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 Harrison River Bald Eagle & Trumpeter Swan Counts
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By: davidh (offline) on Monday, October 21 2013 @ 06:17 PM EDT (Read 2692 times)  
davidh

Christian Sasse and I for the past couple of years have planned on a systematic methodology of counting the eagles at the Harrison River. My former counts for the official Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival counts were done from 6 set locations from Harrison Bay around past the Highway 7 bridge northward up Morris Valley Road to Tapadera RV Estates. I have made these counts for many years and sometimes from the date of the Festival on through the winter and we will work to replicating this information -- but with photographic verification and accuracy.

While my above counts were always 'counts' and not estimates, they were always far under the actual number of birds present. Some birds were simply in the 'dips' below sight and others sitting on the backside of trees. This difficulty also applies to counting birds with the camera but the higher resolution leaves less doubt -- a head can be verified as an eagle! Furthermore, because my telescope did not have sufficient resolution to differentiate the juveniles on the far side of the river, 1.5 to 2.5 km. away, I was also missing them and under-counting. Many of these juveniles are seen with the high res camera. Last year we experimented with a motorized camera mount and high resolution lens. This year Christian Sasse has improved the resolution of his equipment and we should be able to distinguish even juveniles across the flats.

This year we may also incorporate a new counting position in the north-east section of the Flats. This count will come from cooperation with the Fraser River Safari boat tours that enable us to access the eagles on the east side of the Harrison River, north of what can be seen from the eagle observatories.

Attached is his first shot of the year, taken Oct. 20, 2013, 7:54 AM. This test shot does not even cover all the Chehalis Flats and of course does not cover any of the other advantage points of the official count. However, yesterday we already had 443 eagles visible at one time on the northern section of the Chehalis Flats. Our eagles are coming south!

Minutes ago in discussions with Christian he mentioned that soon he will present the composite images with grid lines to facilitate counting. We will set up a Table for Counts and Locations with dates so others can follow the arrival - and departure -- of the eagles -- and possibly the trumpeter swans as well.
This Harrison River Bald Eagle & Trumpeter Swan Counts Table will be posted on the Hancock Wildlife Foundation site and periodically updated. The table will be accompanied by a map of the sites and the arc viewed from each location. We will distribute the url so you can get the updated counts. By keeping the official count at one site you will get frequently updated counts as the season progresses.

Attached for your reference is the url to Christian Sasse's first photograph.

http://www.gigapan.com/gigapans/bafe604 ... 38c32536f8

Thanks.

David Hancock


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By: karenbills (offline) on Friday, October 25 2013 @ 02:57 PM EDT  
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Here's is Christian's digital photo from yesterday:

http://www.gigapan.org/gigapans/143205


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By: davidh (offline) on Saturday, November 09 2013 @ 06:34 PM EST  
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Hancock and Sasse Count: Nov 8, 2013

Indeed the eagles are arriving. - This morning at light Christian Sasse took a composite image of the Chehalis Flats and I just finished counting the birds present.

Nov 8, 2013: Composite Image of eagles sitting on the Chehalis Flats. I did not try counting eagles in the trees!

Adults: 343
Juveniles: 638 + 1 = 639

TOTAL: 981 + 1 sitting on our Chehalis Live Cam Tower. I didn't initially see him as he was above my count area on the first run through.

((NOTE: Here is the url to Christian's composite image. If you wish to look in more detail please allow the 20+ images to expand. I have to copy the image to my desktop before I can enlarge. Note that our Chehalis Tower is surrounded by eagles and one juvenile sits on the top. Probably that bird is full!

See http://www.gigapan.com/gigapans/144329

This number of course does not include all the others sitting in the trees along either shoreline, soaring above the local hills or the hundred plus in Harrison Bay on the south side of the Harrison Bridge. So with 981 eagles countable on the central Chehalis bar we could easily have 1,200 to 1,500 already at Harrison Mills.

This indicates over 50 are arriving daily so for the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival weekend, Nov. 16 -17, we could easily have 2,000 in the count area. And most of these will be viewable from either the Eagle Point Observatory or the ,new Pretty Estates Observatory.

This is actually more eagles than I predicted since the southeast area of Alaska and the Northern BC rivers have had good salmon runs this fall and as of yet we have not had a week of very cold freezing weather to lock the salmon carcasses under the ice. This left me predicting that the big numbers of eagles, the 5 to 10,000, might not arrive until mid to late December. Perhaps many aren't waiting for the freeze up up north. They are coming south early. Of course you can't blame them. They have heard of our Festival and are coming for our salmon barbeque!

