The day I hiked Bramley Mountain a bald eagle was sitting in a tree along the West Branch of the Delaware River, just upstream from Delhi. Today, as I drove across the Susquehanna bridge near Exit 13, an eagle flew down the river in front of me.
Bald eagles are becoming far more common as years go by. They are fish eaters and scavengers. There are nests along many of our rivers and streams, as well as along the shores of Goodyear Lake.
I love to see them. One day a couple of years ago, we were fishing for walleyes on Goodyear Lake. As we left the lake and started up the river, an eagle dove down into the water near us to get a fish, but he missed. Maybe it was because our boat was quite close. He got up and continued down the lake. A few minutes later, it flew back up the river and passed us with a fairly large fish in its talons.
But some residents of the lake are not that enthralled with them. Friends of ours have a house across the lake from the motel. Eagles seem to like a tree in their yard just a few feet from the water. The problem is they bring their fish there to dine. Now, an eagle doesn’t have the best table manners. They drop portions of their meal on the ground at the base of the tree. It doesn’t take long on those hot summer days to have the distinct smell of rotting fish drifting up to their patio. It takes a regular cleaning on the lake bank to avoid the foul odor.
I have friends who lived in Alaska for many years and have moved down to this area because they were tired of the darkness. They think eagles are a nuisance. At the docks, they are worse than seagulls. They dominate their space and aren’t the least bit intimidated by people.
Late last fall before winter set in, a fellow I know and his wife drove down to the Rondout Reservoir to see the eagles. They sat there and saw a total of 17 eagles in just a couple of hours. So, if you don’t get your fill of them around here, take a trip down into the Catskills this spring.
I used to enjoy seeing them when I fly fished the Delaware just upstream from Delancey. There was a huge eagle’s nest right along the river. Many times I had to avoid that area because the birds were nesting and had young eaglets standing on the nest waiting for their dinner.
One day, we kayaked down the river from Fitch’s Bridge to Hamden. When we passed under the nest those half-plumbed eaglets leaned over and watched us go by. There’s no nest there anymore. The eagles built it bigger and bigger every year, until it finally collapsed.
During the winter I’ve seen eagles standing on deer carcasses along the roads, as well as on the frozen surface of Cannonsville Reservoir. They don’t let a good meal go to waste.
Due to the release of eagles years ago and good habitat, the bald eagle has made a miraculous comeback. In 1989, the DEC established 10 breeding pairs of eagles in the state. Today, there are over 170 pairs. When I mentioned Go Eagles in the title and said I wasn’t talking football, there’s a reason. I never liked Philadelphia, but I sure like the bald ones.