Alternate site eyed for osprey nest in Holmes Beach

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An osprey is perched Feb. 14 in a Norfolk Island pine tree near the Manatee County tennis courts in Holmes Beach. Tennis players recently complained about osprey feces on the courts. Islander Photo: Chris- Ann Silver Esformes
A decoy stands guard Feb. 20 to deter osprey from nesting at the tennis courts at 6200 Flotilla Drive in Holmes Beach. Islander Photos: ChrisAnn Silver Esformes

“I’m just trying to make everybody happy,” Liza Click, Manatee County grounds division property management supervisor said Feb. 20 regarding deterrents for birds building their nest too close for comfort for some tennis players in Holmes Beach.

The tennis courts on 62nd Street at Flotilla Drive are owned by the city and maintained by Manatee County parks workers.

The county plans to install a pole with a tall platform near the courts as an alternative nesting location for the bird.

Rick Lewis, a kayak tour guide with Beach Bums in Anna Maria, said he’s seen an osprey nesting on a light post over the courts at 6200 Flotilla Drive, Holmes Beach.

According to Lewis, an osprey — possibly the same one —nested on the tennis court lights for several years. Last March, county workers attempted to chase the bird away after layers complained of feces on the courts.

“I’ve been watching her for several years,” Lewis said. “It really made me mad when they did that.”

Lewis said he saw the remains of a nest on the ground Feb. 13 and assumed someone had knocked it down. And, according to Lewis, it wasn’t the first time he’d seen an osprey nest destroyed at  that location.

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.

As a result of a January 2017 state regulatory change regarding osprey nest removal, an FWC permit is no longer required for  destruction of an inactive nest — one not containing eggs or fledglings — of non-listed birds.

Currently, ospreys are not federally listed as threatened. “Ironically, a permit is required to relocate a nest, but not to simply take it down,” Mike Elswick, Manatee County natural resources division manager, said Feb. 20.

Click called on the county for help with the nest and Elswick has orchestrated nest relocation in some county parks, including neal, Robinson and ungarelli preserves.

Elswick worked with scientists from ESA Scheda environmental consultants, who assessed the area in August and September 2017 to determine the best alternative location for the nest and assist with nest relocation permitting.

Scheda scientists determined the nest was inactive and did not require a relocation permit.

Nothing was done at the time, but with tourist-season in full swing, Click received renewed complaints about bird feces on the tennis courts.

Under Click’s direction, county workers installed owl decoys atop the light poles as a deterrent.

Meanwhile, Elswick said Feb. 20 that a steel nest platform is being fabricated and Florida Power and Light has donated a 30-foot pole. The pole and platform will be installed pending a permit from the city of Holmes Beach, which owns the property.

“We’re hoping this provides a good resolution and the osprey will nest on the platform instead,” Elswick said. “But, there are no guarantees.”

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