An eagle-eyed walk on Peebles Island

peebles island winter cohoes

The view toward Cohoes. That's Harmony Mills in the distance.

By Akum Norder

I'm going to tell you a story about something that didn't happen. But that doesn't mean the story is a sad one.

Peebles Island State Park is one of my favorite Underappreciated Places of the Capital Region. The island, which sits where the Mohawk and Hudson rivers meet, is easy to get to and has a nice little trail. But what makes Peebles so interesting is the views: From the cliffside trail you can see waterfalls, other islands, the waterfronts of the surrounding cities, and factories and other industrial sites, some empty, some humming. And then there's the forest and fauna of Peebles Island itself. Not entirely natural or entirely urban, it's a compelling combination.

Its primary draw, at least this time: The eagles.

peebles island winter frozen spill

I've gone to Peebles Island a couple of times to look for bald eagles. I went not because I'm much of a bird-watcher, but because it felt wrong to me, somehow, that they're our national bird and I'd only ever seen one in a zoo.

I was skeptical when friends who live along the river in Troy and Green Island described sitting on their decks and watching eagles fish. Can eagle-spotting really be that easy?

Twice, in 2009, I was lucky. One of them came heart-stoppingly close as it swooped out of its tree.

But not this time.

So there you have it: I went eagle-spotting. This time, I didn't see any. And yet, it was marvelous.

Signage on Peebles Island describes it as "one of several great spots in New York State" for observing eagles overwintering from Canada. And this is an ideal time to see them: According to the DEC, January and February are the months of peak concentration for wintering eagles.

Morning and dusk are the best times for viewing eagles, as is the case with much wildlife. But thanks to car trouble, my companion and I ended up at Peebles Island closer to lunchtime. Determined to make the best of it, we headed in anyway.

We found the trail nicely tamped down. It was a balmy 32 degrees, according to a Cohoes bank marquee we'd passed on the way in.

The trail begins along a fence behind the state's Historic Preservation Offices (housed in the old Cluett Peabody Bleachery), then splits to make a loop. Going right is my favorite choice; the trail quickly shifts to trace the cliffs along the water.

peebles island winter tree

There's a purity to the woods in winter: It's a stripped-down world, minimal in color, outlined in snow. As we walked we scanned the treetops and let our gazes play out over the river. That dark shape - is it ... ? No. It's a snow-capped squirrel's nest. Sigh.

The Mohawk and Hudson don't meet at a T, the way it might appear on a map. The rivers branch around islands and pool, creating organic forms of ice against black water, turbulent and mesmerizing.

peebles island winter frozen log

As the land curves along these waterways, the trail soundscape changes: Here, rushing water; here, the call of ducks; here, an industrial thrum.

I like the way winter exposes animal activity: We see their paths to the water; we see where they broke into a run. We paused twice to watch deer on the frozen river. We saw more woodpeckers then we could count. A section of waterfall broke through its icy shell with a roar.

But no, no eagles.

And yet, time spent letting your eyes play in the architecture of trees is never wasted. We returned to civilization with restful hearts.

Try it. You may well have better luck.

Tips for viewing eagles


  • Bundle up.

  • Bring binoculars.

  • Don't do anything to bother the eagles or cause them to take flight. As the DEC notes, "It is important that they conserve energy during the winter months."

  • If you see four or more eagles in one location, especially after 3 p.m., the DEC asks that you contact its Endangered Species Unit.

Earlier on AOA: Peebles Island is a great spot in the summer, too

Find It

Peebles Island State Park

Waterford, NY 12188

Comments

Great post!

I too have seen Bald Eagles there. I had just recently moved to the area and even questioned what I saw "really, here?" It is great to know I wasn't crazy!

I attend a photography club where one of the members has proudly displayed his beautiful photos of these very eagles. He claims they are usually out around noon hunting, but only every second or third day, depending on the size of their last meal. So, try again!

Thanks for the reminder of this great local resource! Went for a walk this morning. Great trail! Easy, short hike. Bald eagle sightings: 1
Yay!

Just desire to say your article is as astounding.

The clearness in your post is simply spectacular and i can assume you
are an expert on this subject. Fine with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed
to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please carry on the rewarding work.

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

The Scoop

Ever wish you had a smart, savvy friend with the inside line on what's happening around the Capital Region? You know, the kind of stuff that makes your life just a little bit better? Yeah, we do, too. That's why we created All Over Albany. Find out more.

Recently on All Over Albany

Brewery boom

The number of breweries in New York State is now at 350, more than double the number in 2014. And the number of farm breweries... (more)

Puddles Pity Party, So Percussion, Time for Three at Troy Music Hall

The Troy Music Hall recently announced a handful of upcoming concerts that are a little bit different... November 10: Puddles Pity Party The "sad clown... (more)

What's up in the Neighborhood

Among the topics in this most recent spin around the Capital Region's online neighborhood: the eclipse, things that shouldn't need to be said, an attention... (more)

Pretty Much the Best Comedy Show: Casey James Salengo

The Pretty Much the Best Comedy Show series at Proctors has Casey James Salengo lined up for this Saturday. Tickets are $15 ahead / $20... (more)

Morning Blend

Abelove The attorney for the 22-year-old man shot by Troy police last week says his client did not have a gun and is requesting that... (more)

Recent Comments

I'm concerned how much demolition is going on here. Too many important, historic buildings in Albany are already tagged with an 'X' and the city's approach seems to tear down and ask questions later. Not only are these homes part of the city's history but they are what makes this place unique and they should be treasured- not trashed. In addition, these structures are better built and will last longer than new construction. ...

Drawing: Beer dinner at City Beer Hall

...has 73 comments, most recently from KP

Gnome away from home

...has 2 comments, most recently from SGK

If you've been wanting to take one of those State Education building tours, don't wait

...has 1 comment, most recently from Fionn MacCoul

Neba Sandwich from Mike's Neba

...has 2 comments, most recently from Dan

Morning Blend for Aug 22

...has 1 comment, most recently from Lauren Alpert