School field trips are intended to give youngsters an opportunity to connect with nature and to gain knowledge about life in the great outdoors -- but on one recent outing by a group of eagled-eyed third-graders in California, it was students who helped the grown-ups learn a thing or two.
While hiking in the San Bernardino Mountains, in Southern California, late last month, a class of schoolchildren from Big Bear Elementary School and their guide spotted a rare and hopeful sight high above in the trees: two bald eagle parents rearing a weeks-old chick. Biologists say that this is the first time in recent memory that a bald eagle chick has been seen there, some 50 miles east of Los Angeles.
"I was shocked to look through the spotting scope and see a bald eagle chick sitting up in the nest," said U.S. Forestry biologist Marc Stamer. "The students, teachers, and parents were as excited to see a baby eagle as I was. It was a first for all of us."
Although bald eagles are known to migrate to the region from northern U.S. states and Canada, the recent discovery of a chick suggests that at least some of the birds are considering regular residence in the San Bernardino Mountains -- in fact, Forestry Service officials have been eagerly awaiting it.
"We have hoped to see bald eagles nesting in the area for many years since we have great habitat for them," says Robin Eliason of the USFS, via Patch. "Eagles mate for life and will use the same nest tree for several years, so we can expect to see bald eagles here year-round for years to come."