Category Archives: Bald Eagle

Their Smarter than I Though

People in this tiny, Alaskan capital city are had a dogs. Folks who haven’t owned a puppy since their own childhood started buying them when Covid force them to work from home. Today, a six or eight month old pup accompanies every human walking down Eagle River. 

            Perhaps to teach all the new dogs a lesson, Aki ignores them. I try to do the same. It’s low tide so a great deal of the river delta is exposed. For this reason I am surprised to see hundreds of Canada geese feeding nearby. 

            Aki and I leave a river meadow and walk a little closer to the geese cubby. Several 100 feet down the river, I spot an immature bald eagle sleeping on the beach. It’s just a few feet from the river. Many dogs would charge the goose, Aki ignores it. I swing wide around it rather than get too close. Eagles need their space. As I watch it, a human couple with a dog on a leash, walk close enough to the eagle to wake it up. It still doesn’t move, which makes me wonder it is sick or undernourished.

            I tell the human couple that eagles need more space than they are currently giving this one. One of the humans smiles and says that always give eagles this much space. They continue walking towards the ocean, flushing geese and ducks into flight on the way. I apologize to the eagle and tell it that more invasive couples would soon be walking past it. It appears to stare at the couple but doesn’t fly off. I take a few more photos and turn my back, When I turn around again, the immature eagle is gone. 

            In a minute or two a patch of geese that the friendly, if obtuse humans flushed off the beach, fly back to their original spot. As Aki and I sit where we can enjoy the sunshine, a series of hikers with dogs walk toward to geese. When a new couple approaches, the geese takeoff, honking, as they had when the first human/dog gang approached them. A few minutes after those people pass, the geese return to their spot. This happened three or four times before there is a break in human visitors. No wonder the Canada geese population seems to be exploding. They are wise, like a fox, but hide their wisdom by sounding like fools when they fly away. 

Ravens and Eagles Rarely Share

Winter is losing its grip on the rain forest. That happens every Spring, after the additional of daylight hours begins to rapidly expand. It was below freezing this morning when I brew my first mug of coffee. Frost covered the car windshields on 7th Avenue. Then the temperature rose a few degrees and the snow melting began again. After breakfast, I looked and found Aki curled up under her human’s bed. She looked happy to sleep the day away. She looked stunned when I poked and prodded her to join me at the front door. After being wrapped and harnessed, she shook her body and started wagging her tail. 

            We walked down Goldbelt Street and onto the flats, stopping often to allow her to scent and pee. Thick, wet clouds swallowed up the sun by the time we reached the humpback whale statute. Just off shore two bald eagles leaned against each other on the top of a Coast Guard channel marker. A bunch of ravens watched them from the beach. Suddenly, one of the eagles flew over to the beach and started ripping flesh from a gull’s carcass. Just before Aki and I moved on, a raven landed near the eagle and started encouraging it to share some of the meal. 

Hopefully a Wise Tree

Deep snow covers the trail to Sandy Beach. It’s dense enough to has enough to support Aki’s weigh. But, I have to keep on the narrow trail to avoid wearing myself out on the soft, deep snow that borders it. 

            The beach is lined with dark and naked tree trunks. They still look pleasing but I am wondering whether spring will ever arrive. Then I spot one willow tree displaying a cloud of white. It’s not snow, but cotton-like flowers called pussy willows. I should take photographs of the blooms but don’t want to tromp my way through many meters of deep snow to reach them. Believing that there are more blooming willows, I follow Aki toward the beach’s end. 

            None of the other willows along the beach are blooming. I wonder if the flowery one is a wise predictor of winter’s end, or a short-lived fool. Then I leave the beach and climb a steep trail toward an eagle’s nest. One of the nesting birds calls out on our approach. But none of them make themselves visible from the trail. 

Nesting Eagles

t snowed most of last night. It’s scheduled to snow more this afternoon. But right now, in late morning, no rain or snow falls. The sun is even breaking through the clouds for minutes at a time. Aki is more than ready to walk along Sandy Beach.

            Four inches of new snow cover the trail to the beach. But it gives, rather than makng up slip and slide, when we walk on it. It takes us little time to work through the woods and onto the beach. The tide is reducing Sandy to a narrow trail. In a few minutes tidal water will close it to traffic. 

            By slipping under alders hanging over the beach, we are able to make it to the end of the beach where an immature bald eagle seems to sulking in a beachside cottonwood tree. I wonder, for the tenth time this winter, whether eagles will nest again in the Treadwell Woods that border Sandy Beach. We climb a snow-covered trail off the beach to where we can see an eagle nest built into the framework of a cottonwood. For the time since last summer an adult eagle is stationed above the nest. 

Not Driven Away by Snow

The snow has returned, a snotty, unstructured white mass of dancers. They fly down the street as we drive to Fish Creek. The parking lot for the trail only has one car. We will see them for a few seconds while on the trail. Then we will have the place to ourselves.

