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  • Tuesday August 3, 1999

    Peter Brewster writes:

    Over the rapids with an eagle eye

BREWSTER I'm always looking for ways to improve Cream of Wheat.

    Oh, I'm reassured that it's good for me. But it needs SOMETHING, be it raisins, Demarara sugar, canned milk, old Cheddar.

    Today I found an additive that really helps a bland breakfast: watching an osprey feed it's young.

    The nest had escaped our attention when we camped on the little island last night, but in the clear light of a bright morning Mama (or Papa) could be seen attending to the business of raising two chicks that are already as big as chickens.

    The untidy heap of sticks that ospreys call home was high in a spruce tree, with another spruce growing so close that the tangle of branches must have given them a good feeling of security, Though what would trouble an osprey I'm not sure.

    Maybe the bald eagles that are everywhere up here on the river, but I've never heard of that happening.

    As we watched through binoculars and long lenses, the other parent came and went, but behind the protective branches so all we had was a shadowy glimpse of the activity.

    While all this was going on, Geoffrey was hard at work making batch of his flat bread in a fry pan to supply lunch needs for the next couple of days, and when the stack was high enough we hit the river.

    Ready to take the ride. -- Michael Peake photo --> to photo gallery

    We likely only did about 12 or 14 miles today, but it was one long high of fast water. Tashka Rapids was the centrepiece of a superb day, but before it and after it are runs that would satisfy any canoeist.

    On two occasions we lined and dragged around the top of rapids, then climbed aboard for a tricky race down to the next one.

    Scenically, this is high quality country - big, open bends, rocky, wooden islands in the river and one tight left-hander that had Handle With Care written all over it. The ledges are big, and stretch right across the river.

    All under a sky that went from cobalt blue to black in the space of minutes, with thunder rolling across the landscape as a prelude to our daily downpour.

    We were treated once again to the dancing pellets of cold rain and a speedy lowering of the temperature.

    Past Tashka, the river widens and, as my paddling companion Peter Scott put it, "matures" into the beginnings of a much larger waterway.

    * * *

    About 4 p.m. we negotiated Baskineig Rapid and eddied into a great campsite on the left-hand side of the river. Flat rocks slope down to the water, and Mike and I are camped on a slab of the Shield, close to the flow where we like to be. The other two tents are back in the bush.

    As we nosed the canoes in to shore we had the feeling of being watched, and when a bald eagle lazily rose out of the trees right above our heads we didn't have to look far.

    Their nest is less than 60 metres away, and looks as big as a wagon-load of hay somehow left high in a tree. The parent-in-residence is perched on a branch just above the brood, and with the memory of the ospreys firmly in our minds there is no mistaking this for anything else than a boss bird.

    Through my 10-power binoculars I can see the enormous talons gripping the branch, and the bird has not moved since we arrived two hours ago.

    Nor, I suspect, will it. We're the intruders here, but I'd guess the eagles have seen canoeists come and go, and other than most of us being too large to be considered as potential food their curiosity is less than ours.

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