Saturday, February 28, 2009

Strange Birds

Bird behavior has been different for the last couple of days, so I headed down to Union Bay again, just to see what was going on. It was cloudy, almost calm and about 50 F. There were 13 herons sitting in the same area as yesterday. The Canada geese have clearly begun to pair off. The life mates appear to be looking for good lakeshore property and with the others there is a noisy mating ritual beginning. I found the six swans over in the NE corner. One eagle was in a tree about 100 yds south of the nest. There was a redtailed hawk in a nearby tree. Crows were at the eagle nest, so I don't know where the other eagle was, but it wasn't on the nest. I haven't seen the eagles actively hunting ducks for more than a week. Not sure what they are doing for food right now. Oh, and the coots were acting like the idiots of the bird world that they are (photo). They were in good sized flocks today and at one time they all went and sat on shore while I paddled by. They were reluctant to move too far though, and I would see a hundred of them skimming over the water to move 50 yards away as I neared.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Solar Recharge

The day is sunny, calm, and in the mid 40's. After a few days of rain/snow/clouds, everyone - birds, animals, people seem to recharge themselves in the sun. I carefully search Union Bay and there are only six swans remaining. So, sometime in the last few days five have left the bay. They did not come to the bay all together, so I see no reason for them to leave as a group. The 3 grays and 3 of the white mature swans remain. At the northernmost of the west islands there are 19 blue herons sitting on the bank. 16 of them are within 20 feet of each other, some sight. I head over to the NE corner of the bay. While picking debris (I get 30 lbs) from the cattails, 5 eagles fly overhead. Something territorial is going on. One eagle breaks off, the other four continue until almost out of sight over the burial island and then a second one returns. I watch this one and I am rewarded when I see it join its mate at their nest. I did not know exactly where the nest was and I am surprised that it can be seen from the water. I also see several kingfishers today. I return through the east channel next to the burial island - it is easy going as there is 2 or 3 inches of extra water in the lake due to the recent rain. Near the take-out, there are quite a few teal sunning themselves until I get near.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Not Seeing Things

I walked the canoe down to Union Bay. Last night we got 2 inches of snow. There was some wind from the north, but it seemed to lessen as the day went on. I spotted 6 swans near the west islands (3 gray, 3 white). I did not see the other 5, although they could've been on the other side of an island from me. As I forgot my binoculars, I could not count from any distance due to patches of snow still on the shoreline. I did not see any eagles today. On the shore, near a place where there had been a Duwamish longhouse, there were 13 blue herons and I thought of how herons seem to be part elder and part ghost. They were in a 50 yard stretch of shore, so they made quite a sight. I circled the bay, in case the 5 swans were on a far shore, but they weren't. And, I haven't seen the otters in a long time, come to think of it. In the photo is the northernmost beaver lodge in Union Bay. With a wind at my back, I headed out into the main lake and south for a couple miles.

Monday, February 23, 2009


I headed up to the Samammish River today to see if I could get some plaster casts of animal tracks. It was warm enough for just a t-shirt and very calm. There were many common mergansers and cormorants on the lake. I found some tracks, but last nights rain had erased everything and I was out too soon to find much of interest. The river has a slack current today, which was unexpected. My last winter paddle here was in a 2mph flow and I thought that the current might be seasonal. Apparently, the flow is related just to the level of Lake Samammish, 13 miles upstream. Eventually, it started to sprinkle and then it started to rain. It was no longer t-shirt weather. I saw no one.

Saturday, February 21, 2009


Another 55F day, calm and with sun coming through high hazy clouds. Me and S walked the canoe down to Union Bay. From there, we just headed out to the main lake and south to Denny-Blaine Park. The big lake doesn't give one so much to look at outside of a great view of Mt. Rainier. It is just a nice place to get into the rhythm of paddling. We hug the shore today and spot the street end parks. Streets in this city were originally laid out well into the water. The dead ends of most of the streets are park property, although they have often been neglected. S thinks that walking the canoe to and from the water adds very much to the experience. It makes the "getting to" and "coming from" part of the canoe trip.

