Quiet Mornings on the Keogh River
Nov 29, 2016
By Kirsten Bradford
It’s morning, the horizon is still and it seems as though time has slowed down. Dew is reflecting off the sleepy grass on the beach’s perimeter and last night’s fog, still hunched over the ocean, is just beginning to melt away. Offshore a group of noisy seabirds are fighting for breakfast. Closer to the beach, where the river meets the sea, pink salmon flash below the surface. Their fins break the glassy water as they dart back and forth across the bay in attempts to avoid a mischievous seal. Eagles glide and fall overhead. Adult eagles are decisive and poised in contrast to the speckled juveniles who perform awkward dances in first attempts to leave the nest. Near the neck of the towering forest a couple of black bears wallow through the river with surprisingly nimble paws, in pursuit of salmon to snack on.
I try not to rustle and disturb all the wonders and interactions around me but my feet are clunky as I manoeuvre across the pebble beach in my waders. As I stand at the mouth of the Keogh River I feel humbled and small, yet I am reminded that I have a role in this intricate system. I have spent the last three weeks in Port Hardy assisting Colin Bailey with his research project. Our team has been catching adult female pink salmon, collecting their eggs and releasing the eggs into the stream to see how competition plays out among the stream fish for the eggs. The ripe, oily eggs are a nutrient-rich snack provided courtesy of the spawning pink salmon. Colin’s project will help us understand energy transfer and other interactions between pink salmon and other fishes in the Keogh River. Salmon are a vital link in the ecosystem as they are a food source for higher predators.
By now the fog has wandered off. A patchwork of small islands is revealed and behind them a wall of mainland mountains stand proud. I take a couple deep breaths, one last sip of warm coffee and hop off the rock I am perched on… time to get to work.