Weeks after December's snowfall postponed the annual event, local Federal and State biologist and volunteers gathered on Saturday, Jan. 10 at area lakes to conduct the winter bald eagle count.


Locally, three eagles (two adults and one juvenile) were observed at Silverwood Lake, two eagles (one adult and one juvenile) were seen at Lake Arrowhead, and six eagles (four adults and two juveniles) were observed in the Big Bear/Baldwin Lake area. Additionally, one adult eagle was observed at Lake Hemet in the San Jacinto Mountains, bringing the grand total for the four lakes to 12 eages (eight adults and four juveniles) in the one-hour count.


A large number of observers, which included 140 volunteers, joined in the count to see the magnificent national birds despite extremely windy conditions. The gusts knocked over spotting scopes; however, the spotters prevailed.


The Big Bear eagle count was slightly lower than usual, which experts say was probably due to the colder temperatures. As a result, a large portion of the lake was frozen, which kept ducks -- eagles' primary food source -- away. Eagles fly south looking for open water stocked with food and many end up in area lakes, which are part of the Pacific Migratory Flyway. The Flyway attracts literally millions of ducks.


The U.S. Forest Service and State Recreation Area biologists have coordinated counts of this federally-protected species since 1978.


To spot an eagle at local lakes, experts say simply look in the tallest trees around the lakeshore. Eagles are often perched near small groups of ducks.


It is important to remember, however, that observers should not distract or disturb the eagles.


The next eagle counts are  Feb. 14 and March 14.


For more information about Bald Eagle Counts at the Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area contact Kathy Williams at khwilliams@parks.ca.gov or 389-2303. At Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead, contact Robin Eliason - reliason@fs.fed.us; (909) 382-2832.