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Update: Sidney Visit Sept 6-10 2006

Victoria/Sidney Nest

Update: Sidney Visit: Sept 6 - 10

What a week –– I have not caught up yet so I am sorry to be late in reporting.

Update on Vic & Sids nest: One Wednesday Sept 6 I took the first ferry to Vancouver Island to check the Vic-Sid nest –– first to say hi to it and then to prepare for the actual camera insertion.

The nest, as most of the faithful witnessed, suffered a substantial loss of the west section just before the fledging of the chicks. Part of the nest simply fell away and to the ground. Now on a close inspection from a ‘‘lift’’ it was clearly apparent what had happened. The adults had initially placed across the major tree crotch a few sizeable branches. Upon these big branches other branches were held in position. All this structure, off to the west of the main fork of the fine old oak tree, was actually held up exclusively by the few bigger branches that would have been the very first placed in position by the adults. Then over the years these bigger branches simply rotted and the nest material above, as we witnessed, without these supportive lower stout branches, fell to the ground.

From my ground observations I had initially thought that the nest was much larger than it was. Once I was up the 80 feet, it was obvious that this nest was quite small –– about 3 ½ by 5 feet. Many nests go to 6 x 8 feet. However, I think that the remaining nest material which is supported by a couple of very thick supportive stems will support the remaining nest and possibly supply a support for further additional nest material. This addition will have to be balanced directly upward and not off to the west as before. In short I believe the birds will accept this base and build and supplement upward. We certainly hope so.

Now to back up: ON arrival there were of course no eagles around –– the ospreys and two turkey vultures were still hunting the area and the latter still foraging the beach by the village. I then started out to track down a ‘‘manlift’’ –– a machine that would lift me 80 feet to the nest level. I did not want to hire a climber (I hate to say this but I am too old to do that any more) as I did not want these beautiful old Garry Oaks to be scarred by the spurs. At a later date I will describe this rare Garry Oak - Camas meadow habitat and how the landowner, Sylvie, plans to restore this exquisite meadow. It soon became apparent that there were several different types of equipment. Some had swinging buckets —— oooh not so good at 80 feet I thought! Others would not go that height –– not so good either as I don’’t have 20 foot arms! Then I learned that the best machine was both very expensive and booked up for two weeks –– not appropriate either. But then I found one that was available Friday afternoon and we could use it Saturday. Marvelous.

Now I have a little kid brother –– the one I used to call Joey!! Now at 6'4" and 250 pounds he towers over me. He also is a heavy duty diesel mechanic and drives anything that moves –– or could move, and some things that you wouldn't think could move! Would you believe he doesn't like heights!! He arranged for his best friend Phil, and former fireman, who is used to scaling ladders under duress to operate the lift while I attached the cameras. Luck was with us. After a Friday nite rain, Saturday was beautiful. Bob Chappell, our talented electronics expert, arrived with all the cameras, Frank and Annette arrived with donuts and drinks, and Richard arrived off the first ferry to oversee the operation.

My brother and Phil actually made the first ascent and tested the equipment and them came down and I went up with Phil to place the cameras. First, the nest still contained the last dried out carcass of a 11" long flounder. I also picked up a cotton-tail rabbit leg (I hope that was a lucky rabbits foot!!) and two tails of midshipmen, a 6" long intertidal fish so frequently seen in the eagles diet. The nest platform was pounded flat by Vic and Sid jumping up and down so no contours or cup was apparent. This is typical and the spring re-build will overcome this. The missing west side was ““neatly missing”” and without knowing it had dropped off it was difficult to know it was gone when view from any angle but the west side. My biggest surprise was the small size as I mentioned. From the ground I had estimated possibly needing 3 cameras to cover the options of where the 18 inch nest cup could be placed. This cup is the soft grass and moss bowl into which the eggs are laid. Now on top I could only see a space for two cups but I did not like the options of where to place the additional camera so opted for placing one close-up camera and one a little farther away so we could have a view of the entire nest to show both the early nest building and later the exercising chicks.

