Southern California

SoCal Sightings: Bald Eagle Count by the Numbers

Volunteers joined Federal and State biologists on the important watch.

You may think you never, ever point your finger and shout — both are deemed rather impolite, after all — but you absolutely would upon seeing a bald eagle in the distance, perched high on a bare branch.

It's a stunning and rare sight, and one apt to make a surprised viewer jump up and down before hushing up and observing the iconic bird. But on Saturday, Dec. 13 — and on a few winter Saturdays yet to come — volunteers and biologists stayed hushed from the get-go as they scanned lake-close trees and the sky for signs of visiting bald eagles. 

The Federal and State biologists, and bird buffs from around Southern California, were participating in the "first bald eagle count of the winter" near "several lakes around Southern California."

"Several bald eagles spend their winter vacations around Southern California lakes," says the U.S. Forest Service, San Bernardino. The migration our way is the result of water sources, and thus food sources, icing over in more northerly climes.

The final tally of the Dec. 13 add-'em-up? A total of 9 bald eagles were spied (Big Bear, Lake Hemet, Lake Perris, and Lake Silverwood all reported bird sightings, while Lake Arrowhead had no reports.)

The number is a possible underrepresentation, though, says the Forest Service, due to wintry conditions at the usual mountain count sites, thanks in large part to the big storm that passed through just days ahead of the count. Deciding it was too dicey to have volunteers take on some of the icier roads, the Forest Service chose to leave some sites uncovered on this go-round.

But there are a trio of winter Saturdays to go, and you can join in to watch, and count, visiting bald eagles. Those Saturdays are Jan. 10, Feb. 14, and March 14, and "no experience needed," so volunteers should not be daunted.

Perhaps the only true volunteer requirement is the ability to not jump up and down, too hard, upon sighting one of America's quintessential symbols, the truly majestic bald eagle.

Another bonus to signing up for the dates ahead: Sightings tend to go up come January and February.

Best dust off those binoculars, or, better yet, ask for a shiny new pair come Christmas. The U.S. Forest Service, your fellow bird-loving SoCalers, and nature all thank you.

Get your lake locations and volunteer information, eagle mavens.

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