Wintering bald eagles of Rockport at center of majestic mountain beauty

When I recently returned to my home state, I vowed I’d get to know Washington better than ever; that I’d attack it with the same curiosity and sense of exploration that I’d applied to southeastern Arizona, Door County Wisconsin and much of New Mexico.

It’s easy to take a lot of things for granted in life, isn’t it?  Time spent with our parents, for example.

Treasures only a short drive from our front door can be under appreciated, too.

The first time I moved to Tucson, in 1991, I’d been surprised to meet a few natives who’d never been to Sabino Canyon, let alone the Grander fissure to the north.

So, here I am.  Now living only a few miles from the neighborhoods that helped shape me. Familiar, yet unfamiliar, as much has changed here since I left for college, and then (after a brief stint managing a Skipper’s fish-and chips restaurant) onto a TV reporting job in 1987.

The video featured in this post is not the typical fare for this blog.  No crime, no cults, no floating feet.

Instead, today’s video features pretty pictures of bald eagles, snow-capped mountains, river banks, a blue heron, a logging truck and photographers delighting in all of it.

It’s been more than 20-years since my only prior visit to Rockport to see the eagles that winter along the Skagit River. Back in the late 80’s, I’d made the trip with a friend and never left the roadside.

Last Thursday, I drove to Rockport with my brother, Jeff.  We did leave the road.  And often hiked through crusted snow to see what was around the next bend in the river.

During the winter, this stretch of the Skagit River attracts hundreds of bald eagles from Canada and Alaska. Why? Easy pickins. Or, as a Seattle Times reporter put it a few years ago:

…to feast on salmon carcasses that wash up on the river’s gravel bars, the equivalent of a Las Vegas buffet for snowbirds: cheap, plentiful and, OK, maybe a little stale.

Source (no longer available online):

Jeff primarily shot still pictures, but used the same camera to shoot a bit of video, too.  I shot lots of video.

The first few scenes in this video were actually shot while we were still en route to Rockport. The sun was rising as we were driving on a stretch of Highway 530 between Arlington and Darrington. What words to reach for as I attempt to describe the unveiling of that new day? Magical? Mystical? Let’s just say, spectacular.

After the shoot, I used the GarageBand application on my Mac to create a piece of music for this video.  When I imported it into iTunes (so that I could access it with GarageBand), I felt compelled to give the song a name, Where Spirits Soar.

The 22nd annual Upper Skagit Bald Eagle Festival takes place this weekend, January 24th & 25th. To learn more, please click here.


If you liked this video, you might also enjoy watching Snohomish River rising quickly.

16 thoughts on “Wintering bald eagles of Rockport at center of majestic mountain beauty”

  1. Nice work on the Skagit video! Its been about 35 years since I’ve been up there to see the eagles and the river. You’ve captured it beautifully! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow, Mark, just wow. I could watch that over and over again.

    You are so right in commenting about the overlooked treasures in our backyard. As I’ve shared with you via e-mail, my husband and I kayaked a local river this summer and fall. Seeing eagles and blue herons, otters, and fox were some of the highlights of those trips. It’s nice to reminisce about that magic in the cold drear of winter.

    I’m so glad Benjamin Franklin didn’t prevail in making the turkey our national bird!

    Thanks so much for sharing – I’d love to see more of these types of posts.

  3. Monte & EMC,

    Thank you both for your feedback. Monte, if you get the chance to do it again, go & see those eagles! As you know, the experience feeds the soul.
    EMC, glad you’d like to see more of this type of work. I’ve been thinking about doing a video such as this one, perhaps, once a week. I’d call it something like, “Sunday Postcard” (a break from the more serious topics that are typically addressed on this blog).
    And, I agree. Glad Mr. Franklin didn’t prevail on that score!


  4. Hey Mark,
    I watched you movie yesterday but did not have time to respond. IT was breath taking!!! What came to my mind was the verse in the bible that talks about, what soever things are pure, lovely, and of a good report think on these things. (para phrase) So you have something of a good report that you were able to focus on for a bit. It must be a nice change in your senery!!! Anyway, what I am trying to say is I loved it!!!!!!!! And at time I feel for you haveing to wade around in the muck of life and I thought that it was wonderful that you got to do something uplifting for yourself!!

