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TRR photo by Stephen Stuart
Mark Crouthamel returned to Narrowsburg this year to create another masterful work of ice art for EagleFest. This year, he had no fear of his creation melting as he put it together. In fact, the sculpture was still standing days later, pictured above illuminated by Main Street lights. (Click for larger image)

New York’s eagle capital celebrates


NARROWSBURG, NY — Bald eagles are loyal and smart creatures.

They mate for life, return to the same spots year after year and are quick to adapt to new situations.

None of this natural dedication helped them avoid near-extinction. To do that, people had to get involved. Due to decades of hard work by dedicated people keeping the large birds out of harm’s way and helping those that have fallen prey to misfortune, the bald eagle population in the United States has come back from the brink of extinction.

Bill Streeter is one of those people. Streeter, as the executive director of the Delaware Valley Raptor Center, works every day to educate those around him of the hazards his feathered friends face. Most of those hazards are man-made.

Presenting the raptor center’s popular “Birds of Prey” lecture at the second annual Narrowsburg EagleFest on January 18, Streeter brought a handful of birds that he and members of the center had nursed back to health. Many of the birds had been shot; others had been hit by swiftly moving vehicles. One had been “rescued” from a “rescuer” who caused more harm nursing the bird back to health.

“These are wild animals,” Streeter explained to the standing-room-only crowd in the Narrowsburg school auditorium. Only trained experts, he said, should attempt to rehabilitate an injured raptor. What everyone can do is share the knowledge and respect for the birds that he was passing on to them.

TRR photo by Chris Conroy
While eagles overhead were in short supply at the Narrowsburg EagleFest, a variety of raptors were only inches away during the Delaware Valley Raptor Center’s “Birds of Prey” presentation given by Bill Streeter. (Click for larger image)

Sharing the knowledge of and respect for the local bald eagle population was what the EagleFest was about. Besides Streeter’s presentation, which ran twice to a packed room, there were films and discussions about eagles and their place in the Delaware River communities.

The National Park Service and Delaware Valley Arts Alliance were doing brisk business selling all manner of eagle paraphernalia, including toy eagles, eagle masks and prints of photos by local photographers of the majestic birds in flight and in repose.

Only two years old, the EagleFest has already acquired the support of its second corporate sponsor, Fleet Bank, and served as the platform for Senator John Bonacic to declare Narrowsburg and the Town of Tusten “The Eagle Capital of the State of New York.” The festival is sponsored, in part, and is the brainchild of nature photographers Yoke and John Digiorgio of Nature’s Art LLC.

With weather much colder than last year, the traffic on Main Street was a little thinner, though still representative of a successful event.

“I missed this last year,” said Tusten supervisor Dick Crandall. “I’m very happy I could make it this year… it’s a perfect day for it. A little cold, but the sun is out and it’s not windy.”

The low temperatures had one distinct benefit: this year, the ice sculpture lasted past its completion. Last year, expert ice sculptor Mark Crouthamel’s tribute to the majesty of the bald eagle was melting as he worked on it. This time around, he had no fear of the sculpture becoming soft and slushy.

Actual sightings of the local bald eagle population were sparse during the day, but that didn’t stop people from looking. The observation deck on Main Street was constantly filled with eagle watchers.

“Usually when a day starts out this cold, [people] don’t come out,” said Leon Smith, a volunteer with the Eagle Institute who was on hand to assist first-time eagle watchers. “This is a really good turnout.”

TRR photo by Chris Conroy
Senator John Bonacic was on hand to open the festivities at the 2003 EagleFest. Bonacic declared Narrowsburg to be the “Eagle Capital of New York State.”

Streeter spoke about the need to respect raptors of all kinds, but the eagle holds a special mystery for many. The mere chance to see one can bring people out on a cold day. That mystery is well known to the Lenni Lenape tribe of Native Americans that once were the only ones to call the river valley home. For them, respect for the eagle transcends the physical world. For them, the eagle is a spiritual ideal.

Jim Beer, a descendant of the Lenni Lenape and spokesperson for Pennsylvania branch of the tribe, helped dedicate the day to the ideal of the eagle.

“We use the eagle to teach our children [to see] a different perspective on things… to see things as the Creator sees things… to see how what we do affects the whole of things,” he said. “It takes a while to see those things, and feel those things with the eagles… it is a powerful thing. It is a relationship that needs to be nurtured.”

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