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Hancock Forum Newsletter - Issue No 4 ~ October 24, 2007


Issue No 4 ~ October 24, 2007
Editors: Cobbler39/Blue Heaven



The only thing we know for sure about the migration of southern British Columbia Bald Eagles is that they go somewhere for a few weeks every year. The nesting areas are vacated sometime after the young have fledged in August. Because the eagles in this area have not been in the endangered category (protected, yes), funding has not been provided to do costly telemetry studies of the eagle population in B.C. Birds have been banded, but the low incidence of banded birds and reports has resulted in small amounts of scattered information.

After fledging, the young are still dependent on the adults to feed them for a period of up to a couple of months until they gain the experience and skills to find and catch their own food.

The eagles of northern Vancouver Island and further up the coast leave a bit later than the southern Vancouver Island and Fraser Valley eagles but, one thing is certain: the migration includes adults, newly fledged eaglets, and any other non-breeding eagles.

Tracking Bald Eagles

Since 2004, Destination Eagle in the province of Ontario has tracked the journeys of 13 eaglets. These eaglets have traveled extensively but the majority of their time has been spent in the lower Great Lakes basin where they originated. These young birds spend a lot of time in contaminated “hotspots” and suffer a high mortality rate.

The United States has done more extensive telemetry studies of eagle migrations. The birds are fitted with tiny backpacks that hold a lightweight satellite transmitter that beeps every 10 days. In this way, the travels of each bird can be mapped.

The Santa Cruz Predatory Bird Research Group (SCPBRG) at UC Santa Cruz is tracking juvenile bald eagles as they make fast migrations covering thousands of kilometers. The first bird tracked flew some 900 miles in August from its nest at Lake Shasta, in northern California, to the vicinity of the Dean River in central British Columbia. The journey took less than three weeks.

So far, the juveniles they have followed have traveled thousands of kilometers from their birthplaces in California to British Columbia and one to the Great Slave Lake area.

The young eagles forage for dead salmon and learn to hunt for live prey in the late summer and fall. The SCPBRG says these stunning first journeys from the nest are honed by thousands of years of instinct. It is a remarkable coming-of-age quest for food and independence.

Studies of migration routes by tagging wintering bald eagles over several years in cooperation with the California Department of Parks and Recreation at Millerton Lake near Fresno, CA, have shown that virtually all of these eagles migrate to a relatively consistent area within Canada's Northwest Territories, northern Alberta, and Saskatchewan for the summer.

The map below shows a journey which is similar to many others in the study with an adult female traveling north to her breeding ground at Great Slave Lake in the Northwest Territories. The eagles' return journeys are along much the same routes as the northward ones.

image...Backpack image
photo: Journey North 2000

Satellite monitoring of adult eagles in the Skagit River area in Washington State shows a different picture. Their findings document a spring migration (16 February to 5 April, n = 25 movements), and fall migration (8 August and 14 December, n = 5 movements) with the eagles migrating along the coastal corridor from Washington to southeast Alaska, and through interior British Columbia along the Fraser River. Of 20 telemetered eagles, 40% originated from British Columbia, 35% from Alaska, 20% from the Northwest Territories, and 5% from the Yukon Territory.

Radio-telemetry studies of a few Bald Eagles reared in Oklahoma show that they migrate north during the hottest months of the summer to cooler climates such as the Great Lakes area or Canada.

Not all eagles migrate. No one knows how newly fledged eagles know where to go or if some just wander. They usually leave before their parents. It is believed that these are innate (inborn) behaviours. Not all fledglings return to their birthplace.

Eagles ride the thermals (columns of rising air) to high altitudes, then fly long distances at speeds up to 50kph (30mph), soaring on the wind currents until they catch the next thermal and gain altitude again. There can be streams of eagles in the sky, with the birds spread out for many miles.

Where do the eagles of British Columbia go?

This map shows that Bald Eagles are year-round residents of Vancouver Island, the B.C. coast, and southern Alaska.