    Thanks for sharing it with us!!

  5. Hi Trudy,

    Glad you enjoyed the video. I was reading your comment to my wife and, as I read your third sentence, she said, “Phillipians 4:8“. It does sound like the verse you’re referring to in your comment.

    One of the most satisfying parts about this video project was creating the music for it. I’d made a couple of songs previously, but nothing I’d put up on the ‘net (mainly fun stuff for the family).

    I am not a musician by any stretch of the imagination, but programs such as GarageBand allow one to creatively build music. And there are no worries about royalty fees, etc.

    And, yes, it was fun to focus on a “positive” story.


  6. WOW!!! Mark looks like you are coming up on 150,000 hard to believe not to long ago the comments were on the 100,000 hit. Keep up the good work Mark and yes I also loved seeing the eagles but the green was just as nice since we won’t get to see that here again for a few more months.

  7. CSC,

    Yes, the hits have picked-up. I think much of it is due to the collective postings on the most recent Wayne Bent story. In other words, many people are coming to the blog to read what their fellow readers are contributing here. I think that’s pretty cool.
    Glad you enjoyed the eagles and the green. Be sure to stay warm in Maine. One day, I will make it there for a lobster or two!


  8. avatar
    Taylor Halstead

    Awesome! Wow! I watched your video today and was left sitting here wishing I was back in my home state of Montana. Thank You! And you do wonderful work and I enjoyed it very much.

  9. This is SO beautiful!!! I grew up in the Pacific Northwest. It makes me long to go there again. Thanks for this fabulous beyond words… I will share this with my friends too. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Awesome Mark! I’ve shared this with my So Calif family who grew up here in the Pac NW.
    Tks from Eagle Creek, Oregon

  11. Hi Mark, love the video and thanks for the info!! I am from TN, but building a townhouse in Lacey. My friend and I are photographers and will be coming out there the first week of May. We plan on touring around Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. I have heard about the eagles and was wondering if we would have a chance seeing them come May????? I read that they come for the winter, but didnt see when then tend to leave the area??? Also, can u tell me what to expect from the Mt Baker area that time of year?? I have only been there once and it was summertime. Planning a itinerary for photos!!!! I normally visit in the summer…so if you have any suggestions for May please let me know. Thanks a lot!!!!!


  12. Hi Shellie,

    First, let me say you have a great Web site. I’ve just started clicking through your photos and am enjoying them…especially the wildlife pictures.

    From what I’ve read, most of the eagles along the Skagit in the Rockport area will return to Canada and Alaska by late February or early March. That said, it seems to me that there are still lots of eagles in the Puget Sound area that live here throughout the year.

    For example, my folks live on Camano Island and have a pair nesting near their back yard. It’s very common to see the eagles whenever I visit. North of Stanwood, there’s a little town called Conway just off of Interstate-5. In fact, you could just take I-5 north to the Conway/La Conner exit, then drive west on Fir Island Road for about 4 miles. Shortly before that road takes a hard right, you’ll see a sign for Fish & Wildlife on the left side of the road. Take that left at the sign, and drive just a few hundred yards to the parking lot at the road’s end. As you approach the parking lot, you’ll see a large tree just beyond the fence to your immediate right. Each time I’ve driven there (three times in the past 10 days), I’ve seen at least one eagle in that tree. Usually it’s a pair. I suspect they live there year-round.
    If you check out my recent video, “Chasing Swans”, you’ll see four eagles. Three were in another tree a mile or two from the scene I’ve just described. But the shot of the lone eagle eating in a tree is from that tree near the Fish & Wildlife parking lot. You’ll also see a shot of the nest I described.
    Oh, and a short distance beyond the parking lot is the water of Skagit Bay. Really nice place to get some “golden light” shots at sunrise and as sunset approaches, too.
    In the opposite direction of the water, Mt. Baker is clearly visible and makes for a great backdrop (assuming it’s a clear day) as birds fly-off in that direction (You’ll see lots of shots of Mt. Baker in that “Chasing Swans” video, too).
    As for activities on Mt. Baker in May…again, as long as the weather cooperates, you should have all sorts of choices for great experiences. I’ve only been up there a few times (usually to watch a friend compete in a relay race), but I’m sure you can find plenty of great info on the Web).
    Hope this helps. If you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask.


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