Viewing Bald Eagles at Boundary Bay

A juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a fence post near Boundary Bay in Delta, British Columbia, Canada.

juvenile bald eagle perched on a post at boundary bay

Juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) perched on a fence post near Boundary Bay (Purchase)

In early January I made a few visits to the dyke trail along Boundary Bay in Delta, BC. These Boundary Bay trails are a great spot for a short (or very long) walk while taking in the views and the wildlife. I’ve previously photographed a number of species here, most notably Snowy Owls back in 2012. Certain spots can be crowded with birders and photographers, so I tend to avoid those locations. I always photograph from the trails, and if I can’t “reach” a subject from there, well, maybe it will sit closer next time. The juvenile Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) in the above photograph was a very easy subject to work with. It was relatively still, had some personality, and I happened upon it in fairly decent light. During January I don’t think the breeding has really started to get going so there are a lot of eagles loitering around on various trees and posts in the area making for good viewing.

adult bald eagle perched in a tree at boundary bay

Adult Bald Eagle (H. leucocephalus) perched on a tree branch at Boundary Bay (Purchase)

Further along the trail I came upon this adult Bald Eagle perched in a tree. So often when I find eagles in trees there are branches in front of them which makes for a difficult photograph. This one was reasonably close and was also not very high up in the tree. There were two other things that made photographing this eagle interesting. The first can be seen in the photograph below. There are a lot of Bald Eagles in the area, and they would occasionally fly over and land in nearby, taller Cottonwood trees. There were a number of times this eagle stretched its wings and preened itself, but it was also not quiet when the other eagles were nearby. The photo below shows this eagle while it was making a fair bit of noise while also stretching. I presume this was some level of warning that this was its tree or something similar. Maybe this was just a particularly cantankerous eagle? This video shows the full sequence of 20 images I made put together of the eagle stretching: https://vimeo.com/396230790.

adult bald eagle stretching in a tree

An adult Bald Eagle (H. leucocephalus) stretches while on a tree branch near Boundary Bay (Purchase)

The other interesting thing I noticed when photographing this eagle was the large number of small insects flying around it. I could see these on my camera’s LCD screen and zoomed in as I was initially alarmed this might be a lot of dirt on my camera sensor. The eagle didn’t seem at all bothered by this, even though they were buzzing quite close to its head much of the time. I don’t know what attracted the insects, but considering what eagles often eat in the area, this may have been a particularly smelly individual.

small insects flying around an adult bald eagle

An adult Bald Eagle (H. leucocephalus) perched on a tree branch (with a small cloud of insects)

While I almost always see and photograph a variety of wildlife on a trip to Boundary Bay – the scenic surroundings are well worth the trip too. On a clear day Mount Baker (3286 m / 10780 ft) in Washington State offers a great view along with Lummi Peak on Lummi Island that can be seen from the bay. This photograph has both a juvenile Bald Eagle as well as Mount Baker all in one photograph – something I’ve been looking for from any of the larger bird species in the area on the clear days I’ve visited.

juvenile bald eagle sitting on driftwood with mount baker

A juvenile Bald Eagle on a piece of driftwood next to Boundary Bay. Mount Baker (Washington) in the background. (Purchase)

For more of my photographs of birds visit my Bird Photos Gallery.

Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival (2013)

A Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) roosting in a tree at Chehalis Flats during the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival in British Columbia, Canada

bald eagle roosting in a tree at chehalis flats during the fraser valley bald eagle festival in british columbia, canada

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on the Chehalis Flats (Purchase)

-click to enlarge-

   Last weekend I headed out to the Harrison and Chehalis Flats area to photograph Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) with Seattle area photographer Steve Cole during the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival.

   The cold temperatures had frozen a lot of the shallow waters along the Chehalis Flats area. While the flowing water in some of the channels still had some spawning salmon, much of the water was frozen. I suspect many of the dead salmon that would normally be eagle food were frozen into the ice, and as a consequence there were not nearly as many eagles as usual along the roadside where I often photograph. One eagle did sit on the ice eating a salmon head for a few minutes before flying away. The adult pictured above perched in this tree and remained fairly still so I was able to make some photographs. Not the opportunities that we found last year but still my second most successful trip out there.

