Bald Eagles of Brackendale

by Jack Leung



Eagle in flight, Jack Leung ©

The majestic beauty of the North American Bald Eagles attracts people to see them from all over the world. They tend to congregate in large numbers from Alaska on south down the Pacific coastline. One of the more popular places within easy reach of most people is near Vancouver, British Columbia in a place called Squamish. Approximately 35 minute drive north from Horseshoe Bay (ferry terminal to Vancouver Island) via the Sea to Sky Coastal Highway #99 [on the way to Whistler/Blackcomb where they will be hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics] will have you going through the city of Squamish. A small residential community north of Squamish is called Brackendale which attracts Bald Eagles by the hundreds every year between mid November to mid February due to the abundance of food. I have always admired the freedom and stoic calm of Bald Eagles and thought it would be worth a visit to Brackendale to admire and photograph their beauty.

Eagle in flight, Jack Leung ©

Having been to Vancouver several times before to visit family, I have never been to Squamish and the surrounding area. I had noticed some very nice photographs of Bald Eagles from this location posted on a photography web site and thought I I would email the photographer to see if he is willing to provide some hints and places to photograph these birds. I must say that I have never met a photographer that wasn’t helpful and Henrik was no exception. He provided me with directions to where I would most likely get some good shots and he was right. I ended up meeting him and another local photographer as they were out photographing on the day that I was there. I was enthralled to see the gear that they were using and must say that I had the feeling of lens envy. As Henrik was using a Canon 500mm f4 IS + 1.4x teleconverter and his friend Bruno shot off with the Nikon 600mm f4 AFS + 1.4x tele-converter (t.c.), I was left standing there with my Nikon 300 F2.8 VR + 1.7x t.c. hoping to get some frame filling images as the eagles flew near. I must say, given the distance away that these beauties were, a tripod and long lens is a must (the longer the better). I spent the rest of the day photographing with them, enjoying their company and watching the splendors of these graceful creatures.

Bald Eagle by Jack Leung ©


Bald eagle wings spread, Jack Lueng ©Mornings are the most active times for these birds and being at the right spot early is going to net you the best chances of getting action from them rather than seeing them sit on a tree branch. The municipal dyke is where most of the people go to view the eagles which are perched all over the trees across Squamish River in Brackendale Eagles Provincial Park which is closed during this time of year. There is a walk path along the river for people to stroll; however, the eagles are anywhere from 100 to 300 metres away. There is a bridge crossing Cheakamus River just north of Brackendale on Squamish Valley Road which is also a popular spot for viewing these magnificent birds. It will also bring you much closer to them where a 70-300mm lens becomes useful. You can see these bald eagles flying all over. The trick is to find the spot to where they gather and not to disturb their habitat while photographing them. There are also plenty of friendly folks who will stop by to offer suggestions on different locales to obtain better views.


Eagle on salmon, by Jack Leung ©

The two days that I was able to spend there was extremely rewarding. Just being able to watch them interact with each other, sometimes fighting over food, and other times just soaring in the sky left me wishing that I had more time to spend photographing these eagles. Just be prepared for any kind of weather during this time of year as I encountered cold strong winds, snow and limited sun. I will return someday with more time to explore this area and record these wonderful creatures in all their glory.

Bald Eagle in flight, by Jack Leung ©



Jack Leung is an amateur photographer living in Calgary, AB. Jack uses Nikon equipment.


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