ENID LAKE, MS (abc24.com) - They're on the lookout for bald eagles. A dozen Mississippians woke up bright and early Tuesday morning to search for the country's national bird.
Once on the verge of extinction, eagles are now seen across the U.S. The government likes to keep a count of how many there are. Over the last thirty years, they've recruited local volunteers to help out.
"We'll look at the shorelines, look at the trees," says Chris Hannaford with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. "We go back to the same spots every year."
Mississippi park rangers set out bright and early once a winter, watching and waiting for a glimpse of the birds.
"Last year we cited 21 eagles," Hannaford tells abc24.com.
Eagle surveys are held to keep an accurate count of how many are in the state's national parks. Rangers want to know where they are and look for patterns.
"The more eyes we have in the area, the better chances there are of us actually spotting one." Hannaford says that's why every year, the corps of engineers asks for volunteers.
"I like seeing the birds in the wild," says volunteer Rachel Wiggins.
Tuesday, about 70 miles south of Memphis, a dozen searchers covered Enid Lake.
Volunteers are paired with rangers, put into groups of two or three and spread out to canvas the park. Each group reports back with their total.
"We're pretty sure we saw at least two maybe three," says Wiggins.
Other groups spotted two eagles; some saw as many as seven. In total, 14 eagles were counted. That number's down from previous years, probably because of the weather.
If you'd like to volunteer, there are two more opportunities this weekend. Surveys are being held on Saturday, January 8th at Sardis and Arkabutla Lakes.
"Contact the corps at their different field offices and come out and help us look," says Hannaford.
"It's an experience you'll never forget," Wiggins adds. "I never forget any of mine."
Call the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Field office in Arkabutla at (662) 562-6261 or in Sardis at (662) 563-4531 for more information.