Bald eagles and trumpeter swans along the Shuswap River have a good day – Vernon Morning Star


Any day you see a swan or an eagle is a good day for a bird watcher.

For a group of five local naturalists, January 16, 2022 was a big day as they counted 141 of these spectacular birds between Armstrong and Mara Lake.

On the same day, other birding parties organized by the North Okanagan Naturalists’ Club recorded swans and eagles in suitable habitat south of Oyama and east of Mabel Lake.

Adding up their sightings, the swans and eagles numbered 244 including 128 bald eagles, three golden eagles and 113 trumpeter swans.

Compared to the previous five counts (2017-2021), numbers appeared to be stable, with the number of birds only slightly below average, but within the range of variation seen from year to year. Although Tundra Swans also winter in the interior of British Columbia, none were seen this year in the Shuswap-Okanagan region. Compared to the early years of the last century, these numbers are miraculous as populations of trumpeter swans and bald eagles have been devastated across North America.

From a breeding population that once spanned the entire continent, trumpeter swans were on the brink of extinction in 1900 as the giant birds were culled for their magnificent plumage.

At the same time, bald eagle populations have plummeted due to the combined effect of indiscriminate culling and accidental ingestion of the pesticide DDT.

Strict conservation measures stopped the slaughter, DDT was banned, and trumpeter swans were reintroduced to their former range. The recovery of bald eagle and trumpeter swan populations is one of the great conservation stories of our time.

The Kamloops Naturalist Club began counting swans and eagles in 1974. With the help of other Southern Interior Naturalist Clubs, they counted swans and eagles along the Thompson River system at from Chase westward and to Nicola Lake from there.

As self-taught experts, these volunteer citizen-scientists have amassed a body of data that they are making freely available to wildlife agencies and researchers in hopes of helping to maintain swan and bird populations. eagles in the future.

If you want to see a bald eagle for yourself, there are still a few along the frozen shores of Salmon Arm Bay.

However, one of the best places to see both eagles and swans in mid-winter is along the Shuswap River. During this January count, we saw both species from the visitor center parking lot in Enderby and on either side of the Hwy 97A bridge in Grindrod.

Further downstream we had great views of eagles and swans from Riverside Road and along Rosemond Lake Road, where we observed a small group of eagles feeding on a large animal carcass with dozens of common ravens and a few hopeful black-billed magpies.

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This adult trumpeter swan with one of its young was wintering on the Shuswap River, along Riverside Road, north of Grindrod. Trumpeter swans are the largest species of waterfowl in the world, with weights of up to 14 kilograms (30 pounds) and a wingspan of up to 2.7 meters (8 feet). Young swans usually start breeding when they reach 4 to 5 years of age. (photo by John G. Woods)


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