High in the snow-capped mountains east of Los Angeles, egg-citement is in the crisp late-winter air.
A bald eagle has laid a second egg at a nest on the north side of Big Bear Lake. Located in the Fawnskin area, the nest is closed to the public, but available for live viewing here. Turn up the volume — you might hear a piercing screech.
The first chick is expected to hatch on about April 10. The second should hatch a few days later.
"Now, for the next 35 or so days, we will see the parents share incubation duties," said Forest Service biologist Robin Eliason. "This regulates the temperature of the egg so the embryo can develop. If all goes well, we should see a hatchling in around April 10."
Closing the nest area gives the eagles the protection they need to take care of the eggs. If eagles feel threatened, they might abandon the nest.
The live camera in the San Bernardino National Forest was installed by the group Friends of Big Bear Valley. The new camera installed last summer has better resolution, zooming and 360-degree panning capabilities.
Viewers will see nesting habits, including feeding times, and sometimes the unexpected. In April of last year, eagle enthusiasts watching the live feed were alarmed when a 10-week-old eagle named Stormy appeared to fall from a nest. The chick was OK after landing on a branch about 20 feet below the nest.
The San Bernardino Mountains have the largest winter population of eagles in Southern California, where mountain lakes and streams offer prime hunting grounds. Ten to 20 eagles can be found in the region during a typical winter. Many migrate north in spring to nest.
Eagles typically share incubation duties, but the male usually does most of the hunting and scavenging. The female handles most of the feeding and brooding.
Newborn eagles are typically about 4 to 5 inches and weigh just a few ounces. But they eat a lot, scarfing down as much food as it can from the adult's beak. By nine weeks, the eagle is nearly full grown and developing the muscles it needs to fly.
The Big Bear egg arrived just a few days before the last bald eagle count of winter in the mountains. The count helps U.S. Forest Service biologists keep track of the area's eagle population.