New York’s eagle capital celebrates
By CHRIS CONROY
NARROWSBURG, NY — Bald eagles are loyal and smart creatures.
They mate for life, return to the same spots year after year
and are quick to adapt to new situations.
None of this natural dedication helped them avoid near-extinction.
To do that, people had to get involved. Due to decades of hard work by dedicated
people keeping the large birds out of harm’s way and helping those that have
fallen prey to misfortune, the bald eagle population in the United States
has come back from the brink of extinction.
Bill Streeter is one of those people. Streeter, as the executive
director of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center, works every day to educate
those around him of the hazards his feathered friends face. Most of those
hazards are man-made.
Presenting the raptor center’s popular “Birds of Prey” lecture
at the second annual Narrowsburg EagleFest on January 18, Streeter brought
a handful of birds that he and members of the center had nursed back to health.
Many of the birds had been shot; others had been hit by swiftly moving vehicles.
One had been “rescued” from a “rescuer” who caused more harm nursing the
bird back to health.
“These are wild animals,” Streeter explained to the standing-room-only
crowd in the Narrowsburg school auditorium. Only trained experts, he said,
should attempt to rehabilitate an injured raptor. What everyone can do is
share the knowledge and respect for the birds that he was passing on to them.
Sharing the knowledge of and respect for the local bald eagle
population was what the EagleFest was about. Besides Streeter’s presentation,
which ran twice to a packed room, there were films and discussions about
eagles and their place in the Delaware River communities.
The National Park Service and Delaware Valley Arts Alliance
were doing brisk business selling all manner of eagle paraphernalia, including
toy eagles, eagle masks and prints of photos by local photographers of the
majestic birds in flight and in repose.
Only two years old, the EagleFest has already acquired the
support of its second corporate sponsor, Fleet Bank, and served as the platform
for Senator John Bonacic to declare Narrowsburg and the Town of Tusten “The
Eagle Capital of the State of New York.” The festival is sponsored, in part,
and is the brainchild of nature photographers Yoke and John Digiorgio of
Nature’s Art LLC.
With weather much colder than last year, the traffic on Main
Street was a little thinner, though still representative of a successful
“I missed this last year,” said Tusten supervisor Dick Crandall.
“I’m very happy I could make it this year… it’s a perfect day for it. A little
cold, but the sun is out and it’s not windy.”
The low temperatures had one distinct benefit: this year,
the ice sculpture lasted past its completion. Last year, expert ice sculptor
Mark Crouthamel’s tribute to the majesty of the bald eagle was melting as
he worked on it. This time around, he had no fear of the sculpture becoming
soft and slushy.
Actual sightings of the local bald eagle population were sparse
during the day, but that didn’t stop people from looking. The observation
deck on Main Street was constantly filled with eagle watchers.
“Usually when a day starts out this cold, [people] don’t come
out,” said Leon Smith, a volunteer with the Eagle Institute who was on hand
to assist first-time eagle watchers. “This is a really good turnout.”
Streeter spoke about the need to respect raptors of all kinds,
but the eagle holds a special mystery for many. The mere chance to see one
can bring people out on a cold day. That mystery is well known to the Lenni
Lenape tribe of Native Americans that once were the only ones to call the
river valley home. For them, respect for the eagle transcends the physical
world. For them, the eagle is a spiritual ideal.
Jim Beer, a descendant of the Lenni Lenape and spokesperson
for Pennsylvania branch of the tribe, helped dedicate the day to the ideal
of the eagle.
“We use the eagle to teach our children [to see] a different
perspective on things… to see things as the Creator sees things… to see how
what we do affects the whole of things,” he said. “It takes a while to see
those things, and feel those things with the eagles… it is a powerful thing.
It is a relationship that needs to be nurtured.”