ABIQUIU LAKE, N.M. -- U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Albuquerque District staff hosted their annual Midwinter Bald Eagle Watch, Jan. 6, 2018. A record-breaking 151 volunteers turned out to participate in the nationwide survey that counts eagles along standard, non-overlapping survey routes. Previously, the largest number of volunteers in recent years to turn out was 61 in 2012.

Before going out on and around the lake to count eagles, "the volunteers were treated to an introductory presentation. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers park manager John Mueller explained the importance of the survey to the visitors. After, the New Mexico Wildlife Center presented Maxwell, a captive bald eagle," said Nathaniel Naranjo, park ranger at the lake.

The Wildlife Center used Maxwell to showcase some of the different distinguishing characteristics between golden eagles, and mature and immature bald eagles.

For the count, the volunteers divided into five groups, each with an assigned station from which to watch for eagles. Two of the groups headed out on Corps of Engineers boats where they monitored eagle activity from the reservoir.

"It wasn't long before they spotted a mature bald eagle on a tree snag near the shoreline," said Naranjo. "Once the eagle was spotted, the stations were alerted via radio communications so other volunteers could see the bald eagle from a distance using binoculars and spotting scopes."

At the end of the day, a total of five bald eagles were counted, a lower count than in previous years. However, "the Midwinter Bald Eagle Watch event was a success and brought out the most volunteers in the event's history for the Corps' Abiquiu Lake," said Naranjo.

"We are very excited to have such a large volunteer turnout this year! The Midwinter Eagle Watch is just one of many ways we work to involve the public in preserving and protecting the natural resources entrusted to our care. This is a great opportunity for the public to learn more about eagles and also help with conservation efforts and we look forward to seeing even more volunteers next year," said Albuquerque District commander Lt. Col. James Booth.