Common Sightings of a Rare Bird: Visitors to Unalaska can get close to our nation’s symbol

UNALASKA, Alaska – A bald eagle perches atop a pole near the road. Standing 50 feet away, I slowly aim my camera and fire. The bird barely budges.Creeping two steps forward, I shoot a second frame. The bird doesn’t move.I edge forward, approaching and firing in two-step increments. Finally, about 15 feet away, my feathered model has had enough. It flaps its wings and flies off.Normally, I feel lucky to see one of these beauties at binocular distance. Here, I was nearly eye to eye with our national emblem.Eagle encounters such as this are common near Dutch Harbor on the Alaskan island of Unalaska. It’s from this fish-rich Aleutian port that men from the Discovery Channel’s popular Deadliest Catch reality show set sail for the Bering Sea.In 1942, in what has been termed the Forgotten War, Japanese bombers unleashed a two-day attack on the island. Today, eagles soar over abandoned fortifications from that confrontation. The combination of balds and bunkers serves as a graphic reminder of freedom’s price.The best time to see eagles is May through July, when the parents nest and raise young. They glide through the air, alight on beaches and perch pigeonlike on rooftops. Eagles are everywhere.One drizzly day, I tour a fish-packing plant. Someone has left refuse bins uncovered on the dock, and waiting there for a Dumpster dive is a rain-drenched eagle.

I stand on the opposite side of the container, six feet away, looking into its golden eyes. It’s a new personal record for closeness to America’s bird.

Contact: Unalaska-Port of Dutch Harbor tourism, 1-877-581-2612;

By DAN LEETH / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News 
 Dan Leeth is a Colorado freelance writer.

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One Response to Common Sightings of a Rare Bird: Visitors to Unalaska can get close to our nation’s symbol

  1. Paul Fischer says:


    I just watched the scene where you rig the boats on “Deadliest Catch: Behind the Scenes”. I run a lot of computer networking cable. Last year I had to run cable through underground conduit installed by morons. It had too many right angles and they didn’t install pull strings.

    The solution we used might help you the next time you need to pull cable through garden hose.

    Get yourself synthetic kite string or heavier nylon cord, small blocks of foam or nerf balls, duct or gaffers tape, and two shop vacs. Cut the foam so it fits the inside diameter of the hose snug, but not too tight. Tie the kite string to the foam and insert in the hose. Tape the shop vacs at each end of the hose. Put the far one in “suck” mode and the near one in “blow” mode.

    Your mileage may vary, but it should shoot the foam block through the hose in seconds. Once through, duct tape the cables to the string and pull it through with another run of string. The second string can be used to pull it backward if it gets stuck. You want to duct tape everything in a tapered shape pointing in the direction of pull.

    Good luck up north this year. Be safe and bring home the shot.

    I hope this trick will save you some hours when you have to rig the boats.

    -Paul Fischer

    P.S. If you like wildlife photos I have a bunch on my personal website,

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