We saw a Douglas squirrel today, similar to this one. He was pretty brave. He stood on the vine maple near me, right at eye level and scolded me, "CHEEEERRRR," and then he ran down to ground level where a dog could have gotten him. I guess when big, fat Eastern gray squirrels outnumber you ten to one, you have to be tough.
2006.12.14 Besides yesterday's acrobatic display by the four eagles, I also saw a full double rainbow, lightning, and a very bright shooting star.
2006.12.13 Four eagles are playing in the wind this morning. Gliding and swooping around the nest tree, they seem to either be playing or fighting. Two of them have white heads, one has a mottled dark head, and the fourth one I can't tell because it's hard to keep track of all four eagles at once. One of the white heads is doing most of the vocalizing, but the others are talking back sometimes. According to the weather report, the winds are about 25 m.p.h., gusting to 40, from the southwest. The eagles all go shooting by, and then they wheel around and glide slowly against the wind, working their way toward the perch tree on the bluff before diving at each other and sailing back again. They don't seem to be making any contact as they dive at each other. Is this serious eagle business? Or are they just having fun?
2006.12.07 I was accosted by a Ruby-crowned kinglet this afternoon. Right outside the kitchen door, he landed on the railing two feet in front of my face and flashed his vibrant red stripe at me, informing me that he owned the place and I'd better stay out of his way. This was charming behavior coming from a tiny bird that would fit inside my mouth with no trouble. This was the first time I had seen one, or at least the first time I was aware of seeing one. I couldn't find him in my bird guide, and the birders at the Tweeters listserve were very helpful in identifying him for me. My thanks to the many people who answered my question.
2006.12.05 As the dogs and I walked around the neighborhood today, and then through the park, I noticed that there are more large Douglasfirs outside the park than inside the park. I will go around and make a detailed inventory someday, but at first glance it appears there are fewer than fifty large firs inside the park and more than one hundred within a three-block radius of the park. The trees inside the park are protected, for the most part, but all those giants outside the park are at risk. There are economic incentives, in many people's views, to cut down the large Douglasfirs. Local news media always hammer away on how dangerous trees are smashing homes all around Puget Sound, and this fear-mongering works on some people, inspiring them to pay for tree removal in order to reduce the risk of large financial losses due to storm damage. Also, trees sometimes block views or shut out sunlight, and property resale values can rise significantly when large trees are removed.
Not everyone agrees that it was a good idea to create this park in the first place, but now that it is here, I would like to see some sort of mechanism established for including those one hundred large Douglasfirs on private property as an integral part of the ecosystem of Eagle Landing Park. No doubt, this will generate too much friction with property owners to ever get off the drawing board, but it is something worth exploring. Maybe there could be incentives, such as tax breaks or government insurance, to balance out the current financial incentives for cutting down trees. Every year, more houses come on the market and a few of the large firs are cut down, often without the proper permits. At the rate we are losing these trees, fifty years from now Eagle Landing Park will be an island of trees surrounded by empty sky.
2006.12.04 Eagle Landing Park received 16.19 inches of rain for the month of November. No landslides, fortunately. ELP received 13.35 inches in the month of January. For the period from June 18th to September 18th, ELP received 1.08 inches. It's tough to be a plant around here when all the rain comes outside of the growing season.
2006.11.23 My dogs cornered a coyote on the private property just north of Eagle Landing Park this morning. I called them off before they made any actual contact. They had tracked the coyote's scent and caught up to him in the driveway. He was larger than the average coyote. He appeared to be between 40 and 50 pounds. His ears were upright and seemed large. I called the dogs over to me, and he scampered off into the brush.
2006.11.11 This afternoon, an eagle snapped a large branch off of an alder. Apparently, the branch was too big, and the eagle couldn't gain altitude fast enough to get above the canopy again. It dropped the branch and started up again. In mid-flight, it snapped another, smaller branch off a different alder, and circled around to the nest tree.
2006.11.09 Eagle Landing Park has received over 7 inches of rain in the past week. Yesterday was a fairly dry day, so I took the opportunity to plant some Douglasfirs before the next round of rain. Surprisingly, when I dug the holes in the sandy, loamy soil, I found that the earth was completely dry below the top few inches. I had hoped that the recent rains would make watering the transplants unnecessary, but I ended up hauling buckets of water after all. I wonder if this soil dryness is due to the record dry summer, or if it is always like that.
2006.10.20 I heard an owl
that has been calling the past few nights, and the dogs and I walked to the
south end of the house, near the park, to listen. The owl went quiet as we got
close, and we stood quietly in the dark waiting for it to call again. Without
making a sound, the owl swooped down on my puppy, who was too big to carry away,
fortunately. The owl hovered for a couple of wing beats over the 82-pound black
Lab, about a foot above her, and by the time the dog realized she was under
attack, the owl flew off into the trees. The dogs tried to chase it, but they
gave up quickly. It might have been a
barred owl, since I've heard them around here before, but it was making a
different call than usual, like the hoo-waa call recording on the owl site, but
drawn out to about three seconds.
This is why the cats stay indoors.
A red-tail hawk has been
soaring overhead and shrieking, lately, too.
