Friday, June 15, 2012

New Life In A Nest Atop SR 520 After Eddie, The Eagle's Passing Last Summer

Next time you're on SR-520, check out the eaglets who have recently hatched in the nest that Eddie built. 

Eddie, is the famous Eagle who commonly sat on a light pole over looking 520 watching traffic below him, for so many years as motorists craned to catch a glimpse of him as they quickly passed by.

Larry Hubble, of the Blog Union Bay Watch, has written a fascinating post of what has developed since Eddie's passing last summer, and how new life has begun high atop 520. You can also catch an interview by Ed Muir on NWCN of Larry sharing the exciting news.

Read Larry's full post below, "Life after Eddie," for the fascinating detailed story along with beautiful pictures of the eagles sitting on their nest, the eaglets finally hatching only a couple of weeks ago and Larry reflecting on the new life at Union Bay.

Also check out Larry's follow-up post, "Life after Eddie - Threatened?" from only a few days ago where he talks about the eaglets gaining weight at a rate of one pound every 4 to 6 days and spending most of their time sleeping and when awake they can be seen walking about the nest searching for bits of food.

Larry also notes that Eva, the mother, usually stays close to the nest, when she is not out doing the majority of the hunting while Albert, the father, guards the nest from 10 to 15 feet above the nest somewhat hidden in the leaves at the top of the tree.

However, Larry adds that when the new 520 cuts through Foster Island and the nearby wetlands it will disrupt their food chain. "If the impact is too great and if the work is done in spring or summer the eagles could end up with eaglets they are unable to feed," he says.

Monday, June 4, 2012 - Life after Eddie
Last summer Eddie, one of the Seattle eagles who commonly sat on a light pole over looking 520, passed away. The story is that he was flying parallel to a bus when he suddenly turned and flew into the bus. One possible explanation for his behavior could be that he saw his own reflection in the bus window and attempted to scare it away.

After Eddie's demise the next question was what would happen to his mate? Eagles mate for life, which can be in the neighborhood of 30 years. Would she keep the nest, leave the nest or leave town all together? Happily, she kept the nest and took another mate rather quickly. What do you call the mate who comes after Eddie. Albert seems like the right answer. Does that make Eddie's mate, Eva?

During the fall Albert was helpful around the "house." When he placed a new branch on the nest Eva reached over and adjusted its position. Albert moved it back to its original location. The two birds repeated this process a couple of times until Eva turned to Albert and pecked him on the shoulder. It was as if she was saying "Leave it alone, I have it where I want it." He left it alone. Among eagles, the the female is generally larger, and it is clear Eva rules the roost.

As winter passed there were long periods during which neither bird was at the nest.
Still it was not uncommon to see one of them sitting above 520 or surveying Union Bay from the cottonwood tree on the north side of Foster Island. On sunny days they ride the updrafts and soar high above Montlake watching for their next meal. However on cloudy days, sitting in the cottonwood above the water allows them a nice view and a short dive for a passing fish or duck.

As spring approached the anticipation built. When would nesting begin? Would Albert be an adequate mate and parent? It is hard to believe that eagles actually choose to live and raise young in a city surrounded by a half a million people. Union Bay is a freshwater bay off of Lake Washington and in the city of Seattle. It is unique because even though it is in the city it has wetlands on both the north and south sides of the bay. Osprey return here in the summer from South or Central America. Trumpeter and Tundra swans come here to feed in the winter. Hundreds of birds live here year round and thousands of birds stop over during migration.
Around the end of March Eva started sitting on the nest. That weekend Albert brought a small fish back to the nest for her to eat. He might have been new to the job but he was making a serious effort. The nesting period ranges from to 2 to 3 months, however after an egg is laid it only takes about 35 days to hatch. April turned into May and every day one of the eagles was on the nest almost nonstop. It was impossible to see into the nest to know when the eggs where laid or when the eaglets hatched out. In any case they were initially too small to see in the middle of the huge nest.

This photo, taken on June 2nd, proves that the waiting is over.
Generally, the eaglets must be sleeping because they are still not normally visible in the nest. However whenever a hunting eagle returns, the parent guarding the nest usually spots their mate and the food from a distance. The nesting parent's calls wake the eaglets and the whole family excitedly welcomes the meal, if not the hunting eagle.

On the south side of Union Bay, the parents take turns guarding the nest and hunting for food. Their efforts and instincts are not a lot different than our own. The young eaglets are growing day by day. They are the center of their parent's lives. Eva's focus on the future demonstrates nature's cure for bereavement and...
Once again there is new life in the nest that Eddie built.
Our challenge should we choose to accept it:
Thinking about new life on Union Bay should make us all consider what the future holds. We have been extremely lucky that 50 years ago citizens of Seattle decided to turn the Montlake Dump into the wetlands that are now the Union Bay Natural Area. This restoration has been a tremendous benefit to the natural life on Union Bay.

As citizens of Seattle we have a responsibility to continue the restoration of Union Bay. Restoring a salmon run to the Arboretum Creek would be an incredible benefit to the eagles and ultimately to our children in the future. This would require funding to daylight portions of the creek and bring in additional surface runoff. Specifically, this would mean getting the water out of pipes and into the sunlight to recreate a natural stream in which the salmon can spawn. We would also need a united effort to dramatically reduce runoff pollution. However the biggest challenge is, How do we fund the effort?

When you see Albert or Eva sitting above 520 imagine that they are asking

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