Friday, November 27, 2009

Bald Eagle Country – A sunny day!

Woke this morning to this strange bright light in the sky….it had been so long I almost forgot what it looked like!

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as we approached the boat launch, realized, first from my hands that were rapidly getting cold, that there had even been a touch of frost.

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Still a bit of snow over there on the top of the mountain….

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water levels are still high, but there were a few Bald Eagles feeding along the water’s edge…

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Morning reflections……while I was taking the above

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shots, this young juvenile flew over, managed to swing around and get a picture of him in flight.

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Looking across the estuary towards Mt. Woodside, with the mist rising off the water.

After lunch we went back down in hopes of being able to get some good shots…..

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Could hear Swans out there, as well as Canada Geese, while we were watching, this quartet of Trumpeter’s flew past….

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I’ve had Trumpeter’s fly in and land right in front of me before, but that didn’t happen this time, they did a big circle and then flew off down the Harrison River.

Sunshine 021-1 Just out of curiosity I thought I’d try cropping in even more to give you the detail on those 2 middle Swans – the bit of orange on the bills identifies them as definitely Trumpeters, rather than Tundra.

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Well it worked for the swans so tried it with this male Bufflehead duck…since I hadn’t been able to get a closer picture of him.  The Buffleheads have just returned to the area, hopefully I’ll be able to get some better pictures of these cute little guys as they usually spend the winter with us.

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I wanted to show this view before I leave you this time, this is looking back towards the area where we live, that body of water is our boat launch, and there are two things of interest, one is the fact that there are still a lot of fish (Chum Salmon) in the water and this is a good thing….

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They’re hard to see, but all those dark shapes are Salmon…Salmon returns have been extremely low and since the Eagles eat the spawned out Salmon, there have been fears for their welfare.  A late run was hoped for and it looks like we may have it as I haven’t seen this many fish for a while.

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The other thing of note, and it is really hard to see, but these trees that sit between where we live and the estuary have become a favourite roosting spot, probably because there is no human activity right there even though it is really close to the main road.  When I blew this up full size on my computer and roamed around on the picture, I found 14 Bald Eagles and there are probably more.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Bald Eagle Country – the Festival

Well this past weekend was the 15th Annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle festival (you can check out about this festival on their website .

I had hoped to have been able to get out and take pictures to introduce you to more of the Fraser Valley by now, but this month has been one of the wettest I can remember.  No conducive to picture taking.

So lets get down to the event.  Of course an event this size takes a lot of planning, with everything boiling down to the day before….tents, portapotties etc. due to arrive on site, signage to go up, barriers to be erected….and what happens here the day before?  We have an all day (10 hour) power outage and it pours with rain the whole time.


Here is a view of the estuary, taken at 9 in the morning on the Friday,….this is where we set up a tent and a representative from Celestron attends with binoculars and spotting scopes for the public to use.


It is a pretty wet dismal scene although there is lots in the way of waterfowl in the area – not so much in the way of Eagles because all the Salmon carcusses that they are feeding on are being washed out to other places, such as the sand bars in the Fraser River.


At the 2008 Festival, when water levels were high, but not this high, a lot of damage was incurred to the habitat by visitors walking all over the grassland.  This year, in order to prevent that from happening again, we erected barriers using caution tape and signage.  From experience, we know that the bigger the camera lens, the closer the photographer tries to get to the subject….which drives the subject further away, so nobody gets to see it – so this year we attempted to stop that from happening as well – which is why volunteers were out in the downpour, erecting these barriers.


a dismal job on a dismal day!


by noon the water level was even higher….the tent site is now completely wet! so the decision is made to hold off on erecting the viewing tent until we saw where the water lay in the morning.


Morning came and miracle of miracles – it wasn’t raining! 


Although there weren’t the numbers of Eagles we are used to, there were, of course some around.  Since we’re used to seeing them by the hundreds, we tend to forget that just seeing 3 or 4 is a thrill for most people.  The official count for the day, which is done by David Hancock – was 624 which is about half of our normal count. There were also lots and lots of other waterfowl, Trumpeter Swans, Canada Geese and a variety of ducks.


This is just a small section of a large flock of Canada Geese that flew by…


9 am and all was in readiness to open our gates to the viewing public.


and a steady stream started to arrive – and still the rain held off!


Our social club had the concession set up, the coffee was ready and the fire was blazing.


The souvenir and donation table was all set up.


By 11 am when O.W.L (Orphaned Wild Life) arrived we’d had a couple of showers, one brief hail storm and the sun was now coming out!


The arrival of O.W.L. is always a hit as they bring with them…..


Sonsie – the non releasable Bald Eagle.  Sonsie has been at our site every year since he was 9 months old.  Initially found as a baby by a northern fishing boat, he was so imprinted on humans that he can never be released.  The relationship between him and his handler has been a remarkable thing to witness.  Sonsie looks to his handler for protection, but is also ready to protect his handler….


