U.S. Forest Service rangers will be holding their final bald eagle count of the winter season this Saturday and are in need of volunteers for bird watching expeditions in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.
USFS personnel anticipate that more eagles have migrated to lakeside areas in the Inland Empire since December because of intense winter weather farther north.
The agency's 39th annual winter census began in early December, and since that time, multiple juvenile and adult eagles have been spotted in traditional nesting areas, according to rangers.
This Saturday's outing will be the last opportunity of the season for "citizen scientists" to help gauge the region's bald eagle population, USFS spokeswoman Gerrelaine Alcordo said.
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, Alcordo said. Participants will also receive brief orientations before trekking into the woods.
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 some 10,000 breeding pairs identified across the continental U.S., they were removed from the federal 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 are canceled in the event of inclement weather, but the National Weather Service is calling for mostly sunny skies and mild temperatures throughout the inland region this weekend.
More information is available at http://www.fs.usda.gov/sbnf .