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Review: ‘A Year of Eagles’ by PQB author, photographer Mike Yip

Nanoose Bay birdwatcher tells the stories behind the photos
Mike Yip’s latest book ‘A Year of Eagles’ chronicles a year of eagle activity in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area. (Mike Yip photo)

Mike Yip’s new book focuses on the majestic bald eagle, one of the Parksville Qualicum Beach area’s most iconic and beautiful birds.

A Year of Eagles: Vancouver Island Birds Vol. 5 is full of large full colour, high-resolution action photos, but what makes it an extra interesting read is Yip tells the stories behind the snapshots.

The book follows a year of eagle activity in the PQB area and covers the birds’ life cycle including hunting, nesting, procreation and raising young.

In southwest B.C., resident eagles migrate north with their young in August to feast on the earlier salmon spawn. They return in the fall to reclaim their territories, Yip explains.

Fall is nest-building (or renovating) time for the eagles, which Yip illustrates well with some shots that capture eagles transporting materials such as sticks, dried seaweed and moss to fix up their homes (“Just back from IKEA to furnish the nest,” Yip writes).

The eagles return just in time to chow down on spawning salmon, and the carcasses that litter the tidal area are a main source of food.

Sea lions also take advantage of the plentiful salmon at this time of year. One of my favourite photos from A Year of Eagles shows a sea lion with a mouthful of eviscerated salmon.

In addition to the eagles, Yip’s managed to capture impressive shots of black bears, herons, Brant geese and coho, among other Island critters.

From December to February, it’s scavenging time since the salmon carcasses are gone. This difficult time of year puts the eagles in survival mode, Yip says.

It also is a season of increased risk, since the birds of prey will resort to eating remains at landfills where there is a threat of toxic contamination.

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

This is still a good time for eagle-watchers though, as Yip has spotted 200 eagles at a time scavenging around the composting facility in Parksville.

“Herring time” runs from mid-February to April, as the days get longer and migratory birds of all kinds descend on the Salish Sea.

Yip includes a remarkable, close up photo of some herring eggs, and some interesting, though sad, history about herring populations and over-fishing.

Another photo highlight is an extreme close up of an eagle with a midshipman in its beak, with amazing details. Yip calls the season from April to June “Midshipman madness”, since these fish are a critical food source during the eagles’ nesting season.

Yip’s book is also a case study in PQB area (and beyond) eagle nests. He tells you the story of the different eagles building (and rebuilding or relocating) their homes and uses local knowledge to complement his own observations.

After reading A Year of Eagles, you will be able to identify how old a bald eagle is based on its characteristics and discern if a midshipman fish is a male or a female (and there are apparenty two types of male midshipman).

Yip retired from teaching in 2001, and one day on the golf course his interest was piqued by an odd-looking duck, which turned into a passion for birds and photography. Within a few years he had self-published the first of his eight books, mostly focused on Vancouver Island birds.

He uses his photos to educate and inspire the public about birds and nature, which he accomplishes with A Year of Eagles, covering bald eagle features, their nests, the species’ near extinction and their resilience in the 21st Century.

The book can be found in local bookstores and direct purchases are available now by emailing admin@vancouverislandbirds.

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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