Hackensack River Canoe & Kayak Club

paddling for over a third of a century

Bald Eagles in Westchester County New York
by Bob Rancan

January 24, 2010

For a January Sunday, it was warm and there wasn't a biting wind on the banks of the Hudson. But it was a gray day, with rain on it's way and the dampness in the air seemed to get colder and heavier as morning turned to afternoon. There were 12 members and guests gathered to look for wintering eagles and ducks. When we first started coming up to these spots about 10-12 years ago, it was always with fingers crossed that we'd see more than a couple of eagles. Now it seems hard to be disappointed. Where we met down past the Croton/Harmon Railroad Station at the Croton's mouth, we saw 4 eagles within a minute or two. After hanging around there for about 45 minutes we had 9 eagles, 2 ruddy ducks, 7-8 common mergansers and 3 Ring-necked ducks. There were numerous Bufflehead ducks diving in pairs or small groups.

The highlight of the trip probably happened at Croton Point Park up by the campground. We were walking along the edge of the landfill towards a perched Red Tail Hawk, which eventually let us walk right by. The row of trees facing south back towards the river held two immature eagles, one that looked like it was coming into it's breeding years, the head was almost all white, just a bit dirty looking. These perches are high above the river but with the landfill access behind the trees, it may be the closest you'll get to an eagle on foot without disturbing the bird. Before we left the campground, someone directed us to another Red Tail, perched right out in the open. Great looks!

As we got to Georges Island Park, a drizzle started and the dampness seemed to get worse. But we had eagles at every stop, 8 at Dogan Point on Georges Island, 2 at Verplanck (one flew right overhead) and 2 at China Pier (or Fleischman's Pier) at Peekskill.
An unofficial tally: 23 Bald Eagles, 3 Ring-Necked ducks, about 25 Common Mergansers, 21 Canvasbacks,18-20 Buffleheads, 3 Red Tails, a Great Blue Heron, a couple of Mute Swans, and the usual Cormorants, Canada Geese and Mallards.
Thanks to my friends Alec and Hillary Maylon from the Palisades Nature Association, HRCKC members and guests Scott Hagaman, Laurie Cochran, Carole Baligh, Kurt Brown, Tom DeAngelis, Mary Faley, Elana Fine and her friend Emily and especially Janet Rancan for taking most of the pictures and the great spotting.