THE WIND OFF the sea blows hard and it is savagely cold, despite it being midsummer. It is 8 pm, but here at the southern end of the world night won′t fall for more than an hour. We′ve parked the car in the quarried-out gravel patch at the end of the dirt road and pulled on our jackets, distributing warm scarves and hats between the four of us.
A dozen or so people are already assembled near the barrier gate. They form a straggly semicircle around a young park ranger. Dressed in a red polar fleece, striped beanie snug on his sandy hair, he introduces himself as Rod and welcomes us into the group. People shift positions to make room for us and continue to pass a stuffed white-bellied sea eagle from hand to hand. When I hold the huge bird, I′m amazed at its lightness: it weighs less than a newborn child. A juvenile, its feathers are still brown, but the rigid body is as large as that of a full-grown bird. The feel of its feathers, soft as talcum powder, elicits a light stroke from curious fingers and expressions of tender awe. The talons are tightly curled. The red glass eyes glimmer.
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