I just got back from a fabulous trip to Seattle, Washington, to celebrate Thanksgiving with some dear friends of mine. Before we prepared the perfect turkey and a mountain of mashed potatoes to die for, we explored the stunning Carkeek Park along the shores of the Puget Sound.
As we crossed a tall footbridge leading to the beach, we paused to savor the incredible view, complete with the Olympic Mountains far off in the distance. Simply beautiful. Suddenly, I spotted a large dark spot moving on the beach below us. A bird! A gigantic bird! I hurried down the stairs to the beach, and crept closer and closer to the huge dark splotch standing in the middle of a stream. It didn't seem to notice the handful of people wandering the shores of the cold, windy beach. It was intent on eating a large fish -- presumably a salmon that didn't quite make it upstream.
I grabbed my friend's camera, which has an incredible zoom lens. I was able to figure out that the moving dark splotch was really a young Bald Eagle. I must not have appeared excited enough to my non-birdwatching friend, who had never seen an eagle before. "Isn't this a big deal?" she asked. "Aren't they endangered?" Nope. I explained that since this past summer, they are no longer covered by the Endangered Species Act and can be seen pretty much all over the country. I had spotted them many times in Wisconsin. Her question came as no surprise to me, though. I remember concerns about diminishing Bald Eagles being pounded into my head as a small child. I remember learning about the birds in grade school, as part of long lists of other endangered animals. Pandas. Whales. Tigers. Rhinos. And Bald Eagles. Unless you follow a lot of bird news (and not many twenty-somethings do), it's easy to imagine that there are still only a handful remaining.
At first, I shrugged at spotting the bird, thinking it was beautiful, but "just another Bald Eagle." But as it spread an enormous pair of wings and flew off into the trees, I thought about how lucky I was to see the bird so close, and so alive and well. The fact that I was able to witness the comeback of a species, thanks to a lot of hard work and determination, is astounding. Of course, Bald Eagles still face threats. But to fear for a species as a child, and then watch it climb to great heights into my adulthood, fills me with great hope. I can only dream that all the other creatures from my childhood lists will make it this far. -- J.E.