Fine restaurants in Scandinavia lay out buffets of herring prepared in dozens of different ways to celebrate the Christmas season. This morning was Christmas indeed for bald eagles at the mouth of the Stikine River, as perhaps fifty birds plucked hundreds of herring out of the water for breakfast. Most of the Mother Goose crews joined a jet boat excursion up the river, and our first stop was the eagle banquet.
Unlike the Swedes, the birds uniformly preferred their herring without sauce. They did not, however, agree on table manners. Some birds would wait until a fish swam by, grab it with their bill, and then swallow it whole, head first, on the spot. Other birds would grab a fish with a talon and fly off to consume it elsewhere. While by no means definitive, our short study suggested that older, dominant, more skilled birds were following the first method and holding on to the best places to fish. The younger eagles took what they could get and flew off before somebody stole their breakfast. What an amazing sight to begin the day!
The jet boat buzzed up the Stikine at better than 35 mph, slaloming between floating trees and sand bars, quite a contrast to the stately progress of our Mother Goose fleet. Alas, the ride came to an abrupt end at the mouth of Shakes Lake, where a flotilla of icebergs blocked our path. This seemed like the real Alaska. On the trip back down-river we stopped for a snack on a lovely sand beach. On this blue sky, Summer day Dawn and Joanne slipped off their shoes and wandered the sand as they might on a Caribbean isle 40 degrees of latitude further south. Surely not what we had imagined, but joyously Alaskan nonetheless.
Back in town the indefatigable fisherman of Discovery headed out to try their luck again, while the rest of the fleet walked into town for groceries, ice cream, and a taste of small town Alaska. Three high schoolers competing to be King and Queen of the 4th of July celebration sold tasty cheeseburgers in the park. Ross and Jordan plumped for Robbie for King based on his French fries. While we loved the eagles, the people warmed our hearts more.