Here is a closer look at ‘Sonsie’


meanwhile, a steady stream of people are enjoying viewing the life on the estuary


back up by the gazebo, O.W.L. always brings some other bird along with Sonsie – Saturday it was this Barred Owl and on Sunday they brought a Western Screech Owl.


and since this is a celebration of Bald Eagles, I’ll give you one more shot of ‘Sonsie’

The day had turned out so much better than expected, it was very gratifying to see it all come together and we all looked forward to Sunday when good weather had been forecast – unfortunately, the forecast was wrong and it was a very wet, cold, miserable day.  We’d even had a TV hooked up in our gazebo so we could watch the Eastern Final (C.F.L. Football) and the fact that our B.C. team got royally thumped – did nothing to help the mood. 


Friday, November 13, 2009

Vancouver Island – August ‘09 – Final entry

Come hell or high water I’m going to get this trip finished today!

We’re now at Miracle Beach Provincial park which is situated on the east side of Vancouver Island, between the towns of Courtney and Campbell River.  There is a large campground here, part of which is open year round.

This is always a very birdie place.

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a couple of notables this time were families of Black-throated Gray Warblers….

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and these little Winter Wren that can always be found there.

Deer at Miracle Beach

this deer was tip toeing through the woods between the back of our campsite and the adjacent road.  Deer are a very common sight on Vancouver Island.

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and here is a view of the beach itself.  Actually, there is a beautiful sandy beach under that water but it seems the last few times we’ve visited here we’ve been at a time when the tides aren’t changing much and all we get is rock.

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What there were a lot of this time were these red Jelly fish.  Having grown up living beside a beach I’ve had more than one encounter with this stinging creatures.  They only show up when the water is quite warm.

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this is ‘Black Creek’ at the most northerly end of the beach.  This is the area where dogs are allowed, but is also the end that has the most bird life, so is where we spend most of our time.

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there were a variety of shorebirds here…Greater Yellowlegs (the big one), a couple of Black Turnstones, and Killdeer – lots and lots of Killdeer

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this shot shows a couple of the Yellowlegs and a Killdeer.  There were also a few of those little Western Sandpipers we’d seen on the west coast.

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but the most exciting and prolific species were Black-bellied Plovers…..

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Here is a closer look….they are all in various stages of changing from their breeding colors to their non-breeding colors.  The little guy in the middle is another of those Black Turnstones.

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another look – there had to be at least 50 of them, obviously just stopping for a rest while migrating south.

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there were a few gull here as well.  I’m putting this guy down as a Ring-bill although I’m not really sure that is right.  Maybe he is between plumages but something just doesn’t look right. 

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I’m tossing this one in here.  This is the view from my daughter’s deck……..

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When we got back from visiting, there were even more Plovers than there had been the day before.

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another look at some of the plovers

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and a final look at the beach and those jelly fish.

Thus ending this trip.  Think we found the shorebirds we were hoping to see!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Vancouver Island – August ‘09 – Part Six

Boy it is taking forever to get this trip over with!  I’ll make a concerted effort to get us off of the west coast of the island today.

We packed up and got ready to leave, but as check out time was 11:00 am, took one last walk down to the beach…

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headed to the rocks at the base of the campground again….the tide was out…

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and there was the Black Oystercatcher again….

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Since I don’t get to see Oystercatchers where I live, indulged in a few photos…

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and there was ‘baby’…..

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pretty soon the whole family was strutting off across the sand….

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just a view of the expanse of sandy beach…..

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and another view as we headed back to the campground.

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had to toss in this picture of little shorebird feet around the base of this bull kelp….

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a last look at some of those Semi-palmated Plovers.

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We’d packed up and hit the road but decided to swing down and take a look at Wickaninish Beach.  This beach is still within Pacific Rim National Park, but at the southern end of the park.

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the only birdlife to be seen were these gulls – California Gull’s I think, but won’t swear to that.  There were a lot of surfers at this beach so perhaps that explains the lack of shorebirds….

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This gull is obviously different from the others, I think possibly a Western Gull…again, stand to be corrected.

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One of the interesting features of this beach are the adjacent sand dunes….this view looks northwards and…

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this view is looking southwards. 

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there was some interesting vegetation growing in the dune area…..these are the seed heads of a plant called ‘Beach Carrot’..

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here is what the plant looks like from a distance…

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Here is another interesting looking plant….this one is called Sand Verbena….

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Here is a close up of the Sand verbena flowers…those brown things are seed heads from that Beach Carrot.

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just another view of the beach….

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This is the same plant that the little shorebirds had been hiding behind back on Long Beach….

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the ones on Long Beach had finished flowering….apparently this sort of succulent plant is called American Sea Rocket.

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and my final photo of the west coast features some Indian Paint brush. 

We then started the trek back to the east coast of the island, stopping at Little Qualicum Falls Provincial Park for the night where I took no pictures……next stop will be Miracle Beach……