Friday, February 20, 2009

My New Paddle

I was in a creative funk this morning. Should be doing something but not feeling like doing anything. I hate that. So, I loaded the canoe and walked to South Lake Union. As soon as I started walking I felt better. It is a beautiful day, sunny, calm and heading towards 55F. Lake Union, mostly industrial ship stuff or marinas and houseboats is nice today. No other traffic on the lake other than 3 seaplanes that land. There are some scaups about near the north end and I notice that the two ships on the right of the photo are the Labrador and the Retriever. I have my new paddle out, a traditional shaped spruce one that I just completed. It is a little thick in places, but works well and I like it better than my store bought one. A few modifications and it will be nice. I'll make another, it was fun. Once through Portage Bay and the cut I head CW around Union Bay. I spot one eagle hunting something on the other side of an island. It is circling and swooping and has probably got a coot to dive. I surprise the big female eagle as I come around an island. She was sitting on a drift log just 4 feet from two Canada geese. She flies over to the "birch perch" and 4 other geese quickly get up and fly over and land directly under her - odd behaviour. I see the swans flying on the far side of the bay and I pause to look at the big female eagle in the birch. When I break my gaze, I look around I realize that I can see six herons and two bald eagles and that two raccoons are watching me. I head over towards the swans (eleven), which are scattered today in twos and threes and then turn SE towards the main lake. Now it is just time to paddle, not think, just listen to the rhythm and watch my upper arm as it sweeps across my view.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just Enough Wind

I put in on the north shore of Elliot Bay. It is in the 40's and while it was calm at my house, the wind is coming in from the west and it is moderately stiff. There is a harlequin duck on the shore when I start off. At the first ruin, an old rock pier/foundation, there is a bald eagle sitting in a tree. The wind is brisk, but I go out to 4 mile rock before deciding to continue. There, where one is more exposed to the whole of Puget Sound, the wind is blowing from the northwest. I see a surf scoter and several goldeneyes. Waves are about one foot and the wind is in my face as I move towards West Point (in the photo). If I stop paddling, I move backwards. I can see gusts coming towards me, they ripple the water into gray patches. A kayaker passes, heading downwind. I hope that he is on his return leg - his boat is better suited for the wind. Anyway, we're too far apart to talk. As I get closer to West Point, I get some protection from the wind and the going gets a little easier, so I keep going. I stop for a break. Sitting in the sun on the beach, out of the wind and drinking coffee, I remember what I fine place this beach is. Then I load up and cruise downwind. I spot two eagles above. I love being in wind because of the warm glow that comes over me when I get out of the wind.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Herons and eagles and swans

S joined me today for a paddle in Union Bay. It was about 40F with a breeze out of the north that made the trip brisk. Up near the north point perch I spotted a pod of large turtles, all floating together just two inches under the surface. The largest was dinner plate size and the other three nearly that large. One eagle was in the lunch counter perch with a tasty flock of coots floating just a short way off. While we ate lunch, the female eagle came in and settled on the perch and the two of them whistled at each other for a few moments. Otherwise, they did not look so interested in hunting. The eleven swans were in a tight group between the west islands and when we drifted up on them to get a clear count, they honked and swam a few yards to keep their distance as we moved by to leave them to their feeding. There were many more herons out today than what I normally see and they were very active moving around. We also saw a snipe while close to the cattails and a couple kingfishers.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

I Like a Rolling Start

It is in the mid 30's and sunny with a light breeze. I roll my canoe down the hill and put in from the burial island.
A raccoon is on a downed log to my right. It is soaking wet and leaves wet tracks along the top of the log as it moves off. As I go north between the last of the islands I see a red tailed hawk to my right. It gets up and moves over to trees on the burial island. One eagle is at the lunch counter, people on shore are watching it. The swans are near the west islands.When I get closer to the lunch counter, I see that the eagle is eating something small. Crows are complaining. They have begun to pester the eagles more often, lately. I take a handful of compass bearings from the lunch counter. Then I paddle straight over to the north point perch and take a few more bearings. Paddling over by the west islands I count 11 swans. The grays are off by themselves. While I take a few more compass bearings they come to 50 yards, they are curious. The mature swans stay over 100 yards out. The smaller male eagle is in trees on the west shore. Done messin' about, I head through the cut and onto Lake Union where I take out at Good Turn Park, a tiny little and very nice park tucked in where no one would expect to find a park.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Count

