A grand total of seven adult and two juveniles were observed during the one-hour count. Five bald eagles (four adults and one juvenile) were observed at Big Bear Lake. One juvenile eagle was seen at lake Arrowhead, two adult eagles were sighted at Silverwood Lake, one adult eagle was seen at Lake Hemet. No eagles were spotted at Lake Gregory or Lake Perris. Approximately 191 observers participated in the one-hour eagle census (57 at Big Bear Lake, 20 at Lake Gregory, 68 at Silverwood Lake, 19 at Lake Hemet and 37 at Lake Perris).
Bald eagle counts have been conducted at some of the sites since 1978 and all the sites have been participating since about the year 2000. Four monthly counts are conducted between December and March to estimate the number of bald eagles that are wintering in the area and the highest numbers are typically discovered in February and March.
March 8 was a beautiful day for spotting eagles and was a great way to end the winter eagle consensus, said Forest Service spokesman John Miller. Many of the bald eagles have started migrating out of southern California, heading north to their breeding grounds. A few breeding pairs have set up nesting territories and are year-round residents. A pair of bald eagles is tending their nest at Lake Hemet and in early February Big Bear Lake’s nesting pair hatched two chicks but they didn’t survive last week’s severe storm.
As bald eagles raise families in southern California, it is now possible to see bald eagles year-round (not just during their winter migration). Because of the influx of migrating bald eagles during the winter, the easiest time to see them is still between December and march.
The bald eagle is a success story of the federal Endangered Species Act. Through protection under that law, its populations have recovered from being on the brink of extinction. Captive breeding programs, reintroduction efforts, the banning of DDT and public education have all helped in the recovery of this species. There are now over 10,000 breeding pairs in the United States and they now breed again in all 49 of the continental United States. (They have never bred in Hawaii.)
Because of the population rebound, bald eagles are no longer in jeopardy of going extinct. While bald eagles are no longer protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, they still have full protection under the Bald Eagle Protection Act and under the State of California’s Endangered Species Act. These laws make it illegal to harm or harass bald eagles. It is also illegal to possess bald eagle parts, even a feather.
Catching a glimpse of the country’s breath-taking national symbol is relatively easy during winter months. There are some fantastic opportunities for excellent close-up photographs too. Just look in the tallest trees around the lake near open water for perching eagles. or, if the lake is partly frozen, look for eagles perched on the ice near small groups of ducks using the open water.
If you want to look for eagles in the Big Bear area, stop at the Forest Service’s Big Bear Discover Cent er which is located on North Shore Drive, one and one-half miles west of the Standfield Cutoff and pick up a handout on eagles. Also, feel free to join one of the forest service free public talks. For information on date and times call the Big Bear Discovery Center at (990( 382-2790.
Remember that human presence may distract or disturb the eagles so try to limit your movements and do not make loud noises when they’re nearby. If possible, remain in your car while looking at eagles because the care acts as a blind. Stay a respectful of at least 200 to 300 feet away from perched bald eagles. Do not get closer than one-quarter mile away from nesting bald eagles. Trying to get a closer look may result in eagles becoming agitated and knocking eggs or chicks out of the nest. Remember, it is illegal to harm or harass bald eagles. Please do your part to help protect our national bird.
Anyone who has had the privilege of seeing a bald eagle in the wild cannot help but be awed by the experience. I remember many years ago I was taking a “mini vacation” at the beautiful Lake Arrowhead Resort and there was a huge eagle’s nest at the top of one of the tall trees directly outside the resort. The view from the tall lobby windows was perfect for watching this magnificent, huge bird fly back and forth to and from its nest. To put it mildly……………..it was thrilling!