While I won't win any photography contests, I have tried. We have a great opportunity to see bald eagles up close. The migratory bald eagles are lured to this area by the carcasses of chum salmon which have returned to rivers (the Nooksack, the Skagit, the Sauk, among others within easy driving distance of our home) to spawn and then to die. The resourceful eagles are attracted by this convenient food supply and perch in the hardwood trees overlooking the rivers.
We have made it our mission to find the eagles on several occasions. One was an Eagle Tour organized by the Whatcom Land Trust on January 2nd. That day was one of those rainy days when we had to talk ourselves into leaving our warm and dry abode to stand out in the chill and rain looking for birds. We thought it would be worth it and we were totally correct. Besides spending the afternoon with some pleasant birders, we also learned more than we bargained for from the leader, a recent retiree from Fish and Wildlife. Having spent part of his career "protecting" bald eagles when they were considered endangered, he also had experience with salmon and elk and plenty of energy for answering any question in extensive detail. So much so, that he was the last man standing on the side of the creek when the chill of the rain motivated the less hardy of us to seek the shelter of the car.
Some bald eagles are permanent residents of the coast and islands off the coast of Washington, which explains our close encounter with two eagles along Semiahmoo Spit in July. The transients are summer residents of Alaska and British Columbia, who move down south as the weather gets cold up north. We drove back to the same site a few days later, in part so that Lynne could get a reference photo for a painting she wants to do. We continued driving east to Mt. Baker, which does have snow, and enjoyed seeing skiers swooping down the mountain. Winnie, the snow dog, also got to do some serious romping. We have had a relatively mild winter here so far--the record low was 18 degrees F. (I try to explain to friends here that in Kentucky, some days it only gets up to 18!) We did have two snow delays for school in December, when we had one inch of snow, which seems like a better deal than the storm that just blew through Kentucky and even chilled Florida. The eagles will start migrating north again by February. Two other winter visitors are the trumpeter swans and the snow geese. When I hear an off key flock of Canada geese flying over, I look up and see their long necks so I know that they are actually trumpeter swans. The snow geese take up winter residence in the fields of Skagit Valley, just south of Bellingham. The farmers don't actually want them because they eat up their winter crops, so this year Lynne and I have seen some snow geese (like maybe 50), but not the hundreds that have been seen in previous years. Here's a link to some good pictures: http://wdfw.wa.gov/wlm/game/water/snow_goose/#swans and here's a link to more about snow geese: http://www.greatnorthern.net/~dye/snow-geese.htm .
Yesterday I took Winnie down to the bay for a walk on the beach. The temperature warmed up to 50. Now that's a plus: to live someplace where you can drop in on the beach, and stop at the hardware store on the way home!
Our time to wander Washington may increase as both of us have been hit by the "why are we doing this?" bug about our jobs. Lynne has decided to stop torturing herself with her home-health-job-from-hell, which involved driving 30 miles to get to work, then driving up to a hundred miles more to find her patients who are scattered east and west. To top it off, the Medicare charting requirements were designed by an obsessive personality, which means after she gets home she has a minimum of 3, and often 5 hours of charting to do. The bonus is being on call all night for $25, during which time she could be called back down to Skagit County in the middle of the night to solve a patient's problem. She has been encouraged by the response to her painting of Cape Alava (far west end of the Olympic Peninsula) that she submitted to the Blue Horse Gallery for a show that opened on Friday night. The gallery owner made her increase the price that she was asking! So Lynne and I have been pouring over the financial statements, and Lynne gave notice that she's leaving this job at the end of January. She hopes to devote more time to painting, and I am working on building a web page that channels kids to safe and constructive web sites. I'm hoping that the web page will be a resource for both parents and kids. The links that I will provide come from an extensive list of safe websites that I developed during my years of teaching. I haven't stopped substitute teaching, but my goal is to taper it off.
The sands keep shifting, which makes life fascinating. We continue to think of you all, and look forward to your emails, letters and hopefully, your visits when you are in the area.