One of the many perks of wintering in FL is that we get to watch birds up close and personal that we are familiar with, but at some distance up north. For example how often do you get to look eyeball to eyeball with an osprey on its nest? A pair has constructed a new nest this year right over the trail at Stump Pass Beach State Park in Englewood, FL. One reason may be that great horned owls have taken over a nearby osprey nest. We also have a nest immediately over our house, but the nest is so high up in a huge Norfolk Island pine that we cannot see what is happening in the nest itself. So we are enjoying watching the antics of this pair up close and personal. It is worth mentioning that this osprey nest, as is often the case, is built in the dead snag from an Australian pine or casuarina, a reviled exotic tree that is being systematically destroyed in all public parks.
Nesting bald eagles are not quite so willing to tolerate onlookers as are ospreys, but they sometimes nest right in neighborhoods. For example (see photo right) a pair has just built a nest on the southern end of Manasota Key in the top of a Norfolk Island pine. Some of these trees fork and when they do there is a nice spot for a large nest. This is an ideal nest location for eagles since it is adjacent to the bay for feeding, yet the site is high above the street and apparently gives the eagles a feeling of security. Of course these are “urban eagles” that have adjusted to the noises and circumstances of human society. Clearly they do not need the 660 foot radius normally accorded for protection of nesting eagles. Norfolk Island pines are exotics but are not as invasive as casuarinas, and they are extremely resistant to wind damage, as shown by their universal survival during hurricane Charlie.
So what do you think- should we maintain a tall few exotic trees suitable for providing nest sites for our raptors, or kill them all under the mistaken impression that they have no redeeming qualities for wildlife? The alternative is to lose many excellent nesting sites, or to put up costly and not always effective nesting platforms.
Margaret & Bill Dunson, Englewood, FL & Galax, VA