A recent count of bald eagles found a dozen of the national birds "vacationing" in the nearby San Bernardino and San Jacinto mountains, forest officials said.
According to the US Forest Service, a grand total of 12 birds were spotted by volunteers who braved the elements last weekend to head out to Big Bear Lake, Lake Arrowhead, Lake Hemet, Lake Perris and Silverwood Lake.
"Despite frigid temperatures, almost 200 hardy volunteers turned out to help count our magnificent national birds," John Miller of the US Forest Service said. "The count helps tally the bald eagles that spend their winter vacations at local lakes. During the winter, our numbers of bald eagles in southern California increase as the resident eagles are joined by eagles that have migrated south to find food."
Miller said nine adults and 3 juveniles were observed at the lake areas during the 1- hour count:
- Big Bear Lake: 3 adults, 2 juveniles (29 observers)
- Lake Arrowhead: 2 adults (8 observers)
- Silverwood Lake: 1 adult (66 observers)
- Lake Hemet: 2 adults (22 observers)
- Lake Perris: 1 adult, 1 juvenile (58 observers)
- Lake Gregory: 0 (8 observers)
At Lake Hemet, volunteers spotted the pair of adult eagles adding to their nest, Miller said.
According to Miller, juvenile eagles-- which are the same size as adults-- are distinguished by a brown head and tail; adults are recognized by the famous white head and tail, which takes 4-5 years to fully develop.
Miller thanked all the volunteers who showed up in cold temperatures to help with the count, and reminded the public that there are two more eagle counts scheduled for this winter: February 9 and March 9.
"Cold temperatures did not deter eagle activities," he said. "Quite a few volunteers saw their very first bald eagle!... Even though much of Big Bear Lake was covered with ice, eagles were seen around the pockets of open water where ducks were clustered."