My Top 10 Photos of 2012

   I always find it difficult to narrow down a years worth of photographs into one list of the “best”. It is a good exercise, however, to really sit down and go through your work and determine what images best fit your current vision for your photography. I did this back in 2010 and 2011 as a part of Jim Goldstein’s project and I am please to enter my images again for this years version.

   All of these photographs are available as Fine Art Prints.

   So in no particular order these are the “top” (probably better termed as favourite) photos I have made in 2012.

kalamalka lake provincial park panorama
Kalamalka Lake Provincial Park Spring Panorama

(Coldstream, British Columbia)

Read moreMy Top 10 Photos of 2012

The Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival

bald eagle halieaeetus leucocephalus with mount woodside in the background near the harrison river in british columbia, canada

Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

-click to enlarge-

   Last weekend I headed out to the Harrison and Chehalis River area to photograph Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) with Seattle area photographer Steve Cole. This was the last weekend of this year’s Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival. There were not that many tourists or photographers around, though I tend to avoid photographing areas that might contain crowds of onlookers. I was pleased to be able to view some very nice looking adult Bald Eagles from a vantage point closer than I usually find them. Views of large trees full of Eagles are easy to come by in the Fraser Valley this time of year, ones that are in good range of my 70-200mm lens (even with the 1.4x extender attached) are few and far between. So I am happier with my results this year compared to previous attempts.

bald eagle halieaeetus leucocephalus at the harrison river in british columbia, canada

Bald Eagle
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

-click to enlarge-

   The first photo above of an Eagle sitting in a snag works quite well for me because of the snowy backdrop. A Bald Eagle photograph with a snowy mountain behind it just seems more authentic than the backgrounds I am usually able to find. The mountain here is Mount Woodside which sits between Harrison Mills, Aggasiz and Harrison Hot Springs. The Eagle was photographed along Morris Valley Road in Harrison Mills.

   The second Bald Eagle photo here was made along side the Harrison River near Highway 7. A stop at Kilby Provincial Park had not yielded any eagles that were close, so we backtracked to this spot as Steve’s girlfriend had noticed some Eagles feeding near the Harrison River Bridge. It is always good to bring a spotter! Luckily this one adult was still sitting on the pilings and hung out long enough for us to make some photographs before flying away.

bald eagle halieaeetus leucocephalus in harrison mills british columbia, canada

Bald Eagle
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)

-click to enlarge-

   The third and last Bald Eagle featured here is perhaps not quite as photogenic as the first two, but I always appreciate it when wildlife is perfectly happy being near me when I have my camera ready. This eagle sat up on these rocks above the road for quite some time, then flew away, circled back and selected a new spot – and repeated this a few times. Maybe he/she was just too full of salmon and was looking for a better vantage point over the valley while digesting the last meal.

   Steve has also posted an account of this trip on his blog including a bit of uncomfortableness with another photographer who thought he was just too special to be friendly to others.

Search for Bald Eagles Part III ‐ Harrison River/Chehalis

bald eagle - haliaeetus leucocephalus eating salmon near the harrison river chehalis area
Bald Eagle
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
-click to enlarge-

   This is Part III in my series of posts on my search for Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) to photograph in the Fraser Valley this Winter. My first two trips were to the Lower Stave River and surrounding area. Having seen what that area had to offer, I next headed out to the Harrison River/Chehalis area near Harrison Hot Springs. This area is rich with salmon spent after their spawning period, and consequently the Eagles congregate here in large numbers to eat.

bald eagle - haliaeetus leucocephalus in flight near the harrison river chehalis area
Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus
leucocephalus
) in flight
-click to enlarge-

   The first photo shows an Eagle that has found a salmon carcass to dine on, in the shallows along Morris Valley Road. I managed to spot it from the car, and laying on the side of the road made this photo of it. A large truck went by and it then flew away – and I made the photo on the right while attempting to pan as it flew by. I have never been that successful at this, and this photo is not really any different. I find this sort of photo more frustrating than a complete failure, because it does come close to sharpness. I failed to get enough shutter speed going here, apparently 1/250 was not quite enough. However, when I screw up something I am trying early on – it is a learning experience – and that is why I posted the photographic result.

