Thursday, September 17, 2020

All About Cinnamon Teals

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

Sienna Cyan

A male Cinnamon Teal, in breeding plumage, is a feast for the eyes. There are many beautiful birds to be found around Union Bay, however, spatula cyanoptera is truly a magnificent creature. 

I believe the term spatula, in the scientific name, refers to its spoon-like bill which is somewhat similar to that of a Northern Shoveler. The term cyanoptera evidently refers to the blue and green colors on the wing. Small hints of the blue can be seen in this photo. The reference to the word cinnamon in the common name is beautifully obvious.

In mid-April, when I first saw this particular bird, it was half-hidden in the pennywort. I was standing on Oak Point to the west of Duck Bay. Click Here to see my map of the area. 

I do not consider Cinnamon Teals a common duck. Although, Birdweb (Click on the Find in WA tab) does call them 'fairly common' in the Puget Sound area, during late spring and summer. I suspect Cinnamon Teals are the least common migratory duck that regularly visits Union Bay during breeding season.

Almost every year, I see a few at the Union Bay Natural Area (UBNA). I seldom see them on the south side of Union Bay. Apparently, there is a significant difference between the UBNA habitat and the environment around Duck Bay and Foster Island. 

Whatever that difference may be, it is not readily apparent to me. Although, the south side has had direct freeway runoff for more than fifty years. I wonder if Cinnamon Teals will spend more time around Foster Island and Duck Bay when the automotive pollution stops flowing into the water?

Mesmerized, I watched the duck work its way west. Soon the Teal passed around the north end of Elderberry Island and out of sight. I quickly turned and headed south, west, and then north. I finally arrived with a view of the water to the west of the island. The Teal was gone. I assumed it had flown and started looking for other wildlife.

Here is a photo of a female Cinnamon Teal from two years ago in the UBNA. They are very similar to female Blue-winged Teals. The C. Teal has a slightly larger bill and...

... if she attracts a male Cinnamon Teal that is also a good identifying hint.

In both the male and the female the underside of the wing is a surprisingly nondescript mixture of mostly pale colors.

On the other hand, actually, I should say on the upper side of the wing both sexes have a large patch of blue, a triangle of white, and a smaller patch of green which is the speculum. As you will see, these colors are brighter on the males.

A close up of the female shows the faintness of her green speculum. Given the way the blue feathers were not fully grown (in mid-July of 2019), she may have been molting.

In April 2020, while standing to the west of Elderberry Island, it suddenly occurred to me that the Cinnamon Teal may not have flown after all. While I was following the mainland trail around the island, and the Teal was hidden from my view, it could easily have turned and worked his way back towards Duck Bay. Once again I hurried around the island and back to my original location. 

To my surprise, the Cinnamon Teal was there.

It swam east until it arrived at the remains of a beaver-cut cottonwood. 

When it hauled-out on the log the dampness of its underside was readily apparent.

While looking at this photo, the full-body view made me pause to consider how big is a Cinnamon Teal. Even though they have a classic duck shape they weigh less than half as much as a Mallard. On average, they even weigh less than a Crow.

It was getting late in the afternoon and the Cinnamon Teal was apparently well-fed and ready for a bath.

The water running off of its head and chest gave it an almost plasticized-looking shine.

Afterward, when it stood to shake off the water, I caught a brief glimpse of the large blue patches on the upper, leading half of its wings. The only other species with similar patches, that I know of, are Blue-winged Teals and male Northern Shovelers.

After bathing, its next thought was apparently preening. I remember thinking, How in the world could a bird this gorgeous and handsome be standing around in the middle of the breeding season without a mate?

When he leaned forward, to pluck at his chest, he exposed the thin wavy black lines running across his back. Every detail of his plumage is incredibly exquisite.

The Cinnamon Teal did its best preening-pelican imitation.

Our North American Cinnamon Teals migrate north from Mexico and California and breed primarily in the Rocky Mountains and west to the Pacific Coast. Southwestern Canada is the limit of their northern migration. 

