Alaska is famous for having iconic animal life: bears, moose, caribou, bison, yaks, deer, mountain goats, Dall sheep, and whales. But no animal is as available for tourists to observe than the bald eagle. So it is probably no surprise that I managed to get a few decent pictures of this incredible bird.
The following series of photos were taken at Auke Bay, Juneau, Alaska.
Alas, I am not the disciplined, professional photographer. I did not sit for hours waiting for this photo opportunity to appear. No, it was them that called me. I have grown rather accustomed to their shrills and cackles. They seem to not be too concerned about my presence. I hear their calls, and I grab my camera.
It is observed that eagles mate for life. So it is that when two of them get together they get rather chatty. Their conversation echoes across the bay. Given there are numerous other eagles in the area, it can get quite noisy. It is this chattiness that has been a constant presence in my life, a background ambience that blends with ravens and crows.
I often observed them in the tall spruces below my townhouse. They found these trees the perfect spot to observe the bay below. Yet they never built a nest in that spot. Instead, they would drift up the side of the mountain and make a home in the forest. So it was that I would be working in my office and observe this shadow gliding over my roof as an eagle coasted to the spruce trees below, barely ten feet above me.
It is remarkable that through the first forty-seven years of my life, the eagle was a novelty. I saw several golden eagles and bald eagles while fishing in central Ontario as a young boy and then a young man. But as for my home in Missouri, this majestic bird was a bit of a novelty, almost ghost-like.
Yet this would be a view I would often see, this majestic bird flying outside my window. My mountainside home, resting about two hundred feet above sea level, would provide a view nearly parallel with their roosting perches along the channel. They would often fly up above my window up to the nesting trees in the forest above me.
My closest encounter with the birds was when I visited a friend whose wife worked with the local raptor center. They had constructed this barn covered with thick plastic where birds could find refuge during recovery. I walked into the door and there, to my amazement, was this eagle almost looking into my eye. He did not move, almost half expecting someone to come and visit.
Yet what tops my list was in the first years I lived in Alaska, attending a men’s retreat at a camp site along the inland waterway. It was a rare event when Alaska’s summer weather actually made its appearance. For the first time in weeks, the rain stopped. The sun came out and a pleasant, star-lit evening emerged. I and a few others took the opportunity to sleep on the beach. An amazing experience I will never forget. I drifted off to sleep, so sound that I did not even hear the bear that was reported to have walked through the camp that evening. Yet what awoke me about 4:30 in the morning (about sunrise) was this loud banter. It took me a few moments when I realized that this loud noise was quite close. I lifted my head in the dim light of dawn and saw walking along the beach several eagles, only about ten yards from the foot of my sleeping bag. They seemed totally unaware of our presence, totally absorbed in conversation.