bird's activities.

From Left to Right: Jim Green, Drew Foster, Clif Edwards and Michelle McCorran

Jeff also arranged for Drew and Clif, Arborists' from The Washington Park Arboretum, to return Lucy to her nest site. Michelle, from the United States Army Corp of Engineers, helped protect the public during the operation. (Michelle was also the one who originally called PAWS and got Jeff involved in rescuing Charlie.) In the background Jim from PAWS is working out technical details related to the eagle elevator. 

Clif begins the ascent to Lucy's nest site. 

I estimate the nest site at being about 100 feet in the air. In this photo Clif is about two thirds of the way to the site.

Drew and Clif trade off on the climbing. On this day Drew was providing ground support while at the very top of the photo you can see Clif has reached the nest site.

Here, Drew was preparing to send up materials for a temporary nest-like platform. The idea was that if Lucy could be returned to the site of the nest, hopefully the parents would resume feeding her and she could complete the normal branching process, which would end with her being strong enough to fly. After young eagles learn to fledge they usually spend a period of time with their parents learning to hunt, which would be the optimal way for Lucy to learn.

Clif preparing to receive materials

Jeff and Jim locking the escape hatch on the eagle elevator.

Cliff with the temporary platform installed and ready to receive Lucy.

The Lucy Lift in operation.

Sadly, just as Lucy was released the Blue Angels flew over and for whatever reason she was skittish and flew away. With great fear we watched as she flew all the way across Montlake Cut. Once again, she lost altitude the whole way. After she landed, she was unable to get airborne again. Luckily, Jeff and Jim were able to recapture her, unharmed. She was returned to PAWS, where she got another square meal. 

On Friday the process was repeated. This time the process was scheduled for after the Blue Angels completed their flights and her release was initiated from the ground. None the less she was still uncomfortable and as she was released she flew south and landed about halfway down in a large cottonwood behind the nest tree. (As of this morning she was still in the same location.)

The current assessment is that Lucy is too old to be returned to the nest site because she has consistently demonstrated the ability and desire to fly away. However, since she seems to only be able to fly down-hill, she is effectively only half-fledged. From my perspective half-fledged means she is capable of getting into trouble, but not capable of getting out. For example, she can fly well enough to land on the ground uninjured but she is apparently unable to get back to the safety of an overhead branch. The fear is that she could not escape from a coyote, raccoon or even an off-leash dog. 

If during the next few days you visit Montlake Cut or Montlake Park East (where the old Museum of History and Industry was located) please watch for Lucy. If you spot her on the ground please do not attempt to catch her but rather call PAWS or the Seattle Animal Shelter.

The phone number for PAWS is: 1-425-787-2500

The phone number for the Seattle Animal Shelter is: 1-206-386-7387

This is a unique situation where it would be best if the whole Montlake Community was watching for Lucy. So please feel free to forward the link to this post and ask your neighbor's for help.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.


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 type of plant is this? Is it native to Union Bay?


Scroll down for the answer


This is not the worst invasive plant, but it is not native to Union Bay. It is currently flowering in the Union Bay Natural Area. The highlighted links will take to two different sites, which will give you either a King County or a British Columbia perspective. 

l may be offline for a few days but I would love to hear if anyone can explain who and what  the wasp-like creature is doing on this plant. If you leave explanations in the comments section below the conversation can continue with or without me. (I think I understand what the Honey Bee is up to.)


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



  1. Larry, thank you for this detailed post on efforts to keep Lucy alive and healthy. Great work by everyone.

  2. Thank you for the update. Hoping for the best for both Lucy and Charlie.

    1. Troy,

      Thank you. So far no one has reported seeing Lucy fed or eating. She does appear stationary but at least safe - for now.


  3. Hi Larry!
    Thank you for a whole details updates and story about Lucy and those involved to help Lucy. I very appreciated your Photo of Lucy and those service man. The story is very touching.

    1. Thank you! It is wonderful to know so many folks care about the eagles!

  4. The capture and containment might have actually been more stressful to the bird than being on the ground. Many birds spend a lot of time on the ground before they learn how to fly well. It's not so clear that the humans were actually helping this young bird. Generally, people should leave the young birds with their parents, if it isn't injured, even if it's on the ground.

    I'm just offering the counter-view of let nature take its course. Sometimes we can be too helpful.

    1. When the parents are feeding and protecting their young the appropriate course of action would be to not intervene. There was no evidence of the parents doing either of these things. While stress can be difficult for any creature not eating is harder.

  5. Larry,
    I was unable to specifically identify your wasp, but it looks generally like a yellowjacket. Adult yellowjackets feed mainly on carbohydrates like fruit, nectar and sap (energy to keep moving). The meat they collect is for the kids (protein to grow). So, I suppose this wasp was after nectar.