By Marie Fournier
While I was doing a routine whale scan something small and black caught my eye amongst the tide rips at the mouth of Blackney Passage. I took a closer look and realized it was a bald eagle right in the middle of the strong flood current. The tide rips can get very strong in Blackney Pass, sometimes reaching up to 5 knots! Knowing that eagles are good swimmers, and can swim for a while, especially if they have caught a fish and are not about to let it go, I was not worried about the eagle but kept a close eye on him. Yes, eagles are good swimmers; they actually use their wings to swim!
Over an hour went by and the eagle was getting sucked further and further from shore, I realized then that this was not a good situation. But what could be done? I called Paul at the Lab and told him what was happening. He said that if need be he’d come over in the Car (OrcaLab’s small boat) and see if he could help. Just then I noticed Larry Roy, owner/operator of Discovery Expeditions, heading in my direction with his skiff/landing craft, good timing! I alerted him about the situation and he headed right over to the eagle. Larry put the bow of his skiff down and pulled the eagle right into the boat. Luckily there wasn’t much of a struggle as I think the eagle was very tired.
Larry brought the eagle to shore, close to the shelter at CP, so I could keep an eye on him. He was shivering a lot, it seemed as though he had mild hypothermia, and was in a state of shock. We wrapped him in a fleece jacket for about 30 minutes, hoping to warm him up. Luckily the sun came out, so we let him warm up on the rocks and backed away as to not stress him out anymore. After about 2 hours in the sun he started to move a little and was no longer shivering. He preened, shook himself off and dried his wings. Then all of a sudden before I knew what was happening he was gone, he flew away!!
He came back about an hour later and perched in the tree just above the rock he had dried off on. He sat there just long enough for a few more photos and a good look into each other’s eyes!
Many of the orca-live viewers got to experience this rescue by watching it on the live camera! Unfortunately he moved out of the camera view just before he took off but the photos here will make up for it….
Many thanks to Larry Roy for his great help & perfect timing!