Aki stops twenty feet behind me. A few days ago she would have been standing on ice. But that is gone, melted by the string of warm, sunny days that followed our last visit. “Why,” she seems to be saying, “are we back on the Fish Creek Delta?” If she were a human, I’d explain my intent to make many visits here so we can take an informal bird census. Because she would be that kind of human, she would press me until I admitted that I’d take any excuse to return to the rich and beautiful place.
I was pleased to find the trailhead parking lot empty when we arrived. As if to confirm that we were the day’s first human visitors, two braces of mallard ducks rested on a pond right next to the trail. They paddled without haste to edge of the pond and stepped onto the meadow grass.
The ebb tide provided ducks with exposed grassland for resting. A small raft of mallards slept on a nearby patch of grass, their necks buried into their back feathers. Another gathering of their cousins walked the shallows along the Fritz Cove beach, their heads plunged into the water. They ignored a gang of American Widgeons that splash down onto nearby water after being spooked by an eagle.
The still-hungry eagle screeched out a complaint and flew into the top of a beachside spruce. It clamped its talons tight around the springy branch, hunched its shoulders, and held on like a rodeo bull rider as the branch bounced up and down. After the movement stopped, the eagle raised its beak into the air and announced victory.