ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers staff at Abiquiu Lake, N.M. and John Martin Reservoir, Colo., recently held mid-winter bald eagle surveys where volunteers and USACE staff counted eagles to help get information on eagle trends, distribution, and habitat at each lake.
A record turnout of approximately 100 volunteers spotted eight eagles during the annual event at Abiquiu Lake, Jan. 6, 2024.
“The midwinter eagle count is an annual event for us at Abiquiu Lake, and one of our most anticipated by the public,” said John Burman, Lead Park Ranger at Abiquiu Lake. “This year we had our biggest turn out on record and we are extremely happy to have such great community engagement. We saw eight eagles, a count that is on par with the last few years, and when added to all the other counts done across the country in January, provides important data for monitoring eagle populations and influencing management decisions.”
Before the start of the count, the Abiquiu Amigos, a local birdwatching society, gave an educational presentation about bald eagles. After the presentation, the volunteers took up positions around the lake on overlooks and on the lake in two USACE watercraft to count the birds. The total confirmed count was eight bald eagles, the same number as last year’s count.
This was the third year staff at John Martin Reservoir held a mid-winter bald eagle survey.
This year, three park rangers and six volunteers braved the bitterly cold -5°F ambient temperatures for the annual mid-winter eagle survey on Friday, Jan. 12, 2024, said Holly Garnett, Natural Resources Specialist at John Martin.
“Together, volunteers and staff traversed 23 miles of road and surveyed 6,500 acres of sky, land, and water in just under two hours in order to meet the survey timeline for optimal eagle viewing,” said Garnett.
The total count: 78 eagles sighted – 65 bald eagles and 13 golden eagles.
The area surveyed this year was expanded by 3,300 acres over previous years and resulted in a count six times greater than the 2023 results (13 eagles) and twice the 2022 results (38 eagles), said Garnett.
“The event was a roaring success, and we at John Martin are greatly appreciative for the volunteers’ support and bravery in helping to monitor these illustrious creatures,” said Garnett.
The annual midwinter survey represents a unique source of long-term, baseline data. Unlike nesting surveys, it provides information on both breeding and non-breeding segments of the population, at a potentially limiting time of year.
The count has become a national tradition since 1984 and is an annual event at Abiquiu Lake and John Martin Reservoir. In addition to providing information on eagle trends, distribution, and habitat, the count has helped to create public interest in the conservation of our national symbol, the bald eagle.