Osprey nests trimmed or moved to reduce electricity reliability and safety issues

St. Stephen – If you have been watching the family of osprey eagles that live on top of an NB Power pole near the third border crossing in St. Stephen, you may have noticed that it is no longer there. You have absolutely no need to worry, the ospreys have not been moved, at least not very far. In fact, workers from NB Power go out of their way to avoid disturbing these amazing birds, at least until after nesting season.

Chantal St. Pierre, Director of Environment and Emergency Preparedness for NB Power, said there are more than 400 osprey nests across New Brunswick, all on top of power poles. Every year, the company does air patrols to see where the nests are, and figure out if they are going to pose a safety or reliability risk.

“They are starting to be a little bit of a nuisance, and actually starting to be a reliability issue,” said St. Pierre. “What we normally do is basically, we’ve got a procedure for our employees working out in the field. Between April 1 and August 31, we tell them, if the nest does not pose a reliability issue or a safety issue to the public, then you are not allowed to touch the nests. We’ll just leave it, and then we’ll go back after the birds have fledged.”

St. Pierre said after nesting season, they will go back to check on the nests. If they do pose any risks, they have a couple of ways to alleviate this problem without harming or relocating the ospreys. They will either trim the nests or move them to a platform adjacent to the original structure. In extreme cases, they do have to remove some nests, but they never do so before the babies have fledged, and they only do it if it is absolutely necessary.

“What we do is we try to relocate the nests,” said St. Pierre. “That’s our first measure, but they’re very hard to move off of our structures. Because they’re big, the branches are hanging all over the place. What we’ve tried to do is take a piece of plywood and kind of move it onto the new platform, but it’s not easy. We’ve had success with just placing branches from the nests on our structures onto a platform, and that seems to help. The bird comes back, the following year, and starts dropping branches and materials on the platform.”

There is no need to worry about the safety of the ospreys when the nests are being trimmed. In fact, the bigger concern is the safety of the linesmen, since ospreys can be particularly protective of their nests and babies. St. Pierre said they try to do the trimming outside of the nesting season whenever possible. But, when there are risks and they do have to trim before the end of nesting season, they take steps to stay as far away from the nests as possible. They use large clippers so they can remain a few feet away.

“They (ospreys) will kind of swoop down at the line workers, and it can be a safety issue for them. We try to avoid bothering the birds during the nesting season,” said St. Pierre.

In recent years, there has been another concern when it comes to the osprey nests, and that is forest fires. St. Pierre said the nests are large, and oftentimes the branches will hang over onto the insulators, which can result in fires. This year, one line on Deer Island did catch on fire. St. Pierre said the structure itself caught on fire, as well as the osprey nest. Due to this risk, NB Power is now looking at ways to revise their procedures.

“If the nest hangs over the platform or onto the insulators, we may have to take different measures moving forward, because of concerns with forest fires.”

St. Pierre has been reaching out to Nova Scotia Power and Emera, because they have been studying the ospreys in that province for several years. In fact, they even have osprey cams, which allow people to be able to follow the birds throughout the nesting season without disturbing them. NB Power is considering setting up osprey cameras as well.

“They’ve had this web cam I think for over 10 years, and they’ve got quite a following of customers in Nova Scotia that follow the osprey nests every year,” said St. Pierre. “Some years they have success, the birds will successfully lay eggs and the birds will grow up and fledge. But, some years they’ve had situations when they die, for different reasons. They don’t interfere with the birds. It’s simply there to help educate people about the ospreys and how they live. We’re looking at doing the same thing in New Brunswick.”

sarigreen@stcroixcourier.ca