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In 2016 I’m doing a 365 Nature project. Each day of the year I will post something here about nature. It may be any format, a photo, video, audio, sketch or entry from my nature journal. It could be a written piece. Each day I will connect to nature in some way and share it here by the end of that day. You can keep up-to-date by subscribing to the RSS feed or be notified by email. See all the 365 Nature posts.

My plan of getting an hour long exercise walk at the arboretum doesn’t always go as I imagine. Today I meant well, I started off down the hill and into the winter garden but I was stopped yet again by the sight of a feather on the ground. After a quick scan of the area I found several more, and just like last time (Day 60), these were from a Varied Thrush. There weren’t as many and they were pretty wet which led me to the conclusion they were left there yesterday. A big rain and wind storm yesterday afternoon would easily have scattered most the feathers around and left them soggy. I wondered at the ability of the (presumed) Cooper’s Hawks to catch Varied Thrushes so readily because they are very shy and secretive birds which I easily startle during my walks through the park. They never tolerate me for long and never, ever up close.

Right when I finally got my heart beating faster again while continuing my walk, I was stopped once more. But this time not by feathers, instead, fur. My first glance over the birds in the pond rewarded me with Wood Ducks, Gadwall, American Wigeon and a pair of Great Blue Herons, but it was the movement near the bank which caught my eye. At first glance I thought it may have been a beaver because it was in the water at the edge of the bank, but a moment later I saw the striped tail of a raccoon. It was apparent it had taken a bath because it proceeded to groom itself on the shore, much to the vexation of the Mallards who kept a very close eye on it, quacking all the while.

Eventually the raccoon ambled off and after a moment I thought it must have returned because of the Mallards heightened alarm quacking. But it quickly became obvious their distress was airborne. A huge bird came soaring in low over the pond and it was simple to see the bright, white head of the Bald Eagle. It flew to the other side of the pond before flying back the same route, this time holding a branch in its talons. It’s nest building time and this eagle has a nest very close to the pond. I wondered if the fallen branches from the windstorm yesterday is a boon for nest builders, easy pickings.

After a long delay in my walk I finally got going again towards Marsh & Foster Islands, but once more I stopped in my tracks once I got to the water because I was greeted with a vision of spring. A dozen or more Violet-green Swallows soared over the boardwalk, surely a sign that spring has arrived here.

In the end, my quick one-hour exercise walk turned into a two-hour nature walk. What can I say?


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Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner

Kelly Brenner is a naturalist, writer and photographer based in Seattle. She is the author of NATURE OBSCURA: A City’s Hidden Natural World from Mountaineers Books. She writes freelance articles about natural history and has bylines in Crosscut, Popular Science, National Wildlife Magazine and others. On the side she writes fiction. Kelly holds a bachelors degree in landscape architecture from the University of Oregon and a certificate in non-fiction writing from the University of Washington.

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