The Eagles at Harrison River


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.



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.”