SEAGOVILLE — As a species, American bald eagles are no longer endangered. But two of the birds have faced a different kind of peril in recent years because they built their annual nesting spot at the John Bunker Sands Wetland Center in Seagoville atop a high voltage electric tower.
"This is one of our largest transmission towers, so as quickly as we could, we tried to make sure we could come up with a solution," said Oncor spokeswoman Jeamy Molina.
Last July, after the eagle couple had their eaglets and flew away for the off-season, Oncor painstakingly removed, wrapped up, and relocated their 200-plus pound nest to a new utility pole nearby; one that's not connected to any electric wires.
It took a big donation from Falcon Steel and the approval of federal and state regulators, but the enormous effort that cost more than $100,000 was no guarantee. It would still take a wing and a prayer to bring the birds back.
"The concern was, there was a 50-50 chance they would take to the new site. Can we convince them another structure roughly 1,200 feet away is just as good?" wondered the wetland center's director John DeFillipo.
Much to the delight of all those involved with the project, the eagles returned last month. But there was a problem: Instead of adopting their new tower, they gravitated right back to their original spot.
Even with newly installed spikes to keep them away from live power poles, DeFillipo noticed they were depositing nesting material there. Workers removed the sticks, and DeFillipo and his colleagues kept observing the birds.
"We would sit here in the building and wonder, 'Can you not see?'" he said.
Then — one day — it just happened. The majestic birds made the short flight to their old nest on the new tower.
Molina called it a "huge success.
DeFillipo said the experience brought out his paternal instincts. "If you have kids, then it's like that... very thrilled. Thrilled that they actually successfully did that," he said. "And that big relief not just for this partnership, but also for the eagles. We wanted them to stay on this property and call this their home for life, because they mate for life."
A tower cam has been set up on the pole so experts and anyone else who is interested can to watch the eagles (the camera is solar powered, so it doesn't work at night or on cloudy days).
The eagles are expected to lay eggs by the end of the year or beginning of 2015, with new eaglets emerging about a month later.