Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Return of the Bald Eagle

Each winter, between December and March, Bald Eagles from Canada and northern New York and New England fly south to the lower Hudson Valley to feed on fish and waterfowl found in unfrozen waters. It’s then that we see eagles at Beczak’s Hudson River beach.

On Saturday, February 26, at 7 PM, Beczak is excited to host Hudson Valley eagle expert, Tom Lake, for a presentation called RETURN OF THE BALD EAGLE. Don’t miss it! He tells The Tidal Zone why he finds Bald Eagles so fascinating.

“Bald Eagles are one of those species, like loons and bears, that authenticate the wilderness. As wild (non-developed) areas in this country shrink, we need such symbols to keep us from getting depressed.

They mate for life and, in my experience, show tremendous fidelity to their ‘spouses.’ Their courtship displays, which are occurring even now, are like ‘aerial ballets.’ The adults are great parents tending to their nestlings.

Eagles are incredible hunters. They can find food under the most-dire climatic circumstances. They are very strong, resourceful, and from my vantage, seem very intelligent.

To the Native People of North America, they were (are) a sacred bird. While many of the attributes discussed above are of little interest to many people, to Native Americans, they define what it means to be a kindred spirit.

I have been monitoring a nest in Dutchess County (daily from March through June) for a decade and have been allowed to ‘know’ the mated pair. They tolerate me because I have been a predictable neighbor. The sights and sounds of that ten-year relationship have given me an appreciation of their place in our world.

Tom Lake is the Estuary Naturalist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation's Hudson River Estuary Program. Besides shadowing eagles and teaching the ecology of the estuary, he edits the Hudson River Almanac, a natural history journal now in its 17th year.