Tuesday, December 28, 2010


I use the Harrison portage to get into the big lake on a gray day with a light north wind.

I paddle the mile and a half north and follow the east shore of Union Bay towards the NE lagoon (Yesler Swamp). The coots and ducks are positioned most of the way across the bay, and since it is still early, I keep a close eye out for the eagles. They should still be hunting unless they were very lucky. But, I don't a single eagle anywhere in the bay until one soars 30 feet over my bow. It is on a hunt and goes almost all of the way to the burial island where it makes two circles and gives up, returning to a perch in a nearby evergreen. I spot a second eagle farther up the shore, also in an evergreen, but with its head down quite often. This is not hunting mode and I suspect that it has something in its talons that I am unable to see from any angle that I try. There are no feathers in the water below, so it may be mammal.

I think that this is the male from the North nest. The first mentioned eagle was much larger. Females tend to be larger than males.

I brought my map making gear today, and I make a survey of the lagoon. I can only do this in dry weather, and so this is a rare day to spend a few hours getting the project started. With the low water, I first set up on the muddy island in the lagoon, plotting its edges and locating all of the old pilings from a long lost railroad pier. I find the remains of the dead Canada goose that I found a couple weeks ago. There are five concentrations of feathers mixed in with dozens of good quality raccoon tracks, who probably did most of the eating. Rusted iron parts stick out of the mud near the pilings. They are old railroad fittings. The few birds that were in here when I came have left and will not return until I leave. This tiny little pocket is a box canyon trap for birds, an easy place for a pick off as they can't just speed away, but have to climb up and over nearby brush.

Map making is a process of hyper awareness. Just the action causes the most minor of observations to be recorded in the mind as something important. I note that few of the pilings are in straight lines, although they should be. I find the carcass of a coot at one station, something that probably dropped from a nearby tree when the eagle had enough, and then was dragged here by something else. The beaver have been busy back in the usual corner, where there is a highway of beaver tracks leading to bare gnawed wood. As I leave for the day, an eagle comes in with something too small to recognize dangling from its talons.

It is late and I head straight across the bay for the east end of the ancient portage.

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