British Columbia Canada Vancouver Island wildlife

Podcast: Photographer Christian Sasse discusses hawk chick raised by bald eagles


An adult bald eagle with eaglet and hawklet in a nest located on Vancouver Island, Canada.

[box]NOTE: Photographer Christian Sasse hopes to broadcast live from the nest location on Vancouver Island today. His live streams are on YouTube and Periscope (links at the end of this post). [/box]

On Vancouver Island, a familiar bald eagle nest is suddenly home to a most unfamiliar scene.  

The eagle parents are not only busy feeding three eaglets in that nest.  They’re also feeding a baby red tailed hawk!

How it all came to be remains a mystery.

But there’s no doubt about who’s been capturing some spectacular, intimate moments on video.

In today’s podcast, Photographer Christian Sasse of Surrey, British Columbia shares some insights into this compelling story.

He shoots with an 800mm lens, allowing him to get extreme close-ups of the nest, while standing a great distance away.

The interview featured in today’s podcast took place the night before another ferry ride to Vancouver Island, where Sasse will return to the nest location with longtime bald eagle researcher David Hancock at his side.

VIDEO PLAYLIST: Christian Sasse videos featuring hawk chick being raised by bald eagles



Christian Sasse on YouTube

Christian Sasse on Periscope

Hancock Wildlife Foundation

Professor David Bird

British Columbia Canada video wildlife youtube

Record-setting amateur astronomer now a rising star in Bald Eagle photography

Christian Sasse (right) assists Bald Eagle researcher David Hancock while attending to a juvenile eagle. (photo courtesy Christian Sasse)

Christian Sasse loves pushing the limits.

He shattered a world-record when he imaged the most distant object from earth ever captured by an amateur-sized telescope.

Now, he’s taking aim at producing some magnificent wildlife photography.

This latest chapter in Sasse’s adventurous life began to unfold shortly after he moved to British Columbia in 2011.  That same year, he visited the Fraser Valley Bald Eagle Festival, thus igniting a passion for both the welfare (he volunteers at the Hancock Wildlife Foundation) and imagery of the majestic raptor.

And that is when Sasse decided to take-up photography. Yes, just two years ago.

Enthusiastic, rave reviews of Sasse’s photos continue to pour-in from around the world on his Facebook page. As of this writing, his page has 15.8 thousand “likes.”

Sasse regularly updates his Facebook page with fresh images, usually several times per week.

The photos intimately showcase Bald Eagles at various stages of life, from the recently hatched to the mighty, full-grown adult.

Classic Bald Eagle behaviors are also captured by Sasse’s lens(es); and we’re not only talking about the familiar “money shot” that features a flying eagle’s talons plucking a salmon from the water mere centimeters below.

For example, how many of us have witnessed a Bald Eagle standing in the muddy waters of a low-tide and patiently hunting for a midshipman (fish) that’s mostly hidden in the muck?

To top it all off, it turns-out Sasse is also quite gracious; something I learned firsthand.

Several weeks ago, I reached-out to Sasse via Facebook and asked for permission to use two of his photos in a project.  He kindly obliged.

It was while working on that project that I came across a piece of up-tempo music and thought, Christian Sasse’s photography would go great with this tune!

The rest, as they say, is history.

The music and Sasse’s photos are featured in the video below.





aviation Campbell River Canada News whistleblowers

“Fly At Your Own Risk” is excellent journalism

Earlier this week, I came across a very compelling story out of Canada.  The headline: “Fly At Your Own Risk: Why is Transport Canada moving toward self-regulation for the country’s airlines?”

I find that my mind keeps going back to reporter Carol Shaben’s story, featured in The Walrus magazine.  So, I’ve decided to write a bit about it here, not just because the topic itself is worthwhile.  But also because the reporting really shines.

This is journalism that matters.  And it’s done the good ol’ fashioned way; with lots of digging and relevant interviews.  To top it all off, Shaben is an excellent writer.

