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Robson Bight Oil Spill Investigation Update

Wildlife News

Robson Bight Oil Spill Investigation Update


Unusually benign winter weather conditions during the past 3 weeks have assisted the underwater investigation of  the aftermath of the tragic August 20th oil spill in Robson Bight.  A mini sub operated by Nuytco Research ( under government contract has located and documented (in high resolution video) all the equipment that fell 350m to the ocean floor when a barge dumped its load into the orcas’ Ecological Reserve.  The full list of equipment can be seen on the Living Oceans Society web site ( which also details the course of the investigation.

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Vancouver Island's Salmon Returns Dismal With Exceptions For Coho and Chum

Wildlife News

Judith Lavoie, Times Colonist
Published: Saturday, December 01, 2007

Salmon returns around Vancouver Island were dismal this year, despite the occasional coho and chum bright spots.First sockeye numbers plummeted and then chinook failed to turn up in hoped-for numbers.

Low chinook returns had been predicted because of poor survival rates for fish that headed into the Pacific Ocean in the spring of 2005.
It could have been the temperature or lack of food, but the conditions were unfavourable for survival," said Arlene Tompkins, Department of Fisheries and Oceans area chief of stock assessment for the South Coast. Last year, there was a sharp decline in returning coho that went into the ocean in 2005.

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Largest Freshwater Reserve in the World on Lake Superior

Wildlife News

This will protect habitat for species such as Bald Eagles, Black Bears, wolves and deep cold water fish....

Link to complete story:

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Fraser River Safari Tour - Dec 29, 2007

Wildlife News----- ANNOUNCING  SPECIAL  EXTRA  TOUR  ----- --------

Special December 29th Tour of Harrison to be guided by David Hancock.  This extra Tour is actually a HWF Tour with part of the proceeds going to the HWF.  I chose this date because generally between Xmas and New Year we have the greatest number of eagles present  -- I suspect we could see 1500 plus.
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Please book Through the Fraser River Safari Tours
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Our Dec 1, and Dec 9th 2007 Trips up the Fraser River to the Harrison and Chehalis were great successes. WE saw close to  600 eagles on Dec 1 and 1182 on Dec 9th and lots of waterfowl and several swans  and seals.
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Harrison -- Chehalis Wonderland & Conflict

Wildlife News
Chehalis -- Harrison Flats represent the largest Bald Eagle wintering grounds along the Canada -- US border. There will likely be 1500 to 2000 eagles there in December and January of this year.

On our count on Sunday Nov. 18, I counted one-by-one 1061 eagles on the flats and in the surrounding trees. Probably another 300 to 500 were down below sight on the river edge or sitting in trees out of sight. An absolutely incredible congregation. Thousands of predators and scavengers are always exciting and a statement that the life and death cycle is playing out its hand.

Then on Wednesday Nov 21, afternoon I returned
to the area to deal with a suspected clear cut of the nearby hillside. This hillside has historically been the major winter night roost for the area. On Wednesday we saw what I estimated to be well over 200 eagles arrive during the daylight waning hour. Still others were streaming in, only glimmering silhouettes showing against the fading sunset to the west. Then I did something I hadn't done in this area before. And I have to say I did this because of the full moon sparkling across the eastern sky. Karen, and I went back to Eagle Point, the location of our Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival main counting spot to see the Chehalis Flats in the dark. But it wasn't dark. The moon lite up the flats, the bright moonlight lite up the waterways and gravel bars, and with the binoculars we could see 100's of eagles still out on the flats squabbling for salmon carcasses. There were as many eagles out feeding in the moonlight as there had been in the bright sunlight. The action had never stopped. Perhaps another 1000 eagles were out there! The cacophony of sounds, the arguing, the territorial statements were all as pronounced as during the day, but unexpectedly coming out of the eerie moonlight night.

I have sat in blinds many times until after dark watching the eagles. Generally they would leave the feeding rivers and depart for their favored night rousts as the sun set. But not this night. Here on the Chehalis River the feasting was going to continue into the night. But for how long? The mind assembles patterns, draws conclusions, but so often the changing circumstances of nature results in different circumstances, different conclusions. This case in point. Over the years of observing the late evening activity period of predators hunting the various intertidal flats left me with the conclusion that eagles went to bed before peregrine falcons. Even in captivity eagles shut down their daily cycle and the peregrines were still intensely active. This enabled the peregrines to hunt the flats a bit later and "keep their last kill for themselves! With a little more brighter "earlier light" the eagles would come out and steals the falcons kill. But here were eagles out flying and landing on a dark hillside AND feeding on the salmon carcasses long after dark. Was this night time activity largely the result of the bright moonlite nite? Quite possibly.

Questions popped into my head. Was the competition during the day so great that it simply had to continue during the night so that everybody got a dinner? This was a year of high eagle abundance and possible higher than normal competition for carcasses. Was the high river water making fewer salmon carcasses available and it therefore took longer to feed the large number of eagles? Was food the driving force here or was it a socializing event? Was this 'moonlight activity' this usual or unusual? How had I missed this before? Possibly because we get more cloudy nights than moonlite nights! Lots of interesting questions to help us understand these facinating birds.

The swans and waterfowl were out there as well -- I can't wait to get our Pan-Tilt-Zoom PTZ cameras out on these flats to see what the day -- and the moonlite night reveals! This will be awesome. These great feasting rivers are also the great learning grounds for eagles. This is where eagles learn to be eagles. How and when to bully, bluff or give in. And it is just behind this spot on the Harrison River that we are wanting to place the underwater camera on the river bottom (we are now testing a camera and lights in a tank) to view the 10 to 16 foot sturgeons that are sucking up the salmon carcasses from the bottom! Truly we have one of the great resources of British Columbia on Vancouver's doorstep. By the way we are urgently looking for funds to further these projects!! Hint hint! More camera, more interactive interviews etc.

