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

On Instagram: @unionbaywatch

Saturday, June 24, 2023

Speak Up!

The Arboretum Foundation and UW Botanic Gardens have launched a broad, state-funded survey to learn about the needs and preferences of our community regarding the future of the Washington Park Arboretum. They are hoping to get feedback from current park users and potential new visitors.

A focal point of the survey is the North End parcel, the 28-acre peninsula on the shores of Union Bay immediately northwest of the Arboretum. On this map the area is labeled "WSDOT Peninsula" and it includes the land surrounding Kingfisher Cove. Currently, it is a staging/office area for the 520 bridge construction. The land is to be returned to the Arboretum, via the Seattle Parks and Recreation partnership, after the completion of the 520 projects. This is the largest expansion of the Arboretum in decades and most likely nothing comparable will ever happen again.

At this stage, the Arboretum leaders are collecting very broad input and ideas, but priorities include recognizing the Coast Salish peoples as the original inhabitants of the land, expanding shoreline access, and restoring Arboretum Creek.

(This artwork, by Gail Wong, was paid for by a Seattle Neighborhood Matching fund grant.)

The Friends of Arboretum Creek are focused on three areas of restoration for Arboretum Creek:
  • Restoring year-round flow in the headwaters of the creek, 
  • Adding native keystone plants and trees (as shown in the artwork above), and the
  • Daylighting of the lower portion of Arboretum Creek. 
Together, these improvements will benefit native trees and plants, while attracting a wide variety of native fish and birds. While also, hopefully, inspiring a healthy and long-lasting relationship with nature for future generations of local residents. Click Here to learn more. 

The daylighting, near the mouth of the creek, will return it to the surface and allow fish to enter the stream for the first time in nearly one hundred years.

Of course, there are many other projects and potential aspirations for the Arboretum. Click Here to learn more about a variety of current projects and endeavors in the Arboretum.

As the author of this blog, focused on co-existing with nature, as an Arboretum Foundation board member, and as the president of Friends of Arboretum Creek, I am asking you to please take a few minutes to complete this survey. 

There are both specific and open-ended questions in the survey. Knowing what you find most important will help you to effectively express your guidance and direction. My suggestion is to decide on three points you would like to emphasize before you begin. To take the survey:

Thank you for caring about our shared future in one of our most delightful, healthy, and inspiring public spaces!


ps: In case you are wondering how having fish in Arboretum Creek might enhance your park experience here are just a few of the species they attract to Union Bay.

Belted Kingfisher - female

Pied-billed Grebe - near 520

Green Heron - first year

Great Blue Heron

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle - near Husky Stadium

Bald Eagle - Montlake Cut nest


Osprey - Union Bay Natural Area nest

River Otter - photographed on Duck Bay - into which Arboretum Creek flows.

Monday, June 12, 2023

New Life

In this photo, Monty and Marsha are clearly focused on someone new in their Montlake Cut nest. This photo was taken a week ago Sunday. May 21st. The evening before, I received two emails alerting me to new life in the nest. My friend, Susan, was the first to break the news. Thank you, Susan! That was followed by my friend, Alejandro, sending video and stills that helped document the situation. 

The young eaglet is a little hard to notice but if you look straight down from Monty's neck the eaglet's upper head and one eye are barely visible below the horizontal "X" of small branches. 

Moments later, the eaglet stands out a bit more against the dark feathers on Marsha's chest. 

This is also a good chance to compare the shadows around Monty and Marsha's eyes. My perception is, that Monty generally has just a tiny shadow in front of his eyes. On the other hand, Marsha generally seems to have smudges behind and below her eyes as well. I think they make her look somewhat tired and irritable, while to me Monty always looks rested and ready. Obviously, my perception of their emotions has nothing to do with their real feelings. However, even these imperfect perceptions are helpful as little hints of recognition. Knowing which one is which makes watching them and the roles they play very interesting.

This is the sixth Spring with Monty and Marsha nesting next to Montlake Cut. Before building their first nest they spent time just north of the Waterfront Activities Center (WAC) which is their most frequent hunting spot.  About the same time as they began taking over the southwest portion of Union Bay, they also acquired Montlake Cut, Marsh Island, and Portage Bay, as parts of their territory. Each year, they have nested in the same centrally-located tree. Although not always in the same nest.  Supporting branches have broken, the nests have shifted under the weight of growing eaglets and the nests have fallen more than once.  At least three of their young have also fallen, before they could fly, and ended up at the Progressive Animal Welfare Society i.e. PAWS. However, thanks to PAWS, all the young healed up and were released with a new lease on life. 

