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Posts Tagged ‘volunteer opportunity’

mp100_scope_family_Jan_06_2014

Eagle Watcher Volunteer Carl Johansen shows a young visitor how to look at a bald eagle through a spotting scope on the Skagit River near Rockport Washington

UPDATE 11/10/16: We are no longer accepting applications for the 2016-2017 season. Thank you to everyone who applied!

Do you like spending time outdoors? Would you like to learn more about bald eagles and salmon in the Pacific Northwest and share that knowledge with visitors to our area? If that sounds like you, then you would make a great volunteer for the Skagit Eagle Watchers program with the US Forest Service.

The program is a lot of fun and full of great people. But don’t take my word for it; listen to what our current and former volunteers have to say:

If you are interested in volunteering, look for the application form on the top of this page, or call the Mt. Baker Ranger District at 360-856-5700 for more information.

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Eagle Watcher Volunteers on training day near the Marblemount Fish Hatchery.

Eagle Watcher Volunteers on training day 2011 on the Cascade River near Marblemount Fish Hatchery.

Do you like spending time outdoors and meeting new people? Would you like to learn more about bald eagles, salmon, the Skagit River and the North Cascades? Do you enjoy winter birding, and sharing what you have learned with others? The Forest Service is looking for adult volunteers for our winter volunteer stewardship program. Volunteers staff information tents near eagle viewing areas on the Skagit River, and we get to look at eagles through spotting scopes and binoculars all day. Volunteers can also give nature walks or even formal programs if they have the desire to do so. You don’t have to know anything about eagles, we will teach you.  All you need is a friendly attitude and the desire to talk with the public. This program has been going for 21 years and we would love to see some new faces this year. Volunteer solo or with a friend or relative. The application and more information can be found using the tabs above. I will be in the office beginning November 10 and can be reached at (360)854-2630 if you have more questions.

-Tanya

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eagle watch13

A bald eagle perches in a cottonwood above Highway 530 bridge in Rockport, Washington.

Story and photos by US Forest Service Kelly Sprute

 

Everett, Wash., Jan. 16, 2013—It isn’t an easy job: standing six long hours in rain, sleet, hail, sun and snow every weekend starting in December through January.  Armed with binoculars, spotting scopes and a love for bald eagles they greet and teach thousands of people who pilgrimage to Skagit River for a glimpse of eagles roosting in trees and eating fish along the banks. And these Eagle Watcher volunteers do it for free.

Eagle Watchers are stationed at three locations along the Skagit River on the North Cascades Highway: Howard Miller Steelhead Park near Rockport, Wash., nature viewing area at milepost 100 and the Marblemount Fish Hatchery.

The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and North Cascades Institute created the program in 1992 to control crowding that disrupted the birds and caused traffic problems on the highway according to Tanya Kitterman. The Forest Service Eagle Watcher coordinator said the Skagit River watershed boasts one of the largest wintering populations of bald eagles in the continental United States.

“The birds flock to the Skagit River for three reasons: the abundance of food, the river has good flows for spawning and it doesn’t ice over,” Kitterman said. Each year it takes 45 volunteers run the program, but most are eager to return, so she usually only needs to recruit about five people.  All it takes to be an Eagle Watcher is enthusiasm about eagles and be an adult.  “I bring the canopies, scopes, tri-pods and binoculars and they run with it. Their passion for the eagles is contagious,” Kitterman said.

The Forest Service trains volunteers about eagle biology and how they fit into the Skagit River ecosystem, readying volunteers for a multitude of questions: “How long do they live? How big is their wingspan? How much do they weigh? Why is the female bigger than the male? Where are they from?”

Harry Ota, a retired US army colonel who lives in Mt. Vernon, Wash., is a 20-year veteran Eagle Watcher.  “It beats getting cabin fever,” he said. He still gets ready for the season every year by digging out his reference books and reviewing old videos.

Eagle Watcher Program volunteer Harry Ota scans for eagles at the Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery in Marblemount Washington.

Eagle Watcher Program volunteer Harry Ota scans for eagles at the Department of Fish and Wildlife hatchery in Marblemount Washington.

