s/v Alpha 
Journal Entry

#20

 


(not an actual picture from the event!)

 

 


(not an actual picture from the event!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bald Eagle

My father-in-law reported this adventure interesting fishing experience. Dave and Beachie live near Poulsbo, WA on the Hood Canal.

Putting the last touches on my personal decor before departing for an appointment, I glanced out the window at the grey sky, grey sea, grey rain, my own grey reflection, and turned my gaze to a flash of brown and white. Yep. Eagle. I always watch an eagle when it flies by. Glad Ben Franklin didn't win out when he wanted Congress to designate as our national symbol the wild turkey.

It was flying in a tight circle fifty feet above the shallows of mid-tide, about 80 yards away, and it was being followed, amid typical screeching utterances, by two gulls. It dived, talons outstretched, then abruptly swooped up -- I suppose that would be called an aborted stoop by an ornithologist; I just thought it was breathtaking, and if it was an example of an abortion, I was fully in favor.

It circled again, stooped, and aborted a few feet above the water, then returned to its circling. On the fourth stoop, it splashed into about eighteen inches of water and emerged a few seconds later . . . well, it didn't quite emerge, it tried to emerge but was only half successful. Despite powerful beats of its four-foot spread of wings, it couldn't get the business end -- its tail and legs -- clear of Hood Canal. It sort of paddled ashore, using its wings like forelegs and hopping on its right foot, dragging a grey burden in which the talons of its left foot were embedded. A fish, of course, flopping hard, but the eagle's talons were deep in its back, and there was no escape.

At last out of the water, the eagle rested while the fish flopped. After a minute or two, the powerful wings began to beat and the eagle rose -- briefly. After ten feet or so of dragging the fish, it landed. Another rest, then another take-off attempt and crash landing. Four times. It pecked tentatively at its prey, then looked around as if baffled, scratched its head (not really), and gave it one final effort; after a few clumsy-looking yards, it let the fish drop from its grip, and simultaneously getting majestically airborne, it never looked back.

The 24-inch mortally wounded fish flopped in a few inches of water, where the crows wouldn't go, and the seagulls were too pre-occupied with arguing about their individual rights to actually go ahead and move in on their potential breakfast. So I did. Beautiful salmon, just turning to spawning colors and too weak to escape.

Why was it messing around in shallow water? Well, it was lurking at the point where our little creek meets the sea. I didn't think the creek was big enough to support a salmon run, but it does run all year, and when the tide is high, its communication with salt water may be as deep as three feet -- plenty of room for a pair of salmon to get up to a fresh-water site. It might have been waiting for high tide. It now waits for supper.

Here's more, for the fun of it.

While idly reflecting about why Ben Franklin might have thought the wild turkey would be a good symbol of the new United States of America, I recalled seeing, last fall during a trip with Beachie to Central Oregon, a flock of them -- about a dozen -- cavorting about in the tiny "city" park at Mitchell, which you will find only on fairly detailed maps of the area. They looked as though they and their antics had been designed by Hanna-Barbara or Disney for the sure-fire amusement of audiences of all ages. We just couldn't help laughing, while marveling at their apparent fearlessness of civilization (Of course, Mitchell isn't exactly a town you'd think of first upon hearing any of the words usually connected with the idea of civilization, like "culture", "population", "architecture", of even "town"), especially since it happened to be the day before Thanksgiving.

The most impressive display of what looked like stupidity but probably depended on hormones or something was a collection of six birds that began running full tilt (picture the funniest cartoon rendering of long-legged, brainless birds you ever saw) around a clump of native ash trees about fifteen feet in diameter, apparently chasing each other with mayhem or sex on their minds; after maybe two revolutions, they suddenly began running the opposite direction, almost, but not quite, coordinated, and one or two stumbling over each other, which made me think the point wasn't to catch another bird but just to . . . to what? Then they suddenly reversed again, and after repeating this four or five times, they stopped as suddenly as they had begun, sauntering casually over to join the other, scattered clumps of birds. Why did this make me think of Congress?

Well, it occurred to me that maybe Franklin was right. We've always had a few wild turkeys who manage to get themselves involved in government, and now it seems we have a staggering abundance (double entendre entendred) -- I'm told there is one nesting in the white house. It would be a cause for a real day of Thanksgiving if they were all sacrificed (sent packing) in order to assure provision for the real needs of our people.

More seriously, the morning's gift of the sea and the creature of the air, i.e., the salmon, weighed 4 pounds nine ounces. And I misjudged the eagle's wingspan; my bird books give the range of a mature eagle's spread as six feet six inches up to eight feet. My estimate of four feet is a sort of verification of what is frequently heard from our neighbors, and from Beachie, who have managed to see them up close: "You just can't imagine how big they are!"

Maybe worth remembering when you are traveling in eagle country with your faithful little seven pound dog at your side: This mature eagle couldn't get off the ground with a less than five pound load. Seems to me that the occasional report you hear of an eagle carrying off a child must have been started by someone who worked in an open-air preemie nursery. Doubt if there are many of those anywhere in the world, and I know for sure there isn't one in Poulsbo . . . maybe Mitchell?

Dave W.

12/13/04

 

 

 

 

 
 

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