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From the February 2013 Conservationist

A bald eagle flying over a misty river with a glowing orange sky and forest behind it.

Photo: Thomas D. Lindsay

Watchable Wildlife Site: Mongaup Valley

A premier watchable wildlife site

Located in southeastern New York, about 75 miles northwest of New York City
A premier watchable wildlife site

A bald eagle perched in a pine tree top.
Photo: Wayne W. Jones

Our national symbol, the bald eagle, is the star of this more than 10,000-acre wilderness nestled in the shadow of the Catskill Mountains, little more than an hour north of New York City. Mongaup has been designated a Bird Conservation Area by New York State because of its variety of habitats important to a diversity of bird species. The majority of the area is forested upland with a mixture of conifers and deciduous trees preferred by forest birds. Rare floodplain forest, perched bog, and pitch-pine and oak-hickory woodland habitats are also found at Mongaup, attracting wetland birds and species that prefer sedge meadows.

In addition to eagles, several species of migrating raptors, owls, songbirds and waterfowl have been observed in this landscape of forested rolling hills, deeply dissected by streams and rivers.

Waterbodies and wetlands add to the diversity of Mongaup's landscape and wildlife. Steep, rocky slopes surround three reservoirs interconnected by the Mongaup River, which flows into the Delaware River at the area's southern-most border. Water habitats contain as many as 42 different species of fish, as well as sustaining a variety of mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

Wildlife to Watch

A wildlife viewing blind
Photo: Thomas D. Lindsay

Mongaup hosts one of the largest bald eagle wintering sites in the state, and also supports several active eagle nests in the spring. Though bald eagles have been removed from the endangered species list, they are still considered a threatened species in New York, making Mongaup a particularly important breeding area for these iconic birds.

Other raptors you may see here include goshawks, turkey vultures, and red-tailed, red-shouldered and sparrow hawks. Most of these raptors are migratory, and best seen in the warmer months. As the sun sets, listen and look for great horned, barn, barred and screech-owls as they emerge to hunt for small mammals in forests and meadows.

Mongaup's large tracts of tall, deciduous, broad-leafed trees attract many warbler species. In particular, cerulean warblers, a "species of special concern" because development has reduced its habitat elsewhere, can be seen here.

In spring, listen for ruffed grouse drumming in the understory, as they rapidly beat their wings to attract mates. Male American woodcock perform elaborate mating rituals near wetlands, flying high above and spiraling back down to impress females.

Mongaup is large and varied enough to support several kinds of mammals, including white-tailed deer, black bears, porcupines, gray and red foxes, raccoons, otters, beavers, mink and coyotes.

Visitors should be wary around rocky slopes as Mongaup harbors eastern timber rattlesnakes, a threatened species and one of New York's three species of venomous reptiles. Eastern hognose snakes, wood turtles, eastern box turtles, and marbled and Jefferson salamanders-all species of special concern-can be found here as well.

For more Watchable Wildlife sites in NY, visit www.NewYorkWatchableWildlife.org