Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hudson Valley's Wintering Bald Eagles

Bald Eagle photographed at the New Croton Dam during EagleFest 2010
This winter we have received a number of phone calls in the office regarding Bald Eagles.  Typically the conversation begins with the caller describing a large bird that they're certain was an eagle.  Eventually they ask, "Is it possible to see eagles around here?"  And often to their surprise, our answer is, "Yes!"

The Bald Eagle (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) was once threatened with extinction in the lower 48 states due to DDT poisoning.  Protection provided by the Endangered Species Act and reintroduction efforts eventually resulted in the species' removal from the endangered species list.  In NY, the DEC documented 173 breeding pairs of Bald Eagles across the state in 2010.  139 of these pairs successfully fledged a total of 244 young eagles.  This is a result that very few could have foreseen in 1976 when the NYSDEC began its Bald Eagle Restoration Project.

Today's wintering Bald Eagle numbers in the Hudson Valley continue to climb as well.  Each winter dozens of our nation's symbol spend the winter in the vicinity of the lower Hudson Valley.  Monitoring of the roosting locations of these birds in Westchester County by the Bedford Audubon Society (BAS) has shown consistent increases in winter eagle numbers.  During the 2009 survey period, BAS volunteers documented a peak abundance of 139 eagles within the study area.  Compare that to the 2008 peak abundance of 84 eagles and that's an increase of 65%!  BAS is currently conducting surveys this winter at various locations along the Hudson River and New Croton Reservoir.  If you're interested in participating, you can contact Tait Johansson, BAS naturalist, at tjohansson@bedfordaudubon.org.

If you would like to view eagles at your leisure this winter, there are a couple of very good locations to do so. The Google Map below shows just a few of the best locations to view eagles in our area during the winter months.  Click on the map locations for a description of the area and what/where to look.  Use the Google options to get directions to these areas from your location.
View Eagle Viewing Locations in a larger map

The best time to view eagles in peak activity are morning hours (7-9am) and late afternoon hours (4-5pm), but you're likely to see eagles at these locations at any time of the day with just a very short visit.  If I had to pick one location to send you to, I would go to George's Island.  I've had great views of both adult and immature eagles each time I've visited this winter.  There are usually a number of other bird species (various duck species, Common mergansers, Mute swans, etc) to view in that location as well.

So I hope you'll take a short trip to the Hudson River to view an eagle or two this winter.  But don't wait too long!  These birds will only be around in such large concentrations through the end of February.  Seize the opportunity now and you'll certainly be rewarded.

-Adam Zorn, Naturalist

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Rt 9W Tomkins Cove across from the power plant We see many many eagles there.One day..around 5 PM we saw at least 50...It was spectacular.We see eagles every day near there this year.Last year we saw none..The year before many .It's amazing.