Surprisingly, there is a completely separate population of Cinnamon Teals in the south half of Southern American. This group is essentially non-migratory and apparently never mixes with our North American population. 

Wouldn't it be interesting to do genetic research on the two populations? I wonder which is the younger group? Did migration originate out of the non-migratory group or was the South American population initiated by a pair of misguided migratory North American birds? 

While our hero was preening he revealed a nice glimpse of his blue wing feathers and a hint of his vibrant green speculum. 

 When he straightened one of his primary wing feathers... drew attention to their alternating gold and black coloring.

His fiery red eyes will remain even when he molts into eclipse plumage, later in the summer. The female-like, camouflage coloring of eclipse plumage will increase his odds of surviving while he grows new flight feathers. 

When he tucked his head and went to sleep I headed home for dinner. Since that day, I have not seen a single Cinnamon Teal on the south side of Union Bay. I wish him well wherever he ended up. I hope he found a mate and they produced a nest full of young. 

By the way, the title Sienna Cyan was to help make the point that a Cinnamon Teal has two names which both refer to its colors. Shouldn't the name Cinnamon Teal feel as odd as calling a Red-winged Blackbird a Red Black?

To what species does this plant belong? Is it native to Union Bay? 

Garden Loosestrife: It is a noxious, invasive, and undesirable weed. Since it is flowering now this is a good time to identify it. Click Here to learn how it should be dealt with in King County.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

What Are The Long Distant Horn Sounds?

The Laurelhurst Blog has received many email about the fog horn sounds that have been heard the last week. Laurelhurst Blog readers asked if the sounds are made by a ferry or a smaller vessel.

Due to the low visibility with the smoke, vessels operating in limited visibility are required to sound one long blast of the horn every two minutes.

The US Coast Guard website says:

In or near an area of restricted visibility, whether by day or night, the signals prescribed in this Rule shall be used as follows: (a) A power-driven vessel making way through the water shall sound at intervals of not more than 2 minutes one prolonged blast. (b) A power-driven vessel underway but stopped and making no way through the water shall sound at intervals of not more than 2 minutes two prolonged blasts in succession with an interval of about 2 seconds between them. (c) A vessel not under command, a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver, a vessel constrained by her draft, a sailing vessel, a vessel engaged in fishing and a vessel engaged in towing or pushing another vessel shall, instead of the signals prescribed in paragraphs (a) or (b) of this Rule, sound at intervals of not more than 2 minutes three blasts in succession, namely one prolonged followed by two short blasts. (d) A vessel engaged in fishing, when at anchor, and a vessel restricted in her ability to maneuver when carrying out her work at anchor, shall instead of the signals prescribed in paragraph (g) of this Rule sound the signal prescribed in paragraph (c) of this Rule. (e) A vessel towed or if more than one vessel is towed the last vessel of the tow, if manned, shall at intervals of not more than 2 minutes sound four blasts in succession, namely one prolonged followed by three short blasts. When practicable, this signal shall be made immediately after the signal made by the towing vessel. (f) When a pushing vessel and a vessel being pushed ahead are rigidly connected in a composite unit they shall be regarded as a power-driven vessel and shall give the signals prescribed in paragraphs (a) or (b) of this Rule.

For more information go here.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Comment Now On Talaris Re-Development

The deadline for public comment for the Talaris Redevelopment Scoping /EIS is on Thursday at 4:45pm. 

Send your comments to and include project #3030811-LU and your address in the comment letter for future notices.

