Eagles flock to Haines, followed by bird watchers

10th Alaska Bald Eagle Festival from Nov. 17 to 20 in Haines

Posted: Friday, November 12, 2004

Sandy Harbanuk can only wonder what the bald eagles in Haines must be thinking.

Maybe they are just too busy eating.

Approximately 3,000 eagles descend on the Chilkat River flats in mid-November to fish the last salmon runs in Alaska. There they are ogled by hundreds of people, snapping photos and making excited noises.

"Then, they all (eagles and people) go away and nothing like it happens for another year," said Harbanuk, a volunteer with the Juneau Raptor Center.

Visitors to the upcoming 10th Alaska Bald Eagle Festival in Haines on Nov. 17-20, at the height of the bald eagle concentration, will be able to take advantage of an expanded program and the "best ever" state ferry schedule, said David Olerud, founder of the community's Bald Eagle Foundation.

The Alaska Marine Highway System manipulated the ferry schedule to Haines to allow convenient fast-ferry travel through Juneau during the festival, he said. Trips are available next week Wednesday and Friday and on the following week Sunday and Monday.

About 300 people attended the festival last year. Each year it grows, and this year's schedule includes new events relating to wildlife and wildlife art, Olerud said.

"The great value is the opportunity for people to see a wild animal up close and learn about its natural history," Harbanuk said.

She'll talk about birds to schoolchildren during the festival and help teach a Sunday workshop on handling injured raptors.

Other workshop topics during the festival include bird drawing, caribou, Yukon eagles, Steller sea lions, African wildlife and bison.

The Juneau Raptor Center is offering a one-day, $80 catamaran trip to Haines next Saturday, the peak day of the festival, while tickets last.

Harbanuk said the raptor center has participated in the festival for five years and she will be flying to Haines with an injured barred owl this year.

"The other birds will go up on the fast ferry," she said.

At least two recovered bald eagles will be released next Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at the 48,000-acre Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve, 18 miles from Haines.

Harbanuk is looking forward to the trip.

"It provides a nice sense of community at a dark, cold time of year," she said.

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