Eagle Has Landed in Fawnskin

Eagle Chick Grout Bay | Fawnskin

So last week GG scooped everyone when she hinted about the eagle chick–but now it is official and I can release more information.

It is true that a pair of bald eagles have successfully nested and produced a chick here in Fawnskin within the San Bernardino National Forest. This is the first documented success recorded in recent times at Big Bear Lake–in Grout Bay.

From the official release:

The new chick is estimated to have been born around February 11th and is nicknamed “Jack” to honor one of the Forest’s most dedicated eagle count volunteers, Jack Lubecki, who passed away a couple of years ago.

The chick was first spotted on February 21st by Forest Service wildlife biologist Marc Stamer while on a field trip with a group of third graders from Big Bear Elementary School.

“I was shocked to look through the spotting scope and see a bald eagle chick sitting up in the nest,” said Stamer. “The students, teachers, and parents were as excited to see a baby eagle as I was! It was a first for all of us!”

The chick was born to a pair of eagles who built a nest on the national forest near Grout Bay in Fawnskin several years ago, but had not laid eggs until now. Dubbed Lucy and Ricky by local eagle-maniacs, this pair laid an egg in early January, unbeknownst to local eagle observers and biologists.

The Big Bear Lake area has supported the largest wintering population of bald eagles for many years. Bald eagles migrate to southern California’s lakes and reservoirs for the abundant food supply (fish and waterfowl) and then return to nest sites in Oregon, Washington, Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Alaska, and Canada. Over the past few years, some bald eagles have taken up year-round residency in the Big Bear Lake area.

“We have hoped to see bald eagles nesting in the area for many years since we have great habitat for them,” said Forest Service district biologist Robin Eliason. “Eagles mate for life and will use the same nest tree for several years, so we can expect to see bald eagles here year-round for years to come.”

To minimize disturbance to this young eagle, the Forest is extending the annual seasonal closure beyond the usual April 1st date to June 15th instead. The “Forest Order” prohibits entry into Grout Bay Picnic Area, Gray’s Peak Trailhead, Gray’s Peak Trail, and the area directly around the bald eagle nest, to allow the chick to grow and learn to fly without human disturbance.

“We hope our forest users understand the minor inconvenience of having to close some facilities in order to protect the bald eagles,” said Eliason.

For over thirty years, the San Bernardino National Forest has maintained winter closures of its facilities in this area of Fawnskin in order to provide disturbance-free perching and foraging areas for bald eagles. Disturbance around a nest can cause the adults to leave the nest long enough that eggs and/or the chicks are susceptible to predation. It can also cause the adults to abandon the nest, eggs, and chicks. Even well intentioned people who want to get close for a better view or for photographs may cause disruption to the nest.

Because its populations were decimated by environmental contaminants, bounty hunters, and habitat loss in the lower 48 states, the bald eagle was one of the first animals protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. After many years of recovery efforts, the bald eagle was upgraded from “endangered” to “threatened” in 1995. Then, in 2007, it was completely removed from the federal Endangered Species List due the rise in its population numbers across the country. Bald eagles, however, are still considered endangered and a “fully protected species” by the State of California. The species is also protected under the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act as well as the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Over the past decade, bald eagles have expanded their breeding distribution to include other parts of southern California, including Lake Hemet, Lake Skinner, Lake Matthews, Lake Henshaw, and the Channel Islands. There are also records of bald eagles for Lake Silverwood, Lake Arrowhead, Baldwin Lake, Lake Perris, and Lake Elsinore in the Inland Empire area.

Several organizations have come together to help protect this bald eagle nest, including: the San Bernardino National Forest, National Forest Association (NFA), California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service, San Bernardino County Parks and Recreation Department, and Big Bear Municipal Water District.

The Forest Service and CDFG plan to use volunteers to both monitor the nest sites and provide the public with opportunities to view the eagles from a safe distance. The volunteers will be stationed with spotting scopes at Dana Point Park in Fawnskin. “We are working on getting volunteers scheduled to be there at least on the weekends and hopefully on a lot of weekdays,” said NFA volunteer coordinator Meredith Brandon.

People interested in helping monitor the bald eagle nest may contact Meredith Brandon at (909) 382-28420 or [email protected] . For information about bald eagle viewing opportunities, contact the Forest Service’s Big Bear Discovery Center (909) 382-2789.

PS Isn’t this timely since GG was just talking about taking up birding…Meredith will like that I am available weekdays. LOL

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This entry was posted on Friday, March 9th, 2012 and is filed under Birding, Mountain Wildlife.

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2 Responses to “Eagle Has Landed in Fawnskin

  • 1
    Michelle Lubecki
    March 9th, 2012 10:28

    This is so exciting!! Dad is honored and singing from above. Thank you to Marc and the Forest Service for keeping his spirit alive. And special thanks to sister Barb for keeping in touch with the eagle count.

  • 2
    GG (Gossip Girl)
    March 11th, 2012 17:25

    Glad they honored your dad Michelle and thanks for leaving a comment.