Eagles Stay Close

Urban Eagle Sightings

From the Record Searchlight On-line:

Caltrans pulls down new nest next to covered site
By Dylan Darling
Friday, December 14, 2007

Undeterred by a 3-foot black plastic cone planted by the state Department of Transportation on their nest near Turtle Bay, a pair of bald eagles are trying to move in right next door.

In the latest round of what has become a turf war, a tree climber on contract with Caltrans scaled a cottonwood about 10 feet from the eagles' old nest Thursday morning and pulled down a tangle of sticks they'd woven together as the start of a new nest one tree over from their old home.

An eagle was seen working on the new nest Wednesday and Thursday mornings. "It's just a very suitable habitat for them right there," said Tom Balkow, senior environmental planner in Caltrans' Redding office. "Unfortunately, it's just not compatible with construction."

Work on the Dana to Downtown project is set to start in the summer, but Caltrans officials hope to prod the eagles to find a new home now because construction eventually will come within 100 feet of their old nest.

With a construction window already tightened by restrictions on working in the water near spawning salmon, state and federal officials decided it would be better to move the eagles than try to work around their nest.

The fear is that the eagles will hatch a family and then abandon the eaglets if they are frightened by the construction.

Caltrans had hoped the cone would entice the eagles to build a new nest far away --not next door.

Eagle fans were miffed by the Thursday development.

"That's their home and it has been for several years," said Mike Adams, a Redding man who often drives past the nest on Highway 44. "I think Caltrans is fooling themselves if they think they can make them stay away."

The eagles first built their nest about 80 feet up in a cottonwood in 2005, returning in 2006 and last year to raise eaglets there.

With their nest visible from Highway 44 and trails winding to the Sacramento River, the eagles have collected a flock of followers who enjoyed watching them raise their young close to the hustle and bustle of downtown, said Richard Downs, who lives across the highway from their nest.

He said he wasn't surprised to see the eagle hauling in sticks as big a pool cues this week after their old nest was capped by the cone last month.

"It's pretty self-evident that that's where they want to be," he said.

The cluster of cottonwoods where the eagles are trying to build is surrounded by water on three sides and is best accessed by boat.

Balkow said Caltrans has the approval of both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the state Department of Fish and Game to clear out the start of any bald eagle nests near the Highway 44 bridge across the Sacramento.

Still, moving a bald eagles' nest and efforts to stop the birds from making a new one are contentious steps that Balkow said he personally doesn't like having to take.

For now, it's a game of wait and see for officials and eagle supporters.

A tree climber will again be called out to remove sticks if the eagles try to build another nest within a half-mile of the construction site, said Craig Martz, an environmental scientist with the state Department of Fish and Game.

If the birds are able to build more than a third of a nest, then he said another cone will be put over the new structure.

"We hope they will eventually take the hint and find a suitable location that is not right in the middle of this project," Martz said.

In hopes of tempting the eagles to move farther away, Caltrans had a new nest built just south of the South Bonnyview Bridge -- about 3 1/2 miles away as an eagle flies.

Martz said state and federal wildlife officials approved the plans to try to move the eagle now to prevent any harm to their offspring later. Once pile driving is in full effect for the bridge work, the unrelenting pounding could scare off the birds and leave their eaglets vulnerable.

"We really think it is less damaging than the alternative," he said.

Reference Link: http://www.redding.com:80/news/2007/dec/14/eagles-stay-close/

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