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If asked about winter raptor watching, the first thing that would pop into mind is eagles. This region is one of the favorite wintering habitats for Canadian bald eagles in the Northeast, and that’s not counting the ever increasing number of resident bald eagles that stay in the area year-round. The rivers and other ice-free waterways make it easy for eagles to forage for fish, and eagles can be found in abundance in some of their favorite spots. However, eagles are not the only raptors to be seen in the region during the deep-freeze months of winter. There is a variety of species that can be seen year-round, and there are some species that migrate from the north and can be seen here only during the winter months.
Raptors like the golden eagle are spotted occasionally here over the winter; when spring comes, they migrate back north. Other migrants, such as short-eared owls, can be spotted at this time in grasslands, usually as they take flight to feed around dusk. Speaking of owls, the occasional snowy owl may be spotted in the region during an irruption, or when this species migrates further south than normal. Online bird lists help in finding where they have been spotted.
To find eagles, the best bet is to visit the Delaware Highlands Conservancy Lackawaxen Visitor Center during weekends or visit the web site at https://delaware highlands.org/eagles. For short-eared owls and other winter raptors, Liberty Loop at the Wallkill River National Wildlife Reserve usually provides a variety of raptors as well as other birds. If you don’t mind carpooling, join a Gifford Pinchot Audubon field trip to Pine Island and the Liberty Loop Trail of the Wallkill River Wildlife Refuge on January 14. For more information or to register for the field trip, call Peter Wulfhorst at 570/618-2491 between 7 and 8 p.m.