I went to the beach today during a sunny lull in the snow. It was brisk but really lovely with a low tide that revealed how the beach was scoured from stormy high tides. Made it to the end of the beach and was hanging out.
Then I heard the crows raising a ruckus, which is always a good sign of some excitement up on the cliff trees. I was right because a big white head stood out like a blazing sun. It was an amazing adult bald eagle. It got better since he was feasting on a fish. Oh Yum!!
He was hanging out on a bleached white madrona tree limb. Perfect place to keep watch on the world while he snacked.
How about we get a little closer to our fabulous bald eagle?
Did you see the fish’s backbone? This eagle has been here a while eating some white fish he caught. If the crows had not been hoping for a stolen bite I would have missed him up there on the steep bank.
Let us zero in on his talons. They are nothing to mess with.
Check out how he works the remnants of the fish to get the last morsels. At the end you can see how the bones just fall away. Pretty much all done.
One last shot of this symbol of our country enjoying his catch of the day.
Tis the season for all of us to shed our summer dryness. It has been so hot and dry here in the Pacific Northwest with a new record of days with no rain. I have lost count since we blazed through the old 1951 record.
Last night we had a little drizzle that broke our streak but it made no dent in the dryness of the forest or the wildlife’s suffering.
Back in 2011 I wrote an article about molting birds and madrona trees. I am always surprised by how popular this post is. Currently it is the most read with almost 2,500 hits. I have poked around and found it is a search for molting trees that brings folks in.
This tree molting is a fascinating sight. Walking down the trail to the beach through the madrona forest the ground is littered with paper like bark. My boot in the picture below gives us perspective on how big the pieces are.
It is nearly pure white on the back with a warm mahogany brown on the outer side.
These trees are looking rather messy. They like the birds have a shabby look. If one was not aware of this molting they might think they are dying.
It isn’t just their bark they shed but also their dead or older leaves fall at this time of year. They are an evergreen tree but leaves last only so long. This late summer period is their season of rejuvenation. As the season gets hot they shed away the old to conserve energy.
The finale is how spectacular the exposed underneath is a smooth shiny green. Do you want to reach out and touch it? It is so smooth and almost soft. A thrill for the rambling hiker!
After five years of sharing my experiences with the world I had a retrospective moment looking back on my most popular posts. I wanted my blog children to be popular after working so hard on them. The ones you think are super-duper are often not the ones that skyrocket to the top. Instead some sleepy post comes out of nowhere and just keeps on giving. Then there are the posts that are huge flashes in the pan but do not have the staying power.
Going back in time…. here are the top five. Lets see if you are as surprised as I am.
#5 – 6 Baby Crows Crying – we begin with a 2011 post about a walk around my neighborhood echoing with the cry of baby crows. Not a lot of photos but this post got 308 people to learn more about baby crows. Baby Time
#4 – Crow Pellet – leave it to an icky subject like bird throw up to be on my top list. A sunny day at the beach a crow coughed up this thing and I took a picture. A little research later I found out it was called a pellet and then wrote this blog that got 514 looks. Go check out Crow Throw-up
#3 – Crows – Ravens Halloween – at 586 hits how can you go wrong writing about black crows and the scary holiday of Halloween. Check out all the bad omens associated with our black beauties. What an image they have! Surprise to all they actually are thought to be the creator and the destroyer. Can you match that? crow legends
#2 – Crow Stalker and Amanda Knox Paparazzi – no matter if you call it a fancy word like Paparazzi, it is still a form of Stalking. It was happening right here in my West Seattle neighborhood, international paparazzi looking for Amanda Knox when she was released from jail in Italy. This was heralded in October of 2011 with media helicopters and traffic jams. On my Sunday walks looking for crow photo opportunities I stumbled upon them sleeping, watching and hanging out by her mother’s house. I started calling myself Crow Stalker after I accused them of stalking her and they said I was doing the same thing to my beloved crows. This first post got 927 number of views in a short couple of months. The followup post recieved 161 views. Here are the links to both of them.
#1 – Its Molting Time – Crows, Herons & Madrona Trees – this post has the most staying power of all with 1,444 views. It was conceived in the fall fo 2011 and every week someone reads it. I think it is the madrona trees molting that catches the traffic. They are a very special tree that molt at the same time as the birds I follow at the beach. But then again it could be the crows who sure don’t look black and shiny when in molt. Its Molting Time – my #1 viewed post
I want to thank my readership for all their input and support. My Top Five is a testament to you.
