Friday, March 24, 2017

All About Cedar Waxwings At Union Bay

Here is a recent post from the Union Bay Watch Blog published by Larry Hubbell, long-time photographer and birder. 

Here also is an in-depth article about Larry and his work.

Summer Supplements
It is hard to imagine a more elegantly colored and aerodynamically designed bird than a cedar waxwing. The colors of the body fade from light brown to tan to yellow without a hint of demarcation. There are only three areas with dramatic color shifts and in each spot the contrasting color is used sparingly. The small black mask makes their eyes difficult to define, the yellow tail tip fades from sight in brilliant sunlight and...

...even their small ruby red wing tips are tucked out of sight behind a sitting bird. Curiously, no one has discovered how this species utilizes these waxy little nodes. If the flaming fixtures did not have value, surely evolution would have done away with them by now. Perhaps the next great ornithologist will prove their talent by deducing the value of this mystifying investment.

If your only source of birding knowledge happened to be my blog, you would have concluded that cedar waxwings love fruit. In November of 2012, we saw this first year bird (with its age defined by the stripes on its chest) eating red hawthorne berries on Foster Island.

In October of 2013, we saw another young bird eating the dark berries of a laurel bush in the Beaver Lodge Sanctuary.

In January of 2015we saw a mature waxwing eating red fruit from a nearly leafless little bush by the Montlake Cut.

In October of 2015, we saw another adult debating the idea of old orange fruit between to the University Slough, which I suspect was once the mouth of Ravenna Creek, and the parking lot on the west side of the Union Bay Natural Area (UBNA).

Last week while visiting the UBNA, I found waxwings searching the sky while sitting on the bare, fruitless branches. There was not an ounce of fruit to be seen.

I do not ever recall seeing a waxwing sit so tall or stretching its neck so far.

Their normal posture is far more relaxed.

Normally, waxwings are in flocks and often close together when eating in trees or bushes heavily laden with berries. It took me a moment or two to finally realize what the waxwings were doing. They were starting early in their search for summer supplements.

The waxwings were leaping off the bare branches and catching insects in mid-air.

Their darting irregular movements were necessitated by the evasive action of their small flying prey.

Currently, the phrase 'sally forth' pops into my mind whenever I see a bird leap out of a tree and chase after an insect. Perhaps, Dennis Paulson planted the concept in my mind during our Master Birder Class. 

Later in the week, while visiting the Arboretum I had to chuckle as I watched two waxwings leap out of different trees at precisely the same moment. They flew full tilt on a collision course obviously focused on the same insect. At the last moment, they both turned tail and headed back to their respective trees, but not before the northern bird appeared to grab the insect.

In the Natural Area, this little bug took the unusual strategy of attempting to hide directly above the waxwing's head. I believe the survival of the fittest concept came into play and this little bug was soon removed from the gene pool. The grove of young trees that the waxwings were using is immediately east of the new 'parking' pond. The pond seems to be in need of an appropriate name.

As part of the 520 mitigation, the west-side parking lot in the UBNA has been converted into a pond. Over the winter I watched the process of construction. I believe the water must be about three feet deep. So far I see no signs of vegetation. The first birds I saw in the water were three northern shovelers. They paddled about in tight little circles, scooping up minuscule bits of floating food. The second species of birds utilizing the pond are the crows. A rotating crew seems to be spending all day every day bathing in the fresh rain water. If this keeps up the default name may become Crow Pond. 

I do wonder what will happen in a few weeks when the osprey return. The osprey nesting platform is just slightly to the south. Will the osprey chase the crows out of their nesting territory or will the mob of a hundred crows chase the osprey away? I certainly hope the osprey win this upcoming battle in Seattle.

It was only as I was preparing to write this post that I realized the waxwings were indirectly using the pond and possibly the pre-existing wetlands to the east. I suspect the wind was blowing insects off the pond into the bare trees where the waxwings were waiting. Then, when the tiny bugs were close enough, the waxwings would sally forth, fill their mouthes and return to await their next delivery of 'summer' supplements.

Have a great day on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city!


Going Native:

Without a functional Environmental Protection Agency, it falls to each of us to be ever more vigilant in protecting our local environments. Native plants and trees encourage the largest diversity of lifeforms because of their long intertwined history with local, native creatures. I have been told that even the microbes in the soil are native to each local landscape. My hope is that we can inspire ourselves, our neighbors and local businesses to plant native flora and to support native wildlife at every opportunity. My intention is to include at least one photo each week and visually challenge us to know the difference between native and non-native lifeforms. 