2006.10.05 I didn't see the pheasant today. Someone has suggested that it is a melanistic mutant that has lost its tail. If so, how did he lose his tail? A natural molting process? Or was he nearly caught by a predator? The website for the melanistic mutant says the preferred habitat is at the border of a field of grain. There's no habitat like that around here.
2006.10.04 Why is this exotic bird at Eagle Landing Park? Carol from Audubon says it might be a Japanese Green Pheasant. The dogs and I met this bird on the trail, and he was not terribly afraid of large dogs on leashes. Later, I tried to catch him so I could take him to King County Animal Control so that whoever lost the bird could get it back again, but Japanese Green Pheasants turn out to be very fast runners. It is still running around, sometimes in the street. I hope the owner finds it soon before it comes to harm. If you know anyone who is missing a bird like this, tell them to look at Eagle Landing Park.
2006.09.18 We got half an inch of rain last night. It seems to be starting a second Spring. Plants that had looked wilted are perking up, and the evergreen huckleberries near the top of the park are blooming again. More rain is on the way. Many of the native plants go semi-dormant during the dry months, doing most of their growing during spring with a little extra in the fall. In the rings of some sawn trees, you can see the doubled rings in some years with dry summers and larger single rings in years with adequately moist summers. This year's tree rings should show a definite break between spring and fall.
2006.09.14 Last night we got our first significant rain of the summer, about a quarter of an inch.
This evening at sunset, I saw and heard a loon.
2006.09.10 For the entire summer, we've had only .33 inches of rain at Eagle Landing Park. The official total at SeaTac for that period was .10 inches. Still, in spite of the lack of rain, water keeps trickling out of the hillside at the same steady pace. The alders just north of the bottom of the stairs get a steady supply of moisture all year long. The wetland to the south, which contains skunk cabbage, never dries out. The 25 inches of rain we've had this year has charged the sandy soil with water, and the supply doesn't run out even during the driest summer in decades.
It is amazing that any of the upland plants could survive for three months without water. It might be that the large, mature trees are helping the other plants survive. If the Douglasfirs and hemlocks and maples have roots that reach down to the reservoir of water in the sand, they can suck this moisture up during the day when sun and warm temperatures drive the transpiration system. Water evaporating from the leaves causes water to be sucked up through pores in the tree's growth layer due to the surface tension of the water. At night, when evaporation stops, the water can fall back down into the tree's roots. However, instead of going back down to the water table, this water in the roots can be released into the soil near the surface. This can add some moisture to the upper layers of soil and help other plants survive the long, hot, dry summer. I don't know for sure if this is happening in Eagle Landing Park, but it could be.
2006.08.28 It's termite time. Around sunset, you will see the termites fluttering randomly about. They don't fly well, and it must be a matter of random luck that they ever find a good home. Termites may be the most important part of the Eagle Landing Park ecosystem. They attack the mature alders, finding the damp, rotten spots and enlarging them. Then the woodpeckers go after the termites, further enlarging cavities. These cavities create nesting sites for bats and birds. When the rotting trees finally succumb to gravity, termites continue working on them, gradually turning them into loamy soil. I have witnessed them pouring out of an old douglasfir log at sunset in search of new homes. Our termites are damp-wood termites, and as long as your roof doesn't leak, they shouldn't bother your house.
2006.08.24 The forest feeds the salmon and the salmon feed the forest. As the sixth interpretive panel mentions, nutrients and sediments from the park feed the eelgrass beds just offshore, which are home to young salmon. The young salmon also eat bugs that fall out of the alders along the shore. Surf smelt also eat these bugs, and salmon eat the surf smelt. The salmon return the favor by being caught by the eagles, and perhaps other birds and mammals, and their half-eaten carcasses end up rotting in the woods, providing crucial nitrogen for a healthy forest at Eagle Landing Park. I know for a fact that salmon enrich the woods because I have found fish heads and parts along the trail, and have occasionally smelled the rotting fish, which is apparently a good thing. It's not such a good thing when your dog finds the smelly fish parts and either rolls on them or picks them up in her mouth. ("Just drop it. Don't make me grab it out of your mouth.") This article in Scientific American tells how bears often bring salmon to the woods. In our case, it is mostly the eagles transporting the salmon upland.
As mentioned above, rotting salmon can be very enticing to a dog's nose. You should know that raw salmon could kill a dog, as explained in this article, which is yet another good reason to keep your dog on a leash.
2006.08.21 Yesterday, my friends and I went for a hike at Tiger Mountain, following the trail up to Wilderness Peak. Along the trail, I could see that that park has great habitat and native plants. My goal for the restoration of Eagle Landing Park would be to have it look like Tiger Mountain. There were very few invasives, just the occasional holly or buttercup. In spite of all this great habitat, I didn't see or hear any wildlife. At Eagle Landing Park, I never hear silence because there is always some bird or other with something to say. Crows, eagles, chickadees, flickers, screech owls, and flycatchers make a constant background noise. Along the trail at Tiger Mountain, amid all that perfect habitat, I never saw a single creature, and I only heard birds maybe three times on a four hour hike. I've noticed this on other hikes deep in the Cascades and Olympics: I see better habitat but far fewer animals. Why is that? Is it because I am an invader in their wilderness and they keep quiet until I pass? Is it because they are more spread out? If someone knows, please tell me.
