I went to the Kachemak Bay Shorebird Festival in Homer, Alaska--which is a delightful festival, I highly recommend it. I met a ton of people who were originally from Minnesota and for one reason or another had moved to Alaska. I can see why, it's beautiful and great for people who enjoy the outdoors. Homer actually reminded me quite a bit of northern Minnesota--only with glaciers and mountains.
As I was birding along Homer Spit, I saw the above sign and suddenly remembered this was where you used find Jean Keene the Eagle Lady (another former Minnesotan). She lived along the spit and collected fish from various sources as well as roadkill moose to feed 200 - 300 bald eagles a day in the winter. That's a lot of bald eagles. Many enjoyed it--especially tourists and wildlife photographers (if you Google search "bald eagle flock" the first several photos are from the Eagle Lady feeding spot). Local hotel owners also appreciated a boom in business in winter. But some residents were not so thrilled to have eagles perched on their cars or homes and pooping all day. So the town of Homer has banned the feeding of predatory and scavenging birds, grandfathering her in so she could continue. But when she died, the eagle feeding stopped.
Two friends from Minnesota, Lynne and Sue came up to the fest and we got to spend some time together. Sue brought along a couple of photos of another friend named Michelle. I love Michelle, she takes photobombing to another level, knows lots about native plants and is always a good time at Birds and Beers...but there's one way we differ: she hates travel. She hates it so much she has said that her goal is to never have a passport.
So we brought along her avatar in the form of Flat Michelle and began posting photos of her on Facebook. Michelle says it's her favorite form of travel.
One of the places Lynne, Sue and I birded was Anchor Point--which is great for sea ducks, shorebirds and sparrows. There were a gazillion eagles and unlike Homer, people are allowed leave piles of unwanted fish on the beach. You could get quite close to the them, they really are used to people. I suggested that we put Flat Michelle in one of the fish piles and step away. We could then digiscope her with some bald eagles right next to her face.
We had two different Flat Michelles. One kicking it with a beer bottle and one looking freaked out. We thought with a close proximity to eagles it would be funnier to start out with freaked out Michelle--you'd look freaked if an eagle was eating a dead fish next to your head, right? We placed it in front of a pile of fish that some eagles had been chowing on. We walked back, I set up my scope and we waited...
Eventually an eagle flew over, but it flared up when it saw Flat Michelle and circled a few more times. It landed nearby and just stared at her. A few more eagles flew in but like the first, just lingered along the periphery, occasionally squeaking in apparenty disapproval. The majestic eagles, all reluctant to land near the picture. Gulls and crows flew in but like the eagles, everyone kept their distance.
The first to let down their guard were the northwestern crows. As soon as one got some food, the others flew in and gobbled up all the fish they could before the eagles and gulls moved in.
Several more bald eagles flew over and around the fish pile, but none would get near it with Flat Michelle. I thought once the crows showed that it was safe the eagles would join, but they were having none of it.
After awhile I thought it would be fun to get a time lapse video of Flat Michelle. Here it is:
Soon, another fisherman dumped a pile of halibut on the beach. And not just fish carcasses that have been filleted already but a few completely intact specimens. The eagles immediately flew over and completely ignored our mostly picked over fish pile. I suggested to Sue that we try that tastier pile and maybe use the beer version of Michelle. I wondered if her wide-eyed expression and both hands up was a threatening site to an eagle? So we placed the relaxed, chill beer drinking picture with the pile and stepped way back.
Here's another time laps with the "beer Michelle."
We also made a movie trailer so Michelle could see the fun she had around Homer, Alaska.