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

On Instagram: @unionbaywatch

Sunday, September 25, 2022

Up in the Air

This photo was taken on March 15th, 2022. The female Bald Eagle, who I call Eva, was perched on the edge of her nest in Broadmoor. She had not yet moved down into the nest in her "on-eggs" position. However, she sure seemed to be focusing on the ideas of nesting and egg-laying. Her mate, Albert, can be seen sitting on the bare branch high above the nest. 

The picture on my masthead is also the female from this nest, though ten years earlier. (The oldest known Bald Eagle in the wild was at least 38 years old when it died in New York in 2015, according to "All About Birds".) The current female in the Broadmoor nest could be the same one photographed in 2013.

I suspect Albert likes the elevated perch above the nest because it is like having, "energy in the bank". If any other bird or creature threatens the nest he can dive at them using his powerful wings, and the pull of gravity, to gain speed and chase them away. 

This is Albert, in 2018. I cannot be certain that I always correctly identify their genders or even that they are still the same two eagles. However, I am unaware of either going missing or dying, so I assume they are the same Eva and Albert I have watched for years. The big hint on their genders is that the female is visibly larger when they are side-by-side.

The first photo in this post was taken about one week before Eva's annual beginning of brooding, which according to my best guess is usually around March 23rd. This year the brooding was followed by their successfully hatching, raising, and fledging two young. However, even in good years challenges can occur.

This is the same tree, earlier this month. This and the first photo were both taken from Foster Island. When you compare them, Do you see anything missing?

The eagles are absent in the second photo, however, the really significant change is that their nest is gone.

Via a kind reader, I learned that in late August, a nearby neighbor heard a loud noise and looked up to see that, "..a branch broke and the whole thing just sort of collapsed in a cloud of brown.." Luckily, this occurred after the young had learned to fly when their survival was no longer dependent on the nest.

During the last few weeks, I have had multiple questions on m mind. Will Eva and Albert rebuild in the same tree? Will they relocate to a different tree in this same territory? Will they abandon the territory? I remember hearing that many years ago they had a nest on Foster Island. When that nest fell they moved to Broadmoor and built the current, or now not so current, nest. 

In late summer, once the young learn to fly and find food for themselves, they usually leave the area and the adults are also seen far less - maybe they leave with the young for a while. 
Eventually, the adults always seem to return. So, not seeing them much right now is not a reason for concern. However, their absence does not help to resolve the uncertainty around their long-term intentions.

I have been watching this nest since 2011. This photo was taken in July of 2012. These were the first young in the nest after the death of Eddie the Eagle, Eva's previous mate. Click Here to read that story.

This photo was taken from the east, i.e. from the Madison Park side of the nest.  Notice how the bulk of the nest sits in the largest crotch in the tree and is therefore supported by the biggest available branches.

Here is the nest in 2013, also from the same side. The nest still appeared to be well supported.

Each year a few sticks fall off and the adults consistently replace the sticks and replenish the nest. In fact, they usually add more than is lost. Slowly, the nest continues to grow. This was the view from the east in 2016. It is obvious, from this perspective, that the supporting branches on the left, i.e. south side, are considerably smaller the those to the north.

In this 2018 photo, we are now observing the nest from the west, i.e. from Foster Island. The nest appears to have migrated to the south. Apparently, it exerted in that direction as some sticks fell and others were added on the south side. The bulk of the weight, at this point, was resting on the smaller, southern branches. 

By the way, I have never seen this pair use anything other than cottonwood branches when adding to the nest. There are cottonwoods just north of the nest site, growing in the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary, and there are plenty more in and around Foster Island. In years past, I have seen this pair breaking live branches out of cottonwood trees over half a mile away, i.e. even west of Foster Island, and then returning to the nest with the branches. 

In this 2019 photo, we see the classic look of Eva down in the nest, presumably on eggs, with only her head showing above the side of the nest. Notice that her position "in the middle of the nest" is no longer above the trunk of the tree. Clearly, the nest had continued to shift and grow.

This photo is from 2020. It is almost as if we have been watching the nest slowly slide out of the tree over time.

In 2021, switching back to the Madison Park perspective, one of the adults is sitting in the crotch that held the original nest and it is hard to say whether they are perched on the edge of the nest or if the nest has moved so much that they are simply sitting on a bare branch.

Looking from the west again, as the tree sits today the original crotch once again looks like a good site for a nest. 

This tree is much taller than the surrounding trees. It has always seemed like an exceptional location from which to oversee and defend their territory and nest. Having "gravity in the bank" seems like a big plus for them.

Early on the 13th of September, while on Foster Island, I finally caught sight of one of the adults back in the nest tree. Look right at the top, in the middle. 

Later, in the morning a kind reader mentioned having seen both of them there. Hopefully, their presence in the nest tree indicates their site fidelity i.e. their devotion to their current territory.

On Sept. 17th, I returned to watch from the Madison Park side of the nest tree. At first, I did not notice any eagles at all.

Zooming in on the clump of foliage up and to the right of the empty nest site, I finally picked out one of the adults. Do you notice any other evidence, that may indicate what the Bald Eagles are thinking?

