Sick swan at Juanita Bay, mergansers at Forbes Creek

A common merganser makes a catch at Juanita Bay Park’s Forbes Creek on Feb. 21.  - Duke coonrad, Contributed
A common merganser makes a catch at Juanita Bay Park’s Forbes Creek on Feb. 21.
— image credit: Duke coonrad, Contributed

Most of the swans left Juanita Bay several weeks ago. In mid-February, many park visitors were concerned about an apparently sick swan cygnet (young bird), whose family group of one sibling and both parents lingered with it. By the end of the week, the cygnet died. Lead poisoning is suspected from its swelled neck and stomach. Fish and Wildlife were called about our concerns before the bird died. Several swans remained in the Bay as of Feb. 20. Generally all leave before the end of February.

On a happier note, have you noticed how much more bird song is in the air as the days lengthen? Like the birds, I find myself perking up with the increased daylight. The string of five sunny days in a row has been a bonus, but as I learned when I lived in the Great Lakes area, winter sun carries a cold bite in the air.
When the lake was ice skimmed in December and January, you could observe red slider turtles moving below the ice on the floor of the Bay on sunny days off the middle boardwalk. From the forecast for the next two weeks, this opportunity may represent itself.

With the lawn unseeded at Juanita Beach, the wintering American wigeon ducks - which like Canada geese, like to graze on mowed, grassy lawns - have been more visible feeding in the Bay itself, but they come and go. Usually when I am not seeing them in our Bay, I see them in Union Bay when I cross to Seattle. Snipe and killdeer are also intermittently sighted around the west boardwalk’s cove or along the north shore mudflat.

The north shore is also a favorite haunt of our wood ducks. I see the hooded mergansers most often in Forbes Creek or the beaver pond. Common mergansers sometimes hang out between the two boardwalks.
If you see leaves flying around in low little eddies west of the parking lot on windless days, take time to focus on the activity. Most of the birds causing the eddies are robins, but mixed in them may be varied thrushes, spotted towhees, golden crowned kinglets, song sparrows, other sparrows and starlings.

Indian plum is beginning to bloom, and some hazelnuts and elderberry are leafing out. I have seen the soft fuzzy pussy willows blooms in the park as well. If you look closely at Indian plum flowers, you will notice different shrubs have different kinds of flowers. Some have stamens only, others pistils only, and both male and female flower-bearing plants must be in proximity to pollinize the female flowers that produce fruit. The botanical term for this is dioecious.

The Seattle Flower and Garden Show is the end of this week.

Puget Sound Chapter of the Native Plant Society is offering Native garden design workshops March 12-13 and 19. Eastside Audubon’s native plant sale is scheduled for late April, and the Native Plant Society’s spring native plant sale at the Bellevue Botanical Garden is Saturday, May 7. The first week of May is Washington Native Plant week , and there will be special garden tours and field trips offered. Eastside Audubon and the Eastside Park Rangers will sponsor special tours at Juanita Bay Park April 16 in honor of Migratory Bird Day.

Green Kirkland Partnership is holding its Earth Day restoration event in Juanita Bay Park on April 23. Other work parties include March 5 and 19 at Cotton Hill and April 9 at Kiwanis Park.

Janice Johnson lives in Juanita and is active in the local environmental community.

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