Ice, eagles

Yesterday morning, on a blustery cold day in Columbia County, New York, we listened to the ice moving down the Hudson. This wasn’t a very loud sound, but it was hypnotic hearing the crinkle of ice folding into itself, the cristle of it moving south with the current. (Excuse the smudge of my frozen finger there, this was my first video on this new device.)

This was at Nutten Hook, Stuyvesant, NY, site of the ruins of a 19th century ice factory, appropriately enough, and now part of the Hudson River National Estuarine Research Reserve. A few of the shards turned up along the rocks of the shore looked to be about four inches thickice shards but the ice company was from a time when the river froze solid all the way across, and could be crossed with horse-drawn ice plows. The structure dates to 1885; it could hold some 52, 800 tons of ice.

We saw 6-7 Bald Eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus) on our 45-minuted walk in the area, most of them perched in trees on the other side of the river. One was on the ice in the middle of the river with two crows, who were probably waiting for leftovers. A large barge went by this trio without upsetting it. Most of the eagles were the brown juveniles, but two were adult birds, who get the white head and tail plumage at 4-5 years of age.

Going up to Hudson, NY, on Amtrak on Saturday, I noted six eagles along the river from the train. Coming back down to Penn Station yesterday, I counted eight, the southern-most near Peekskill. The ice was thin on the water there and completely absent further south at Croton-Harmon. These counts were via sporadic watching; if I’d kept my eyes open the entire two-hour trip I probably would have had more.

There is probably some duplicate counting here, since the same tree had a couple birds on it Sunday and three on Saturday. But, twenty sightings of bald eagles over two days in a small patch of New York is something to celebrate.

The first eagle we saw yesterday was above road 9J just before Nutten Hook, silhouetted by the blurry morning sun. The massive size and large head are pretty distinctive even in such rotten lighting. We turned the car around and hopped out to see out white-head sea eagle (which is what it’s binomial name translates as). It flew off with a very loud flap of its wings, a sound like fabric tearing (thanks to Karen for the analogy). Later, I watched another adult launch itself off from the ice to the train’s whistle, its white tail fanning like a magician’s handkerchief (that one is mine).

4 Responses to “Ice, eagles”


  1. 1 Paul Lamb February 5, 2013 at 6:24 am

    Back in my St. Louis days I used to go to the lock and dams on the Mississippi river to see the eagles and listen to the ice grinding away above the dam. The eagles would flock there by the dozens to eat the fish that were ground by the turbines in the dam. Cold times, but well worth the trouble.

  2. 2 Mark Wilkinson February 8, 2013 at 8:01 am

    Great post. Thankfully no frozen rivers here.

  3. 4 Evolution of X February 8, 2013 at 8:54 am

    I’ve never heard the sound of an icy river. Thanks!


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