CONCORD -- An independent biologist has found evidence owls recently lived in a nest dismantled by a Seeno family company on property where the developer plans to build six homes, according to a report released to this newspaper this week.
The new report affirms claims by residents of Olive Drive who say a family of barn owls have lived on the property for generations, and is at odds with a report produced by a Seeno-hired biologist.
While the city biologist found fresh owl pellets on the property, suggesting owls had used the platform within previous weeks or months, the Seeno biologist found no current owl activity beyond bones, which could have been there for as long as a few years.
The Seeno company, Cyrus Land Investments LLC, used the first report to justify removing boards from the teepee-like wooden structure on Jan. 31. Its removal irked neighbors, who called on the city to hire its own biologist.
"Seeno illegally and unceremoniously dumped those owls out of there," said resident Vicci Stillwell. "(The biologist) acknowledged we were right."
In his report filed this month, Steve Rottenborn of H.T. Harvey & Associates, said he found several fresh pellets on the platform of the structure in question and one on the ground below, suggesting owls used the platform within previous weeks or months.
However, Rottenborn said the evidence did not indicate that owls had begun nesting yet this year, nor did he find eggshells or remains of young barn owls.
"If any eggs or young had been present, they could have been depredated or scavenged prior to my visit," Rottenborn wrote. "Therefore, I can neither refute nor confirm that an active nest was present when the boards were removed. I can only say that barn owls have used the platform for some purpose relatively recently."
Rottenborn concluded that the project's impact to birds would be less than significant, but noted that destroying a nest containing eggs or young birds would violated the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and California Fish and Game Code. He recommended that a biologist survey the property again before any demolition or construction occurring during breeding season, which ends Aug. 31.
Cyrus Land Investments LLC, which shares an address with another Seeno company, Discovery Builders Inc., plans to build six homes at 4985 Olive Drive. In preliminary plans, each of the homes would be two stories with a net square footage above 8,000. Neighbors have complained the homes do not blend with the rest of the street: all other homes are one story and are ranch-style homes, many built in the 1960s.
The family of barn owls has since moved into an owl nesting box erected on Stillwell's property across the street from their previous home.
David DeBolt covers Concord and Clayton. Contact him at 925-943-8048. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.