Of course the "non-comparable" element with my previous counts is that my previous counts, done using the binoculars and telescope, could not so accurately see eagle heads appearing above the gravel bars or several eagles closely packed together. I probably got most of the eagles sitting on the sand bars but not as many as are so readily countable on Christian's high resolution pictures. And when it comes to counting eagles up in the trees, where they blend in with the branches and generally when they are over a kilometer away, I only see the adults' white heads, I suspect I have under-counted earlier by sometimes 50%. In fact in a recent photo I show in my new talks, it is easy and likely to count 10 eagles in the photo. On blowing up these high resolution images you can then count 8 adults and 12 juveniles.

Perhaps the day I counted 7,362 eagles in that one section of the Chehalis Flats on Dec. 18, 2010 there were over 12 to 15,000 eagles present! So here is my challenge; come join us at Harrison Mills -- the Bald Eagle Capital of the World and make your own counts.

Cheers.

David Hancock




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By: karenbills (offline) on Friday, November 15 2013 @ 01:54 AM EST  
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Here is Christian's composite image of the eagles from this morning at 8:12 am for David's count. He said he saw a lot more than when he was there last weekend. This could also be due to not seeing as many fishermen and photographers disturbing the flats at that hour of the day.

http://www.gigapan.com/gigapans/144649


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By: davidh (offline) on Friday, November 15 2013 @ 03:39 PM EST  
davidh

The Chehalis - Harrison gravel bar topped 1000 eagles yesterday morning.

Christian Sasse again made the trip in the early morning to take a composite set of images of all the eagles sitting along the bar -- viewed from either the Eagle Point Observatory or the new Pretty Estates Eagle Observatory. My count of his 64 image composite was 588 adults and 464 juveniles equaling 1052 total bald eagles sitting along the bar. This could does not include eagles perched along the river bank trees or south of the Harrison River Bridge in Harrison Bay -- where there are a few hundred more. Nor does it count the soaring or flying birds.

So from standing on either observatory you can see directly on the flats in front of you already over 1000 eagles -- quite a wonderful show for our Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival this weekend -- Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 16 - 17. Come join us for the exhibits, lectures and guides offering telescopes at the viewing sites. I will be loaning the Pretty Estates two fine scopes. Both observatories have birds in the adjacent trees most of the day and at the new Pretty Estates Viewing Platform -- such an incredible bird watching site -- just below the platform are 200 spawning huge chum salmon. What a wondrous statement of what our Harrison River Salmon Stronghold is all about.

I will be undertaking the official count at our 6 count locations at daybreak each day and posting the numbers at the Tapadera and Leq'a:mel sites, then joining Jo-Anne and Rob on their wonderful tour boat (Fraser River Safari Tours) to count the eagles on the east side of the flats and then lecturing at Tapadera at 1PM each day.

If you are one of our live cam followers for the Chehalis Flats Tower or Nest cams please introduce yourself.
Thanks again to Christian who will also be mounting a display of his incredible images -- also for sale -- at the Pretty Estates "Barn" -- near the Pretty Estates Bald Eagle Viewing Platform and adjacent to the River's Edge Restaurant. By the way several casual "cart food services" will be available this year at Tapadera, Pretty Estates and the Harrison River RV Resort, the latter on the east side of the River just north of the Harrison River Bridge. Fine sit-down meals are also available at the River's Edge Restaurant (Pretty Estates), Sasquatch Inn Pub, Kilby Cafe and at the Leq'a:mel hall where the fine educational exhibits are located. Please stop by the HWF booth at Leq'a:mel on Lougheed Hwy. just east of Deroche.

Check the www.fvbef.ca site for a map and schedule of talks.

Cheers.

David Hancock


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By: karenbills (offline) on Tuesday, November 19 2013 @ 01:26 PM EST  
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The official count on Saturday, Nov. 16th, was 2380!! This is almost double what we normally see in bald eagles on the first day of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival.

David Hancock has a couple of talks up at Whistler, BC ski resort at the Fairmont Whistler this week. So after he returns on Friday I'm sure he will have a further detailed report of his festival count after he has had a chance to look at the amazing digital photos taken by Christian Sasse which are changing the way that counts will be counted in the future. With the ability to zoom in on the pictures so many more eagles are seen that David has otherwise been unable to count in the past.


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