Friday, June 27, 2014

Do eagles grieve?

Parents tend their nest on May 17. 
The nest has been unusually quiet for the past two weeks. Deadly quiet. I stopped by the nest a couple of times between June 9 and 20. No sound. No flapping wings of eaglets stretching. Something was very wrong. There were gaps in the nest area closest to the tree trunk. It looked like a chunk of the nest was gone.

Eaglets on June 9
One neighbor I talked to said he saw both parents making a lot of racket and flying around the nest tree on Father's Day, June 14. It's not unusual for both parents to be at the nest but it's very unusual that they're both so quiet. Watching but none of the vigilance seen last month. Another neighbor asked if the babies might have fledged already. I knew it was too early. The last time I saw them, they still had some fluff clinging to their new feathers. They wouldn't have been ready to fly until the first week of July at the earliest. The parents would be out with them, not sitting at sentry at the nest site. I hope I'm wrong but it doesn't look good for my favorite eagle pair.

Nest tree on June 20

Do eagles grieve the loss of their nest? Their offspring? Nearly half of all fledglings don't survive their first flight. Do the parents keep an emotional distance? Both have been frequently at the nest area, keeping vigil. Or maybe they're making sure that no other eagles take over their territory. When I visited with them yesterday, both were very quiet and in separate trees - papa near where the nest was and mama in their favorite snag nearby.

Papa eagle June 26

Mama eagle June 26
Devoted to each other and to the tree of life. As above, so below.

"That which is Below corresponds to that which is Above, and that which is Above corresponds to that which is Below, to accomplish the miracle of the One Thing." - The Emerald Tablet of Hermes Trismegistus

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Minus tide brings wildlife up close

Crabbers at Sequalitchew beach with Anderson Island in background.

Spring and summer on Puget Sound bring opportunities to see creatures normally far away or underwater. Although I grew up 45 miles from the Atlantic Ocean, I don't remember anyone talking about "minus tides" the way people do here in the Northwest. A feature article in The Olympian (Olympia, WA) in early June detailed special beach presentations by area naturalist and marine biologists.

Shore crabs and barnacles
A minus tide is an unusually low tide. Yesterday, there was a -3.4 ft. tide - so low, it looked like you could walk across Puget Sound to Anderson Island.

Thousands of tiny shore crabs - most no larger than 1 inch - scrambled from quickly drying beach pebbles to small tidepools. Starfish (sea stars), tube worms, whelks, limpets, mussels, and baracles emerge from water that's normally several feet deep.

Great blue herons, bald eagles, and seagulls - normally not in each other's company - are all present for the minus tide feast.

Bald eagle, seagull, and great blue heron

Minus tides are about the only times it's possible to walk east to the Nisqually delta from Sequalitchew Creek trail in DuPont. If you're a photographer, though, what's challenging is getting back to higher ground before the tide comes back in. We did pretty well, but still managed to slog back up the trail with wet hiking boots.

There are lots of springs that feed Sequalitchew Creek and trickle into Puget Sound from the hillside. It makes for slow careful walking over watery and seaweed-slicked rocks.

Beach walk at 1 p.m.
Tide coming in about 3:20 p.m. Cement barge wreck in background.

Creatures normally underwater didn't have to wait too long. A nearly 15-foot high tide was expected after 8 p.m. Two hours after the minus tide peaked, the water level was rising to once again submerge the resident sea stars.

Several images from minus tides in the past can be viewed in my Low Tide Gallery.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Eagle babies getting bigger

Ariel and I have visited our favorite eagle's nest about three times a week for the past month. I haven't posted in awhile because the view has been pretty much the same: mama or papa eagle standing sentry, and babies mostly out of site. I get an occasional glimpse of a downy head and, now, a really large wing stretch or two. In just three weeks, these babies have grown formidable beaks and impressive wings.

 Until this week, one or both parents was always present, sometimes greeting a kid from an earlier clutch with a bit of warning to not get too close. Now that babies have those big sharp beaks and can feed themselves, they're alone for a few minutes at a time. Eagles have an endearing (to me, anyway) chortling call that they use with kin. Others get a shreak - think screaming eagle. Yup. It's loud. All of the neighbors attest to that!

At the same time, everyone I've talked to who lives on the street near the nest tells me that we're blessed to have this special family in our midst.

Amen to that.

The only spot I can see the babies in the nest is about a block away. That's why they look kind of rough around the edges. Here's the tree, followed by tightly cropped images of the kids.

Please let me know if you have favorites. I'm getting ready to print some new images for art festivals I'm doing in July and September. More from past years in my Talons Gallery.