When I was at the Echo Lake roost site the hour earlier I had been surprised that over 90% of the arriving eagles were coming in from the west -- flying in over the mountain from the direction of Vancouver. The Chehalis Flats were 1 to 2 k to the east. Maybe this is why the eagles weren't coming in from the east -- in the east they were still sitting on the Chehalis River Flats -- feasting! Would another 1000 eagles be going to settle into the Echo Lake Night Roost even later this evening? This definitely needs further study.

I had kept wondering if the arriving birds had made a circuitous approach. Had they gone south down the Harrison River and then risen over the mountain to approach Echo Lake from the opposite side? Now maybe some suggested answers -- or more questions. Maybe the evening flight had come largely from somewhere else? If the Chehalis eagles were still sitting by the hundreds on the flats, how far away were all those western birds coming from? And from where?

Questions and more questions.
Not a lot of answers. Dr. David Bird and his / our student, will be arriving for a week of review of our south coast eagle study plans and here will be some more specific questions to look into. Already the study is to focus on eagle productivity and movements on my long-term Urban Bald Eagle Study Project. Perhaps these long-term traditional night roosts are not just made up of local birds. Perhaps some of these late arrivals were coming in from considerable distance off. Perhaps another reason for banding these birds -- to track them to their homeland and their daily and seasonal movements.

I had first seen this night roost back in the early 1980's when I regularly visited Father Raymond de Coccola, the priest who wrote my most favorite book: The Incredible Eskimo, about his life in the 30's and 40' living among the Eskimos of north central Canada. At that time he owned this Echo Lake property. This is the only book I have published that received more than a 1/2 page review in the New York Times Book review section. And it deserved it!

But back to night roosts and specifically the Echo Lake night roost. I had been asked to come to the lake when the new land owner had heard rumors that the hillside beside the lake -- the precise trees used by the night roosting eagles -- were slated for clear-cutting. How terrible. Eagle nesting trees are certainly important, particularly in urban areas where few large trees exist, but equally important are secure sheltered night roosts. These are areas where the eagles can find shelter from the winds and storms, places where they will not be bothered during the night, places where access and egress is easy and safe in the semi-darkness, places where for 14,000 years since the last ice age life has proven safe and secure.

So my point is that nesting and feeding areas are obviously imperatives for eagle survival. But so are safe and secure roosting areas, particularly from the winter storms. At least you can grow another tree in 200 years. But not a mountain. And most certainly you cannot quickly re-grow a mountain with a side-hill of aging forest giants with 14,000 years of traditional security. The Echo Lake night roost is likely the largest such roosting area in southern Canada.

In most places of North America the night roosts of eagles get equal protection to nesting sites because they are of equal importance. We must keep an eye on this great southern natural wonder -- the Chehalis -- Harrison Flats and the adjoining night roosts. I will keep you posted on this disturbing development.

Here is a Google Map showing the area, the local nests, our CAM sites, Eagle Point Observatory -- and the adjacent Echo Lake night roost. See the Media Gallery

david hancock

PS Hancock to give Chehalis -- Harrison River Bald Eagle Tour:
I will be giving guided tours of the bald eagles of the Chehalis -- Harrison Flats on Dec 9th with the Fraser River Safari fine people -- we will likely see 1000+ eagles in a few hours. Come join us:

Nowhere in NA with the possible exception of a raft triip in the Brackendale -- Squamish River System will you see so many eagles. For birders or naturalists wanting such an easy opportunity to view 100's of eagles -- well don't miss these areas.
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The Hancock Channel - now online

Wildlife NewsAs part of our ongoing expansion of wildlife viewing, we bring you the Hancock Channel - where you'll see clips and live streams from various sources. Live sources will include things like live interviews and events. Clips may be from our current cameras or from archival footage, both ours and others'.

An expanded version of the Hancock Channel will be included in each of our subscription packages through Insinc starting shortly.

Our first session is from Saturday, November 17, 2007 - during the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival

It was our hope to live-cast from the Eagle Point viewing platform for most of the two day festival, however technical problems and bad weather have shortened the session to just over an hour, now playing as an archive on the Hancock Channel.

Watch for other specials, and watch the channel for replays.

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Chehalis River Estuary Above Ground Eagle Cam

Wildlife NewsIntallation Progress:

Installation of the above-ground eagle cams on the Chehalis Estuary will be delayed until after the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival due to continued high water levels.
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Backyard Birds Disappearing

Wildlife News

Decline of the songbirds
Last Updated June 22, 2007
CBC News

It's not been a good year for the birds and the bees. A few months ago, media outlets were seized with the unexpected collapse of otherwise thriving bee colonies across the U.S. and in parts of Canada, a mystery that still has scientists baffled.

Now, the National Audubon Society in the U.S. has reported on a devastating decline in the common bird. The 20 most popular species — the warblers and songbirds that frequent our backyard feeders, as well as the small ducks and game birds that scurry through fields and wetlands — have seen their numbers drop an astounding 54 per cent over the past 40 years, the NAS says. The top 10 birds in this category have seen their numbers dwindle by an average of more than 70 per cent.
Click here for more on this story (CBC.CA)

Northern bobwhite: A staggering 25 million fewer today than in the mid-1960s, according to the New York-based National Audubon Society. (National Audubon Society/Canadian Press)


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