(Photo: Black Press)

BUCHOLTZ: Wild days of raptors return to the fore

Eagles’ nests remind us Metro Vancouver is once again important ecological destination for these magnificent birds

Back in 1927, a huge fir tree on the J.T. Brown property in Colebrook was taken down.

It had an abandoned eagle’s nest in its crown, and there were fears about falling bark and sticks.

“When the tree was down, the sticks and litter from the immense old nest filled a wagon box. Another reminder of Surrey’s wilderness days was gone,” Fern Treleaven wrote in The Surrey Story, published in 1970.

The giant eagles’ nests are no longer a thing of the past. Today, there are more than 400 pairs nesting in Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley. In 1953, when longtime eagle watcher and expert David Hancock first started counting nests from the air, he found only three active nests.

Hancock, a South Surrey resident, has for decades played an important role in raising awareness about eagles. He has published books, taken innumerable photos, conducted bird and nest counts, founded the Hancock Wildlife Foundation (hancockwildlife.org) and set up cameras to monitor activity and allow for public viewing.

The foundation’s latest project is to mount solar-powered tracking devices to monitor the eagles’ movement. As of early March, five tracking devices had been placed on eagles’ backs, and the foundation hopes to raise enough funds to place many more.

“We tracked one (eagle) four days ago,” Hancock told Black Press on Feb. 28. “The first day it went out to Roberts Bank, the next day it went to the Mission landfill. The next day it went to the Harrison River and the last two days it’s been going north up the Fraser River. Yesterday it was just north of Boston Bar.”

Eagles are in abundance throughout this area. The best place to see them is near Boundary Bay and Burns Bog in Delta, where it is a rare day if a visitor doesn’t see a couple dozen eagles. There are at least 12 pairs nesting in South Surrey, with others nesting elsewhere in Surrey and Delta and farther up the valley.

Why did eagles all but disappear in the early 1900s, and why have they come back so strongly?

Hancock – noting the Lower Mainland is a popular nesting spot because of milder weather and an abundance of food – offers two important reasons.

One is that Alaska offered a bounty on eagles until 1953, paying $2 for each pair of eagle feet turned in. This was likely due to the fact that eagles feast on fish.

Hancock said that collecting this bounty often allowed fishers from Washington to “collect gas money” to pay for their trip to Alaska.

When the bounty ended, that was one less pressure on the eagle population.

However, it took the publication of Rachel Carson’s book The Silent Spring in 1962 – which detailed how pesticides had dramatically affected the ability of raptors to reproduce – to really change public attitudes. Birds that had once been considered solely as predators started to be seen in a new light.

Eagles’ nests are no longer a reminder of wilderness days. They are a reminder that Metro Vancouver and Fraser Valley are once again important ecological destinations for these magnificent birds.

Frank Bucholtz writes Fridays for the Now-Leader.

Just Posted

Here’s why you may not have seen many federal election signs in Surrey

Earlier this year, Surrey council banned election signs on public property, highways

‘Men of Curling’ calendar features Surrey’s Tardi, who went rock climbing with a curling rock

Tyler Tardi, 21, now curls on men’s circuit, meaning he won’t play at 2020 nationals in Langley

‘Jail’ time for Surrey business and community leaders in Crime Stoppers fundraiser

Metro Vancouver organization to host Jail & Bail event Friday at Central City’s outdoor plaza

Two North Delta schools briefly in ‘hold and secure’ after report of weapon

Seaquam Secondary and Cougar Canyon Elementary were in ‘hold and secure’ for about 45 minutes

Shambala named best music festival in North America

Shambala Music Festival is held at the Salmo River Ranch in B.C.

B.C. MLA calls on province to restrict vaping as first related illness appears in Canada

Todd Stone, Liberal MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson, introduced an anti-vaping bill in April

Chilliwack woman wins right to medically assisted death after three-year court battle

Julia Lamb has been the lead plaintiff in a legal battle to ease restrictions on Canada’s assisted dying laws

B.C. bus crash survivor petitions feds to fix road where classmates died

UVic student’s petition well over halfway to 5k signature goal

NDP, Liberals promise more spending, while Tories promise spending cuts

Making life more affordable for Canadians a focus in the 2019 election

UPDATE: Police probe third threat against a Kamloops high school in eight days

Police have not released any further details into what the threat includes

B.C. Interior caribou protection area big enough, minister says

Proposals sparked protest in Kootenays, Williams Lake region

Two B.C. women selected to compete on ABC’s The Bachelor

Mykenna Dorn and Alexis Thind will compete for bachelor Peter Weber’s heart

Break out the tiki torches: Open fires allowed again in B.C.’s coastal region

All open fires allowed effective at noon on Sept. 18

Most Read