Viewfinder: Ospreys

Sue Ellen Balluff of Romulus sent us this photo of an osprey nest on Armstrong Road in Geneva in 2018. Many such nests that have adorned the top of power lines on Routes 5&20 near Montezuma have been removed for safety reasons.

SENECA FALLS — Motorists who regularly travel Routes 5&20 often marvel at the large bird nests they see on the top of power line towers along the south side of the roadway near the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge.

Many of those motorists also are aware that those nests have been removed, and some are wondering why.

The Times has received a number of calls and emails asking what’s up, and Jenny Landry, a biologist for the state Department of Environmental Conservation Bureau of Wildlife for Region 8 in Avon, acknowledged that her office also has received calls from people wondering what happened to the nests, which many people think are eagles nests but actually are for osprey.

“We did not issue a permit (for their removal), but that is because it is not necessary. Essentially, the utility company, National Grid, does the removals before the osprey are using the nests, generally before April 1. They do not need authorization,” Landry said.

“They would need to coordinate with DEC and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service for removal once eggs are laid and it would have to be a safety issue. This is obviously different if it is an endangered species nest, either state or federal, but these are osprey nests,” she said.

Landry said the removal of the nests is not only legal under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act but also is a good thing for osprey.

“Those nests have gotten quite large and would be a hazard to both the continuity of electrical distribution, and also to the osprey, during wet weather in particular,” she said.

Landry said the wet nest material can create enough contact to complete a circuit, which can create outages, electrocution of the osprey and sometimes even fires.

“These nest removals generally don’t hinder the osprey at all. They will begin building back in the same spot as soon as they return to the area,” she said.

The utility placed saucer-type platforms to provide a nest away from the hazards of the power lines.

“This should prevent the osprey from disrupting power, while also reducing the likelihood of osprey being electrocuted or incinerated,” Landry said.

A DEC spokesman added that the osprey nests were removed in preparation for repairs and replacement of power transmission lines. He said the utility is installing nest support structures to allow the birds to continue nesting in this area without interfering with the operations of the transmission lines.

He cited a history of poorly placed osprey nests shorting out the wires and catching on fire, causing outages and endangering the young in the nests. The DEC is coordinating the removal with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service.

The power line towers are used by osprey for nests when taller, suitable trees are not available or the poles are closer to the preferred foraging habitat, such as a lake shore, river or, in this case, the wetlands and marshes of the refuge.

Montezuma is a major migratory bird habitat for birds traveling north and south, depending on the season.

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