Jack Padalino has been birdwatching for over 50 years. One day spent birding with Jack can be an adventure opening up worlds most of us never, ever see.
Over this past winter, there have been opportunities for Manhattanites to leave town and drive northwest to the point where New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania meet and go birdwatching, searching for eagles and other birds.
Mr. Padalino, president emeritus of Pocono Environmental Education Center and of the Brandwein Institute, a partner with the National Park Service, leads the search.
We asked Mr. Padalino about his experiences studying eagles for half a century.
“I saw my first Bald Eagle in 1957 when I was crossing the Dingmans Ferry Bridge.” He went on, “I’ve been birding seriously since 1967 when I took a Field Ornithology course with Dr. S. Marie Kuhnen at Montclair then State College, now University. We became life-long friends and birded together on 40 years of “Big Days” and New Jersey North Shore winter field trips. (A “Big Day” is when you count as many birds in a 24 hour period as you can.)
“The case for eagles in the tri-state area is attributed to the work of Peter Nyeof NYDEC and efforts of the PA Game Commission. Their joint efforts, together with New Jersey Audubon enabled Bald Eagles to be reestablished in the region. At one point, well into the reintroduction program, Peter is credited with noting that there were 357 winter sightings of Bald Eagles within a 50 mile radius of where the trip-states meet. The DDT case is history as with the successful reintroduction of the Osprey by professor Larry Rhyman at East Stroudsburg University. A number of PEEC interns worked with Dr. Rhyman on the Osprey program. “
Two immature eagles perched on a tree
He continues, “Nesting eagles have become acclimated to humans. I have been monitoring eagle nests in the area for decades, a number of them are constructed right next to houses. One in particular was within 10 yards of the west bound lane of I 84. It was successful for 7 years until a severe wind crashed the nest to the ground; however, I still see eagles as well as Common Ravens in that area. The nest on Mott Street in Milford, Pennsylvania was a case history. I watched it for three years, as young fledged from the nest. The nest was so huge it crashed to the ground. No sooner had that happened, the birds constructed another nest on the other side of the Sawkill Creek closer to a residence.
“Migrating birds, those who move south for the winter may be stressed by people eager to get close to them, particularly photographers. These birds need to conserve their energy, especially when it’s cold.
While no longer on the endangered list; however, they may still be threatened.
He describes the adventures witnessed while birding, ” Story: I, I was driving the Pocono Environmental Education Center bus traveling north on Route 209 with with dozen people on a search. As we approach Zimmerman Flats a juvenile Golden Eagle launched from atop a Red Cedar, crossed in front of the bus, and tried to capture one of the Wild Turkeys moving through the woods to our left. We watched for a few minutes as the eagle tried to navigate through the woods pursuing the Turkeys without success. The participants cheered.
Story 2: During a May warbler weekend, we were in NJ on the Old Mine Road opposite Briscoe Mountain. We spotted an Osprey in flight with a fish in its talons. The Fish Hawk was laboring with the heavy fish. All of sudden an adult Bald Eagle soared above the Osprey, plunged and made the Osprey release the fish. The eagle swooped beneath the Osprey, caught the dropped fish, and flew off with it. My remark to the people, “It doesn’t get any better that this.”
The “Search for Eagles” field trips take place from December through March.
The next one won’t be until the first Sunday in December 2019.
To participate, call 845.325.0536 or email: email@example.com
On the March 10 field trip these were the birds spotted that day:
24 Bald Eagles, 2 Red-tailed Hawks, a Common Raven,
Canada Goose, American Black Duck, Mallard, Common Merganser, Wild Turkey, Ring-billed Gull, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Pileated Woodpecker, Rock Pigeon, Mourning Dove, Blue Jay, American Crown, Common Raven, Belted Kingfisher, Tree Swallow, White-breasted Nuthatch, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, European Starling, American Goldfinch and the Dark-eyed Junco