However, it doesn’t explain where the adult eagles of the Saanich and Hornby Island nests go between fledging and fall nest-building. They don't leave in August to go to the salmon runs because they are back at their nests before the salmon spawn.

The Stanley Park Ecology Society is monitoring 17 nests in Vancouver, B.C. They say that many adults and juveniles move to nearby rivers (and their fish runs) as a stable food source.

Gradually, adult eagles are spotted again towards the end of September. The adults return to nesting areas around the beginning of October, plus or minus one week, to reclaim their nest territory. Mid-October to mid-November is nest-building time. They bring large branches to place around the outside of the nest and smaller branches and material for the inside.

The immature eagles straggle back a bit later. This is winter survival time. Colder weather and shorter days are occupied with getting food. Nest-building stops. They depend mostly on fish during this time but also prey on winter-weakened birds. The Bald Eagles gather at the many streams and river estuaries to feast during the annual salmon spawning in fall and winter.


The only time of year that Bald Eagles are absent from Pacific Northwest areas is August/September. I would like to think that the juveniles have set off on the first great adventure of their lives and that the parents take a well-deserved flying holiday (remember Mom's tattered and weary appearance after Sidney finally fledged). They ride the thermals and touch down to forage for food until instinct tells them it is time to join their partners back at the nest and meet up at the rivers for a salmon feast.
Blue Heaven

read on for the rest of the newsletter...
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A trip to the Chehalis Estuary camera site

Chehalis River + Eagle PointJust after noon today Tom Cadieux (Dept. of Fisheries) took David and me in his boat to look at where we could put the cameras to watch the eagles by the Chehalis.

The day started out with blue sky and better than average temperatures. I left Pitt Meadows at 11AM to meet them for lunch at the Sasquatch Inn, situated where Morris Valley Rd. meets the Lougheed Highway near Harrison Bay. The Chehalis hatchery is about 7km up Morris Valley Rd., and where we launched the boat is about 5km farther East, off Lougheed, at Harrison Mills where the Kilby historic farm and store are (great place to visit!).

Tom's boat is an inboard with a water-jet instead of an exposed prop; looked to be about 19 foot, maybe a bit larger.

We launched into the Harrison river at the same place where I took pictures of the release of an eagle in 2005 during the Fraser Valley Eagle Festival (this year November 17/18 )

From there we went upstream just past the bridge North of Harrison Mills and into the area where the Chehalis delta should have been dry land. I say "should have been" because both David and Tom remarked that we should have been walking where we were floating at this time of the year.

Tom's depth-finder showed 4 feet of water as we left the main channel. From there we slowly advanced with yours truly peering over the bow for logs and rocks over what I've since measured on the Google map as about 2km of water from that point to where we grounded in about 1 foot of water near the mouth of the Chehalis - near where we'll likely put the cameras.

The unfortunate thing is that we didn't have a copy of the Google photo, so were left trying to find the channel by simply looking where the current was coming from.

At the point where we ended up, we watched a couple of dozen eagles and myriads of gulls on the beach and perched on the various dead-heads around the area. To that point we had seen quite a number of dead salmon carcasses on the bottom and a few still floating in the current - some of them "huge".

David decided where he wanted the cameras and it seems that we may have help from a helicopter in getting the equipment into the area - at least I sure hope so as I don't relish humping the stuff from a boat through the water Smile

I expect that we'll get them in some time next week - don't know exactly when.

From the Chehalis estuary, we got back into the main Harrison channel and went upstream toward Harrison Lake. Along the way we saw lots of people fishing from the shores as well as a tour boat with dozens of people on board. We were looking for a spot to possibly put another underwater camera - this time to watch for sturgeon; the giants of the Fraser watershed. Tom has seen them near a rock wall about 3km up the Harrison - and wonder of wonders - there is what appears to be a small pump station nearby where we may be able to get some power - and the Eagle Point spot where we'll have our wireless base station is well within sending distance if I can put a link about 100' up the slope. Here's hoping!

