March 18, 2015

SUBJECT: Eagle Nest Permit Update and the International Festival of Owls


bald eagle bnsf permit
Bald Eagle Nest, Oil Train, Myrick Marsh - La Crosse River Wetlands

I just received today in my email in-box was a copy of the Fish and Wildlife Permit authorizing BNSF to "take" a bald eagle nest. Here are some highlights (or lowlights) of the permit:

"D. You are authorized to disturb up to 2 bald eagles tending their nest per year that may result in loss of productivity (1.3 chicks per year) and abandonment of their nest in 2015, during the course of the following activity: construction of a railway, La Crosse, La Crosse County, Wisconsin.

"F. In order to minimize the disturbance to a pair of nesting bald eagles you must comply with the following avoidance, minimization or other mitigation measures:

1. Construct new rail within the existing Burlington Northern Santa Fe right-of-way.

2. Mobile construction equipment will be staged outside the 660 foot buffer around the bald eagle nest.

3. No tree clearing will occur within 466 feet of bald eagle nest.

4. Work will begin at the far end of the marsh away from the bald eagle nest and work toward the center allowing the bald eagles to establish nest fidelity and allow for warmer temperatures.

5. When the construction area is within the 660 foot buffer of the bald eagle nest, when average daytime temperatures are below 60 degrees Fahrenheit, pile driving will occur between one hour after sunrise to one hour before sunset. This restriction will be lifted when average daytime temperatures reach 60 degrees Fahrenheit or above.

6. Work crews will be informed of the presence of the bald eagle nest and the federal protection it is afforded.

7. Black tern is a U.S. Fish ad Wildlife Service, Midwest Region, Bird of Conservation Concern. Permitee will follow restrictions during black tern breeding season according to permit issued by Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources since their permit may be more restrictive."

I take exception to most of what was written, but item #5 appears to contradict the FWS's own words. Here is what they state on their website:

"To avoid the non-purposeful take of eagles or their young, we recommend that you avoid blasting and other activities that produce extremely loud noises within 1/2 mile of active nests (or within 1 mile in open areas), unless tolerance to the activity (or similar activity) has been demonstrated by the eagles in the nesting area."

What happened to the 1-mile radius in open areas? Or 1/2 mile? 660' is a lot less than 5,280' or 2,640' and once temperatures are over 60 degrees...bang away!

Let's face it. The real purpose of this permit is allow the permitee to disturb an eagle's nest without idemnificaiton.

As times goes on, more and more of the protections afforded to wildlife are being lost rather than gained. It is sad to see both our federal and state governments affording protection to corporations rather than to the environment that they are sworn to protect.

On a more pleasant note, Jo and I attended the 2015 International Festival of Owls in Houston, MN a few weekends ago and as was a hoot!

This year, The Illinois Raptor Center was on hand to please owl lovers both young and old. It was great to see Jacques and Jane once again and learn how their center has grown over the past few years.Illinois raptor center

Of course, it was great to see the many live owls that they bring to educate people about owls.

One of the highlights of this year's festival occurred on Saturday afternoon while at the International Owl Center. Linda Nebbe from the Black hawk Wildlife Rehabilitation Project arrived with an albino Barred Owl name Walter.

albino barred owl

I was awestruck! What an incredible bird! It was interesting to look closely at the bird's feathers. They were much more downy-like. They were very soft and not as rigid and firm as normal owl feather would be. Walter would very likely not make it in the wild. Very unusual.

albino barred owl

For comparison, the below image is what a normal barred owl looks like:

barred owl

To close things out, yesterday there was a geomagnetic storm and although the other side of the globe and higher latitudes got the best views of the Northern Lights, I diligently set up my camera gear last night and was able to view the lights for a little while until they died down and high clouds obscured the view.

Nonetheless, it was great to see and below is a video clip that I took of the event. Actually, these are single snapshots turned into a video. The video is short however due to the clouds rolling in. It's about 30 seconds long and is comprised of images taken from 8pm to midnight local time.

Please be sure to view it from Youtube directly to see it at full resolution.

—Alan Stankevitz

Web design © 2007-2015, Alan Stankevitz
All photographs © 2002-2015, Alan Stankevitz

This site requires Flash Player version 8 or above. Click Here to download Flash Player