Ducks and Snow

The weather changed this morning at 7.  Just a half an hour earlier the sky had gone from black to deep blue, promising another sunny day.  Then it was all grey skies and snow. Expecting no sparkle on its waters. Aki and I drive through the 2 mile avalanche zone on Thane Road to Sheep Creek. A high snow wall still boarders the uphill side of the road marking the edge of the avalanche that closed it last month.

At Sheep Creek snow covers the vast expanse of sand and gravel exposed by the outgoing tide. The creek cuts a diminutive and wandering channel through a huge bar formed by tidal forces in Gasteneau Channel. The sound here in Summer can be deafening—territorial gull cries, eagle screams, and rolling salmon fighting for possession of the spawning redds.  The carcasses of spent salmon left behind by ebbing tides add a nasty spice to the air. Today we only smell wet sand and sea weed and hear the voices of song sparrows working the beach.

Farther out, where the gravel bar edges Gasteneau Channel big disorganized rafts of ducks, gulls and scoters fish the shallow waters. They don’t react to us. We can trace the movement of schools of bait by their meanderings.  This is unlike the organized scoter rafts of summer. They hold tight formation facing the swell. As if responding to command the front row dives en mass letting the second row replace them at the front of the raft. In a few seconds members of the former first row bob to the surface at the raft’s rear to form a new back line. This is repeated until the last once again becomes the first and then again the last. 

When today’s disorganized bird rafts move into deeper water Aki and I turn to the mountains and walk onto a large sandy expanse. She dashes away at full speed for several hundred yards and then returns at the same breakneck speed. I have nothing to give for this performance but praise. It must be enough for she does it several times before settling in at my side for the snowy walk back to the car. 

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