The weather started to turn to the typical rain of this time of year and we headed back to Harrison Mills where Tom was going to do some work on his trailer before pulling the boat out of the water again. I hopped on the Honda and left - and ended up stopping even before I got to the Lougheed Highway to put my rain-gear on - and was back in Pitt Meadows shortly after 3PM.
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HANCOCK FORUM NEWSLETTER Issue No 3 ~ October, 2007


Issue No 3 ~ October, 2007
Editors: Cobbler39/Blue Heaven


image The Chehalis River Estuary

The salmon are heading up the Chehalis River to spawn!

Go to the Cameras page at the Hancock Wildlife Channel to watch the salmon swimming up the spawning channel. The link to click on is under the picture of a rosy red salmon: .....Hancock Wildlife Channel/Underwater View at Chehalis Fish Hatchery


This is just like having a real live aquarium on your computer monitor, complete with live sound from a microphone hanging over a water cascade close to the camera. At times, peoples voices can be heard near the microphone, muffled by the pleasant bubbling sound of the water.

After a lot of rain, the water can become murky, but usually clears up in an hour or two. HWF is temporarily sharing bandwidth with the Fisheries Office so transmission can be a bit intermittent.

There is a constant procession of salmon of all sizes and colours swimming past the camera, mostly Coho, Sockeye (red) and a few late Spring salmon, as well as the occasional trout. Sometimes those big snouts get right up to the camera. This means that the eagles are not far behind! ...and bears! ...and, well, you know, ...Bigfoot! - because this is Sasquatch country. (To date, there is no evidence that Bigfoot follows the salmon spawning, but why wouldn't he?)

Bigfoot items for sale to raise funds for the Hancock Wildlife Foundation, such as this
Bigfoot Watches Over The Eagles mug imageBH (back of mug)
which can be found at .....HancockWildlifeFoundation/CafePress/Bigfoot Items

There will be two estuary webcams coming soon. They will be installed out on the estuary when the Harrison River and surrounding waters have receded. We will be able to watch the eagles and other wildlife feeding on the spawning salmon. In the past, more than 1000 eagles have been seen in this area on a single day.

The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival will be held on November 17th & 18th, 2007, at an area known as the Tapedira Estates, just to the west of the estuary. David Hancock and Richard Pitt will be there as well as other familiar HWF members who are able to attend.

The 10th Anniversary of the Fraser River Bald Eagle Festival in 2005 was celebrated by the release of a young rehabilitated eagle. See Richard Pitt's story and pictures of this event here: .....Hancock Wildlife Channel/Wildlife News/Tenth Anniversary Celebrated by Eagle Release.

image image
photos: Richard Pitt

During the Festival this year, they will be featuring video taken by hand-held cameras in and around the Tapedira Estates area and are hoping to include interviews and commentaries by local naturalists and conservationists.

image Salmon spawning, Tapedira
photo: Richard Pitt

A VIDEO by Keta is ready for viewing at YouTube .....Installing The Underwater Cam At The Chehalis Fish Hatchery (9:54)
(There are other videos on the same YouTube page showing different aspects of the Chehalis River.)

The Cast of Characters as submitted by Richard:
David Hancock - the reason we all got so wet in the rain
Bob Chappell - creator of the cameras
Richard Pitt - shouting and pointing
Karen Bills - keeper of loose wires from underfoot
and of course Keta - playing herself

Everyone appears to be having great fun in the rain, lowering the webcam with ropes into the channel. The camera is attached to a cement block. David hams it up with what he calls "the fish microphone", making sounds like a gurgling fish!

Go to the Hancock Discussion Forum to see members' comments, screenshots and videos .....Hancock Live WebCams/The Chehalis River Estuary/Discussion and Screenshots & Videos where this VIDEO by beans will have you humming all day .....They Swam & They Swam

The Underwater Cam is now LIVE so you can see what the eagles are anticipating for breakfast, lunch, and dinner!
__________ more...

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Haines, Alaska 2007 Bald Eagle Festival

Festivals and FunHaines, Alaska 2007 Alaska Bald Eagle Festival

Festival takes place November 7 - 11, 2007, during the world's largest concentration gathering of bald eagles.

