Update on the Harrison Mills Wintering Eagles -- the numbers are up AGAIN!

Wildlife News


Hancock here;  
Here is a quick update.  Our Bald Eagles arrive from the northern salmon runs when the cold onslaught of winter freezes the northern spawned out salmon under the ice. The eagles have no choice but to move south where the rivers continue to serve up their winter buffet.  Our Harrison Mills area has traditionally been one of the southern retreats when everything to the north is frozen.  Our Harrison-Chehalis area does not freeze.

So this unusual year of a mild fall has had some impact on the arrival of the eagles.  All our breeding pairs of eagles from the Fraser River delta area came back south in October, a few even in late September.  They come early to make sure they have taken possession of their breeding territories and deter other eagles moving into their nest territories.  That happened as usual.
The arrival of some early migrants, probably more northern nesting eagles and non-breeding eagles, started moving into the Chehalis Flats in early November.  This early influx was low in numbers.  By the first Saturday of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival, Nov. 15,  I only counted 493 from the 5 counting sites along the west shore of the Chehalis Flats south to Harrison Bay.  By the next Saturday, Nov 22, the number had increased to 1767.  This increase was the expected arrival of nearly 200 eagles per day.   Due to heavy rain I could not effectively count on Sunday, the 23rd.
This morning I see on the western North American weather map that again the entire west coast has warmed up.  This could give the northern feeding eagles a break and allow them to feed longer on those northern rivers.  This could possibly,  depending upon the coming rate of freeze up, delay the peak numbers here on the Harrison until almost late December.  Normally the peak number of eagles is about December 10 – 20.  Our largest count for the 3 kilometer section of the NW count area (our count area 6) was on December 18, 2010:  a count of 7362. 
Jo-Anne, of Fraser River Safari Tours, yesterday had one of the best trips in years.  Not only were there lots of eagles but they were concentrated along the deep-water channel of the Harrison River where their boat tours.  Some of the professional photographers got incredible images.  Apparently one curious harbor seal surfaced near the boat with a salmon in its mouth  -- showing off its catch for all onboard.  I am hoping one or more of these images will be posted. 
By this weekend we expect between 3000 and 4000 eagles on the Harrison between Kilby and the Chehalis Flats.  If the water drops some this will encourage the eagles to feed on the then exposed sandbars along the western shoreline, otherwise the majority of eagles will be along the deep water channels and the eastern shoreline of the Harrison and along the northern side of the Chehalis Flats, best seen from the Pretty Estates Bald Eagle Observatory.  The HWF with the cooperation of Celestron have provided a couple of high quality spotting scopes on the observatory.
Between this Saturday, when I will undertake another count, and Christmas I hope you get a chance to come to this wondrous area and possibly book a tour on the Fraser River Safari Tours for that extra close look.
David Hancock

P.S.  If you were aboard the Fraser River Safari Tour boat and photographed that seal, with a fish in its mouth,  I would love to receive copies of the image for our web site.   Please send to karen@hancockwildlife.org

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