An adult bald eagle circles over the meadow where Aki and I stand. I check to make sure that the little dog is too close to me to be eagle bait and then turn to watch the eagle. Low angle sunshine lights up the eagle’s white head and enriches the chestnut tones of its wing feathers. Taking advantage of its two-meter wingspan, it lets the wind carry it higher over our heads.
When the eagle’s mate calls out from a nearby spruce top, it glides toward a nearby one, hovers for a second over its apex, and lands, talons first on a thin branch. The tree top sways with the eagle’s sudden weight, rocking the big bird back and forth until it settles. Once stable, the eagle watches a yellow legs sandpiper quick stepping across the shallows of a small pond.
Earlier in the walk we watched two guys from the hatchery installing net pens for holding king salmon smolt. While the we watch the eagle watch the sandpiper, we can hear the sound of salmon smolt being pumped from a tanker truck into the pens. After four months in the pens, the smolt will be released. They will make their way down stream to the ocean.
Adult king salmon, released from the pens over four years ago, will pass the smolt as they swim upstream to the pond. The big salmon, some weighing more than ten kilos, will wander around the pond, trying to find a way to satisfy their instinctual urge to spawn. A few might follow silver salmon upstream to their spawning gravel. Most will be caught by fishermen or bears.