2018 is expected to be year when the bald eagles congregate in extra large numbers on the Chehalis – Harrison Flats. So far the criteria are gathering for the perfect storm – a lot of eagles gathering to feast on our spawned out salmon.
The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival at Harrison Mills at the confluence of the Chehalis and Harrison Rivers has become the most famous and reliable place to see bald eagles in the entire world. In December of 2010, 7362 bald eagles were counted in a 4 km section of this area. Over 10,000 were estimated to be in the annual Festival count area from Harrison Bay northward along the Harrison River to the Chehalis Flats. Now annually 10,000 to 15,000 eagles visit the Harrison. And all this is viewed free of charge.
The eagles start to move into our area as soon as the dead salmon carcasses begin to appear in October. The Bald Eagle Festival during the third weekend of November matches the buildup which peaks in December and wanes, as the salmon carcasses are eaten out, through January and February. What really drives the eagles to our area is the freezing up of the northern rivers – the eagles can’t get at the dead salmon under the ice. Southward the eagles come by the thousands and our incredibly productive Chehalis – Harrison River complex provides food for thousands of eagles, usually for months. It is estimated over 35,000 eagles winter in the lower Fraser Valley each winter – and most pass through the Harrison.
Other adult eagles return to be closer to their breeding territories in southern BC and Washington State. Over 480 nesting pairs have been located of the more than 600 pairs believed to nest in the lower Fraser Valley. So, this tiny urban-suburban region of Southern British Columbia hosts not just the highest breeding density but also the largest wintering population of bald eagles known.
Our Festival coincides with the arrival of the big eagle migration. From the three major viewing sites along Morris Valley Road, north off Highway 7 at the Sasquatch Inn, Tapadera Camp site, Eagle Point Observatory Park and the Sandpiper Golf Course which houses a spectacular rain-sheltered Bald Eagle Observatory, the eagles can be viewed by the public – free! Starting about this same time the Fraser River Safari Tours offers frequent tours up the Harrison River from Kilby that enable viewers to see the great concentrations from closer up – and to visit the bigger eagle concentration areas not visible from the western shoreline points. This covered boat tour has a cost so book it early.
So many people still have not seen an eagle – yet during our fall salmon runs it is possible to frequently see several thousand in a single day and from a single location. We encourage you to attend the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival, see the Sts’ailes First Nations dancers and crafts, view our eagles, attend lectures on local wildlife and view all the related booths at the Festival outreach centers. When you fall in love with our eagles you will be on the path to wanting to develop a sustainable world.
David Hancock, Wildlife Biologist
Hancock Wildlife Foundation/Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival.
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(For the Press we offer two wondrous events – and a throw-in!!)
1. On Wednesday, Nov. 14, at the Sandpiper Golf Course on the Harrison River, we will be releasing a bald eagle that has been rehabilitated at OWL and is now being given a second chance at life in the wild – this offers wonderful photo opportunities. The release is precisely at 1100 at the Sandpiper at the River’s edge. A number of schools will be on hand.
2. Anyone wishing additional info or an interview may call David Hancock, eagle biologist and a director of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival: 604-761-1025