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Sarasota Thursday, May. 12, 2011 6 years ago

Nesting birds ruffle some feathers

by: Robin Roy City Editor

Four homeowners at The Oaks Club have grown so weary of some of their neighbors that they’ve asked club management to seek the removal of those living in their backyards.

Those neighbors are hundreds of wading birds that have taken up residence on two small islands in a golf course pond. They nest mainly in Brazilian pepper trees, an invasive species.

The homeowners said they are fed up with the noise and the smell and mess from the droppings.
“They’re damaging lanais, concrete, roofs,” said Victor Balcom, The Oaks Club general manager. “The smell is so bad, (the residents) can’t go outside.”

Balcom held a meeting May 7 with homeowners, club members and environmental experts, hoping to find a solution that satisfies not only the affected homeowners, but also the overall environment.

“We definitely like the birds. There’s no doubt about it,” said Balcom. “It’s an amenity to have things like that.”

The two islands were carved out 27 years ago, when The Oaks Club was built. They sit in a pond on hole No. 3 at the Heron golf course, one of two club courses. The islands are less than 50 yards from the nearest home.
At about one-half acre each, both islands are covered in trees, which have drawn many different kinds of birds.

Balcom said several years ago, Brazilian peppers began popping up on the islands. Now one island is made up of about 30% of Brazilian peppers.

With the growth of the Brazilian peppers came an explosion in growth of the bird population.

Sandy Cooper, a resident of The Oaks and member of the Audubon Society, estimates there are now 12 species of wading birds that nest on the islands, including five species of herons, three species of egrets, two of ibises and others.

Cooper has also seen several different songbirds coming and going and said they could also be nesting there.

“It would be a real blessing if they weren’t too close to a couple of homes,” Cooper said. “Some of the homeowners have said they’re getting too much of a good thing.”

The current plan is to wait until nesting season ends, which could be October or November, and then consult with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission about the best strategy for culling some of the foliage.

Balcom hopes that by removing many of the Brazilian pepper trees that some of the birds will find new places to nest in subsequent years.

“We do not want to harm the birds, just reduce the places for them to nest,” said Balcom.

Cooper said if that plan holds, then it would be a satisfactory solution for him.

“A number of people were concerned that too aggressive a removal all at once of the Brazilian peppers will drive the birds out,” he said. “That would be a disaster of the first order. We’d like for them to do it in stages and hope that will be the final decision.”

Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].

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