Which of the following plants are native to Union Bay?





Scroll down for answers


Species highlighted in green are native to Union Bay.

b) Indian Plum

Once again the names give them away. If you follow the red links you will find that in King County the English Hawthorn is considered a noxious weed while the English Laurel is a weed of concern. It is wonderful to see waxwings in the city - however if we furnish these weeds with places to grow then the waxwings will continue to spread the european seeds through out the Pacific Northwest ecosystem.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Aegis Retirement Home Going In At Former Baskin-Robbins Site

Aegis Living, an assisted living and memory care provider, has submitted permits (3025007, 3025056) to build  a facility at the former Baskin Robbins site, which closed September 2015.

The demolition permit includes "two existing one level buildings" the building to the north of Baskin-Robbins up to Bakker Dry Cleaning. The addresses are 3200-3212 NE 45th Street and 3201-3209 NE 45th Place.  

City records show that the Baskin-Robbins site, built in 1969, was purchased by Corner 3200 Development LLC in 2015 from Thomas and Frank Marier for $1.4 million. The building at 3232, comprising four businesses, is owned by PETS Inc and was purchased from Arlene Alton and Robert Smith in 1991 for $680k. 

LCC will be holding a community meeting on April 10th to discuss the project and Bryon Ziegler, Director of Development and Entitlements for Áegis Senior Communities, told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff that he will show massing and access diagrams at the meeting and he looks forward to hearing ideas from the community. He said that at this time there is no rendering of the building design/entrance as they are working on fundamentals such as access, circulation, massing, scale.

The new facility building would have 116 units and would be five levels over a parking garage with 2500 square feet of retail on the first floor which would house a salon and cafe,  according to design proposal submitted July 2016. 

Bryon told the Blog Staff that "other possibilities include an ice cream bar, community room, outdoor plaza and salon."

Bryon said that they are anticipating permits in late 2019 and the construction period is likely 20-24 months with the first resident move-in’s the fall of 2021. Aegis anticipates approximately 80% of the residents will come from the local neighborhoods.

Bryon told the Laurelhurst Blog staff that the new site is somewhat confusing (see attached graphic above) saying: 

The assemblage of parcels includes 3200 and 3232 NE 45th Street and 3215 NE 45th Place. There are two buildings, but three parcels.  
There is also a billboard that will be eliminated. The historic clock will remain. 
The 30’ city right of way between the curb and the property line will be landscape and enhanced for public use, including the little pedestrian bulb at the intersections of 45th and 45th. This Aegis Senior Community will be designed to either the City’s Living Building Challenge or Mandatory Housing Affordability standards.

He said that the businesses currently in the buildings that will be demolished will have all their leases honored, until they end in 2019.   These businesses included  Diane’s Alterations, Lakeview Vision Clinic, Edward Jones, Farmers Insurance, Uncle Lee’s, University Tutoring, Felipa’s Consignment and Rules Salon. 

The café at Aegis, would be open to the public and would be the Queen Bee Café, a non profit business. Others are currently located at the Madison and Queen Anne Aegis facilities and specialize in traditional English crumpets.

Bryon said about the eatery:

Queen Bee will be an exciting one-of-kind addition to the Laurelhurst community that not only delivers world class crumpets and but it is a neighborhood ‘giving machine’ as a not-for-profit café.  
100 % of profits go to a neighborhood charity each trimester of the year. So neighbors will be supporting neighbors with each purchase.   
If you haven’t tasted the crumpwiches which are the focus of a global FoodNetwork Canada show, "You Gotta Eat Here," coming out this spring and summer on the show, then you have not lived yet!   
In addition, our development team is exploring ways to satisfy the neighborhood’s love affair with ice cream. (More on that to come.)

The City Department of Construction and Inspection reported in September 2016 that the buildings are zoned NC2P-40 zone and said:

Neighborhood Commercial 2 Pedestrian with a maximum height limit of 40 feet. The site is located in a pedestrian area and an abandoned landfill environmentally critical area.   According to our Permit No. BN 35149, issued May 1969, the legally recognized use of this property is for store. This is a permitted use under the current zoning.

