Eagles Return to Nest in The Delaware Water Gap
EAGLES COME HOME TO NEST
Warren D. Jorgensen
“Wow! Here comes the dance!” Dan Orey whispered, looking skyward. Thirteen heads turned skyward. Binoculars came up.
“Do you see any white?” another voice asked.
“No. Both brown.” A third answered.
Twenty-five hundred feet above the Upper Delaware Wild and Scenic Reserve that separates Pennsylvania and New York, two young eagles suddenly closed to within feet of each other put on the airborne brakes and faced off. Wings flared, they raised and locked their talons. They held together briefly, beginning a short spiral before they parted and went back to their soaring above their Winter Feeding waters. This demonstration of airborne prowess had been absent from New York skies for many years and appropriately enough, the two youngsters had staged their little show above The Eagle Institute and Lori
Mc Kean’s volunteers.
Throughout history, man has enjoyed a love/hate relationship with eagles. In 1970, there was but one pair of nesting bald eagles in all of New YorkState, down from hundreds at the turn of the century. But they could not reproduce, suffering the effects of DDT.
Between 1976 and 1989, NYDEC carried out a restoration program, hacking 198 eaglets into the wild, creating 29 nesting pair.
Monogamous homebodies, eagles mate for life and build one nest in their home area. Fish-eaters, they fly south to open water of the Upper Delaware River when the northern waters freeze up. In 1990, the state purchased 12,000 acres along the Mongaup River system and created the Eagle Preserve.
. People wanted to see them, and it was impossible to control overzealous visitors, who would often arrive by the busload. Lori Mc Kean saw her first eagle here, and the idea clicked.
“The first time I saw an eagle in the area,” she says, “I thought, not everyone gets a chance to see this”. She decided to change that.
The two shorelines of the river, where the eagles roosted, are under the control of their respective wildlife management agencies. The river itself, where they fed, is under the control of the National Park Service. These agencies concerned themselves with enforcement and ecological matters. There was no definitive program to educate the people about the eagles in their midst.
“I felt that there was a need for an educational on-site educational program here,” Lori says. She was working for the Audubon Society, and for six years, by herself, collected data, and recruited volunteers who helped visitors enjoy their viewing experience at the viewing sites
“She brought the eagles to the people”, says Brad Orey, of EastmanPa, who with his wife Denise would become two of Lori’s present forty plus volunteers.
When the eagles were taken off the endangered species list, the Audubon Society closed its office, and Lori took her program home, but she couldn’t end it.
“I realized that this is something that I just couldn’t walk away from”, she says of the year she spent working out of her kitchen. She started with ten volunteers, dispatching them to the various viewing sites along the Delaware, Lackawaxen and surrounding lakes and reservoirs where viewing sites had been set up. The volunteer’s jobs were very simple: to serve as guides and assist visitors in the viewing experience, and to teach them how to do it, via what Lori calls “Eagle Etiquette”.
During the winter months, eagles roost and eat. Energy conservation is their primary concern, and aside from flying out to feed, they will spend all of their time simply roosting. They are reclusive and wary, and unwarranted disturbances can endanger them. People want to see them fly. Once again, man enters the eagle’s world, and in ignorance, hurts them with his love.
ten years ago, she founded The Eagle Institute. Working out of the building donated by the National Park Service, she posts volunteers at any one of five viewing sites during the intensive winter eagle watching period. They collect data, monitor the roosting areas, and most importantly, advise the people who pile off those buses on how to view the eagles successfully, knowledgeably, and safely. Viewing these majestic animals is a very simple pleasure and doing it right a very simple plan. Their website, www.eagleinstitute.org, offers tips on eagle etiquette, sighting locations and times, and the history of the eagles in the area.
During the Winter nesting season, the number of eagles continues to grow along the 73-mile stretch of the Upper Delaware. Lori, with a husband, three children, two cats and a fulltime job, has seen her mission grow also.
“I never dreamed it would grow like this,” she says. “People have said it’s a passion with me. I guess it is, because I keep doing it”.
Tags: Bald Eagles , New York , Delaware Water Gap
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.