            I expected to find the delta empty. But it is full of birds. There are plenty of gulls and mallard duck, all working the shallows for food. None pay us any attention. In a little, shallow pond, two killdeer feed. Normally, they never visit the Alaskan rainforests in winter and are rarely seen in other seasons. They must have flown long and hard to get to the creek delta because they total ignore our presence. 

            On the other side of the little pond, an American wigeon walks along the beach. His kind are rarely seen in our area this time of year. A few minutes later, while passing along a short trail through the woods, a I stop short when a chestnut backed chickadee lands on the trail a few meet away. Like the gulls and the mallards, the chickadee is almost always around. But this one has no time or interest in keeping any distance between himself and Aki or I. 

Eagles or Ducks

            Aki and are standing on the edge of a shrinking beach. An hour ago, we could have walked far out onto the Sheep Creek delta, passing mallards and crows feeding in the shadows. In another few minutes, the trail we are on will disappear under the incoming tide. The pup and need to move now or have to deal with soaked feet and boots.

            The remaining beach lands are still frozen, even sections covered by water during the high tide. We can fly across it. Down the beach two bald eagles seem to pout onboard a floating gold dredge.

            They ignore us as we approach the edge of the beach. I secure telephoto lens on a battered peer post. While his friend sits hunched on the tiny dredge, the eagle turns to stare at me. A few hundred years from him, a small collect of mallards float together in a tight, and tiny island. I wonder if the eagles were about to divebomb the ducks when we showed up. 

Little Love

Most people have the day off. Many would normally be jamming the Fish Creek Trail with dogs and kids. If Aki and I wanted to visit Fish Creek on such a day, we take the older trail away from the ocean so we could have it to ourselves. But high winds and rain have encouraged most folks to stay home, brew another pot of coffee, and spend the day distracted by email or text feeds.

            We pull on good rain gear and drive out to the creek. Only one car is in the parking lot. The owner takes a few selfies with her dog and then dives back into her Subaru. I was hoping to see ducks or geese on the first pond but can only spot a single merganser swimming on it. There is a small collection of mallards on the Fritz Creek beach and one Bald Eagle feeding on a nearby island. The eagle ignores our passing. We have the wind at our backs until we reach the mouth of the creek, where we can normally have an excellent glacier view. Low clouds and rain showers prevent us from seeing any beauty.

            Rather than powering way backing to the car in the wind, we wind through a dense old growth forest. The magic path delivers us to the little trail we used to initially pass the eagle. It gives us one of his, “What the hay looks,” poops, and flies over our heads. Another eagle resting on a transit buoy just offshore watches the scene as the buoy’s green warning light flashing out one of its periodic warning. 

Eagles Killing Time

We stop near the bottom of Main Street to watch an eagle. It sits on top of a pylon, trying to ignore the rain. After flashing me a judgmental look, it turns away to watch the now-empty Gastineau Channel.  You rarely spot an eagle this close to downtown Juneau. They go where the food goes. A small raft of ducks just moved down channel. Maybe the eagle will soon follow them.

            I stopped to photograph the eagle because it is rainy, the kind of rain that usually keeps eagles off Sandy Beach, where are heading. We drive over to Treadwell Woods and have the place pretty much to ourselves, at least until we reach the beach and spot a very wet bald eagle. It stands on the roof of a mining vent tower, looking quite bored. 

            While Aki catalogues scat sign, I walk over the tower. The eagle watches my approach but will not move, even when I get very close. Nearby mallard feed just off the beach sand, heads buried in the water. They wouldn’t have time to escape of the eagle attacked. But the big bird just ignores them. 

Getting a Brief Brake in the Weather

Last week more than five inches of rain fell here. We probably received another five inches in the last three days. Aki and I dressed in our best rain dear and headed out to Auk Rec Bay. I hope the forest will protect us from the rain. 

            We don’t need any protection when we arrive at the trailhead. The grey skies aren’t dropping any rain. It almost makes me shout joy. I don’t. I might be tempting the rain to return. 

            The beach is almost empty of pups and their people. Maybe this is why tight knots of surf scoters and Barrow golden eyes work the surf line. In seconds, one of the groups disappears by diving into the water. Seconds later the ducks pop back up, tiny fish already settling into their stomachs. They the heavy rain returns. 

Eagles Seem Fine With the Rain

Rain but no wind driving it. Hoping that the wind isn’t about to rise, Aki and I head over to Sandy Beach. The forest we must pass through to reach the beach should protect us from being washed away by the rain.

            We work our way through the woods. I’m grateful that the rain has washed the trail clean of ice or snow. The rain has also powered up the normally puny streams and filled a half-filled pond. The last time we were here, ice covered it. 

            We see no birds or animals in the woods. But a soaking-wet bald eagle is eating something on to roof of an old mining vent. It turns around to get a good look at the dog and I. Is it expecting me to deliver some tasty dessert?