Coming Up Empty

A single set of canine tracks cross Fish Creek. They are the kind of tracks a wolf would make while trotting. Aki and I have just left the car. She is cataloging the smells left by previous visitors. I am trying to figure out where the wolf trotted off the creek and into the woods. 

            Reluctantly, the little dog follows me to the pond. Each time I stop to check on her, she freezes, as if she is stalking prey. If I move in her direction, she breaks back to the car. I tell her that she is safer walking next to me if a wolf or eagle shows interest in her. She is not reassured. Maybe she fears for my safety. 

            Aki springs ahead once we reach the pond then freezes when an eagle starts scolding its mate. She still follows me onto an open spit where I spot another eagle flying down the beach. The big bird circles once and plunges, talons first, into the water. Half submerged, it dog paddles twice with its wings while it attempts to snatch something from under the water with its beak. In a second it is airborne again.

            The scolding eagle flies over to harass the now-wet bird. When it sees that the diving bird carries nothing in its talons or beak, the noisy one flies back to its perch in the top of a spruce tree. The wet bird lands on an offshore rock. 

            Nearby a large raft of mallards hunts the shallows for food.  Three other ducks sleep standing up on a small rise. When the tide returns they will lose their little refuge and all the birds will have to work harder for their food. 

            Aki streaks ahead of me on the way back to the car. But she stops when before the bridge across Fish Creek. When I catch up with the poodle, I take another look at the wolf tracks. Ten feet further up stream, is a line of tracks that the wolf left when it returned to the other side of the creek. These tracks were not there when we started our walk. Was the wolf tucked into the creek-side brush at the start of our hike, watching me puzzling about its tracks? 

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