New York By Rail 14th ed. - Page 35

BALD EAGLES On the Hudson By Susan Piperato W atching the world go by your window is part of what makes train riding so pleasurable, especially when the scenery includes the Hudson River and surrounding woodlands. It’s such a relaxing view that it can lull you into dreaming—unless you’re searching for Bald Eagles. Surprising to many train travelers, Bald Eagles live along the Hudson River, and it’s easy for keen observers to spot them, says Lisa Masi, a senior wildlife biologist for the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) in New Paltz. Nesting season for Bald Eagles takes place from March to July. “They’re more localized and territorial then,” Masi says. Eagles’ nests are very large, even reaching “upwards of hundreds of pounds,” so they tend to choose tall, sturdy trees. Once a nest is built, a pair of eagles will reuse it. “They’ll be in the tall tree you see emerging from the canopy,” she says. “It can be a pine, a hardwood, or any type of tree, as long as it’s thick and large. When there are no leaves, eagles’ nests are obvious. They’re a very large bramble of sticks toward the top of the tree, near the trunk or on a thick branch. Once leaves are on the trees, they’re harder to spot.” In summertime, eagles fly over the Hudson and dart down to its surface to hunt. “Eagles primarily eat fish, but they’ll also eat waterfowl and carrion,” says Masi. But wintertime is also a good time to spot eagles. “When the river is frozen, birds congregate in areas of open water, mostly where tributaries empty into the Hudson,” she says. “If the weather is not too cold and the river isn’t frozen, eagles can be anywhere”—including up in their nests, conserving energy for the mating season. To protect the eagles, the DEC doesn’t provide specific whereabouts of nests. “Watching from the train may be the one of the best ways to observe eagles with the least additional stress to the birds,” she says. “Like other wildlife, eagles are susceptible to impacts from folks not taking necessary steps to avoid harassing or disturbing them while watching them.” For more information on Bald Eagle watching along the Hudson River, check out New York By Rail | 33