January 29th, 2012
Well it was raining and cold but the season was almost over to see the Skagit River Bald Eagle winter migration (the migration mainly occurs between December and February), so a friend and I made the 2 hour trip North from Seattle to Rockport, Washington. During the peak period of the migration in December it is possible to see over 200 Eagles, alas I only found out about the migration after this, but despite the rainy conditions we managed to see about 20 Eagles (juveniles and adults). I have to say this is more Eagles than I have ever seen in one place so it was quite an exciting trip!
The Bald Eagles migrate South from Canada and Alaska to this area each Winter in their hundreds as the local waterways have 5 types of Salmon (Coho, Pink, Chinook, Sockeye & Chum) plus Steelhead Trout in them. These spawned out migratory fish are a veritable Eagle smorgasbord!
The best way to see the Eagles is by rafting down the Skagit River (dress in warm waterproof clothing!). There are plenty of companies that offer these rafting tours and it was a lot of fun.
The river is relatively calm yet fast flowing so you drift along in the raft looking for these magnificent creatures. The Eagles are quickly noticeable up in the trees, along the river bank and every now and then they fly past you.
A real highlight was drifting under an adult Eagle sitting on a branch intently watching us in the raft directly below. Quite a unique experience!
We stopped along the river at a Beaver dam but didn’t see the engineer. It was quite interesting seeing one of these close up and what a difference in water levels the dam makes. They are very well constructed and create a pond habitat that the Beaver enjoys living in.
The Skagit River is a beautiful place and despite the weather conditions of rain and mist, the surrounding mountains and forests made for an impressive backdrop (these include Mount Baker – Snoqualmie National Forest and the mountains of the North Cascades National Park). It is very peaceful drifting along taking in the scenery and seeing the Eagles.
Upon returning back to Rockport from the river we saw a magnificent Great Blue Heron perched on a boulder on the river’s edge who kindly posed for a photo.The rafting tour included a hot chilli lunch put on by the local school which was very tasty and a nice way to warm up after the rafting. Nearby at Howard Miller Steelhead Park is the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Centre to visit for further information on the Eagles. Being a weekend during the Winter Skagit River Eagle Festival there are plenty of volunteers from the local Eagle Watchers Group about to provide information for visitors on the Eagles and the surrounding area.
Now that I am more knowledgable on the Skagit River Eagles, I look forward to returning to Rockport in December to see hundreds of them up there. It must be an amazing sight?