Saturday, November 13, 2010

Record sockeye, record eagles!

Record raptors hit town in time for Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival
Georgia Straight: Look up. Look way up. If your eyesight is as good as a great blue heron's, you'll be able to spot black specks soaring above the Lower Mainland. Even if your vision is less discerning, get ready to welcome back bald eagles that are migrating south from summer feeding grounds...

On the phone from the Hancock Wildlife Foundation in Surrey, David Hancock could barely contain his excitement. The honorary director of the annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival had just returned from a bird count in the Harrison River estuary and expressed amazement at what he'd witnessed.

'Usually at the end of October, you'll find two- to three hundred bald eagles feeding by the river,' said the biologist, who has spent the better part of 50 years observing eagles. 'There are already 500 to 600, and they are coming in at a rate of about 100 a day. At this pace, I predict we'll have at least 1,500 to 2,000 for the festival [November 20-21].'... During November, the Fraser Valley witnesses the largest concentration of eagles anywhere on the planet.

'I've traveled much of the globe and seen mammal predators migrate in large numbers, but there's nothing that compares with this among raptors. This is a class event in the world of wildlife.'...

With food so close at hand, eagles can afford to be picky. Their preferred species is sockeye -- which average between two and three kilograms -- slightly less than the maximum weight an eagle can carry. Coho and chum are too heavy for the eagles, which, despite their size, only weigh two to four kilograms.

Canadian Press: The 2010 stocks are being heralded as the largest since 1913. In that year, a railway construction-caused landslide blocked six million fish from swimming up the river, wiping out stocks and impacting salmon returns for years to come. This year's return of the sockeye to the Fraser River has been estimated to be nearly 25 million, being the highest return of the fish for nearly 100 years.
Image source here.