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Harrison -- Chehalis Wonderland & Conflict

Wildlife News
Chehalis -- Harrison Flats represent the largest Bald Eagle wintering grounds along the Canada -- US border. There will likely be 1500 to 2000 eagles there in December and January of this year.

On our count on Sunday Nov. 18, I counted one-by-one 1061 eagles on the flats and in the surrounding trees. Probably another 300 to 500 were down below sight on the river edge or sitting in trees out of sight. An absolutely incredible congregation. Thousands of predators and scavengers are always exciting and a statement that the life and death cycle is playing out its hand.

Then on Wednesday Nov 21, afternoon I returned
to the area to deal with a suspected clear cut of the nearby hillside. This hillside has historically been the major winter night roost for the area. On Wednesday we saw what I estimated to be well over 200 eagles arrive during the daylight waning hour. Still others were streaming in, only glimmering silhouettes showing against the fading sunset to the west. Then I did something I hadn't done in this area before. And I have to say I did this because of the full moon sparkling across the eastern sky. Karen, and I went back to Eagle Point, the location of our Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival main counting spot to see the Chehalis Flats in the dark. But it wasn't dark. The moon lite up the flats, the bright moonlight lite up the waterways and gravel bars, and with the binoculars we could see 100's of eagles still out on the flats squabbling for salmon carcasses. There were as many eagles out feeding in the moonlight as there had been in the bright sunlight. The action had never stopped. Perhaps another 1000 eagles were out there! The cacophony of sounds, the arguing, the territorial statements were all as pronounced as during the day, but unexpectedly coming out of the eerie moonlight night.

I have sat in blinds many times until after dark watching the eagles. Generally they would leave the feeding rivers and depart for their favored night rousts as the sun set. But not this night. Here on the Chehalis River the feasting was going to continue into the night. But for how long? The mind assembles patterns, draws conclusions, but so often the changing circumstances of nature results in different circumstances, different conclusions. This case in point. Over the years of observing the late evening activity period of predators hunting the various intertidal flats left me with the conclusion that eagles went to bed before peregrine falcons. Even in captivity eagles shut down their daily cycle and the peregrines were still intensely active. This enabled the peregrines to hunt the flats a bit later and "keep their last kill for themselves! With a little more brighter "earlier light" the eagles would come out and steals the falcons kill. But here were eagles out flying and landing on a dark hillside AND feeding on the salmon carcasses long after dark. Was this night time activity largely the result of the bright moonlite nite? Quite possibly.

Questions popped into my head. Was the competition during the day so great that it simply had to continue during the night so that everybody got a dinner? This was a year of high eagle abundance and possible higher than normal competition for carcasses. Was the high river water making fewer salmon carcasses available and it therefore took longer to feed the large number of eagles? Was food the driving force here or was it a socializing event? Was this 'moonlight activity' this usual or unusual? How had I missed this before? Possibly because we get more cloudy nights than moonlite nights! Lots of interesting questions to help us understand these facinating birds.

The swans and waterfowl were out there as well -- I can't wait to get our Pan-Tilt-Zoom PTZ cameras out on these flats to see what the day -- and the moonlite night reveals! This will be awesome. These great feasting rivers are also the great learning grounds for eagles. This is where eagles learn to be eagles. How and when to bully, bluff or give in. And it is just behind this spot on the Harrison River that we are wanting to place the underwater camera on the river bottom (we are now testing a camera and lights in a tank) to view the 10 to 16 foot sturgeons that are sucking up the salmon carcasses from the bottom! Truly we have one of the great resources of British Columbia on Vancouver's doorstep. By the way we are urgently looking for funds to further these projects!! Hint hint! More camera, more interactive interviews etc.

When I was at the Echo Lake roost site the hour earlier I had been surprised that over 90% of the arriving eagles were coming in from the west -- flying in over the mountain from the direction of Vancouver. The Chehalis Flats were 1 to 2 k to the east. Maybe this is why the eagles weren't coming in from the east -- in the east they were still sitting on the Chehalis River Flats -- feasting! Would another 1000 eagles be going to settle into the Echo Lake Night Roost even later this evening? This definitely needs further study.

I had kept wondering if the arriving birds had made a circuitous approach. Had they gone south down the Harrison River and then risen over the mountain to approach Echo Lake from the opposite side? Now maybe some suggested answers -- or more questions. Maybe the evening flight had come largely from somewhere else? If the Chehalis eagles were still sitting by the hundreds on the flats, how far away were all those western birds coming from? And from where?

Questions and more questions.
Not a lot of answers. Dr. David Bird and his / our student, will be arriving for a week of review of our south coast eagle study plans and here will be some more specific questions to look into. Already the study is to focus on eagle productivity and movements on my long-term Urban Bald Eagle Study Project. Perhaps these long-term traditional night roosts are not just made up of local birds. Perhaps some of these late arrivals were coming in from considerable distance off. Perhaps another reason for banding these birds -- to track them to their homeland and their daily and seasonal movements.

