This weekend marks the annual Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival, an event that celebrates one of the largest gatherings of bald eagles in North America.
Already there are more than 3000 in the area and one more joined the convocation today.
Kim Charlie with Sts’ailes Fisheries oversees the counting of returning salmon on the Harrison each year.
Of course, when the salmon come, so do the bald eagles.
Thousands of them congregate here on the Chehalis Flats, where the fishing is easy.
But almost exactly a year ago on the beach in front of the Sandpiper Golf Course, Charlie’s crew spotted an eagle that was clearly in distress.
“They saw her lying there,” says Charlie. “I guess they looked at it for a while, and then decided to bring her in, so they took off their jacket and put on top and then wrapped her up.”
She called the Orphaned Wildlife Rehabilitation Society – or OWL – who took the poor emaciated bird back to their centre in Delta.
“When this eagle came in, he was not standing,” says Rob Hope with OWL. “It had a sore on his keel from lying down. It turned out it had two broken legs.”
OWL rehabilitates all kinds of birds of prey.
When they are recovered enough, they’re let loose in an enormous flight cage where they can regain muscle strength.
Only then are they ready for release back into the wild which – as luck would have it for our rescued juvenile eagle – coincided with the launch of the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival today.
After being released out of her cage and flying just a few hundred meters, she landed on a nearby fairway. A little wary perhaps of joining the other eagles in the surrounding trees. After all, she wasn’t even a year old when she left the wild, but in time she will fit in.
Charlie helped set the bird free this afternoon.
“I almost started crying, but I tried not to do that. I was very happy,” says Charlie. “The guys will be very proud that we had her come back to where she comes from.”