After Hurricane Ian, the amount of debris on Sanibel and Captiva began accumulating quickly. To help accelerate the recovery of our island community, SCCF worked with our conservation partners at the City of Sanibel and J.N. “Ding” Darling Wildlife Refuge to identify locations on the island that might be used for debris processing sites.
SCCF’s Puschel Preserve was identified as a suitable location given the size, location, and condition of the preserve following the storm. Since the property was still in the beginning stages of restoration prior to the storm, the land was mostly cleared of invasive exotic vegetation and provided the necessary space for processing debris.
SCCF biologists have been actively monitoring Puschel Preserve since Ian to track impacts to local wildlife. Shortly after the site had been authorized for debris sorting and work began, they noticed sticks placed in a nearby tree adjacent to the preserve. The following morning, staff confirmed that the sticks had in fact been placed there by a pair of bald eagles that recently lost its original nest tree nearby. Both eagles have been observed bringing sticks to the new structure.
Partners at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the City of Sanibel, and Audubon Florida’s Eagle Watch were immediately notified of the new eagle activity. After consulting with USFWS, it was determined that since the birds are continuing to build the nest and are not exhibiting signs of disturbance, debris sorting work may proceed. According to the USFWS, the period of nest construction is one of the most highly sensitive phases of nesting for bald eagles, so the fact that they are continuing to build is a good indicator that they are not being disturbed.
In Florida, bald eagle nesting behavior begins in the fall, and females typically lay eggs in December or early January. SCCF is monitoring eight additional nests on the island.
“Our staff and trained volunteers will continue to monitor all eagle activity on Sanibel and Captiva throughout the nesting season, with daily checks to this new nest to ensure ongoing hurricane restoration activities do not disturb the birds,” said SCCF Shorebird Biologist Audrey Albrecht.