Alaskan Serengeti


The kind woman with binoculars doesn’t object when Aki runs up to her and barks a hello. But when she reaches down to pet the little dog Aki is already back at my side. The lady returns her attention upward to watch downy woodpeckers hammer the trailside spruce. I ask for her morning bird count. “Four northern shovelers and a couple of plovers,” is her reply. She looks frail enough to be blow away by the strong off shore wind that reaches us even in this forested part of the trail to Boy Scout Beach. But she doesn’t complain; seems happy to share the woodpeckers with us.


The morning’s strong ebb tide has shrunk Eagle River and exposed sand bars between us and the now turbulent surface of Lynn Canal. Using my old camera as a telescope, I find a wealth of waterfowl and shore birds. Canada geese and ducks (golden eyes, buffleheads, mallards, scaulps, mergansers) fish wind-protected sections of the river for sea going salmon fry. Some geese have flattened themselves against the mud bar. Others wander the exposed flats. Is this what the African Serengeti is like little dog?


We arrive at the beach where wind gusts make Aki jumpy. Rather than stay for more punishment, we climb over a berm and drop down onto a meadow where a score of American robins hunt for food. I am surprised to see such a large flock of robins because our neighborhood birds are already building nests. These guys must be refueling for the next leg north.



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