And the City policy under SMC23.47A states:
Residential (assisted living) and retail are allowed and required parking for assist end living facilities SMC23.54.015 says 1 space for each 4 assisted living units, 1 space for each 2 staff members on site at peak staffing time, plus 1 passenger loading/unloading space/.

Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) said:

Aegis will be developing the complex to the Living Building Challenge performance standards for low impact on resources such as energy and water. This program allows a 10 feet addition to height (50 feet from 40 feet). The result is likely a 5 story over underground parking structure at the Five Corner intersection, and the building would resolve into a five story above grade structure as it tucks into to grade, which rises to the north and east. Members of the Aegis architectural team will brief LCC at its April 10 meeting.

Bryon said regarding a traffic study of the very busy Five Corners area where the facility will be located that Aegis has engaged Transpo traffic engineers.

He added:

We are an assisted living and memory care provider, which is a very low traffic generator especially at peak hours. It is very rare that we have a resident who drives. We do have staff and visitor parking, as well as deliveries which we will provide for in an underground parking garage and loading area.
Bryon also told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff about the facility:

As for the community itself, we can tell you that Aegis Living designs each community individually and they are one-of-a-kind in design. They are crafted exclusively as part of the neighborhood.  
Our team has a lot of UW fans, Seattle residents and UW alumna, so this development is particularly exciting for Aegis internally.  Just as we have done on Capitol Hill and Queen Anne, we dig deep into the history of the neighborhood and look for opportunities to integrate distinctive neighborhood characteristics and iconic landmarks or people.  
Example: We just opened Aegis of Queen Anne at Rodgers Park this year and there, you will find a number of sentimental historic components blended into our design. In fact today, the Queen Anne and Magnolia News is doing a story about the 3-story high stunning hand painted mural of one of Queen Anne’s most famous sons, baseball Edo Vanni, a beloved baseball player. The mural is the backdrop to for our resident’s in our outdoor patio area in memory care.

Aegis residents will receive top of the line services as well.  We are not only offering upscale and innovative purpose-built design, but we serve seniors with assisted living needs as well as higher acuity needs and manage transitions in care with the goal of seamlessness. That allows the resident to age in place from the first day that they make their apartment home.
When  Aegis of Laurelhurst opens, we will be bringing jobs as the only senior living company ever to make  Glassdoor's Top 50 Best Places to Work amid 600,000  companies listed nationally. We’ve been featured in national publications which is exciting for anyone in the neighborhood exploring a career in our industry.    

In addition, Laurelhurst is getting a family owned company led by Dwayne Clark, a CEO, who looks for ways to lift people up inside and outside the company. See this Inc. Magazine article:
 Many leaders want to make the world a better place. This CEO starts with his staff

For more information about the project, go to the City permits website and reference permits 3025007, 3025056, 6520824, 6537047, 3025007, 6552104, 3025056, 6557274, 6082637.

Another retirement home is also under review for 4020 NE 55th Street, where the Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital is currently located, across the street from Metropolitan Market.

The proposal, Permit #3025827, includes 3 stories of approximately 74 units with 3,100 square feet of commercial space and parking for approximately 28 vehicles located below grade. The existing structure would be demolished.

The architect has proposed 3 different alternatives which can be seen

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Neighbor Pays Special Tribute After Long-Time Neighbor's Passing

Long-time Laurelhurst resident, Jane Piehl, wrote an article,  "Neighborhoods and Neighbors," in  tribute to her neighbor, Jim Bray, who passed away last year, and also to his wife Ina Bray.

Joanne, a friend of Jane's told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff that the article" captures a rich period in Laurelhurst history, the 1970s and 1980s, when young professionals, often  UW faculty, from all over the country moved to the neighborhood, started their families, and set the tone for a highly cooperative neighborhood."

Ina Bray told the Laurelhurst Blog Staff:
Thank you for posting this incredible “walk” back to our young days. 
I’m grateful to Jane Piehl for remembering my husband Jim and for resurrecting this history of our neighborhood, a history that helped shape its character.   
She took me back to the early 1970s, the time of voluntary integration of Seattle schools.  Passions ran high, spilling beyond school walls and each community approached this change differently.   
It was because the commitment of parents, such as Jane and DeWayne Piehl, who provided wisdom, strength and energy that integration could at least start.  Oh, what memories….

