Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bald Eagle Country

So as my neighbour, friend and fellow blogger ‘Wandering Willie’ was pulling out of our complex the other day, in his search of perpetual summer….he said to me “Why don’t you ‘blog’ this area this winter?”

Why not indeed!  When one lives in a particular area one tends to forget that what is ‘usual’ for you may be anything but ‘usual’ for most people.

I’m not talking about the complex we live in, although that is unique in it’s self, but Bill has already described that on his blog.  No, I’m talking about the area immediately adjacent to our complex, known as the Chehalis Estuary, as well as the general vicinity known as the ‘upper Fraser Valley’. 

Morning shower

And what makes this area so special?  Well, we are the wintering grounds for hundreds of Bald Eagles as well as many other bird species, including Trumpeter Swans.

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How many places are there where you can stand and see a view like this?

The area is so special that there is a 2 day festival held each November – this year it is on the 21st and 22cd, celebrating the return of the Bald Eagles.  I actually  already do a blog on the festivals website.  If you go to www.fraservalleybaldeaglefestival.ca and click on ‘Birder’s Blog’ ‘Kathy’s Korner’ will appear…..so for this blog…I will try to not repeat too much and will cover a much broader area.  By the way, that big tower in the above picture is soon to be equipped with cameras which will give streaming video of the activity….you should be able to access the video at www.hancockwildlife.org.

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Here is another view…….

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and another…and this is just in one very small area…right now there are probably somewhere around 300 Bald Eagles here, soon that number will be 3 or 4 times that, if not more.

Eagle in tree

and they’re not all way off in the distance either – they’ll be sitting in trees along the highways.  The tree this guy was sitting in as I walked under will soon have dozens of birds sitting in it.  I’ve seen as many as 50 at a time in one individual tree.

I’m not sure how many of you are familiar with  Internationally Important Bird Areas.  There are ‘IBA’s’ all over the globe and this area is one of them.  We are IBA BC 033.

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In fact there are a number of organizations that recognize the unique aspect of our area.  This view, taken from just north of our complex is of the part of the estuary owned by Duck’s Unlimited. 

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While I was standing taking the scenery shot…..there were 20 or so Bald Eagles riding on the thermals on the hillside to the left of the above picture.  This is will be a common sight for the next couple of months, usually around mid day….there will be 50 or 60 of them as the population in the area increases.

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Still standing in the same spot (on a turn out on Morris Valley Road), this shot is looking back over the estuary.  That mountain is Mt. Woodside and the cluster of green trees half way up on the right side of the picture is where we live.  Way over at the base of Mt. Woodside is the Harrison River that flows out of Harrison Lake and everything between Mt. Woodside and here is the ‘Chehalis Estuary’ – named after both the Chehalis River that flows into the estuary and the Chehalis First Nations whose lands border this area.

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Getting back to the eagles…..this is why they are here.  These are Chum Salmon.  This picture was taken looking directly down from the above spot.  Chum  return to this area to spawn, then the eagles, gulls, ravens, crows, bears etc. etc. feed on the spawned out salmon.  Other salmon species also return to the Harrison and Chehalis rivers to spawn, including Sockeye.  Cutthroat Trout follow the spawning salmon.

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Getting back to our over view….we’re now a little further to the north, looking at the property owned by the Naturetrust.

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This last picture in this section is of part of the Naturetrust lands….there isn’t usually quite this much water in this spot….think there have been some busy beavers!  These quiet backwaters are frequented by some of the shyer duck species like Buffleheads and Hooded Merganser.  I’ve also seen Swans in here, especially during stormy weather.


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