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Bald Eagle Watchers Wanted

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December 29, 2003 05:25PM
Bald eagles return to fire-scarred mountains

11:24 PM PST on Saturday, December 27, 2003

By JENNIFER BOWLES / The Press-Enterprise

Spotting Eagles

To volunteer: 909-866-3437, ext. 3216

Tour information: 909-866-2611

Log on: www.bigbeardiscoverycenter.com

Bald eagles, some of the most popular winter residents of the San Bernardino Mountains, are back. And they're making do with what's left of the fire-scarred forest.

So far, 10 of the majestic, white-headed birds have been spotted in the Inland mountains, said Marc Stamer, a biologist with the San Bernardino National Forest.

The birds, a federally protected species, migrate to Southern California for the winter months from as far away as Montana and Canada. Here, they use tall, dead pine trees that ring mountain lakes to search for prey. The wide openings between the pineless limbs allow the large birds to sit and wait for fish darting through the water.

But at Silverwood Lake, north of Crestline, some of their typical perch trees are gone, Stamer said. The devastating wildfires that clawed through the western edge of the mountains in October charred much of the slopes that circle the lake.

"Even though they lost some of their habitat, they seem to be doing very well," Stamer said.

He said the eagles are using short, blackened oak tree stubs as perches, which still give eagles a good view of the lake because they sit on steep slopes.

During a volunteer count earlier this month, two adult and two juvenile eagles were spotted at the lake using such perches, Stamer said. Four more eagles were seen at Big Bear Lake and two at Lake Hemet near Idyllwild, he said.

In the evening, Stamer said, the eagles flee to "night roosts" nestled in steep canyons, which provide shelter from the cooler, lakefront weather.

Stamer said he is looking for more volunteers armed with binoculars to help with three additional eagle counts through March. The next one, he said, is set for Jan. 10. The counts have been taking place for nearly 30 years as part of a program to document eagle activity in the forest and help with management decisions, Stamer said.

The Big Bear Discovery Center begins eagle tours this Sunday, $30 for adults and $20 for ages 3 to 16. The tours take visitors around the lake by van with stops to look through spotting scopes, binoculars and to hear presentations. The tours continue daily through Wednesday and start again Jan. 4 through March 15.

Reach Jennifer Bowles at 909-368-9548 or jbowles@pe.com

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Bald Eagle Watchers Wanted

katrina island 784December 29, 2003 05:25PM



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