A FRIEND BROUGHT HER HUSBAND to visit from New Jersey, and I took them to Homer. We were walking on the Spit when Laura Anne said, “Is that an eagle?” I glanced up and said, “Yeah,” and kept walking and talking, until about a block later I started getting the fishy eye from other people and looked around to find Laura Anne and her husband Peter transfixed at the foot of the utility pole at the top of which perched the eagle.
I realized, belatedly, that everyone doesn’t see a bald eagle every day, and went back to make sure the two of them stayed out of range of the eagle’s phenomenal projectile pooping capabilities. That’s basically what a bird is to me, a flying pooper. Growing up in Seldovia, infested with seagulls getting fat on the leftovers from five salmon canneries, it was never wise to go outside without a hat on.
So when I started to hear about entire festivals constructed around migrating birds, I was mystified, and decided to investigate. The Copper River Shorebird Festival is one of the oldest in Alaska (depending on who you talk to, this year is either the tenth or fifteenth annual event), it’s a forty-minute plane ride from Anchorage, and has the superior attraction of being home to the family Carlson, genus Patricia, species Hank, Deb, and Chris, order Joanna, David and Annie, also known as my mom’s side of the family, from whom I can always cadge a bed and fresh razor clams, smoked salmon, and nagoonberry jelly. I packed my binoculars and a copy of Robert Armstrong’s Birds of Alaska and set out on my first ever bird safari.
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