LCC recently published this information:
Talaris Redevelopment Scoping /EIS Up Next 
In March 2020, permit application #3030811-LU was posted for public comment ,and many of you and other interested members of the public submitted over 70 comment letters to the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspection (SDCI). 
As part of examining the appropriateness and viability of this proposal, the SDCI has issued a Determination of Significance. This requires a SEPA review – an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). 
The applicant is required to prepare a thorough analysis of three options:
  1. Leave property as is. No development.
  2. The proposed plan with the 67 parcels: 62 single-family homes, seven tracts, two historic buildings demolished, altering the landscape, restoring the wetland, and changing the use of several buildings.
  3. A third plan that includes at least one meaningful preservation option that retains the seven buildings and much of the landscape, which would have significantly fewer adverse impacts on the site
Scoping determines what will be included in the EIS. Examples might include:
  • the preservation impacts on the buildings and landscaping
  • transportation impacts (how many more trips will be generated) and lack of Metro transit, the nearby intersection capacities
  • the soils and critical slope regarding potential slides and erosion,
  • construction impact, including habitat disturbances and displacement, tree canopy reduction
  • nearby public school capacity,
  • changing uses that may not be compatible with surrounding homes. 

Note that this site has underlying zoning of single-family homes on a  5,000 foot lot or use as an Institute for Advance Studies (as it is today).

In May, LCC published this information in their newsletter:
Talaris Redevelopment Still in Play 
The Talaris property is once again under review of the Seattle Department of Constructions & Inspections (SDCI) under project #3030811-LU. This proposal is for 67 new single-family homes and seven separate land tracts; however, now the applicant is the Pistol Creek group from Bellevue, not Quadrant Homes. 
Many neighbors sent in comments about the project, which has not yet been approved by the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board (SLPB) nor SDCI. LCC and its consultants have expressed concern to the City about the process of submitting a project for Master Use Plan permitting approval without the prior approval of the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board. SDCI reviews cover many aspects to determine impacts on zoning, transportation, wetlands, drainage, steep slope erosion, biological/wildlife, cultural resources, landmark status, and more. Major projects with such proposed drastic site changes trigger a SEPA (State Environmental Protection Act) review and, most often, an EIS (Environmental Impact Study). These tools systematically identify the impacts and require alternatives and mitigation options to be included as prescribed by local, state and federal regulations. 
LCC and other entities have expressed concerns to the City about the recent process being “out of order,” arguing that SLPB should have vetted the plans before they were submitted to the SDCI, Notable historic preservation organizations, including LCC’s preservation consultant, delineated the conflict the proposed intense development had with the Department of Interiors’ National Standards for Historic Preservation, which the City of Seattle has adopted. It would be a more efficient use of City resources to have the plans approved or altered by SLPB and then proceed through the complex SDCI permitting process.  
SLPB has not yet set a date to evaluate Pistol Creek’s plans. In the meantime, SDCI is allowing the developer to push the plans along in their system under the pretense of its SLPB approval. This could just be an attempt to establish a false valuation for the owner for a project that may never achieve approval. 
LCC, the Seattle Audubon, and many tree advocate professionals also submitted comments objecting to the proposed drastic plans to remove 271 of the 455 healthy trees on the site in order to construct 67 new home sites. Of most concern the plan removes 289 trees that are “exceptional” or part of an exceptional grove. According to the developer’s arborist report, only 79 of the exceptional trees would be retained (27 percent). Unlike rebuilding a demolished structure, mature and exceptional trees take 40+ years to replace their functions, including cleansing pollutants from the air, preventing soil erosion, and providing appropriate habitat for urban wildlife. 
The severe tree removal would also cause an increase in land temperatures due to lack of shading as recently evidenced in Seward Park. The City of Seattle has stated its explicit goal to increase its tree canopy to 30 percent. Allowing such massive tree removal on a landmarked landscape is cannot be mitigated and would change the ecosystem of the entire neighborhood, as well as undermine the City’s tree canopy and Climate Change goals. Since the project is not approved yet by the City, there is a always a possibility of an alternative site plan that would be compatible with the landmark preservation national standards. 
The owner is entitled to a reasonable return on investment, and any plan will have to meet that criteria as well. LCC continues to work cooperatively on any viable option, from any entity. Please contact us (with your millions) to discuss a connection to the owner.