Perhaps you think you don’t care about some aviation story out of Canada.  And maybe you really don’t.  Still, here’s my little challenge for you:  Read the first few paragraphs of Shaben’s story.  And see if you really want to stop reading.

The beginning of Shaben’s story begins below, followed by a link to the rest of the story.


Fly At Your Own Risk
Why is Transport Canada moving toward self-regulation for the country’s airlines?
by Carol Shaben
photographs by Eamon Mac Mahon


in a small ballroom at the Best Western Hotel near Vancouver’s airport, Kirsten Stevens, a tattooed single mother of three, rises to take the podium, her hands trembling. Dressed casually in black cords and an emerald green shirt, the forty-two-year-old resident of Campbell River, BC, known as the Widow to many in attendance, stands out from the suit-clad presenters who preceded her. Petite — just five feet three and 115 pounds — with a barely tamed bob of cinnamon-coloured hair and brown eyes, she surveys the audience from behind stylish cat’s-eye glasses.

“This is going to be my first time telling this story,” she says, clearing her throat and glancing at the sheets clutched in her hands. “Four years ago, I could not have conceived of speaking at an aviation leadership forum. Four years ago, I was a housewife with two children and a newborn baby. In just under two weeks, it will be the fourth anniversary of the day I became a widow — the day the picket fence blew down.”

On February 28, 2005, Stevens’ husband, Dave, a professional logger, and four others were en route from Campbell River to a camp near Knight Inlet on BC’s rugged west coast when their De Havilland dhc-2 Beaver float plane plunged into the water just six minutes after takeoff. Two days later, Dave’s body, buoyed by the survival jacket Kirsten had bought him years before, washed up on Quadra Island, five kilometres from where the plane had taken off. His was the only body ever recovered. The autopsy showed that he had escaped the aircraft largely unharmed, only to succumb to severe hypothermia and drown while awaiting a rescue that never came. A resident of Quadra Island heard cries for help but couldn’t see their source. It had taken four hours for the office of the air carrier (which has since shut down) to alert search and rescue teams, even though staff knew the plane was missing within twenty minutes of takeoff.

Dave’s death opened a chasm of what-ifs for Stevens. “What if the aircraft was perfectly maintained?” she asks her audience. “What if aircraft were always tracked? What if there had been no delay in notifying authorities of the missing aircraft? Could the accident have been prevented? Could all five men have been rescued? Could they have rescued the only man wearing a life jacket — my husband? Could we have celebrated a successful emergency water landing like the one on the Hudson River, instead of mourning the losses of five families? Ten children left without their fathers?”

After a three-day search failed to turn up any trace of the downed plane or the victims, government authorities handed the matter over to the rcmp, which classified it as a missing persons case. A month later, all official searches were completely shut down. Stevens expected that a government agency would investigate the deaths of her husband and the four others as workplace fatalities, but none did. Pooling their meagre resources, the families recovered the wreckage and, later, the plane’s engine. Stevens also appealed in vain to a wide and varied list of authorities: the federal minister of transport, infrastructure, and communities; BC’s minister of transportation and infrastructure; Canada’s Transportation Safety Board; the federal minister of labour; the provincial ministry of labour and citizens’ services; the provincial ombudsman of justice; her provincial mla; her federal MP; several BC senators; the standing committee on transport and communications; and BC’s Workers’ Compensation Board. Eventually, the families hired a private investigative firm, which found that the plane’s floats were “leakers” long overdue for reskinning, that there were non-conforming parts on the aircraft, and that the plane was due for a major overhaul. The firm also speculated that the airline had not carried out mandatory 100-hour inspections of the plane’s engine.

