Help count bald eagles at Big Bear Lake



provided by The Big Bear Lake Resort Association

ew experiences in nature can match the thrill of watching the soaring flight of a bald eagle, high in the bright blue winter skies of Big Bear Lake.

    Opportunities for an ideal family outing in the company of eagles abound in this San Bernardino Mountains community from late November to early April, through programs offered by the Forest Service, the Big Bear Discovery Center, or just by visiting the area and keeping a sharp lookout.

    Bald eagles, symbols of America, can be viewed perched in treetops around the lake, or standing still at the open water's edge, waiting for lunch to swim by.

    Visitors who want to look for the birds on their own may obtain information on how to be a successful eagle watcher at the Discovery Center in a free booklet called “Eagle Discovery Guide.” The eagle exhibit at the Discovery Center, which includes a full size replica of the majestic bird, always fascinates children and adults alike. There are plenty of things for kids to touch and even a free eagle game brochure for young people who want to learn more about this majestic bird. And at either of two Eagle Celebrations, which are held during the season, a live eagle will be the host.

    Naturalist-guided two-hour Eagle Explorer Tours in a comfortable van are available through the center and participation by the public is also welcomed in the Forest Service Annual Eagle Counts. Taking part in an Eagle Count is an adventure and helps Forest Service researchers who are involved in programs to assure the continuation of the species, which remains on the “threatened” list nationwide.

    The counts begin with an informational program on the birds, which can have a wingspan of up to eight feet and a weight of from 10-14 pounds. After an introduction to the bald eagle, volunteers are assigned sites around the lake for the one-hour project, returning to the center with their tally. Many take part each year, calling the experience “my most thrilling outdoor adventure.” Children who participate in the counts are often launched on a lifetime of interest in preservation of our natural resources.

    Bald eagles that winter in Big Bear come from Canada, Alaska and the far northern regions of the continental United States where they live, hunt and breed until the fierce winters drive them south in search of food. Big Bear Lake is an ideal “Eagle cafeteria,” abounding in ducks and fish. Eagle counts have tallied from as many as 40 to as few as 12 birds since records were first kept in 1978.

    The eagles, some of which are equipped with transmitters, have traveled the 2,000 miles from their northern summer homes, year after year, for winter feasting in Big Bear. In the spring they make the long flight home again.

    Locals have named some of the birds, which mate for life, after famed television stars: Desi and Lucy settle into the bare skag tops of the same conifer each year. They are visible both with the naked eye and through the high-powered telescopes available in the atrium of the Discovery Center. Fred and Ethel are never far away.

    Eagles fly in Big Bear's clean cool winter air, a sight to behold, an inspiration to all who watch from below, symbol of freedom and the beauty of nature.

    Come to Big Bear Lake this winter and be a part of it all.

    For visitor information, information on lodging, activities or to find out how to take part in the Eagle Counts for winter 2003-2004 season, contact The Big Bear Lake Resort Association, at (800) 4-Big Bear (424-4232) or To participate in Eagle Counts: Wildlife Biologist Marc Stamer: (909) 866-3437x3216. For Eagle Tours and programs: Big Bear Discovery Center: (909) 866-3437.