by, Ralph Ferrusi, Poughkeepsie Journal, link to original post WITH PHOTOS
Location: The upper Delaware River region, around Barryville in Sullivan County.
Length: Several short walks to viewing areas and blinds.
Rating: Once you spot your first soaring eagle, you really get into it.
Accessible: We visited five viewing sites, and all were wheelchair accessible.
Dogs: “Eagle Etiquette” in the Winter Eagle Watching brochure says “leash pets,” but I’d leave Fido home, as human etiquette (see Watch out for) is basically to remain as unobtrusive as possible.
Maps: Great multi-color map at the Institute, or online.
Features: January through March are the best months to view eagles here, when the highest numbers of eagles are in the area, having flown as much as 900 miles from their breeding grounds in Canada to find food in ice-free sections of rivers and reservoirs. Early morning and late afternoon are the best viewing times.
Watch out for: The Institute has several informative brochures and they all emphasize Eagle Etiquette. Here’s a summary: Human presence and disturbances can stress eagles. Remain in or near your vehicle; several of the viewing areas have big viewing “blinds.” No loud noises — yelling, car horns, car doors slamming — or unnecessary movement. Keep your distance — use binoculars or spotting scopes — and don’t try to “get a bit closer,” or do anything to try to get an eagle to fly. Obey the law: “Disturbing, harming or killing eagles can result in high fines and/or imprisonment.” Don’t even think about picking up an eagle feather — eagles are a federally protected species; unbelievably, not that long ago they were almost extinct — and you could be slapped with a $50,000 fine!
Dress warm. Be patient. Best to have a driver and a navigator/map reader: the viewing sites cover a broad area from Narrowsburg to the Rio Reservoir north of Mongaup. Park only in designated areas: pull completely off the road; don’t stop on the road. Bring your best binoculars.
Final note: we’re not the only ones experiencing a mild winter: many eagles have stayed north, so eagle sightings aren’t as plentiful as they might be in a “normal” winter.
Background: Kath and I have seen quite a few bald eagles, sometimes on open summits while hiking, but most often while canoeing on the Hudson or in marshes, or in swamps, or on Northern Forest Canoe Trail waterways. It’s always exciting, but they are generally far away, and often we haven’t packed our best (heavy) binoculars. This was the first time our objective was simply to try to observe eagles, not while we were engaged in some other activity, hence the Eagle Institute, “A non-profit volunteer citizens’ group dedicated to protecting the eagle and promoting habitat conservation.” (www.eagleinstitute.org).
Field Office winter hours (January through mid-March): Fridays 12-3 p.m., Saturdays/Sundays 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
Hike description: At the Institute, Ruth and Larry were very helpful, and after watching the excellent film, Kath and I set out to five different viewing areas: just up the Delaware at Lackawaxen; south on 97 at Minisink Ford and the Barryville Bridge; north of Pond Eddy at the north end of the Rio Reservoir; and east of the reservoir on Planck Road. We both watched an eagle soar at Lackawaxen, and Kath spotted two more (while I was photographing signs) at the reservoir. We notched two more “probable” sightings from the car.
How to get there: I-84 west to Exit 1, Port Jervis. Left onto Main Street, right on Route 97. Twenty scenic miles to Minisink Ford, cross the Delaware into PA on the historic (D&H Canal) wooden Roebling Bridge. Eagle Institute office just past the end of the bridge on the right.