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Old 01-18-2016, 05:49 PM   #1
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Counting eagles

Took a cruise of a slightly different nature over the weekend, a short raft trip down a river in BC. The purpose was to view and count bald eagles along a specific stretch of river. The eagles are attracted to the river this time of year to feed on the carcasses of spawned-out salmon. The river is said to have the largest concentrations of bald eagles in North America during December and January.

The float was a lot of fun but the cards were somewhat stacked against us this year. First, the salmon return to this river was not all that good. Second, heavy rains caused flooding that swept a lot of the carcasses away so the food supply was not what it normally is. And third, the weather during the float was rain, snow and fog, with a heavy overcast that made it quite dark, all of which combined to defeat any sort of decent photography. The fact I was using an unfamiliar and rather annoying camera which together with its lens was literally running with water the entire float didn't help, either.

Still, excuses aside, in the short section of river we floated we counted some 200 eagles and I managed to get a couple of halfway decent shots despite the conditions. Needless to say, it was very cool being close proximity to so many of these fascinating birds.

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Old 01-18-2016, 05:59 PM   #2
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Very cool indeed! Maybe we should send those pics to our Voted in members of government. Maybe then they will take a moment to reflect on what they were sent to office for....one can dream.
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Old 01-18-2016, 06:02 PM   #3
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Alaskan Sea Gulls
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Old 01-18-2016, 06:09 PM   #4
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Old 01-18-2016, 06:28 PM   #5
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The float trip was seeing eagles behaving in their natural environment. The two largest gatherings of eagles my wife and I see however, are not in a "natural" environment.

One is when we clear US Customs in Ketchikan at the dock customs uses for the purpose along the town's waterfront. A large cannery nearby periodically flushes its "gut line" into the channel in front of the town through a pipe that extends about halfway out into the channel. When the flush occurs the water and fish parts well up to the surface of the water.

What seems like hundreds of eagles wait in the trees on the steep slope above the town and wait for this upwell to occur at which point they launch en mass and swoop down to the water to pick up the scraps. Seeing all these big birds heading straight for us in various angles of bank was probably what it was like being in the Battle of Britain. The birds sweep over us on the dock so low we can often feel the air spilling down from their wings.

The other occurrence is up near Telegraph Cove up north on Vancouver Island. We've been going there almost every year since the late 1980s with the trailer boat for a couple of weeks of halibut and salmon fishing. There is a small fish processing outfit on one of the bays near Telegraph and they take their waste to a community dump not far away. The road in goes right past this dump and it was not uncommon to be able to count 500 or more eagles in the trees around the huge pile or walking around on it rummaging and squabbling for fish bits.

These things are impressive to see but I think it's more impressive to see them gathered together under natural rather than man-made circumstances.
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Old 01-18-2016, 07:14 PM   #6
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Last cruise on the Hawkesbury river we saw 4 sea eagles, though it might only have been 2 individuals seen more than once. One was kind enough to fly over the water just behind the boat and land on a tree. No pics unfortunately.
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Old 01-18-2016, 07:15 PM   #7
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Greetings,
Mr. CC. "Maybe then they will take a moment to reflect on what they were sent to office for...." Opportunistic scavenging? I think they already know how to do that...
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Old 01-18-2016, 09:21 PM   #8
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I see eagles every day of the year, without going out of my way to look for them...nothing like Squamish though.
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Old 01-18-2016, 09:31 PM   #9
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Nice shots all, Marin. We live right on the Columbia River and there's a large tree right in front of the house that often has a Bald or Golden eagle perched there looking for fish near the surface.


