One of the most popular organized wildlife watching activities in the San Bernardino National Forest is back. The annual winter bald eagle counts will be held over the next four months at five lakes throughout the Inland Empire. Volunteer citizen scientists can come out to help collect data that help U.S. Forest Service biologists monitor wintering bald eagle populations. The program is part of an ongoing long-term monitoring effort that began in 1978.

"We're exceptionally proud the forest has continued to be habitat for bald eagles," said biologist Robin Eliason. "Witnessing our national symbol in the wild is a profound experience and we're glad it's within reach of millions of SoCal residents."

The counts will be held on the second Saturday morning of each month through the winter season: Dec. 9, Jan. 13, Feb. 10 and March 10. No reservations are needed; just show up at a designated location at the start time with binoculars and a way to keep time. And don't forget to dress for winter weather. Location details are as follows:

* Big Bear Lake area volunteers will meet at 8 a.m. at the Big Bear Discovery Center, 40971 N. Shore Dr., Big Bear, for orientation. Contact Robin Eliason by e-mail reliason@fs.fed.us or (909) 382-2832 for more information. Please call (909) 382-2832 for cancellation due to winter weather conditions-an outgoing message will be left by 6:30 a.m. the day of the count. After the count at 11 a.m., Eliason will present a free program about bald eagles.

* Lake Arrowhead and Lake Gregory volunteers will meet at 8 a.m. at the Skyforest Ranger Station, 28104 Highway 18, for orientation. Contact Robin Eliason by e-mail reliason@fs.fed.us or (909) 382-2832 for more information. Please call (909) 382-2832 for cancellation due to winter weather conditions-an outgoing message will be left by 6:30 a.m. the day of the count.

* Silverwood Lake State Recreation Area volunteers should plan to meet at the visitor center at 8 a.m. for orientation. Contact Mark Wright of California State Parks for more information about volunteering or taking an eagle tour. Wright can be reached at (760) 389-2303 or by e-mail: mark.wright@parks.

ca.gov.

* Lake Hemet volunteers should plan on meeting at the Lake Hemet Grocery Store at 8:30 a.m. for orientation. For more information, contact Ann Bowers by e-mail annbowers@

fs.fed.us or (909) 382-2935.

* Lake Perris State Recreation Area volunteers should plan to meet at the Lake Perris Regional Indian Museum at 8 a.m. for orientation. For more information, call California State Parks at (951) 940-5600 or the museum at (951) 940-5657.

Those who can't make the counts can still try to see bald eagles around our local lakes this winter.

Contact the Big Bear Discovery Center (909) 382-2790 or the Idyllwild Ranger Station (909) 382-2921 for eagle watching tips and etiquette on the San Bernardino National Forest.

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