Over the last month, wintering bald eagles and golden eagles have been soaring and feeding at the San Jacinto Wildlife Area (SJWA), in Nuevo, Calif.
According to SJWA supervisor Tom Trakes, the eagles frequent the Walker Ponds area.
You can probably catch a glimpse of the eagles by settling in your vehicle at the base of the telephone poles where they perch and enjoying the majestic beauty of these birds.
SJWA consists of 10,000 acres of protected land, managed by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.
According to Trakes, the eagles can be seen in the mid-morning and in the late afternoon.
“If you drive out to Walker Ponds, you can probably see an eagle on any given day,” Trakes said. “There are around four bald eagles and a couple of golden eagles on the refuge. When I go out working in the wildlife area, I’ve seen an eagle or two, every day.
“They like to hunt ducks and other waterfowl. One of their favorite birds seems to be the coot.”
Trakes believes the eagles are essential in managing the flocks of waterfowl by targeting sick, injured or older birds.
“If you are lucky, you will be able to hear the eagle call with its high-pitched screech,” Trakes said. “It’s like they are calling the other eagles or telling the other birds that it’s in the area.”
The bald eagle, Haliaeetus leucocephalus, is the national emblem of the United States of America.
A mature bald eagle wears a head of completely white feathers, which makes it appear to be bald from a distance.
The body of a mature bald eagle has blackish-brown feathers tapered to an all-white tail.
Immature bald eagles have a blend of mottled brown and sections of white feathers over their body and head.
The wingspan of the bald eagle is from 6 feet to approximately 7.5 feet long.
Its height can range from approximately 3 to 3.5 feet tall. The bald eagle weighs from 6 to 15 pounds.
Golden eagles, Aquila chrysaetos, belong to the family Accipitridae, like the bald eagle.
Its wingspan ranges from approximately 6 feet to almost 8 feet long.
The golden eagle has an unmistakable sheen, or glossy look, on its neck and the back of its head.
The color of the golden eagle is a mix of light, dark and golden-brown plumage.
When driving along the road toward the Walker Ponds, if you notice a robust, large, dark, hearty bird, with an exceptionally large beak, it is probably a golden eagle.
Nature enthusiasts can enjoy the abundant wildlife at SJWA, including the eagles, during the week, except on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday.
Those days are strictly for waterfowl hunting at the refuge and the adjacent private gun club.
The hunting season will end on Wednesday, Jan. 29. Bird watching will resume on Jan.30 through Feb. 7.
However, the annual Junior Waterfowl Hunt will take place on Saturday, Feb. 8. The refuge will be open only to waterfowl hunters on that day.
The waterfowl season will definitively conclude after the Junior Waterfowl Hunt on Saturday, Feb. 8.
Raptors, songbirds, scavengers, passerines, wading birds and mammals can be seen along the car route. You might even see the world’s fastest bird diving on an unsuspecting bird, the peregrine falcon.
For more information on where the eagles are, or to find out if there are rare birds at the refuge, call Tom Trakes at (951) 330-8754.