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

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Sunday, March 22, 2020

Our Heros

All life on earth struggles to survive. Our current conflict with the covid virus is a stark reminder. The virus challenges our existence as individuals and our capabilities as a society. 

Words cannot express our gratitude to the nurses, doctors and first responders who are fighting on the front lines. They are our heroes!

As a society, we are challenged to do what we do best. Adapt, learn and overcome. Social distancing is a start. As a society, we must do more. We must learn, quickly. The clear and quick communication of facts, followed by timely scientific research, and the rapid application of the results, is critical to our future.

In times like these, celebrating the arrival of Spring and the creation of new life may feel like an inappropriate distraction. Instead, I hope the wonder and beauty of life will provide food for our souls and inspire us to fight on.

Earlier this week, this tiny Black-capped Chickadee waited for a chance to help excavate a new nest.

Its mate was already hard at work. Their nest will need to be deep, given the small diameter of this tiny snag. Otherwise, their eggs will be easily reached by predators.

Taking turns, the two chickadees removed the soft dead wood, one beak-full at a time. 

Rather than creating a noticeable pile of wood chips directly below the nest, they distributed the shavings elsewhere.

After an extensive amount of work, one of the chickadees settled inside a dense bush so it could safely clean up and straighten its feathers.

The process required checking under-the-hood or in this case under-the-wing.

The chickadee finally finished up with some stretching. 

It turns out that the chickadees are not the only ones to notice that Spring is here. Not far away a crow updated last year's nest with a new branch.

The Double-crested Cormorant on the left is adding new crests and hoping to increase its odds of mating. 

This female House Finch, who was accompanied by a very protective male, disappeared into a nearby spruce tree with this piece of nesting material.

This Red-breasted Nuthatch inspected an old and well-used nest. 

Marsha continues to incubate new eggs, in her newly rebuilt nest above Montlake Cut. 
(Thank you to eagle-eyed Jeff - for the early head's up on this year's nesting behavior!)

Her mate Monty can often be seen sitting nearby while he watches over Marsha and their new eggs.

Sometimes, Monty visits the nest and occasionally he takes over incubating so Marsha can stretch her wings and find some food for herself.

Yesterday, the male Cooper's Hawk (on the right) broke twigs off this tree and added them to a new nest. After a half a dozen trips, the female (on the left) allowed him to mate. Afterward, he jumped down and quickly put a little space between them. He is fast, but among predator birds, the females are usually bigger and stronger. A respectful distance seems appropriate.

This morning, the female Cooper's Hawk was sitting quietly in the new nest. Suddenly, she began a rapid vocalization and abandoned the site. A Red-tailed Hawk, which is significantly larger, landed in the Cooper's Hawk nest. The nest was inspected for food. Finding none, the Red-tail left. I am sure the harassment provided by the local American Crows was a contributing factor. Luckily, the Cooper's Hawks have apparently not yet laid any eggs.

Yesterday, a potentially similar encounter was handled differently by the Common Ravens. The raven on 'guard duty' immediately started calling when a Red-tailed Hawk attempted to fly through their territory. The raven's mate quickly appeared, most likely from a nearby nesting tree. The two smaller birds darted and dived as they aggressively chased the red-tail away. 

Spring, even with all of its beauty, remains a fight for survival. This year our fight feels a bit too close for comfort. More than usual, it falls to each of us to stay strong, careful and patient. Our consistent efforts will help our families and friends to survive.

Thanks again to the nurses, doctors and first responders. May our heroes also stay healthy and safe!


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. 

What species of fern is this? Is it native to our area? 

Scroll down for the answer.


Licorice Fern: Polypodium Glycyrrhiza is native to our area. Native Americans apparently used it as a treatment for a sore throat, etc. Click on the highlighted name to learn more.


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


As a reward to those who have read this far, compare the photo of a young Cooper's Hawk, above. To this week's mature Cooper's Hawk in the photo below.

In addition to the horizontal barring versus the vertical striping, Did you notice any other obvious differences? If not, check out the eye color and the dark 'cap' on the mature bird's head.


  1. Yesterday, 4/9, I saw a red tailed hawk land in an empty nest and leave after a few seconds with what appeared to be a dead snake in its mouth. I assumed it was the hawk’s own nest, and I was excited, as I’ve been seeing a pair of red tailed hawks in my area and was keeping my eyes peeled for a nest. But after reading this post, I’m thinking maybe it raided a different bird’s nest. What do you think? The nest is located right on the Burke Gilman trail next to 2251 NE Blakeley St, Seattle, WA.


    1. Nate, I have been searching for an active Red-tailed Hawk nest near Union Bay for a long time, but without any luck so far. So I am quite excited to read this but I do not know which scenario would be most likely in this case. I would expect that at this point in the spring a RTHA would most likely be on-eggs. In which case we should probably see a hawks head in the nest almost all the time if it is in use. If you are in the area regularly please let me know what you are seeing. That is just a bit beyond my normal circuits but I may still try to get up there and take a look myself. Very Interesting!