During the second of four Saturday bald eagle counts, two adults were seen at Lake Hemet last weekend. A total of 13 bald eagles were seen in the San Bernardino National Forest on Jan. 10 during the count period, four more than the December count.
Public volunteers and U.S. Forest Service biologists again saw one adult eagle at Lake Perris and one at Lake Gregory. Observers counted four eagles (two adults and two juveniles) at Lake Silverwood. This count saw two adult eagles at Lake Arrowhead and three eagles (two adults and a juvenile) at Big Bear Lake.
The remaining bald eagle counts for this winter are scheduled for Saturday morning, Feb. 14 and March 14. No experience is needed to participate in the counts.
Bald eagles are usually found close to water, such as Lake Hemet, because their diet is primarily made up of fish and ducks. As winter approaches in northern regions, lakes freeze over and waterfowl fly south. For bald eagles, that means the food they eat has become scarce. So, they head south looking for areas with abundant food supplies and end up wintering in Southern California, according to the Forest Service.
Breeding populations of bald eagles in Southern California were extinct by the late 1950s. Since 2003, several pairs of bald eagles have decided 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.
As the local populations continue to grow in North America, year-round residency and nesting is becoming more common.
A female eagle hatched at the San Francisco Zoo in 2000 was released as a chick 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. This pair has nested every year since then and fledged several eaglets over the past 10 years.
Future volunteers for the local count at Lake Hemet should meet at Lake Hemet Market at 8:30 a.m. for orientation. Contact Heidi Hoggan at [email protected] or 909-382-2945 for more information.