Neighborhoods and Neighbors - by Jane Piehl

Jim Bray was a long time Laurelhurst neighbor. I would like to share a few stories of that neighborhood and of Jim’s part in that neighborhood.

We moved to Seattle in 1969 and bought a house in Laurelhurst, an easy commute to my husband’s new job as an Assistant Professor at the University of Washington Business School, We enrolled our 2 middle children in Laurelhurst Elementary School. Before I knew it, I was elected Treasurer of the PTA and met the new co-Presidents Ina and Jim Bray.

We were all horrified with the playgrounds at the school. There were 2: one for girls and one for boys. Both were covered with black macadam with only one piece of equipment, a bar for doing chin-ups.

Blessed with a new principal, we wanted better for the kids. Fundraising needed! We held a traditional Bake Sale and ended up selling everything to ourselves, raising very little money. The consensus was that Bake Sales are a terrible idea. Couldn’t we do something that will raise money and involve the kids?

Under Ina and Jim’s leadership we latched onto a new idea: sell used newspapers to the emerging market of recyclers. The kids could collect them from their neighbors, bring them to school with the help of their parents and sell them to a recycler who would pick them up with his truck, The recycler paid by the pound. Bingo! It was the perfect fundraiser-- -kids with their wagons, with support from their parents, and no more baking. We made a lot money for the playground.

We decided to celebrate with an Ice Cream Social at the end of the school year to be held on the
bare playground. Families came, with fathers often coming to school for the first time. Little brothers and sisters came, dreaming of the time when they could go to school. The kids were proud; the families were proud. What a great neighborhood celebration!

The playground got new equipment and mats under that equipment to cushion falls. This model of inclusion, gave the PTA new energy to supplement school programs like noontime activities from our parents who shared their different cultures.

A smaller neighborhood surrounded our house on 43rd Avenue NE. It went three blocks north, three blocks south and three blocks from east to west. The Brays lived in this general circle. The interesting thing about this neighborhood is that most of us had come from somewhere else. It was usually several thousand miles away from the mid-west, from the east coast and from California, and away from our families.

Jim, with his PhD in finance, had moved from California to take a job with Boeing as an economist. Unfortunately, this was just before the big Boeing downturn when thousands of workers were laid off, including Jim, and led to the billboard that said “Will the last person leaving town please turn off the lights”. The Brays decided to stay. Many on our street came because of the University of Washington. Very recently, the U had decided it wanted to be more than a northwest provincial university; it wanted to develop a national reputation.

For example, all of the full Professors in the department that hired my husband had their bachelor, master and PhD degrees from the University of Washington. They knew they needed some new ideas. I can think of at least 6 new PhDs came in as Assistant Professors at the same time as we did, maybe more. Several lived in our neighborhood.

So here we were: all about the same age, with children about the same age, far from our own families and friends. But we had each other. We loved to party. We drank Mint Julips together barely watching the Kentucky Derby. We made and ate apple pies together using apples grown in the neighborhood. At one New Year’s Eve midnight gathering, we watched the City Light electrical transformer up the hill burst into flame at the stroke of midnight.
There is a lot of oil in a transformer, and did it burn! We gathered our children dressed in bathrobes and slippers and witnessed a flame as high as an Olympic torch and heard the noise of that explosion and the arriving fire trucks. Later we found out that the George Jackson Brigade, a radical group in the 70s, triggered the explosion to make a statement.

In addition we had several yearly eight-family garage sales, organized by Ina, with lots of really good stuff and a simple accounting system to insure each family got paid for their stuff that sold. Other neighbors were leading Scout troops, or coaching newly sponsored girls athletics at the Playfield.

On a personal level, the neighborhood meant everything to me. My husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis shortly after we moved here. Within five years, the damaged nerves from his spinal cord prevented messages to get from the brain to his arms and legs. This meant his arms and legs were useless to him. From the neck up, he was his same old self but from the neck down was a quadriplegic. He was housebound, and became dependent on his family and neighbors for everything. The neighbors became very generous in including my children in their outings, including climbing trips up Mt. St. Helens, Mt Rainier and the Cascades; inclusion in their family vacations; and many small kindnesses.

