(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

Surrey business groups dig in heels on LRT

Mayor-elect Doug McCallum and his coalition aim to cancel LRT in favour of extending SkyTrain

New faces on Surrey council: Who they are and how they got here

The council includes seven of eight candidates who ran with Doug McCallum-led Safe Surrey Coalition

UPDATE: Missing Surrey girl, 15, located

Surrey RCMP sought help to locate Hailey McClelland

Surrey’s mayor-elect McCallum has big promises to keep

From estimated 337, 289 eligible voters in Surrey, 109,791 votes were cast for 32.5 per cent turnout

Dancing zombies expected in droves at Surrey’s ‘Thrill the World’ event

Michael Jackson’s iconic video inspires group-dance gatherings around the globe

B.C. sailor surprised by humpback whale playing under her boat

Jodi Klahm-Kozicki said the experience was ‘magical’ near Denman Island

China opens mega-bridge linking Hong Kong to mainland

The $20 billion bridge took almost a decade to build while incurring major delays and cost overruns

Dangerous Cat 4 Hurricane Willa closing in on Mexico coast

Officials said 7,000 to 8,000 people were being evacuated from low-lying areas, mostly in Sinaloa state

Excessive speed named as cause of Taiwan train derailment

18 people were killed and at lesat 170 more were injured

Ovechkin has 4 points as Caps rough up Canucks 5-2

WATCH: Defending champs pick up impressive win in Vancouver

Vancouver mayoral hopefuly admits defeat, congratulates winner Kennedy Stewart

Ken Sim of the Non-Partisan Association apologized for the time it took to acknowledge Stewart won

Mental fitness questioned of man charged in Chilliwack River Valley shooting

Peter Kampos told his lawyer ‘his dreams are being stolen and turned into drugs’ at Surrey Pre-trial

Fraser Valley mom stuck in Africa over adoption delay

Kim and Clark Moran have been waiting four weeks to bring son home

B.C. government moves to tighten resource industry regulations

New superintendent will oversee engineers, biologists, foresters

Most Read