Another Year End

Wildlife News


Hancock here – another Year End!    December 31, 2015

Well first, I hope you had a wonderful Xmas and I wish you a tremendously healthy and successful New Year.    Mary and I have sat around a few more hours this year with more time for contemplation and generally it has been a year of good thoughts and worldly interactions. Let me highlight a few items that came to the top of the pile.

Delta 2 eagle nest cam:   First, it was quite a year of wind storms -- winds that were quite destructive to many local trees and eagle nests.  The August 29th morning call came in early saying “The Delta 2 nest is gone”.  Who would go out to confirm?  Before I had time to review this Karen called that Ken confirmed the tree was down, the cams with it.  The next morning I viewed the site to confirm my worst horrors.  But from that moment on life was bent on succeeding.  From the site I called Larry and I said I thought the tree known to the viewers as the “Barn Tree Perch” was capable of supporting an artificial platform.  Larry’s immediate response was, “Would a 60 or 80 ft. lift do the job?”  “80", I replied. “I’ll call you right back", he said!  As I hung up the thought of not just building the platform but of the havoc brought to other neighboring nests in the past season came flashing before me.  The local First Nations people had removed 4 active eagle nests to sustain their condominiums, commercial shop developments (huge mall) and the preparation for the government co-sponsored deep-sea container holding area.  Few suitable trees were going to be available for any nest building for the entire area.  That door closed, another door opened.

With a lot of pairs needing nesting sites I thought it likely that any new offering by us of a nesting platform, even in a not-so-perfect a tree would likely get used.  This meant it was likely worthwhile for us to install cams even before the nest had proven successful.  The thought flashed through my mind.  I quickly called Kristine, who along with her “eco-friendly climber” associate, Matt Beatty,  had installed the cams at the nearby Delta 3 site for us.  Immediately her response was, “I can get a climbing partner and be there in the morning!”  I walked around the Barn Perch Tree a time or two more, plotted where key support branches might go and then took another call from Larry who said, “the man-lift will be there are by noon tomorrow.  Let's do it!”

Off I went home, loaded the trailer with an assortment of cedar bows and called Kristine.  Indeed she and an associate, who was yet to be decided, would be at Delta 3 site to remove the two cams they had installed last year, bring them down and she thought she and another climber would then come to Delta 2 to build the new nest and install the cams.   Then Larry confirmed the lift arrival and we plotted a plan to build the nest platform and to have that done so the cams could be installed the next day.  This is still less than 12 hours since I viewed the fallen nest.

The next AM I met Kristine and another climber at the Delta 3 site at 8 AM, saw them off up the tree and I then headed to the nearby Delta 2 site.  I got there at 9:30 AM as the lowbed trailer and the massive 125-ft. 65 ton lift drove up.  The truck and trailer were too long to turn the corner into the farm.  There was only one option - park this behemoth on the narrow road, drive the oversized lift off. The challenge was the hour long traffic redirect that resulted.  For reasons I don’t understand 1000 cars had to come by that morning and get re-routed around this obstacle 15 at a time.  I kept getting alternative ‘thumbs up and thumbs down’ signals.  I decided not to wear my eagle jacket!!!  By 11 AM I was taking saws, tools and cedar branches up to the nest with Karen’s help.  After cutting out a number of  'in the flight path branches', getting 8 major cedar limbs in place, zap-strapping a 3 x 3 ft. chain link base wired in to hold the branches in place, Kristine, Ryan and the other climbers arrived with the cams.  I deposited them up the tree to speed things up and at this point Larry arrived. He was surprised, as I was, that so much had already happened and it was not yet noon but Larry and I went back up to do the finishing touches, the overlay of alder bows zap-strapped to the top of the chain link (in a circle like the eagles do!!), to make the nest respectable.  By this time Ken was connecting to the dropped cam lines to confirm we could read a signal through them.  By 2:30 PM the next day we had “a prospective eagle nest completed with two functioning cams installed”.  A great two days of work was completed.  Ken and Larry spent the following two days finishing the technical work at the site.

Of course the positive end to this effort was that on the second day after Pa Delta 2 arrived back from migration he was in the nest rearranging our sticks - typical male eagle!  When Ma arrived on the scene she did the same.  Our offering was accepted with little hesitation.  As many of you know this is our Ma who had the broken leg two years ago in 2013, had it self-heal, laid eggs, raised young and left on migration.   Again this fall she was back again  -- with a still very low functioning leg.  These eagles are indeed survivors.  We hope she makes it through another season successfully.  (PS - We removed the Delta 3 cams because the tree limbs did not offer good vantage points from which to hang the cams and effectively view the nesting behavior.  We felt the Delta 2 site would offer better options, which it did!  Also we did not have the funds to maintain the Delta 3 cams nor the time to buy new ones for Delta 2, which would be another $5000 - $7000 worth of cams.


Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival:  The second recollection Mary and I had was the wonderful spirited gathering of ‘eagleholics' at our Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival at Harrison Mills.  The eagles were of course reasonably cooperative, a record for the festival weekend of just over 1500 were counted.  Most memorable was the camaraderie of the group at the Sasquatch Crossing Eco Lodge bed and breakfast and the evening dinners at the Sasquatch Inn Pub - festive meals interwoven with 'Congo lines'.  We thank you all for coming and particularly the Redding, California contingent, Terri and Kit who kept us howling all night – both nights!! 

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The Lafarge Eagles:  Another series of stresses surrounded our Lafarge pair and their long-dead nest tree literally disintegrated dropping the nest and cam into the sea. Then, in spite of us providing for this disaster with the artificial nest, the pair decided to return to their old nest site about 3/4 mile up the hill to the southeast.  They still used the same hunting territory centered on their favorite resting perch, our artificial nest platform, but they nested inland. Then the disaster. Ma Lafarge was electrocuted beside the nest site pm June 13 when the 2 chicks were about 9 weeks old.  Somehow Pa succeeded in rearing the chicks.  He did a great job.  Maybe this year we will see the further use of our artificial platform as Pa's new 'Lady' seems to quite enjoy it and frequents it often.

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The White Rock Eagles:  It would be hard to not marvel at our White Rock pair.  Again both chicks fledged as their nest was collapsing around them.  When we constructed this nest in this spindly fir 5 years ago we hoped the nest would last 5 years.  It barely made it!   Our second nest offering just down-slope does not at this time seem to be the first selection for the 2016 season but we will keep up our hopes.  Part of the problem seems to be I did not get to discuss the details of the ‘nest re-adornment for this season’ with the chap who climbed the tree.  I had in other years worked with the boss.  This climber had not attend my Bald Eagle Nest Building Course 101 and the new sticks were placed in a parallel manner rather than in the round shape of an eagle nest.  This seemed to perplex the eagles.  They tried moving them but these sticks, as had been the instructions, were zap strapped to the wire to prevent them being blown away.  The female was seen trying to reposition them but she could not lift them into a circular position.  Russ and Ellen have again been wonderful supporters and we hope the new nest is still on their property.  We should know this by the end of January.


Harrison Mills – the whole enchilada!:  Indeed the world’s largest gathering of bald eagles should be worth some drama and HM did not disappoint this year  The Harrison Mills eagles have been marvelous.  Banded Ma (aka Mrs. Honeycomb) and Pa (Mr. Honeycomb) have returned.   Our effort at getting out the two cams on the Chehalis Flats tower was again monumental.  Larry, Percy, Ken and Stuart did a marvelous job as I got to watch from the passing Fraser River Safari Tour boat – warm and dry.  Incredible effort.  But the day after the big November storm that brought down over 50 trees and 500 major branches on the Sandpiper Golf Course at Pretty Estates, our Tower was overturned.  How this happened we don’t know.  A few days later we were having a post-Festival Luncheon fort HWF members, with good-byes to our California and Ontario visitors, and the absence of Larry became apparent.  Where was Larry?  I called him and got a very tired sounding Larry, on the last leg of pushing, pulling and struggling with a wheelbarrow across the Chehalis Flats to retrieve our two water-logged cams.  The $12,000 fuel cell and wires etc. were not to be seen.  Larry, you did the eagles proud again and we all thank you.  One of the cams appears to work, the other will be sent to the manufacturer for possible repair.  Neither the Fuel cell nor the $1000 worth of fuel have been recovered.  Somehow Larry, who had so successfully coordinated the last few years of getting the cam out to and returned from the Tower, was now doing this monumental retrieval all alone.  Quite an incredible effort and dedication to bald eagles.  Thanks, Larry.  He alone oversaw the building of the finest Bald Eagle Tower Observatory in the world, a place from which more bald eagles can be seen sharing the Chehalis Flats with all the salmon.

It would not be complete to touch on Harrison Mills without mentioning Betty Anne Faulkner, the owner of Pretty Estates, sponsor of our HM cams and the prime host of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival.  Betty Anne is the guardian of the world’s largest gathering of bald eagles.  She has more salmon in her front yard than anyone else and hosts enormous flocks of waterfowl including sometimes hundreds of trumpeter and tundra swans.  We wish her a happy and prosperous New Year.


The final thanks is to all of you and I do not need to name any of you as you know we all know who you are, you who spend so much time keeping our website going, the cams finding the best views, my talking on schedule or the HWF events coordination, and raising the dollars that allow this all to happen.  It is quite incredible the individual efforts so many of you undertake.  Thank you all so much.  On  a personal note, this year has been a trying one at this end.  So thanks again to so many of you who have come with personal comments and love.  Mary is as I write this trying to ‘walk off’ her Parkinson’s, trying to get better coordination.


PS  I was sorry to not get you a calendar this season, hopefully next year if we get a volunteer calendar designer.  Thanks to all the photographers who contributed the imagesI just ran out of steam.  

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