The Eagle’s Nest

By now probably everyone who reads this already knows about the removal of an active eagle’s nest near Fisherville, Ontario, by Nextera.  The tree (a 100+ year-old cottonwood) and nest were apparently in the way of several turbines and Nextera was unwilling to move the turbines or the service road to spare the nest.  The pair have been reported flying around the area looking for the nest.  The Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) was responsible for the decision, and one has to wonder if there’s anything they wouldn’t be willing to sacrifice in order to build the turbines.  To date the MNR has approved anything and everything – except anywhere close to the Toronto area where the current government’s supporters mostly live.  

As crappy as just the act itself was, the background makes it even crappier.

Crappy #1.  The location was known to be important for raptors, especially wintering raptors, yet they went ahead with the project.  From the Wolfe Island project documents there was this.

Environment Canada compiled the results of recent winter bird surveys from 17 sites in southern Ontario, and concluded that just a few sites across southern Ontario  provide the necessary conditions to support high numbers of wintering raptors (Environment Canada, letter, September 21, 2007). Two sites, Amherst Island (3.14 raptors/kilometer) and Fisherville (2.14 raptors/kilometer) had higher raptor densities than Wolfe Island (1.4 raptors/kilometer, with 1.92 raptors/kilometer west of Highway 95), which had similar densities to a site north of Glencoe. The remainder of the sites supported raptor densities that were an order of magnitude less than these four sites (Environment Canada, letter, September 21, 2007).[my emphasis]

Of these 4 hot spots 3 are now within the borders of wind projects.  Only Glencoe has been spared, more or less, so far, although even it is pretty much surrounded by turbines.  Just as with Wolfe Island, it is not creditable that they didn’t know there would be a large kill-off of valued (at least, by most of us) birds.    Below are three clickable maps (the first two are from ontario-wind-turbines.org, while the third is from the NextEra project documents) that show where it is located.  The first map shows all the projects in this area, in red, to the west of Niagara Falls and Buffalo.The next map centers on just the NextEra project.  The Samsung project is east and Port Dover to the west.  Fisherville is just north of the Route 12 sign.  The nest location was south of Fisherville, quite close to Lake Erie.The next map is a closeup of the site itself, with the red dot indicating the tree’s location.  Note how close it is to turbine #49.  Note also how isolated the tree was, and how the ground all around is quite flat and open. 

Crappy #2.  What did they know and when did they know it?  The MNR’s EBR entry indicates:

Since receiving all required approvals for this project, Bald Eagles (listed as special concern in Ontario) have built a nest within the project location in a tree that was scheduled to be removed for the construction of a road, and within 20 metres of the blade sweep of a proposed turbine.

The nest was brought to the attention of MNR in summer 2012 and confirmed in the fall when leaves fell from the tree. Confirmation of an active nest was given by Bird Studies Canada and Guelph District.

No doubt you’ve seen pictures of the nest.  It is the MNR’s contention it was built “since receiving all required approvals” on March 16, 2012.   That’s a rather fast build for something that large (see comments below). As reported by the Simcoe Reformer, Josie Hernandez of NextEra stated that they had removed eagle nests before in Maine and Florida. “We understand some may be concerned about the removal of the nest and we share that concern,” Hernandez said. “However, after discussions with experts, we believe the action taken was absolutely in the best interests of the eagles and would significantly reduce the risk of harm coming to them.” One wonders what experts were part of that discussion, and if NextEra ever even remotely considered moving the turbine.  One of MNR’s experts, Jody Allair of Bird Studies Canada:  became aware of the nest last November. It is a new nest belonging to a young mating pair. Allair told the MNR that the nest should be left alone and the turbines relocated elsewhere. Allair only learned of the nest’s removal on Monday.

Update – Bird Studies Canada statement on Facebook.

The locals knew a nest was in the area somewhere as this pair was spotted and reported it to the MNR.   The MNR took the reports and initially seemed to be acting in good faith, at least to the locals.  No doubt NextEra was telling the MNR that they wouldn’t move the turbines, and either MNR couldn’t make them or MNR really didn’t care.  A black-out for the locals went on for months, until the permit to destroy the nest was “suddenly” granted.  This black-out and sudden switcheroo shows just how much contempt the MNR has for regular citizens.

Crappy #3.  The timing of the permit.  The permit was issued on December 31, 2013.  It wasn’t announced until after 5PM on Friday, July 5.  The very next morning the equipment, including several OPP cars, was on the scene and by 10:30 AM the nest was down.  Obviously the insiders knew of the deal before the rest of us.  One can only conclude that the MNR works for the benefit of exploiting corporations with no regard for any local sentiment.

Crappy #4.  MNR’s justification.  From the EBR notice:  “Removing the nest will reduce the risk of eagle mortality at the site. ”  So we’re destroying the nest to save it?  Why didn’t they just come out and say that eagles (along with the locals) are expendable in the Province’s quest for green whatevers. Even if turbine #49 would have been eliminated the remaining turbines would have presented a significant hazard to the eagles in flight,  which is why the project shouldn’t have been allowed anywhere near this area in the first place.  At least, not if you valued the birds.  The most recent eagle count for this area was 16, including the pair that have just been evicted.  One can only wonder how many will be left several years from now.

