I just landed in Sitka after leaving Haines, where I spent two lovely weeks in the Valley of Eagles. While bald eagles are everywhere in Haines, they’re also everywhere in Southeast, including Sitka. Still, there’s a difference between them: we’ll call it the lazy factor. Haines eagles are spoiled. I visit them in November during the end of the chum run. The chubby birds wait for a salmon to flop close to shore, and then they drag it up onto the rocks and feast on it. Or, they steal a fish from another eagle already dining on one. Their young also have easy access to meals, and don’t need to rely on mom and dad to bring food back to the nest as they mature. The eaglets don’t have to learn to dive into the water to fly off with a struggling fish in their talons. They just have to find scraps on the beach or a dying salmon close to the edge of the Chilkat. Mom and dad, though, still haven’t broken the habit of bringing back fish to their young, who are full and won’t eat it all—meaning that the fish rot in the nest, making the home unusable for the next year.So, there are a lot of nests in Haines.
This morning in Sitka, I watched an eagle dive into the Pacific, talons outstretched, and snatch a fish from the waters. He flew low, the heavy fish dragging in the whitecaps, until he reached a safe spot to eat it. He worked for his breakfast, and it was a thing of beauty.