Eagles set lofty record at Lake CdA

FRIDAY, DEC. 24, 2010

A bald eagle is perched on a branch at Higgens Point above Lake Coeur d'Alene on Thursday. Birdwatchers and photographers gather along the lake's eastern arm this time of year to watch the eagles. The birds migrate through the region on their way south each December. (Kathy Plonka)
A mature bald eagle cruises above the cold water looking for kokanee at Lake Coeur d'Alene. (Photos by Brian Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

The winter gathering of bald eagles at Lake Coeur d’Alene soared to record numbers this week.

“I can hardly believe it myself, but the total today was 254, well over the record,” said Carrie Hugo, U.S. Bureau of Land Management wildlife biologist, on Thursday after completing her weekly survey of bald eagles at Wolf Lodge Bay.

In the more than two decades BLM has been surveying the annual eagle congregation, the highest count was 156 in December 2004.

The 254 birds counted Thursday compares with 104 at the same time last year, Hugo said. And it’s a huge leap from the 117 she counted just last week.

“I looked at my total and wondered if I’d done something wrong,” she said. “Maybe I lost track of time, but no, my time was the usual 2.5 hours.”

The eagles congregate in winter to feast on spawning kokanee. Hugo said the numbers of the land-locked sockeye salmon look strong, so the eagles shouldn’t be leaving too soon.

The eagle gathering usually peaks around this time, perfect for holiday break wildlife watching.

Wildlife biologists and Audubon Society volunteers will be staffing displays and spotting scopes for the annual Eagle Watch Week in the Mineral Ridge boat ramp and also at the Mineral Ridge trailhead off Interstate 90’s Wolf Lodge Bay exit Sunday through Jan. 1 from 10 a.m. 3 p.m.

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