They start to arrive in November when the cold turns dry and sharp. The return of the bald eagles to Lake Coeur d’Alene is a much-anticipated part of winter’s arrival.
The Northwest tradition of viewing eagles reveals my favorite things about people from the region—they don’t mind bundling up, they have a connection to the natural world, and they’re willing to hold still and wait quietly for a glimpse of something special and wild. If you’ve never scouted for eagles, a few tips will help you get the most out of your experience. If viewing eagles is already part of your "welcome winter" routine, then offer this page to someone who’s never gone out before.
- Pack a thermos or two. Hot drinks will warm you from the inside out. One thermos of coffee and one of hot chocolate is a bonus, because come on: who doesn’t enjoy a budget mocha once in a while?
- Keep tabs on the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Idaho Eagle Watch webpage, especially if you don’t want to risk braving the cold before the eagles have even arrived. The BLM publishes the number of eagles sighted each week, revealing that December is typically the best time of year to observe the birds.
- Scrounge up some “binos.” A cooperative habitat protection plan works with private, state, and national lands to preserve a wildlife sanctuary, but recent studies show that the eagles are moving away from traditional perch sites. Binoculars will up your chances of a successful sighting and allow you to see the birds without approaching them on foot.
- Watch for eagles from sanctioned viewing sights like Mineral Ridge trailhead, Higgins Point, Mineral Ridge Boat Ramp, or Wolf Lodge Bay. This will also minimize the impact on their habitat and the tendency of the birds to seek more remote perches.
- Invite a friend. They’ll keep you company on the drive over, or even keep you warm if you huddle up while watching the eagles. And invite unpredictably: if you’re an avid outdoorsperson, bring someone who hasn’t had much exposure to wild places.
- Take a tip from a hipster—and not just for fashion’s sake. Tossing a few wool throw blankets in the car for when the cold seeps in may help prolong your viewing experience.
- For more adventurous eagle viewing, get the Idaho Fish & Game's "Bald Eagles in Idaho" trail guidebook and follow where it leads.
- Become a bird enthusiast. If scouting for bald eagles was fun, consider participating in the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count or Backyard Bird Count over Presidents’ Day Weekend. These annual projects invite citizen scientists to contribute to national databases that ornithologists and conservation biologists use in their research projects.
- Share your psych. Some may see social media posts as braggy or self-promoting, but don’t overthink it: eagles are beautiful. Plus, sharing photos of wildlife and adventures may just inspire friends to pull on their boots and join in the tradition.