Kulshan kids wing it

Jeff Geisen on Cascades River

What do Bald Eagles mean to you?

This was a question a group of 10 high school students from the International District Housing Alliance’s (IDHA) Wilderness Inner-city Leadership Development program (WILD), and 30 students of almost all grades from Kulshan Creek Neighborhood Program, discovered over the weekend. The North Cascades Institute, in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service, assisted the groups to help find some answers. The day of discovery began with a discussion of Bald Eagle biology ranging in topics from migration and diet, to anatomy and reproduction. The wonderful examples of Bald Eagle skulls, talons and eggs added to the excitement.

Bald Eagle roosting(Title) IDHA group discussing salmon (Above) A Bald Eagle roosting

Once we learned the basics of the Bald Eagle, we made our way to the Marblemount Fish Hatchery. The students were amazed at the number of Chinook Salmon – King Salmon – in the feeding tanks. There were some great examples of the salmon at every stage of their development. We learned that the Chinook was the largest and least abundant of the Pacific salmon. It can weigh up to 135 pounds, grows to about 58 inches long and lays anywhere from 3,000 to 7,000 eggs from August to October.

Salmon AlevinChinook Salmon alevin
Marblemount Fish Hatchery feeding tankChecking out the smolt salmon in the feeding tank

After some much needed lunch to help energize our brains, we moved on to milepost 100 along Highway 20. We were warmly greeted by the Skagit Eagle Watchers. They pointed out some of the nearby eagles roosting in the trees, as well as provided us with some further information on the Bald Eagle.

EaglewatchersVolunteer Eaglewatchers holding up a Bald Eagle silhoutte
Eagle watchingI think they’ve spotted one

The spotting scopes and binoculars really helped us to see just how beautiful this majestic bird can be.

On the last stop of the field trip we made our way to the Rockport State Park to learn how old-growth forests, salmon, and eagles are all connected. As the sun shone through the trees we realized how important this place really is. Each member of the ecosystem, including us, plays a very important role. So, I challenge you to return to the initial question, what do Bald Eagles mean to you?

ReflectingTaking some time to reflect
Photos courtesy of Justin McWethy.

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