DRESDEN — Nearly every year across the state, National Grid comes across a sticky problem.
Osprey admire the 100- to 150-foot towers and power lines and think they’re the perfect spot to build a love nest, especially if they’re close to water. Osprey like to fish.
But the large sticks the raptors used to build homes for their eggs can fall, and if they hit just the right spot on the tower, they can cause a power outage, said Steve Haller, environmental scientist with National Grid.
It’s also not exactly the safest spot for the birds and chicks.
Tuesday, between 150 and 200 workers helped relocate six or so osprey nests in the Whitehall, Ticonderoga, Crown Point and Port Henry areas, wrapping up one of the largest efforts at one time that National Grid has done.
The power company has platforms that it places on its towers, safely away from any electrical connections, and moves the nests there.
“It protects us, and it protects them,” said Jim Stoddard, senior transmission line supervisor with the company.
National Grid can move the nests now, Haller said, because osprey haven’t migrated back to the region yet so the birds themselves are not disturbed. National Grid also keeps the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service looped into the project.
Patrick Stella, spokesman for National Grid, said the nest work isn’t anything new, but moving so many nests at once is.
The nests in this area had to be moved, Stoddard said, because those lines are not connected to any back-up lines. If the nests’ sticks caused an outage, 10,000 people would be without power until crews could get out to fix the problem.
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In case of a power outage, the nest on the tower near South Bay state boat launch in Dresden wouldn’t be too difficult for crews to reach. But some of the other locations, Stella said, are very remote. Even off of South Bay, National Grid had to build a temporary wooden platform road to get to the site.
While the nest transfers happened mostly on Tuesday, the project itself takes a couple of weeks. Crews started building the roads last week, and brought in 27 mobile generators, Stella said.
Jarrett Regard, program manager, said they gradually transferred the area’s 10,000 customers’ power from the lines to the generators over the last several days to ensure no outages during the work. Once the power is transferred from the generators back to the lines later Wednesday, however, there may be a short outage.
Then, work will begin on taking down the project sites and temporary roads.
Andy Hinickle, conservation biologist with Audubon New York, said the transfer of nests is a good thing, and that osprey tend to come back to the same nests by mid-April.
“Generally speaking, osprey really take pretty readily to human-provided nesting platforms, so these poles, they’ll nest on them pretty readily,” he said.
The project is also an example of some of the interesting things that can affect National Grid’s system, Stella said.
It has also turned Stoddard and others who work for the power company into bird watchers. Stoddard, who is based out of Syracuse, has checked out plenty of bird nests on power lines at Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge, for example.
In this neck of the woods, the osprey are already providing staff with some surprises.
Crews found a golf club built into one of the nests. So if anyone in the area was missing one, maybe an osprey took it.