Despite difficult viewing conditions, a near-record count of bald eagles was tallied on Wednesday in the weekly winter survey at Lake Coeur d’Alene.
Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, counted 257 eagles in the Wolf Lodge Bay and Beauty Bay areas, up from 213 last week. During the first survey of the season on Nov. 20 she counted just 26 bald eagles.
Hugo said she may not have counted all of the birds present because of fog that limited visibility, as well as snow lingering in trees to hinder spotting the adult eagles with white heads. Her count included 196 adults and 61 juveniles.
A record 273 bald eagles was counted at Lake Coeur d’Alene on Dec. 29, 2011. The peak of the counts each year is usually around the third or fourth week of December.
The big birds are homing in on the feast of spawning kokanee. This year’s run of the land-locked sockeye salmon is the biggest in 20 years in the northeast area of the North Idaho lake. Once the spawning subsides or bitter-cold temperatures cap the bay in ice, the eagles will disperse.
The eagles provide a popular wildlife-viewing attraction. Prime viewing locations include Higgens Point, Mineral Ridge boat ramp and Mineral Ridge Trailhead.
The 20th annual Eagle Watch is set for Dec. 26-Jan. 1, with wildlife biologists and Audubon Society volunteers posted with information and spotting scopes 10 a.m.-3 p.m. at the Mineral Ridge boat launch and the Mineral Ridge trailhead.
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