I had first seen this night roost back in the early 1980's when I regularly visited Father Raymond de Coccola, the priest who wrote my most favorite book: The Incredible Eskimo, about his life in the 30's and 40' living among the Eskimos of north central Canada. At that time he owned this Echo Lake property. This is the only book I have published that received more than a 1/2 page review in the New York Times Book review section. And it deserved it!

But back to night roosts and specifically the Echo Lake night roost. I had been asked to come to the lake when the new land owner had heard rumors that the hillside beside the lake -- the precise trees used by the night roosting eagles -- were slated for clear-cutting. How terrible. Eagle nesting trees are certainly important, particularly in urban areas where few large trees exist, but equally important are secure sheltered night roosts. These are areas where the eagles can find shelter from the winds and storms, places where they will not be bothered during the night, places where access and egress is easy and safe in the semi-darkness, places where for 14,000 years since the last ice age life has proven safe and secure.

So my point is that nesting and feeding areas are obviously imperatives for eagle survival. But so are safe and secure roosting areas, particularly from the winter storms. At least you can grow another tree in 200 years. But not a mountain. And most certainly you cannot quickly re-grow a mountain with a side-hill of aging forest giants with 14,000 years of traditional security. The Echo Lake night roost is likely the largest such roosting area in southern Canada.

In most places of North America the night roosts of eagles get equal protection to nesting sites because they are of equal importance. We must keep an eye on this great southern natural wonder -- the Chehalis -- Harrison Flats and the adjoining night roosts. I will keep you posted on this disturbing development.

Here is a Google Map showing the area, the local nests, our CAM sites, Eagle Point Observatory -- and the adjacent Echo Lake night roost. See the Media Gallery

david hancock

PS Hancock to give Chehalis -- Harrison River Bald Eagle Tour:
I will be giving guided tours of the bald eagles of the Chehalis -- Harrison Flats on Dec 9th with the Fraser River Safari fine people -- we will likely see 1000+ eagles in a few hours. Come join us:

Nowhere in NA with the possible exception of a raft triip in the Brackendale -- Squamish River System will you see so many eagles. For birders or naturalists wanting such an easy opportunity to view 100's of eagles -- well don't miss these areas.
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The Hancock Channel - now online

Wildlife NewsAs part of our ongoing expansion of wildlife viewing, we bring you the Hancock Channel - where you'll see clips and live streams from various sources. Live sources will include things like live interviews and events. Clips may be from our current cameras or from archival footage, both ours and others'.

An expanded version of the Hancock Channel will be included in each of our subscription packages through Insinc starting shortly.

Our first session is from Saturday, November 17, 2007 - during the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival

It was our hope to live-cast from the Eagle Point viewing platform for most of the two day festival, however technical problems and bad weather have shortened the session to just over an hour, now playing as an archive on the Hancock Channel.

Watch for other specials, and watch the channel for replays.

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Chehalis River Estuary Above Ground Eagle Cam

Wildlife NewsIntallation Progress:

Installation of the above-ground eagle cams on the Chehalis Estuary will be delayed until after the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival due to continued high water levels.
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Backyard Birds Disappearing

Wildlife News

Decline of the songbirds
Last Updated June 22, 2007
CBC News

It's not been a good year for the birds and the bees. A few months ago, media outlets were seized with the unexpected collapse of otherwise thriving bee colonies across the U.S. and in parts of Canada, a mystery that still has scientists baffled.

Now, the National Audubon Society in the U.S. has reported on a devastating decline in the common bird. The 20 most popular species — the warblers and songbirds that frequent our backyard feeders, as well as the small ducks and game birds that scurry through fields and wetlands — have seen their numbers drop an astounding 54 per cent over the past 40 years, the NAS says. The top 10 birds in this category have seen their numbers dwindle by an average of more than 70 per cent.
Click here for more on this story (CBC.CA)

Northern bobwhite: A staggering 25 million fewer today than in the mid-1960s, according to the New York-based National Audubon Society. (National Audubon Society/Canadian Press)

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Let the eagles stay: Burnaby senior

Wildlife NewsOne of our Foundation members, Will Patterson (aka willpat) got his name in the local Burnaby, BC paper this weekend with his stand on an eagle nest on property slated for development.

"By Michael McQuillan/NewsLeader

Mario Bartel/Newsleader
Will Patterson says he's worried a plan to develop a vacant lot on Norfolk St., just off Canada Way, will disturb an eagle's nest in a tall cottonwood tree at the edge of the lot.

A Burnaby senior wants to stop a developer from taking out trees on an undeveloped lot that is home to an bald eagles’ nest.

Will Patterson spent much of the spring and summer watching and videotaping a pair of eagles successfully raise their two eaglets. The tree stands in a property slated for development and Patterson would like the city of Burnaby to protect the area by reversing its original decision.

The property is in Broadview Park off Norfolk Street. It’s believed the eagles built the nest in February.

Around the same time, the city OK’d the development plans for a high density four-storey building.