The only official report Stevens received came from BC’s chief coroner’s office — more than four years after the crash. The account, she says, was riddled with inaccuracies and omissions and failed to provide her or the other victims’ families with any sense of closure. The Transportation Safety Board of Canada — the independent agency mandated to investigate crashes for cause and contributing factors — did not follow up, claiming there was nothing new to be learned. (Nor, says Stevens, is there any reference to the accident on the tsb’s website, which lists only two passenger deaths by air taxi in 2005, the year of her husband’s crash.) In a discussion with the coroner, Stevens learned that Bill Yearwood, the board’s Pacific Region manager for aviation, had submitted a preliminary report on the accident, which she obtained by submitting an access to information request. In Yearwood’s account, the tsb’s inspection showed no evidence of problems with the aircraft’s engine, performance, or maintenance. Instead, it indicated that poor weather and the pilot’s qualifications and experience may have been factors — an outcome Stevens refers to as “blaming the dead guy.”

When she realized her husband’s death might have been prevented, Stevens began reading everything she could about the aviation industry: Canadian aeronautics regulations, the Aeronautics Act, crash investigation reports, civil aviation studies and recommendations, and books with titles like Managing the Risks of Organizational Accidents; Black Box: Why Air Safety Is No Accident; and Flying Blind, Flying Safe. She also joined AvCanada, Canada’s busiest aviation employment website and discussion forum, where she discovered that many aviation professionals shared her concerns about the lack of oversight of Canada’s commercial air carriers.

Then she got vocal. Fuelled by coffee and menthol cigarettes, she worked six hours a day out of a dimly lit den at the back of her three-storey house, not far from where her husband died. She wrote letters to unions and government officials, and launched and a blog called dhc2 Widow’s Space, both dedicated to aviation safety. She initiated a petition to Stephen Harper’s office, asking for a public inquiry into her husband’s accident and the air taxi industry in Canada. Slowly, others in the air safety community started paying attention.

Her mission has since… (read full story here)

B.C. mystery feet British Columbia Canada forensics law enforcement mysteries mystery feet News RCMP Royal Canadian Mounted Police true crime unsolved unsolved mysteries

Foot found on Michigan beach


(August 1)  A human foot encased in a sock and size 10 Reebok sandal was found washed-up on a Lake Huron (Michigan) beach this week.  Investigators already have a few missing persons cases that may, ultimately, help solve the mystery.

One of those cases, according to the, concerns the “mysterious” drowning of a Detroit lawyer in August 2005.

Still, investigators are not ruling-out the possibility that the Michigan case is connected to the “mystery feet” that have washed ashore in British Columbia:

The Michigan foot joins five detached feet that have washed up in B.C. in the past year, sparking a police and forensic investigation and heated speculation as to their origins. Two of the feet belong to the same person, and a third belonged to a man who went missing from the Lower Mainland a few years ago.

“I’m not going to discount any possibilities at this point,” Det. Sgt. Harshberger said, “including that this has something to do with what’s happened up there in Canada. … We’ll certainly be looking to investigators there for some guidance on this one.”

The most likely source of the foot, he said, is Charles (Chuck) Rutherford, 35, who is presumed dead along with his girlfriend, Lana Ann Stempien, also 35. The couple reportedly drowned on a boat trip that started in Belle River, Ont., a lake community near Windsor, in August, 2005. –

The Lake Huron foot has been taken to a Michigan State Police Crime Lab.  The foot’s DNA is expected to be compared to the DNA profiles of missing persons and unidentified bodies.

*To read the archives concerning the B.C. mystery feet, please click here.

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Body found in barrel floating in river

Phone interview with George Knight; the man who first saw the body.


(July 24) While the Royal Canadian Mounted Police already have quite a mystery concerning the human feet that have emerged along the shores of British Columbia, another Canadian waterway has just served-up another grisly find:  The body of a man found stuffed inside a barrel that had been floating down the Lee River northeast of Winnipeg.

According to a breaking news story in this afternoon’s Winnipeg Free Press, two neighbors noticed the barrel bobbing in the river Wednesday:

Two cottagers were horrified when they discovered the decomposing body of a man stuffed face-first inside a barrel floating in the Lee River on Wednesday morning.

