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Bald eagle spotting

Volunteer Bald Eagle Counts

Posted: 01/09/14 | By Daniel

Did you know a dozen or so pairs of bald eagles migrate annually to Big Bear Lake for a winter vacation?

Bald Eagle in Big Bear, CA

Bald Eagle in Big Bear, CA. Photo Credit: Danny Enger

Eagle watching has become one of my favorite winter pastimes in Big Bear, and the US Forest Service makes it even more enjoyable for people to spot eagles along the shores of Big Bear Lake and other areas in the San Bernardino National Forest with its volunteer bald eagle counts.

The US Forest Service is seeking volunteers to help count bald eagles throughout the San Bernardino National Forest (in particular Big Bear Lake) on Saturday January 11, February 8, and March 8. Six eagles were spotted in Big Bear Lake at the last volunteer count. Eagles have also been spotted in nearby mountain communities such as Lake Arrowhead and Silverwood Lake.

The volunteer program is a great way to find out where the bald eagles hunt for prey or perch on trees to rest and take in Big Bear's beautiful scenery. Taking part in an eagle count is an adventure for the volunteer counters and helps Forest Service researchers working on programs to assure the continuation of the species.

The US Forest Service personnel know the hot spots, and if you volunteer to track these migrating birds of prey you'll likely be stationed in the right area to see these majestic birds. The volunteer sessions are a one-hour period on the designated Saturday mornings. Area volunteers meet at 8 a.m. at the Big Bear Discovery Center on North Shore Drive for orientation.

A US Forest Service biologist will conduct a brief orientation and give some tips of where to go and what to look for. Volunteers are asked to record their observations on maps and data sheets. This is a wonderful opportunity to catch a glimpse of our national symbol live in person. The eagles are visible with the naked eye; however, it is suggested to bring spotting scopes or binoculars for better viewing of the birds

Few experiences in nature match the excitement of seeing soaring bald eagles in clear alpine skies over Big Bear Lake. With a wingspan of up to eight feet and weighing 10-14 pounds, these spectacular animals perch in treetops around the lake or stand still at the open water's edge, waiting for lunch to swim by. In fact, some children who participate in the eagle counts are often launched on a lifetime of interest in preservation of our natural resources

These majestic birds, which migrate to Big Bear Lake from Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, even as far away as Canada and Alaska. During the winter months most northern regions’ lakes freeze over and waterfowl fly south. This means the food they eat becomes scarce. So, they simply follow the flocks and head south looking for areas with abundant food supplies and end up wintering in sunny southern California! Big Bear Lake is an ideal habitat for eagles because the fresh water lake rarely freezes over and is loaded with small forest game, ducks and fish.

To participate in winter Eagle Counts, contact Wildlife Biologist Drew Farr at 909-382-2816. The next three counts are January 11, February 8 and March 8. If there are severe weather conditions the counts will be cancelled. If you do volunteer be sure to call 909-382-2832 before to get the latest scoop for winter weather conditions or any cancellations. An outgoing message will be left by 6:30 am on the morning of the count if it has to be cancelled.

Also be sure to stick around the Big Bear Discovery Center on the same days as eagle counts for the Bad Eagle Celebrations. That includes a free slideshow about bald eagles at 11 a.m. on Jan. 11, Feb. 8 and March 8. For more information about Bald Eagle Celebrations contact the Discovery Center at 909-382-2790.

Soar High,

Daniel Pea