Knowing that this year’s crop of dog salmon should already be heading up the Mendenhall River to spawn, I drive Aki out to a trail that leads to the river’s mouth. Usually we hear eagle and raven squabbles just after getting out of the car. This morning only robins and sparrows break the silence. The trail winds along a forested hillside, requiring the little dog and I to maneuver around and over exposed spruce roots. At first I worry that the Aki might reinjure her leg jumping over something. But she does fine.
The beach, when we reach it, is as quiet as the woods. No salmon fin in eddies. No ducks or geese gossip on the shore. Here and there beach rocks are decorated with yellow flower petals. We will find these little dots of yellow on over a kilometer stretch of beach. A belted kingfisher scolds us and then lands on a rock near the river. Then we hear the first eagle. It screams from inside a tangle of spruce limbs. Other eagles will call out as we progress down the beach. But will only see one of them.
On the drive back home, I stop at the hatchery where dog salmon wait to swim up a fish ladder to their death. Over a dozen bald eagles watch the salmon from perches in tree tops, pilings, and the top of the Juneau Empire building. Maybe made confident by their number, the eagles don’t seem bothered by our presence. Unlike their hard scrabble Mendenhall River cousins, these urban birds look large and in charge.