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

On Instagram: @unionbaywatch

Saturday, September 7, 2019

Growing Expectations

Rama, our newest Union Bay Osprey, is packing her bags - notice her bulging crop.

Hope, Rama's mother, has already headed south. Adult females may begin migration as much a month before the adult males, according to Birds of North America Online (see citation below).  Even though Ospreys mate for life they choose to winter separately, with the female apparently further to the south.

 You may want to notice the nearly uniform brown of Hope's wing feathers. 

In a hatch-year Osprey, like Rama, the brown wing feathers are trimmed out in a buff color which fades to white and then wears away or is replaced by the basic brown feathers of an adult.

Here is a late-June photo which shows Rama's father, Stewart, to our right. Hope is in the nest. This would have been just about the time Rama first broke out of her egg. 

Even though Stewart's chest feathers are bit ruffled they are not spotted with brown like Hope's. Mature males generally have pure white chests. In Rama's case, her chest is spotted like a female, however, in hatch-year birds, this may not be a reliable indication of gender.

This, early July photo, shows the parents from the backside, which makes their lack of white-trimmed feathering quite obvious. It was not long after this that I caught my first photos of Rama. You can see the photos and read the original post by Clicking Here.

By mid-August, Rama was not quite as large as Hope. Rama is on the left and Hope is on the nest. A young Osprey's rate of growth is phenomenal.

Their initial growth rate may only be surpassed by growing expectations.  Lately, I have not seen any of the four adult Osprey who have been 'summering' around Union Bay. Apparently, both of her parents have headed south. Rama appears to be totally on her own. If so, she must find all of her own food, watch out for predators, like Bald Eagles, and prepare for her first solo journey to Mexico. Surprisingly, this is not unusual for an Osprey - who is only two months old.

On Wednesday evening, Rama did exactly what she was supposed to be doing. She landed at the nest and ate a nice long meal. No doubt every calorie she consumed will improve her odds of successfully migrating south.

With wings spread and seen from behind, the light-colored trim on her feathers is even more obvious.

I am also always amazed by the length of an Osprey's wings, especially relative to their small slender bodies. They are the only local avian species, which I know of, that can dive out of the air, end up three feet underwater, grab a good-sized fish, then simply shake off the water and immediately take to the air. Their strength/lift to weight ratio certainly must put an eagle to shame.

After eating Rama moved out of the nest and over to the west end of the light pole. The white striping on the lamp-cover made it easy to predict her pending need for internal, spatial venting.

Afterward, she began twisting and turning and...

...exercising her wings. 
The day before my friend, Jeff, and I saw her stop and momentarily hover just above a paved drive north of the Union Bay Natural Area. It was odd behavior for that location. Adults tend to do their hovering above the water while waiting for a fish to approach the surface. Maybe Rama was just curious about something she had never seen before. 

The photo above actually catches another behavior which may indicate Rama's youth. Notice how her right-wing is pushing down while her left-wing is pushing back. I believe she is still refining her coordination. The good news is she is feeding herself and her parents evidently trusted her growing skills enough to leave her on her own.

Soon she flew off and took a spin above the IMA Soccer field. 

It is amazing to consider that she may have never flown further than a few miles but shortly she will leave on a journey during which she will travel thousands of miles. 

Birds of North America tells how young Osprey, carrying radio transmitters, have been tracked flying south over the Atlantic Ocean. Apparently, in spite of shifting winds and the lack of landmarks, the young birds stay on a fairly precise heading which takes them to their desired destination. They must have some type of internal compass.

Rama's nest site is immediately south of N.E. 45th Street and it is constantly buffeted with traffic noise and exhaust. For Hope and Stewart to select this site, and successfully raise her in this situation, demonstrates that Osprey can live quite closely with humans. Rama's success gives me hope. Maybe, humanity and nature can learn to live in harmony.

It feels like our future with nature, maybe somewhat similar to Rama's pending journey. She will be flying to an unknown location, while we are headed for an unknown future. Rama has the advantage of having an inborn compass. This week. I have been wondering what humanity might use as an inner compass to guide us as we strive to reach a harmonious relationship with nature?

In a word, I think our compass is empathy. To live in harmony with nature we must be aware and care about the lifeforms around us. On an individual basis, this is challenging - as a global human society the challenge can feel overwhelming.

Luckily, this week I was reminded of the United Nation's sustainable development goals. It is reassuring to know that there is a global organization, with empathy for humanity and nature. Essentially, they are building a map to lead the way. Click Here to learn more. On a global level, I think our number one opportunity to induce change is to vote for leaders with empathy for nature and us. 

Locally, we can also encourage our leaders to be empathetic and to help restore natural habitat in the city. This last week, Joshua Morris and Seattle Audubon graciously hosted a piece about restoring Arboretum Creek. Click Here to read how investing just a few moments of your time could really help!

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


Recommended Citation

Bierregaard, R. O., A. F. Poole, M. S. Martell, P. Pyle, and M. A. Patten (2016). Osprey (Pandion haliaetus), version 2.0. In The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Editor). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bna.683

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. I hope 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 creature native, seen this week in the Union Bay Natural Area, a native?

Scroll down for the answer.


Praying Mantis:  I believe this is a non-native, European Praying Mantis. Click on the colored named to read a very interesting post about Praying Mantis'.


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

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