Harrison Mills, BC has become the most famous and reliable place to see bald eagles in the entire world. In December of 2010, 7,362 bald eagles were individually counted in a small section of this area. Over 10,000 were estimated to be in the normal Festival count area from Harrison Bay northward along the Harrison River to the Chehalis Flats. This incredible world record aggregation of a large predator is an annual winter event.
The eagles start to move into our area as soon as the dead salmon carcasses begin to appear in October. The Season of the Eagles & Salmon starts with the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival (FVBEF) November 16 � 17. The build-up of eagles 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 availability of spawned out salmon carcasses. By November the northern rivers freeze up, driving the eagles southward: the eagles come by the thousands to our incredibly productive Chehalis � Harrison River complex which provides food through the winter months. Other adult eagles return to be closer to their breeding territories. We now know of over 390 pairs of eagles currently nesting in the lower Fraser Valley.
Our Festival coincides with the arrival of the big eagle migration. The Festival is the first weekend of the Season of the Eagles & Salmon. From the three major viewing sites along Morris Valley Road (north off Highway 7 at the Sasquatch Inn Pub): Tapadera Estates RV Park, Eagle Point Community Park and the Pretty Estates or Sandpiper Golf Course, the eagles can be viewed by the public. On weekends following the actual FVBEFestival the only accessible public viewing site is at the Pretty Estates fine new viewing platform. Starting about this same time the Fraser River Safari Tours offer frequent tours up the Harrison River from Kilby that enable viewers to see the great concentrations of eagles from closer up - and to visit the bigger eagle concentration areas not visible from the shoreline points.
Have you not yet seen a hundred eagles? 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 Nation 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.
On the second weekend of the Season of the Eagles & Salmon, the Sts�ailes Salmon Celebration will focus on First Nations arts and cultural events. Speakers, artists, and photographic displays feature the 7 keynote species of salmon and other wildlife of the Harrison-Chehalis system.
In season, the Hancock Wildlife Foundation hosts live streaming video cams from a tower on the Chehalis Flats, an underwater cam looking at the salmon in the Chehalis River and above the Pretty Estates viewing platform are the two PTZ cams that give the intimate life details of the Harrison Mills pair of nesting bald eagles. This interesting pair, with the female wearing an aluminum leg band, returned from the north this week as I was writing this note. Last year people all over the world watched the web as the pair reared their young. These cams can be viewed at archive.hancockwildlife.org .
EAGLE viewing sites: Harrison Mills is the rural area bordering Highway 7 at the crossing of the Harrison River and around Kilby. The high eagle counts are best seen along the Chehalis Flats, viewed from the Pretty Estates Public Eagle Viewing Platform at the Sandpiper Golf Course, located up the Morris Valley Road at the Sasquatch Inn Pub or they can be seen by tour boats. For details of the Festival and viewing sites see: www.fvbef.ca.
David Hancock, Wildlife Biologist
Hancock Wildlife Foundation
Hancock Wildlife Foundation