LBL Naturalist Chris Hunter said, “This is perfect weather for eagles. It seems like this time of year we have the biggest eagle population. When it is sunny and clear, they are out flying. When it is cloudy, they seem to be more grounded.”
Hunter said that tours usually include 25-26 eagle watchers. “When they got wind of the weather, all but five cancelled.” Of the five people scheduled for the tour, three actually arrived to find no snow or ice, and 40-degree temperatures outside the well-heated green van that carried the tour.
Hunter said that he never guaranteed watchers would spot an eagle, but added the tour led to several locations where eagles were known to roost.
LBL features 30 eagles within the park year-round, with between 75 and 150 more birds spending the winter in the park. Hunter said that the eagles travel south because the bodies of water that provide the fish and waterfowl that make up the preponderance of their diet freeze over.
“Last year, we had nine nests that produced 12 eaglets,” said Hunter. “The eagle population in the lower 48 states in 1963 was 470 breeding pairs. Thanks to the Endangered Species Act and reintroduction of the species, we now have 8,000 breeding pairs.”
The bald eagles have identical markings among males and females, unlike cardinals, with more flamboyant males and drab females. Hunter added that females are larger than males to cover nests and incubate eggs.
LBL’s eagles originally came from an Alaskan population. Hunter said that many eaglets were taken from their nests and brought to LBL shortly before learning to fly. Once they became airborne, the eagles considered the area to be home. “They always come back to the area where they return to fly to raise their young.”
The tour began with a stop at Pigsah Point. Naturalist Kelly Wehrheim acted as guide with Kathy Garmoe assisting. The van offered plenty of room with so many cancellations. Tourists were rewarded with an eagle perched in a tree across the bay, and a second eagle, a juvenile, in flight.
Read about eagle watching in your current Cadiz Record.