ABIQUIU LAKE, N.M., -- “Abiquiu Lake got 2015 started right by hosting its annual eagle watch event on the morning of January 3,” said Abiquiu Park Ranger Austin Kuhlman. “The event was a tremendous success despite the cold weather. Twenty-one die-hard volunteers showed up to participate in the event.”
To kick off the event, the volunteers enjoyed an informative presentation on eagles by Katherine Eagleson of the New Mexico Wildlife Center. The volunteers then moved outside where they met Maxwell and his handler Scott Bol. Maxwell is a non-releasable bald eagle used by the Wildlife Center to educate the public about eagles.
The official count started at 10:00 am. Two boats were launched on the lake and two strategic, fixed viewing posts were manned. Park rangers said eagle sightings began coming in right away and continued throughout the count. Between the two boats moving in opposite directions around the shore line and the powerful spotting scopes being used at the fixed viewing posts the radios buzzed with reports of eagle sightings.
“With all the activity it can be difficult to maintain an accurate count and avoid double counting, but with good communication and use of a grid and sector map of the area an accurate count can be made,” said Kuhlman.
The official count at the end of the event was 18 bald eagles – 12 adults and 6 immature eagles – an increase from previous years’ counts: 13 were counted last year; 12 in 2013 and 17 were spotted in 2012.
“The eagle watch has become a great way to start the year. The event encompasses so much of what we work so hard for throughout the year. It is a chance to interact with and involve members of the community and help foster a spirit of ownership and community participation,” said Kuhlman, describing the event. “This event serves as a good reminder of the importance of partnerships and what we can achieve with the help of our partners. But perhaps most important is it reminds us of the responsibility we have to maintain and care for the environment we are entrusted with, not just for our needs but the needs of these amazing animals as well.”