Impressed by the impressive

This past weekend we went in search of the migrating Bald Eagles who have begun arriving in the Fraser Valley from Alaska and northern BC. It was something we did two years ago (and I wrote about it then, too), but it’s not something to be done only once in a lifetime.

While they may not be the largest birds in the world (the Wandering Albatross and the Ostrich hold that record), the eagles who arrive here are the largest of their species, at anywhere from 28 to 40 inches in body length. They may weigh up to 17 pounds and have a wing span of eight feet. That’s pretty impressive, and I never tire of being impressed!

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle

Bald Eagles 2

Gorging on spawning salmon in the Chehalis River flats

Bald Eagles 3

Bald Eagles 4

This was the second of four consecutive weekends of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival. The main festival weekend is always the third weekend in November, but I’m happy to avoid the crowds. Besides, the largest number of eagles are usually evident later in the season, in mid-December, which is when we visited last time.

Our son and his wife and daughter accompanied us for the first time, but there weren’t as many eagles as I’d hoped to be able to show them. David Hancock’s blog reported “the Saturday at dawn count revealed 2,380 eagles on the Chehalis Flats and Harrison Bay — about twice the number over last year.” So they’re out there, just not always visible from the more convenient viewing locales. There were a few eagles in nearby trees, however, and we were able to bring back some nice photos.

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If there’s a writing lesson to be learned here, perhaps it’s that timing is important. At the recent conference I attended, I had requests for both a partial and a full manuscript. I’ve procrastinated as I work through yet another revision, even though I’m aware that December is the least desirable month for agency submissions. In fact, some agencies are closed to submissions in December.

If we want our manuscripts to be well received, we need to have done our research… to know not only where but also when to send them.

Yes, I hear what I’m telling myself! 

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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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The “Wow” Factor

It isn’t often that I am startled to the point of gasping, but this morning was one of those times. As I sat in our family room watching the TV news a movement outside the windows caught my eye. A quick glance and I breathed a stunned “Wow!” as a huge (and I mean really big) Bald Eagle glided across our back yard right at my eye level.

 

You’d have to know our back yard to appreciate the unlikely flight path but take my word for it… he was close and he was impressive! What a magnificent start to my day.

 bald_eagle-1152x864bPhoto credit: http://www.firstpeople.us