Journal of Eagle Landing Park
jim [at] eaglelandingpark.org home 2006
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November 25th. I discovered a new tree today. It had been there all along, for at least ten years, but I only noticed it today because a branch blew onto the trail. It appears to be a Scouler's willow. This is an exciting find because that makes it the only tree of that species in the park. Scouler's willow isn't a rare species, but it's nice to find the park had more diversity than I'd thought. We will be planting many new native species. This discovery increases the park's "authentic" diversity as compared to the "manufactured" diversity that the restoration process will create. I'd walked by this tree over a thousand times and assumed it was another maple because I didn't look up.
Tonight when we came home after dark, a bird, most likely an owl, swooped through the headlights as we drove down the driveway. It has done this many times before, but this time it came right over the cab, across the windshield and hood, and right in between the beams of light. It went up into the vine maples and then came back for another pass. I think it is a screech owl, but it moves too fast for me to tell.
November 24th. Tonight under the full moon I heard a pair of Great Horned Owls talking to each other. I moved closer to the park boundary with my dogs, and they went quiet. I wondered if they might take a swoop at a dog, because an owl dived at one of my dogs a few years ago. When we walked back toward the house, they started talking again. They can be loud, but these two were talking very softly to each other.
Photographer: Don Baccus All
images subject to © Copyright
November 11th. The eagles are talking to each other, softly, a little after midnight. They seem to be in the perch tree, not the nest tree. People often ask me if the eagles are around. I have the impression that I see or hear them almost every day. Even though they did not have offspring in 2006 or 2007, I believe a pair of eagles has remained in the area of the park continuously throughout that period.
Earlier in the night, I heard some bird shriek or whistle. I'd like to know what that bird is. I suppose screech owls are called that for a reason, but the only sound that I have heard from them, that I know of, is their soft "bouncing ball" call.
November 7th. Nocturnal creatures. Eagle Landing Park is probably busier at night than during the day, although you wouldn't see much if you toured the park at night. Nocturnal creatures include: barred owl, screech owl, brown bats, raccoons, possums, foxes, coyotes, mountain beavers, and brown salamanders. I recently uncovered a lungless (!) salamander, Ensatina eschscholtzii, hiding under some decaying wood. It was quite patient while I took several pictures, and then it wriggled away to a dark hiding place. The mountain beaver, which is a rodent that has nothing to with mountains or beavers, recently stole a fine young rhododendron out of the landscape near the parking area. It was a small bush, about eighteen inches high, that had flowered nicely for the past two years. It was gone one day, and I wondered who was stealing plants from the park. Then I remembered that mountain beavers are especially fond of rhododendrons, which are toxic to most other animals. I investigated, and found a tunnel under the ground where the rhododendron had been. The furry thief had tunneled up during the night and pulled the whole plant down into the ground. The park is supposed to be habitat for wildlife, so I guess it's a good thing we have mountain beavers in the park, but I wish they would allow the landscape to become established before they destroy it.
October 5th. A wooly caterpillar, Lophocampa maculata. (video). It will turn into the moth on the right.
July 29th. The chickadees taunted the hawk today. I watched from the parking area as a young Cooper's Hawk called for a parent to bring food, and while it made a racket, the chickadees made nearly as loud a racket as they cheeped and twittered all around the hawk. The hawk sat on an alder branch, about sixty feet above the ground, and about half a dozen chickadees flitted all around, coming within six feet or so, picking bugs off the alder bark. The baby hawk made a feeble hop in their direction, probably asking one of the chickadees if he could just fly into his open mouth. Even though the hawk was probably a hundred times larger, the tiny birds seemed to know it was no threat. A squirrel also traipsed through, scampering across a lower alder branch not far from the hawk. I have to say I don't mind them taunting the hawk, as I haven't been too happy with the frequent piles of songbird feathers the adult hawks have been leaving in the area. I hope the Cooper's hawks will move on to some other area next year.
The eagles were around today, as well, screaming at each other.
July 19th. The Cooper's hawks seem to have their nest about one hundred feet northwest of the eagles' nest tree, just on private property north of the park. Baby hawks are calling from the nest, in a Douglasfir tree. They don't seem to be flying, yet. The babies call more and more excitedly as the parents get closer with lunch.