George Knight, 69, was repairing his dock in Fisher’s Grove along the Lee River, about 90 kilometres northeast from Winnipeg, when he and neighbour Richard Marcotte noticed a barrel bobbing in the water between their two properties.

Knight said he and Marcotte rolled the barrel near the river’s edge and pried the lid off only to discover a man’s “rear-end” wrapped in a thick plastic sheet.

“I’m pulling this plastic out and I sort or lift it up and I see this guy’s rear-end,” Knight said, noting he also saw jeans and a brown belt inside the barrel. “I just said to Richard, ‘get out of the water!’ He jumped out of the water, and I ran up to his place and called 911.” 

Mr. Knight told the newspaper that the stench from the body was “terrible” and could be smelled 50-feet away.

The RCMP says it will not confirm the story, telling the Winnipeg Free Press that authorities are waiting for the result of an autopsy.

Stay tuned…

UPDATE: Body of man in barrel identified (audio interview with RCMP) 



B.C. mystery feet Beyond 90 Seconds British Columbia Campbell River Canada CTV Globe and Mail law enforcement mysteries mystery feet News oceanography RCMP Royal Canadian Mounted Police Strait of Georgia true crime unsolved unsolved mysteries Vancouver Vancouver Island VENUS Victoria Underwater Experimental Under the Sea

Newspaper: Police knew about footless body before last week

NEW/RelatedWashington officials to send piece of footless skeleton to B.C. (Vancouver Sun, July 22)

(July 21) How do you have a high-profile investigation about five mystery feet washing-up along the coast of British Columbia and not look into the case of a footless body found washed ashore just across the border?

That’s been the question slowly-aimed at the Royal Canadian Mounted Police ever since last Friday’s exclusive CTV report concerning a body found on the shores of Orcas Island, Washington more than a year ago. In fairness, the report also said that the coroner in Washington State never felt compelled to notify the the BC Coroners Service about the Orcas Island discovery until after he was contacted by the CTV crew last week.

But according to a story published in this morning’s Globe and Mail, the RCMP was already aware of the Orcas Island body prior to last week’s CTV story.  Here are the lead paragraphs in today’s Globe and Mail report:

Police investigating washed-up feet knew about an unidentified, footless body found off the shores of Orcas Island in Washington before media reports last week, RCMP Constable Annie Linteau said yesterday.

But she wouldn’t say when they found out about the body or what actions they’ve taken to work with authorities in Washington to see if it is connected to the disembodied feet discovered on B.C.’s shores.

Just last Friday, CTV reported:

But (San Juan County Coroner Randy) Gaylord says Canadian authorities never contacted him, and despite international media coverage he admits he never bothered to tell them he had a footless body.

It wasn’t until CTV News called Gaylord that he decided to inform the BC Coroners Service. It’s asked for DNA.

The long delay in making the connection between the U.S. body and the B.C. feet raises questions about communication between jurisdictions.

Now let’s return to this morning’s Globe and Mail:

San Juan County coroner Randall Gaylord said Canadian authorities didn’t contact him to ask about the body until last Thursday. According to documents from the sheriff’s office, U.S. authorities informed the Canadian Police Information Centre about the find in May, 2007. Sheriff office records don’t show any contact by the RCMP regarding the detached feet until July 17 of this year.

Although the RCMP recently announced that DNA has helped solve the mystery concerning one of the five feet found in the Strait of Georgia, more questions have surfaced concerning the handling of the information from Washington State.

Was last Friday’s CTV report correct when it suggested the RCMP was unaware of the Orcas Island case until CTV seemingly put the wheels into motion?

On its Web site Friday, CTV posed what had seemed like a fair–and quite serious–question:

The long delay in making the connection between the U.S. body and the B.C. feet raises questions about communication between jurisdictions.

Meantime, according to today’s Globe and Mail, the RCMP only requested a DNA sample of the Orcas Island body just last Thursday.

That alone seems to say a lot.

(You can read all of the stories about the B.C. Mystery Feet here.)

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