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The $4000 Eagle

Norris Rocks. This small rocky islet 500 m off the southwest end of Hornby is located in the Marine Conservation Area. Winter storm waves break over the islet at high tide. Please maintain the required distance by boat, kayak, canoe, paddle-board, etc. to avoid disturbing wildlife. Please do not go ashore.

Steller and California Sea Lions live here from November until April, and Harbour Seals from May until October. Flocks of Black Turnstones are seen in winter. Gulls nest from May until July. Arctic, Pacific and Common Loons, Oystercatchers, Long Tailed Ducks and Red Phalaropes are observed on occasion. Many bird species reside off the island. Transient Orca are also known to hunt in proximity to Norris Rocks.


Arguably the best launching point for kayaks, canoes or paddle-boards is from Bill Mee Park on the southeast side of Denman Island. The launch offers quick access to Lambert Channel, open views to the north and south and the paddle over to Norris Rocks only takes about half an hour or so. Winds can pick up in the channel, so be aware of changing conditions on the water. As well, the access ramp can be slippery at low tides so be cautious.

It was impossible to know for sure, but I would estimate about 300-400 Steller Sea Lions were out on the rocks. The squawking and scent were very intense. It can’t be emphasized enough, keep your distance. You can find out more about Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations here: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/speciesespeces/mammals-mammiferes/watching-observation/infographic/mmr-rmm-eng.html

I spent a couple of hours out near the rocks, scanning the southern horizon in hopes of spotting some Orca without any luck. I noticed the winds starting to pick up and decided to start the paddle back to the launch point. Along the way I noticed a beautiful mature Bald Eagle posing on a small outcrop with a mountainous backdrop. A picture-perfect moment, or so I thought. I managed to position and steady my kayak along the edge of the outcrop without startling the Eagle and prepared for some shots.

I didn’t notice until it was too late, a small wind wave slam against the side of my kayak splashing me but more importantly my camera which was supposedly water resistant. I think I managed to get only one decent shot while the Eagle flew away before the camera turned off. I think it is permanently turned off now too due to water damage. There went my prized $4000.00 Nikon D810. It is currently being assessed by Nikon professionals in a lab in Ontario but I am not holding out much hope.

Fortunately, and if it can’t be repaired, I will be replacing the model with another D810 or else upgrading to the new exquisite D850. Going forward however, I think I’ll only be taking my trusty Nikon 1 AW1 mirrorless model out on the water with me. It’s waterproof! Why didn’t I think of that before? Hard lessons learned I suppose.

Martin Ryer is a BC Marine Trails Director and Professional Nature Photographer. See more of his work here: www.mryer.com All wildlife images were created using a super telephoto lens and crop factor in post processing.

Paul Grey

Paul has been a kayaker for twenty years and has paddled a number of locations around Vancouver Island, Thailand and Hawaii. He has his Paddle Canada I and II and level 1 kayak guide training and certification. He has worked for the BC Marine Trails as a volunteer for approximately eight years in a number of capacities including being the president of the association. He is also the co-author of Easykayaker: A guide to laid-back paddling and Kayaking Vancouver Island. Paul is a fourth generation islander with his roots in the Nanaimo-Extension area. He also enjoys hiking, traveling (Paul is on the left with a guide for the Inca Trail) and reading. He has received awards in 1993 and 1996 from the Prime Minister of Canada for his work in education; Paul is a recipient of a Royal Bank of Canada fellowship to Queen's University.

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