CalTrans Blocks Nest

Urban Eagle Sightings

From the Record Searchlight On-line

Cone an attempt to get eagles to leave construction site
By Dylan Darling
Wednesday, November 28, 2007

CalTrans has plopped a cone into a bald eagle nest next to Highway 44 close to Turtle Bay. No, it's not the typical California Department of Transportation orange caution cone. It's black, about 3 feet wide at the base and made out of hard plastic -- but it's designed to warn the pair of eagles that have called the nest home the past three winters that there's a hazard coming to their neighborhood.

"This is a temporary measure that is being put in place so we won't have a problem with the eagles nesting and then being disturbed during construction," said Craig Martz, an environmental scientist with the state Department of Fish and Game.

With work on the Dana to Downtown project slated to start next year, the nest is close to a soon-to-be bridge construction zone, he said.

While the intrepid eagles have shown they don't mind the noise of highway traffic and hospital helicopters, the worry is that pile-driving and workers walking within 100 feet of the nest could cause the pair of eagles to abandon it, said Tom Balkow, senior environmental planner for the state Department of Transportation.

Tree climbers scaled the cottonwood last week to put the cone into place, preventing eagles from perching in the nest, he said. This week, hoping to entice the eagles into some new digs, workers put the start of a stick nest in a tree downstream of the current nest, just south of the South Bonnyview Bridge.

"We are hoping they chose it," Balkow said.

If the eagles don't, and if they start building in a tree that is as close to the Highway 44 bridge as the old nest, then workers will climb up and pull down the sticks in hopes of getting the eagles to move, he said. Biologists have told him that eagles usually start nesting in January.

But some who have gotten used to seeing the eagles during hikes along nearby trails say the pair already has shown where they want to be this fall.

Terri Lhuillier, who walks her dogs about three times a week on a trail that winds near the nest, said she has seen the eagles carrying sticks.

"These guys have been back, working on their nest," she said.

She wonders whether the cone could be violating any laws designed to protect the eagles, which were taken off the threatened and endangered species list only last June.

Balkow said CalTrans didn't make the decision alone, but rather met with the state Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the Audubon Society and others during the summer.

Along with the state's three-year bridge project, the city of Redding plans to pave a portion of the trails used regularly by Lhuillier. That work should take six to eight weeks this summer and shouldn't have any impact on the eagles, said Terry Hanson, manger of community projects for the city of Redding.

Although that depends on where the eagles finally build their nest.

"We don't know where they'll nest," Hanson said.

Creatures of habit, bald eagles often return to nests year after year, especially when they've had success there. The pair of eagles first built the nest now blocked by the black cone in 2005, and they raised eaglets there in 2006 and last summer.

During that time, the eagles garnered a fan club, said Bill Oliver, president of the Wintu Audubon Society. Since the cone has gone up, he said he has fielded a number of calls about why the eagles have been booted from their branches.

Oliver said other options included going ahead with construction without moving the birds or closing down construction for six to seven months at a time while the eagles were nesting. The cone won out.

"This seems to be the best of several poor choices," Oliver said.

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