The reaction to this was fast and furious.  In spite of MNR’s attempt to slip this by, about 2 dozen protesters showed up and took videos and pictures of the event.  Both Wind Concerns Ontario and Ontario Wind Resistance had a series of postings on it immediately.  From there the media picked it up, i.e. the London Free Press and the Hamilton Spectator.  Needless to say, the politicians soon joined in.  Closer to my home, there was reaction from Amherst Island, one of the 4 hot spots that will be covered with turbines shortly.

I have this vision of the two eagles looking in vain for their home and it saddens me.  What is it about man that makes him so careless of other living things?  Especially for something as worthless as a wind turbine?  Aside from the money to be made, of course.  Which is certainly the key to this entire sorry episode.  Shame on MNR and shame on NextEra.

10 thoughts on “The Eagle’s Nest”

  1. I live in Lowbanks. We’re slated to have 70 of those things right in our face around here.

    Added your blog to my read list.

  2. The MNR acted correctly in taking the nest down. It would be ironic if you lobbied for the nest to remain and have the birds or their offspring injured due to collision with the turbines. You imply, “rather fast build for something that large” that the nest was in existence prior to the permitting being approved. Do you have any evidence for this implication?
    Are the birds so stupid that they cannot go and find a suitable nesting site elsewhere?

  3. You can’t be serious Mark! Your ignorance is shocking. The MNR acted INcorrectly right from the start. The permit should never have been given to put up a wind farm in that location in the first place.

    This is a mating pair of eagles, due to lay their eggs any time now. This is the start of egg-laying season for bald eagles. Their nests are MASSIVE! They take a long time to build and they can’t be built in just any old tree. They need a tree with branches sturdy enough to hold the weight of the nest and with branches that are far enough apart to allow for the vast wingspan of the eagles so they can freely come and go.

    We’re not talking about a robins nest. Unless you know of a Home Depot some place that sells gigantic 6 foot wide bird houses that we can put up for these eagles, in all likelihood, this years offspring has been lost.

  4. The MNR is working against the very responsibilities if it was formed to protect. It also is a branch of the Ontario government. They obviously will do as they are told by the politicians that deliver their jobs and pay their cheques. The birds are definitely not dumb but they are endangered until the Green Energy Act changed that tag in the last Ontario budget just to accommodate wind turbines only. You try taking down a bald eagle nest to build a structure on your own private land and see how fast you are charged. This sad incident is just another example of how corrupt this present provincial government is!

  5. “Are the birds so stupid”

    Yes, that’s right, airhead, the birds are “stupid”. And so is nature, and, come to think of it, maybe the whole natural environment is kind of dumb. Best to trash it now with giant metal towers with spinning blades to produce taxpayer subsidized profits for multinationals. That’ll fix things, right?
    I’d better specify I was being sarcastic, for your sake.

  6. The Wind Farm Reality is clearly that the Ontario Liberal Government is on a mission of genocide, not only against rural residents, but also against all protected and unprotected species of nature, and indeed against Nature itself. When will this Holocaust end?

  7. Mark – you are correct, I have no direct evidence for my implication – there’s no formal reports of having seen the nest earlier than the summer of 2012. On the other hand, what evidence does the MNR have for their assertion that the nest was built after mid-March? Have you read the bird studies? They were pretty cursory – conveniently so. I had actually written several paragraphs on them for this posting but pulled them out in an effort to keep the length down, unfortunately leaving the implication in without the background (it was 6 AM and I had just awoken pondering how to handle this very issue). As it turns out, starting the nest in April and using it that summer would be normal eagle behaviour, and could have been the case.

    I was mostly irked that the MNR’s starting position was that somehow this was the eagles’ fault, and both they and NextEra were not to blame for this situation, when in fact it was almost inevitable given the area’s history. Kinda like blaming the human neighbors for their health complaints.

  8. According to local residents, the nest has been there for 5 or 6 years. There are at least 3 or 4 more uncatalogued nests that residents know about. Since the MNR will not protect eagles, you can be sure that residents will not again make the mistake of revealing locations again – why should they with guardians like the MNR and NextEra lurking about.

  9. This was excerpted from an email from a neighbor of the nest:

    First, a thank you for all your information regarding the wind turbines. There are 3 monstrous ones being erected in a field close to our place along Lake Erie just outside of Selkirk. Needless to say, we aren’t happy about it.

    An FYI ~ I took a look at the Google Map for our area. Ironically, you can still see the tree the eagle nest was in that was removed January 5th. We had arguably one of the best views of the birds & the nest ~ we could sit on the couch in our living room & watch them with binoculars through our patio doors. And watch them we did, so much so that the binoculars became a living room accessory & were never relegated back to the closet.

    If you look east on the map across a couple of small fields you can see a solitary dark spot in the open. That was the tree, now removed, so we can have the benefits of ‘green power’. Give me the eagles any day ~ if people in the city can’t live without AC in the summer & don’t know enough to cut back on their power usage, let them pay the price of having their property values compromised & their sleep disturbed & put windmills on their own roofs! (Sorry for venting, I still miss the eagles.)

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