Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Winter Field Trip
Westchester County, NY
by Bob Rancan

Sunday, January 27, 2013

For the fifth straight winter, we planned a Club trip to check various points along the Hudson for wintering eagles, ducks and other birds of prey. It seems that the colder the winter, the more ice on the river, the more success we've had in spotting eagles. We saw 20 and 23 in the first two years but in the nasty January of 2011, the total shot up to 41. Last year, with warm temperatures and no snow, no ice, we counted only 8. With another warm and snowless January so far in 2013, I did not know what to expect. A preliminary trip the previous Monday brought 11 eagles plus a barred owl at a day perch amongst some pines at Croton Point.

We would wind up with 21 members and guests, a beautiful day, about 30-32 degrees but sunny and NO wind. After a slow start at the mouth of the Croton River...no eagles but a few American Coots, Black ducks, buffleheads and common mergansers among the gulls and geese, things got better. As we parked up at the Croton Point campground, several members got a fast look at a coyote hunting on the landfill. The barred owl was spotted again and all had good looks and photo ops. We took a brief walk along the edge of the landfill and spotted one soaring eagle. On the way back we passed directly under a perched eagle. Its head and tail were almost all white but a few dark feathers remained.

At George's Island State Park and Verplanck a total of 9 more eagles, 4 red tail hawks, a red breasted merganser and several buffleheads were observed. At the last stop, Fleischmann's or China Pier in Peekskill, we found ice flows and eagles, at least 9 or 10 and everyone took advantage of the fine weather and walked out onto the Pier to watch and photograph the eagles riding the ice flows as the tide started to ebb. To cap the wonderful day, a courting pair even treated us to some synchronized flying.

Totals: 21 eagles, 5 red tail hawks, 1 barred owl, 1 coyote, 3 American Coots, 3 American Black ducks, 10-12 buffleheads, 6-8 common mergansers, 1 red breasted merganser, many Canada geese, gulls, double-crested cormorants.

Thanks to Janet Rancan, Ian Rabinowitz for the photos and Alec and Hillary Malyon from Greenbrook Sanctuary for additional photos (and bringing the spotting scope). And thanks for coming out: Stan and Jean Laser, Alan and Ian Rabinowitz, Barbara Polkovitz, Herta Dusebout, Monica Orso, Summonot Kongchatree, Lori Baumann, Ken Shure and Roberta Levine, Dianna Newton, Norann Hein, Karen Hohe, Melody Wegner, Lisa DeFrancesco and Neesha Davy.