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Originally published June 26, 2013 at 5:38 PM | Page modified June 26, 2013 at 7:42 PM

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Kirkland fireworks to move away from nesting baby eagles

Celebrate Kirkland! Organizer Penny Sweet agrees to move the city’s Fourth of July fireworks farther from a bald eagles’ nest in Heritage Park.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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The Fourth of July won’t exactly be quiet for two baby eagles in a nest in Kirkland’s Heritage Park.

But it will be a whole lot quieter than it could have been, thanks to a decision to move the annual fireworks display farther from the Douglas fir that is the bald eagles’ home.

Bird lovers had feared the bombs bursting in air could startle the eaglets — which are not yet ready to fly — and cause them to fall from their nest.

Show sponsors plan to move the barge that launches the missiles 350 yards south and west of the previous launch site.

The pyrotechnics also will be heavier on showy colors and lighter on loud booms than in other years, and rockets will be fired away from the beloved birds.

Penny Sweet, founder and organizer of the annual Celebrate Kirkland! festivities, hopes the move will encourage viewers to spread out across waterfront parks south of downtown and leave more elbow room in Marina Park.

And there will be a bonus for anyone curious about eagles.

Members of Eastside Audubon, which asked for the extra protection for the birds, will bring spotting scopes to Heritage Park on the Fourth, offering a good look at the two adults and two chicks.

The scopes will be up after the noon parade and for two hours before the fireworks start at 10:15 p.m.

Kirkland resident Linda Tarte had a chance to look through an Audubon member’s telescope Tuesday as one young bird peered over the edge of the 5-foot-wide nest. “That’s a-MAZ-ing!” Tarte exclaimed.

Sweet, who has overseen the annual parade and fireworks since 2000, agreed to move the barge during a meeting with Eastside Audubon representatives Andy McCormick and Nancy Roberts.

“They were very positive. They recognized how very important this celebration is to the community of Kirkland. They also recognized how important things like our bird populations are to us as well,” said Sweet, a City Council member who owns a downtown business.

Audubon members last year asked Sweet on July 3 if the fireworks barge could be moved to protect the two adults and one juvenile then using the nest. It was too late to make such a drastic change, Sweet said.

Bird lovers gathered around the tree to offer help if the young eagle fell. Nothing bad happened, and the bird successfully fledged.

This is at least the third year the adult eagle pair has used the same nest, and some neighbors have told Audubon members they’ve seen eagles in prior years in the row of fir trees on the western edge of Heritage Park.

The birds aren’t expected to take their first flight before later July or August.

McCormick, president of Eastside Audubon, said he and others will watch the tree during the fireworks because of the possibility that an eaglet startled by the noise and lights could inadvertently knock its sibling from the nest.

Although it isn’t possible to guarantee the chicks will be safe, relocating the fireworks gives them an extra margin of safety, McCormick said.

The fireworks will be launched more than half a mile from the eagle nest. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines call for keeping explosives at least half a mile — and in some circumstances one mile — from nests.

Bald eagles, no longer listed as threatened or endangered, have become more common around Lake Washington and other areas after decades of federal protection.

Audubon Eastside spokeswoman Mary Brisson called the decision to move the fireworks “an example of how things go when they go right.”

“So many times towns have run into the same question and it’s become a controversy and it’s become polemical,” Brisson said.

“We really appreciate that Penny and Celebrate Kirkland! were really listening and made a prompt decision and followed through on it.”

Keith Ervin: 206-464-2105 or kervin@seattletimes.com

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