Walking a trail seldom used in a madrona forest is a delight to the senses. This tree has a smooth mahogany red-brown bark with dark green leaves. The trunks lean into the sun and wind on a hill overlooking Puget Sound. It loves the water and good drainage. Not a good yard tree since it prefers the wild.
I am fortunate that my beach trail winds through a madrona forest. Not just one tree but a family of them that stretch over a large area of the bluff. At the top of the long final staircase to the beach is a seldom traveled trail that juts off into the trees. It is blocked by downed trees and the brush is narrowing it. I took this trail to “be” in the trees.
Off the main trail as I hiked up and over things I found myself surrounded by blown down madronas of different years and decades. The gnarled trunk in the feature photo above is an example of how one has aged into almost a black abstract painting.
As I look back down the trail, I gloried in the madrona’s color and patterns.
Turning around looking up the hill I could see the tops of the trees waving in the breeze.
As I stood absorbing their being I was delighted by sounds of a crow family frolicking through the tree tops. They were cawing, chuckling and croaking to each other. Soon they were in the trees above me in their game of hide and seek. In reality they are probably seeking nesting sites for this year’s nursery or an afternoon snack.
This is where I have to confess I decided to stay in the moment of the trees and birds. It is so easy in this life of technology to be consumed with taking the best picture or video (think selfie). I have done that before with more times losing out twice. First in not deeply enjoying the moment nor getting a great photo. Today I went with nature un-photographed and just hiked along with the crows above me.
I leave you with one of the stills I took before the crows arrived. This is the same set of tree tops that they danced around me in.
At the beach today out of the trees on the bluff flew this Blue Heron. It was high tide and fishing must have been slow. He flew right over me.
Then he landed in the madrona forest where I took his photo. He was just hanging out waiting for the next school of fish at low tide.
Madrona trees are lovely to look at. They have this reddish bark that molts in late summer just like the birds do. See the new greenish bark peeking out from under the peel? Their old branches can die off and they have a grey twisted gnarled look. If the heron had not come flying out of another tree, I would never have spotted him. See how well he blends into the branches of the tree?
Spring along Puget Sound is glorious on this Sunday morning. As I traversed the paths through the forest to the beach the resident family jumped from tree branch to branch along with me.
Madronas are so lovely. They have this reddish bark, dark green leaves year round and flowers that turn into red berries. The crows who own this territory are rich in habitat for visiting, feeding, sleeping and raising their babies.
When times are tough or when I just need my weekly time with nature, I walk to the madrona forest on the side of the Salish Sea. That little oasis is just a moment away for me. Here is a link to the daily prompt that has inspired this post – Oasis
You may have seen me write about these lovely rusty trunked trees. They have not only a warm color but their form is so reaching and expressive.
On my trail to the beach, I am embraced by them and the wildlife that resides in them. I have found my beloved crows, spotted towhee’s, raccoons, and sparrows inhabiting this world. The little trail has a small platform with a bench overlooking the beach and forest. I always stop there to drink in the calming energy of the forest around me.
Here are a few things I have documented in this urban forest on the edge of Puget Sound. Hope you may find calm and a small oasis in them as well.
My crow family greeting me from an old madrona snag.
Madrona Crow in the Rain
Can you see the crows in the forest?
Baby Crow Quilt Finished
Baby Crow crying for Mom to feed him silhouetted against a blue sky
Looking up into the Madrona forest above the beach I saw these two crows chowing down. They had found a tree laden with berries. Autumn is here and they are taking advantage of the bounty still hanging around for the taking.
When we think of molting we immediately go to birds. Yes it is the season that they are in bad feather and if you are a bird watcher you know what I mean. They are still raising their young and that stress has taken its toll on them. So, you will see them look like they just got out of bed, kind of frumpy.
Another species that molts are trees and the Pacific Northwest forests of Madrona trees. I talked to some neighbors today and they were worried about their forest. There is no need to be concerned since this is an annual process. Courtesy of Wiki here is some basic info on them:
Arbutus menziesii (Pacific madrona, madrone or Arbutus) is a species of tree native to the western coastal areas of North America, from British Columbia to California.
It is also known as the madroño, madroña, or bearberry. The name “strawberry tree” may also be found in relation to A. menziesii. In the United States, the name “madrone” is used south of the Siskiyou Mountains of southern Oregon and Northern California and the name “madrona” is used north of the Siskiyou Mountains.
Today in my walk back up the trail I saw some good examples of their peeling bark. The exposed new bark is slightly green under the reddish peel. Chunks of paper like bark can be found on the ground or hung up in branches.