Like Desperadoes Waiting for a Train

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At least two score of bald eagles lounge on exposed tidelands. More watch from perches in the spruce trees we pass under. Most of the mature birds, the ones with white heads and tails, chill. The immature ones fly out and back from the trees, sometimes getting into a tussle with other young birds. They are all waiting for the hatchery truck to finish the transfer of young king salmon from truck to an enclosed pen that now floats on the waters of Fish Creek Pond. It’s as unnatural as humans in character costumes standing in line for days before the opening of a Star Wars movie.

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The released salmon smolt that survive eagles and predator fish will swim into the Gulf of Alaska. Six years later, maybe thirty pounds heavier, they will return to the pond, circling it until caught by a sport fisherman or they die of natural causes. A few will follow the pink and dog salmon up Fish Creek to spawn but nothing will come of their effort on the unsuitable gravel.

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Those birds not looking for an easy meal, like green winged teal and sand pipers work the estuary waters. I surprise a northern goshawk while it eats a shrew. It bursts into the air and over the heads of some eagles roosting near the top of a spruce tree. The goshawk is ignored by the eagles but not a crow, who chases the bigger bird from its sky.

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