Flight for Freedom
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View From Milepost 19 Turnout
View From Milepost 19 Turnout
Two miles towards Haines from Milepost 21 is the Milepost 19 turnout. A hundred feet further on is the riverside clearing where the "Flight for Freedom" is held in the afternoon of the last day of the festival. By that morning I had my fill of photography and walked the two miles to the turnout. This is a view across the Chilkat from the turnout. Once there, I found a nice tree, sat down with my back to it, and communed with the eagles until release time.
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View From Milepost 19 Turnout
BE 13-58 and BE 13-59 AKA Flame & Smoke
BE 13-58 and BE 13-59
AKA Flame & Smoke
These two young eagles came to the Bird Treatment & Learning Center in Anchorage on December 12, 2013 from Adak, Alaska. They were the 58th & 59th eagles to be admitted to Bird TLC that year. The eagles were found, unable to fly, during a trash burn at the dump. They were rescued by Keith Hamilton, an employee who had dedicated his time to observing the eagles who visited the Adak dump in search of rats. Following their rescue, they were sent to Bird TLC for a complete examination and treatment. Thanks to Alaska Airlines for the flight.
During their intake exam, they were found to be very dehydrated and a little thin. All of their primary, secondary, and tail feathers had been heavily damaged by the burning embers. They both also suffered from burns on their feet. They were given support care and fluids by IV and then placed in an indoor mew on what's called Raptor Row at the Bird TLC facility. They were given some fresh water and salmon. The indoor mew limits the birds' movements to allow the birds to rest. Later in December, both were acting more like healthy, recuperating eagles and were moved to a larger outside mew so they could start exercising more.
In January 2014, the eagles were relocated to the Bird TLC Flight Center located on Fort Richardson. Because of the ample room for exercising, Flame and Smoke were able to stretch their wings. There, they compete with the other eagles for food and the best perch spot. They and three other eagles from Adak had to wait on Mother Nature to take her course. The birds had to molt before staff and volunteers with Bird TLC could determine that they were ready to go back to the wild. Once back in flight shape, their flight was very graceful, including their landings.
After spending time at the flight center, the eagles proved that they were ready to be released. They passed their final exams in November 2014 with flying colors. They are now ready to be released back to the wild where they belong. These two eagles, being released today in Haines for the 20th Annual Bald Eagle Festival, are the last of the Adak burn eagles to be released
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BE 13-58 and BE 13-59
AKA Flame & Smoke
Flight For Freedom Preparations
Flight For Freedom Preparations
This picture shows the Flight For Freedom preparations. Two juvenile bald eagles, one male and one female, were to be released. The flight and tail feathers of both eagles had been burned in a dump fire in Adak Alaska. All of their primary and secondary flight feathers were heavily damaged and they were unable to fly. They were flown, at no charge, by Alaska Air to Anchorage where the Bird Treatment and Learning Center cared for them, Their treatment was simple: wait on Mother Nature to have the birds molt and see if they would be able to fly then. They could:) Before they were brought to Haines they were named "Smoke" (the male) and "Fire" (the female. The first eagle to be released was Smoke and he is in the crate being carried to the table with the green covering. The gentleman on the left next to the red SUV is Jim Shook, the master of ceremonies and auctioneer. On the right are the Chilkat Dancers from Klukwan
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Flight For Freedom Preparations
Chilkat Dancers "Killer Whale Dive Song"
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Chilkat Dancers "Killer Whale Dive Song"
As part of the release Chilkat Dancers performed several dances. This 60 second video is of their third dance "Killer Whale Dive Song." The associated dance features the dancers going in a circle emulating a pod of orca searching for prey. Several times during the dance the dancers would crouch down representing the orcas going in for a kill.
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Chilkat Dancers "Killer Whale Dive Song"
Ed Releasing Smoke
Ed Releasing Smoke
An auction was conducted at the site for the privilege of releasing the birds. From the moment I learned about the auction, I made plans to bid. At first my only real bidding competition was Nora, the other auction winner. She dropped out of the bidding at $250, however another individual started bidding, obviously out to play with me. I was tempted to let him have it, but since it was effectively a donation to the American Bald Eagle Foundation and the Bird Treatment and Learning Center, I continued. He finally dropped out at $350 and I won for $360. In practice the US Fish and Wildlife prohibits uncertified individuals from handling wild birds so all I could do was open the door to Smoke's crate. I got a brief look at him, but once he saw the door was open he took off like the proverbial bat out of h*ll. One advantage of having been with a photographic workshop is I had a number of good photographers taking pictures of my releasing him. This is the best of the lot and I used it as my 2014 Christmas card picture. As an epilogue, by the time I got back to the Foundation building I had forgotten exactly how much I had bid. Since my preplanned bid limit had been $500, I ended up donating $400.
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Ed Releasing Smoke
Nora Releasing Flame
Nora Releasing Flame
The second auction was won by Nora Lang, my prime competitor in bidding for Smoke. She won the bid with $280. This is the best of the pictures I took of her releasing Flame. Like Smoke, she saw the open door and took off. As a postscript, Nora regularly attended the festival but she died the following summer. In retrospect I am so glad I continued against the bidder who was playing me because it gave her the opportunity to release an eagle.
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Nora Releasing Flame