Three grey whales watched us
What would you give to see three grey whales foraging for ghost shrimp in the shallows at high tide over a mudflat, just their own body length away, scooping out feeding pits with their left flippers, their right flippers thrust skyward as if waving, pushing their huge heads forward through the muck, making pig noises between thunderous spouts?
What would you give to rescue a bald eagle, shot in the wing, at the very same time?
We recently had that experience. Heading down to Hidden Beach, a few blocks from our house, to jog, walk with our dog Bo, and watch wildlife, we hoped to see whales, having seen both grey whales and orcas earlier in the week, farther out in the Saratoga Passage.
As we arrived, we could see others gathering, a sure sign that someone had reported a whale sighting on social media. Before we saw the whales, though, a distressed neighbor told us he had seen an injured eagle on the beach about a mile north, whom he had been unable to approach because he had his elderly almost-blind Malamute with him, and was afraid the dog might have made whatever the problem worse.
Uncertain if the eagle would still be there, with the tide already high and rising fast, we decided Merritt would run up the beach to reconnoiter, while Beth followed with Bo, and tried to photograph the whales on her way, who by now had made their appearance.
Merritt found the eagle, a four-year-old female, right where the neighbor said she would be, perched on a piece of driftwood near the base of a cliff, opening and closing her mouth and stretching out her wings, but unable to fly. Merritt’s first thought was to see if the eagle might step over to a smaller piece of driftwood, that he could carry back to Beth, but the eagle was having none of that. There was nothing for Merritt to do but meet Beth, take Bo, jog back to the parking lot along the ribbon of sand, crushed shells, rocks, and seaweed that remained above the tide, and go get our biggest dog crate, leaving Bo at home.
Beth, a former vet tech, experienced with big birds, did a field assessment of the eagle’s condition. Initially Beth named the eagle “Elvis,” but changed the name to “Elvira” after getting a better look at her.
Recounted Beth later on Facebook, “The tide kept rising. Before Merritt could return, Elvira tried to climb the cliff and fell a foot or two. I used my jacket to cover her and lifted it slowly to find her humongous talons. Once I had her legs secure in my hand, I pulled down the other part of my jacket and covered her head with my knit hat, then scooped her up in my jacket and made my way to meet Merritt, who was now in sight,” carrying the big dog crate, splashing through the surf as the whales circled and fed nearby.
“We placed Elvira in the large crate and made our way back through the rising tide, over a mile of snags and driftwood,” Beth continued. “We were tired, but determined! We did it!”
At the biggest snag, where we had no choice but to wade, one of the whales glided by parallel to us, almost close enough to exchange “high fives.”
We drove Elvira to the veterinary clinic in Oak Harbor that helped Ollie the malnourished great horned owl a little over a year ago, after he crashed into the surf and Beth plucked him out.
Since then Elvira has been recovering well. She is supposed to be released in a month or two right here at Hidden Beach where we found her. We hope that we can participate, but honestly that would be the icing on the cake.
Did whale spray kill Beth’s cell phone?
We don’t know who shot Elvira, or why. There appear to have been no witnesses, but we understand there is an open criminal investigation.
What we gave to save Elvira, apart from a donation to the vet clinic’s wildlife rehab fund, turned out to be the cost of replacing Beth’s cell phone, which doubles as her camera, and her access to the web to do her work as ANIMALS 24-7 artist, photographer, and social media editor.
Somehow, in carrying Elvira down the beach, Beth’s cell phone absorbed a fatal dose of salty moisture, perhaps from whale spray––she did not drop it.
Now ANIMALS 24-7 needs your help, for all the whales, eagles, and other animals we help and speak for, around the clock.
Your donation of $25, $50, $100, $500, $1,000 or whatever you can afford will be deeply appreciated!
P.S.––Elvira and the three grey whales thanked us with their presence.