A garden oasis and cultural center overlooking the Hudson River

Birdwatching–Beginner’s luck

Marjorie Lune is a Wave Hill School Programs Intern this spring. She is a student in the Bank Street Graduate School of Education’s Museum Education Program.

On my third day interning at Wave Hill, I went birdwatching for the first time with Dan Trudeau, a Wave Hill Environmental Educator, in preparation for an upcoming school program. We went over bird identification tools, and he shared a game that we play with the kids to introduce them to the different bird calls. And then we headed out with binoculars.

It was a cold, clear day, just right for birdwatching. Of course, some birds migrate so we knew we wouldn’t see as many different species as we will later on this spring. On the other hand, most of the trees are bare so the birds are easier to spot.

Immediately, Dan spotted a few European starlings up in the top of a tall tree. I could see them, but they were just small, dark figures. I tried to see them through the binoculars, but had a hard time switching between noticing the figure and placing them in my binoculars. I tried several times, but I struggled to focus on the same location.

I lowered my binoculars and looked around hoping to see something that would be easier to focus on. As I turned I saw a big bird flying high up in the sky behind the house. I said, “Look, there’s a bird, what’s that?” Dan turned to look where I was pointing and said, “That’s an American bald eagle!” I put the binoculars up again—and this time I immediately focused on the right place. I guess a bald eagle is more of a motivation than a starling. The eagle was just drifting and turning, floating on the currents of air. We watched him until he was out of our sight; he never flapped a wing. It was incredible. I’ve never seen a bald eagle in the wild before. It was so beautiful. I could clearly see the white head and tail feathers, and the way it turned on the wind.

When we could not see the eagle any longer, we moved on to see what other kinds of birds we could find. We heard some bluejays, and saw a robin, a couple of fat mockingbirds sitting in a bush and a little brown house sparrow hopping on the ground. As I was watching the sparrow, Dan suddenly said, “Oh wow!” I turned around just in time to see the eagle swooping low over the tops of some trees near Glyndor House. Dan ran up the stairs to the upper terrace of Wave Hill House to try to get a better look. I followed, just in time to see it glide up and back over toward the river. It was so exciting. One of Wave Hill’s gardeners told us that three of them had been seen that morning. It made us wonder whether we saw two different eagles or the same one twice.

This was my first official birdwatching expedition. I can’t believe that I was lucky enough to see an American bald eagle. I guess you could call it beginner’s luck.

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