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Backyard Birding Information

Midwinter Survey Turns up 26 Eagles

By Darrel Whipple

Looking for a little white dot on a forested hillside...

Pretty soon you get good at that, especially if you are lucky to be counting eagles with Steve Hemenway of Castle Rock.

Steve and I conducted WHAS's Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey on Monday, February 5, 2018, from 7:30 am to 3:00 pm. The survey covers two latitude-longitude blocks along the Cowlitz and Columbia rivers, originally assigned to WHAS as part of a nationwide study of eagle populations that ran from 1979 to 1989, coordinated by the National Wildlife Federation.

But, what the heck! Why quit a perfectly good survey? Right?

So, here I am with my umpteenth Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey on the same .............. 120-mile vehicle route, which basically covers the territory between Longview and the I-5 bridge over the Cowlitz in the morning, and the area from the Port of Kalama to Longview in the afternoon.

Despite the lackluster smelt run that is just barely waking up the sea lions on the docks at Astoria, and not yet appearing in the Cowlitz, we sighted a survey record of 26 Bald Eagles. We had 21 adults and five sub-adults. (The north block yielded 17 eagles and the south block had nine.)

That's a welcome result considering that our 1979 survey turned up just one eagle -- one adult near the I-5 bridge over the Cowlitz.

In addition to the 26 eagles, we checked off 43 other bird species, including 12 Red-tailed Hawks, a Cooper's Hawk, Kestrel, Northern Harrier, Western Meadowlark and Horned Grebe. We found only one Great Blue Heron: what's up with that?