Sometimes it’s hard out there for a bird.
But a crew of Pacific Power journeymen linemen worked Thursday to make life a bit easier for local osprey.
The large birds of prey like to build their messy, sprawling nests atop power pole crossbeams using just about anything they can carry, from big sticks to barbed wire and car antennas. But a nest that touches a power line during a rainstorm can cause a fire or blackout. So Pacific Power sets up nesting platforms for the birds.
Josh Roy, Terry Wanous and Mike McCormack were on the job at a bend in Shaw Road, a few miles south of McKay Reservoir. The place is osprey central, with one big nest on a nearby power line and others in trees above nearby McKay Creek.
That nest on the power line, they said, is the concern. The goal is to get the osprey to use the new platform instead.
Lynn Tompkins is the executive director Blue Mountain Wildlife, a wildlife preserve and rehabilitation center just a couple of miles — as the crow flies — from where the crew was erecting the osprey stand. She said in an email the birds have tried to nest on poles in the location for several years. Pacific Power installed covers on two such poles to prevent the birds from nesting, she said, but now they are trying to nest on the next pole down the line.
“Pacific Power crews have come out twice so far this year to remove the nest,” she stated. “But the birds are being persistent.”
The Pacific Power crew echoed that. The osprey do not leave easily, they said. And the whole time they were on site at least one osprey kept a near-constant watch from the safety of trees by the creek.
The platforms are about 4 feet square and consist of stiff wire over a sturdy wood frame. Mike Lanegan, Pacific Power distribution manager in Pendleton, oversaw Thursday’s project. He said the platforms cost the company $500 a pop.
Buy why so much, he did not know.
The workmen used big bolts and metal brackets to secure the platform to one end of a 45-foot power pole. Roy then operated a boom truck and positioned a large auger that drilled a hole into the stony ground while Wanous and McCormack grabbed shovels and helped clear out rocks and dirt. The going was tough and took the crew at least half an hour to reach the industry standard depth.
Lanegan said he has been with Pacific Power about a year and the company works hard on its raptor management program. Each year sets up about a dozen of these nesting platforms in Eastern Oregon.
While this was conservationist work, Lanegan and the crew said, it was also practical for the company because of the dangers the nests pose. And not protecting the birds can result in federal fines of $50,000.
The company monitors used nests to ensure they do not interfere with power lines. Wanous said that can involve “hot work” — repositioning energized power lines to keep them out of the way. After the birds hatch and leave the nest, Lanegan said, workers will remove it and install a cover over the pole.
Pelicans are another bird power companies conflict with.
“In the middle of the night they fly up the river and right into power lines,” Wanous said.
So in some areas, Pacific Power sets up floodlights and spinning reflectors to help the birds avoid the lines.
Roy recalled rescuing two osprey from baling wire.
“They’re big birds, but they’re light,” he said, and they did not harm him. He said he found them hanging upside down, the wire cutting into their legs. He said he was careful to cut the birds free, and each time handed them over to Tompkins.
Wanous asked Roy if the birds he saved lived. As far as he knew, he said, both made it.