Fighting the brisk winds that rolled off the shores of West Harbor Beach on Feb. 28, PSEG crew members, suspended 40 feet in the air in a pair of cherry pickers, attempted to transfer a tangle of twigs from the crossarms of a utility pole onto a new, fiberglass “nest” perched atop it.
The original nest had been built by two ospreys — diurnal, fish-eating birds of prey that can often be seen flying over Bayville in the spring and summer — last year before they flew south for the winter. In the fall, residents alerted the Bayville Environmental Conservation Committee that the nest, on a PSEG pole on West Harbor Drive, sat fairly close to the electrical wires, and could pose a safety hazard to the ospreys.
Committee member Jim Jones notified PSEG about the problem, and the company located the nest during a routine inspection. “What they did originally was put rubber [covers] on the wires so [the ospreys] couldn’t land on them,” Jones said. That, however, was just a temporary fix.
Ospreys often use utility poles and transmission structures for nesting, which can jeopardize a system’s reliability and cause outages and damage the equipment. The nest was built on top of a PSEG pole with several distribution lines, and crews determined that it was in danger of catching fire and causing significant damage.
“The nest, where it was built, was right on our structure, and right where the energized conductors are,” explained Richard Henderson of PSEG, “so what eventually could happen is it could cause a fire or cause a wire to come down, and 2,000-plus customers would lose their lights and the birds could get electrocuted.”
Instead of moving the nest to a new locastion, PSEG installed a pole extender and a new nesting platform to provide a safe nesting area for the birds, at a safe distance from the electrical infrastructure. Crew members slid a sign underneath the old nest to anchor its twigs up in to the fiberglass extension.
“This platform is meant to encourage the returning osprey to nest away from the power lines and equipment,” John O’Connell, PSEG’s vice president of transmission and distribution, said in a statement. “We want to help ensure these wonderful birds continue to return to the area year after year, while at the same time protecting the reliability of the energy grid.”
Members of the Bayville Village board braved the cold to watch the avian home makeover. Mayor Bob DeNatale said he was grateful to PSEG for creating a new home for the birds. “We’re thrilled that the utility took the time and effort to relocate the perch and give the birds such a beautiful view over the harbor,” he said. “When these ospreys return in April, they’ll have a perch that’s safe and secure, and they’ll still be visible to the residents of Bayville.”
Deputy Mayor David Wright said he, too, was happy to see the nest preserved for the birds’ benefit. “Ospreys used to be an endangered species, and through the efforts of people like our environmental commissioners, they’re not anymore,” Wright said. “They’re multiplying, and they keep coming back, and we need to encourage that and protect them as best we can.”
Jones couldn’t help but smile at the commotion of cameras and reporters there to capture the action — “all because of a pair of birds,” he said.