The results are in from Brackendale's 32nd annual eagle count, and organizers are happy with the results, given the conditions.
"We hadn't anticipated a very good count," said Squamish Environmental Society chair Carl Halvorson, citing a low number of eagles in and around Squamish at the moment.
In total, a team of 60 volunteers — between the ages of 10 and 82 years old — counted a total of 962 eagles during the Jan. 7 count.
That's a big step up from 2016's relatively low number of 698 eagles, but below the 32-year average count of 1,433.
Volunteers covered 20 separate areas by foot, snowshoe, ski and raft along the Squamish River.
The conditions were foggy, which made it difficult to see eagles that were far away, said Halvorson. "On a perfect day, you can count those white heads on the trees — they just pop," he said.
For the first time, the various groups tracked their route with a GPS device, which will be used to ensure consistency in the years to come. In addition to eagles, volunteers saw plenty of elk, and wolf and cougar tracks.
Halvorson stressed the importance of conducting the count on a year-to-year basis, as it can be used to study the overall health of eagles. Counting the eagles, he said, is a form of "citizen science" and a point of pride for Brackendale, which is currently hosting its annual Brackendale Winter Eagle Festival & Count, a month-long event celebrating the species.
"It's been a point of pride for Brackendale," said Halvorson. "It's our tradition and we want to make sure we understand where our eagles are and how strong and healthy they are."
A highlight of the event is the Eagle Festival Community Gathering, which will take place on Sunday, Jan. 14, beginning at 1 p.m.
The community celebration of music, art and nature is organized by the Brackendale Art Gallery Theatre Teahouse Society and will take place at the art gallery.
It will feature performances by Squamish First Nation drummers, a short performance, and art displays and musical performances.
The event will also feature beer tasting, which will see Howe Sound Brewing introduce a limited edition Bald Eagle Pale Ale.
The day will be capped off with a talk by Wade Davis, world-renowned anthropologist and National Geographic explorer in residence.
"With the speaker in the evening, I think it's going to be pretty fantastic," said Dorte Froslev, who owns the gallery with her husband, Thor.
Froslev said there are no advance tickets for Davis's talk, and that it will be on a first-come, first-served basis. Admission is by donation.
A full list of other Brackendale Winter Eagle Festival & Count events can be viewed at the following link: brackendaleartgallery.com/Festival.html.