Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival takes flight Saturday

Eagle enthusiasts are in luck: the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival has returned after being cancelled for the past few years.

The festival kicks off Saturday in Harrison Mills., where attendees can gather and watch thousands of bald eagles descend into the Harrison River. This is a free public viewing located at the Gazebo lookout at the Sandpiper Golf course, just north of Highway 7 at Morris Valley Road.

David Hancock of the Hancock Wildlife Foundation says the Harrison River holds the largest gathering of eagles in the world.

In 2018, Hancock — who has been studying eagles for over 65 years — said about 35,000 eagles gather annually in the lower Fraser Valley between November and February, and some days about 2,000 to 3,000 raptors move in.

“It’s the biggest single accumulating area because the Harrison River is the single most productive river,” Hancock said at the time. “It’s the only river in Canada called a salmon stronghold river.”

The Harrison River is a tributary of the Fraser River and runs about 18 kilometres in length.

As rivers in Yukon, Alaska, and northern British Columbia ice up, food supplies freeze too, which forces the eagles south, according to Hancock.

“Our salmon are just beginning to die so the table is set down here,” he said.

But there are other factors that contribute to the number of eagles that descend on the area.

“Sometimes the north doesn’t freeze up and the eagles don’t need to come,” he added. “Some years we don’t get as many salmon so the table isn’t as generously set.”

The eagles remain in the area until February, although a few thousand may fly further south into Washington, Oregon, and California as winter deepens.

If you can’t make it on the first day, don’t worry; the event runs from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

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