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Nanoose Bay photographer set to release latest book, ‘A Year of Eagles’

Parksville Qualicum Beach is full of eagle nesting areas, says Mike Yip
One of Mike Yip’s favourite photos in his new book ‘A Year of Eagles’ shows a bald eagle with a midshipman. (Mike Yip photo)

Mike Yip’s upcoming book follows a year of eagle activity in Parksville Qualicum Beach.

The Nanoose Bay-based photographer says he used October as a starting point for A Year of Eagles, since that’s when the resident nesting eagles return from a brief migration up the coast.

“Bald eagles sort of got in my head,” Yip said. “I really got focused on it for the whole last year and I thought, ‘this could be something that people are interested in’.”

After 20 years of birding and photography, he’s learned a lot about eagles and how to capture them in a photo. Patience and knowing where to look are both important.

The Doehle beach access in Parksville and Buccaneer Beach in Bowser are two of the best spots for eagles, according to Yip.

When the tide goes out at Buccaneer, a channel forms in between the rocky beach and a sandbar. Eagles and herons will feast on the fish left stranded, providing great photo opportunities for anyone willing to venture out in their gumboots.

One time Yip noticed a heron that was trying to swallow a large perch.

“He’s trying his best to handle it, they manipulate it and then they try an flip it and swallow it,” he said. “Suddenly I felt this presence behind me, and I turned around, there’s an eagle sitting 10 feet behind me on a rock.”

The eagle had spotted the struggling heron and, “he knew damn well the heron wasn’t going to swallow the perch, so he was just sitting there, almost on my shoulder,” Yip said.

Eventually the heron gave up and the eagle flew in and claimed its prize.

Parksville Qualicum Beach is full of eagle nesting areas, Yip said, another good photo opportunity.

He mentioned a study last year that found 51 active nests between Nanoose Bay and Deep Bay, with approximately 100 chicks hatched that season.

“Each nest is sort of a study in itself, it’s sort of fascinating.”

Yip’s book gives readers a glimpse into the life of a Vancouver Island eagle, such as the arrival of the herring in February — another major food event and one that coincides with mating season.

“I don’t just show the pictures, I always tell the story,” he said. “That’s part of the success of my books is because I tell the story.”

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Yip enjoys observing a good feeding frenzy, where a herring ball forms as larger fish feed on the herring from below, with seagulls and birds of prey attacking from above.

These event can last for half an hour or more.

A Year of Eagles also dives into the history of human and bald eagle interactions, such as the effects of the pesticide DDT, habitat loss and rampant hunting that nearly extinguished their populations. The Alaskan government even had a program that established a $2 bounty for every pair of talons turned in until 1953, but not before more than 120,000 eagles were killed.

Threats remain to bald eagles, such as when a farm animal is euthanized with barbiturates, toxic to the birds who feed on the bodies. Although the Nanaimo landfill now has a protocol to bury these carcasses right away, cases of illegal dumping still result in eagles becoming sick and dying.

“That’s something that probably happens a lot more than we think because we only know the ones that get on the news,” Yip said.

Lead poisoning is also an eagle killer, he said, via feeding on a duck that’s been shot, or simply through exposure eating ducks and swans exposed to lead shot in the water.

Yip became interested in birding and photography after he retired from teaching in 2001.

After a frost delay meant he could not golf one day, he happened to notice a strange looking and unfamiliar duck, which ended up being a shoveler duck. He bought a camera, and although his first round of photos did not turn out well, Yip was hooked.

“From that moment on I was just fascinated with birds,” he said. “You get good pictures and people think you’re really good, but it was because I had the best equipment, but then, I had to be out there as well.”

Yip anticipates the book, which will be hardcover and in full colour, will be ready for April 12.

It will retail for $39.95, but direct sales will be $30.

He is offering a 25 per cent discount for pre-orders. The best way to get in contact with Yip is at

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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