LCC told the Laurelhurst Blog that Bruce McCaw's company, Pistol Creek, managed by Greg Vik, the President, is using the original Quadrant team of consultants to move the project forward.

LCC added:

The Pistol Creek people are not developers who build these suburban type home subdivisions. Thus, it would appear that Pistol Creek, is going through the City of Seattle's SDCI process to achieve approval for its plans. If that would occur, then it likely  (not certain)  it would be re-sold to another home builder/development operator. 
It is not known if, and who,  that entity would be, but the entitlement approvals from the City of Seattle would allow the property to be flipped again. 
The important issue is that moving these plans through the SDCI system without FIRST being approved by the Seattle Landmark Preservation Board, is "out of order". and creating a false economic value for something that may never be able to be compatible with its landmark status.  It is utilizing taxpayers' scarce resources at SDCI on something that may never be approved. The City would be more efficient to require and receive the SLPB approval, then submit an acceptable plan to SDCI for any approval and issuing a MUP (Master Use Plan).

A neighbor recently contacted the Landmarks Preservation Board about how the  landmarked buildings can be demolished, saying "I thought that’s why there are landmarked so that they are preserved. I understand the change of use on 5 of them but how can they be demolished? Please explain. This does not seem proper. "

The Land Use Planning Supervisor responded to the neighbor saying:
Yes, there is landmark protection on the site. The applicant has applied for a Certificate of Approval from the Landmarks Board (administered by the Department of Neighborhoods - DON) to demolish some of the structures as part of their bigger project.  Evidently, the Certificate of Approval can be approved for demolition in certain circumstances but DON would need to provide any further information about that.  
SDCI is reviewing the development proposal and is generally not allowed to issue a demolition permit for a landmarked structure unless the Certificate of Approval is granted.  This is a complex project with many regulatory issues for the applicant to resolve.  
As part of the review by SDCI, we ask for comments about anticipated impacts of the proposal.  You can also comment on whether the proposal meets the criteria of approval for the decisions that need to be made by SDCI.  If an appeal of an SDCI decision is received, the final decision, along with the decision on the actual full subdivision, will be made by the City Hearing Examiner.  Quite a bit of review still needs to be completed prior to any decisions being made.
The property was designated with landmark status in November 2013, which dictates that specific controls define certain features of the landmark to be preserved and a Certificate of Approval process is needed for changes to those features. Some incentives and controls included in the City's ruling are zoning variances, building code exceptions, and financial incentives, which are protected, as stated on the City's Landmark and Designation website.

The site, built in 1967, was originally owned by Battelle Memorial Institute. In 1997 Era Care Communities purchased the property for $6,125,000 and it was developed into Talaris Institute which focused on infant and early learning research of the brain. In 2000, Bruce Mc Caw under the name 4000 Property LLC of Bellevue, purchased the property for $15,630,000. The county has assessed the property at $14 million and sold in 2000 for $15.6 million.

The property, when sold several decades ago, included an underlying Settlement Agreement in which Battelle Neighbors and the Laurelhurst Community Club (LCC) are partnered together with the land owners of the parcel. The Settlement Agreement specifically states that major institutions can't operate within this property (no hospitals, colleges, etc). And the Settlement Agreement has specific restrictions attached which specifies the use of the property to protect the quality of life in the adjacent neighborhood.

For decades, neighbors were free to stroll the grounds, until 2013, when Talaris suddenly put up "No Trespassing" signs and installed a four feet chain link fencing in 2013, as well putting up a main driveway barricadefence on northwest side and a surveillance camera

Neighbors were no longer allowed to use the large grassy meadow area where generations of kids practiced soccer and the past few years the grounds facing NE 41st Street are often neglected and grass not consistently mowed. 

The Laurelhurst Community Club, has been involved with the site for over 30 years, working to ensure the property is well integrated with the neighborhood by closely monitoring proposed development. LCC has also worked with current owners in lobbying for better property maintenance

The Laurelhurst Blog has posted about the owners of Talaris violating the landmarks agreement with the City, by installing a chain link fence last month at the 7.8 acre Talaris campus (4000 NE 41st Street).

