Archive for March, 2010
I can remember as a kid standing in the scenic pull-off area off Route 6/202 in Cortlandt and looking down at Iona Island in the Hudson River. This had to be one winter in the late 1970s or the early 1980s and the big draw that had people stopping at the overlook were a couple of bald eagles spending the winter on the river.
Looking at the state Department of Environmental Conservation’s bald eagle report, about 40 birds were thought to winter in the state back then. The two visible from the pull-off were nothing more than brown dots in the landscape that day.
Fast forward to today and the state DEC is touting a banner year when it comes to New York’s bald eagles.
With an annual mid-winter survey near completion, preliminary results indicate that the bald eagle population in New York State may be at an all-time high since the state began its repopulation efforts more than 30 years ago, Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis announced today.
New York has conducted annual surveys since 1979 and the highest official winter count occurred in 2008 with 573 bald eagles spotted. DEC’s preliminary results for 2010 indicate that sightings may exceed this number as regions of the state continue to provide favorable wintering habitat for both New York resident eagles and for Canadian visitors. As of Jan. 31, 459 eagles had been sighted, a pace well ahead of the 2008 record. New York’s survey efforts are part of a national initiative that monitors the locations and numbers of bald eagles wintering in the lower 48 states.
This morning, before I even saw the above press release, I was thinking about how much the eagle scene has changed in New York since I saw the Iona Island birds. Those were the first bald eagles I ever laid eyes on and the birds were something I associated more with places like Alaska or television shows like Wild Kingdom, rather than suburban New York. In contrast, my seven-year-old daughter has seen eagles quite regularly. Not only has she spotted the occasional eagle flying along the Hudson, she’s also had the opportunity to peer into an eagle’s nest, where mom and dad were raising their young.
That nest is in Southeast and I stopped by there this morning. Through my spotting scope, I could see an eagle sitting atop the nest. The photo leaves a little to be desired, but the white spot on top of the giant pile of sticks is an eagle
Other than a glance to the right or the left, the only other movement was the wind ruffling the feathers on the back of the eagle’s head. The bird never got up during the 10 minutes I watched, so I assumed it was mom sitting on some eggs.
“The resurgence of the bald eagle has been one of New York’s most amazing environmental success stories,” DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis said in the release. “This has been due to the tremendous commitment of many DEC staff over the past three decades and the ongoing cooperation of individuals and communities that recognize the importance of protecting essential habitat bald eagles need to thrive.”