“The eagles that arrive here are frozen out of their territory and food source up north and follow the salmon traveling south. It is amazing how nature works together. As one spawning route ends, another begins and the eagles move to follow,” Ota said. They are hungry when they arrive on the Skagit. “You’ve heard the saying about eating like a bird. Well, eagles are very voracious eaters and eat about a pound of meat a day. That is like us eating 40 quarter-pounders,” Ota said.

The years of observing these birds have given Ota insight into the eagle’s behavior.

He has noticed that some have become attuned to the presence of human activity.  Although most will fly away from their meal when a boat drifts down river, some eagles just stop, guard their salmon, watch the boat pass and continue eating.

“Eagles are incredible animals with personalities. They have a favorite perch they return to, just like we do. Some watch the world go by, others fight over food, and a rare few perform flybys worthy of jet fighters over the bridge near the Howard Miller Steelhead Park,” Ota said.

In 2000 he got to help trap, tag and release eagles along the Skagit River for a Washington State wildlife research study.  “Holding an eagle in my hands was an experience of a lifetime,” Ota said. They tagged 23 eagles and tracked them for five years. “The study discovered the eagles came from up north in the Yukon and were flying down the coast to northern California or east across the Cascades following the Yakima River,” he said.

One of Ota’s favorite stories is of the eagles’ resiliency and recovery. “In the 1950s there was an estimated 412 nesting pairs of bald eagles in the lower 48 states. The bird was later listed as an endangered species. By the 1990s the eagle’s population had rebounded to an estimated 115,000 and was later removed from the endangered and threatened list in 2007,” he said.  But Ota said what keeps him coming back every year is seeing peoples’ face light up when they view an eagle through the scope for the first time. “It is wonderful,” he said.

You can view the bald eagles each weekend until the end of January.

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Eagle in our spotting scope, Howard Miller Steelhead Park, Rockport, WA, January 2012. Photo by Don Knutzen.

The Forest Service can still take a few more volunteers into the Skagit Eagle Watcher program this winter. I have extended the deadline to Wednesday, November 21. Volunteer participants receive training on December 1st and 15th, then spend a few weekends out on the Skagit River looking at eagles and answering questions for the public. Interested? Fill out an application form here (see the tab above) or call the Mt Baker Ranger District for more information at 360-856-5700.

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Eagle Watcher Volunteers at Milepost 100 on Highway 20, January 2012.
This could be you!

Are you interested in volunteering as an Eagle Watcher for the 2012-2013 season?
I still need 12 volunteers to fill out this season’s roster and one of them could be you! Prospective volunteers should be available for trainings on December 1 and 15. (Returning volunteers attend on the 15th only.) The program runs for six weekends (December 22-January 27), during which time volunteers are expected to sign up for 3 shifts on the river. If you enjoy talking to people, birding, and spending time outdoors in winter weather, this opportunity is for you. Get your application here and return it to the Mt Baker Ranger District by Monday, November 19th, 2012. For more information call the Mt Baker Ranger District at 360-856-5700

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Volunteer helps visitors at Howard Miller Eagle Watch Station

Eagle Watcher Elena directs visitors to viewing sites from Howard Miller Park

Would you like to be an Eagle Watcher volunteer? The signup period for the Skagit Eagle Watchers Volunteer Stewardship Program is now open. Volunteers will attend 2 days of training, then commit to working 3 winter weekend shifts along the Skagit River. At viewing stations between Rockport and Marblemount , volunteers answer questions and educate the public about eagle and salmon ecology, and use spotting scopes to allow visitors to get a close up view of wintering bald eagles. Volunteer applications are available at the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest website and at the Mt Baker Ranger Station in Sedro-Woolley.

Applications are due November 22 for the 2010-11 season.

For more information, call the Mt Baker Ranger District at (360)856-5700.

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As of today, there are still about 20 volunteer spots available for this winter’s eagle watching season. An application is available here at the Mt Baker Snoqualmie National Forest website. Turn in your application by November 25th if you would like to join us.

If you are selected to participate in the program, you will attend 2 days of training in bald eagle ecology, identification and management issues related to the winter Skagit River bald eagle population. The training will be held in Rockport on December 5 and 6. At the completion of training you will have an opportunity to sign up for three six-hour shifts as an educator at one of the eagle watching sites on the Skagit River. Volunteers will be stationed at the 3 sites between Marblemount and Rockport each weekend from December 26 to January 31.

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