a flock of canada geese - branta canadensis - flying over the harrison river after feeding in the fields by kilby historic site
Canada Geese
(Branta canadensis)
-click to enlarge-

   After visiting the area around the Chehalis River I visited the beach near the Kilby Historic Site. A ton of Eagles around but often quite distant though I did meet another photographer on the beach. As we were slowly approaching a juvenile Bald Eagle to photograph, we found ourselves in the flight path of multiple flocks of Canada Geese leaving the nearby fields. I managed to make this photograph of a flock flying overhead. You can still see clumps of mud and grasses on the beak of the goose second from the left, though this is more evident at larger sizes. I also managed to avoid being pooped on, though my car was not as lucky! For this photo I increased the shutter speed to make sure I could get the Geese a bit sharper than the Eagle photo. This worked as the photo is nice and sharp – though I did have the benefit of having time to prepare unlike the Eagle photo.

Search for Bald Eagles ‐ Part II ‐ Lower Stave River

a great blue heron - ardea herodias - at the lower stave river in mission british columbia
Great Blue Heron
(Ardea herodias)
-click to enlarge-

   This is Part II in my series of posts on searching for Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) to photograph in the Fraser Valley this Winter – Part I was also at the Lower Stave River.

   The Bald Eagles are not the only species here for the Salmon. A lot of gulls were around, and a few Great Blue Herons (Ardea herodias) too. Herons always seem to make good subjects. They are wary but quite easy to photograph compared to some other species. This Heron was one of the first subjects I photographed with my new Canon EF 1.4x Extender II on my Canon EF 70-200mm f/4L IS USM Zoom Lens. The combo works very nicely!

a bald eagle - haliaeetus leucocephalus - at the lower stave river in mission british columbia
Bald Eagle
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
-click to enlarge-

   At the Lower Stave River I camped out a few locations that looked as though they might be likely Bald Eagle feeding spots (lots of salmon carcasses). Unfortunately I was not able to photograph any Eagles at these locations – perhaps my presence stuck out. I did manage to wait long enough to have one land in front of me but when I raised my camera (slowly) to make a photograph – they flew away into a nearby tree (the image on the right).

Stay tuned for Part III – this time at the Harrison River…

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Search for Bald Eagles ‐ Part I ‐ Lower Stave River

a bald eagle - haliaeetus leucocephalus - at the lower stave river in mission british columbia
Bald Eagle
(Haliaeetus leucocephalus)
-click to enlarge-

   Every Fall there are a considerable amount of Salmon that spawn in the various tributaries of the Fraser River. After spawning, the dead Salmon become great food for Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) and other species. There are many locations I visit every year in order to see the Salmon spawn including the Harrison River, Weaver Creek and the Lower Stave River in Mission, British Columbia. There aren’t usually many Eagles near Weaver Creek, but the Harrison and Stave Rivers are usually pretty good places to look for Eagles indulging in the Salmon feast.

   The photo above illustrates the one situation where adult Bald Eagles don’t seem all that afraid of someone approaching. I guess they know that people can’t climb trees quickly. I have seen a number of Eagles nearby feeding on Salmon on the ground – but as soon as they see you they take off. Those in the trees do not do this, but a bird up in a tree is not always a very interesting photo. This was the best Eagle photo I made on my first trip to the Lower Stave – but not exactly what I was after.

a harbour seal -phoca vitulina - catching salmon in the Lower stave river in mission british columbia
Harbour Seal
(Phoca vitulina)
-click to enlarge-

   The first time I visited the Lower Stave River this year was in early December. Standing near a swiftly flowing channel below the Dam, there was suddenly a surge of water moving upstream – this confused me initially. I couldn’t think what would be large enough to create it. Suddenly a lot of Salmon started leaping out of the water, a few flopped up onto the bank and this big Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) surged out of the water, caught one of the Salmon, and continued up stream with the fish hanging from its mouth. I was so shocked that I failed to do anything but stand there… a video or a few photographs would have been awesome. When I finally came to my senses I did make a photograph of the back of the seals head, but this is all I gathered from the encounter. VERY cool to see though – I never expected a Harbour Seal that far upstream, this far inland. I presume it ventured up the Fraser River and the Salmon were a meal well worth the trip.

Stay tuned for Part II!