2006.08.20 The eagles are still around. If they had offspring, they would usually fly off for a month and then return to the nest in mid-September. I wonder if they'll just hang around here this summer. Carole Ellis took this nice picture of an eagle in the nest tree on August 18th.
2006.08.19 A harbor seal pup (as far as I could tell) was resting on the beach this morning. (Picture.) It appeared fat and happy. The Washington Department of Ecology has this to say about harbor seal pups:
If you see a harbor seal pup alone on the beach, do not disturb them It's the law. Human encroachment can stress the pup and scare the mother and other adult seals away.
Image courtesy of Washington Sea Grant Program.
For your safety and the health of the pup, leave the pup alone. Do not touch! Do not wrap a pup in blankets (seals are protected by blubber and blankets will cause it to overheat.) Do not try to feed a pup. (Incorrect feeding can cause a pup to die.) Do not try to force a pup into the water. Keep pets and children away from a pup.
More info on seals.
2006.08.15 This morning I saw a white pigeon, probably Columba livia. It was pure white, as far as I could tell, except for light gray markings on its eyebrows. When trying to research what I had seen, I found many companies that provide "white doves," which are really white homing pigeons, for release at weddings and funerals. I wonder if the white pigeon I saw was released at a local wedding, and decided on a little adventure before returning to the coop.
2006.08.10 King county has issued a warning about shellfish toxin in the area. Eagle Landing Park is a Marine Reserve, so no one should be harvesting shellfish here in the first place. When kayaking a few days ago, I noticed that the water was full of seaweed, and my paddle got covered with seaweed frequently. I wonder if the same conditions that caused the seaweed to flourish also brought on the shellfish toxin. King County's bulletin is copied below.
KING COUNTY, WASHINGTON -
Marine biotoxins that cause paralytic shellfish poisoning have been detected at
concentrations above the safe level in shellfish samples collected from beaches
south of Three Tree Point in Burien. As a result, the Washington State
Department of Health has closed beaches to the harvest of all species of
shellfish in King County south of Three Tree Point to the Pierce County line.
Vashon Island remains closed to shellfish harvesting. Commercially harvested
shellfish are tested prior to distribution and should be safe to eat.
The closure includes clams, oysters, mussels, scallops and other species of shellfish. Crab is not included in the closure, but the “crab butter” should be discarded, and only the meat should be eaten. Fin fish found in these waters do not accumulate the toxins in their flesh and are safe to eat.
Marine biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing and can be life-threatening. Symptoms of paralytic shellfish poisoning may appear within minutes or hours and usually begins with tingling lips, tongue, hands and feet followed by difficulty breathing, and potentially death. Any one experiencing these symptoms should contact a health care provider. For extreme reactions call 911.
The toxin is produced by naturally occurring “blooms” of microscopic plankton that tend to be more common during the warmer months of the year. The color of the water does not change and the plankton are invisible. To check the latest shellfish harvesting closures anywhere in the state visit the marine biotoxin website at www.doh.wa.gov/ehp/sf/biotoxin.htm or call the Department of Health Biotoxin Hotline at 1-800-562-5632.
2006.08.03 The Olive-sided Flycatcher spends some time in the park, but more often I hear it east of the park in the wooded ravine right-of-way that runs behind the homes between 149th and 150th. Although these woods are separated from the park by a street, wildlife must consider it a continuous habitat.
2006.07.31 Coyotes have been reported in the area, and there have been posters for missing cats. A few blocks from the park, someone found the remains of a cat in his backyard, probably the work of a coyote. One purpose of Eagle Landing Park is to provide habitat for wildlife, but encounters with wildlife don't always end well. At Schmitz Park in West Seattle, neighbors of that park are divided in their acceptance of coyotes, according to this article. Another article from the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife has tons of information about coyotes, the most important of which is, don't feed them, either purposely or inadvertently. Personally, I would be thrilled to see a coyote in Eagle Landing Park, although my large canine companions make that unlikely. I would encourage owners of cats and small dogs, anywhere in Burien, to keep them inside at night. A small dog inside a fenced yard is an easy target for a coyote because the coyote can easily jump an eight foot fence and the small dog has nowhere to run. Please read the WDFW article about coyotes, for your pet's sake and for the coyotes' sake.
2006.07.30 A new willow tree has planted itself near the parking area. I'll have to wait until it blooms next year to verify that it is a native, but it is encouraging to see so many native trees have seeded themselves near the parking area. So far, we've had seedlings of alder, maple, vine maple, madrone, fir, willow, hazelnut, and maybe cedar and hemlock. Not all of these trees can grow to maturity in that small area, as this would make it too crowded. I have already removed over forty alder seedlings, leaving ten. I've also removed many maple seedlings, leaving several. The madrone seedlings I hope to pot up and nurture for use in some other park. There is room near the parking area for maybe a couple of madrones. There also millions of seedlings of coast redwood, coming from the neighbor's trees. I love redwoods, but I've been pulling these up and will continue to do so. One could argue that redwoods used to be a native, but probably not within the last 100,000 years.
