The first 2021 Dr. S Marie Kuhnen Memorial Field Trip Search for Eagles took place in the Delaware Valley on Sunday, Jan. 3, from 8 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The temperature at the start was 28 degrees and at the finish 30 degrees. The forecast threatened sleet and snow.
It was an overcast day that began with watching feeder birds including hairy and downy woodpeckers, dark-eyed junco, blue jays, and pileated woodpecker, among others. Two participants wearing face coverings and social distancing logged 149 miles in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area and Upper Delaware Scenic River, from the Pocono Environmental Education Center (PEEC) to the Bushkill Access and the trip’s conclusion at the headwaters of the Lackawaxen River.
On the search were seen 37 species of birds: 53 bald eagles, 1 golden eagle, 4 red-tailed hawks, 1 peregrine falcon, and 2 common ravens.
Our first bald eagle sighting was at the Bushkill Access. The bird was perched in a tree on the New Jersey side downriver from the access. From Eshbacks we spotted two adult bald eagles, a large female perched on a sycamore upriver, and a male on a pine across from us as we heard the rattle of a belted kingfisher. At 9 a.m. it started snowing.
Our first red-tailed hawk was spotted perching near Route 209, mile marker 11. We were on our way to the Dingmans Ferry Access. No bald eagle present.
The next bald eagle was perched on the nest above the shale bank near mile marker 17. I was able to capture an image through the snow of the bird on the nest. We checked the bald eagle’s nest near the Pierce House. No bald eagle present.
We continued past the Best Western, no eagles. However, a red-tailed hawk was perched aside the westbound lane of I 84. At the River View Restaurant near where Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York converge there were mallards and Canada geese but no bald eagles. We made a pit stop at the Pennsylvania Welcome Center.
The Laurel Grove Cemetery overlook above the Tristate Monument is where we checked an active bald eagle nest: no bald eagle present.
Downriver from the Eddy Farm Resort overlook an adult bald eagle was perched on the Pennsylvania side of the river.
By noon we were at the Hawks Nest historical marker. Checked the whitewash on the cliff, one peregrine falcon was tucked in on a ledge. We enjoyed seeing the perched peregrine through a spotting scope.
From the Indian Head Canoe livery station we spotted two bald eagles perched on the same branch in a white pine. We added another perched adult bald eagle at Pond Eddy. We continued to the Mongaup Falls Observation Blind. Two bald eagles were perched upstream from the blind. Common and hooded mergansers and common goldeneyes were on the water. An adult bald eagle was perched then flew along Plank Road. No bald eagles at the Rio Reservoir Dam.
We returned to the Delaware and spotted our first juvenile bald eagle near Pond Eddy. By the time we reached the Lackawaxen we had observed a dozen bald eagles. Our first bald eagle along the Lackawaxen was a juvenile. Our search along the Lackawaxen was spectacular! We spotted an additional 41 bald eagles and a golden eagle.
In the tree where we discovered a new nest during our last search, there were 11 perched bald eagles, 3 adults, and 8 juveniles. In the vicinity of Appert Road there were an additional 20 bald eagles, both perched and in flight.
A special treat along the Lackawaxen was watching an adult bald eagle leave its perch, fly to the river with its talons extended, plunge its talons into the water, swoop upward, and fly upriver to another perch. The bald eagle did not catch a fish.
Future Searches for Eagles:
Future searches will be held on the following Sundays, Jan. 10, Feb. 7 and 14, and March 7 and 14.
Weather permitting, meet at 8 a.m. at the PEEC parking lot (538 Emery Road, Dingmans Ferry, Pa.), or at 10 a.m. at the north entrance to the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area entrance, Route 209 south mile marker 20, Milford, Pa. The search will conclude along the Lackawaxen River at approximately 4 p.m.
Dress warmly, and bring binoculars, field guides, and a lunch. Face coverings and social distancing are required.
To participate, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 845-325-0536, and indicate which field trips you will be attending. There is no charge.
The eagle observation data collected on the searches will be shared with the National Park Service, the Sussex County Bird Club, the Eagle Institute, Hawk Mountain Sanctuary, and the Hawk Migration Association of North America.
An eagle identification field guide, and Search for Eagles activities publication will be provided by the Brandwein Institute.
Editor’s note: Jack Padalino, who leads the Search for Eagles, is president emeritus of the Pocono Environmental Education Center, a partner with the National Park Service.