Sunday, January 20, 2008

4 Days with the Bald Eagles

Last week Marjie and I drove to Brackendale BC to see the Bald Eagles that congregate there on the Squamish River. Brackendale is about half way between Vancouver and Whistler on Highway 99. (Click any picture for a larger view.)

The eagles move into the Brackendale area from the interior of BC during December and January each year to feed on the Chum Salmon that run up the Squamish River. Each year a count is taken the second weekend of January. This year just under 900 eagles were counted which is less that half the normal numbers. A very poor Chum Salmon run was to blame and many eagles had already left the area.

We really enjoyed watching the birds. From the back of our cabin one afternoon we could see 13 different eagles perching in the trees along the river waiting for lunch to swim by. This is a immature Bald Eagle eating on a salmon head which he procured from a group of gulls.

The immature eagles have this brown mottled color until they are in their 4th or 5th year when they molt and get the white head and tail of an adult. I really think the young eagles are more striking than the adults.

About 25% of the eagles we saw were immature birds and only about 10% of those will reach adulthood. The adults are very easy to see because their white heads really show up against the dark background.

Not sure what this guy is thinking!!!

Here is my birding companion in her winter plumage. It was cold and did snow a little but the sun did come out "one" day.

This Great Blue Heron landed in a tree next to me and after deciding that I was just a stump he pulled up one leg, cocked his neck down and just stood there for quite a while.

The immature eagles were more active than the adult birds. Probably because it took them more time to catch diner.
Marjie and I were stealthfully walking along the river and saw this young eagle taking a bath. First we thought he was injured but guess it was just Saturday evening. He really splashed around for about 10 minutes.

After his bath was over he jumped up on a log, dried off and flew away. It was about 30 degrees at the time but he didn't seem to mind the cold water. These eagles are really magnificent creatures. It is a struggle for them, especially the young, but their overall numbers are increasing. The salmon runs seem to be the key for winter survival.

3 comments: said...

Another great set of photography, Dick. I especially like the one of your "birding companion!" Thanks for sharing.

-- Frank B. said...

You guys really see a lot and learn more on each one of your trips. Its great that you pass this along to us so we can see and learn--our own National Geographic.Speaking of National Geographic, remember the pic you had published in thier mag?? A long time ago......

Eastbay Sarah said...

Birds of prey are magnificent, and you got some great shots, especially of the bath. We have Night Herons here at Lake Merritt--it was interesting to see the Great Heron for comparison.