Birds Back in Nest after Controversial Relocation Effort

Urban Eagle Sightings

From the Record Searchlight On-line:

Reporter Dylan Darling
Published on December 28, 2007

Back in their nest, the Turtle Bay bald eagles won’t be seen on the Internet.

“We feel the risk of installing the nest cam is too high,” said Craig Martz, an environmental scientist with the state Department of Fish and Game.

Although the eagles have shown they’re tolerant and persistent — not minding that their nest is close to the rumble of highway traffic and whirl of hospital helicopters, and determined to stay put despite a plastic cone that was placed over their nest — Martz said officials decided they don’t want to disturb them any more.

The eagles were spotted back home Thursday morning less than a week after the plastic cone was removed by workers on contract with the state Department of Transportation. One of the eagles was in the nest and the other perched on a branch nearby.

The state Department of Transportation had put the cone in the nest late last month in an effort to get the eagles to move away from what will become a construction site in late April. After public outcry and a reluctance by the eagles — which first nested in the cottonwood in 2005 — to leave, the cone came down last Friday.

In the days since, the eagles were seen close to the nest, but not in it until Wednesday.

“I’m glad they are back,” said Tom Balkow, senior environmental planner in Caltrans’ Redding office.

Living across Highway 44 from the nest, Richard Downs said he keeps a close eye on the eagles. He said he first saw them back in the nest Wednesday.

“They are hanging out around that area,” he said.

Like many who curiously followed the eagles and the effort to remove the cone, Downs said he’d hoped that a camera would be put into the nest so scientists — and the public — could see how they would do raising any eaglets this year. The pair successfully raised a single eaglet both in 2006 and last summer.

But a Web camera will have to wait until next year, Martz said.

The window that Caltrans had to install a camera lasted about a week and the logistics of getting a camera that could remotely provide a quality image proved to be challenging, he said.

To put the camera near the nest, contract workers would again have to climb into the cottonwood, Martz said. With workers already in the tree three times over the past month — putting in the cone, removing nest sticks and taking down the cone — the eagles already have put up with a fair amount of disturbance.

Martz said officials don’t want to push it. Balkow agreed.

“The last thing we want to do is chase them away for a camera that may not be that useful this year,” he said.

Martz said any eaglets that would hatch in early to mid-March would be big enough to monitor from the ground by time that construction starts. Work on the Dana to Downtown project, which will include rebuilding the Highway 44 Sacramento River Bridge with pile drivers and cranes, will come about 100 feet from the tree holding the eagle nest.

With all the attention paid to the eagles over the past month, Martz and Balkow said people must think of their safety and the animals’s welfare if they try to see them for themselves. Both said people should not walk along Highway 44 trying to get a glimpse of the birds because of the traffic danger.

They said the best way to view the eagles without disturbing them is by hiking along a trail leading from an access road off Auditorium Drive and peering at them through binoculars.

“We want to keep people away from the tree,” Balkow said.

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