ABIQUIU LAKE, N.M. – A large turnout of volunteers had 12 confirmed eagle sightings at the annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Watch event held here Saturday, Jan. 7, 2017.
"The Annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Watch at Abiquiu Lake is a popular event and we had a high turnout this year with over 50 volunteers taking part in the survey,” said park manager John Mueller.
Before dispersing to look for eagles, the lake staff, in partnership with the Wildlife Center of Espanola, N.M., presented an interpretive talk concerning winter bald eagles in New Mexico. Maxwell, a captive bald eagle cared for by the Wildlife Center, interacted with participants, allowing them the opportunity to view a mature bald eagle up close.
After the presentation, “the volunteers aided in the positive identification of 12 bald eagles – nine adults and three juveniles – by utilizing three fixed land viewing stations and two waterborne vessels covering over 25 miles of shoreline,” Mueller said. “This information is uploaded into a central data base that aids in monitoring the status of bald eagle wintering populations in the contiguous United States by estimating national and regional count trends, overall and by age class.
The basic objectives of the survey are to index the total wintering bald eagle population in the lower 48 states; to determine eagle distribution during a standardized survey period; and to identify previously unrecognized areas of important winter habitat. The annual midwinter survey represents a unique source of long-term, baseline data. Unlike nesting surveys, it provides information on both breeding and non-breeding segments of the population at a potentially limiting time of year. The count has become a national tradition since 1984, and is an annual event at Abiquiu Lake.
“It is a great opportunity for participants to get outside on their public lands and waters to not only learn about our national bird and observe them in their natural habitat, but actively take part in their preservation by gathering data on population trends and age class,” Mueller said.