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

On Instagram: @unionbaywatch

Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Do Eagles Dream?

Seeing a bald eagle is always special, but seeing one that you know a bit about, and maybe have a hint about his personality, is almost like unexpectedly running into an old friend.

In January, in the Eagles Down post, we initially wondered if the eagle in the foreground was dead. The two eagles were laying perfectly still, with talons interlocked, after falling from the sky. Surprisingly, both eagles eventually "awoke" from their stunned state. 

The younger one flew quickly away. The wounded adult (laying on its back in the photo) was only able to stand and shuffle off into the foliage. It could not fly. Seattle Animal Control arrived, caught the eagle, and held it overnight. The next day, they transported it to the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) in Lynnwood. At PAWS, it was evaluated and determined to have a good chance of recovery.

Initially, since the injured eagle was found and captured at Montlake Playfield I wondered if it was one of the local pair, who I call Monty and Marsha. They are named after Marsh Island and Montlake Cut which is the core of their territory, along with the southwest portion of Union Bay. They also treat Portage Bay and the Montlake Playfield as part of their territory, however, their visits here are somewhat sporadic and I doubt they can really monitor it from their normal roosts near Montlake Cut. 

After the injured eagle was caught, I eventually spotted Monty and Marsha together and going about their normal business. This confirmed that neither one of them was the eagle at PAWS. Most likely the injured one is a migrant - just passing through. Although, in the process, he may very well be searching for a mate, a place to settle down, and almost certainly any food he can find.

In any case, the wounded eagle spent the last five weeks, getting the appropriate medical attention, plenty of food, and living the good life in a PAWS protective enclosure. Last Friday, the folks at PAWS determined he was healthy enough to be released.

Kate and Ian from PAWS carried the bald eagle to an unobstructed portion of the playfield. The covering cloth, the careful and quiet placement, and the open surroundings were all choices made to minimize the eagle's stress during his release.

Anthony, also from PAWS, wearing leather gloves for protection, unlocks the door.

Unlike a dog crate, this door is easily removed so it does not accidentally swing back and re-injure the eagle.

Before being set free, the eagle was also given some new, identifying jewelry by our friends from the Urban Raptor Conservancy

A special, Thank You to Patti and Molly!

This mature male bald eagle now carries the code name, "8/H", on the new band on his left leg. The federally-required, silver-colored ban on the right leg also has a unique identifying code, but it is much more difficult to read. The folks from Urban Raptor Conservancy place the more legible, colorful bands on raptors in hopes that you or I might see the bird sometime in the future and report back where we saw him and what he was doing. You can report sightings  by Clicking Here.

If you look closely you can see rivets on the Bald Eagle band. Smaller birds get bands that are crimped into place, but Bald Eagles are strong enough to pull that type of band apart. Rivets are required for a creature of this size and strength. 

After half a dozen hopping steps and a quick scan of his surroundings, the eagle took to the air. (A bald eagle's wing is quite likely longer than your arm.)

Given that he originally appeared to be dead, and that on Friday he rose again, Shelley, my wife, suggested we should call him, Lazarus. The ability of living creatures to heal up and carry on is beyond my understanding. Every time healing happens, I feel like we should be stunned and amazed.

We should also be very appreciative of the team at PAWS. Without their care and assistance, this eagle might very well have ended up as coyote food.

Initially, the eagle flew east - parallel to the 520 bridge in Portage Bay.

His release, at the Montlake Playfield, was debated. It seemed like a logical choice since it was where he was found and captured. The most critical consideration was whether there was any sign of danger. Luckily, neither Monty, Marsha, nor any other bald eagles were present. Having previous knowledge of their surroundings no doubt helps creatures adjust to the sudden change when they are released.

As he gained altitude, the tall buildings in the University District flashed by in the background.

Soon he turned to the southeast.
He landed on the top of a distant tree where he carefully evaluated his surroundings. Looking to the north, he was probably close enough to see Monty and Marsha's nest near Montlake Cut. He might even have noticed if either one was present near the nest. Curiously, after a short time, he tilted his head back and appeared to be calling out. I wondered what motivated his cry. Was he attempting to gain Marsha's attention, i.e. hoping to mate with her, or might he have been trying to intimidate Monty. In either case, it seemed like an unexpectedly bold move.

Previously, Patti mentioned that while he was being cared for at PAWS, this eagle was said to be "sassy". Sounding off and drawing attention after just being released reinforced this eagle-with-an-attitude idea. Plus, the original reason he needed help was because he got in a fight. Apparently, he does not mind testing his limits. The name, "Testy", comes to mind. As a compromise with the name Lazarus, I am going with the initials, LT.

By the way, Patti also mentioned that she had previously mentioned to Jeff Brown that there seems to be an increasing number of injured eagles in our area. 

