Eagle Watch – Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park. Squamish, BC

Every winter, large numbers of Bald Eagles come from all directions on the North American continent and congregate along the coast of Southern BC. Squamish sees a great number of these birds who return to feast on the Salmon runs in the many converging rivers at the top of Howe Sound. I volunteer with a sub group of the Squamish Environment SocietyEagle Watch. We set up on the dike along Eagle Run in Brackendale, opposite the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park. From here we offer the use of spotting scopes and binoculars to ethically view the eagles from a safe distance. We do hourly counts of the numbers along the stretch of river and also the people who are about and any observations of note such as seals in the water, rarer birds or other creatures that may be seen like bears or coyotes. The eagles can be observed roosting in the trees, soaring on the winds, feeding on the salmon carcasses and even squabbling over the food on the ground or in the air. I really enjoy volunteering as an Eagle Watch ambassador both for the time spent at the park, but also getting to meet people and answer curious questions about the birds and their habits. There are vast quantities of information available on poster sized wall infographics within the shelter and donation boxes to help raise money for the program. Each year in early January, the official Eagle count takes place, with teams of counters assigned throughout the Squamish Valley. Sadly in recent years the numbers have been mostly declining, although in 2014 we had a bigger year than the current trend, however the decline has continued since then. Many factors can effect the count, including the Salmon run and the weather. Extended warm Fall periods delay snowfall in the mountains which means river levels are high, flushing out dead salmon back into the ocean after they spawn and taking away from the eagles food source. I photograph the eagles when I can, but I do not have any real telephoto lenses to use to get right up close. I do the best with what I have, below are some of my favourites. You can visit the dike at any time, and can touch base with the Eagle Watch interpreters on weekends between 10am-3pm or like the facebook page for more info.

 

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Last Shadow. This guy flew right over my head.
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Early season at the Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park. Fall colour in full swing.
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A month later, same spot. Things have transitioned into full winter.
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Winter arrives and with it come the Eagles.

 

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If the wind is right, you can watch them floating on the breeze for ages
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Iconic Canadian landscapes
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Squabbling over food
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Gliding in for a meal
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Quiet and slow approach allows for a closer look. I take as much care as possible to not get so close as to cause them to take flight. This juvenille Bald Eagle is going through the final transition to adulthood.
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Beautiful scene, be thankful you can’t smell it. The rotten Salmon are quite… fragrant!
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The spotting scopes at the Eagle Watch shelter can allow for some upclose viewing. Interesting “digiscoping” images are created when using a cellphone camera to photograph what can be seen through our spotting scopes. When you stare into the eye of an Eagle through the scopes, something happens that can really make your spine tingle. Can’t explain it.
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Sometimes an Eagle may even land in the trees right above our position at the Shelter and just watch us.
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Winter by the river is breathtakingly beautiful
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Arriving early or at the end of the day is when you are likely to see the most birds. This image features the shelter on the left, directly across from a large congregation of feeding birds.
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