Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Eagle hatchlings?

Papa eagle kept watch tonight from a favorite snag close to the nest. It didn't look like anybody was in the nest until I edited these photos. I circled mama eagle in the nest with her wings spread. I think at least one hatchling has emerged.

A curious songbird checked in on papa eagle but he was only concerned about other raptors getting close. Favorite eagle, osprey, and owl images are in my Talons Gallery.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Redhead in the woods

We see pileated woodpeckers in the woodlands here in DuPont from time to time, especially along the Puget Sound ridge. They are quick, though, and often very high in the trees. We spotted this female above the Ridgeview Trail. My Audubon guide says that females have a black "moustache" and males have red. Not sure where the moustache is on a creature with a long pointy nose. I think they are more like "chops." More inhabitants of my neighborhood are in my DuPont Nisqually galleries.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Mama eagle keeps watch

Female eagles are sometimes called hen-eagles. Chaucer called them formel.
It wasn't until I edited these photos that I recognized this was mama eagle keeping watch. Bald eagles pair for life and both parents share duties of nesting and feeding of young. Although mama spends most of her time in the nest while eggs are incubating, papa steps in to give her a break. Female eagles are larger than males and have slightly thicker bills. Since I have been photographing this pair for the past couple of months, I knew that the eagle on lookout was mama. I am adding a closeup of papa eagle from early May. More favorite images can be found in my Talons Gallery.

Male eagles are called tercel eagles in falconry.
The nest was quiet last night. If papa was there, he was hunkered down. Male eagles add evergreen branches to the nest before the young hatch. It's getting tougher to see what's going on in the nest because of all the added greenery. If you want to learn more about bald eagles, there are several good sites. The most comprehensive is BaldEagleInfo.com, created and managed by Hope Rutledge. The Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife has an excellent Raptor Ecology site and, of course, Bald Eagle Management & Protection.

Geoffrey Chaucer wrote about the devotion of eagles in the 14th Century:
The royal tercel, with bowed head and humble appearance, delayed not and spoke: "As my sovereign lady, not as my spouse, I choose - and choose with will and heart and mind - the formel of so noble shape upon your hand. I am hers wholly and will serve her always."

Later in our walk, we encountered a black-tailed deer who stood very still and stared at me while I photographed her. Luckily Padme didn't see her. She was maybe 30 feet away from me.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Patient eagle pair

We walked over to see how things were going in our local aerie. It looks like a few new additions have been made to the nest, making the walls a bit higher. It looks a little like rustic side rails on a crib. Mama eagle patiently tends to her eggs.

In the next tree, papa eagle keeps watch while doing his evening yoga stretches and cleaning his feathers. More favorites in my Talons Gallery. More images of papa and the kids from earlier broods are published in earlier entries here.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Colorful birds

Barn swallow
We usually see a lot of barn swallows and tree swallows that show up when the weather warms and the flying insects emerge. We had a cold spring with frost as late as the second week of May this year. Maybe that's why I'm seeing very few barn swallows and what seems to be a smaller population of tree swallows. I read on the Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife website that barn swallows have been in decline for the past 30 years. Two barn swallows surveyed my roof and talked to each other: Whaddya think...should we build here? I dunno...whaddya think? They visit me but seem to think there's too much birdie traffic to nest here. Check out my Swallows Gallery for more.

Varied thrush
Some random visitors swing by the front yard birdie spa from time to time. Here are two newbies. I have never seen a varied thrush before, although my Audubon field guide says that are fairly common and hang out with robins.

Also new to the birdie spa were two scrub jays. They visited the feeders for a short time and then were gone. Their favorite food is acorns and they are often credited with regenerating oak forests destroyed by fire or drought, because they bury more acorns than they eat.

Scrub jay
Speaking of oak forests, this is the last week for the Urban Forest Project banners in downtown Tacoma. My banner - which you can see up close and personal in front of the Marriott Courtyard on Pacific - will be turned into a very cool messenger bag sometime in June. You can also buy a really inexpensive print or T-shirt with my banner design to benefit Tacoma Urban Forest Project. Just search for my name on the site.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Woodland wildflowers

I love wildflowers but rarely know the names. I found quite a variety on the woofie walk this evening. Here are several white wildflowers and some berry blossoms. Tomorrow I will post lavender, blue, and pink.  See my Flora Gallery and Prairie Gallery for others.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Flight practice

This has to be the best time to be a bald eagle. Biologists devote their lives to monitoring their nests. Eagles that are injured or killed make national news. EagleCams have millions of devoted viewers.

There is no doubt, eagles are making a tremendous recovery.

I tried to talk my brother-in-law, an avid birder in Virginia, into coming out to Washington for the Skagit Eagle Festival, where dozens of bald eagles gather in winter for a salmon feed.

He told me he could see the same thing at home. There are so many bald eagles on the Potomac River, they are like pigeons, he tells me.