(You may remember Jeff, who previously worked at PAWs. Last summer, he released a young bald eagle, who had prematurely fallen from Monty and Marsha's nest. After the young one learned to fly, while at PAWS, Jeff picked a release point next to Union Bay. It was between, where Monty and Marsha were sitting on Marsh Island and their favorite roost near the Waterfront Activity Center. He was hoping the parents would see their offspring and resume feeding it. When it was released the young eagle took to the air and then, surprisingly, choose to land in the water out on Union Bay. This prompted Jeff to swim out and encourage it to come to shore. Click Here to see that story.) 

Jeff responded to Patti that the increasing eagle-on-eagle injuries might indicate that the local area is reaching its carrying capacity. I suspect this might be especially true during migration when the number of visiting eagles is at a peak. Our local Union Bay eagles reside here year-round, but the total number of eagles appears to increase during the colder months. Click Here to see the dynamic weekly Abundance Map. It shows how sightings vary during the year. The competition for food, nesting territories, and mates seems likely to spur avian disagreements. 

Note: One way to reduce these battles is to increase the productivity of our local ecosystem. This can be done in a variety of ways, for example removing invasive plants and planting native ones creates more food for creatures that the eagles may eat, removing pollutants from our waterways helps fish to survive and bald eagles love fish, building nest boxes for local waterfowl is another way to help restore our ecosystem. If you are interested in learning more, the Friends of Arboretum Creek are working on many of these ideas.

After a while LT decided to turn around on his new perch. Eagles often change position when another bird is approaching. Since LT was looking north towards Monty and Marsha's nest, and because he was inside their territory, it was not surprising that he might have attracted their attention. 

At this time of year, the larger female eagles are only about one month away from laying eggs. They seem to be spending more and more time sitting near their nests, possibly they feel less agile while adding nutrients and weight to facilitate their egg-laying. 

The males, on the other hand, who are naturally smaller, are probably feeling pressure to defend their mates, their nest sites, and their territories which will be critical to feeding their future offspring.

Sure enough, a bald eagle, Monty I suspect, appeared from the north and began escorting LT away.

This photo caught Monty (presumably), on the left, diving toward LT, who takes the hint and tries to escape to the south. 

Notice the flight feathers on LT's left wing. This is the same wing that was injured. The feathers look ruffled and unkept. Given that LT has been in a flight pen for 5 weeks, with regular food deliveries i.e. no need to hunt, he had plenty of time for feather maintenance and yet his feathers are not properly aligned.

I suspect the feather gaps are not just ruffled but possibly damaged. Ultimately, bald eagles will replace feathers. However, to fully replace all their feathers takes two years. So, these gaps may be evident for some time.

Realizing that Monty was gaining on him LT rolled over in mid-air and exposed his talons. Even though I could not hear the sounds in the distance, both birds have their mouths open and were most likely doing the eagle equivalent of cursing at each other.

Despite of the encounter, LT circled around, and after Monty headed back towards the Montlake Cut nest, LT returned to the air above Portage Bay and Montlake Playfield. On the other hand, he never ventured quite as close to the Montlake nest as he did on his initial flight.

With three pairs of resident Bald Eagles, nesting around Union Bay I doubt LT will hang around. However, you might want to keep a close watch for a testy Bald Eagle with a band on his leg and a tattered left wing. He will certainly be one of a kind around Union Bay.

If he takes a wiser approach he might look for a nearby territory without an active Bald Eagle nest. The closest area that comes to my mind is probably Lake Union. If LT happens to find a mate and they promptly begin nest building there might barely be enough time for them to create offspring this year. You may think that sounds like a fanciful dream, however, I am willing to bet it is a dream that I share with LT.

Have a great day on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city and Black Birders are welcome!


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 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. 

These are current buds from three native berry plants. In random order, the plants are Black Twinberry, Thimbleberry, and Osoberry. Can you guess which one has the larger bud?

Scroll down for the answer.


Osoberry: To my knowledge, Osoberry is one of the earliest native berries to develop buds. I have even found an occasional ripe fruit on the plant as early as May. 

In the previous photo, the bud on the left is Thimbleberry and the one on the right is Black Twinberry. I doubt I could tell these two buds apart without knowing where I planted the plants. Although the Thimbleberry tends to have more of a spreading habit as compared to the Twinberry.


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:  


Thank you!


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:  




  1. This is a wonderful post and I agree that birds do have dreams and some of us can share their dreams. Thank you!

    1. Thank you. That is good to hear.:-)

  2. Awesome post, Larry. Seeing LT come back to the spot where he almost died due to his “testiness” is inspiring, indeed Lazarus-like. Kudos to the incredible folks at PAWS!

    1. Dave, Thank you! I agree those folks at PAWS do wonderful work. Larry