Nature Explorer Mick Dees went looking for the masters of the skies: bald eagles. Join him on this rainy day in Alaska’s Resurrection Bay.
Have you ever flown before? No, like actually flown, where you feel the air come across your wings, tickling those flight feathers, and letting the currents lift you higher and higher before diving down at an incredible speed to catch a helpless fish or rodent? Yeah, me neither. But I’ve sure always wondered what it would be like to be an eagle.
Bald eagles are the masters of the skies here in Alaska, and it comes with endless joy and wonder to be around and watch them. Moving to Alaska last year, I was new to the “Last Frontier” state and full of energy to explore. Having never lived near bald eagles before, it wasn’t long before I set off one rainy day to Seward and its Resurrection Bay in search of these fierce birds.
The “reds” (Sockeye Salmon) were running, making their incredible journey from the Pacific Ocean to the bay and finally through the nearby rivers and lakes for their annual spawn. This migration is too good of an opportunity to pass up, so the resident eagles came over for an afternoon feast and to use this time as a valuable training session for their young. I sat and watched one of these family outings unfold with a couple of youngsters fishing together as their parents continuously kept watch from above, before stopping to view from a nearby tree until the kiddos had enough. Commonly mistaken as hawks, the juveniles keep that brown, multi-color for around the first 5 years until their plumage turns into the classic dark brown with a white head. This is pretty much the only way I could tell them apart since their sizes are similar.
I counted maybe 10-12 eagles that day, all of which seemed to get their fill on the fat, oblivious salmon. They are also opportunistic hunters, and it was funny to see nearby fisherman getting robbed by a few brave eagles who just couldn’t resist the already caught fish on the bank. So, if you’re fishing in Alaska, keep a close eye on your caught fish! Also, it’s a good idea to be on the lookout for bears during these salmon runs. There’s plenty of them here who also love to take advantage of the fatty fish.
Even with all the rain and getting soaking wet, it was certainly special. If only my camera was as water resistant as my CL binoculars, I would have stayed hours longer.
I can only imagine how terrifying it is to be a small animal and hear that haunting screech.
Just 40 years ago, bald eagles were on the endangered list with less than 500 mating pairs in existence. But, thanks to conservation efforts, they are now thriving and over 30,000 call Alaska their home. With the continuing effort to help our nation’s bird thrive, including all wildlife, I look forward to more perfect rainy days.
Mick Dees is an Alaskan based photographer and nomad with a passion for wildlife and exploring America. Having now traveled to every state in the US and 51 of its 63 national parks, he’s become well versed with this country’s natural beauty. From the mountains, to the forests, deserts, and wetlands, Mick is determined to see it all and share his journey with anyone interested. Mick is part of the SWAROVSKI OPTIK Nature Explorer team and gets closer to wildlife with his CL Companion.