Neighbors accused of shooting fireworks at bird rookery

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OSPREY, Fla. - There's now more controversy surrounding the bird rookery at The Oaks Club. The two islands that make up the rookery is home to thousands of birds -- but not everyone is happy about it.  Now some of those residents are taking the fight to get rid of the birds to the next level.

"It was a high powered flash of light with flames attached to it, and they were shooting it directly into the bird island," said Beverly Meadows a resident of the Oaks Club. 

Meadows says she saw 4 shots, with a fire trail, going into one of the two islands that make up the bird rookery behind her home.  That rookery is considered the 2nd best in Southwest Florida and is home to birds from all across the area.  But, Meadows says when the flames hit the island the birds began to leave.

"Hundreds of birds raised up from the island they screamed from the top of their voice and they flew away in terror," said Meadows.

The Oaks Club rookery has been a very controversial issue. Back in January the club's management began removing an invasive species of pepper trees on the island.  It was an attempt to reduce the bird population but that removal ran into delays and was eventually placed on hold when a protected bird species began nesting there.  And according to information from the Sarasota County Sheriff's Office, the incident report about the flames shot into the island, was another attempt to scare the birds away.

And the homeowners who shot the fireworks aren't shying away from their actions.

"We want to scare a few birds away, and did it work?  No!," said Page Halpin. 

She says their actions came out of frustration.  "Because of the stench, the smell, the noise, and the dirt.  Do you know what its like to live near 3,000 egrets and herons? It's gotten out of hand, it just needs to be scaled back some". said Halpin. 

But despite the frustration, some neighbors feel firing fireworks into the island does more harm than good.  "I was very afraid they were trying to set the island on fire or the fireworks would cause the trees that have been cut down and that are dry to burn, " said Meadows.

Neighbors say the dead trees and shrubbery from when crews began clearing the island are still piled up in the center of the island.  That debris is what many say they're afraid could have gone up in flames and possibly spreading to the surrounding homes.

It is also against the law to disturb nesting birds, so officials says they will be investigating the issue.