City birds face challenges that country birds seldom encounter. For example, each year on the Opening Day of boating season boats parade through Montlake Cut. They go back and forth all day long.  Music blares. Motors roar and horns honk. It's a party! Amazingly, Marsha and Monty appear to have adapted. This is especially obvious because their young apparently hatch out right around the same time.  Maybe we should teach Seattleites that Opening Day should also be a celebration of new life hatching out, i.e. eggs opening, in Monty and Marsha's nest

Speaking of which, just hours after Susan's email, my friend, Alejandro, sent in this frame from a video he took on the same day.  This is the very first proof I saw of young in this year's nest. A special Thank You to Alejandro Mallea!

Here is a small portion of Alejandro's video that shows two young in the nest. Right at the beginning the first eaglet puts its head down and we are thinking a second one promptly raises his head just a little further to the right. 

Last Sunday, Alejandro also caught the adults having what looks like a parental discussion. I wonder if they discuss whose turn it is to hunt and who gets to sit at the nest?

On May 30th, Marsha put her head back and called while Monty was away from the nest. Shortly after, she left the nest. A few minutes later, Monty appeared. He came and sat on a branch just above the nest. It seemed obvious to me that she had called for him to come and watch out for the young.

Sadly, since then we have not seen a second eaglet. The lone eaglet we have seen is now a week older in this photo (Thank you, Alejandro!). You can faintly see the yellow outline of its bill and the feathers on its head look more gray than white.

Alejandro even caught the moment when the adult was putting food in the youngster's mouth. (Very nicely done!)

If you would like to see more of Alejandro's incredible photography and video work.  You can enjoy it at:

The next day, I caught a few more photos of the young one in the nest. 

The eaglet is holding its head high and looking larger by the day.

This photo feels like an optical illusion. The eaglet has its back to us. The bright yellow bill belongs to the adult even though it looks like it could be sticking out of the eaglet's head. The young bird's bill is mostly black, particularly near the tip, and it is pointed down on the right side of its head. It may take a moment to get the perspective. 

What is most interesting here is seeing  the two pillow-like structures below the young bird's head and shoulders. I suspect these are partially-developed and half-folded wings. The gray downy feathers covering its body look almost like fur rather than feathers.

Later, I caught this photo which confirmed the state of the young eaglet's wings, on May 31st. The primary feathers are just barely visible and they have a lot of growing to do. These tiny inch long nubbins will ending up being primary feathers a foot and half long before the end of July. 

At the moment this photo was taken the wind was blowing briskly through the leaves and both adults were facing into the wind. The wind provides extra lift if they choose to take off and it helps to keep their feather properly in place so usually adult birds find a way to face into the wind. I was very surprised me when the young bird, with its useless little wings, also turned into the wind and began lifting its wings. Even though its first flight is probably a month or more away the eaglet already knows to face into the wind and it has the innate drive to begin working and strengthening its wings.

During the next month or so we will have many opportunities to watch the young bird being fed and to see the parents hunting on Union Bay

On the 31st, while the young one was out of sight, apparently sleeping, I went looking for Monty. I was hoping I might see him hunting. Just when I gave up and started for home Monty passed me heading north.

He stopped on a low snag and actively watched in every direction. After a few moments, he sprung off the branch and dipped out sight toward the water. 

He was immediately escorted back in my direction by an irate crow. I would not be surprised if the crow had young of its own in the area.

Monty seemed irritated by the crow plus he might have been disappointed that he missed out on the food he was after. He perched for a moment and then once the crow flew away he made a second pass at the water.

This time he came up with a fish.

Currently, when the adults bring food to the eaglet they remove small morsels and feed it one little piece at a time. Before long that extra effort will come to an end. By July, the parents will just stop and drop the food. The young one will have to do all the meal preparation. Which is one step towards independence. Later, another step along the way will be jumping, hopping and flapping from branch to branch - called branching. This will help it gain the strength (and confidence) to fly.

Actually, flying is one more step in the process of independence. By Winter, the young bird will also need to hunt for itself and will most likely be totally on its own. Curiously, for eagles independence and maturity are not the same thing. They are independent before they are one year old, but it can take as long as five years before they mature. Only then do they get the white heads and tails that signal to prospective partners that they are ready to mate, defend a territory, and raise young. 

Given that humans mature even more slowly than eagles I wonder why it is that we do not have a convention that separates independence and maturity. 

During the years after independence and before maturity one of the things eagles often do is fight over food. Click Here to read about what was most likely a food fight earlier this year.

During the next few weeks, it will be fun to watch the growth of the young bird as well as the roles the parents play in the process.

Monty leaving the nest.

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 some relevant links.

A video all about native keystone plants for wildlife:


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. 

Is this flower native to our area?

Scroll down for the answer.


Yellow Flag Iris: No, it is not native. It out-competes many native plants and is a Class C noxious weed. Killing it with chemicals maybe the easiest approach, but the chemicals may also be most detrimental to native life forms as well.


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:  



A Final Photo:

As of yesterday, the eaglet is looking decidedly larger. I am guessing its primary feathers are growing almost a half an inch a day.