Are this year’s Eagle Run eagle counts unusual?

Photo by Carl Halvorson. Eagles gathered along Laramee Road, November 26, 2017.

Eaglewatchers  have been happy with our eagle counts this season. Numbers began to rise in late November (81 on November 22 and 100 on November 30) and peaked at 171 on December 8.

On December 18, as the cold and snowy weather closed in, our count dropped from 59 eagles in the morning to 14 in the afternoon. We have seen this happen before when weather deteriorates, as the eagles seek shelter deep in the forest or head upriver to protected spawning channels.

Our volunteers have noted that daily counts can vary extremely. There can be 12 eagles one day and 88 the next. Nature photographers are familiar with this pattern of many eagles one day and few the next.

So how does this compare to previous years? The December 9, 2006 morning count was 568: that is the highest total hourly count we found with our quick scan of records we have in digital form. One volunteer described the scene at that time as “eagles dotting the trees across the river like Christmas ornaments”. Peak daily counts stayed above 100 until December 27. More recently, the December 8, 2012 morning count was 221. That season, counts dropped off gradually through January.  2017 – 2018 was our most recent season with peak hourly counts over 150. We saw 159 eagles in the morning on December 2, 2017 and then numbers fell steadily. The highest count after mid-December was 43.

So our answer is “Yes. We typically seem to see higher numbers only every five or six years. Let’s hope the eagles find enough food to keep them here until our annual Brackendale Winter Eagle Count on January 8, 2023.