It was a great weekend for the Brant Festival which included birders out and about counting birds and the much anticipated eagle release at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Centre (NIWRC) in Errington.
A rehabilitated eagle was released by Kim Relcalma-Clutsei at 2 p.m. on Saturday, April 7 and the event went off without a hitch.
Bird handler Julie Mackey who assisted Relcalma-Clutsei with the release said it was exciting and nerve wracking at the same time.
“You want everything to go perfect … and it always does,” she said.
The eagle was taken to the centre on December 9 last year after it was rescued near the Big Qualicum River Fish Hatchery.
Mackey said she was the one who went into the river to catch the eagle so being part of it’s rehabilitation and release was significant for her.
She said members of the Qualicum Band who notified them about the distressed eagle were very helpful during the rescue and she said it was a thrill to have some of them at the centre for it’s release.
Sylvia Campbell of the NIWRC said the eagle wasn’t wounded but it had eagle lice and was very thin when they took it in. She happily announced that after four months of being treated at the centre it was strong and ready for release.
Before the eagle took flight, Chief Adam Dick drumming a traditional drum, sang a freedom song in the bird’s honor titled Kania.
Relcalma-Clutsei told the large crowd on hand that in her world, the eagle is very sacred. She thanked Sylvia and Robin Campbell for the great work they do at the centre and said the community must continue to support them.
She said 30 years ago she took part in an eagle release at the Big Qualicum River and the release on Saturday brought a lot of emotion and she admitted that she has concern about what is happening to the eagle’s habitat.
“It hurts my feelings that eagles on the Big Qualicum are starving,” she stated.
She said her brothers often bring fish to the centre for the birds and will continue to do so.
Once the eagle was set free, it spread its strong wings and took off over an appreciative crowd.