So my task of strapping in the two cameras and tying down the cables went very smoothly. After a few shouts down to Richard and Bob who were monitoring the image I got the lens pointed in the right direction. This had a side benefit -- I got to shout at Richard -- not something that any of us usually gets away with!! The closeup camera faces N by NW, and the wider camera faces east. We hope to have both active all the time.

From the lift level I took several photos (hope to get these up on this site shortly) and what a beautiful view of the meadows and Patricia Bay to the south. It was surprising how so many of the perch trees, distributed around the region that I had seen the adults sit in, were all visible from the nest. From any point on the ground you could usually only see a few of them. That 80 foot high perspective gave such an impressive view of the surroundings for a mile in all directions.

To try and keep John the Soundguy happy, we mounted 3 microphones. I don’’t think we had the kind he wanted but it was all we had. Lets hope he is happy and gets more interesting sounds –– at least the chicks calling from inside the egg.

When we got down to enjoy Annette’s donuts I noticed it was 1200 and I remembered Mary telling me that a ferry was departing at 1240 for Mayne Island –– the docks only being 3 miles away, I made a dash for the ferry to organize the next nest. Six days earlier, the ferry schedule had changed and I sat there for 2 ½ hours waiting for the next ferry, contemplating the good talk and additional donuts I missed.

With luck our adults will both survive the fall and winter and return to nest again next year. Could we / they repeat the drama of a Vic and Sid? Who knows! But I will be watching.

Goldstream River: another highlight. A few weeks earlier Bob our camera guy had taken me to Goldstream Park to show me a series of CAMs he had set up. One on a swallows nest, a bat roost in the Park headquarters attic and two of the most incredible CAMS I had ever seen. One was located half way up the intertidal zone at the mouth of Goldstream River. The other, a 360 degree swivelling camera with a 20 power zoom lens pointed across the river mouth meadows.

This sounds simply, perhaps good –– but the kicker is the intertidal camera sits in the mouth of a very productive salmon spawning stream, hunted by diving ducks, dippers, seals and of course seasonally filled with salmon. The meadow camera looks at the waterfowl, bears and eagles hunting the same area from above. The intertidal zone is one of the world richest habitats and one not well or at all understood by 2/3 of the worlds people. What an exciting project. Darren Copley, the Park biologist and manager, wants this message sent to the pubic but the cost and difficulty of getting the LIVE STREAM image out of this steep sided valley that has neither high speed telephone or cable was challenging. I hit it lucky. One of our volunteers, a retired microwave specialist, told me ‘‘ how easy it would all be’’ –– well I am hopeful and optimistic.

After a few hours of enquiry, I hope I have found a site down the valley where we can place a disk, from there bounce the signal to another place on the other side of the valley that has ADSL connections. Maybe?!?! I sure hope so as I have seem some of the incredible intertidal sequences they recorded last year and the feasting eagles. I say eagles as I believe they possibly had a Stellars Sea Eagle visit the site –– if so, and you can see their video of the bird on our site, this would excite thousands of birders.

Mayne Island: this is another exciting adventure that I will tell you about later as it all comes together. But this will be another incredible bald eagle nest.

Back to another interesting social gathering: When Frank and Annette knew I was coming over, they kindly arranged a social evening, so I could meet another group of our faithful Vic & Sid fans –– a great evening was had by all until Frank brought out his 1000 photos of bald eagles he shot in Alaska last spring. That ended the fun –– there before me a most discouraging scene –– 1000 incredible photos of my favorite bird –– all better than any I had ever taken. A downer! But what absolutely marvelous shots Frank has –– congratulations.

Note on the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival: Yesterday our monthly, now to be bi-weekly -- November 25 - 26, 2006 is the date for our annual Festival –– this year with new exciting venues along the Fraser and Harrison Rivers where we hope to have visiting about 500 - 1500 eagles –– it depends on the weather of the week! You can see details on all the west coast Bald Eagle Festivals elsewhere on our site. Please come and visit ALL of them!! Maybe you can spot Vic & Sid!

david hancock

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