One, two, three, four…spend this winter as the ultimate patriot when you volunteer to be a bald eagle counter at various locations in the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains. No saluting is necessary, but you’ll feel a sense of American pride when you spot one. Guaranteed.
Coordinated by the United States Forest Service and State Recreational Areas, these annual winter bald eagle counts have been conducted since 1978. Volunteers spend an hour helping federal and state biologists get a handle on how these birds are faring in our SoCal lakes.
The 2017-2018 winter counting dates are December 9, January 13, February 10 and March 10.
Eagles are found around the globe, but the bald eagle lives only in North America — Big Bear Valley has the largest wintering population of baldies in SoCal.
Things were once pretty bleak for the eagles – in the early 1960s it was estimated that only 500 pairs of nesting eagles were left in the lower 48 states. The pesticide DDT did some serious biological damage to the birds causing them to lay thin shelled eggs. They also had to contend with power lines, habitat loss and vandals hunting them for their feathers and claws as trophies.
SoCal eagles are only visiting for the winter. In the summer, they migrate north to nest in Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Alberta,Canada. Biologists have even tracked one eagle that wintered at Lake Silverwood migrating to and from the Great Slave Lake in Canada’s Northwest Territories. That’s a commute of more than 4,000 miles round trip.
Volunteers for the winter bald eagle count don’t need previous birding experience — baldies are pretty big and somewhat easy to spot (even the juvenile ones). Volunteers will receive a brief orientation and get to record their observations on maps and data sheets. No sign up is necessary; just show up at the designated time and location, dress warmly, bring binoculars, a watch, patience and a desire to be in the wilderness hanging with your new birding buddies.
- Big Bear Lake area volunteers will meet at 8:00 a.m. at the Forest Service’s Big Bear Discovery Center on North Shore Drive for orientation. Contact Robin Eliason (firstname.lastname@example.org) or 909-382-2832 for more information. Please call 909-382-2832 for cancellation due to winter weather conditions—an outgoing message will be left by 6:30 a.m. the day of the count. After the count at 11 a.m., Eliason will present a free program about bald eagles.
- Lake Arrowhead/Lake Gregory volunteers will meet at 8:00 a.m. at the Skyforest Ranger Station for orientation. Contact Robin Eliason (email@example.com) or 909-382-2832 for more information. Please call 909-382-2832 for cancellation due to winter weather conditions—an outgoing message will be left by 6:30 a.m. the day of the count.
- Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area volunteers should plan to meet at the Visitor Center at 8:00 a.m. for orientation. Contact Mark Wright of California State Parks for more information about volunteering or taking an eagle tour. Wright can be reached at 760-389-2303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Lake Hemet volunteers should plan on meeting at the Lake Hemet Grocery Store at 8:30 a.m. for orientation. For more information, contact Ann Bowers at email@example.com or 909-382-2935.
- 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 California State Parks at 951-940-5600 or the museum at 951-940-5657.
Bald Eagle in Big Bear Valley