Exciting weather and wildlife

This morning while it was still dark, we were awakened by the fiercest downpour we've ever heard in Seattle. It seemed to go on for fifteen or twenty minutes; I woke up slowly, first incorporating the sound into a dream, then realizing that it was pouring rain in real life. Eventually it calmed down and I went back to sleep.

Waking again at 9:00, it was sunny and breezy. We walked to the gym and saw a black cloud coming at us from the west horizon. During the workout, I saw that it was pouring again, and dark. Thirty minutes later we walked home in sunshine that has lasted the rest of the day. Our rain gauge had two and a half inches in it from the past two days.

After our showers and coffee, we had lunch at Philadelphia Fevre, a cheese-steak diner near us on Madison. They have 1970s-style paneling, snapshots and lots of Pennsylvania memorabilia on the walls. In the room where you enter the store, you can sit at the counter. Otherwise, you place your order and go up three stairs into another room with about a dozen booths and a table by the window. We sat in the window and devoured our sandwiches with an order of fries we hadn't asked for. Mmmm. Tom had the plain cheese-steak and I had the pepper cheese-steak. We traded halves so that we could try both. Delicious. And not at all fattening, of course.

Then we drove across town to Discovery Park, a huge meadow and woods perched on a bluff over Puget Sound. It used to be an Army fort, so it also has old houses, roads, and a big field where people fly kites and walk dogs. Last year we saw a kestrel (a small bird of prey) hovering on the wind, only about 15 feet above the ground, for many minutes at a time in between flights back to a small tree to rest. We watched him do the same routine over and over, and we were amazed, because we'd never read up on kestrels and their unusual hunting technique. We found out later what he was by looking in our bird book. The next week, we saw him again.

We were hoping to see the kestrel again today, but we didn't. We sat on a log looking out over the Sound and watching people walk their dogs along the path in front of us. Eventually we noticed a large soaring bird and took turns watching him through the binoculars. He also faced into the wind and hovered, only he was high in the sky, many times higher than the trees. Finally he flew across the meadow and landed in a grove of bare trees. We walked in that direction but he took off again before we were able to see his perch. As Tom watched him through the binoculars, a bald eagle appeared in the sky from the same direction and soared over us. They are unmistakeable against a blue sky, with their black wings and body shaped like a bar against their bright white head and tail. Even when they are silhouetted, they're distinctive because of their size, their consistently wide wings, and their perfectly flat wing posture when they soar-which they almost always do. You hardly ever see them flap.

Then another bald eagle appeared. So we had the two of them circling over the meadow and the hawk hovering against the wind at its north edge. Then, right behind us but invisible, we heard the thin twitter of a hummingbird. We never saw him, but the sound is unique. I saw, on two or three other occasions, a hummingbird making that noise while flying in the big J-swoops that they use to impress the females. It really stuck in my mind and so I recognized the sound today.

We eventually started to walk back to the car, and stopped to watch some people peering at a rabbit downhill from us. Suddenly one of the bald eagles coasted by, quite low, as if interested. But he kept going. I've read that they mainly eat fish, and mainly by scavenging, and that they can lift about four pounds. So even if people had not been near the rabbit, it's unlikely the eagle would have nabbed it, I think.

Here are a few pictures Tom took. A hawk in a tree at the transit center in Redmond, where we wait for the bus.

Here's one from today, of the radar-ball poking over the hill at Discovery Park. Apparently this used to be part of the military installation there and it's now used somehow by Sea-Tac Airport, though that's very far away.

Tom took this one near where we live, looking down to the east, toward Lake Washington, along Yesler Street. I love the hills in Seattle.