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Best time to see eagles in the wild

Eagles perch in a tree at Semiahmoo spit in Blaine.
Eagles perch in a tree at Semiahmoo spit in Blaine. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

Now’s the time of year that bald eagles are most prevalent in the Northwest, as the majestic raptors gather to feed on the carcasses of salmon that have died following their upriver spawning runs.

Volunteers counted 161 bald eagles last week in the upper Skagit River Valley from Sedro-Woolley to Newhalem, one of two areas in Northwest Washington where large numbers of America’s national symbol congregate in large numbers. The other area is along the Nooksack River in eastern Whatcom County, particularly near the confluence of the north and middle forks near Welcome and the north and south forks near Deming.

Eagle numbers in Skagit County are about average, but those in Whatcom Country are greater than they have been for some time, said Judy Hemenway, a volunteer at the Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center in Rockport.

“The chum run was not that high here,” she said. “The Nooksack has very large numbers though.”

Hemenway said the eagle center will be open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily through Sunday, Jan. 3, and then Saturdays and Sundays through January. Admission is free, but donations are accepted.

Guided walks along the Skagit River are offered at 11 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays, and a series of nature talks is scheduled at 1 p.m. Saturdays while the center is open. The center is devoted to natural history and environmental education, telling the relationship among bald eagles, salmon, the river and the old-growth forest. Nearby Rockport State Park provides companion programs.

“Of course, it all goes hand in hand,” Hemenway said. “They can see the whole picture.”

Programs offered this weekend are a hike with U.S. Forest Service forestry technician Erica Keene of the Mount Baker Ranger District at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 2, and 11 a.m. Sunday, Jan. 3. Writer and photographer Kevin Ebi offers a “Year of the Eagle” presentation at 1 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 2.

Find a full list of presentations at the interpretive center’s web site, http://skagiteagle.org/wordpress. For more information, check the website or call 360-853-7626.

Skagit River Bald Eagle Interpretive Center is in Howard Miller Steelhead County Park, 52809 Rockport Park Road, Rockport. Take Highway 20 east to Rockport and turn right on Alfred Street.

Robert Mittendorf: 360-715-2805, rmittendorf@bhamherald.com, @bhamMitty

Eagle viewing

Some of the best places to see bald eagles in Whatcom and Skagit counties:

▪  North fork Nooksack River near the Mosquito Lake Road bridge, just south of the Mount Baker Highway intersection.

▪  Deming Homestead Eagle Park, Deming.

▪  Along Rutsatz Road, east from the intersection of Highway 9. Be careful of traffic on the bridge.

▪  Milepost 100 rest area on Highway 20.

▪  Howard Miller Steelhead County Park, Rockport.

▪  Marblemount Fish Hatchery, Marblemount.

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