Mark your calendars for Jan. 12, Feb. 9 and March 9 to help with the annual bald eagle count in the San Bernardino National Forest. No experience is necessary for citizen scientists who want to help tally the migrating eagles that winter in the San Bernardino Mountains each year.
The bald eagle, native to North America, became the national bird in 1782. But the number of eagles dwindled, partly because they were hunted and also because of DDT and other pesticides that weakened their eggshells
By the 1960s, fewer than 450 nesting pairs remained. The bird was placed on the Endangered Species List in the late 1970s. The population has recovered enough to be removed from endangered and threatened species status. There are now about 9,700 pairs in the contiguous U.S., the Fish and Wildlife Service estimates.
Volunteers, dressed for winter weather and carrying binoculars and a watch or other device so they can note the time they spot an eagle, may gather at these places for orientation and to learn how to help with the count:
—8 a.m. Big Bear Lake Discovery Center, 40971 North Shore Drive (California State Route 38) and also at the Skyforest Work Center, 28104 California State Route 18 in the Lake Arrowhead/Lake Gregory area. Info: (909) 382-2790 or (909) 382-2832. You also may call the latter number by 6:30 the morning of the count to check whether there is a weather-related cancellation.
—8 a.m. Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area park office, 14651 Cedar Circle, Hesperia. Info: (760) 389-2303 or (760) 389-2281.
—8:30 a.m. at the Lake Hemet Market, 56570 California State Route 75, Mountain Center;
The San Bernardinos host the largest number of migrating eagles in Southern California. In typical years about 10 to 20 eagles make their temporary home in the local mountains. Last year, volunteers counted 15 bald eagles, including two chicks born at a nest in Big Bear.