November 23, 2014

No Nest

Unfortunately, there are no signs of nesting in the cell tower. When I saw the bald eagles four days ago, they appeared to be frantically trying to build a brand new nest.  As I left the cell tower that evening, though, I noticed them behave out of character by flying away together (unusual) in a direction they usually don't go.   Seeing that, I had a sinking feeling they wouldn't be back.  It was just too much work to build another nest so close to egg laying time.  I've been there every day since at various times and haven't seen them.  (If you look closely between the trees, you can see the stadium lights which are adjacent to where the eagle nest was located.  The tower and lights are about the same height.)

So, over the past week, since Sarasota County legally destroyed the bald eagle nest, bright orange netting has been installed around all the stadium lights.  Theoretically, according to state wildlife officials, the netting is supposed to prevent the eagles from landing in the lights and trying to nest again.    They also have said that a protective net of some sort surrounded the left field lights this year -- but, the eagles somehow managed to finagle their way through it and build their nest.  (My photos from earlier this month do not show a net…black, or orange, or any color.  In fact, I watched the eagles fly in and out of their nest without any impediments from two different directions.)

So, this is what's around the lights now.  Meanwhile, the Eddies are long gone.  

November 19, 2014


SDP 11-19-14 

Good news: the bald eagles (the Eddies) have returned to the area; however, it's unclear whether they are attempting to nest or if they will have time to do so before they lay eggs.  Let me bring you up to speed.

Yesterday, just four days after the eagles' nest at the Baltimore Orioles' spring training stadium was legally destroyed by Sarasota County, I spotted one of the birds in a nearby cell tower.  This tower is where they've nested since the County destroyed their nest in the stadium in 2010.  So, it's been hoped they would return here.

I've been observing these eagles for four years and I've become accustomed to their behavioral patterns. When they're roosting high up on the cell tower, usually they gaze into the distance and their movement is minimal. Not yesterday. This eagle was swiveling its head almost continually and seemed agitated.

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While I was at the base of the tower, the other Eddie materialized, soaring through the dreary sky.  What I couldn't see at the time (even with my long lens), was a trail of plant material streaming behind its tail feathers.  Nesting material!  Yes!

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Fast forward 4.5 hours.  I arrived at the tower under blue skies as one of the Eddies landed and greeted the other.  Lots of activity!  And, now…there's a lengthy branch up there!  To me, that's a fairly positive sign of nesting.  But, it also seems like a frantic response to unexpectedly losing their home.  Now, by instinct, they're racing against the biological clock, hunting and gathering, trying to build a new nest stick by stick.  This seems like such an unnecessary physical and emotional toll on our national bird.

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The Eddies were very intent, gazing down at the ground -- perhaps searching for just the right branch or clump of Spanish moss to carry up into the tower.  Recently, I've heard officials with the Florida Wildlife Commission (one of the agencies which said the destruction of the nest was in the birds' best interest) say that eagles can have more than one nest in an area.  So, there's a possibility that in addition to the stadium nest, they built another one.  For the Eddies' sake, I hope that's true.  I'll also hope they keep building in the cell tower.

November 15, 2014


The national bird is not welcome at the Baltimore Orioles' Birdland.  This, believe it or not, is what's left of the bald eagle nest after it was pulled from the left field lights at Ed Smith Stadium early yesterday morning and unceremoniously dropped in the dumpster.

Before I go further:  yes, the required state and federal permits were obtained to legally destroy the nest.    But, for those of us who have followed these eagles for years, the rationale for issuing the permit is fuzzy at best.

(1) Sarasota County (which owns the property) states it just learned about the nest a few days ago.  The Orioles, who have work crews there every day, must have dropped the ball notifying the County, because I've been observing that nest for the past week and a half, maybe two weeks.  Why would they allow the eagles to continue to build their nest, as egg laying season draws closer, only to destroy it?

(2) State wildlife officials say destroying the nest was for the birds' safety and in their best interest.  But, how is it in their best interest to oust them from their home and place undue stress on them right before egg laying season?  (Note:  a drone with a camera was sent up to the nest and no eggs were seen.  So, that was good news.)  But, will the eagles have enough time in their newly distressed state to build a nest before they lay eggs?

(3) There is a designated process for issuing a nest disruption permit.  That process, from what I understand, includes a time period for public input.  I'm hearing that process was skirted because the state wildlife agency deemed this to be an "extreme" case, and the "eagles had nested there previously". 

(4) Wildlife officials are now blaming the arrival of the eagles at the stadium on the fact that their nest in a nearby cell tower "disappeared".  They say the nest vanished in September and there's an active investigation into what happened.  That's interesting.  Over the summer, I witnessed 2-3 men in the cell tower working near the nest.  The next day, the nest was gone.  Do you think the state has contacted the cell tower company about their investigation?

State wildlife officials hope the eagles will return to their old perch across the street in the cell tower -- and build a new nest, stick by stick, branch by branch.  The last time the County and the Orioles evicted the eagles, the birds did not return to the area immediately.  It took at least one year.  I'll keep my eye to the sky.

The top two photos I pulled from a local TV reporter's Twitter feed.  There was lots of activity about the nest destruction on social media as well as traditional news media.

November 13, 2014

Waiting & Watching

SDP 11-13-14

I've been wondering where the Eddies, the urban eagles in Sarasota, were nesting this season.  Then, I spotted them high in the left field lights at Ed Smith Stadium where the Baltimore Orioles play spring training baseball.  (The Orioles call the stadium 'Birdland'.  So, you could say our national bird prefers Birdland…the eagles are roosting at Birdland etc.  How perfect, right?)  

