Watchful neighbors were “appalled” and “outraged” when they noticed that cell tower workers had dismantled a nest in Virginia Beach, VA. Calls to law enforcement launched a government response as osprey are entitled to protections as a species. As the Virginian-Pilot discovered, all was not as it seemed.
According to raptor specialist Reese Lukei, the tower owners did everything right. SBA Communications actually made the first call, asking for help from wildlife experts when they arrived to do a tower upgrade and discovered the nest. “It’s No. 555 on Osprey Watch,” confirmed Lukei. Osprey are well tracked in the area and have not yet returned for this year’s nesting season.
Bryan Watts, director of the College of William & Mary’s Center for Conservation Biology agreed, saying, “The eagles were only loafing up there. It’s an osprey nest, and those can be removed.”
Lukei noted that the tower workers acted quickly to remove the nest, knowing the osprey will return soon. “When they get here and find their nest gone, they’ll rebuild,” he said. “There’ll still be room for it, once the workers are gone. And osprey are quick. They’ll spend two or three weeks snagging dead branches off trees and be done.”
Before allowing the removal, wildlife experts watched the eagle visitors to the nest and determined that they were not establishing a home there, just using the tower as a vantage point. While naturalists say osprey are known to have an affinity for the Virginia Beach cell towers, the eagles prefer trees, and probably set up their own home in one of the nearby loblolly pines.
“I’m so relieved!” said Shelley Bossert, one of the worried residents who had reported the downed nest, upon learning the true story. “That really does make me feel better.”