Winter bald eagle counts return for 40th year

Contact(s): Zach Behrens, 909-382-2788


One of the most popular organized wildlife watching activities on the San Bernardino National Forest is back, now in its 40th year. The annual winter bald eagle counts will be held over the next four months at five lakes throughout the Inland Empire, including two managed by California State Parks. The public can put their citizen scientist hat on and come out to collect data that helps U.S. Forest Service biologists understand the local wintering bald eagle population. The program is part of an ongoing long-term monitoring effort that began in 1978.

“Over the past four decades, we’ve witnessed the bald eagle population recover from low numbers to a healthy population under the protection from the Endangered Species Act. Eagles are now doing so well they are no longer considered an endangered species,” said wildlife biologist Robin Eliason. “With the help of the public’s continued help, we are able to track population trends in the forest.”

The first count will be held on the morning of Sat., Dec. 15, aligning with the annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count, followed by three more on the second Saturdays of the first few months of 2019: Jan. 12, Feb. 9 and March 9. No reservations are needed; just show up at a designated location at the start time with binoculars and a way to keep time. And don’t forget to dress for winter weather!

Time and location details are as follows:

  • Big Bear Lake area volunteers will meet at 8 a.m. at the Big Bear Discovery Center on North Shore Drive (Hwy 38) for orientation. Contact Robin Eliason (reliason@fs.fed.us 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 am on the morning of the count, if it has to be cancelled. There will also be a free slideshow presentation about bald eagles at 11 a.m. after each count.
  • Lake Arrowhead/Lake Gregory area volunteers will meet at 8 a.m. at the Skyforest Work Center on Hwy 18 for orientation. Contact Robin Eliason (reliason@fs.fed.us 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 am on the morning of the count if it has to be cancelled.
  • Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area volunteers should plan to meet at the Silverwood Lake’s Visitor Center at 8 a.m. for orientation. Contact Mark Wright for more information about volunteering or taking an eagle tour (760-389-2303 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.; or email: mark.wright@parks.ca.gov).
  • Lake Hemet volunteers should plan on meeting at the Lake Hemet Grocery Store at 8:30 a.m. for orientation.
  • 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 Lake Perris SRA at 951-940-5600 or the Lake Perris Regional Indian Museum at 951-940-5657.

Those who can’t make the counts can still try to see bald eagles around our local lakes this winter. Contact the Big Bear Discovery Center (909-382-2790) or the Idyllwild Ranger Station (909-382-2921) for eagle watching tips and etiquette on the San Bernardino National Forest.

And for eagle viewing any time of the day, the live feed of the bald eagle nest is back! Through a partnership with the Friends of the Big Bear Valley, a new camera was installed this summer, offering a higher resolution feed, better zooming and a nearly 360-degree panning option. It can be viewed at the Institute for Wildlife Studies’ website or on YouTube. Last winter, viewers were able to witness the laying and hatching of two chicks.

The webcam monitors a nest on the north shore of Big Bear Lake, where the annual winter bald eagle closure begins Wed. Dec. 5, lasting through June 21 at the latest. The closure encompasses Grout Bay Picnic Area, Grays Peak Trail and surrounding national forest areas. No entry, including snow play on the edges of the area, is allowed. Bald eagles during nesting season are sensitive to human interference and may abandon nesting activities if feeling threatened.





https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/sbnf/news-events/?cid=FSEPRD605578