Here is a bit of a wider view, with the old nest site at the bottom.

After about 30 minutes the Bald Eagle moved down to the old nest site. The movement was exciting. I continued to wonder what the eagle was thinking.

Soon the eagle dove out of the tree and disappeared behind and below the shorter tree tops.

I was surprised when it returned to the higher perch, i.e. the smaller crotch, with a branch! It was only a one branch but it does show they are considering rebuilding.

Later, I noticed another hint. Reconsider this previous photo. The Bald Eagle is sitting behind a clump of needle-covered branches in a coniferous tree. However, the single, light-green-colored leaf is from a deciduous tree i.e. a cottonwood. The only way a fresh cottonwood branch, with recent growth, is likely to end up in this elevated location is if one of the eagles broke it off and carried it up there. 

Soon the Bald Eagle took to the air again. 

The eagle disappeared to the northeast faster than I could follow. While I waited it did not return. 

This morning I could not find either Eva or Albert in the area. As I mentioned, they are generally seen less this time of year so their absence does not mean they have given up on their territory. 

Also, we should not expect to see them do an intense rebuilding blitz. I have watched their "new" neighbors, Monty and Marsha, rebuild their nest multiple times, during the last five years. They generally start in late November. They often work for a couple of hours and then take a few days off. Their efforts seem sporadic at best. However, by March they always have an adequately sized nest in place.

I am encouraged by the sticks Eva or Albert has brought to their old nest tree. However, we really can't be certain what will happen. After one of Monty and Marsha's nests fell they tried rebuilding in a different tree. After a while, they abandoned that effort and returned to the original tree. The bottom line is I am encouraged by the activity and the occasional presence of the Bald Eagles in their nest tree. However, this is a mystery that we will just have to watch to see how it plays out. The nest may be down, but we may remain up in the air until March.

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


Going Native:

Each of us, who breathes the air, drinks water, and eats food should be helping to protect our environment. Local efforts are most effective and sustainable. Native plants and trees encourage the largest diversity of lifeforms because of their long intertwined history with our local environment and native creatures. 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 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. (When native 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 friend Elaine Chuang shared several resources (that were new to me) from the January 2022 Washington Ornithological Society meeting. By the way, Elaine credits Vicki King for researching and supplying this information. Keystone native plants are an important new idea. Douglas Tallamy in the book "Nature's Best Hope " explains that caterpillars supply more energy to birds than any other plant eater. He also mentions that 14% of our native plants, i.e. Keystone Plants, provide food for 90% of our caterpillars. This unique subset of native plants and trees enables critical moths, butterflies, and caterpillars that in turn provide food for the great majority of birds, especially during the breeding season. 

Here are the top two relevant links.

A video all about native keystone plants for wildlife:


New! Updated resources for adding keystone native plants to your yard. 


This updated collection includes a variety of new and different books, perspectives, and interactions between plants, birds, and insects. Thank you to Vicki King for collecting all of these exceptionally helpful works. Also, thank you to each of the individuals who contributed their work.


In the area below it is my intention to display at least one photo each week to help challenge us to know the difference between native and non-native lifeforms.  

What are these two aquatic plants called? Are they native to Union Bay?

Scroll down for the answer.


Fragrant Water Lily: This plant, represented by the large round leaf on the left, is not native to Union Bay and yet it covers the majority of the shallow water, during August and September. Last week, I watched Mallard ducks move quickly through the Fragrant Water Lilies (FWL) without stopping to feed. However, as soon as they reached a smaller patch of Marsh-pennywort they slowed down and fed extensively. Native plants have benefits we often overlook. (FWL has white flowers and round leaves.)

Marsh-pennywort: This is a native aquatic plant that somehow survives despite our Fragrant Water Lily infestation. It has much smaller leaves, although not exactly penny-sized, and stems to thrust the leaves up and out of the water or nearby shore.

Note: Our native Yellow Pond Lily seems to have much less success when competing with the Fragrant Water Lily. I have only found it in one small patch northwest of Nest Egg Island in Duck Bay, which is on the south side of Union Bay. (YPL has yellow flowers and heart-shaped leaves.)

Click Here to see a good comparison of FWL and the YPL.


The Email Challenge:

Over the years, I have had many readers tell me that Google is no longer sending them email announcements. As of 2021,
 Google has discontinued the service.

In response, I have set up my own email list. With each post, I will manually send out an announcement. If you would like to be added to my personal email list please send me an email requesting to be added. Something like:

                Larry, I want to see more of nature. Please add me to your personal email list. 

Thank you for your patience and interest!

My email address is:  



The Comment Challenge:

Another common issue is losing your input while attempting to leave a comment on this blog. Often everything functions fine, however, sometimes people are unable to make it past the 
robot-detection challenge or maybe it is the lack of a Google account. I am uncertain about the precise issue. Sadly, a person can lose their comment with no recovery recourse. 

Bottom Line: 

If you write a long comment, please, copy it before hitting enter. Then, if the comment function fails to record your information, you can send the comment directly to me using email.

My email address is:  




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