Volunteers are needed to help count bald eagles for the annual winter bald eagle counts in and near the San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains on Saturday, Jan. 11. These counts have been conducted since 1978.

Concurrent bald eagle counts are held at Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Lake Silverwood, Lake Perris and Lake Hemet. Volunteers are stationed at vantage points around the lakes, where they watch for bald eagles during a one-hour period on the count mornings. Volunteers record their observations on maps and data sheets.

This is a wonderful opportunity to catch a glimpse of the national symbol. Brief orientations are held prior to the count so volunteers know where to go and what to do.

Lake Hemet volunteers should meet at the Lake Hemet Market at 8:30 a.m. for orientation. Contact Anne Poopatanapong at [email protected] or (909) 382-2935 for more information.

Future count dates are scheduled on the Saturday mornings of Feb. 8 and March 8.

The best time of year to see bald eagles in Southern California is during winter months when there is an influx of eagles. Migrating eagles typically begin arriving in the area in late November and leave in late March or early April. Bald eagles are usually found close to water because their diet is primarily made up of fish and ducks.

During the winter, Southern California bald eagles are typically found at many of the local lakes, including Big Bear Lake, Baldwin Lake, Silverwood Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Green Valley Lake, Grass Valley Lake in the San Bernardino Mountains and Prado Dam, Lake Perris, Lake Hemet, Lake Skinner, Diamond Valley Lake, Lake Matthews and the Salton Sea to the south.

Through radio-tracking bald eagles, biologists learned that there is a lot of movement of eagles between the different mountain lakes and that the lakes do not have distinctive separate populations — the eagles regularly move between the mountain lakes.

Since 2003, several pairs of bald eagles have decided that the Southern California neighborhoods were too nice to leave. They built nests and have successfully raised families. Nesting bald eagles can now be found at Lake Hemet, Lake Skinner, Lake Matthews and Big Bear Lake.

The female eagle with orange wing tags “02” at Lake Hemet hatched at the San Francisco Zoo in 2000 and was released on Catalina Island as part of the reintroduction efforts.

In 2004, she arrived at Lake Hemet and decided to take up year-round residence with the male bald eagle already there. The pair has raised successful nests since then.

As bald eagles raise families in Southern California, it is now possible to see bald eagles year-round (not just during winter migrations). Because of the influx of migrating bald eagles during the winter, the easiest time to see eagles is still between December and March.

To see the resident pair, stop by the U.S. Forest Service’s Lake Hemet Day Use Area and just look across the lake. The birds are often flying over anglers or sitting in trees above the picnic area.

Human presence may distract or disturb the eagles, so try to limit movement and do not make loud noises when they’re nearby. If possible, remain in the car while looking at the eagles — the car acts as a blind. Stay a respectful distance of at least 200 to 300 feet away from perched bald eagles.

Do not get closer than one-quarter of a 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. It is illegal to harm or harass bald eagles.

The above was taken from a San Bernardino National Forest press release.