But church fumigation results in osprey eviction from steeple

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Josh Strahorn and Briana Gagnier, neighbors of Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Holmes Beach, are alarmed that the osprey nest on the steeple of the church for 10 years is gone. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell
Jack Elka captured the osprey family in its nest on the Gloria Dei steeple in this 2015 file photo.
Bird deterrents spin atop the church steeple Nov. 2 at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 6608 Marina Drive, Holmes Beach. Islander Photo: Kathy Prucnell

Holmes Beach residents, fishers and nature lovers Josh Strahorn and Briana Gagnier would like to know why.

Why was the 10-year home of a pair of ospreys  replaced with bird deterrents on the steeple at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church in Holmes Beach?

“I feel so bad for them,” said Gagnier, who drove past the nest several times a day, watching for offspring to poke their heads out.

“They’ve been up there as long as I can remember, maybe 10 years  —  a very long time,” Strahorn said.

So, why was the osprey nest removed?

An answer came Nov. 4 from Jean Etsinger, media contact for Gloria Dei, who agreed the nest had been on the steeple for about a decade.

“It had to be removed as part of the tenting process,” Etsinger said of a termite fumigation process that involves sealing the building with a nylon tent and infusing it with a poisonous gas to kill any drywood termites inside.

“There was no choice, the tenting couldn’t be completed without its removal,” she said.

Gloria Dei hired a company to address the termite infestation.

“Things had gotten so bad that droppings were evident atop the organ console each week and anyone walking around … would hear a crunching sound — and risk slipping,” according to Etsinger.

Etsinger said she didn’t know whether the church or termite company directed the nest removal — or “if there had been any direction at all.”

Nor did she know whether the church or termite company contacted the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Gagnier, however, believed the state and U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act protects the nests and she emailed the FWC.

Amy Clifton, FWC regional biologist wrote back about a new rule, effective March 2:

“The new rule eliminates the need for a FWC permit for on-site destruction of an inactive nest (a nest that does not contain eggs or flightless young) of non-listed birds.”

Osprey nests may be removed without a permit throughout the state except in Monroe County, Clifton wrote in her Nov. 3 email.

The FWC recommends — but does not require — placing an artificial platform within 300 feet of the site of the previous nest to encourage birds to nest at an alternative site.

“Perhaps someone in the neighborhood would be willing to install a platform,” the FWC biologist added.

Jay Poppe, church council member, said the church currently has no plans to build a replacement nest platform for the ospreys.

A Nov. 4 call to the Rev. Rosemary Backer for comment was not returned as of Islander press time.

Reports from the church earlier this year, however, indicate the council was watching the ospreys and wondering about the integrity of the steeple.

In August, the church recruited a drone operator to photograph the nest and steeple to help the council with its decisions.

September saw the ospreys and their nest weather Hurricane Irma.

The Nov. 2 church news release noted there were concerns for the roof integrity, and the osprey nest was a side concern related to the fumigation project.

However, a roof inspection found copper sheets welded together at the top of the steeple —  near the nest — not asphalt shingles.

The nest made the “crew nervous about being attacked by the mother bird,” the release stated.

According to the FWC, osprey nesting typically begins in December and lasts until February.

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