The town of Valdez sits amidst spectacular mountains and is part of the Pacific temperate rain forest. That makes for an interesting contrast, towering mountains; both snow-capped and with lush green forests, wildflowers, glaciers, icebergs and of course the sea. We are very much enjoying hanging around Valdez.
Shortly after our arrival, we heard about an “eagle feeding” that takes place in one of the RV parks in town, just across the street from us. Since I know that feeding wild animals is illegal, I was a bit confused, but we went to check it out.
The gentleman who does this explained that he has the only permit in the state of Alaska to do so. He also mentioned that there had been a woman in Seward who had another permit, but when she passed away the permit was not reassigned. So he thinks he will be the last one to hold such a permit.
The eagles are not always predictable, they sometimes fly about without going for the fish, other times they swoop and miss. But the “eagle feeding” was a great opportunity to see them soar in the wind, then steer their bodies to get to the “prey”. And Hector had a field day photographing them up close.
Once the salmon starts running, which is about to begin soon, the eagles themselves stop coming to the feedings, much preferring the fresh salmon. This is a good thing.
In fact, we showed up for the eagle feeding yesterday and no eagles came. But walking around town later, we saw eagles flying around, and I had an opportunity to get really close to one that was perched on a deck railing by the water.
So it seems as if they are always either eating or grooming. And when they eat, they sometimes have several extra shells sitting on their bellies. Hector has been trying to capture an image of this, but it is not easy. No luck yet.
When the sea otters eat, you can hear them crunching on the shells.
And then there is the grooming. They look like they are scratching but they are really cleaning and squeezing water out of their guard hairs in order to keep their underfur dry, which keeps them warm in the cold water.
It is fun to see what people have caught as some of the big catches are hung for photographs.
The fish cleaning area has a chute out to the water where there is a metal enclosure to catch the bones. When the fish are cleaned, the guts are washed down the chute. Before they reach the water a zillion seagulls and the occasional eagle swoop in to devour them while they are still on the ramp. Only the bones land in the water enclosure. It is quite a show.
As we learned from Captain Fred, there is an elaborate system for commercial fishing boats where they can transfer their fish to a special processing vessel while they are still out on the water. There is a huge processing plant on the other side of the docks, including housing for seasonal workers.
More and more boats have arrived since we have been here and as the salmon run approaches. There has been much anticipation in the air. Crews are working on the rigging at the docks and we have even overheard captains training new members of their crews.
We are thoroughly enjoying experiencing this town that sits in this beautiful sea side setting. We have even extended our stay a couple of days as we cannot bring ourselves to leave just yet.