Searching for Eagles (January 30)

No matter how much you explore, there’s always something you miss! This year we learned that, in the winter months, this area is known for some major eagle feasts as the remains of the salmon spawning wash downriver into the shallows and gravel bars. One particular park, the Deming Homestead Eagle Park is a protected area where Bald Eagles nest and also a shallow place in the Nooksack River where they are often able to feed. I don’t fully understand the timing of the whole deal, as the salmon runs are November-ish, but they say that these large feeding events can occur all the way through February, so we set off for the park in search of Eagles!

The park is in a very interesting location, along the banks of the wide Nooksack, which floods several times each year based on rains and snowmelts. The main graveled path runs along high ground.

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Beyond this, a network of trails make their way through low areas out to the riverbank. The Nooksack flooded earlier this week, so the lowlands were very wet, and the small creeks were a little high.

Fortunately for me, these boots were made for stream-crossings (they come up to mid-calf – no problem!) 🙂

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And fortunately for everyone else, Daddy found a piece of lumber nearby. Now the kids could walk across with dry feet instead of being carried one-by-one!

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And this is what the forest looks like when it floods several times a year…It’s full of soft sand and beautiful river-pebbles, the trees and shrubs are small, and moss grows quickly…

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Everywhere you look, there are paths – footpaths, game trails, and (most of all) curving and rippling stream-paths, where the waters made their way amongst the plants before receding back to the river.

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In a world that is frequently underwater, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that these little mushrooms look so much like the low-tide creatures we’ve seen, like tubeworms or some sort of fan anemone.

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The day was overcast, and thin low clouds drifted quickly along the hills on the other side of the river.

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The rocky shores were wide, creating an expansive country that made us look small…

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And made the Eagles look small, too! Today, there were not many salmon on the shores, and the eagles were watching but not eating…Their white heads were often easy to spot, but difficult to photograph at such distances.

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But there were several in the area, and so we were able to watch them soaring from perch to perch, often feeling quite close overhead, following the river…

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What a wonderful way to have lunch, watching the Bald Eagles and Seagulls, throwing rocks and digging in the sand, eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and drinking hot tea, while the river rushed by, hurrying away from the distant mountains. *sigh of contentment*

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And then, all of a sudden, a different bird went winging swiftly by, headed upstream. A duck, with a bright red head and white stripes on the wings, that we had never seen before…Followed a few minutes later by a second…And thankfully by a third, which gave Joe just enough time to snap a quick picture! They move so quickly and were out of sight up the river in just a moment, but we had enough information here to at least figure out what we had seen. It turned out to be the Female Common Merganser, in Breeding Plumage! This is the only time of year when you’ll see the bright iridescent red head, gray speckled body and bright white wing stripes, and it was beautiful!

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We happened to encounter the three females one more time on our walk back, nestled along the shoreline, before we spooked them and they were gone again in a flash!

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As we curved around the shoreline to find our path back through the wetland, we caught one more view of the beautiful Eagles, perching near the water, keeping an eye out for anything of interest. We watched an adult chase a juvenile off of the best perch, and then watched the two of them from across the river for a long time before making our way back into the winter forest.

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In a park like this, it’s hard to get lost exactly, but it’s also hard to find your way back to the exact spot where you left a board across the stream for easy crossing 🙂 Joe followed his mental map and kept an eye out for our tracks, but we still did a bit of extra wandering…Which was no problem, because the wanderings were so lovely and there was plenty to enjoy along the way!

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After a flood, plants work quickly to get a foothold while they have a chance…These little seedlings weren’t there when we walked out to the river, but a couple of hours of intermittent sunshine had brought them out, looking like little sun-drops themselves!

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Lichens are always beautifully silvery, but this little guy grew here just for me – accented in all my favorite shades of indigo and aquamarine!

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Soon enough, we were back at the crossing…

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Which also turned out to be great for bouncing on!

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Sometimes you find what you seek, and sometimes you find something else, but on God’s path, it all works to the good!

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