According to locals, people are often surprised when they come to Big Bear Lake and see bald eagles flying around. But the majestic birds of prey are a fairly common sight here during winter; the San Bernardino Mountains actually has the largest wintering population of bald eagles in Southern California. To learn more about them, visit the Big Bear Discovery Center, in San Bernardino, or the Big Bear Alpine Zoo at Moonridge, which houses two rescued bald eagles, Alaska and Valentine. The zoo doubles as a rehabilitation facility that offers injured, orphaned, and human-imprinted wild animals a safe haven temporarily or permanently, on a per-case basis.
If you really like the idea of seeing eagles, consider joining the San Bernardino Winter Bald Eagle Count, an annual volunteer-supported effort that’s been held at Big Bear Lake and other San Bernardino locations since 1978. Volunteers are stationed at select vantage points in proximity to five lakes, for one-hour stints, over a period of four months, from December to March. No registration is needed; orientation is the morning of the day you’d like to participate. Then just show up at the designated location at the start time with a pair of binoculars and a way to keep track of time. You’ll be able to help out by recording bird sightings and any observations about the birds’ behavior, and be richer from the experience; see a bald eagle dive for fish in a snowy wonderland, and you’ll never forget it.
Insider tip: If participating in the Winter Bald Eagle Count, remember you’ll be standing still, outdoors, in winter weather. Be sure to dress appropriately.