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Eagles Clear For Landing

Urban Eagle Sightings

By Record Searchlight staff
Originally published 11:00 a.m., December 21, 2007
Updated 11:01 a.m., December 21, 2007

Workers on contract with the state Department of Transportation this morning took down a 3-foot black plastic cone that for 35 days blocked a pair of bald eagles from their nest in downtown Redding.

The cone was wired to the nest on Nov. 16 in an attempt to get the eagles to move to another nest because their old one will be 100 feet away from construction on the Highway 44 Sacramento River bridge slated to start this spring.

The eagles didn’t take the hint to move from the area — even after workers pulled down sticks the birds placed in an effort to build a new nest about ten feet from the old one. Caltrans began getting calls from the public asking that the cone be removed and agency officials decided Wednesday to do so.

Gathering to watch the cone come down, people who had opposed it popped a bottle of Champagne once it was removed.

“A toast to the power of the people, babe,” said Terri Lhuillier, who helped lead the effort to remove the cone.

Reference Link: http://www.redding.com/news/2007/dec/21/eagles-clear-landing/

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Cone Will Be Removed so Bald Eagles Can Return to Nest

Urban Eagle Sightings

From the Record Searchlight On-line:

By Dylan Darling
Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Persistence appears to have paid off for a pair of bald eagles who wanted to return to their downtown Redding nest despite a state agency’s efforts to clear them out of a coming construction zone.

The 3-foot black plastic cone that has been wired to their nest for a month could come off as early as today, said Brian Crane, district director for the state Department of Transportation, on Wednesday. He said the cone will come down as soon as weather permits, allowing the eagles to reclaim their nest.

“We were always expecting the eagles to take a hint and move on,” he said.

Crane announced the plans to remove the cone at the

Caltrans district office in Redding during an informal meeting among transportation officials, the state Department of Fish and Game regional manager and about a dozen people who wanted the agencies to rethink their strategy.

A group of people concerned about the eagles met earlier this week after passing messages to each other in the comments section of stories about the birds on Redding.com and asked Caltrans for Wednesday’s meeting, said Terri Lhuillier, who served as the group’s leader.

The eagles have become mini-celebrities as they struggled to return to the nest they built in 2005, only to be rebuffed by the cone wired on top of it. Despite the cone, and the removal of the beginnings of a new nest about 10 feet away last week by a Caltrans contractor, the eagles have stayed close to the nest where they raised eaglets in 2006 and this year.

“They have been resistant to the cone,” Crane said.

Crane’s announcement that the cone was coming off was greeted by cheers.

“This says so much about you as an agency, as people,” Lhuillier said.

She said she saw the eagles near the nest Wednesday.

“They’ve been pretty patient,” Lhuillier said.

With the Dana to Downtown project set to start in the spring, state and federal officials had decided that trying to get the eagles to move was the best way to protect any eggs or eaglets they might have hatched, said Gary Stacey, DFG’s regional manager in Redding. The project will include work on the Highway 44-Sacramento River bridge as close as 100 feet from the nest.

He said officials were particularly concerned about the sight of cranes and the pounding of pile drivers causing the eagles to abandon their nest.

“Eagles don’t typically tolerate disturbances at their nest level or below their nest level,” Stacey said.

But he said the eagles have shown they want to stay despite the placement of the cone and the clearing of their nest sticks.

“We frankly thought they’d be gone by now,” he said.

Having displayed such persistence, the eagles might not mind the commotion of construction as much as wildlife officials had thought, Stacey said.

“We’ve got a pair of birds that are very tolerant,” he said.

With the eagles expected to promptly take up residence in the nest, Caltrans and DFG officials are looking into the possibility of installing a remote video camera to keep an eye on them, said Tom Balkow, senior environmental planner in Caltrans Redding office. Images from the camera would possibly be put onto the Internet via a Web site.

Reference Link: http://redding.com/news/2007/dec/19/cone-will-be-removed-so-bald-eagles-can-return-nes/

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Eagles Set on Nestiing in Turtle Bay Location

Urban Eagle Sightings

From the Record Searchlight On-Line

By Dylan Darling
Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Two days after the beginnings of a new nest was pulled from a cottonwood near Turtle Bay, a pair of bald eagles were back in the branches near their old home apparently trying to figure out what to do next.

On Saturday morning, one of the eagles even swooped at the three-foot black plastic cone wired into their nest late last month. The cone was placed in an attempt by the state Department of Transportation to push the eagles to nest elsewhere before work starts on the Dana to Downtown project this summer.

"I don't know if it was trying to land on it or attack it," said Brad Dupre, a Shasta Lake man who caught the scene with his camera.

He said he had been out looking for wildlife to photograph when he spotted the eagles.

The pair of eagles, which have been darlings of downtown Redding since they first built a nest near where Highway 44 crosses the Sacramento River in 2005, successfully raised eaglets in 2006 and last summer, said Craig Martz, an environmental scientist with the state Department of Fish and Game.

Even with the cone and Thursday's removal of sticks placed in a cottonwood 10 feet from the coned nest, the eagles seem to be staying close, he said.

"It sounds like they are pretty set on this location," Martz said.

Biologists will continue to monitor the eagles and any more nest starts will be taken down, he said. A new nest, built by workers on contract with Caltrans under DFG's guidance, awaits them 3 ½ miles downstream.

Martz said he saw a pair of eagles perched in a tree near the alternative nest. He believes it is the pair from Turtle Bay.

"I've known they've seen it, but they are pretty imprinted on the Turtle Bay site at this point," Martz said.

Reference Link: http://www.redding.com/news/2007/dec/18/raptors-set-on-nesting/

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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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Emotions Soar on the Wings of Bald Eagles

Urban Eagle Sightings

Editorial published on November 30, 2007, in Record Searchlight On-line:

Our view: It has been a rare treat to have bald eagles nesting in the heart of the city, but Caltrans has nudged the raptors away from a future bridge construction site as humanely as possible.

Word that Caltrans has capped an eagle nest to try to nudge the raptors away from its upcoming Highway 44 bridge reconstruction has a lot of bird lovers' feathers ruffled.

It's easy to understand their soaring emotions.

The surprise appearance in 2005 of a bald eagle nesting in commuter's-eye view of the freeway was a rare moment where wild nature and city life seemed to happily blend.

What could be worth disturbing this National Geographic scene?

A $65 million construction project in the works for a decade. "Dana to Downtown" is an essential city transportation link, widening the Highway 44 bridge to six lanes and adding a westbound onramp from Hilltop Drive that should dramatically ease traffic tie-ups.

Now or later, by gentle human persuasion or by the commotion of construction cranes, the eagles will be driven away. The birds have proven oblivious to the highway hum, but the pounding of piledrivers will take the neighborhood's noise up a few decibels.

After consultation with both Fish and Game and private bird-conservation groups, Caltrans concluded that red-tagging the 2-year-old nest before its residents return for the winter was the most humane alternative. Otherwise, birds would likely lay and hatch eggs, then be driven off when construction begins this spring, leaving helpless eaglets to starve.

That's hardly a better alternative.

Irked bird lovers ought to take some consolation in a brighter future.

Bald eagles, once near extinction in the lower 48 states, are thriving. If one pair nested in Redding's heart, it won't be the last. And the bridge plans include a walkway that will offer a fine perch for spying on birds in the tangle of islands at the bend in the Sacramento.

Nobody likes to see a noble bird evicted when it's just minding its own business, but in this case, the public's business takes precedence. And Caltrans doesn't deserve to be pecked to death for taking reasonable and humane steps.

Reference Link:  http://www.redding.com:80/news/2007/nov/30/emotions-soar/


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