The common loon has a unique eerie call that echo across lakes and bays of the northern British Columbia coast. Once you have heard this call it will never be forgotten. In the summer adults are regally patterned in black and white. The Canadian one dollar coin is called a “loony” because of the engraving of a loon on the coin. Belted Kingfishers spend much of their time perched alone along the ocean shore searching for small fish. These ragged-crested birds are a powdery blue-gray; males have one blue band across the white breast, while females have a blue and a chestnut band. The kingfishers are common around the lodge but very hard to obtain a photo of one, as they tend to fly quickly along shorelines giving loud rattling calls. The “common” loon is less common when one wants a photo. Loons are in most of the small bays we pass through but last summer it took two guides five days for a guest to get a good photo of a loon which was an important part of his “bucket list” for his trip to the lodge.
This Common Merganser is an adult female it is a large, heavy-bodied diving duck with a long, slender orange-red bill and a chestnut brown head with white chin patch. The photo was taken in the mouth of the Glendale River were families of these ducks are common in the spring. The bald eagles are abundant along the coast and will often hunt ducks. It is interesting to watch the eagles in action. It takes two eagles to constantly dive at the ducks until they tire and spend too much time on the surface were they can be caught by the eagle. One of our guides and guests saw an eagle catch a blue heron that was not paying attention. The eagle caught the heron on floating kelp and managed to get it to shore about ten meters (yards) away. Bald eagles can lift up to half their body weight, around 1.8 to 2.3 kg (4 to 5 pounds). Although blue heron are a large bird a national geographic website says that the blue heron is 2.1 to 2.5 kg (4.6 to 7.3 lbs.) so it is possible to lift the heron a short distance.
Many of the lodges guests have an interest in birds and ore often better at identifying the great variety of water fowl than their guide. The next three posting will provide photos of some of those more easily photographed. The great blue heron as a common sight in the coastal water of British Columbia. There is normally a heron on the small breakwater in front of the lodge the morning as well as along the shores on all the tours. This photo was taken on the Glendale River while watching the grizzly bears. The cedar waxwing started to appear around the lodge several years ago as were are in their summer or breeding range.
Trapper Rick is a fountain of knowledge about his unique river valley. He has worked for years to have the valley and bears protected and is very passionate about the area in which he lives. As shown in the first photo he is always willing to share his knowledge with the guest and has many stories about the bears he has known over the years. The guests photographing in the background are trying to get a photo like the second photo in the blog. A salmon jumping the falls. This will require you to click on the photo and then click again until it takes the full screen.
The small falls below Rick’s cabin for some reason created in the Department of Fisheries a need for a fish ladder. The fish had been making it over the falls since fish started going over falls too spawn so a ladder was not really needed but it did permit the weaker fish to make it further up the river and thereby weaken the genetic strain of these pink salmon. (Personal comment.) The orange support beams in the first photo go around the corner in the second photo to show the ladder by passing the falls. A trail from the cabin passes along the edge of the ladder. The third complete box up from the lower right corner is the one the grizzly bears climb into to grab salmon. It is like the fishponds at a kid’s school fair dip down and back up with a salmon in minutes. It is possible to be at the top of the trail and watch the bears disappear into the “salmon pen”.
The bears in the first photo are the ones I mentioned in yesterday’s post. After we moved to the deck the mother grizzly and three two year old cubs came up the bank from the river to just below the deck of the cabin. This photo is one I took from my small camera before they came closer and it was necessary to be more concerned with the bears than getting better pictures. But I can assure you the guest obtained good photos. Once these bears moved down the river to the fishing area and we waited until they settled in to fish we then moved down the river nearer the fish ladder and more photos were taken. All in all an excellent day on the river.
On completion of the short walk from the boat pool to the cabin the first order of business is to make sure there are no grizzly bears below the bank by the cabin and then we move to the deck. (I mention this important fact because on one of my visit I came within several meters (yards) of a bear). Just past the cabin there are falls on the river and a fish ladder were the grizzly bears come to fish. We normally sit on the cabin deck as it is possible to see the approaches to this fishing area and when bears appear we then leave the deck (picture 2) and follow Rick for a closer view and great pictures.
On the fifteen-minute walk to Rick’s cabin we spend some time on a decommissioned bridge (and that story you will have to hear from Rick) which provides views of the Kakweikan River. The first photo is looking up the river to the boat pool and the second down river to the bend where the cabin is located. Depending on the time of the year salmon will be spawning below the bridge while the bald eagles fly overhead.
More photos of a wild river day go to “Categories” on the side and “River Day”. Also select “Google Map of Itinerary” under “Pages” to locate the icon for “Extra Day”.
On the extra day in camp we take a forty-five minute boat ride across Knight Inlet, through Thompson Sound to the Kakweikan River and spend a day with Trapper Rick. This river is located on the BC mainland and once there we travel by road to Rick’s cabin. Along the shores through Thompson Sound there are black bears and the occasionally grizzly bear but most of the grizzlies are viewed in the area of the cabin. On the boat ride we frequently come across large pods of pacific white-sided dolphins, which like to play in the bow wave and prop wash of the boat.
The last 3 years we have been starting to view sea otters in our area more regularly. They are still often a distance away, but the sightings are increasing with some “rafts” of them developing in areas near the western portion of our whale watching trips. These animals were hunted heavily for their fur and were completely wiped out of British Columbia waters. Re-introduction occurred from Alaskan otters in the 1960’s. They have long been protected and their numbers have been steadily increasing along the exposed BC coast and are now moving back into inside waters. They are unique in that they don’t have the insulating blubber that other marine mammals use to keep warm. As a result they have dense (over 1 million hairs per square inch) fur and feed heavily. They are important in balancing the eco-system. They eat a lot of sea urchins, which eat a lot of kelp. Kelp is extremely important as it provides cover for juvenile fish and is where the herring spawn in the early spring. With the increase in these otters we are seeing a greater abundance and healthier kelp forests.