Heard but Barely Seen


I’ve been waiting until bird hunting season closed to walk this trail because the sound of shotgun blasts make Aki nervous. Except for floatplanes on their way to the villages this beach along the lower stretches of the Mendenhall River is quiet. Gone the bird hunters and the birds from this beach and the sand bar across river which provided a refuge during hunting season. Now they can spread out on the wetlands without risking an unnatural death.

P1120495We hear an eagle complain, not from the top of a nearby spruce but from out over the salt water bay between here and Douglas Island. A raft of Mallard ducks occupies the river shallows while gulls half heartedly search the recently exposed beach for scrapes. Only cliff rocks decorated with party colored lichen and frozen seepage the color of a tea shop’s run off offer interesting subjects for a photograph in this flat gray light.

Far off comes the sound of Canada geese taking off in panic from the wetlands. We would have witnessed it had I chosen the wetlands trail. Hundreds of geese fly across the Douglas Island side of the wetlands and splash down half a mile away from us where they form a noisy community along a sandbar. A Stellar Sea Lion begins to complain in a bass voice. The powerful if a little impolite sound carries easily across the water from Douglas Island. “We could have watched the sea lion sing if we had walked around the False Outer Point.” I tell Aki.

P1120517In minutes the sounds of surfacing humpbacks join the chorus of geese and sea lions and by straining I can make out whale spray off Shaman Island as well as a seal swimming in mid channel apparently ignoring a tasty brace of laughing ducks cruising just behind him. All these things heard and barely seen. It produces wonder rather than frustration, a chance to appreciate the sounds of things without being blinded by their beauty.

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