Birds of prey get a new home
The osprey is a bird that has had little luck with its run-ins with humans. But now workers at NYSEG are giving these birds of prey a helping hand. Tamara Lindstrom tells us how.
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ITHACA, N.Y. -- The large raptor seen circling the edge of Cayuga Lake, looking for its next meal can appear menacing.
"All year long, they're down there fishing big fish. It's pretty impressive watching them," said Josh Smith, a production supervisor at Cargill.
But the real threat is to the birds. The osprey, or sea hawk, was nearly wiped out by DDTs before the insecticides were banned in the early 70s. Now the birds are making a comeback. But they have a dangerous habit.
"The situation we run into is they like to nest on top of our utility poles," said Clayton Ellis, manager of corporate communications for NYSEG. "And that's a problem for two reasons: The birds can come on contact with our power lines, which can kill them, obviously. And it can also cause power interruptions to our customers."
The nest at the Cargill Salt mine in Lansing was the only known nesting site in Tompkins County, but it wouldn't last.
"They started a nest up there a few years ago," Smith said. "And one day, one of our supervisors was doing his drive around and he noticed it had caught fire. Some of the sticks off the nest had touched the line. So we had to call NYSEG, call the fire department in."
The tall poles overlooking the lake were just too perfect for these fishing birds to give up. So the humans came up with a solution that everyone could live with.
"In a situation like this, we can actually extend the utility pole up high, build a new nesting platform to get the birds up out of the way and fortunately, after this nesting platform was put up, the birds chose it again to build a nest," Ellis said.
Of course, the birds have made their own modifications.
"They use just about everything for building their nests. They have small pieces of tarp they've picked up off the ground. They take them up there. All kinds of little things that they find," Smith said.
NYSEG has built about half a dozen nesting platforms in the Finger Lakes.
"It's pretty simple, but it takes a team effort to put a project like this together and make something happen," Ellis said.
A success marked by the excited chirping of this year's new arrivals.
Cornell's Lab of Ornithology and the Cayuga Bird Club also helped make the project happen.