By Clare Ogilvie and Adam Daff
The residents of Squamish and Brackendale counted an encouraging 1,975 bald eagles Sunday in their annual winter count.
Bird counters, volunteers and the public descended on the Squamish River and the Brackendale Art Gallery Sunday for the event which saw a world record of 3,766 bald eagles counted in 1994. This years count was an improvement on last years showing when an arctic outflow drove many of the eagles away from the river banks.
Last year 1,709 eagles were counted in the daylong event.
The majestic raptors, both adult and immature, gather on the banks of the rivers and creeks in the Squamish Valley to feast on the carcasses of the spawned out Chum and Coho salmon of the abundant fall runs.
While the count is done by handpicked birders, and not open to the public, local sponsor The Brackendale Art Gallery Theatre Teahouse has lots of other public events planned for January.
"In January there are more eagles than people in Brackendale," said Thor Froslev, founder of the gallery, co-ordinator of the bird count and organizer of the month-long Brackendale Eagle Festival.
"It is a delightful sight to see these creatures," said Froslev. "They are gorgeous big birds."
The bald eagles start arriving in mid November and stay until mid February. One of the most popular places to view the raptors is from the municipal dyke across from the Easter Seal Camp between Squamish and Brackendale. Bird watchers can check in with the gallery as well, which also has a popular café, for a map and more information about how and where to watch the eagles.
This years festival kicks off on Jan. 8 with a slide presentation and talk by Roy Hamaguchi on The Eagles of Brackendale and How to Photograph Them . Hamaguchis photographs have appeared in a wide variety of magazines and books and even on a Canadian postage stamp.
The next scheduled festival event will be on Saturday, Jan. 15 when Keith Thirkell of the Sunshine Coast, an award winning photo-journalist, will host a slide presentation titled: Life in the Balance: The Beginning is the End and The End is the Beginning , a photographic exploration of the forces of nature at work in Western Canada.
On Sunday, Jan. 16, West Coast Music Brackendale Style will feature John Bottomly on guitar, Moritz Behm on fiddle and Dean Richards on drums, plus Farm House with Cam Salay on banjo and guitar, Colleen Salay on vocals, Sal Salay on guitar and Dean Richards on drums.
On Saturday, Jan. 22, Michael Allen, well known for his expertise and advocacy of B.C. black bears, will present The Lifestyle of the Bold and Beautiful: a Decade Study of Dominant Black Bears.
David Lassman will give a presentation on The History of the Squamish Valley on Sunday, Jan. 23. Dave is well known for his local knowledge and high-tech presentation.
The final event on the schedule is the The Wing Ding Dinner and Dance on Saturday, Jan. 29, with perennial favourite Valdy, who has been performing at the gallery for 22 years. Dinner will be the traditional Valdys Caesar Salad and the gallerys famous salmon bisque with bread and dessert.
There are also eagle walking tours to prime eagle-viewing areas beginning at noon daily from the Brackendale Art Gallery. The tours take about one-and-a-half to two hours to complete. They cost is $35 per person and include lunch. Reservations are a must.
For information about the Eagle Walking Tours or The Festival call 604-898-3333, or check out www.BrackendaleArtGallery.com