Thursday, July 2, 2009

Eagle Death in Sekiu

A short article I wrote for the local papers; expanded a bit for inclusion here, with more photos. Admittedly, it's written in that crappy AP style that Hemingway got stuck with -- and that through him infects the literary world.

Young Eagle In Wire Death

The bald eagles wheeling joyously over the Sekiu docks during the fishing season lost one of their number when a young juvenile collided simultaneously with a roadside power line and another young eagle, Saturday, June 27.

The eagle did not die of electrocution, but from the collision. Rachelle Reeves, who works at Straitside Resort, witnessed the incident.

Said Reeves, "I saw a flock of four, in the corner of my eye, when I stopped and watched them, because they're always playing up here. They collided right on the wire. One of them fell into the middle of the road, limping around. One of them was on the side of the road. It was done for. It did not move at all."

The dying eagle fell into the entry driveway of Van Ripper's Resort, the surviving eagle into the middle of the road between Van Ripper's and the Straitside.

The collision was witnessed by a number of people, who ran to the site of the accident. Reeves said the surviving eagle "kept limping around because people kept on coming." As cars and more people arrived, the eagle hopped over to the Straitside parking lot and took shelter under one of the boat trailers.

Reeves saw several people calling 911. She said she didn't call herself because, "They didn't need their lines crowded up."

Reeves said a large adult - presumably female - bald eagle was swooping over the two juveniles. She said she was "pretty sure it was the mother because it was circling around." She said no one attempted to touch or move the eagles.

Steve Bang, of Seattle, was polishing his RV in the parking lot at Van Ripper's resort when he heard a series of thuds and whirled around to see two juvenile eagles falling.

"I heard them hit the line," said Bang. "I heard the thud-thud and saw both of them fall to the parking lot over there."

Asked to clarify the sequence of sounds, Bang thought a moment and then said, "One was on the line; two sickening thuds on the ground. They bounced."

Bryan Bertsch, who was passing in a truck with Fred Bykonen, of California, said, "There were three birds, playing or fighting. They were going in circles."

Bykonen immediately called 911, which relayed the report to Fish and Wildlife personnel at Olsen's resort. Jessica Slipper, Scientific Technician and Fish Checker with Fish and Wildlife, responded. She bagged the deceased bird, along with any loose feathers and called in the incident to Fish and Wildlife.

Before an officer could respond, the surviving bird regained control of its wings and took off at speed over the roof of the Straitside resort. The bird displayed no disorientation while flying.

Because the bird was momentarily out of sight it was then impossible to pick it out of the many other young and adult eagles flying around and through the trees above the town. However, none of the juvenile eagles showed any further sign of disability.

Fish and Wildlife Officer Corey Peterson responded and took control of the deceased bird, verifying details of the incident with Slipper before leaving the scene.

Linda Palumbo, of the Straitside Resort, says she has witnessed the eagles being harrassed by firecrackers when the fishing season coincides with summer holidays.

"This happens every year on the 4th of July and Fun Days," said Palumbo, who identified one of the two juveniles as this year's young from a nest in Sekiu.

She said she meant that the eagles, a dozen of which can be found on the Sekiu beach any time during the fishing season, were upset and excited by children letting off fireworks nearby.

She said she knew one of the birds, which had sometimes taken the ball she threw into the water for her dog during morning walks. Palumbo pointed out that the two juveniles were far too young for mating, and were playing, rather than being involved in a courtship dance.

A young eagle lies in a Fish and Wildlife truck after it was killed after colliding with a wire and another eagle in Sekiu, Saturday, June 27.

A young eagle, disoriented after a collision that killed another youngster, takes shelter under the boat trailers at the Straitside Resort in Sekiu, Saturday, June 27.

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