2006.07.29 Stop global warming by planting a tree. During the weekend with three days around 95 degrees, the temperature in the woods was 75 to 80. That's still too hot for me, but 15 to 20 degrees cooler than the airport is a significant difference. Most official temperature readings are taken at airports such as SeaTac and Boeing Field, which are asphalt deserts. I notice that when I come from the top of the hill, in Burien, down into the park, I can feel the temperature cooling as I walk deeper into the woods, and closer to the water. Some of the cooling must be due to the proximity to Puget Sound, but I imagine that if 300 million Americans each planted a significant tree in their yards or in nearby parks, it could make a big dent in global warming.
2006.07.28 What is a weed? The landscape areas around the parking lot are looking quite weedy right now because of purple-leaved willowherb, Epilobium ciliatum. This is a native plant, and so in this instance, since the purpose of the park is to promote native plants for wildlife habitat, it's not really a weed. There are many non-native plants trying to gain a foothold in the disturbed area around the parking lot, including clematis, blackberry, nipplewort, dandelion, policeman's helmet, and herb robert. I have been diligent in removing these non-natives. There's probably a bit more purple-leaved willowherb than is really desirable, right now, but I have avoided removing any of it because it can help crowd out the other weeds. It is a pioneer species, which is a nicer term than calling it a weed. Once the other natives such as Rhododendron, ferns, salal, and Oregon grape are more established and robust, I'll start to thin out the willowherb if it doesn't naturally yield to these more substantial plants. I find it to be a very attractive plant, but I haven't had any luck in getting a good picture of it. A Google image search shows that other people haven't had much luck photographing it, either, but here's an okay picture. Another picture taken at Eagle Landing Park.
The eagles are still around the area from time to time, but not as much as usual since they had no offspring this year. I heard them today.
2006.07.10 I hope you have been watching the Kent Eagle Cam. I have enjoyed watching the little ball of fluff grow into a raptor over a fairly short time. The baby bird is getting ready to fly soon.
My furry friends and I visited Discovery Park in Magnolia this weekend. I was surprised to learn that all Seattle public beaches are off-limits to dogs, whether they are on a leash or not. It made me wish that dog lovers who visit this park would take care to control their dogs and clean up after them. Eagle Landing Park is a great place for a dog to visit, and it's a shame that a few dog owners are creating a negative image for dogs in general. While we were at Discovery Park, every dog we met was on a leash, there was very little graffiti in the entire 600 acres, there were volunteers doing educational demonstrations, and I saw many restoration projects where invasive plants were being replaced by natives. It was a nice day in the park.
2006.07.06 Last night some raccoons were having a battle in the cherry trees outside the kitchen window. The dogs and I went outside to see what the ruckus was, and the dogs found it very entertaining. After a bit, I realized that one was going to knock the other out of the tree, and I didn't want the dogs tangling with the raccoons (for either of their sakes) so I put the dogs in the kitchen. Moments later, one of them fell about twenty feet to the ground, landing on his rump and kind of bouncing, and then he ran off. The other one came down out of the cherry tree and looked at me in a defiant way, and then bumbled off into my little flower garden, where I see they have smashed all the candyflower, apparently using it as bedding or for a wrestling mat.
2006.07.05 I'm pretty sure I heard a raven the other day. I had seen ravens in Colorado, but never around here, as far as I know. The bird guide says they are common in this area, but all I ever see is billions of crows. I didn't see this raven, but it had a deeper, throaty, rattling call, which compared favorably with the audio sample in the birding software.
When the fireworks started last night, some of them very loud and close, I noticed a lot of commotion in the trees. Young birds and squirrels were scrambling about in a bit of a panic. By the time darkness fell and the fireworks became a non-stop barrage, all the animals seemed to have found a place to hunker down for the night. Imagine if you were about two months old and the whole world, which had always been so peaceful and predictable, suddenly erupted in noise, fire, and smoke.
2006.06.30 After sunset, I heard bats flying from tree to tree, chirping. Here's an audio sample similar to what I heard.
2006.06.25 It's too hot.
2006.06.21 Today I saw a Western wood pewee. This bird was very kind to fly right down to eye level, about eight feet away, and sing for me so I could see and hear it very clearly. It was no trouble at all to identify it using the guide. With all the bug-eating birds we have around here--Western wood pewee, Hammond's fly catcher, Olive-sided flycatcher, Pacific slope flycatcher, brown creeper, three kinds of woodpeckers, plus bats and spiders and dragonflies and frogs--it's a wonder that we have any bugs left at all. Just think of the insect problems we'd have if we didn't have all these birds and bug-eaters.
2006.06.20 The battle of the giants has been going on for about 60 or 70 years.
These trees beside the trail are locked in mortal combat, but it looks like a pretty even match so far. The Douglasfir was probably there first, but the fast-growing maple wouldn't have needed long to catch up. Considering that Douglasfirs can live for over a thousand years and maples rarely live for over 300 years, the odds favor the fir as the fight drags on. However, they have to be pushing on each other with tremendous force, so maybe if one goes, they'll both go.