Now that the nest has been discovered, Patterson says that’s a good reason for the city to review the development plans..."

For the full story, please see the Burnaby Newsleader web site

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Product Donations

Wildlife News

Product Donations also Gladly Received

The Hancock Wildlife Foundation is always needing specialized, new or used equipment for which we will also issue receipts.

Camcorders, Video Editing equipment etc. For placement in nests, for upcoming school projects or testing sites. Also needed tripods etc.

Satellite Telemetry equipment: If any biologist has left over equipment we would love to use it in our upcoming eagle tracking project.

In particular we seek a sponsor who could supply high quality and high resolution cameras for the nests and other projects.

OK – here’s a Different Request: Does anybody have a spare aircraft, particularly a 2 - 4 place float plane, that they would donate for our surveys etc? I did have my commercial pilots license and would like to get back to these surveys. And of course it would support our other projects so effectively. What a dream for the Foundation and a fine way for someone to convert an aircraft, or surplus motorhome, into a full tax deduction.

A Specific Donation Needed:

Underwater or Weatherproof Video Housings needed:

The Foundation is always looking for donations of Weatherproof Housings or Underwater Housings that we can adapt to video cameras. We want them for putting in anything from eagle nests, to sitting on the bottom of rivers to sitting out in the open fields for months of exposure. Bob Chappel, our technical man on the Island, uses them in many bird nesting and school projects.

OK – here’s a Different Request:

Does anybody have a spare aircraft, particularly a 2 - 4 place float plane, that they would donate for our surveys etc? I did have my commercial pilots license and would like to get back to these surveys. And of course it would support our other projects so effectively. What a dream for the Foundation and a fine way for someone to convert an aircraft, or surplus motorhome, into a full tax deduction.

David Hancock

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A New Season and a New Look

Wildlife NewsWelcome to our new-look Hancock Wildlife Foundation web site. Over the past month or so a dedicated team of volunteers has been working toward what you are now viewing - and there is more to come. Along with the new look, we're finally getting back to the organization of the site, including getting the Biology Reference materials all into one place and organized.

You'll also notice a new banner and color scheme on our Hancock Wildlife Channel web site. Our Discussion Forum will not be changed until we have the new version of the discussion software ready for installation - likely a few weeks. At that time it too will share our new graphic logo and brighter colors.

One of the major complaints about our web presence has been that the three different sections looked so much alike that people in many cases didn't realize there were actually three different web sites with three different purposes. This caused quite a bit of a problem since all three sites also have their own "membership" database and the login info is not yet shared between them. People would sign up on one, then try to log into another and get an error message saying the system didn't know them - not good.

The three sites serve completely different yet complimentary purposes. For a look at why things are the way they are, you are invited to the Web Discussion section in our Discussion Forum. If you have time and are interested in helping, there's still lots to do and will be on an ongoing basis.

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Welcome to our new look

Wildlife NewsHancock Wildlife Foundation is growing and changing.

The Foundation is taking on more projects, and we're working hard to make your web experience and camera watching not only educational and entertaining, but also as easy and enjoyable as we can.

We've learned a lot over the past two seasons. We know you, our members and viewers and supporters better, and we're going to get to know you even better in the coming months and years. One of the things that has bugged people the most has been the confusion over our various web pieces. We've had a Discussion Forum topic where you've told us what you felt were the major problems, and where we've discussed some of the solutions, and where we've put together a team of volunteers to help us make things better.

Our new Home Page and the changes to our main Hancock Live Camera selection page and each of the individual nest site camera pages is a direct result of your feedback. You wanted things simpler, and with a bit of technical wizardry in some areas we think we've managed to make things at least a bit easier.

Besides the new splashy Home Page, which we'll be changing periodically to introduce the various seasons and projects that happen throughout the year, the biggest change is in the way you find and select cameras, and how the camera pages themselves work. As in the past, each nest site is the topic for articles and information about the site - and we welcome you to submit articles on your experiences with the images and information you've gained. In addition, now each camera has its own separate viewing page - linked from the main camera selection page directly. In some cases the story topic and viewing page are in fact one and the same, such as our new Haines Alaska Eagle Cam page

In other cases such as our Sidney Nest site cameras, each camera (in this case the Wide and the Close-up) have their own pages that automatically start showing you the camera - and may allow you to switch back and forth between the two (or more) views if you are viewing via Windows Media. If you have the Neokast plugin installed, you'll immediately get the camera view that way. You'll also see the usual link to Insinc for our subscription viewing.

In addition to the new camera page, we've introduced a new Biology Reference Index where we've linked in all the existing items and given you an indication of where we'll be pushing our specialist authors to organize reference works on biology, anthropology and history.

We've also simplified the top menu bar and made it the same across the main web sites. We'll be changing the discussion forum site to match both the new look and the new menu system as soon as the new version of its software is ready - very shortly.

If you have any comments, good or bad, on our changes, please feel free to post them in our Web Discussion Forum area or as comments to this posting.


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