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By Greg Dunne                       

November 26, 2017 (Lakeside) -- The eagle has landed! Bald eagles in the East County? Yes, and if you want to see one of nature’s grand majesties, get out to Lake Jennings in December or January and you might get a glimpse of our National Emblem, the American bald eagle!

The Bald Eagle was officially declared the National Emblem of the United States by the Second Continental Congress on June 20, 1782. It was selected by the USA's founding fathers because it is a species unique to North America. It has become the living symbol of the USA's freedom, spirit and pursuit of excellence and has been a spiritual symbol for Native American people for far longer than that.    On the backs of our gold coins, the silver dollar, the half dollar and the quarter, we see an American bald eagle with outspread wings.

The bald eagle is one of North America's largest raptors with its wingspan stretching as wide as 8 feet.  It lives on coasts, lakes and rivers from Alaska to Northern Mexico, migrating south in the winter only if necessary.

To see them in Cuyamaca, Ramona, or other parts of San Diego County is awesome. But when I saw my first Bald Eagle at Lake Jennings, just 5 miles from where I live, it was incredible! I couldn’t stop talking about it after my first sighting.  For weeks my poor family and friends had to put up with a lot of eagle talk. I was fortunate enough earlier this year to see this bald eagle (cover photo) in September at Lake Jennings. Bald eagles had not been recorded as having been seen in the area around Lake Jennings as early as September until this photo. Previously the earliest they had been spotted at the lake was in October.

The eagles have been observed at Lake Jennings now for almost a decade. Be that as it may, it is not always a guarantee that you will see one going out on any given day. My suggestion is to plan a visit to Lake Jennings two or three times a week over the course of a month and you can almost be guaranteed a spotting. Their favorite hangout is the top of the eucalyptus trees to the west (going towards the camp ground) of the entrance at Lake Jennings.

The Bald eagles will often get into scrabbles and fights with the osprey, mainly because they’re both going for the same food source – fish. The Bald eagle will often steal the catch of other birds of prey. Bald eagles have other food sources such as small mammals and water fowl, but their main food source is fish. A full grown Bald Eagle’s lifting power is about four pounds.

These regal birds aren’t really bald, but their white-feathered heads gleam in contrast to their chocolate-brown body and wings. Once endangered by hunting and pesticides, Bald eagles were officially declared an endangered species in 1967 in all areas of the United States south of the 40th parallel, under a law that preceded the Endangered Species Act of 1973.  Bald eagles flourished under the protection and on July 12, 1995 it was reclassified from "Endangered" to "Threatened” by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. In addition, since 2007 they have been removed from the threatened species list because of the great conservation and come back made by the eagles.

Bald eagle pairs mate for life, which averages around 25 years in the wild and they often reuse nests, situated on rocks or in trees. Although we don’t have any breeding pairs at Lake Jennings, it might only be a matter of time. We do have confirmed breeding pairs in Ramona and Cuyamaca. The largest populations of Bald Eagles live in Alaska, British Columbia and the Northwest Coast of the US. But, we have some here in our back yard in the East County. If you want a real wilderness treat get out to see them in their natural environment.

I walk the entire loop at Lake Jennings about twice a month. The cost is $2.00 to walk the lake, you pay at the bait shop. It’s an easy flat surface walk, about 4.5 miles long. At a very moderate pace you can finish easily under 2 hours. Some of my favorite birds at the lake besides the Eagles are the Osprey, the Great Blue Herons and Egrets.

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Bald Eagles

Thank you, Greg Dunne! This is an informative article about Bald Eagles and the ones visiting Lake Jennings. I shared this article on a Public Group called, "Bald Eagles in Lakeside," on Facebook that is dedicated to the Bald Eagles here in the East County Area. It started up last year, and encourages postings of sightings/images of the Bald Eagles at Lake Jennings. Any images are encouraged to be posted, you don't need to be a "professional' photographer to post. I invite your readers to come take a look at the site and feel free to join! Last year ended with the Bald Eagles starting to bring nesting materials to an undisclosed area close by. We're hoping this might be the year a breeding pair is established at Lake Jennings.