Kings Bay Birds Find Protection; A Nuclear Engineer and Volunteer Birder Is a Real Friend to the Feathered

By Jackson, Gordon | The Florida Times Union, April 26, 2010 | Go to article overview

Kings Bay Birds Find Protection; A Nuclear Engineer and Volunteer Birder Is a Real Friend to the Feathered


Jackson, Gordon, The Florida Times Union


Byline: GORDON JACKSON

ST. MARYS - Lt. Tony Eliasen's job as an instructor at Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base contradicts his education at Auburn University, where he majored in environmental science.

Instead of trying to save the environment, his job in the Navy is to train sailors to detonate nuclear weapons capable of enormous destruction.

In his free time, however, the nuclear engineer returns to his first interest from his college days.

"There's a lot of things we can do environmentally," he said. "It's more than just driving a hybrid."

For the past three years, Eliasen has volunteered to help research and protect birds on base. His work has earned him the nickname "the birdman of Kings Bay."

"I grew up in Colorado, where we managed the wildlife," Eliasen said. "I saw a lot of things we can do environmentally. That's why I volunteered."

Eliasen said he asked the base's natural resources manager to allow him to work with birds on base after he and his wife, Alicia, discovered a chimney swift in their home's chimney.

Before reporting to work each day and during his lunch breaks, he checks nests in purple martin boxes, which contain enough chambers for 16 nests. He played purple martin songs on a CD player to attract the birds to the 20 boxes.

Eliasen has renovated old birdhouses for bluebirds and helped erect 52 new boxes for them. He is also working to improve habitat for chimney swifts and loggerhead shrikes.

Paul Schoenfeld, the natural resources manager at Kings Bay, said Eliasen's environmental education makes him a valuable volunteer.

"When I realized he had the qualifications, I had a lot more work for him to do," Schoenfeld said. …

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