By Ian Resnick
The annual trip to the east side of the Hudson River in Westchester was held on February 6th. Far more than in recent winters, I expected the weather to play a part, given the amounts of frozen precipitation we've had this season. The "Eaglefest", to have been held on the 5th, was called off by its sponsors, making me somewhat leery of holding the trip. I decided to just delay the start by an hour so that the sun could hit the road surfaces before we set out. Given that another club's report from the prior weekend included almost 200 Bald Eagles, I couldn't cancel ! The weather actually was possibly the warmest we have had on the trip, and winds were relatively light.
Eight of us made the trip, and we had eagles just about as soon as we arrived by the Croton-on-Hudson railroad station. There was a lot of ice on the ground here, but we still managed to see 9 eagles in a shallow spot on the river as well as 10 sitting in one tree. Just like Alaska! There were also a few eagles flying around.
The waterfowl numbers at this spot were way down, and the highlights were a Northern Pintail and an American Wigeon. From here we continued to Croton Point Park. The parking lot by the pines was ice-covered, and some of us drove back to the main lot and walked, while the others parked there. The main path was alternately covered in ice and an inch or more of cold water where the ice had melted. We didn't get a lot along here, and we then walked down by the house nearby where the trail was not iced over. At the feeders at the house we added a number of species including American Tree Sparrow and many expected species. The landfill was completely snow covered, and no birds seemed to be present. We had our lunch at the picnic tables under the large gazebo, normally not an option.
We skipped Black Rock Park as I was not comfortable with the possible conditions in the lot there, and went straight up to George's Island. We added a few more eagles, and a few Common Mergansers. Then we headed off to Verplanck. In addition to more eagles, we also had Great Cormorants and a couple of nice flocks of Common Mergansers, almost all males. All the water in close at China Pier was frozen, but there were quite a number of eagles in flight in the distance or on the ice. The best sighting here was of four Black Vultures soaring around together. The scenic overlook on Route 6 did provide nice scenery, but that was it. The parking lot there was not plowed out at all.
It was still a bit early, so we headed in the direction of the Croton Dam. Everything was going nicely until we got to the road that goes up to the dam, which had not been plowed. We took a shortcut to the Taconic and began the trip home.
All in all, it was a pretty good day. We ended up with 42 species seen by at least one member of the group. I conservatively estimate that we had about 60 Bald Eagles, although others seemed to think it was much closer to 100. Either way, can't complain when you see lots of them!