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Little League plans alternatives for the birds

A fire in an osprey nest atop a light pole leaves officials of a St. Petersburg Little League looking for solutions.


© St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2001

A fire in an osprey nest atop a light pole leaves officials of a St. Petersburg Little League looking for solutions.

ST. PETERSBURG -- Branches and twigs, neatly woven into a nest, adorn the tops of a handful of electrical poles and light posts at the Northeast Little League fields on the corner of First Street N and 45th Avenue.

Inside nature's bird-made basket are the off-white, red-speckled eggs of the osprey, one of Florida's protected birds that has adapted to the depletion of habitable trees by nesting atop light and telephone poles, chimneys, television antennas, cranes and even sailboat masts.

While the new homes may be creatively built, when the lights are turned on or when the wires get tangled, an osprey, which typically weighs 4 pounds, can find itself in a dangerous situation of human proportions.

That's exactly what happened a few weeks ago, when an overgrown osprey nest co-inhabited by Quaker parakeets caught fire on a light pole at the Little League fields. Firefighters arrived and doused the flames, but, in the process, also destroyed the nest and its holdings.

Faced with either playing the fall season's games in the dark or putting the birds in further danger, Northeast Little League officials will be forced to build platforms for he birds.

Nancy Douglass, a regional nongame biologist with the Lakeland office of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, said the protected status of ospreys means people who find them nested on their property must find ways to relocate the birds in much the same way that energy officials do along roads trimmed with electrical lines.

"It's kind of a double-edged sword," she said. "On one hand there are so many ospreys, but on the other, if we don't protect them, they will die out."

The solution -- relocation plans for osprey nests on all property where they may be in danger. If people do have an osprey nesting in a troublesome spot, they need to take action before eggs are young in the nest. People can apply for permits with the commission and then relocate the nest.

Little League officials have decided to do what many with the same problem are doing by building poles with platforms next to the nesting spot and moving the nest to the platform. Provided with various platform designs by the commission, league officials say what they need now is help in building the platforms.

Buddy Dauphin, coordinator for the league's T-ball teams, said the ospreys have most likely inhabited the fields for five years and are just recently in danger of light and electrical poles. In an effort to maintain the three osprey nests remaining after a storm in mid-September and the recent fire, the league is working hard to put the nests in a safer home.

"They do make a mess, but they don't bother us," he said.

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