Made a nice trip up to Brackendale yesterday with my friends Tim and Kate. It’s just up on the other side of Squamish about an hour up the 99 from Vanvcouver. There’s a nature reserve there where bald eagles congregate by the river. Plenty of salmon to support them through the winter. We’re just getting into the prime season for them here. This year there’s been less rain so the water levels are low we were told. More difficult for the salmon, easier for the eagles. Last year the count was in excess of 1,000 eagles. Back in ’94 it was a record year of almost 4,000! They’re beautiful birds with an incredibly strong presence. I highly recommend the trip if you have the time.

We drove up yesterday with the intent of just scouting the area. It was hovering right around freezing so I was grateful for the down coat I selected from the closet earlier in the morning. There’s a nice viewing area along the river just off the road. Volunteers are there to fill you in on information and offer viewing scopes to see across to where the eagles perch in the trees. I dropped a few dollars in their donation box to thank them for their trouble. It’s quite a good distance across to allow for safety and to keep from disturbing the birds. There was a peninsula upstream where we saw some people venturing out a bit closer. Following a well worn path and moving into the trees we went in search of a better view. We worked our way up for a few hours picking our way through the trees and along the river. This was the good stuff as we were able to see birds passing over our heads from time to time and stopping to perch on branches over the water. Their vision, much more acute than ours, was focused on the river for their next meal.

Here are just a few of the photos I took. Please click on them to see a larger version if you’d like. I was shooting with my longest lens. Heavy on my shoulders for the hiking but well worth the effort. I’m thankful for the high resolution sensor in my camera as I have enough resolution to crop in for these shots. Money well spent. I think we will return again for another day. No doubt we’ll be stopping by the camera shop to rent longer and even heavier lenses.

Eagle 1

Eagle 2

Eagle 3

DSC_7262

more eagles

This shot is a view across to the opposite bank. If you look carefully you can pick out the two eagles in the image. Along the water the walking was a bit more slow. Stones varying in size from baseballs to bowling balls cover the ground mixed in with the river sand and drift wood. I’ll be wearing the heavier boots next time for more sure footing.¬†You could tell that we were in the flood plane with all the drift wood around. Some of the smaller trees along the way had debris tucked high up in their bark and lower branches. Up above us there was snow on the peaks and the rich green of the forest. Working our way up farther we started to see some of the younger juvenile birds. Their feathers are mixed in color and lighter. They haven’t yet developed the distinctive white feathers covering their head. Tim and Kate spotted one that was on the ground feasting on a very large salmon. I worked my way over and we had plenty of time to take some photos as the youngster wasn’t to be moved from his meal. Above him and behind in the trees another was perched and watching. Perhaps the one on the ground was the older and stronger and the other was waiting for his turn at the scraps?

youngster 1

youngster 2

youngster 3

youngster 4

It was a very good day out. Well worth the drive up. Thanks to Kate for finding and keeping tabs on this for us. Days like this remind me to always keep the tourist/explorer mentality no matter where I am and where I go. It was getting dark as we came out of the woods and I was famished. A nice little restaurant on the riverside offered a good pulled pork sandwich and a pint. A coffee for the road to get us home safely was a very good idea as well. I was thoroughly tired by the time I made it home. A little snack and straight off to sleep.

Here are a few links for some more information:

http://www.squamish.ca/recreation/nature-and-outdoors/eagle-and-bird-watching/

http://www.vancouversun.com/technology/Annual+bald+eagle+count+Brackendale+tops+birds/9352009/story.html

http://www.tourismsquamish.com/activities/eagle-viewing