Aki and I are on a hunt for an eagle’s nest. Last week a friend reported seeing two eaglets in it. I want to do the same. Aki, whose eyes are starting to cloud with age, is along for the chance to visit with other dogs. We are on a popular dog-walking trail near the airport.
The trail could be an icon for the successful human-wild animal interaction. It wraps around the outside of the airport, offering views of a tarmac runway, floatplane lake, glacier, eagle’s nest, water treatment plant, Mendenhall River, Willie’s boat yard, and many mountains.
Within a few minutes I spot an eagle in the top of a spruce tree. It looks tired enough to be on break from nest-watching duty. White puffs of eagle down decorate surrounding twigs. I can’t spot a nest. Aki looks bored so we leave the main trail and take one that curves along the river’s edge. A harbor seal, head just out of the water, cruises over to investigate and then slips into the river.
We pass between drying stalks of cow parsnip and fireweed spears that have gone to seed. Fireweed down fills the air like light snow will next December. Ahead fourteen Canada geese stand in mid-river on a submerged gravel bar. They make no noise until a flock of two hundred other geese fly across the wetlands to join them. Now the air is full of geese chatter. At first I take the noise to be warnings of danger or assertions of territorial rights. But as it goes on and the geese swim over to the original fourteen birds, their cackles sound more like party noise.
The solitary eagle is still in its treetop eerie when we return to the main trail. In minutes we find a cottonwood with a “This is an eagle’s nest tree, don’t mess with it” sign. I look up and see the nest but no eaglets. Fledged but not forgotten by the tired eagle in the nearby tree.