Despite wonderful spring weather, or perhaps because of the heat, only seven bald eagles were seen during the final bald eagle count of the 2014-15 winter. Just a month ago, the February count recorded 17 bald eagles around the multiple lakes in Southern California.
Last Saturday, bald eagles were observed at six different lakes in the Inland Empire and mountains. Two adult eagles were seen at Lake Hemet and two adults and one chick were observed at Big Bear Lake. One adult eagle was seen at both Lake Silverwood and Lake Arrowhead.
The warm weather probably accounts for the lower number of bald eagles seen; they may have decided that it was time to start their migration north during the great weather conditions, according to Robin Eliason, wildlife biologist for the Mountaintop Ranger District in the San Bernardino National Forest.
About 226 citizens and agency staff participated in the eagle search at all the lakes. Heidi Lake Hoggan, lands, special uses, and mineral administrator for the Forest Service’s San Jacinto Ranger District, reported 29 people turned out at Lake Hemet.
The participants at Lake Hemet were lucky enough to observe a pair of bald eagles tending their nest and hunting for food.
“Last month we witnessed them building the nest. This past Saturday we saw confirmed incubation behavior so there are definitely eggs in the nest,” Hoggan said. “We were also lucky enough to see one of the adults hunt and catch and eat a fish.”
Besides seeing the eagle pair, the Lake Hemet observers were also treated to two turkey vultures roosting close to where the participants were standing, a flock of white pelicans, and the great blue heron and northern harrier that have been there for each of this season's counts, Hoggan added
A number of bald eagles migrate to Southern California to spend their winter vacations around the lakes. They migrate here because their prey animals (fish and ducks) are no longer available to them in the cold northern regions as ice covers the lakes and rivers.