July 10th. The fireweed has come into bloom, joining the purple-leaved willowherb, which has been in bloom for a month. Hummingbirds, butterflies, and many types of bees are visiting both plants. The two plants are closely related. Their scientific names are Epilobium angustifolium, and Epilobium ciliatum, respectively. You can see new pictures of them in the gallery. Some people view these plants as weeds, but they are important native plants used by many birds and insects. They are "pioneer species" that move into newly disturbed spaces and open areas. Over time, as the shrubs such as currant and salal and Oregon grape become more mature, these pioneers will be crowded out of Eagle Landing Park. So be sure to enjoy them this year.
May 14th. I discovered a Star Flower, Trientalis borealis I believe. It must have come in with one of the ferns when the park was first planted.
The flycatchers are back. They've been whistling at me, but they won't come out where I can see them.
I ate my first salmonberry of the year, and it was good. This berry was a deeper red than the usual orange, and it tasted pretty good for a salmonberry. Many of the ones I've tried in the past have been either bland or bad, but this one tasted as good as it looked.
The blooming thimbleberry has been full of bees. Whatever is effecting the honeybees doesn't seem to have impacted our local polinators.
April 19th. On this nice sunny day, REI came to the park to volunteer their hard work in removing ivy. About fifteen employees came, along with Jean Spohn, a Burien Parks Board Member and volunteer leader. Lori Schuller, who lives near the park and works for REI, was instrumental in arranging this event. The crew removed eight cubic yards of ivy from an area near the trail, between the eagle viewing area and the first set of stairs. They hauled all this ivy up to the parking lot and put it in a dump truck to go to the green recycling place. (Cedar Grove?) They even provided lunch for me! It was an excellent day's work. They worked in section 4 on the zone map.
April 12th. I think I'm not happy about having Cooper's hawks in the park. This afternoon, I heard the Cooper's hawk, and then I also heard the Douglas squirrel in the same area. I got my camera and went looking for the Douglas squirrel, to possibly warn him and to take his picture. When I finally tracked down the location of the squirrel, it turned out to be the hawk making squirrel sounds, hoping to lure one out. So, this seems to mean that the Cooper's hawk won't be eating the larger crows and gray squirrels, of which we have too many, but it will be eating the smaller songbirds and Douglas squirrels, of which we have too few.
April 8th. I got a good look at one of the hawks through the binoculars, and it definitely looked like a hawk. I couldn't say it looked exactly like the photograph, because it was mostly facing away from me, but its vocalization this morning was an exact match to the audio on the birding software. My question is, Is it a good thing to have Cooper's Hawks? Are they going to eat the over-abundant crows? Or will they eat my song sparrows?
April 7th. At sunset, two eagles in the nest tree started making a ruckus. Moments later, the object of their excitement came into view: an adult eagle soared in from the north, hovered around the nest tree for a couple of circles, and then headed north again. The pair in the tree went quiet after the visitor left.
Earlier in the evening, I think I saw two Cooper's Hawks. I didn't have my binoculars handy, so I don't know for sure, but their tails looked like hawk tails when they flew overhead, through the canopy. I compared their calls to the audio recordings in my birding software, and the closest match I could find was the Cooper's Hawk.
March 30th. Tonight, around sunset, we saw an otter traveling north in the water, about twenty feet from shore. She dove and surfaced repeatedly, and came to shore with something she had caught. She sat on the beach and ate her catch while we watched from a distance, and then she went back to swimming after about five minutes.
March 29th. The Kent Eagle Cam shows that pair has at least one egg in the nest. Our eagles have been active in the area, but as far as I know they have not been hanging around the nest tree. I've been hearing them farther north, on private property, most of the time.
March 16th. It was hot today. Well, the temperature was in the mid sixties, but it felt hot while I was pulling ivy. It also smelled warm. I found two trilliums that I hadn't known about before. About an hour before sunset, the eagle posed in a tree north of the park. I didn't have enough lens or megapixels to get a great shot. At sunset, the sky was clear and the water was perfectly still and smooth. A very bright planet, probably Venus, hung in the Western sky for a long time, and Orion was visible for one of the last times this year. Several screech owls talked to each other in the distance.
March 11th. Yesterday, about 30 volunteers from the Burien/White Center Rotary Club came and planted about 250 plants in Zone 2. They planted sword fern, salal, and evergreen huckleberry. They finished in record time, and I barely had time to snap a few pictures before they were done. We got a good "pineapple express" rain last night to help the plants off to a good start.