We spotted three bald eagles engaged in flight practice, flying in formation, soaring on thermals, occasional jousting in mock battle. At least two were juveniles and an adult was later joined by another adult. 

For my favorite raptor images, visit my Talons Gallery.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Eagles aloft, mama eagle in aerie

I spotted two adult bald eagles flying over the road to my house, so I pulled over to photograph them.

They must be part of the extended family of the nesting pair in our neighborhood. When eagles are nesting, they keep other eagles up to two miles from their nest. This pair was flying a couple of blocks from the nest.

I watched for a few minutes as they danced in the air with each other, then lifted high into the sky and out of sight. I wondered if these were older children of our prolific pair that have been producing broods for at least the past six years.

We visited the nest on our woofie walk this evening. Mama eagle appears to still be working on hatching eggs high in the aerie. When the babies start showing up, I'm planning to rent a longer lens. Without the 300mm lens, I can barely make out her white head. 

Later in our walk along the ridge, I spotted two, then three juveniles. I suspect these are our nesting pair's last brood. One of the three has a wing that has some shorter feathers, like something cut it off. One of the adults had a notch in his wing too. For more favorite raptor images, visit my Talons Gallery.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Back to humming

The bald eagles' nest is mostly quiet this week. Dad has kept the earlier brood away from the nest and Mom is getting ready for the new hatchlings.

Meanwhile both Anna's and rufous hummingbirds are frequenting the front porch birdie spa.

I have two feeders separated by two hanging flower baskets. The male and female rufous each visit their favorite feeder. The Anna's visited one feeder briefly, then I didn't see him again. The female spent quite a bit of time at the feeders or camping in the vine maple below the feeders. 

None of them paid attention to the flowers although I have several hummer favorites growing. 

See my Hummers Gallery for my favorites.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

A little lipstick

I managed to work on indoor tasks all day while the sun shone. When Padme and I finally went out for our walk, it started raining. The camera stayed in the bag. Earlier today, I decided to photograph an indoor plant that just began to flower.

I bought this hanging plant - Aeschynanthus lobbianus - a couple of years ago. It was labeled as "angel plant" and native to southeast Asia. It seems to be very happy in my northeast kitchen window. It has grown to about three feet long.

Last year it had several waxy dark red flowers. Maybe it didn't get enough light or something else. This year, it is very clear why the common name is lipstick plant.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Eagles' nest drama

Sean, Padme the wonderdog, and I walked down to where our neighborhood eagles are nesting to see how things were going. There was no sign of the male eagle but we spotted a white head above the nest. While I was photographing, a young woman who lives in one of the houses that flank the nest came across the street to tell me that I just missed the juveniles doing a fly-by. She told us that the pair pushed three juveniles out of the nest recently but they fly by to say hi to mom. I wondered if they were the same juveniles I saw above Ridgeview Trail a couple of weeks ago.

Then the young woman's mother came over to introduce herself and told me the pair has been nesting in the area for a few years. The original nest was up higher but crashed in a windstorm. This nest is more protected. It looks a little like a bunker, so the pair certainly learned how to build a stronger nest.

We continued on our walk. As we rounded the block to the north, Sean pointed to the sky. We saw two eagles flying by the nest and heard mama eagle talking to the youngster. Bald eagles have an endearing kind of chortle they speak to their loved ones.

Then we saw papa eagle shooing away his youngster who actually looks quite a bit larger than dad. What a blessing to experience. For more eagles, hawks, and other raptors, visit my Talons Gallery.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fishing eagle

We spent a couple of hours at Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge with some friends. Rain with sunbreaks - a term I had never heard before moving to rainy western Washington - punctuated the day and kept the usual Saturday crowds to dedicated birders and photographers.

We watched a female bald eagle fishing for crab on the banks of Medicine Creek. Fishing wasn't very good, though, so she headed for a favorite fishing platform in the trees. See Talons Gallery for more.

Hundreds of swallows - tree, barn, violet blue, and cliff - cleared the air of clouds of gnats and other insects. See Swallows Gallery for more.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Eagle Sunset

 Spot was in the taller tree right next to the nest tree. He's a very good Dad and has made his presence well known to other sky creatures. None were in the vicinity, except the occasional tree swallow.

While I was photographing him, his mate flew off too quickly for me to catch her. She was off in the direction of the delta.

The light was amazingly golden at 8 p.m. when I photographed these. We had rain and gray skies all day until then.

Olympus Framed

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Regal Raptor

The male of the nesting bald eagle pair chose a different tree to make his presence known. Birds of all kinds are giving him a wide berth. No sign of the female, probably because she's sitting on eggs. The nest is really obscured, so it is difficult to see if she's in there. I think this is the first year eagles have nested in this spot. It will be interesting to see if they decide to stay. They are literally 50 feet above someone's backyard, although technically on Fort Lewis. These homes back up to a woodland that is on Joint Base Lewis McChord.

I'm thinking about calling this guy "Spot" because that's what he looks like from a couple of blocks away: a spot of white high in a tree.