Friday, May 16, 2014

Eagle babies two

Squirrel. It's what's for dinner.
 Ariel and I have visited the new eagle's nest a few times in the past couple of weeks. The nest is more open, so the lighting is much better. But these are good eagle parents. They've built up the "crib bumpers" all around the nest. There are only a couple of spots I can get a good view of the inside of the nest. One spot requires being quite a distance away. You can see the challenge with the two images here of the two eaglets together. They appear grainy because I was so far away. Even with a 400 millimeter lens.

I saw one eaglet and was pretty excited. This is my fourth year photographing this pair and their families. 

This was the first time I got a good view of one of the babies in early fluff. In the earlier nest, it was harder to spot anything but the tops of their fuzzy heads. Mama and papa take turns watching over their youngsters. I suspected there were two or more. Two of the last four years, there was one baby and one of the parents stayed in the nest until baby was ready to fledge. With two babies, the parents stayed nearby but not in the nest except for feedings. 

 This one small space is where I've managed to spot one of the parents feeding baby. I suspected there might be another baby because she looked like she was feeding another just out of sight. 

The next day I found a spot where I could see more of the nest - and the other baby. 

This is shaping up to be to be a very special eagle season.

I'll be adding more images to my Talons Gallery. Let me know if you have favorites that you'd like to see me add. Thanks for reading!

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Where the camas bloom

In 1806, Meriwether Lewis wrote that he thought a distant field of camas (Camassia quamash) was a lake. Lewis and Clark were introduced to this important food source by the Shoshone and Nez Perce people.
First People throughout the Northwest harvested camas roots from miles of rocky prairie left after the the last ice age and its glaciers melted away. 

Along with camas, there are dozens of other wildflowers - white and yellow yarrow, purple and yellow violets, shooting stars, buttercups, and wild mustard.

Nisqually historian Cecilia Svinth Carpenter wrote about how when the red wind blows "like magic, the blue camas blooms, the berries ripen, the cedar trees grow taller, and the eagle spreads its wings to soar aloft on the early morning breeze." 

Now only about 3 percent of native prairies remain. The prairie ecosystem in South Puget Sound is among the rarest in the world. There are butterflies found only here along with Washington's only native oak - Quercus garryana - Garry oak or Oregon white oak. 

Garry oaks woodland at Scatter Creek

Early May is primetime to experience spring on the prairie. The second Saturday in May is Prairie Appreciation Day at the Glacial Heritage Preserve south of Littlerock. The preserve is only open for brief times each year. Mima Mounds Natural Area is open year-round, as is Scatter Creek Wildlife Area. Two examples of Garry oaks woodlands are preserved in DuPont's Powderwork Park and Tacoma's Oak Tree Park. To leave more, visit the South Sound prairies. I have a collection of photographs from prairie visits in the past in my South Sound Prairie gallery. I hope you'll check it out. And I hope that you'll fall in love with our prairies like I have, and will want to preserve and protect these special places.

Western bluebirds settling into nesting at the Glacial Heritage Preserve.

Osprey, commonly known as seahawks, nest on the edges of the prairie.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

New year, new nest

Mama and baby 06-04-2013
I wonder about the nesting pair of bald eagles near my house. I wonder how many more seasons they'll be with us. Neighbors who live near the nest have told me that they've been nesting there at least a decade, maybe a little longer. Bald eagles are mature at 4 or 5, which is when they seek a lifelong mate. That would make this pair at least 15 years old. Some sources claim a bald eagle in the wild lives to be about 16 or 17 and others say 20-30 years. In captivity, bald eagles can live to 40 or more years.

This year, it's been more challenging to visit the nest area until the past couple of weeks. There didn't seem to be much nest-building activity when I visited. I thought maybe the pair had decided to move on.

About a month ago, I spotted the papa eagle (yes, there is a way to tell them apart…more later) higher up in the snag tree than I've seen him before. I saw him more frequently and for a longer period of time.  Last week, Ariel (my new photography companion) and I walked down to see what was going on. I photographed papa eagle and visited with one of the neighbors who told me they had moved their nest to a new tree a few hundred feet from the nest they've used for about 10 years.

The next day, we visited the nest area again and another neighbor called me over to his yard. He pointed to a tall tree directly behind his house. There was a huge aerie nestled among branches about a third of the way from the top of the tree. I've photographed these eagles numerous times at the top of this same tree, which gave them a good view of the old nest.

So a new nesting season begins. The new nest has much better lighting, so I'm looking forward to some good views of baby or babies in the next few weeks. Take a look at my blog entries beginning in April 2013. This is my fourth year photographing this couple and their growing family. Their baby last year didn't make it. There were two babies in 2012 and one in 2011. Their kids from earlier nestings come back to visit, sometimes to the dismay of the parents. And, sometimes, they are welcomed as long as they're just passing through. Please let me know if you have a favorite image or images. I'm gradually adding to my online Talons Gallery.