Shortly after, the Landmarks Preservation Board listed on their meeting agenda for Talaris: "proposed perimeter fencing- retroactive."

The Laurelhurst Blog contacted the Landmarks Preservation coordinator about this agenda item and they said:

The owner’s representative attended the meeting on December 13. They were asked by Board members to look at a more comprehensive security plan for the campus, in addition to, or in lieu of the new 6’ fence. 
To be responsive to this request, the owner requested to table the item, so it was not considered by the Landmarks Board at their meeting on December 18th. 
When work is done without approval we assess the situation and attempt to remedy the issue. In this case, we’ve asked the applicant to seek approval, so they have started that process.  
The code does not address numbers of retroactive applications.  I cannot speculate on the property owner’s motivations.  
We are enforcing the code by requiring the property owner to acquire a Certificate of Approval from the Landmarks Board.  Had the owner not started the application process they would have received a Notice of Violation from Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections.

Neighbors are wondering why there needs to be two fences. One neighbor said "Talaris acts like neighbors are criminals and had to install two fences around the property in addition to the already existing fence. We have never seen such a thing." 

On September 2nd, Talaris attended the Landmarks Preservation Board meeting and the agenda item said: "Proposed perimeter fencing; retroactive" with these Application materials/presentation package.

In 2018, Talaris removed a large oak tree with proper approval from the Landmarks Preservation Board and asked for retroactive Certificate of Approval from the City, violating the Landmarks agreement.

And in April 2016, Talaris again cut down trees without proper approval from the City Landmarks Board and after the trees were cut down, then requested a retroactive Certificate of Approval from the City.

And again, in November 2013, Talaris also cut down another tree with approval from the Landmarks Board and then suddenly got a retroactive certificate in place after the trees were cut down.  

The once beautiful campus is now covered in overgrown weeds, enormous blackberry bushes, trees fallen across once were roads around the campus, most of the buildings in disrepair, the beautiful pond is filled with brown water and the grass on the entire campus is overgrown and very tall.  

Recently, Historic Seattle published this information on their website:

Opportunity for Public Engagement for Landmarked Battelle/Talaris Site

Over the years, we've shared news and updates on plans for the Battelle/Talaris property in Laurelhurst. This 18-acre modernist Seattle Landmark comprises of a significant designed landscape (Rich Haag & Associates) and multiple buildings (NBBJ Architects) that were originally built for Battelle Research. In more recent times, Talaris Conference Center operated from the campus. The buildings and site have been vacant since late 2019. Historic Seattle worked closely with the Friends of Battelle/Talaris to successfully nominate the property as a Landmark back in 2013. The Laurelhurst Community Club has been instrumental in advocating for the property's protection for decades. Various redevelopment plans have been proposed to the Landmarks Preservation Board, but none have moved forward. Historic Seattle has been communicating with ownership to discuss a pro-preservation alternative for the property.
A current land use application for the property has triggered the environmental review process. In response to the application, the Seattle Department of Construction and Inspections (SDCI) has issued a SEPA (State Environmental Policy Act) Determination of Significance for the proposed project and is seeking comments on the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). This is an opportunity for the public to comment on what the EIS should cover. SDCI has identified historic preservation as an important area of significant adverse impact. We agree.
The proposal calls for the subdivision of the site into "67 parcels and 7 tracts of land, construction of 62 houses and change of use of five existing landmark structures to 3 single family residences, 29,000 sq. ft. of office and 3,200 sq. ft. of restaurant on a landmarked site (Battelle Research/Talaris Conference Center). Project includes demolition of 2 structures and a shed, alteration of landscape features, and restoration of a wetland all on a landmarked site."
Historic Seattle will be submitting comments and encourages you to do so as well. The message to convey to SDCI is that the buildings, landscape, and entire site are significant. The proposed land use action will destroy much of the landscape and two buildings. The EIS must include at least one meaningful preservation alternative or option that would have significantly less adverse impact on the site. Historic Seattle is inquiring whether this deadline can be extended.
Details on the proposed land use action, EIS scoping, and public meeting may be found in this notice issued by SDCI. 

