The U.S. Forest Service needs help counting bald eagles in the San Bernardino National Forest. For the 36th season, the annual winter bald eagle counts in and near the San Bernardino and San Jacinto Mountains will be on the following Saturdays: Dec. 13, Jan. 10, Feb. 14 and March 14.

Migrating eagles typically begin arriving in the area in late November and leave in late March or early April. During the winter, Southern California bald eagles are typically found at many of the 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.

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

Brief orientations are conducted prior to the count so volunteers know where to go and what to do.

“Through this method, the agencies and land managers have learned a lot about which areas are important to eagles and how the populations are doing. But we can’t do it without a lot of volunteers — we need their eyes to help us look,” said Forest Service biologist Robin Eliason.

No experience needed. Signing up ahead of time is unnecessary; just show up at the designated time and location, dress warmly, bring binoculars and a watch.

Lake Hemet volunteers should meet at the Lake Hemet Market at 8:30 a.m. for orientation. Contact Heidi Hoggan ([email protected] or 909-382-2945) for more information.

“I am very happy to be assisting during this year’s eagle counts,” Hoggan said. “I have always enjoyed the experience — watching the eagles and educating the public. It has been a few years since I led the counts so I am looking forward to it — the same process as the past years’ counts.”

While last year’s fledglings at Lake Hemet have left and are on their own, “there is always a chance that they or some other eagle may pass through, looking for a meal or a roost,” Hoggan added.”

Contact Rari Marks ([email protected] or 909-382-2600 x4075) for more information about the Big Bear Lake and Lake Arrowhead/Lake Gregory counts.

Volunteers interested in Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area should contact Kathy Williams or Mark Wright at 760-389-2303 or email [email protected].

Lake Perris State Recreation Area volunteers should contact the Lake Perris Regional Indian Museum office for more information at 951-940-5600.

Since 2003, several pairs of bald eagles have made the Southern California mountains their permanent homes. They built nests and have successfully raised families. Nesting bald eagles may now be found at Lake Hemet, Lake Skinner, Lake Matthews and Big Bear Lake.