Best of all, Jim and a couple of men in the neighborhood made many one on one visits to my
husband. During this time Jim Bray, decided to start a personal finance business out of his home. I heard nothing about the particulars from him, but I did hear from a couple of my neighbor friends of what a help he was to them. I also know that he intervened to save his neighbor tens of thousands of dollars from a so called friend who was about to “invest” that money into what turned out to be a scam.

Jim was only person from the Business School who maintained a professional relationship as well as a personnel relationship with my husband over 25 years.  Both of them had PhDs, Jim in Finance, my husband in Business Policy, both had taught Business Policy at the Business School, my husband during the day, Jim at night. Both had a love of small businesses.

The beautiful part of this relationship was that sometimes I would come home and he’d say Jim Bray came over to see me today. You see, Jim knew about our schedule and Jim knew where we a
hidden at back door for the children to use. He would come over, let himself in, talk for a while and let himself out. My husband never told me what they talked about but I can guess: the stock market, investments, what Alan Greenspan of the Fed would do next, etc. etc. Maybe they talked about family or the neighborhood. I never knew. This was his time to talk to a friend and a colleague.

One other memory I have is of the parties that the Brays had at their home. They had traded their first house for a very ordinary home two blocks up the hill. They took off the roof and added another whole floor on top. This new top floor had a treasured view of the tree tops and of Lake Washington as it entered the Montlake cut. This floor was their new living room, dining room and kitchen.

Ina and Jim invited us to a couple of parties at this house. When we arrived, Jim corralled several men to roll my husband up the stairs in his wheel chair. After a great evening with Ina’s Lithuanian friends, a few neighbors and other friends, Jim and his crew then controlled the speed of that wheelchair as it took off down those stairs. We went home full of good cheer and Lithuanian food, in awe of the Brays.

I have tried to describe Jim’s kindness, his quiet care for other people and his love of finance. It is no wonder that Jim was awarded a Community Award by Mayor Greg Nichols. This award was given once a year to honor people in the various Communities in Seattle who were making a difference in their Community. What a fitting tribute!

(photo courtesy of Bray family)

Mail Opened on Belvoir Place

It has been reported that mail has been removed from mailboxes and opened and items removed from the packaging at residences on NE Belvoir Place.

Neighbors suggest having mail sent to another location or place of work to ensures security and safety of mail received. 

Reports of packages being removed from porches has also been reported at various residences in the neighborhood.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tomorrow SR520 Update Meeting On Montlake Phase And Traffic Impacts

The Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) would like to encourage neighbors to attend the SR520 monthly update meeting tomorrow at 5:30pm; this one focusing on the Neighborhood Traffic Management Plan (NTMP) and traffic impacts with the upcoming Montlake Phase interchange.

It will be held at Saint Demetrios Hall (2100 Boyer Avenue East).  

LCC said:
This meeting is important for understanding and giving input for the traffic impacts that will happen when the Montlake Interchange is torn up in the next phase of the SR520 re-build.   
We, in Laurelhurst, are heavily impacted as our geography almost turns us into an island, so I strongly encourage all users whether going to the Eastside, Downtown Seattle, or simply crossing through to attend this meeting.

The information says:
The City of Seattle will also share information on  the 23rd Avenue Corridor Improvements Phase 3, future RapidRide lines and other Seattle neighborhood transportation projects. 
At 5:45pm, there will be a short presentation focused on the NTMP followed by time for questions and answers with WSDOT and SDOT as a full group and one-on-one.  
The draft report and a link to a short online survey is posted on the SR 520 Montlake Phase web page.   
The comment period runs from today through April 4.  Comments will be accepted through the online survey, email, mail, or in-person at tomorrow night's meeting.

Neighbor Reminds Dog Owners To Pick Up Waste In Public Area

A Laurelhurst Blog reader sent in this comment:

Recently in the area of NE 47th Street between Laurelhurst Elementary and Villa Academy, there has been an increase in pet waste in the pedestrian areas.   
I would like to take to remind pet owners to be diligent in cleaning up after their pets.  
We have a great neighborhood for residents to walk and children to play.  Let's all continue to preserve a clean and pleasant environment for all of us.

