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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
) 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.

Morris Valley in the Fraser Valley of BC

great blue heron ardea herodias flies over morris valley road salmon spawning in the harrison river

Last year I went deeper into the Fraser Valley in search of spawning salmon and the Bald Eagles that would be feeding on their remains. I saw no eagles. I did manage to see a lot of seagulls and Great Blue Herons which are a bit less interesting, but subjects which would occasionally sit still for me to photograph.

glaucous winged gull laurus glaucescen flies over spawning salmon glaucous winged gull laurus glaucescen watches over spawning salmon

These are two Glaucous-winged Gulls (Larus glaucescen) feeding on salmon eggs and carcasses in the Harrison River.