2016 Eagle Watch at Abiquiu Lake

Last Saturday we hosted our 2016 Eagle Watch at Abiquiu Lake! This event is held every year in conjunction with our partners the US Army Corps of Engineers. Every year citizen scientists from northern New Mexico come together to count the number of bald eagles on the lake. Data from mid-winter eagle watches all over the country are combined to get an idea of how our national bird is faring.

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Enjoying coffee and donuts in the Visitor Center.
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John Mueller, Park Manager at Abiquiu Lake, welcomes the citizen scientists to EagleWatch 2016
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Katherine Eagleson, Executive Director of NMWC, discusses bald eagles and their habits.

After a brief talk on bald eagles in New Mexico, some threats to these birds, and comparisons between juveniles, sub-adults, and adult eagles, participants headed outside to get a look at at least one eagle. Maxwell is a mature bald eagle housed at NMWC. Unfortunately due to his injuries, he’s not releasable.

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Maxwell and his handler, Scott Bol
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Maxwell is always a crowd favorite

After learning all about bald eagles, participants broke up into groups. Two groups went out on USACE boats to count eagles from the lake, and several groups went to fixed points on the land. All groups had radio communication and the lake was divided into sectors so that we made sure not to double-count any eagles.

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USACE rangers hand out life jackets for people going out on the boat
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Watching for eagles

Spotting eagles was a little more difficult this year, thanks to more snow than usual. We ended up spotting 10 eagles, although 2 of those were golden eagles (one adult and one juvenile). Of the 8 bald eagles spotted, only one was a sub-adult. This number is much fewer than last year, but it’s important data that will help us determine how bald eagles are doing as a species.

This event is always held on either the first or second Saturday of January. Join us next year!

SKYWARN Training

Last Thursday, the National Weather Service in Albuquerque hosted a SKYWARN storm spotter training at New Mexico Wildlife Center!

SKYWARN

These classes teach local citizens to be the eyes on the ground for NWS. Radar and other tools of the meteorological trade can tell a lot about weather, but nothing compares to having a trained person make a report.

SKYWARN class at NMWC
SKYWARN class at NMWC

NMWC is hoping to offer SKYWARN classes and additional CoCoRaHS trainings in the future. Send us an email if you’re interested in attending one of these events in the Espanola area!

Christy

Earth Day at Abiquiu Lake

Last Wednesday was Earth Day, but our celebration with the US Army Corps of Engineers at Abiquiu Lake wasn’t until last Saturday.

We met at the Visitor’s Center at 9 am, where guests got to meet two of NMWC’s most spectacular residents, Grace the Golden Eagle and Electra the Osprey.

Listening to Katherine Eagleson explain the habits of golden eagles.
Listening to Katherine Eagleson explain the habits of golden eagles.
Katherine with Grace, the Golden Eagle.
Katherine with Grace, the Golden Eagle.
Electra the Osprey
Electra the Osprey

After seeing these two, we headed out with the USACE rangers to survey the birds around the east side of Abiquiu Lake.

Water safety is first and foremost!
Water safety is first and foremost!
Braving the wind and chilly temperatures in the name of science.
Braving the wind and chilly temperatures in the name of science.

Below is our final bird list for the day.

Bird List for Earth Day at Abiquiu Lake

4/25/15

  • 1 Great Blue Heron
  • 10 Canada Geese
  • 15 Western Grebes
  • 2 Ring-billed Gulls
  • 5 Pie-Billed Grebes
  • 45 Coots
  • 1 Red-Tailed Hawk
  • 2 Ravens
  • 1 Ruddy Duck (F)
  • 1 Rock Wren
  • 20 Double-Crested Cormorant nests with around 40 Cormorants
  • 3 Goose nests
  • Several Mallards
  • 1 Golden Eagle (not Grace!)
  • 2 Turkey Vultures
  • 1 Osprey (not Electra!)
  • 1 Cooper’s Hawk

Christy

Upcoming Event: Intro to Birding

Well, both River Classroom and our trip with McCurdy were cancelled this week. While we are working on rescheduling those, check out this upcoming event in Abiquiu!

We’re exciting to partner with the Abiquiu Inn to present an introduction to birding in the Abiquiu area. Come have dinner at the Inn before the talk and then learn how to identify common local birds. This event will be next Thursday, January 29. This will give you plenty of time to practice birding in your yard before The Great Backyard Bird Count, which runs from February 13-February 16.

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Eagle Watch 2015

Eagle Watch 2015 was a great success! We joined our partners, the US Army Corps of Engineers, at Abiquiu Lake last Saturday, January 3. Many citizen scientists braved the frigid temperatures and chilling winds and were either stationed at fixed points or sent out on the lake in boats to count bald eagles.

We met at the Visitor’s Center at Abiquiu Lake at 9 am for donuts, coffee, and a quick presentation by NMWC’s Executive Director, Katherine Eagleson. She provided practical advice on spotting eagles and detailed some of the threats to this bird. One of NMWC’s favorite residents, our bald eagle Maxwell, was on hand so participants could get an up close view of a mature adult bird.

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Maxwell and handler Scott Bol, with Pedernal in the background

Once the watch began, eagles were sited almost immediately! It was so cold and windy that most of the eagles were staying in sheltered areas, but the boats would flush them out. The fixed view points were critical for tracking where the eagles flew to make sure we didn’t double count any.

What about the final numbers? 18 eagles total, of which 12 were adults and 6 were immature. How does this relate to years past?

2015: 18 eagles

2014: 13 eagles

2013: 12 eagles

2012: 17 eagles

2011: 15 eagles

This event has been going on for something like 15 years, and this data will help us understand the population of wild bald eagles in New Mexico. Thank you to all of the volunteers who participated, as well as to the fantastic staff at Abiquiu Lake for making the Eagle Watch possible!

Christy