A pair of bald eagles have returned to their nest on Adrian's Island after contractors complete work near it to access the other side of the island for work on the bicentennial bridge.
For several years, bird watchers have seen a pair of bald eagles nesting on the east side of the island near the Jefferson City Amtrak station. And city officials recently heard concerns from a number of people about the eagles since construction vehicles came onto the island to work on the bicentennial bridge, which will land on the island.
Construction of the bridge, which will go from near the Capitol to Adrian's Island, began in February. The $3.7 million project is an 826-foot bridge to grant regular access to Adrian's Island, which is a roughly 30-acre stretch of forest and wetland currently separate from the rest of the city by the Union Pacific Railroad tracks.
The city hopes the bridge will be completed by the end of the year with a significant amount finished by Missouri's bicentennial celebrations in August.
For work on the bridge, officials received a permit from the U.S. Department of Fishing and Wildlife for work within 75 feet of the nest.
The only work done that close to the nest was an access road for vehicles to reach the west side of the island, where the bridge and park will be. The road is complete.
Robert Hemmelgarn, the Missouri Department of Conservation media specialist, said an eagle's ability to tolerate disturbance varies depending on the nesting pair, but the department recommends staying 330 feet from a nest.
"Eagles, like all wildlife, need their food, water, shelter and a place to raise their young," he said. "Keeping people and any kind of disturbance away from their nest is a critical part of protecting their ability to survive and continue to reproduce. We all want to see their populations rebound."
This is the only known bald eagle nest within Jefferson City, but there are others in the area.
As part of the permit for the bridge project, City Engineer David Bange said, the city is observing the nest at least once a week.
It started in December, Bange said, and he started seeing the eagles in the nest in January.
About two weeks ago was the first official sighting of a chick, he said.
"It's hard to see, but as it gets bigger, I'm sure it'll be easier, and it's usually easier on sunnier days," he said. "What makes it easier is when the adult eagle is sort of standing behind it, providing kind of a black backdrop. Then you can see the little gray head of the little chick poking up out of the nest."
Larry Dean, with the U.S. Department of Fishing and Wildlife, said the department has seen bald eagles adapting to human activity and human-modified features in the environment over the last decade.
"Bald eagles aren't as sensitive to vehicle traffic as they are to foot traffic directly under their nest," Dean said. "So, it is not likely they will be disturbed by vehicle traffic passing within 75 feet of their nest."
The department is also seeing bald eagle populations climbing over recent years.
Dean said the department also had discussions with area officials and the Army Corps of Engineers about the bat populations in the area.
However, they determined the work isn't likely to adversely affect the population given the time period and scale of the work.
However, officials were directed to get back with the department if that the timeline or scale changes.
Bange said the concerning work, which mostly comprised of clearing out some trees for the project, is completed.
Todd Spalding, director of the Jefferson City Parks, Recreation and Forestry Department, said it's exciting to have a park with the kind of wildlife found on Adrian's Island.