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Monday, December 27, 2010

Regional Eagle Update by Barb Walker

Pinellas - Last year we had 21 productive nests.  This year we have 18 nests incubating so far, but one failed a few days shy of hatching so that makes 17, barring any I haven't heard about yet and there are plenty more that I expect will be productive.  One nest, in Tarpon Springs, has been under siege by a single adult female and aerial battles have been going on for nearly a week!  We've had reports of several sub adults at Fred Howard Park and reports of multiple pairs of adult bald eagles at Derby Lanes in the Gandy area.  Several nests have been built but are not being used yet.  We do have hatchlings at Bayside Bridge.  They are the first to hatch for the second consecutive year after incubating 3 times for 90+ days and being last 3 years ago.  They did successfully fend off a competitor during incubation so they get a gold star this year.  An ordinance to protect eagles during the development review process was passed last week in Tarpon Springs.

Pasco - No parking signs have been approved  on Bailee's Bluff Road near the eagles nest at the Progress Energy Power Plant.  The tree with the nest fell this summer and the eagles rebuilt in a live pine even closer to the roadside.  The nest has been a popular destination, and people can still see the eagles, but they  will need to park at one of the two nearby parks or the bait shop.  I am advising all that go to that nest to be extremely cautious.  Watching eagles and taking pictures of them can be very distracting and we really don't want to see anyone hit by a car out there.  Recently there was a very close call which required a law enforcement response.  Ultimately, this will curtail some of the intense people activity at the nest and hopefully provide the eagles some peace to raise their young.    Pasco County has done their part to be as protective as possible in the buffer zone.  Regardless of how tolerant they are, eagles are better off without crowds.  The main goal is still to find and fund a safe way for everyone to photograph and enjoy the eagles.   A plan has been discussed with Pasco Tourist Development Council to enhance the Great Florida Birding Trail in that area and provide a safe spot for eagle watchers and photographers that adheres to  the Bald Eagle Management Plan.  This might include a pull off or a viewing platform as well as an eagle festival so I hope everyone will be patient for the time being. It doesn't make it any easier for eagle watch either and no, we don't have free parking passes.   I'm still looking for the eagle with the transmitter in the eastern portion of the county.  So many eagles, so little time.

Hillsborough - activity is sparser than expected.  Several cell tower nests are inactive.  Where are all the eagles?  Hmmm, maybe they went to Tarpon Springs.  The big concern I have for Hillsborough is HL43 in Seffner.  This nest is under pressure from TECO which is using eminent domain to use a portion of the eagle watchers property too!  The new power corridor would be placed in between an old growth forest known as Simmons Hammock and the lake where the eagles fish.  Too much of this forest will be lost, including rare plants. TECO has adhered to the Bald Eagle Management Plan, for the most part, staying 660 feet away, except on one side where they are at 330 feet.  I personally expect better than that from power companies.  I feel they should be better than anyone else when it comes to protecting nests.  They were not at the APLIC meeting as far as I know and I do not know if they are even members of the consortium of power companies that aim to protect raptors and other birds.  I have so many pictures of osprey nests on TECO lines that I can't count them all.  They do have lots of deterrents, but overall, as a citizen observer, I would give TECO a failing grade, a big fat F,  on the implementation of their Avian Protection Plans.  Most of all, because  they won't even sit down at the table and talk with us.  Also, HL4, what we call the pony farm nest, is not looking too good.  The nest is on a property for sale and the nest tree AND surrounding pines died very quickly.  I do see some other pines yellowing on another property so this is probably a natural occurrence.

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