Bird watchers looking for bald eagles in the Inland Empire spotted a total of 11 over the weekend, including full-grown eagles in the vicinity of Lake Hemet and the Lake Perris State Recreation Area, rangers said Monday.
During a one-hour outing Saturday, two eagles were observed by more than two dozen volunteers at Lake Hemet, where the birds of prey are nesting for the season, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
Observers also spotted two adults soaring over Lake Perris, according to USFS spokesman Zach Behrens.
He said an adult eagle and two juveniles were seen over Lake Arrowhead, while three juveniles were spotted at Big Bear Lake.
A lone eagle was spied maneuvering over Silverwood Lake.
The sightings were recorded as the Forest Service inaugurated its annual winter census to gauge the bald eagle population nesting in the San Bernardino National Forest to wait out the cold months. The counts have been going since 1978.
Additional eagle counts are scheduled on Jan. 12, Feb. 9 and March 9.
Outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers who want to help out need no prior experience — just warm clothes, a pair of binoculars and an hour to spare for each count. Each excursion requires a brief orientation at a designated location.
Eagles generally nest in the lakeside areas from late November to early April. Radio tracking devices attached to some birds show that, in a given year, they can migrate to the region from as far north as Alberta, Canada.
Because of hunting and habitat destruction, the American bald eagle was nearly driven to extinction in the past century. The birds were declared endangered in the 1970s. However, with more than 10,000 breeding pairs identified across the continental United States, they were removed from the Endangered Species List in 2007.
Anyone interested in volunteering for the eagle count at Lake Hemet is asked to call (909) 382-2935; at Lake Perris, (951) 940-5600; Big Bear Lake, or Lakes Arrowhead and Gregory, (909) 382-2832; and Silverwood Lake, (760) 389- 2303.
Rangers noted that eagle counts will be canceled during inclement weather.
More information is available at www.fs.usda.gov/sbnf .