2006.06.19 It's been a while since I've seen the eagles, but I've heard them almost every day. When I walk along the trail past the nest tree, they are never there (since there are no young this year), but later in the afternoon I hear them at the nest tree. I usually hear the crows making a racket first, then I hear the eagles complaining about the crows.
I saw a downy woodpecker picking apart an alder tree. Most of the alders in the park are getting on in years, reaching the end of their lifespan. Alders are a favorite of three species of woodpeckers, and eagles also like to snap off branches for nesting material. I have even seen a bat nesting in a cavity of an alder. Alders get their start when there is a hole in the canopy, due to a fallen tree or a landslide. Right now, there are relatively few young alders, and there are few openings for them to get started in. I can think of about thirty mature alders in the park that will have fallen by the year 2020, and this could be a loss of important habitat if there are no opportunities to plant new ones. Cascara is a similar tree that is shade-tolerant, and I have been planting them throughout the park and will continue to. Alders are often considered "junk" trees, especially by people who have one in their yard and are dismayed at the amount of litter they drop throughout the year. They blow down in storms, breaking power lines and causing other damage. However, these qualities of fast growth and short life, soft wood and copious litter, make them excellent trees for the health of the forest. They fix nitrogen in the soil during their rapid growth, they add organic material to the soil all during their lives, and then they add even more organic material when they fall as the wood rots quickly and hosts bugs and seedlings of conifers.
2006.0616 Yesterday the flickers were deliberately ignoring the young flicker in the nest cavity. The young bird was calling for food, and the mother was a foot away on the back side of the tree, hiding from the nestling. The father was in the top of a dead tree about twenty feet away, also hiding from the baby. They flew off without feeding it. It seems they are saying it's time to leave the nest. Pictures.
Thanks to Carol from Rainier Audubon, I now know that the bird taunting me with its cedar cedar cedar call is the Bewick's wren.
2006.06.14 Why can't mountain beavers eat ivy? There's plenty of it, and would be helpful if they killed some. No, they prefer to eat the native plants, especially the young plants that we have recently planted. Some vandal, either a mountain beaver or a two-legged varmint, has recently stripped the bark from a vine maple near the parking area. It was a healthy young tree with a dense canopy of leaves. If I could have a little chat with a mountain beaver, I would tell him or her that I am trying to create good habitat for all critters, and if they would just leave it alone and let it get established, then they would be better off in the long run.
I have a little nursery where I am growing native plants for eventual installation in the park. European slugs crawl through acres of European ivy without touching any of it and come and nibble every little bit of new growth off of my young native plants. Sometimes, it looks like I'm trying to raise potted sticks and stems, but the ivy is healthy and unblemished. Fortunately, I have at least one ally in my battle against slugs: garter snakes often slither away when I approach the nursery. I tell them, "Don't go away on my account. You can eat all the slugs you like."
While trying to learn more about birds, I have learned that Eagle Landing Park is excellent habitat for birds because it offers them such good cover. I always hear birds but can't see them in the dense understory of hazelnut, vine maple, and oceanspray. One particular bird has been taunting me mercilessly, always within earshot but out of sight. He says cedar cedar cedar. I've been through my books and software several times, but can't seem to identify him. Could someone give me a hint?
2006.06.12 I saw a brown creeper yesterday. It was a little too far away to identify by its markings, but it was acting just like Carol from the Audubon Society had said it would. It was working its way up the trunk of a tree in short little hop-flights, picking insects off the bark. When it got to the top, I knew what would happened next and it was just as Carol described: it seemed to fall from the treetop like a leaf, fluttering a bit and slipping side to side. If I hadn't been watching closely, I probably would have assumed it was a falling leaf.
2006.06.09 While there
aren’t any baby eagles, there are plenty of other baby birds. Some Bewick’s
wrens have nested under the eaves of the house. A dark bird, possibly a baby
crow, flew right at my face in the dark the other night, squawking, before it
bumbled off into the bushes. One of the dogs pointed out a baby crow sitting on
the ground by the parking lot; it’s been there a couple of days and a crow in
the trees squawks at us when we are around, so I think it is being fed and
looked after, even though it can’t fly at the moment. A month ago, I saw
chickadees nesting in a hole in a dead madrona branch, and today I saw flickers
nesting in a hole in the trunk of a large dead madrona. There are pictures of
the flickers in the gallery.
2006.06.06 Oceanspray is starting to come into bloom. With the recent heavy rains and the coming warm and sunny weather, they should look spectacular in a week or two. A particularly fine specimen is located in the middle of the stairs, against the north side. A shaft of sunlight hits it at about 10:30 in the morning, lighting it dramatically. I'll try to get a good picture of it at its peak.
The eagles have been around sporadically, usually accompanied by a murder of crows. The Kent Eaglecam seems to be showing just one eaglet.
2006.05.31 Yesterday, I heard two eagles making a fuss in the nest tree. They were being harassed by crows. It started me thinking about why there are no eaglets this year, and I remembered that the eagles started nest building earlier this year than they seemed to in the past. I also recalled that they built a nest near the top that collapsed during a storm and spilled down the side. If, as the eagle biologist suggested, one of the pair of eagles is a new replacement for one that died, maybe the new eagle isn't adept at nest building yet. Maybe they had eggs, but the nest wasn't built right and the eggs fell out. Whatever the reason for no chicks this year, I hope they are enjoying their vacation from parental responsibilities and will have better luck next year.
