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A variety of birds - including bald and golden eagles- perch on trees next to a herd of deer in the Upper Salmon River Basin.

A variety of birds – including bald and golden eagles – perch on trees next to a herd of deer in the Upper Salmon River Basin.

This bloody-faced bald eagle, photographed in the in the Upper Salmon River Basin, is fresh from lunch. Beth Waterbury and Toni Ruth glass for eagles.

This bloody-faced bald eagle, photographed in the in the Upper Salmon River Basin, is fresh from lunch. Beth Waterbury and Toni Ruth glass for eagles.

On a below zero, winter day in January, I went out with two good friends and birdwatchers for the Upper Salmon River Midwinter Bald Eagle Survey.

I learned so much during my day with Beth Waterbury, Idaho Fish and Game’s Non-Game Biologist, and Toni Ruth, a wildlife biologist who is typically on the look out for mountain lions or other large predatory mammals but who is a pretty fine birder, as well.

Thanks to a great zoom lens, I noticed a golden eagle near Tendoy in the Lemhi River area sporting what looked to me like jewelry on its leg. Beth immediately recognized the bling as a US Fish and Wildlife Service leg band. No banding was being done locally so the golden had obviously migrated to the Lemhi. From where remains a mystery.

The great news is that after crews conducted bird counts throughout the Upper Salmon River basin — from the Sawtooth Mountains to downriver of North Fork — their findings revealed the third highest bald eagle counts on record.

Beth credits a healthy local jackrabbit population and laws such as the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act for the up-tick in numbers.”

I like days like these, warmed by friendship, good wildlife results and hanging out with interesting  people who care about our environment.

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