Strong winds down eagle's nest at Bradenton's Robinson Preserve

MANATEE -- Wind gusts this morning blew down an empty eagle's nest at Robinson Preserve, but no eagles were harmed and no eggs were broken.

Manatee County Natural Resources officials say strong winds that accompanied overnight storms blew down a dead 35-foot-tall Australian pine tree and the nest which Robinson’s two eagles have nested in for several years.

“It’s a sad day for us because we were hoping that we’d be lucky enough to continue to have this miracle of nature played out for years to come,” said Natural Resources Director Charlie Hunsicker. “Fortunately there were no eggs or nesting chicks in the nest, which would have been the case had the wind blown down the nest in January or February.”

Max Dersch, the resource management division manager who lives and works on Robinson Preserve, said an adult couple had fledged three pair of eaglets out of the nest over the past six years despite its precarious location. The couple was again actively preparing the nest only a month or two before females lay eggs.

Knowing the dead tree couldn’t support the 200-pound nest for much longer, Natural Resources in prior years took precautionary measures by erecting two artificial platforms elsewhere in Robinson, “seeding” them with starter twigs to entice the adult eagles to nest there.

“Since (the adult eagles) chose a dead tree at the preserve, we made the leap of faith that they might like to nest in artificial platforms as well,” Dersch said. “So we set up the nesting platforms in anticipation of the tree finally collapsing under the weight of the nest."

The artificial platforms are recycled transmission poles which were embedded below nine feet of earth and rise 40 feet above ground. They are secure against the strongest winds. Dersch said the adult eagles in recent months have shown interest in nesting in the platforms.

“It would be nice, if by February, they have enough of a nest built on the artificial platforms to do some egg laying, but only time will tell really,” Dersch said.