Osprey

Several days of heavy rain have raised the local creek and lake waters to near flood stage. Parts of the trail that Aki and I are using will be flooded. But she can swim and I am wearing good quality Wellington-style boots. Thanks to the messy trail we’ll have the forest, beaches, and meadows to ourself. No one else wants to deal with the swampy trail.

            First we have to cross twenty feet of trail, now covered with 10 inches of water. No big deal for the little dog, more of a challenge for her human charge. But soon we reach a mostly dry trail that circles the beaver pond. I look for beavers, ducks, and song birds and find only silence.  

            We reach the beach, where usually this time of year we spot eagles, gulls, and a small flock of harlequin ducks. Today I can only find a beach raven and one gull that sits on a tiny rock island, just offshore. Then, what I first think is an immature bald arcs above us then moves over the little bay. From time to time, it pulls itself to a stop 80 feet over the water, hovers, then resumes its cruise. At least twice, the bird dived onto a fish in the water. Once it passed close enough for me to see his solid white belly and a black marking strip on its head. It’s an osprey, a rare hunter in the southeast rainforest.

            We watch the osprey dive into the water several times and then fly away over Outer Point. I remember an osprey that nested near the Aniak River when my wife and I lived in the Alaska Bush. One day, the village priest talked me into taking him silver salmon fishing on the Aniak. Father Andy hoped to catch a silver large enough to win the annual salmon derby. He needed the prize money to pay for some church repairs. A bald eagle dived toward my boat, trying to escape an upset osprey. The eagle pulled up before hitting me or the priest. The osprey snatched my baseball cap, then dropped it into the river. After recovering my hat, I steered the boat upriver from the osprey’s nest. Father and I both caught silver salmon, but none nearly as big as the wining fish. That was caught by the town’s evangelical minster.

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