Onlookers can't help as fire consumes osprey nest - FOX 13 News

Onlookers can't help as fire consumes osprey nest

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ST. PETERSBURG (FOX 13) -

A stunned crowd watched as an osprey nest that sits on top of a 40-foot light pole at the Derby Lane greyhound track erupted in flames earlier this week. The shocking pictures were taken by nearby resident Doug Davidson.

"It's like nothing I've ever seen," he recalled. "Imagine a bonfire on top of this 40 foot pole. The flames must have been 6 to 10 feet tall."

His wife saw it first. As he rushed over to see it, what he witnessed next, broke his heart.

"What was really horrifying was watching the adult osprey, presumably the mother, constantly circling the nest, diving closer to the nest until the heat was too hot, frantic about what was happening," he continued.

Thursday morning, we spotted the osprey again, circling the nest and landing. Osprey are protective of their nests. They tend to return to the same one every year, and it's possible this one will rebuild.

The birds are protected by state law. In fact, disturbing a nest could mean hefty fines, even jail time.

But Fish and Wildlife officials say this was an accident. They inspected the nest, as well as several others that have made homes at the Derby Lane track.

Some of the nests sit very close to the hot lights, and fire investigators say that may have been what triggered the fire.

Barbara Walker, a board member for the Clearwater Audubon Society, believes there are ways to prevent tragedies like this in the future. Osprey are known to build nests in light poles and towers; she hopes to work with Derby Lane and others to keep the protected birds safe.

"It's really time to do something and fix the problem and prevent it from occurring again," she insisted.

A spokesperson for Derby Lane told FOX 13 they were saddened by the accident.

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