The first bald eagle count of the winter season was conducted Dec. 9 by local federal and state biologists and citizen scientists around several lakes in Southern California’s Inland Empire. The program is part of an ongoing long-term monitoring effort that began 39 years ago in 1978. Several dozen bald eagles typically spend their winter vacations around area lakes, adding to a few resident nesting bald eagles that stay year-round.
A total of nine bald eagles, including six adults and three subadults/juveniles, were observed by 99 eagle-eyed citizen scientists during the count.
Thirty-five participants helped with the census at Big Bear Lake, where four eagles (two adults and two subadults) were counted.
Ken Kietzer, a senior environmental scientist at Lake Perris State Recreation Area, reported two eagles were observed by 37 participants. Eighteen participants watched a pair of courting adult bald eagles at Lake Hemet sharing a meal of fish on the beach.
“We had one group come all the way from L.A.,” said Ann Bowers, biologist with the U.S. Forest Service. “They had such a good eagle show, they are planning to come back next month. Our eagles are great performers and love is in the air.”
Nine observers scanned the skies at Lake Arrowhead and Gregory, spotting one adult bald eagle.
The success of the eagle counts is entirely dependent on the citizen scientists.
There are three more bald eagle counts this winter — Jan. 13, Feb. 10 and March 10. No experience is needed. Signing up ahead of time is unnecessary. Just show up at the designated time and location, dress warmly, bring binoculars and a watch. Observers meet at one of the count locations for a short orientation and then proceed to observation sites where they record their observations between 9 and 10 a.m. Then they return to the meeting location to turn in data sheets. Biologists use those data to determine the minimum number of eagles in the area.
Big Bear Lake area volunteers meet at 8 a.m. at the Big Bear Discovery Center on North Shore Drive for orientation. Lake Arrowhead/Lake Gregory volunteers meet at 8 a.m. at the Skyforest Ranger Station for orientation.
Contact Robin Eliason at firstname.lastname@example.org or 909-382-2832 for more information on Big Bear Lake and Lake Gregory counts. Call 909-382-2832 to check weather conditions. An outgoing message will be left by 6:30 a.m. on the morning of the count if the count is canceled.
Contact the Discovery Center at 909-382-2790 for information about eagle celebrations following Big Bear Lake counts. There is a free slideshow about bald eagles at 11 a.m. after each count.
Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area volunteers should plan to meet at the visitor center at 8 a.m. for orientation. Contact Mark Wright for more information about volunteering or taking an eagle tour at 760-389-2303 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. or email email@example.com).
Lake Hemet volunteers should plan on meeting at the Lake Hemet Grocery Store at 8:30 a.m. for orientation. Contact Ann Bowers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 909-382-2935 for more information.
Lake Perris State Recreation Area volunteers should plan to meet at the Lake Perris Regional Indian Museum at 8 a.m. for orientation. For more information, call the state recreation area at 951-940-5600 or the Indian Museum at 951-940-5657.