Eversource Offers Nest Site To Frustrated Osprey Pair

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Environment , Public Utilities

An osprey tries in vain to build a nest on a utility pole in South Harwich. COURTESY SALLY FAITH STEINMANN

SOUTH HARWICH Ospreys have returned to the Cape for the spring, following their migration from South America, and are busy settling into nests that have been used year after year. But one pair, unable to return to its nest on a South Harwich utility pole, has been offered alternate housing arrangements.

Osprey pairs have been nesting on the pole near 915 Route 28, near Handren Bros. Builders, for several years. But Eversource installed a deterrent device—a rounded section of corrugated plastic pipe—to encourage the pair to move elsewhere. When ospreys nest on utility poles, the result is often fires that can cause power outages as well as the death of the birds.

Nearby resident Sally Faith Steinmann watched for more than a week as the pair tried and failed to nest. A nature photographer, Steinmann was troubled to see the birds’ frustration.

“These birds are amazing,” she said. “I’ve gotten to know them on a personal level.”

Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is illegal to disturb a nest that contain an egg or flightless chick, but the utility routinely removes nests when they are empty to protect its equipment. Eversource sometimes builds alternate nest platforms for displaced birds, but did not intend to do so in this case.

On Tuesday, Eversource crews installed a nesting platform on a nearby pole.  COURTESY SALLY FAITH STEINMANN

On Tuesday, Eversource crews installed a nesting platform on a nearby pole.  COURTESY SALLY FAITH STEINMANN

Ospreys represent an environmental success story; their numbers have increased since the use of the pesticide DDT was outlawed. In the 1970s, only one or two pairs of ospreys were observed on Cape Cod, but those numbers have steadily increased. Today, there are hundreds of nesting pairs over the Cape and Islands, and numbers continue to increase each year. Because of the population increase, Eversource said it is not possible for them to put up a platform every time an osprey tries to nest on their equipment.

Dissatisfied, Steinmann launched a social media campaign to draw attention to the South Harwich ospreys, drawing a strong public response. An Eversource representative then contacted her, and a crew that came to evaluate the nest determined that there was a risk of fire. On Tuesday, a crew arrived and erected a platform on a pole about 15 feet away. They added some sticks to create a “starter nest” for the pair.

“We always look for alternative locations when we remove an osprey nest for safety reasons, but it isn’t always possible for us to find a location and put up a platform,” Eversource spokesman Reid Lamberty said.

On Wednesday, Steinmann reported seeing the osprey pair on the new nest, and said she is pleased with Eversource’s action.

Steinmann said she hopes the utility will reach out to local wildlife protection groups to foster better communication on the issue.

“And I have a feeling that if they do, somewhere along the way they will come to experience and to know these birds, as many of us do, for the amazingly resilient, resourceful, inspiring creatures that they are,” she said.

An osprey visits the new nesting platform.  SALLY FAITH STEINMANN PHOTO

An osprey visits the new nesting platform.  SALLY FAITH STEINMANN PHOTO

4/11/19: This story was updated to include new information.