Here is a related list of City Municipal Codes and corresponding violations with fine amounts imposed by the City of Seattle:

Offenses Related to Safety and Sanitation
$109 Allowing accumulation of feces SMC 9.25.082 (A)
$54 Not removing feces from another’s property SMC 9.25.082 (B)
$54 Not having equipment to remove feces  SMC 9.25.082 (C)

Monday, March 20, 2017

Car Broken Into On Boulevard And Defibrillator Taken

The Laurelhurst Blog received this information:

The back window of our SUV was smashed on Saturday night, March 18, on 43rd Avenue NE and NE 41st Street.  
A grey Puma backpack with my husband's defibrillator which was in a red case was taken.  
If you happen to see either dumped somewhere please email

520 Ramp Removal For Next Few Months

WSDOT sent this information about ramp removal work starting today:

Heads up: Ramp removal work near Lake Washington Boulevard

The only sections remaining of the old westbound SR 520 off-ramp to Lake Washington Boulevard and the R.H. Thomson “Ramps to Nowhere” are those that stand over water. In the next two weeks, crews will prepare the work site so that active removal work of these spans begins today.  
Hoe Ram and Muncher
What to expect:
  • Construction hours: Ramp-removal crews plan to work 10-hour days, seven days a week. All impact activity, such as jackhammering or hoe ramming, will be completed between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. during the weekdays and 9 a.m. and 10 p.m. on the weekends. All nonimpact construction activities, such as processing ramp rubble, munching concrete or moving equipment around the site, may take place before 7 a.m. and after 10 p.m. Inspectors on site will ensure that nighttime crews stay under the decibel levels permitted by the city of Seattle noise ordinance. 
  • Noise: As crews complete this removal activity, nearby neighbors may hear hoe rams or munchers (both pictured to the right). 
  • Vibrations: Neighbors may feel vibrations from the ramp-removal work.
  • Lights: Neighbors may see lights used during nighttime work to keep the site illuminated and safe for crewmembers. Crews will make every effort to keep lights pointed away from homes, where feasible.
The removal work is expected to continue for the next three to four months. We will keep you updated through these emails as the work progresses. If you have any questions or concerns regarding the ramp-removal work, please feel free to call the SR 520 24-hour hotline at 206-708-4657 or email us at
Old Ramps over water

How to reach stay informed during WABN construction:

  • Call the 24-hour construction hotline (206-708-4657) with pressing questions or concerns.
  • Email WABN staff with your questions about the project or construction activities.
  • Join us for our monthly meetings on the first Wednesday of each month from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at the Graham Visitors Center.
  • Visit the SR 520 Orange Page for the most up-to-date information on closures and construction impacts.
  • Visit the WABN project website to find general information about the project.
  • Follow us on Twitter @wsdot_520 to get key news and updates about the SR 520 program.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Homeless Man Possibly Sleeping In Bushes Off Boulevard Finger Street

It has been reported that a homeless man is possibly sleeping in the bushes at the Laurelhurst Park end of NE 44th Street, just off 43rd Avenue NE.

Several neighbors have seen a male, with about shoulder length hair and beard, come out of that area and walk along the back alley behind the homes, leaving behind some belongings. 

Neighbors believe that is it is not Andrei, who often frequents the neighborhood, especially the streets around Laurelhurst Elementary School and Laurelhurst Park, taking walks and sometimes sleeping in Laurelhurst Park.

All About Ring-Necked Pheasants At Union Bay Natural Area

Here is a recent post from the Union Bay Watch Blog published by Larry Hubbell, long-time photographer and birder. 

Here also is an in-depth article about Larry and his work.


On February 1st 2017, I took this photo of a gull at Magnuson Park. During breeding season the tiny grey streaks on this bird's head will disappear. Among the adults of this species, both male and female, the dark ring around the bill is visible year round. I am uncertain whether the red orbital ring around the eye is visible year round, but I suspect it is. In either case, owning two different types of facial rings qualified this bird and its species - the ring-billed gulls - for the lead spot in this week's post.

Personally, I love it when names do double duty. When a name describes a species, place or thing, then the name serves not just as a label but as an assistant in the learning and identification process. A nice example of a local place name is, Beaver Lodge Sanctuary. 

The idea has even inspired me to start my own mini-naming-campaign for unique areas around Union Bay. Examples include: Elderberry Island, Kingfisher Cove, Cottonwood Downs, the Red-Winged Wetlands and Nest Egg Island. You can locate these special places by Clicking Here and then scrolling over the names on the left hand side of the map.