Majestic birds. Sorry Ben Franklin, but they are much prettier than the native turkey.
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Old 01-18-2016, 09:38 PM   #10
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Looks like Brackendale. For future reference, Harrison River has a much larger Eagle turn out. Although there is lots of Eagles to be seen in Vancouver proper, mainly Spanish Banks at low tide.
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Old 01-18-2016, 09:40 PM   #11
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Those that wish to see eagles I recommend the Annual Alaska Bald Eagle Festival in Haines. This year it is November 7-13. Expect to see 3000 bald eagles gather here to feed on salmon carcass. Yes, this is their natural habitat.
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Old 01-18-2016, 09:42 PM   #12
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Majestic birds. Sorry Ben Franklin, but they are much prettier than the native turkey.
But not nearly so clever and wily. Perhaps the eagle really IS the best symbol for this country these days. Sort of a big, bumbling scavenger with no clear idea of how to do anything other than live off the smarts of others.

We've flown through huge flocks of gulls (not on purpose) rising suddenly off a river bar straight into the path of our floatplane to the point where we each threw our arms in front of our faces to protect us from the birds we were certain would smash through the windshield. Didn't hit a one; they're fantastic fliers.

Circling or cruising hawks always move well out of our way when we fly past.

Not so the bald eagles. They'll fly right into the plane. We've had to maneuver to avoid them. The Ketchikan automated terminal information service often includes the phrase "Caution eagles circling in the approach/departure path" at the end of the broadcast.
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Old 01-18-2016, 10:56 PM   #13
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Here on the Skagit you can count Eagles (not shown), Swans, Highland cattle, Buffalo and Elk.
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Old 01-18-2016, 11:07 PM   #14
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Old 01-18-2016, 11:09 PM   #15
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Here on the Skagit you can count Eagles (not shown), Swans, Highland cattle, Buffalo and Elk.
We buy all our beef from a Highland Cattle ranch in the Skagit Valley. Buy it an 1/8th of an animal at a time. Best beef we've ever had.
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Old 01-20-2016, 01:14 AM   #16
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For future reference, Harrison River has a much larger Eagle turn out.
Vancouver landfill has more than Brackendale now too.

The owner of the grandfathered cabin in Smugglers had an eagle pal that watched the boat go out into Welcome Pass for a Ling or Spring.

On return, after gutting or filleting on the dock, he would hold the goods up towards the eagle in the tree. The bird would lean forward release the branch let his wings spread and just swoop down as the guy pitched the stuff into the air. Eagle caught it and headed for the rocks. So cool to watch that relationship.
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Old 01-20-2016, 03:55 AM   #17
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This was taken three years ago at our local dump. We have so many around here they are called dumpster ducks. I think they have counted over 200 different birds on more than one occasion..
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Old 01-20-2016, 04:02 AM   #18
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One more. I have had at least one nesting pair close to the house for the past 30 years but they are still great to look at. They never get old.
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Old 01-20-2016, 04:35 AM   #19
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Vancouver landfill has more than Brackendale now too.

The owner of the grandfathered cabin in Smugglers had an eagle pal that watched the boat go out into Welcome Pass for a Ling or Spring.

On return, after gutting or filleting on the dock, he would hold the goods up towards the eagle in the tree. The bird would lean forward release the branch let his wings spread and just swoop down as the guy pitched the stuff into the air. Eagle caught it and headed for the rocks. So cool to watch that relationship.
Yes, lots by the landfill. I see about a dozen at any given time when driving down to Tsawwassen. Cool story.
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Old 01-20-2016, 12:54 PM   #20
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Yes, lots by the landfill. I see about a dozen at any given time when driving down to Tsawwassen. Cool story.
Not many people know this gem of a park steeped in history. Mostly dog walkers and birders...great eagle watching.

This time of year, the immature eagles look larger than their parents because they puff up to ward off the cold. Lots and lots of them.

The WWII Vancouver Wireless Station (next to Boundary Bay AP0) though not much left except some foundations and many transplanted trees, is worth the visit.

Vancouver Wireless Station

Growing up on the beach at Myrtle Point, there was always something going on. One day, I guess I was maybe 12; we watched an immature eagle misjudge the surface when going after a salmon and got caught in the water. Couldn't get out. We dragged the old 12' clinker down and rowed out to it. He didn't fight a lick as we hauled him into the boat; like he sensed he was a goner and we were allies. Took him ashore and kept the dogs at bay. In about 20 minutes he had dried and caught his wind. Up, up and away...
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