As ospreys are habitual creatures, they return to the same spots to nest each season. Not understanding the intricacies of modern power grids, a rigid power line structure seemed as good a spot as any to the protected bird, so they built it there.
An osprey nest that caused a series of power failures in Warren and Bristol last month was successfully moved to safety last week.
The joint operation between Rhode Island Energy and a host of federal and state regulators was witnessed and photographed by Warren’s own Butch Lombardi, who also volunteers as a monitor for ospreys in the area.
Lombardi said that the nesting post, located within the Belcher Cove area amidst the salt marsh, was originally erected some time in the 80s. Over time, the platform degraded and fell, leaving the birds with no foundation to rebuild their nests. As ospreys are habitual creatures, they return to the same spots to nest each season. Not understanding the intricacies of modern power grids, a rigid power line structure seemed as good a spot as any to the protected bird, so they built it there.
“A piece of the nest fell out of the bottom and it must have been wet and conductive and it shorted the line,” Lombardi said. When workers went up to check the nest, they found that the mother had laid eggs already, which complicated things.
Over the next couple weeks, Rhode Island Energy (through their environmental consultants, BSC Group) coordinated with RIDEM, CRMC, and the Army Corps of Engineers. A federal permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to move osprey nests with fledglings or eggs was already in hand. The actual work involved building a temporary timber road out to the marsh so a truck could access it. Then, workers went up and installed a new platform on top of the original post, and proceeded to carefully move the nest from the deactivated power line structure to the new platform.
“I waited around for a couple hours and she finally went back to the nest,” said Lombardi, who added later that only time would tell whether or not chicks would successfully hatch after all the commotion. “We’ll know the answer to that in about two weeks.”
For those involved in the process, although it required the normal bureaucratic hoop jumping act to acquire all the necessary permissions, it ultimately was a success story for conservation.
“Those permitting authorities are sensitive to the emergency status of a project like that. The threat that a nest that is causing an arc fault threatens the birds, it threatens the delivery of power, so there’s a desire to do the right thing quickly,” said Matt Burne, senior ecologist with BSC Group. “This problem is the sign of a success story. A generation ago osprey were exceedingly rare, and we’ve done a really good job of helping them get back to a very robust population.”
Lombardi said that the folks at RI Energy deserved praise for their prompt and professional handling of the situation as well.
“They get a lot of bad press and it’s not necessarily warranted or deserved,” he said. “They do a lot of things that people never see, and this is one of them.”