I heard another pair of birds yesterday, in a remarkable coincidence. I heard two song sparrows, one to the north and one to the south, who started their songs at the exact same moment and continued in unison for most of the song. Toward the end, their notes began to diverge, and the one to the north added several extra notes on the end. At first, I thought it was one bird with a strong echo, because the songs matched so perfectly, but it was definitely two birds by the end of the song. It's probably a once-in-a-lifetime coincidence to be standing between two birds who start singing the same song at the same time. They sound great in stereo.
2006.05.28 The first two weeks of May were sunny, hot, and dry, but over the last two weeks, we've had 1.63 inches of rain spread out over many small showers, keeping the ground moist. As a result, many plants such as Indian plum, Oregon grape, and the young Douglasfirs have put on so much new growth that they are drooping under the weight. The trail has become a tunnel as the greenery crowds in. I was having to water the newly-planted strawberries during the hot weather, but this drippy weather has been perfect for them to get established. One of the Devil's club plants is blooming and should have a bunch of red berries this summer (for animals, not humans). I have been eating some salmonberries, which are ripening already. This morning I found one as big as a grocery-store strawberry. So far, none of them have tasted too good, but I'll keep sampling in the hopes that I'll eventually find a good one or acquire a taste for them. There are new pictures in the gallery section.
2006.05.23 This morning I had a good demonstration of why it's important to keep dogs on leashes in the park. I came around a bend in the trail, and the dogs' leashes all went taught at the same moment when they caught the scent of a raccoon. I saw the raccoon climbing a tree about twelve feet away. If the dogs had been off-leash (which mine never are) they would have been crashing through the underbrush before I had a chance to rein them in. Not only would this have been an unnecessary burden, at the least, and possibly dangerous for the raccoon, but it could have been quite dangerous for the dogs. Particularly if you have a single dog, it is important to not let them get involved with raccoons. Several raccoons can latch onto a dog and severely injure her, or possible kill her. If a mother raccoon had her babies with her, she would be forced to be extra aggressive. Every day, I see people letting their dogs roam off-leash in Eagle Landing Park. Usually, they unhook the leash right while they are standing next to the sign requesting that all pets be kept on a leash. What those people don't seem to understand is that it's not just for the benefit of wildlife and other patrons of the park, but it's important for the safety of the dogs.
Besides the raccoon, I saw and/or heard another Pacific Slope Flycatcher and a Western Wood-pewee. They were too far away to tell them apart visually, but I distinguished them by their songs. The bird guide says that they can't even tell each other apart by sight, and that they use sound to keep track of who's who.
2006.05.22 Today I saw two Hammond's Flycatchers, I'm pretty sure. I couldn't see them well enough for positive ID, but they sounded very similar to the sound recording on the software. I also saw or heard a Bewick's Wren, song sparrows, flickers, robins, jays, and crows, of course. The eagles were screaming in the perch tree, not the nest tree. We had a decent rain last night, and all the new green growth is drooping down under the weight of the water. The Viburnum edule is blooming nicely.
2006.05.21 After further research, I'm going to have to take back the previous claim that what I heard was a fox. An internet search resulted in this recording of a coyote, and although it doesn't sound quite the same as what I heard, it's the closest match I could find. I have had a hard time finding any good recordings of a fox. Anyway, I'm certain I have seen foxes before in this area, and several other people have reported seeing them.
2006.05.18 This morning at the crack of dawn, a fox started barking and howling. At least, I think it was a fox. I might have slept through it, but it got the dogs started barking. In many years of living in this area, this was the first time I had heard a fox carry on like this, barking and howling non-stop for about an hour and a half. I tried to get closer to see if it was injured or if another predator was attacking it, but at twenty feet away it was still concealed in impenetrable brush.
Before 2000, before I had dogs and before the park was even an idea, the fox used to come around at about 4PM every day and bark his way around the house. That bark was different. It sounded like some sort of prehistoric bird, and I never would have guessed it was a fox until I saw it one day. I could hear him coming around the house like he always did, so I got on the far side and held very still, and I saw him walking along, barking his strange bark. He got about ten feet away from me before he realized I was there and sprinted off into the bushes. (I also saw a fox once when our cat was chasing him.) This morning's barking and howling seemed urgent and distressed.
2006.05.17 The thimbleberries were electrified with buzzing bees this afternoon. Just north of the park, there is a thicket of thimbleberry about twenty feet by forty feet. Before I had learned about native plants, I spent many hours over several years trying to eradicate this patch of thimbleberries so I could create a little open space. I pulled them up by the roots with a special root jack. I had that area looking as though it was completely free of thimbleberries, but the next year they came back with a vengeance, looking healthier than ever. Now that I appreciate native plants, I'm glad I failed in my previous attempts to eradicate them. This afternoon, they made a sea of white flowers atop soft green leaves, and they were alive with bees, showing their value to wildlife. In the future, I may cut them down at the end of the season in order to start them off lower and let more light into the house, and I can be confident that mowing them down will not discourage them at all.
