High-rise living in Bradenton Beach atop cell tower

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An osprey takes wing Feb. 22 from its nest atop the cell tower in Bradenton Beach. Islander Photo: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

Ospreys prefer to nest in high places.

Sometimes their choice for a nesting location includes man-made structures, which can be a problem.

Nesting usually begins in December and lasts through February, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

In Holmes Beach an osprey that has been trying to nest on a light pole at a tennis court soon will have its own platform away from the courts and the humans that became annoyed by the outfall.

In Bradenton Beach, work on a cell tower is suspended until a site study to assess an osprey nest on top of the tower is concluded, according to Bradenton Beach Police Chief Sam Speciale.

Cell tower owner SBA Communications Corporation worked on the tower in early February, sending workers high up with a crane to repair structural damage caused by Hurricane Irma in September 2017. And more work is expected, when new carrier antennas are added to the tower.

Bradenton Beach resident Carole Flanders said she observed an osprey nesting on the tower in January and was disturbed to see workers on the tower.

She noted it’s against the law to disturb an active nest, adding they did just that during “repairs to the tower with a crane that was there for two to three days for nine hours each day,” Flanders wrote in a Feb. 21 email to The Islander. “The birds were frantic and I do not want to see this happen again. If the eggs have hatched, this would be a death sentence for the babies.”

According to her email, Flanders contacted Justin Matthews with Matthews Wildlife Rescue of Bradenton. Matthews verified Feb. 19 that the nest was active.

“I know its active because I saw an adult carrying a fish to the nest,” Matthews said Feb. 22. “At the very least, this means she’s sitting on eggs.”

An “active” nest is one containing eggs or fledglings.

According to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, it is illegal to tamper with nests containing eggs or babies. Breaking the law carries a $15,000 federal fine.

When notified Feb. 22 about the nest on the tower, Speciale said he was not previously aware of the nest.

“I was unaware of any nest on top of the cell tower and would have notified the powers to be if I had,” Speciale said.

Speciale said SBA representatives were notified and, he said, they are going to “suspend work on the tower until they have completed a bird-site study.”

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