I captured this shot as the sun was rising over the stadium two days ago, and one of the Eddies, apparently, decided to set out for breakfast.  Since discovering the nest a couple of weeks ago, I've been keeping a close eye on it.  That's because the last time the Eddies nested in the stadium lights (four years ago), state wildlife officials allowed the Orioles to have the eagle eggs removed and shipped to Tennessee for incubation.  Then, the nest was destroyed in hopes the eagles would not return.  At the time, wildlife experts said they permitted the egg removal and nest destruction because they were concerned about the safety of the eagles since the stadium was under renovation.  The local newspaper wrote this article about the eagles' eviction.  I also blogged about it here.

So, fast forward to present day…and, I'm hearing that the nest will be destroyed.  I hope that's not true.  The Eddies have constructed a nice nest, and should be very close to laying eggs.  (Ozzie and Harriet in Ft. Myers layed eggs a year ago this week.)  So, if the Eddies' nest is destroyed, where would they go at this late date to lay eggs?  I understand that urban eagles can be destructive.  And, there could be potential problems with turning the stadium lights on with a large nest up there.  But, an accommodation needs to be made for this season for our national bird.  I'll remain hopeful for the Eddies.  And continue to wait and watch.

November 12, 2014

Patriot Plaza

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Although Sarasota National Cemetery has been open for several years, Patriot Plaza with a 2,800 seat amphitheater and art installations within the cemetery, was just finished and dedicated this summer.  This is the first time a private foundation has partnered with the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. The Patterson Foundation, based in Sarasota, funded the entire project.  (I've read the construction cost was $12 million, plus there's an endowment for maintenance.)  James Patterson, whose father started the New York Daily News (and James eventually went on to manage it) was a photographer in World War II.  So, it was decided early on that the artwork would focus on photos.  I must admit that when I originally heard that, I wasn't sure how they could pull it off, particularly with the pieces exposed to the elements 24-7.  

Well, I stopped by the plaza yesterday and was really impressed with the final products.  A total of 28 white marble tablets and plinths line the entrance to the amphitheater. 16 of the tablets are engraved with glass printed photos, including this one, which is completely backlit by the setting sun.  The featured photos span from the Civil War to present day and each one is eye catching and memorable.  But, I kept going back to this one.  I was even in my car ready to leave and saw the golden light of the setting sun streaming through it -- and ended up getting out and taking a few more pics.  I definitely will have to make a return trip when I have more time.

November 7, 2014

Ho Ho Ho

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The day after Halloween, Christmas commercials started running on TV. So, I'm not overly surprised to see lights going up in the trees the week before Veterans Day…and three weeks before Thanksgiving.   This might be the earliest holiday season yet.  But, these decorative lights are so pretty, I wouldn't mind if they were up year round.

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I must admit I was a bit excited to actually see the lights being strung. Usually, it seems like they magically appear overnight. So, when I encountered this scene on my way home last night, and I happened to have my camera with me, I had to stop. These guys sure were making it look easy climbing through the trees and wrapping the lights.  By the way, they had music playing.  Thankfully, though, it wasn't Christmas music yet.  (That definitely should not start until after Thanksgiving.)

November 6, 2014

Scratch That Itch

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I mentioned yesterday that in addition to the regal eagle statues, something else is new at Ozzie and Harriet's domain.  It's… ((drum roll))…that small wooden fence next to the horse.  It surrounds what appears to be an electrical box, which I believe runs cables, power, internet connectivity etc. to the web camera mounted above Ozzie and Harriet's nest.  So, why would this need to be penned in?  Keep in mind, this is a horse pasture where dozens of large animals roam.  And, what's a horse to do if it has an itch that it just can't reach?  Well, last spring, I witnessed firsthand what happens.  Enjoy!

November 5, 2014


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Two new statues are now placed at the entrance to Dick Pritchett Real Estate in North Ft. Myers, signifying you're entering the domain of Ozzie and Harriet, the bald eagles who have nested here for the past 8 years. This is a nice addition to the property and a rather fitting tribute, don't you think?  There's no question this is where you'll find Ozzie and Harriet!

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Like clockwork, the two return here each fall. I've been observing them for a few years and it's a rare treat to see them soaring together.  I think this is the first time I actually captured them flying together . They're so majestic.  

Although the nest is located within a horse paddock on private property, the public is welcome to visit and watch Ozzie and Harriet. The Pritchett family also continues to provide a 2-camera live web feed of the nest, so you can get…well…a bird's eye view of what's going on up there, like this:

To watch the live feed just click here.  (I usually check in to see if anyone's home before setting out with my camera.)  This is the third season the cameras have been up and running.  The first year, a whopping 16 million viewers around the world tuned in to watch Ozzie and Harriet .  Wow!

Besides the new eagle statues there's another addition on the property this year which the casual observer might not pick up on.  That's coming up!

November 2, 2014

Horsing Around

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The tree where Ozzie and Harriet, the bald eagles, call home is actually located within a horse paddock in North Ft. Myers.  At any given time, you can see 2 to 24 horses standing around grazing.  Usually, they don't exhibit too much energy and just meander from one spot to another.  Well, last night was a different story. With the mercury dipping below 60, the chilly air must have made the horses frisky, because they were running around.  Half a dozen were galloping around the paddock chasing each other.  Dirt was flying!  Then they headed straight for me.  I was tucked safely on the other side of the fence, but -- wow -- to see these large, speedy animals racing right at you is something else.  They turned at the last second, hugged the fence line, and continued roaring around the pasture. While I was still in awe of that unexpected show, Ozzie suddenly soared onto the scene and tucked into the nest.  What a fun evening!  I'll catch you up on Ozzie and Harriet and the live camera feed soon.