High Time for Eagles

If immersing yourself in the natural history of the Pacific Northwest is your idea of a good time, be sure to check out the North Cascades Institute's single-day field excursion "Eagles and Salmon: Northwest Icons on the
Baldwww.roddyscheer.com src=http://www.roddyscheer.com/xfer/USWASK-00378.jpg padding=6 />

Skagit." That's just what I did this past weekend, and came away with a vast amount of new knowledge and a newfound respect for Mother Nature. We saw salmon swimming up river, their bodies partially discolored as they prepared to spawn out in the very gravel beds of their births. The depleted bodies of their predecessors lay as ghostly reminders that we are all parts of a much larger system--and that we are all mortal, all too mortal.

And of course who can forget the eagles flying overhead and perching on tree boughs training their eyes on the riverbank in search of salmon carcasses to scavenge. These graceful birds--which long ago beat out the turkey to become our nation's symbol (it's true!)--also beat out pollution. The DDT which we had been using for decades following WWII was wreaking havoc on the ability of birds to make shells strong enough to hatch fledglings; eagle numbers dipped to dangerous levels accordingly. The symbolism of our national symbol on the Endangered Species List spoke volumes about our collective treatment of the natural environment and its inhabitants. But with the ban of DDT in the mid-1970s, birds began to come back, and no more was the spring so silent. Bald eagles themselves have rebounded so well that two years ago the federal government removed them from the Endangered Species List altogether.

Spawningwww.roddyscheer.com />

While anyone can drive up to Rockport and view the eagles (about a 2 hour drive from Seattle), there is no better way to do it than with the expert guidance of Libby Mills, a wildlife biologist and artist who has studied birds for nearly 40 years, including two decades watching eagles along the Skagit River on behalf of the Nature Conservancy and other groups. Her day-long eagle/salmon excursions, which she leads twice a winter, are some of the most popular and accessible outings offered by the North Cascades Institute. Snag a spot on the January 16 trip by following this link. While it might be cold standing out along the banks of the Skagit--Mills tours around to several of her favorite insider eagle viewing spots--participants will be sure to see dozens of eagles and other wildlife and gain knowledge that will last a lifetime.

To check out more of my pictures from the outing, following this link...