Perched in an old-growth forest,
Chak-Chak rouses. In morning light,
Scans the river with piercing eyes,
Searches sandy bars for dying chum.
Chak-Chak breaks silence,
Soars from Sauk Mountain,
Drifts Washington Eddy;
Glides the river’s course.
Chak-Chak skims shimmering water,
Clutches a floundering salmon,
Settles on a backwash beach,
Feeds on his catch.
Perched in barren cottonwoods,
On the south bank where the wild Skagit bends,
Chak-Chak, in stoic dignity,
Basks in warm afternoon sun.
Chak-Chak calls his mate.
Wings extended, talons interlocked
In descending flight, they tumble,
Somersaulting earthward, breaking skyward.
Before evening shadows deepen,
Purple hues of dusk chase the day.
Chak-Chak catches an ascending draft
To his nightly roost—and slips away.
Upper Skagit River
East of Rockport, WA
The Skagit River Bald Eagle Natural Area is about two miles from my family home on the south side of the river at Rockport. I am indebted to my brother Jim (1937-2009), park ranger, naturalist, and upriver folk historian, for inspiring this poem with his United States National Park Service brochure Chak-Chak, the Skagit Bald Eagle. I am also indebted to Mary Washington (b. about 1879), Upper Skagit Tribal elder; State Senator Fred Martin (1897-1995); Simpson Timber and Scott Paper companies for dedicating their land to this eagle wintering habitat; and to The Nature Conservancy and Washington State Department of Wildlife for restoring and managing it. I thank my wife Helen for the pen-and-ink drawing.—RLH