Abandoned eagles nest a boon for birds

It's fun to entertain the impossible notion that the eagles could have planned things this way:

In 2007, a pair of eagles builds a nest in a remote area of the Philadelphia Navy Yard. They are the first eagles to nest within city limits in two centuries.

That year, the nest fails. But they return again in 2008 and hatch an eaglet that grows from fluff to feathers, learns to shred a fish...and flies off into the big wide world.

And then ... nothing. They're gone.

But the next year, 2009, two eagles nest in much nicer digs in the John Heinz National Wildlife Refuge at Tinicum. And two more nest up in Pennypack Park in Northeast Philadelphia.

Let's just say that one of the pairs is the Navy Yard pair. And, because it feels good to think this, that they knew somehow their nest, although abandoned, would have to be protected for a while. Plans to build in the area are on hold.

So they built the nest in the Navy Yard, never really intending to stay more than long enough to establish that the pile of sticks really WAS an eagle's nest. Then they move on to a more suitable neighborhood, leaving what turns out to be a nest worth $2.6 million.

So now we come to yesterday's announcement, which Linda Loyd wrote about in this morning's Inquirer, that all kinds of money is going to other projects to benefit birds as "compensation" for taking down the eagles nest that was abandoned anyway.

The Philadelphia Regional Port Authority is putting up $1.6 million to purchase the former Jack's Marina in Bristol Borough to create a habitat for fish, birds, and turtles.

The state agency is also buying, for $1 million, Marshall Island in the Delaware River near Point Pleasant, Bucks County, and will restrict the 141 acres for birds, my colleague writes.

Lastly, protections will go to one of the new nests -- the one in Pennypack Park. Eagles are becoming more tolerant of humans, but not tolerant enough for people to walk up and disturb them. So signs are good.

If you want to get a good look at eagles without disturbing them, the best spot is the Heinz refuge. They've built their nest in an area that's inaccessible to humans, but with binoculars or a scope you can see them from not far away.

Turns out another new nest is in the works this winter, too, up in the Bensalem area.

The Pennsylvania Game Commission's Jerry Czech says that eagles at all three nests -- Tinicum, Bensalem and Pennypack -- seem to be incubating eggs.

The region also has several other nests. The species has soared back from the brink of extinction. Both Pennsyvlania and New Jersey are reporting record numbers of birds and nests.

Read more about Pennsylvania eagles here.

And read more about New Jersey eagles here.