Heron nest halts construction

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Heron nest halts construction
A bird believed to be a great blue heron guards its nest with at least two baby birds inside in a partially destroyed Australian pine at a residential construction site in Holmes Beach. - Kristin Swain | Sun

HOLMES BEACH – Construction workers received a surprise Jan. 13. As they were pulling the branches from an Australian pine at a residential construction project on 56th Street, a nest was revealed, complete with a nesting bird and at least two fledglings.

Mayor Judy Titsworth first observed the destruction of the tree and the nest inside of it, sending photos to code compliance officers. She presented the photo she took of the nest in the partially destroyed tree during the Jan. 14 commission meeting. The bird and its fledglings are believed to be great blue herons, a federally protected species under the United States Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Officer James Thomas said that a state biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is leading the investigation into the nest and what the options are for the birds and the property owners. He added that the property owners and their construction workers are working with the city and with FWC to reach a good conclusion for both themselves and the birds.

Since there are fledglings, the bird and its nest cannot be relocated, said Officer Robyn Evangelisto. The worst-case scenario for the property owners, she added, is that the construction on the property remain halted until the nest is abandoned, possibly in a few weeks.

Prior to the destruction of the tree, she said that the property owners and their construction crew had no knowledge of the nest.

Evangelisto said that the city’s code compliance officers are following the lead of the FWC investigators with regard to the nesting bird. Until the green light is given by FWC, construction remains halted at the site since it is illegal to disturb the nesting birds.

To assist FWC investigators, Evangelisto said that she was launching the city’s drone to take video and photos of the bird and any fledglings. She said at least two baby birds have been spotted in the nest.

“They’re very cute,” she said of the fledglings during a Jan. 17 conversation with The Sun. “We want the biologist to tell us what can and cannot happen there and that’s still to be determined.”