Over 3,000 eagles gather along a four-mile stretch of the Chilkat River north of Haines, Alaska each fall to feed on a late run of salmon. This is the largest gathering of eagles in the world. Eagles flock from as far away as Washington State for the feast. Starting in late October, eagles by the hundreds can be seen along the sand bars and in cottonwood trees in the Alaska Chilkat Bald Eagle Preserve. The peak of the gathering usually occurs in mid-November.

The festival is crammed with a full Schedule of Events catering to birdwatchers, photographers, and nature lovers. Event highlights include: •Photo Workshops•Speakers and Presentations•Guided Eagle Viewing•Featured Entertainers• Release of Wild Rehabilitated Bald Eagles

Bald Eagles are attracted to the area by the availability of spawned-out salmon and open waters in the late fall and winter. The natural phenomena responsible for five miles of open water during freezing months is called an "alluvial fan reservoir." Water in this large reservoir remains from 10 to 20 degrees warmer than the surrounding water. This warmer water "percolates" into the Chilkat River and keeps it from freezing.

Five species of salmon spawn in these waters beginning in the summer and continuing through late fall or early winter. The salmon die shortly after spawning and their carcasses provide large quantities of food for the eagles. The combination of this large food supply and warm water bring large concentrations of eagles into the Chilkat Valley beginning in early October and lasting through February.

submitted by: tsebitai
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HANCOCK FORUM NEWSLETTER Issue No 2 ~ October 5, 2007


Issue No 2 ~ October 5, 2007
Editors: Cobbler39/Blue Heaven



This is a geographical reference that can be referred to if you are not familiar with the location of the various nests and estuaries on webcams.

David Hancock has made several comments about disclosing the exact locations. He believes that if we live near a nest, we should be aware of it and be good stewards of it. David wrote an article when the Haines, Alaska webcam was operating earlier this fall. His update on the Chilkat River nest, .....Hancock Wildlife Channel/Wildlife News/Haines Bald Eagle Nest gave very detailed directions to find the nest. David had this to say: "I don't want the first question to be: Are you sure you want to let someone know where an eagle is nesting? Yes I do. End of that story. Like British Columbia, Alaska has thousands of nesting pairs of bald eagles. Every Alaskan along the coast knows of many. What I want you all to do is continue to care for them, to keep their environment clean and healthy and protect them."

The Haines Highway follows the Chilkat River which flows through the "The Valley of the Eagles" in Haines, Alaska. Here is a map that shows Haines on the Alaskan Panhandle in relation to the Sidney nest on the southern end of Vancouver Island:

This map shows southern Vancouver Island and its relation to Vancouver on the mainland.
imageThe Sidney and Burnaby eagle nests
are marked as well as the Goldstream Estuary at the end of the Saanich Inlet. The other location marked on this map is the Chehalis River Estuary to the east of Vancouver. The Chehalis River flows into the Harrison River (a well-known tourist spot is Harrison Hot Springs) which flows into the mighty Fraser River, the major river draining southern British Columbia.

Zooming in closer, the next map shows the various nests that have been followed on the forum. The southern end of Vancouver Island is shaped like a hook, with the Saanich Peninsula stretching northward and forming the Saanich Inlet.
imageThe various locations are marked. (You might also note Esquimalt, to the west of Victoria, where the Osprey Cam is situated.)

This more simplified map shows the municipal regions of the Saanich Peninsula with the urban area of the town of Sidney on the eastern side of the peninsula. The nest is located in the rural municipality of North Saanich. This is a virtual paradise for eagles with plenty of food, beaches, fields, forests, and streams.
imageIt is a short flight
over the protected waters of the Saanich Inlet, to the Goldstream Estuary, and an even shorter flight for the Brentwood Nest eagles. The white star is the Sidney nest on the shores of Patricia (Pat) Bay. The red star is the Brentwood nest, right next door to the end of the Inlet and the Goldstream Estuary.


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