Last week's blustery storm blew down osprey nests in East Lake and Tarpon Springs, killing at least four chicks. But Honeymoon Island's nesting ospreys and the first eaglet to be raised there in at least 40 years came through the gusts unharmed. "It's been a weird winter," said Dan Larremore, Honeymoon Island State Park environmental specialist, noting there have been more cold fronts than normal. "It's been a windy one." As far as he can tell, none of the 24 osprey nests on Honeymoon Island have blown down. Two nests have chicks, he said, and ospreys are incubating eggs in six or seven others. The eagle chick, more than 9 weeks old now, has lost all its down and is nearly as big as its parents. The nest is at the north end of the park's Osprey Trail and visible from a barricade, especially with binoculars.
"He hasn't flown yet, but he's stretching his wings," Larremore said. "We think the first week of May will be about the right time for him to start flying."
Barb Walker of East Lake, an Audubon of Florida eagle watcher and organizer, checked on another eagle nest on the Anclote River in Tarpon Springs, where a Wal-Mart supercenter had been planned. She said the nest, nestled in live pine branches, was still intact.
Two chicks grew up there, she said, and both are now flying.
Four osprey chicks in East Lake were not so lucky.
Off East Lake Road just north of John Chesnut Sr. Park, a dead pine tree split in two and a nest fell down, killing two osprey chicks, Walker said. A nest also fell that was on top of lights in the parking lot of the Publix at Brooker Creek Shopping Center, north of Ridgemoor Boulevard, killing two more chicks.
An osprey nest in Oldsmar and one in Tarpon Springs blew down too.
"That's the worst I've ever seen in seven years, to have that many (perish)," she said. "I was in tears for days."
Overall, it's not going to hurt the population of ospreys, she said, since more seem to be nesting.
"But it was really quite heartbreaking," said Walker. "You always hope you can save one and we couldn't save any."
Theresa Blackwell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 445-4170.