With the help of some new birding software, I found the identity of the bird that has been taunting me. It is a Pacific Slope Flycatcher. When I had seen them before, on May 5th, they were way high in a dead madrona, so I was not expecting to see them right at eye level, whistling at me. The picture and the sound recording on the software makes it easy to make a positive identification.
While trying to learn the birds of Eagle Landing Park, I have noticed that the song sparrows have about five different variations on their song. They can have two to four introductory notes, the middle can be either buzzy or trilly, and some song sparrows add a flourish at the end. The song on the software was yet another variation.
2006.05.16 I have been trying to learn my birds, without much luck. When I can see them, they're not saying anything, and when I can hear them, they are hidden by branches. A couple of exceptions are the song sparrow, which I already know, and a bird somewhat like a kinglet, who whistles like I whistle for my dogs. He seems to be teasing me because I can't figure out who he is using the guide books. The eagles have been noisy today, but not near the nest. I saw two herons at the beach. Salmonberry and Indian plum have fruit, and the devil's club is starting to bloom. Salal is in full bloom, and ocean spray is starting to bloom. All fifty strawberry plants are now planted along the storm drain ditch by the kiosk. Some are blooming and some have tiny strawberries already.
2006.05.10 The pileated woodpeckers have been busy lately. Along the trail near the top, you can see bits of rotten wood they have torn out of the alders. I have seen them there many times, but it is hard to get a picture. While inside the house, I heard a sound like a jackhammer coming from the fireplace, and I went outside and looked up to see a northern flicker pecking on the metal chimney flashing in order to aurally mark his territory.
2006.05.09 The eagles
have been active in the area, although not so much at the nest tree. Garter
snakes are sunning themselves near the rock border by the driveway. A False
Solomon seal is blooming in the park, and it is a species I forgot to put on the
plant list, so the list will grow by one. Another unwanted species has entered
the park: knotweed is starting down at the beach. I pulled up the few shoots I
found, but that probably won’t be the last of it. A few days ago, I was at an
industrial building north of Lake Union that had knotweed growing up through the
asphalt. The asphalt went right up to the building, leaving no exposed soil and
no way for rain to get in, but the knotweed drilled through the pavement and was
looking very robust.
2006.05.05 This morning,
Carol Schulz from the Rainier chapter of the Audubon Society came to the park
for a bird count, which she will email to me later. She pointed out many things
that I had not noticed before. Near the trail, some chickadees made a nest in a
small hollow in a branch of a madrona, and I watched with my binoculars as two
adults and a young bird darted to and from the nest, probably feeding other
young birds inside the hole. With my binoculars, I could see tail feathers
sticking out of this hole in a branch. She also pointed out to me a species of
pacific slope flycatcher, which darted back and forth in the top of a dead
madrona, catching bugs. I got a very close-up view of a
song sparrow. I see these every day, but with the binoculars I could see
every detail, every feather, as it sat patiently, singing to me. She also saw a
loon and a Wilson’s warbler. Carol was in the park about three hours, and there
was not much sign of our eagles in that time, except for a brief glimpse of one
a quarter mile north of the park.
2006.05.04 An adult eagle was in the nest tree this morning, but it was just sitting on a branch, looking west. If there were eggs in the nest, I would expect the bird to be sitting on the nest, or if two eagles were there, I would expect one to be shouting at the other, "Don't just sit there, bring me some fish!" But it was just one adult sitting quietly. In the past, I have complained (to myself) that the eagles are too noisy, but this silent spring is worse.
2006.05.03 The nest tree has been too quiet this past week. I have heard eagles in the area, but not much activity centered on the nest tree. Thimbleberry and bleeding heart are blooming now. Over half an inch of rain fell last weekend, and the hazelnuts and ocean spray have turned the understory a thick green. At least one of the devil's clubs will have flowers and fruit this year, judging by the buds. Most of the trilliums have turned purple by now.
2006.04.30 Does Eagle Landing Park have Mountain Beavers? I noticed that several trilliums had looked healthy until one day something had come and taken a bite out of the base and caused them to wilt. Several days after that, they were gone. I have also noticed that many of the devil's club plants have a bite taken out of the bark near the base, but they are still surviving. Upon researching mountain beavers, I discovered that this is something they do as part of their usual feeding habits. This might also solve the mystery of the dying trees. I have planted many evergreens of the same species that all get the same amount of water and sun, but some have suddenly died while others are thriving. A mountain beaver chewing the bark would explain this. I'll have to keep an eye out for them.
2006.04.28 This evening a group of about twenty volunteers from the Evergreen Church youth group came to ELP to remove invasives. They were a lively group and seemed to have a good time. They worked at the first sharp bend in the trail (zone 3 on the map) removing ivy and holly. While removing ivy, I found that Policeman's Helmet had gotten into the park along the fence in zone 3. I'll have to keep an eye on this area and remove it all before it flowers and goes to seed. As we were finishing up the work, at around 7 PM, I saw a Douglas squirrel running along the hazelnut branches. After dark, as I was walking along SW 146th street, south of Seahurst Park, a police siren was wailing along Ambaum, and coyotes down in Seahurst Park were howling in response to the siren. There have been reports of coyote sightings in the area, but I've never seen one.
