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

On Instagram: @unionbaywatch

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Circle of Life

The 2018 owlet in the Arboretum, who my friend Jeffery affectionately named, Bobo.

Baby pictures are almost universally appealing. Innocent, wide-eyed, fuzzy-headed little creatures are very hard to resist. 

In the Spring, I always enjoy the process of documenting and sharing photos of new life around Union Bay.

Nature's resilience, determination, and persistence is very impressive. In spite of our extensive urban development, the Union Bay neighborhood is shared by a wide variety of wild creatures, many of which the Barred Owls eat and some who eat Barred Owls.

To read Bobo's story and see more of his photos visit last year's post entitled:

This year, there have been at least two adult Barred Owls in the Arboretum and possibly more. Last month's post, The Quizzical Look, was also all about Barred Owls.

Barred Owls can be amazingly fearless. As long as we do not approach to closely.

It was fun to watch from a distance while this one considered a daytime snack.

Even though I got to watch this one resting, so far this year, I have not found a Barred Owl with a consistent, daily roosting location.

This Spring, even after the February snow melted, Bobo's nest site appeared to remain empty. If my memory is correct nesting should have begun a couple of weeks ago. I am hoping that the owls are nesting elsewhere. 

Sadly, the circle of life is a two-way street. Sometimes the predator becomes the prey. This week, I found the fresh remains of an adult Barred Owl near the nest site. 

I have been wondering what type of creature caught the Barred Owl. The list of suspects which come to mind include:

  a Raccoon,

a Coyote, 

a Bald Eagle and... 

a Great Horned Owl.

I have seen Bald Eagles hunting on the ground, but only where trees are sparse. I have also seen one lurking in the treetops above a Barred Owl nest site, but only when the young were close to leaving the nest and where the trees were fairly widely spaced. I believe the trees in this area are too dense and the trail is too close for a Bald Eagle. 

The closeness of the trail, and the fact that Barred Owls are most active under the cover of darkness implies to me that the Barred Owl was most likely consumed at night. So, I really doubt that a Bald Eagle was involved.

My next consideration was the Great Horned Owl. They are uncommon in the Arboretum, all though I did see one on the first of January. Still, I would expect a Great Horned Owl to have carried its food to an overhead branch, where it would be safer to feed.

I believe a Raccoon could kill a Barred Owl, but I have a hard time imagining it sneaking up and leaping on the owl without being heard. The most likely predator, in my mind, is the Coyote. 

There have been a number of Coyote sightings lately. Personally, I saw a healthy specimen leaving Foster Island just last week. With Mallards currently nesting in a variety of upland locations, I think the Coyotes have an added incentive to roam widely and inspect every possible location. Plus, in the area where I found the Barred Owl I saw and heard two rabbits loudly chasing each other not too long ago.

I have watched Coyotes stalking a rabbit before. I can easily imagine a Coyote slowly closing in on a rabbit when the Owl, unaware of the silent and hidden Coyote, swoops down hoping to catch the same meal. If it happened this way, the lucky Coyote would simply spring forward, as originally planned, but it would now have a new, larger target. 

Plus Ginger, my daughter's dog, was quiet and fearful when we found the site. This reaction is consistent with when she has smelled a Coyote in the past. It is not at all like her normal reaction of wild aggression whenever she smells a Raccoon.

Sadly, I doubt there will be young Barred Owls in the Arboretum this year. On a positive note, I have just heard about two other Barred Owls in nearby locations. From the description of the circumstances, these other owls are probably not part of the pair we have been discussing. It might just be possible for a new pair to form and eggs to be laid, but the timing is incredibly close for this year.

By next year, this obviously productive territory will almost certainly be repopulated by a pair of adult Barred Owls. I do believe it is just a matter of time until we see young owls in the Arboretum, again.

Twenty-four hours later, the remnants of the carcass were virtually gone, leaving mostly just scattered feathers. I am sure that many creatures and birds will use the feathers to line their nests. Nature does not waste. 

Just a few feet away, this Pacific Wren appears to be considering nesting in the same snag where the Barred Owls previously nested - although in a much smaller holeThe circle of life continues.


News Flash!

The Arboretum will be hosting an Earth Day work party next Saturday! Alyssa Henry, Volunteer Programs Manager, from the Arboretum Foundation explains,

'We will be celebrating Earth Day in partnership with the Student Conservation Association, UWBG (University of Washington Botanic Gardens) and Seattle Parks and Recreation on Saturday, April 20th, 9am -1pm.

Meet at the Crabapple Meadow, south of the Visitors Center. Free coffee, breakfast snacks and Clif Bars will be provided, along with tools and gloves. Please wear layers and closed-toed shoes.

Volunteers will be spilt into groups for restoration projects all around the Arboretum from 9am - 1pm, then will return to Crabapple Meadow at 1pm for some light food and an opportunity to learn about the organizations and things going on around the Arboretum!'

You can sign up by:

I hope to see you there!


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


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.

The two plants in this photo are somewhat similar looking. Do you know their names? Are they native to Union Bay?

Scroll down for the answer.


Tall Oregon Grape: Is the native plant in the lower left side of the photo. It is flowering all around Union Bay and currently attracting hummingbirds.

English Holly: Is the invasive, non-native plant which is dominating from the upper right side of the photo.


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 workaround is to set up 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. Great story, Larry, with a great discussion of suspects. Thank you for this post.

  2. Hi Larry,
    Yesterday about noon there was a paroxysm of crow protest here. A mature Bald Eagle sat in a low limb of a big leaf maple dissecting prey, ignoring the histrionics. The perch was about 30 ft from the Burke Gilman and about 30 ft high, so pretty close to passers-by compared to innumerable more private options. Not shy. Coots are on the menu these days but I'm pretty sure our eagle had a crow!

    1. Wow! That sounds like quite the attraction. I have never actually seen an eagle catch a crow. However, there have been multiple times when I wished I had. Those crows can certainly be annoying.

  3. Hi larry- so sad to hear about “our” owl. They both were getting older so I wonder if that figured in. We saw both owl roosting near the nest tree on March 16 and they looked healthy.

    1. I would certainly love to be surprised by young Barred Owls this year, but I fear the odds are slim. It will be interesting to watch the developments. 🙂