This week, I happened to notice this coyote near Duck Bay. Almost everyone I talk to these days has seen a coyote. Plus, those who have not seen one often hear them howling at night. Curiously, there seems to be a lot less of the Eastern Cottontails. The rabbits seemed to be everywhere a year or two ago.
In fact, coyotes have been so plentiful lately we even made the news together. Click Here to watch the video. The part that got left out of this brief interview was when I mentioned that Ginger, my daughter's dog, has never been attacked by a coyote, however, she has been attacked by an off-leash dog. Statistics show we have much more to fear from dogs than coyotes. Like most predators coyotes would rather chase something small, like a rabbit, where the danger to them is minimal and the reward is an adequate meal. Admittedly, co-existing with coyotes may require some changes to protect our pets. However, keeping cats indoors protects not only the cats. It also protects the birds they like to catch. Keeping dogs on a leash not only protects the dogs but also other dogs, humans, and nearby wildlife - for example, ducklings that cannot fly. Plus, coyotes provide many benefits Click Here to learn more.
Less than half an hour after seeing the coyote, I noticed this vertically challenged Canada Goose. Previously, I had seen the same bird, but I had not realized that the odd neck arrangement was a permanent problem. Many birds, especially those with long necks, often tuck their heads beneath their wings. However, this time I finally understood this neck arrangement was not optional.
As I watched, the bird walked with its family, or flock, from the grass it had been eating into the water. All the other geese extended their necks and looked very watchful. It did not.
Once it reached the water, it bent its head straight down, to drink. There was no evident extension of the neck. The head stayed off to the right side of the body.
I also noticed that the feathers on its left wing were unkept and poorly arranged.
I suspect the disorganized feathers cause extra turbulence and make flying more challenging.
In contrast, the feathers on the accessible right wing were cleaned, preened, and properly arranged. This reinforced the idea that the bird's neck was not functioning normally.
How this occurred is a mystery. Was it the result of an injury (like accidentally flying into a stationary object), or from being grabbed by a predator (and barely escaping), or did it hatch out in this condition?
All the scenarios seemed sad. However, as I considered the situation further, it slowly dawned on me that this bird's survival is actually quite amazing. To begin with, even though the neck seems "broken" the internal muscles must still work well enough to swallow both food and water.
Plus, anytime it is feeding or drinking its vision is dramatically obscured. With its head down probably fifty percent of its surroundings are hidden. I doubt a solitary bird with this injury would last very long.
A coyote, like the one I saw earlier, could easily sneak up from the blindside. (I am less certain whether river otters or raccoons might also be a threat, but it seems possible.) Luckily, this impaired Canada Goose benefits from the seven other pairs of watchful eyes in its family or flock. When any one bird senses danger they are all immediately on alert. This clearly shows that the power of a community can outweigh and overcome individual challenges.
As humans, we all benefit from being part of the most powerful species/community on earth. If we were alone in the wild our shortcomings would be quickly evident. However, when we work together no other species can compete with us.
Sadly, when we fear and eliminate the creatures that intimidate us we reduce the larger community of life. We are both the greatest threat and the only hope for the community of life on Earth. Eliminating the creatures we fear not only reduces our joy and awe it also reduces what it means to be human. Nonetheless, we do need to know how to co-exist.Earlier, as the coyote turned and disappeared into the undergrowth, I captured this photo that shows the darkness of fresh mud on its lower limbs. Given that the land we were on was surrounded by Union Bay on three sides, I suspect the coyote had been hunting ducks and geese along the shoreline. Most likely, it leaped after one (or more) and ended up in the shallow mud along the shore.
As I mentioned in the interview, Ginger's reaction to smelling a coyote is to tremble in fear. It has been many generations since one of Ginger's ancestors was responsible for its own survival. I doubt trembling is an effective survival skill. It only works for her because it motivates me to remove her from the situation. (Click Here to read another coyote story that included Ginger and her trembling.)
The lives of the Canada Geese, on the other hand, are totally dependent on their survival skills. It is interesting to consider whether their approach might be useful to those of us who encounter coyotes.
To begin with, the geese are always alert and paying attention to their surroundings. When they see potential danger their response is, to stop everything, stand up tall, and carefully watch the predator. If they feel flight may be required they may even fan their wings, loosening their muscles and looking even larger and more impressive. If the threat continues to come closer, they begin a slow stately walk to safety - for them that is the water, where they are more adept. During this slow steady transition, they continue to stand tall and do not take their eyes off the potential danger. If the threat continues to grow they will begin making very loud, irritating noises - predators prefer peace and quiet and will often turn and disappear if they are announced. Only as a last resort do the geese take flight.
I hope your next coyote encounter is a positive, awe-inspiring experience.
Have a great day on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city and Black Birders are welcome!
ps: The Opening Night Party, Love in Bloom, will be a wonderful benefit to support the Arboretum. I hope to see you there!
Reserve Your Seats and Make a Date for Valentine's!
Whether you’re coming to LOVE IN BLOOM with your best buddies or your main squeeze, you'll have an unforgettable time at this special celebration of the Arboretum on February 14th.
But that’s just for starters!
Get ready to be wined and dined, while enjoying a live performance by the Milo Petersen Quintet, featuring stellar jazz musicians Milo Petersen, Phil Sparks, Jay Thomas, Steve Lytle, and Michaela Miller.
You and your guests will have a chance to enter a raffle for a trip to New Orleans, including airfare, hotel stay, and botanical garden tours. Plus, you can sign up for unique experiences, such as bird tours in Arboretum, wildflower hikes with plants experts, and more.
Ticket Price Includes: FREE PARKING at the Washington State Convention Center, plus two FREE PASSES to the Garden Festival for use later in the week, and as always, an exclusive preview of the Festival gardens.
Tickets are also available for purchase by phone at 206-325-4510.
Proceeds support core programs at the Washington Park Arboretum and Seattle Japanese Garden.
Thanks to our generous sponsors for their support of the Arboretum.
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 continuing to collect all of these exceptionally helpful works. Also, thank you to each of the individuals who contributed.
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 tree is this? Is it a native to Union Bay?
Scroll down for the answer.
Western Hemlock: Yes, it is native to Union Bay and Western Washington. The needles are shorter than our fir, pines, and spruce and its leader, the top tip of the tree, is usually bent over instead of vertical like most conifers.
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, Please add me to your personal email list.
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:
A Final Photo: