The BC sky was filled with feathered dive-bombers, swooping, diving, cartwheeling and sweeping low over shallow waves, Prince Rupert, raptor squadron reporting to entertain. Dozens of bald eagles provided a spectacular display, rivalling any international airshow, their acrobatics the envy of even the most skilled pilots; an elegant dance in the sky.
Every passenger was on the deck, gasping, and whooping at the raptor dogfight occurring over our heads. The feathered jet-fighters of the bird world, actually no, they are too elegant, they are the Spitfires, and Hurricanes of the natural world. Their displays reminding me of the choreographed, but beautiful and mesmerising dogfights portrayed in the film “The Battle of Britain”.
The culmination of an afternoon of grizzly bear watching in Khutzeymateen with Prince Rupert Adventure Tours. For me it was the highlight, the bear watching had been fine, but the size of the boat, able to take up to 100 passengers seemed to prevent it getting too close in shallow water. With about 50 passengers on board, even at half capacity, it was sometimes difficult getting the best, unobstructed positions. There wasn’t much moving to allow others a better place, thankfully, except for children. Almost all’s fair in love and wildlife spotting.
I may have been spoiled by previous wildlife watching excursions, but until the flight of the raptors, I’d been slightly disappointed. Even with a good DSLR camera, and zoom lens the bears were too far away to provide really good images, a specialist long lens was the order of the day. We’d seen several mothers with cubs, and it had been great to watch them, but apart from some reluctant humpback whales, and a few bald eagles in trees there had been little wildlife.
We were probably slightly unlucky that the most ‘showy’ of whales, a mother, and calf were a little shy, with not as much as a tail fluke on show. It was also slightly early in the season, bear watching switching to the leviathans of the oceans in a couple of months. Maybe mum was aware of this, and decided not to steal the thunder of her later arriving cousins.
This is the nature of wildlife spotting however, it is unpredictable, and the operator can only show the wildlife which is out, and about. Most people were both excited, and very happy with the experience, possibly their first encounter of this kind.
However for me, the eagles saved the day, they were simply beautiful to watch, and their flying skills spectacular. They swooped for titbits thrown by a crew member from the deck, picking them cleanly from the ocean and once or twice even catching them in mid-air.
The trip was worth it for this Prince Rupert airshow alone. I’ve never seen so many raptors so close up, and their dive-bombing flying ballet was breath-taking, coming to an end all too soon.
Thankfully there are plenty of eagles on view around Prince Rupert, which seems to have a genuine claim to being the bald eagle capital of North America. They are everywhere, in the trees, on posts,in, and around the docks, and all the restaurants all seem to have large windows, providing great views of Prince Rupert raptor squadron. For the best views though, a wildlife watching boat trip is a must.
Prince Rupert Adventure Tours kindly provided this excursion, but all opinions remain my own.