Here's the checklist of birds I reported for the Great Backyard Bird Count.
Common Goldeneye - 5
Bald Eagle - 2
Western Gull - 1
Band-tailed Pigeon - 6
Rufous Hummingbird - 1
Northern Flicker - 1
Pileated Woodpecker - 2
Steller's Jay - 2
American Crow - 5
Black-capped Chickadee - 3
Chestnut-backed Chickadee - 2
Bushtit - 5
Red-breasted Nuthatch - 1
Bewick's Wren - 2
American Robin - 5
Varied Thrush - 1
Spotted Towhee - 2
Song Sparrow - 1
Dark-eyed Junco - 4
February 16th. The first Indian plum flowers popped out today. I have written down that in 2005 the first flowers appeared on January 28th, so they are two weeks late this year. Both tall and low Oregon grape are starting to bloom. New leaves have emerged on the salmonberry, gooseberry, elderberry, and snowberry.
February 4th. Today I saw the first Indian plum bud to burst. I could see the tips of the first leaves, but no sign of the flower yet. The salmonberry and elderberry have fat buds, although they haven't popped yet. Half an hour after sunset, the eagles flew around making a racket about something. It's nearly dark, and I am surprised they are flying in these conditions.
January 16th. I saw two varied thrushes and a ruby-crowned kinglet. I get the impression that the birds are getting tired of this blanket of snow interfering with their normal feeding routines. More birds are closer to the house than usual. I also saw a small, wren-like bird land on a vertical icicle and hold on while getting a drink from the wet surface. She must have had sharp talons to hold onto a wet icicle.
January 15th, 2007. The trail is now a bobsled run. The initial snow thawed a little and then froze, and thawed and froze and thawed and froze, especially where people have been walking, and now the trail is a sheet of ice. It's hard to even stay standing in some parts. Hanging onto the young hazelnuts and cherry trees beside the trail is helpful. At the stairs, each flight of metal stairs is free of snow and ice because it all fell through the grates, but the landings are solid ice, requiring one to hold onto the hand rail to stay vertical. The weather may thaw out in a couple of days. See the snow pictures in the gallery.
January 10th, 2007
Yesterday morning a small hawk glided about ten feet over my head. I saw him coming from a hundred yards up the hill. He swooped down through the hazelnuts and vine maples without ever flapping his wings. He passed right over me, showing a distinctive hawk silhouette against the bright sky. He glanced at my ninety-pound dogs, but quickly decided they were too heavy to carry. I couldn't see any identifying marks, since he was just a black outline against the sky, but judging by his size he could only have been a sharp-shinned hawk.
January 3rd, 2007
Apparently yesterday's little storm was stronger than I thought. Compared to the December 15th storm, it was mild, but the saturated ground and weakened trees must have been less capable of withstanding another storm. A madrone fell across the trail and blocked it entirely. It took an hour with a chainsaw to cut away and disentangle all the many branches of the madrone and the hazelnuts it brought down. Some other trees tipped over outside the park.
The Indian plum bushes are developing fat buds, and many of them look like they are ready to unfold.
January 2nd, 2007
A rainbow circled the moon this
evening. The rain gauge showed 2.11 inches of rain today, following over 52
inches of rain for 2006. During the heaviest rain this morning, heavy, deep
thunder boomed nearby. Iíve been amazed at the absence of landslides so far this
winter, but if it keeps up like this, itís only a matter of time. The $120,000
staircase was designed to allow for slow creeping of the sandy soil, but a
complete failure of the hillside would overwhelm its capacity for movement.
Landslides are a good thing, from the perspective of Puget Sound. Itís a natural
process that provides sandy material necessary for near shore habitat. Over the
past eighty years or so, bulkheads on private and public property have cut off
the natural supply of material to the Sound beaches. The bulkheads at Seahurst
Park were removed, in part, to allow small slides to reach the beach. So, if it
happens, it will be a good thing in the long run. It will just be sad to see
trees Iíve known loose their footing. Also, since invasive plants have not been
controlled yet at either Eagle Landing Park or Seahurst Park, a landslide would
open an opportunity for the invasives to move in, requiring extra work on the
part of volunteers. So far, only one small slide has occurred, on private
property north of Eagle Landing Park.