Last week we set out in search of eagles in the Skagit Valley on the Nooksack River. A couple of weeks ago we had heard reports of people seeing 50 to 100 eagles gathered along the river. We should have paid attention. We knew the salmon run was in and we knew it wasn’t a good run this year. We should have figured out that the eagles wouldn’t be staying long in the area. They would be moving on in search of more successful fishing grounds. But we ignored those little voices in our heads and we delayed our trip.
As we arrived in the area of the Nooksack River off of Mosquito Lake Road we knew we were going to be eagle challenged. Not an eagle could be seen along the river, so we headed up the North Fork, hoping against hope we would find them there. Well we did, one lone eagle flying low downstream. We walked along the banks , stood guard, scouting up and down the river-no eagles.
So we headed back towards Mosquito Lake Road and pulled off at the bridge crossing. We scanned the trees on both sides, ah ha, one bald eagle across the river perched up in the shadows of the tree. Okay, just one, but still promising.
As we walked the gravel braid of the river, I spotted one in a tree further downstream from us and began walking towards him. He kept his eye on me. Switching between watching me and looking out at the river. I wanted to stay a safe distance and not interfere with his river scouting or frighten him off. He sat very quietly and watched while I took my pictures of him. Then I saw the faintest movement in his claws, with his grip slightly released along with a slight lift-almost like that pause right before a runner releases from the block. And off he went. I kept my camera focused on him, as best I could, and expected him to soar into the sun. But he surprised me.
He dove straight down the waters of the river, splash,splash,splash across the surface of the river. And when he lifted off, he had a fish head in his talons. We couldn’t figure out if he had just sliced the head off the fish with his talons. It happened so quickly. Or it could have been left behind from an earlier hunt. Whatever happened it was incredibly awesome. We felt so blessed that Mother Nature shared such a special moment with us-it made our day !
We ended the day by taking a road less traveled. It followed along the Skagit River and eventually took us back to Concrete our starting point. The ride confirmed what we learned early in the day, the eagles have left in search of richer feeding grounds. Maybe we will run into them on our way to Alaska-a girl can dream.
Safe travels, happy trails and wishing you beautiful adventures !