Last summer I caught a photo of this ring-necked pheasant at the Union Bay Natural Area (UBNA). Sadly, the females of this species do not have rings around their necks. So from a naming perspective you could say this species is named truthfully, about half the time. I do not think it is the lack of a ring that has made this pheasant a strong independent female. 

According to Lewis, one of my classmates in the Master Birder Class, this bird has been by herself in the Montlake Fill area for a couple of years. We do not know of any male ring-necked pheasants visiting her during this time. She has remained loyal to the UBNA in spite of the ongoing 520 environmental remediation which has temporarily denuded much of her habitat.

The terms Union Bay Natural Area, Montlake Fill or simply The Fill are more than just labels for the same area on the north side of Union Bay. All three of the names are also descriptive. Personally, I think a descriptive name is most useful when it is current.

The term, The Fill, reminds us that in the past the City of Seattle used garbage and waste to fill up the muddy Union Bay shorelines. This occurred between 1916 and 1966, after the Montlake Cut was created and Lake Washington was lowered by about ten feet. In 1972, two feet of dirt was used to cover the accumulated garbage. 

Personally, I prefer the label The Union Bay Natural Area, because it is more up-to-date and descriptive of the latest fifty years, during which many positive improvements were made by nature and the University of Washington.

After photographing the ring-billed gull at Magnuson Park, I noticed this pair of Hooded Mergansers. What caught my attention was the abnormal beige mark on the cheek of the male bird. At the time I could not figure out what it was. The bird continued fishing and behaved normally. Later, I left the park wondering what had happened to this beautiful little bird.

At the same pond, I also photographed this ring-necked duck. You can be excused if the ring around the neck is not readily apparent. Do you see a hint of purplish red, just below the head?

I tried multiple times to catch the proper angle to display the ring. Sadly, these two photos were the best of the lot.

Luckily, a couple of years ago at the Nisqually Wildlife Refuge I caught this photo which shows this ring-necked duck's purplish-red ring a bit better. It is still not easy to see.

In addition to the ring on the males being often invisible, the females do not have a neck ring at all.

The good news is that the Amercian Ornithological Society is considering changing this species name. Thank you to Nathaniel, another classmate, who informed us of the potential change. The new name would be a ring-billed duck. You can read more about the possibility in this American Birding Association post. Having names which are as accurate and useful as possible will be a very functional improvement.

Surprisingly on March the 1st, exactly one month after seeing the odd little hooded merganser at Magnuson Park, the same bird appeared in the Cottonwood Downs canal just south of Foster Island.

This time I got to see both the left and the right side of the bird. The beige mark went all the way around.

My conclusion was that somehow the merganser picked up a rubber band. Maybe it was floating in the water and he flipped it up to eat it. Since the band was much lighter than a fish, the merganser must have accidentally flipped it over his head.
Rubber bands are a common everyday part of our lives. Sadly, the wild creatures around us have not yet learned to avoid them. Nature evolves, but at a much slower pace than human innovation. The good news is that this bird has apparently survived for at least a month with a ring of rubber in his mouth. This proves he must be able to hunt, catch food and eat: in spite of the inconvenience. Let's hope the hooded merganser out lasts the rubber band.

I hope this week's post had a nice ring to it. 

Have a great week on Union Bay...where nature lives in the city!


Going Native:

Without a functional Environmental Protection Agency, it falls to each of us to be ever more vigilant in protecting our local environments. Native plants and trees encourage the largest diversity of lifeforms because of their long intertwined history with local, native creatures. I have been told that even the microbes in the soil are native to each local landscape. My hope is that we can inspire ourselves, our neighbors and local businesses to plant native flora and to support native wildlife at every opportunity. My intention is to include at least one photo each week and visually challenge us to know the difference between native and non-native lifeforms. 

Which of the following birds would be consider native if seen on Union Bay?






Scroll down for answers


Birds highlighted in green are native to Union Bay.

a) Ring-billed Gull 
b) Ring-necked Pheasant - female
c) Ring-necked Duck - male
d) Hooded Merganser - male

The ring-necked pheasant is a non-native bird which has spread all across the United States. It was introduced from Asia in the 19th century. Most likely because it tastes good, it is not viewed as a particularly invasive species. It is interesting that I cannot find any information which discusses the possible negative impacts caused by its introduction.

All About Birds says ring-necked pheasants have actually declined by 32 percent in the last 50 years. This may say more about our eco-systems in general than about ring-necked pheasants, as a species.