Monday, September 14, 2020

Hospital Construction Activity This Week

Building Care, also called Forest B, of Phase 2 of Children's Hospital expansion is underway and the new building is planned to open in Spring of 2022.

The 310,000 square-foot addition will add an eight-story building and will includes diagnostic and treatment facilities, primarily out-patient cancer and others) labs, new state-of-the-art operating rooms, 20 inpatient beds, and a lobby. There will be two floors of underground parking and sterile processing. This will bring SCH bed total to 409, up from 200 before its expansion 2012 plan.

The helicopter landing pad moved temporarily to the roof of Forest A (176’), now known as Friends of Costco Building, Phase 1 of the expansion. The landing pad will be active until Building Care is completed. Noise is expected to be louder than the former ground-based helipad. When Forest B is complete, the helistop will moves to its permanent location on top of the Friends of Costco Building (same height).
Lights were added to the horizontal swing arm (boom) portion of the tower crane to increase safety for helicopter landings. These are in addition to the lights at the end of the boom and on the crane operator’s cab. The additional lights will help the helicopter pilots in identifying the location of the boom when landing or departing the helipad in the dark. While the lights are visible from the ground, they are not bright enough to interfere with any neighboring properties. As a reminder, the tower crane is scheduled to remain onsite through August 2020.

The Hospital posted this information on their Construction Blog about specific construction activity this week:

  • Tree work to include removing trees that are dying or hazardous, pruning healthy trees to remove dead or low branches, and removing branches leaning on structures, including including along the perimeters.  We expect this work will have minimal impact on the perimeter tree buffer.
  • On Thursday mulch will be placed using a blower truck, which will generate noise, and the mulch will generate some odors, along the west side of 45th Avenue NE, south of the intersection with NE 47th Street. 
  • Sidewalk work: construction crews will repair sidewalks and install (ADA) ramps: 9/14-9/18 - n the south side of NE 50th Street, between Sand Point Way NE and 44th Avenue NE; and 9/21-9/25 - on the north side of NE 50th Street, between Sand Point Way NE and Sand Point Place NE.  Affected sidewalks will be closed during construction, and pedestrian detour signage will be posted.
  • Pour concrete for walls and shafts
  • Install fireproofing
  • Framing
  • Paint
  • Install roofing
  • Set walls
  • Install metal panels
  • Install windows
  • Install metal sheeting
  • Install elevator equipment
  • Install mechanical and electrical wiring and plumbing equipment
  • Install drywall
  • Install siding
  • Build out electrical, mechanical, generator and pneumatic tube blower rooms
  • Install insulation
  • Install flooring
  • Install sprinkler systems
  • Build out interior spaces
  • Electrical power installation (Seattle City Light)
  • Work in existing buildings:
    • Paint and install ceiling tiles, grease interceptor, sink, dishwasher and water heater on River B level 3 in old vending machine location for Starbucks coffee cart
    • Install utility wiring, countertops, panels, and doors in new chapel location on River A level 7
  • Building connection work:
    • Saw cutting, set walls, pour stairs and install steel and fireproofing on level 1 of Forest A
    • Complete framing and install seismic joints, utility wiring, and pneumatic tube connections on level 2 of Forest A
    • Complete framing and install utility wiring and pneumatic tube connections on level 3 of Forest A
    • Install utility wiring, insulation, drywall, and seismic joint covers on level 4 of Forest A
    • Install drywall and seismic joint covers on level 5 of Forest A
    • Install seismic joint covers on level 6 of Forest A
    • Install seismic joint covers on level 7 of Forest A
    • Patch ceilings and trim utility wiring on level 8 of Forest A
    • Install flooring on level 9 of Forest A

All work will take place 8-6pm weekdays and 9-6pm on Saturdays.