21st eagle festival brings eagles, photographers, dancers together

A crow chases an immature bald eagle away from its territory on Shaman Island in May 2015.

A crow chases an immature bald eagle away from its territory on Shaman Island in May 2015.

Fewer people may have registered as attending the Alaska Bald Eagle Festival in Haines this year, its 21st, but the rain and snow didn’t stop the 172 people that came to see bald eagles, attend presentations, and wander through the Bald Eagle Foundation’s redesigned aviaries — and it certainly didn’t stop the eagles.

This year, Pam Randles and her young “eagle scientists” counted around 2,300 eagles in the area, though there may be more, said Executive Director Cheryl McRoberts.

McRoberts suspects lower-than-normal human attendance is due to the belatedly released ferry schedule.

“Without getting the ferry schedule out until Oct. 1, a lot of people changed their plans,” she said. “They made other arrangements, because they could not make their ferry connection. In the Lower 48, I think they actually believe we didn’t (have ferries anymore).”

Last year, the 20th festival, there were almost 100 more people — 271 registered. The year before that, there were more than 300, McRoberts said.

“That (the ferry) is the only thing I can attribute it to,” she said.

The biggest highlight every year is the eagle release, she said. This year, they released two eagles from Bird TLC, the Bird Treatment and Learning Center in Anchorage.

This year’s photography workshop with Bill McRoberts has also been “a huge success,” she said. They also had an avian art and anatomy drawing class. The Gei-Sun dancers performed at a presentation with master carver Wayne Price, who showed the 16-foot canoe he and others paddled to Juneau for the dedication of the Walter Soboleff Building, and many other speakers spoke on natural or cultural areas of expertise.

Saturday, the silent auction, live auction and banquet, which was sold out, is the Bald Eagle Foundation’s biggest fundraiser each year.

The Alaska Bald Eagle Festival is an annual event that celebrates the gathering of eagles in Haines each fall.

Next year’s 22nd Alaska Bald Eagle Festival runs Nov. 7-13.

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