Juvenile Bald Eagle At Boundary Bay in British Columbia
As Bob and I completed the trail that leads to Centennial Beach Cafe, we heard a raucous in a treetop right above our heads. A sole juvenile Bald Eagle sat perched there at rest, whereas only one week earlier, according to regular visitors, about 200 Bald Eagles were seen in Boundary Bay Regional Park and environs.
Boundary Bay Regional Park is located at the border where British Columbia, Canada, and Washington state, United States, meet. It is a significantly important bird area where migrating birds along the Pacific Flyway stop for rest, food and nesting. This hub of ornithological activity is centered around the over 5 million birds that will pass through, mainly in May and June, with over 333 species of birds represented at that peak time.
Bob and I set out on the trail that begins at the northern end of the park, just off Boundary Bay Road, and walked adjacent to the shoreline of the bay. As the rising sun cast a warm golden glow over the area, snow-capped mountains in the distance poked their heads above the thick fog that remained behind after the previous day’s incessant rain.
An immature Bald Eagle requires at least 4 years to attain the pure white head and tail easily recognizable on an adult. I suspect this young eagle is in its first year because it is very dark brown all over, but with the white bases of feathers on the underparts showing through. This gives the bird’s chest a mottled effect.
Bob and I observed the eagle for a good half hour, and it was in no hurry to fly from the tree. Perhaps given the previous several days of rain, it was pleased to sit and dry out in the bright, warm sunshine.
Bob and I had Centennial Beach to ourselves at that point in our walk, and the soft murmurs of the gentle surf could be heard behind us as we took turns studying the Bald Eagle through our camera lenses and binoculars. For our first morning in British Columbia, we felt we had fared pretty well.
As the breeze stirred the eagle’s feathers, it was nonplussed by our movements at its feet, circling for different vantage points and to find better light on the bird. Bald Eagles are almost always in the vicinity of water: larger rivers, lakes and sea coasts, but will also frequent the adjacent countryside. They require old growth forests or mature stands of trees for nesting as they are very particular about the height, visibility, and structure of a chosen tree, as well as proximity to prey .
Perhaps the flock of Bald Eagles that had departed a few days earlier were headed to one of the well known winter gathering spots a little further north in Squamish. The salmon spawning in that area usually attracts between one to two thousand Bald Eagles between November and February. Young Bald Eagles are known to roam over great distances from their home territory, so Bob and I wondered how long this young sea eagle would remain at Boundary Bay before setting off to join the others.