January 26, 2012 —
One thing that can be counted on in the region is the arrival of hundreds of wintering bald eagles to the Delaware River and other waterways. Typically starting in late December or early January, eagles arrive from Canada as they seek open water to forage for their favorite food: fish.
With the milder than normal winter so far, the eagles have been slow to migrate to the upper Delaware. Many of the northern rivers where eagles forage were still open as of the New Year, so that eliminated the need for them to migrate all the way to the wintering ground of our region for a few weeks.
Indeed, when the aerial portion of the NY Mid-Winter Bald Eagle Count was performed by the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) a couple weeks ago, the preliminary total count of eagles for all routes flown was just 96 eagles. In 2010, 96 happened to be the number of air counted eagles just for the main stem of the Delaware River; 2010 was a banner year, with 277 eagles tallied for New York during the aerial portion of the count.
A week or so later, temperatures dipped down into the single digits, and it stayed cold enough to cause sheet and frazil ice to form on slower portions of the river. The cold weather also got the eagles to move and finish their trip to the wintering grounds. On the 20th of January, I counted over 20 eagles during lunch hour near the Forestburgh NYSDEC eagle blind at the Mongaup Falls Reservoir. There were always eagles on the ice, with over a dozen at times on the frozen portions of the reservoir.
The river eagles seem to be picking up in numbers too, though not in the numbers experienced in the Mongaup region. A high concentration of “full time” resident eagles is present on the main stem of the Delaware River along with migrant eagles.
Open water areas such as the Lackawaxen confluence are a good bet for eagle spotting. For more information and eagle spotting reports, visit www.eagleinstitute.org  .