Today I went out to count swans due to a rumor of a second death. But, all eleven were there, feeding between the islands on the west shore. It was in the mid 30's with a wind out of the SE. The eagles were soaring over the west shore. Lots of great blue herons today and a big flock of mostly widgeons and coots not far from the swans.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Swan Stuff

I walked the canoe down to Denny-Blaine on the main lake today and paddled north to Union Bay. It was in the 40's , gray, with a light wind out of the north. When I reached Union Bay, the sun was beginning to burn the cloud cover off. I headed straight to the north end of the bay, stopping briefly to chew out an idiot that was standing up in a rental canoe, messin' with a navigation buoy, without a life jacket. I use the term, "idiot", correctly as in 40 degree water, 200 yards from shore, swimming is not a good idea.
Skirting the the shore, I surprised myself as I came around a dock, finding an eagle on a low stub of a pier. In the photo is the eagle and a bunch of crows on the "lunch counter perch". Picked up some junk and continued cruising eventually running into my bird watcher friend, C, who started telling me about the dead swan. It had been picked up by the Trumpeter Swan Society, of which I had known nothing about or I would have contacted them when I first found the bird. (So, now I'll contact them - I have a lot of photos). C also filled me in on Bitterns, so I'll be watching for them. It was a good day.

Friday, February 6, 2009

More Water

Something seemed different today. It was in the 40's, a light wind from the north and quite gray. It was fairly raw weather. But the lake looked different and it was. I think the water level was up 3 or 4 inches. One eagle was at the west shore perch. A very large flock of mixed ducks was in mid-bay. The three immature swans were off by themselves, the eight mature swans were mixed in with ducks. The dead swan has all but disappeared, nothing but some pink feathers left. Perhaps the inattentive coyote finally found it and dragged it farther from shore. There was an eagle on the lunch counter perch, maybe the same one I had seen earlier. As I paddled away, the frantic flapping wooshing sound of a hundred coots got my attention and I turned to see the eagle fly low over them, straight towards me. About 20 yards away it wheeled and snatched something from the water. Maybe a fish or maybe some carrion. Then it flew direct to the lunch counter. Another 50 yards on I spotted a red tailed hawk in a small tree. It was eating part of a duck (I could see one webbed foot) and while it kept track of me, it was content to let me drift within 10 yards.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Great Day

Today it is about 50 F, sunny, and calm. I walk the canoe a mile east to Lake Washington. Then I head North. Big waterfront houses on the left, a bunch of larger ducks that I don't recognize on the right. Once in Union Bay I stop and eat my lunch, a bowl of rhubarb crunch. The eleven swans are in the NW corner, one eagle is at the lunch counter perch. Things are pretty calm, including the birds. Everything is sunning itself. Then I continue through the cut and along the north shore of Portage Bay. It's just a day for cruising along... From the cut, the waterfront gets more industrial with marinas, drydocks and fishing boat moorage mixed with houseboats. The drydock operations are always kind of interesting, the marinas are not. At the south end of Lake Union, I get out and walk up the hill to home.

Sunday, February 1, 2009


In the 40's, gray, and breezy from the SE.
Today I got to try my new portage cart out. I bought an almost new Trek bike trailer at Goodwill for $13, took it apart and put it back together as a portage cart. So, today I walked the mile down the hill and put in at the South end of Portage Bay. There were two small bald eagles in the air, one mature and one still without white feathers. I paddled through the cut (photo). An ancient portage once existed just south of here. No pleasure boats out today. Then I went CW around the bay. Saw a dead mallard hen in the water. The swan carcass has been dragged farther inland and is still feeding something. Paddled into the wind to the S shore and back through the E channel next to the burial island. Loaded my canoe on the cart and walked home. It's the first time I haven't had to start and finish at the same spot.