It was a perfect counting day, starting at -3 degrees with blue skies, light winds, and frost-covered ground.
64 volunteers were assigned to cover 21 areas to be counted, from the Upper Squamish to downtown Squamish, and from Paradise Valley to the Stawamus River. This year we were able to provide more complete coverage thanks to a raft made available by Instream Fisheries Research: as a result, counts for the Baynes Island and Cheakamus Confluence areas were strong. Counters also reported many eagles in the Upper Squamish where the number of birds in flight and the vegetation made it impossible to complete an accurate count. They estimated that there could have been as many as 200 more birds than were counted.
Brackendale Art Gallery, our traditional headquarters, was opened for our tallying this year even though renovations are not yet complete.
The final count was 996 and yes, we are pleased! This total was higher than last year’s count of 916, lower than the 38-year average of 1353 eagles and well below 1994’s record count of 3769. The fall was much warmer than normal and after a dry summer we did get enough precipitation to allow returning salmon to get upriver to spawn. Warm conditions meant that the spawned-out salmon deteriorated quickly, not helpful for providing a longer-term food supply.
The day’s sightings included elk tracks and a seal: the seal was far up river, near Pilchuk, and that is considered a signal that there are still live fish there. Along with lots of eagles, we also saw a red-tailed hawk, a merlin, American kestrels, and great blue herons.
Christopher Di Corrado, Alison Wald and Carl Halvorson, the Eagle Count organizers, have asked us to extend big thanks to:
- All the volunteers who return each year and the new ones who helped for the first time.
- Adrian, Jess, Jon and Lou at the Brackendale Art Gallery, for hosting again despite being under renovations.
- Luke Irwin for organizing the rafting team and Instream Fisheries Research who provided a raft and all the related gear.
Photo above, courtesy of Carl Halvorson, shows the top of the traditional count board