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Five days on Vancouver Island, and I saw more bald eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) than I have ever seen in my life.

Ferry crossing, B.C. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

Just another day in paradise: Ferry crossing, from Vancouver to Vancouver Island. (Kathleen Kenna photo)

This was so life-affirming that I’ve been “walking on gratitude” since. (Something like “walking on sunshine”, but deeper.)

There appeared to be a nesting pair in an old cedar near my Mom’s home, and we saw them every day, sweeping high above a First Nations art gallery.

We would see one bald eagle perched tall in the evergreens, and test our vocabulary of descriptives. My brother’s “majestic” was deemed best.

On one particularly cold, overcast morning, my sister and I spied two, then four bald eagles huddled in the bare branches of a large tree at the edge of a muddy field.

Another day, we counted 15. Some were in flight above migrant trumpeter swans feasting in the mud.

Their wingspans are incredible.

At low tide, the Courtenay River estuary brims with wood ducks, mallards and other waterfowl. Gulls screech and circle.

Record eagle sightings elsewhere in British Columbia suggest better salmon runs. The news from Brackendale, B.C. — “bald eagle capital” — leads to a bold assumption: We’re not ruining the environment as much. Wildlife may be recovering in this patch of paradise.

After church with my Mom at Union Bay, we were startled by two bald eagles flying close to the car. Their graceful dance above us was, I learned later, part of the mating ritual. It was so stunning, I was glad not to be burdened with the usual cameras.

This trip to Canada wasn’t easy, yet hundreds of snowy trumpeter swans in the fields, and dozens of bald eagles in the trees and in the air, made it an especially memorable journey.

On a solitary walk near the end of my visit, I had the forest to myself. A rustle in the treetops caught my attention, and an eagle swooped toward me, in a long, low arc of elegance.

He took my breath away.

I will not forget the sound of his wings for a very long time.

“I wish you could see what I see” is a random series at living in gratitude. 

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