Watch bald eagles in Whatcom County

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Even though the bald eagle is a year-round resident of northwest Washington, early winter offers prime viewing opportunities in Whatcom and Skagit counties.

"They're here for the fish, " said Kelly Reagan, education coordinator at the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center in Rockport, a community along the North Cascades Highway where an annual festival celebrates the majestic raptor - America's national symbol.

Early winter is typically the end of fall salmon runs on rivers in Whatcom and Skagit counties. Eagles prowl the skies and lurk in the trees above local rivers and streams, looking for dead and dying fish.

"This is one of the largest migrations in the lower 48 states," Reagan said. Some 260 bald eagles were counted 2012 Christmas weekend at three sites along the upper Skagit River. Eagles typically congregate near the end of salmon runs, to feast on migrating fish as they weaken and die after spawning.

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Reagan said great viewing opportunities for eagles last through January. The best time to watch is just before noon on a cloudy day, she said.

"They feed in the morning, about 11 o'clock," so the birds will be most active then, Reagan said. On cloudy days find eagles perched in trees or flapping lazily only a few dozen feet in the air.

Bald Eagle watching destinations in Whatcom County

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Deming Eagle Park (off Truck Road)
Located just off Mount Baker Highway on Truck Road. Deming Homestead Eagle Park, a county park with a 1/3-mile path and interpretive signs along the Nooksack River floodplain near Truck Road and the Mount Baker Highway. Groups of about 50 eagles have been reported here.
Mosquito Lake Road
Mosquito Lake Road bridge over the Nooksack River. Continue east on Truck Road past the park, then turn right onto Mosquito Lake Road. There's a dirt parking area on the right.
Nooksack River mouth / Bellingham Bay mudflats
Access to the river mouth and the mudflats can be found by going down to Locust Ave and venturing down to the beach. Parking is very limited. A tide of 2 feet or below is preferable.
Drayton Harbor / Semiahmoo Spit, Blaine
Birds have been reported in trees along Drayton Harbor Road. The county park ong Semiahmoo Spit, along the northernmost section of Semiahmoo Parkway, is a good place to park and look.
Birch Bay State Park / Lake Terrell
Panoramic views of the Cascade Mountains and islands offer great scenery and a wide open area to view bald eagles. The nearby Lake Terrell also offers a great place to view eagles.
Lake Padden
The park has two entrances off Samish Way and an extensive series of trails into wooded areas.

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Additional information about eagles is available from the Seattle Audubon Society at Cornell University is world-renowned for its ornithological research. It has information and a recording of the eagle's voice. Search "bald eagle" at

Text by Robert Mittendorf / Photos/Video by Matt McDonald The Bellingham Herald