By Don Manley
A bird’s eye view of the nesting eagles at the Marco Island Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary will soon be available once again.
The remote camera providing that up-close and personal, moment-to-moment peak into the majestic creatures’ lives that was destroyed by lightning over the summer has been replaced. The camera should be back online by Oct. 1, in time to observe the eagles during mating season and as they care for their offspring after the eggs hatch.
“It took a while to get the new camera, but we’re ready to go now,” said Carl Way as the installation was occurring recently. Way is chairman of Marco Island Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary, and the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation, Inc. “Between weather and all the other things, it takes time. These things don’t just happen overnight, that’s for sure.”
Perched high atop a pole, the powerful camera a good distance away from the tree where the American Bald Eagles have nested since at least 2003. Every September they begin their nest rebuilding process for the upcoming nesting season, sometimes bringing youngsters from the previous year with them.
An 11.6-acre, undeveloped parcel located along Tigertail Court is home to The Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary. The property is also home to rabbits, mice, iguanas and an assortment of birds, such as killdeer, doves, cardinals, it is and horned owls.
Way said the eagles haven’t begun rebuilding the nest, but they have are occasionally seen in the vicinity.
“They’re not staying in the nest or around the next because it’s not that time yet,” he added. “Once they get into their mating season they’ll start working on it. Generally, they start around the 15th of October through the first part of November.”
Sometime after Jan. 1 is when the birds generally produce offspring, explained Way. “Once they lay the eggs it’s 35 days beyond that that they hatch,” he added. “Generally, they don’t fledge for another 12 weeks, which is when they start to fly.
The last pair of nesting eagles to occupy the site was named Paleo and Calusa in 2011 by the fifth grade class at Tommie Barfield Elementary School. However, Paleo died in 2018 when a battle with another bird resulted in him striking a power line. Calusa soon teamed up with another male and the duo successfully produced offspring that year.
Last year, however, horned owls took over the nest forcefully to birth and raise their young, but the chicks fell to the ground and died.
“Owls don’t return to the nest they were in, especially if it was not successful,” explained Way. “They’re nest hunters and not nest builders. They steal other nests. When the horned owls are around it’s always a battle. It all depends on who wins. Last year they won.”
The students at Tommie Barfield have selected a name for Calusa’s new mate: Herb. The inspiration for the name was the late Herb Savage, who was known at the island’s “unofficial mayor” for his role as chief architect for the developers of modern Marco, the Mackle Brothers, and his decades of civic involvement, unceasing good cheer and enthusiastic support for all things Marco.
Savage was also a veteran of World War II.
“They said that since the eagle is our national bird and he was a service member who did so many things for the island, they decided to name him Herb,” said Way.
The Marco Island Nature Preserve and Bird Sanctuary is located at 665 Tigertail Court. For more information about the facility, visit marcoislandnaturepreserve.org/. For more information about the Marco Eagle Sanctuary Foundation, visit marcoeaglesanctuaryfoundation.com/sanctuary/.