2006.04.27 Today at the beach I saw a juvenile eagle circling overhead, without flapping, while a crow hounded him. It's easy to forget how big eagles are, because they are always in the distance, but when you see one making a crow look tiny, it gives you a good sense of scale. The crow was flapping furiously to keep up with the casually soaring eagle, and it seemed that the crow was actually making contact with a few of the dives at the eagle. This went on for a minute until the juvenile eagle did a quick braking maneuver that made the crow miss on one of its dives and end up at the sharp end of the eagle. The eagle nearly got the crow with a quick nip, and after that the crow flew away as fast as it could while the eagle continued soaring effortlessly.
2006.04.25 A Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias, was fishing in the shallow waters over the sand bar this morning.
2006.04.22 At sunset, an eagle in the nest tree called to an eagle flying in from the north. The one in the nest tree flew out to meet the other, and they collided in mid-air, locking talons in aerial maneuver. Then they flew back to the nest tree together. After much screaming back and forth, one of them flew off again. The one flying away made triumphant, king-of-the-jungle eagle cries, and the one staying behind made pitiful squawks about being stuck at home with the eggs.
2006.04.19 This morning around 10AM the eagles were very active in and near the nest tree. They called to one another while one was in the nest tree and the other was in the perch tree. Then they yelled at each other while both in the nest tree. This behavior is more like what I would expect if they had eggs in the nest.
2006.04.17 Tonight around sunset I saw a screech owl for only about the third time in several decades. I always hear them but never see them. It flew across the path about eye level. (Be sure to listen to the audio of their calls at the link.)
I haven't seen much eagle activity at the nest tree, so I'm beginning to doubt there are any eggs yet. It's getting late in the season. If they didn't have offspring this year, it would be the first time since 1989.
2006.04.14 Three eagles glided over the nest tree, talking to each other. Against the bright sky, it was hard to tell which were adults and which were juveniles. Later, I saw one eagle in the tip of the nest tree.
Over half an inch of rain fell last night, and the understory plants are exploding with new growth, closing off sight lines in the park.
2006.04.11 One eagle seems to be in the nest tree most of the time, judging by the sound, so I think it's a good sign that an egg has been laid. Incubation is about 35 days, so we should expect a chick around May 15th or so.
2006.04.09 Now blooming: maples, candy flower, evergreen huckleberry, Oregon grape, currant, skunk cabbage, trillium, madrone. This afternoon there is an unusual amount of commotion in the nest tree, so this might mean that she's laying eggs.
2006.04.08 Two eagles were
vocalizing loudly at the perch tree this morning. A single blue jay was
imitating the sounds of a forest full of songbirds. He wasn’t imitating any
single bird, just the general chatter and twittering. I thought the woods were
full of birds until I looked up and realized all the sound was coming from the
lone blue jay. A light rain began about 10 AM, and everything turned quiet, no
eagle sounds, no other birds, no people in the park.
2006.04.07 Today I saw the eagles soaring high above their nest tree. According to what I've read, they ought to have eggs in the nest by now, but I've seen no sign of that. The way I have deduced there were eggs in the nest, in past years, was that there was always one adult in the nest tree. They would often yell back and forth over long distances, saying, "Bring me lunch," or "It's you turn to incubate the eggs." There's no vantage point to see into the nest, so this behavior is the only way I can think of to know they've laid their eggs. American Bald Eagle Information
2006.04.06 Birds, bees, and trilliums.
At the beach today, we saw some ducks, which I'm pretty sure were mallards. Earlier this winter I had seen goldeneye ducks, I think.
There have been bumblebees around the past couple of weeks. This is the Puppy's first spring, and so she doesn't know about bees. She has been trying to catch them, and I have warned her several times to leave them alone. This morning, while I was filling the water bucket and not watching her, she apparently bit a bumblebee which stung her in the mouth. She galloped around shaking her head and licking the inside of her mouth. I guess you just have to learn some things the hard way.
I found a trillium in a spot where I had forgotten that they were. It's near the top of the trail, near where the old trail used to be before it was a park. I remember there had been some in that area about five years ago, but I hadn't noticed them in the meantime. They are uphill of the trail, in an area already weeded, so hopefully they will avoid being trampled by dogs or volunteers.
The currants are blooming. Many of the currants installed around the parking area last year are looking very good this year. The skunk cabbage in the wetland near the beach is blooming, and there seems to be more of it this year than last year. The adult eagles have been busy in the area, but a juvenile is hanging around, too, which is unusual. My guess is that the adults will chase the juvenile away when the new eggs hatch. Many of the trilliums were trampled last year by a group of volunteers. Two clusters survived, but one of them appears to have been eaten by something, so it's down to just the one clump of trilliums by the trail.
Foxglove is sprouting around the base of the stairs, and it will need to be removed before it goes to seed.
14 douglasfir seedlings have been planted in the community beach property just south of the park, and hopefully a few will survive to maturity and help shield the perch tree from winter storm winds.