Day 31: Eagles and Bears? Nope.
The weather has again conspired against me as the side trip to Haines for a photo shoot of eagles and brown bears yielded not a single shot. The rain during the past week or more throughout southern Alaska has raised river levels to the point that animals have changed their behavior. The 300-400 American Bald Eagles that reside permanently in or near the Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve about 20 miles north of Haines were mostly absent, according to the caretaker at the reserve, having left temporarily to seek fish elsewhere because the Chilkat River water overflowed the hundreds of islands where the eagles would normally rest. We saw a couple juveniles and one adult as we rode by on our way to Haines, but when we stopped at several lookout points, there were no eagles to be seen.
OK, I thought, we’ll see some on the Chilkoot River where dozens of brown bears and many eagles gather to gorge on thousands of spawning pink salmon. But in the afternoon when we went to the Chilkoot, no bears were fishing or roaming the sodden river banks, though one sow with two two-year-old cubs had, we were told, shown up in the morning. We returned for an hour in the evening when feeding grizzly (aka brown) bears would be more likely to show up. But still no action and we stood talking for an hour and half with two dozen other would-be nature photographers. Although sockeye salmon were migrating up river, few pinks had started the journey, and pinks are what the absent bears prefer. We did see a couple of eagles but too distant to even think about photographing.
The day wasn’t a total bust, since once again we rode past breathtaking mountains and through lush forests. In addition, we had a chance to meet and talk with a retired RCMP couple who, in their early 50s, are beginning a life of travel and sightseeing. It was interesting to compare retirement systems in Canada and the U.S. Retired Americans suffer badly by comparison, but Canadians pay more taxes.
I didn’t take a single picture today. The ride to Haines was mostly cloudy though with very little rain. At one point, we were riding in the clouds with visibility reduced to about one hundred feet and the temperature dropped to the low-to-mid 40s. When we weren’t in the clouds, they shrouded most of the snow-covered peaks we could see. And, I figured I’d have plenty of eagle and bear shots to post.
I may make one more effort to shoot bears tomorrow morning before we catch the expensive ferry for a one-hour ride to Skagway, but given the river and weather conditions I’m not hopeful of capturing anything with my lens. But you never know. I’ll try to do better tomorrow.