ABIQUIU LAKE, N.M. -- District staff at the lake has partnered with volunteers for more than a decade to participate in the national midwinter bald eagle survey. This year’s results: 14 eagles counted Jan. 4, 2014.
"This year we had 41 total volunteers attend,” said John Mueller, lead natural resource specialist at Abiquiu Lake. “We have been doing the count for 11 years now. Last year we had 63 volunteers, with 12 eagles spotted total,” he said.
This year’s event started in the visitor center with a presentation by Katherine Eagleson, director of the Wildlife Center in Espanola, N.M. Eagleson pointed out distinct features and habits of the bald eagle and their wintering habitats at Abiquiu Lake and throughout New Mexico.
Volunteers then went outside to see Maxwell, the Wildlife Center's resident educational bald eagle. After volunteers visited with Maxwell, they dispersed to their assigned viewing stations to count either from fixed land points with a spotting scope or by one of two boats that cruised the shoreline around the lake.
Of this year’s total count, there were 10 adult bald eagles, three juvenile bald eagles and one juvenile golden eagle.
The bald eagle has proudly been displayed on stamps, coins, the Great Seal of the United States and more since June 20, 1782, when it was officially chosen as the national emblem of the United States.
However, by the 1970s, the majestic bird’s numbers dwindled so low it was placed on the Endangered Species Act “endangered” list. Due to preservation efforts the bald eagle was eventually removed from the list in 2007, although threats to habitat still exist.
In the mid-1980s, the National Wildlife Federation asked participants in each state to count eagles along standard routes to provide data trends. In the 1990s, survey coordination was handled by the Bureau of Land Management, National Biological Survey, and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). In April 2007, the USGS established a partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to maintain the long-term, national coordination of the survey, data analysis, and reporting.
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 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. In addition to providing information on eagle trends, distribution and habitat, the count has helped to create public interest in the conservation of bald eagles.
“The Corps plays a significant role in recovery efforts of the bald eagle by supporting eagle conservation, including breeding season and midwinter surveys, management of habitat, education and outreach,” Mueller said.