The Eagles at Harrison River

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Our Sunday afternoon drive had a specific destination. We headed east through the Fraser Valley on Highway 7 towards the Harrison and Chehalis Rivers.

With camera and binoculars in hand we were looking for the eagles that the TV news said were here in record numbers to feed on spawning salmon.  As we left home, fog shrouded everything near the Fraser River but farther north we found sunshine and blue skies.

We also found bald eagles. Lots of them. Not all of the 7,000 that have stopped here on their migration, since many had finished feeding for the day and departed to roost among the trees, but still an uncountable number.

Until last year the largest gathering of bald eagles in North America has been in Brackendale, near Squamish, BC where about 4,000 birds were counted. As David Hancock says in the news video, the eagles follow the fish, and the Harrison River has had an unprecedented salmon run in the past two years.

There is a majesty about eagles — among the largest known birds with wingspans up to eight feet – and I couldn’t help but be awed seeing so many of them gathered in this one place.

It brought to mind the song, “On Eagles’ Wings”, based on Isaiah 40:31, “… those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

In our rush to reach the eagles before sunset we left the camera’s tripod in the car, so didn’t get many closeup photos. But we came away with memories of a Sunday afternoon well spent. We drove homeward into the sunset and back into the fog.

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Bald Eagle statistics from Wikipedia:

“… a large bird, with a body length of 70–102 centimeters (28–40 in). The wingspan is typically between 1.8 and 2.3 m (5.9 and 7.5 ft) and mass is usually between 2.5 and 7 kilograms (5.5 and 15 lb). Females are about 25 percent larger than males, averaging 5.8 kg (13 lb) and against the males’ average weight of 4.1 kg (9.0 lb). The size of the bird varies by location; the smallest specimens are those from Florida, where mature males may weigh as little as 2.3 kg (5.1 lb) and have a wingspan of 1.68 m (5.5 ft). The largest eagles are from Alaska, where large females may weigh up to 7.5 kg (17 lb) and span 2.44 m (8.0 ft) across the wings.

“Its diet consists mainly of fish, but it is an opportunistic feeder. It hunts fish by swooping down and snatching the fish out of the water with its talons. It is sexually mature at four years or five years of age. The Bald Eagle builds the largest nest of any North American bird, up to 4 meters (13 ft) deep, 2.5 meters (8.2 ft) wide, and one metric ton (1.1 tons) in weight.

“The call consists of weak chirping whistles, harsher and more shrill from young birds than adults.

“The average lifespan of Bald Eagles in the wild is around 20 years, with the oldest living to be about 30. In captivity, they often live somewhat longer. In one instance, a captive individual in New York lived for nearly 50 years. As with size, the average lifespan of an eagle population appears to be influenced by its location.”

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14 thoughts on “The Eagles at Harrison River

  1. Loved your post on the Eagles, I have not seen many. beautiful creatures and like the Bible verse-it is a comforting thought.
    thanks for sharing
    Paula O

  2. Judith Robl says:

    I nearly wrecked my car one morning on the way to work. An eagle rose from a perch in a shelter belt and soared north as I was driving south. His flight looked effortless, but I had the sense of immense power in those graceful wings.

    There was no place for me to pull over, and I had no camera. But his wingspan seemed the entire width of my car. It’s one of those crystal moments that I’ll never forget.

    How wonderful you were able to get these beautiful photos. Love the quote from Isaiah. “They that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will mount up with wings as eagles.”

    • careann says:

      That would have had me swerving off the road, too! Their wing span is anywhere from 5 – 8 feet across, so I don’t doubt it was as wide as your car. Only once have we ever seen one at the house and it flew past my windows at eye level — definitely a “Wow!” event. ( http://wp.me/phaYw-a0 )

  3. I came to the compuer this morning, anxious to see your photographs of the eagles. A city-dweller, I have a hunger for the majesty of nature that surrounds you. How blessed you are and how thankful I am that you share so much of her beloved gifts.

    In a little known corner of my world, at the tip of the Island of Manhattan is a place called the Inwood Hills. Kept by the National Park Rangers, these precious 400 acres of hills, ancient tullip trees and the magnificent views of the Hudson river are the resting place for many birds and wild life. To roam those hills and to know such a place co-exists with the crush of traffic, buildings and people … is a miracle of nature. The gray owl, two pairs of swans, visiting migrating geese and ducks … so much I can’t say it all in one comment. The most precious of all New York City dwellers are surely the pellegin falcons who dwell in the steeple of Riverside Church. For decades they have lived and given many of us a thrill with their flight over the Hudson.

    Oh Carol, how I love your photographs and thank you so much for this beautiful beginning to my day 🙂

    • careann says:

      Florence, thanks for your comment. I looked up Inwood Hills Park and see it has an interesting history. In Vancouver we have Stanley Park, which sounds somewhat similar in size and nature. Isn’t it wonderful to have such large green spaces that close to the city?

  4. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Thank you so much for this beautiful photo essay. Aren’t these spontaneous short trips just the best?? So glad you could experience this and I thank you for sharing some pieces of that experience with all of us. Wow.

    • careann says:

      Diana, we don’t do this kind of spontaneous outing often enough. When the children were small and we lived in a city we frequently took Sunday afternoon drives — took a picnic lunch somewhere, hunted for pussywillows, etc. — but we don’t tend to do it so much now. This day was a delight!

  5. joylene says:

    Wow. So beautiful. Both photos and video take my breath away.

    • careann says:

      Joyene, I know you live where the eagles soar, so can appreciate my pleasure at catching even a few photos. I wish we had time to go back again, earlier in the day when both the light and the activity would be better. Maybe if they’re still around in January we’ll try again.

  6. Jenn Hubbard says:

    Amazing!

  7. Laura Best says:

    I love eagles, and am so glad they are increasing in numbers. As a child, an eagle was a very uncommon thing to see. I’m not sure if I every saw one. Now , they seem to be everywhere. I saw one just to say. There’s a place about an hour from home where they have eagle watches. Lots of them all over the place. We went when the kids were small, but I’d like to go again.

    • careann says:

      At one time they were on the endangered list, at least in the USA, then moved to the threatened list, to finally be removed altogether in 2007. I think they’ve flourished in Canada and Alaska for many years but I only use to see the occasional one until we moved out into the Fraser Valley. They have a significant population in some urban areas around Vancouver, too. It’s their size that amazes me.

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