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Feb 25, 2022
Hancock here: French Creek eagles are flying!

Some of you will remember back to pre-covid times, that HWF had installed a new bald eagle nest and a CAM at the French Creek estuary. This had been sponsored by the local landowner. In reviewing the site I had suggested that we needed to not just save the nest, but save the entirety of this wonderfully rich estuary. The complexity of forest, ponds and the many deserted and active water channels deserved becoming the French Creek Bald Eagle Reserve. The eagles and the riparian waterways did not need more houses – all the living creatures needed was more natural sustainable living space. Since then many of you will have followed the trials that prevailed in the estuary.

First, our nest was not initially allowed to be built at the best site as that was not on the appropriate property. When the eagles returned from migration they built their new nest in precisely the tree I had predicted but did check out our new nest. When they started bringing in branches to our site we got our hopes up. Then a very unusual behaviour was being displayed by the adults. They would bring in branches but just randomly pile them in our nest – not carefully placing them into proper nooks and crevasses to finish off our/their new home. But why? Had they forgotten how to build a nest? Was there a change of one mate to create a new inexperienced pair? Then we learned another behaviour of eagles. They were storing up branches at our site for their new nest 500m away, to be put into place when the winter winds at their more exposed site, had abated. Our new nest was in their claimed territory but it was not the chosen nest site. And by these actions they were telling all passing by eagles – Keep OFF – this was a taken territory.

With spring came confirmation. Our nest had become a Home Depot. It was the reserve source of fine sticks to finish off their new nest that replaced their original nest. Our nest was neglected, except as a storage yard. Time will tell. Will the territorial pair stay where they are or will they move to our site or allow another pair to split their territory. The real point is that this beloved pair of eagles coalesced the French Creek neighbors into supporting the purchase of the entire 23 acres of forest, lakes and river channels as a Reserve. All this was organized by Denise Foster and the keen group of local concerned resident citizens. And what an effort, so full of wonderful surprises.

First, Denise and I did a local Shaw Cable interview with Elizabeth Heinz on Coast Connections. This re-coalesced the neighborhood. Incredibly this was seen by Joyce Butler, formerly of Central Saanich and our family next-but-one neighbor during what I always define as my misspent youth. Joyce said she had followed my career producing wildlife films, producing books and my many programs on eagles and preserving the land’s sustainable ecology. She became the first major contributor to the French Creek Bald Eagle Preserve — a $20,000.00 starting point. The fundraising has not looked back. Thanks again Joyce.

Next aboard was the BC Parks Foundation, They successfully negotiated an agreement with the property owner, the Regional District of Nanaimo and a $1,000,000 donor to secure the 23 acres of land as an eagle sanctuary and nature preserve. BCPF has now just initiated a crowdfunding campaign to raise the final $300,000 so this project can soar to the finish line. Please donate. … y Project

One of the other challenges of this site is that the CAM has suffered some internal challenges and quit. We must now wait for the eagles to depart on migration to re-new the CAM or the upper wire connections. You can see the various visits of the pair and them storing and removing branches on our web site —

So here is my special thanks to Denise and her wonderfully effective and caring French Creek neighbors for caring and supporting this incredibly productive estuary ecosystem. We hope to expand its richness over the coming years and studies have already been initiated to better understand groundwater that sustains the life of the estuary. And to Andy Day and the British Columbia Parks Foundation and its supporters — thanks for the wonderful enduring contributions to Super Natural British Columbia.

I am not going to again expound the virtues of this site and its diversification of species, that is done elsewhere on our site and will be the topic of CAMs and discussions for years to come.

So, thanks for the contributions yet to come. Let’s make French Creek a monumental name in community stewardship. Won’t our eagles love and benefit from that?

David Hancock